Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Endless Circle

Here I am again, caught in the emotional wheel that has to do with clutter.

I arrived at a good space in my organization and felt triumphant about myself as the conqueror of the invasive monster. Going with the flow of that “high”, I took on new projects, got involved in more areas of interest, and have been working on sprouting this dream of writing, but . . .

You guessed it. Here I am once again, sitting by a desk that is covered with papers to file, junk to toss and a whole assortment of other things yelling at me to attend to them. HELP!

Emotionally I have gone into a bit of a funk, berating myself for never getting ahead. The whole “How could you possibly be in this space again?” battle of negative self talk is having a raging good time in my head! And that certainly does not help to lift the mood or feed the will to get back on track.

Maybe I need a twelve-step program for compulsive clutterers! I wonder if anyone has designed one. I'd be the first to sign up. After all, I'd rather be at a meeting talking about clutter, than out on the front line dealing with it.

Or . . . hmmm . . .

Perhaps I need to get off the computer, grab my 3 boxes and attack my house once again with Fly Lady's Boogie Fling. (See Day 2 of this journey)

This business of clutter really is an emotional wheel!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Day 25 - Letter O – Oh, No! Not Again!

This whole decluttering concept seems a little like getting stuck in a revolving door. You get in your little corner and push away, but you never seem to be able to get out! At least that is how I've been feeling lately.

Once more my office has its piles of paper. I am, on the whole, keeping on top of the rest of the house to the point where, within a half hour or so, it can be quite presentable. The problem is that, more often than I care to admit, when I am tidying those other areas, my paper clutter from there makes its way in here. So I sit with the computer, on my desk, on my table. When will I ever learn?

I need to figure out how to get my toe out the door enough to stop it from spinning. In the meantime, I can just shut the office up and bask in the deluttered state of the rest of the house.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Day 24 – letter A - Assess

I had an opportunity lately to assess how I am doing.

My sister comes to visit from time to time and always comments on how tidy my place is. I used to think she was either joking, or else trying to encourage me to keep going with the project. The other day though she said, “Your place is so much better. You don't have nearly as much mess around.”

Now I could have chosen to be insulted that she spoke the M--- word out loud, but instead I was thrilled. My decluttering attempts are obviously reaping rewards. She commented on how airy it feels because I don't have “stuff” lying around like she does. I enjoyed the praise, and it has encouraged me to keep going.

Last week-end my son who gets home just 2 or 3 times a year came for a short visit. “WOW! Mom! This is the tidiest I've ever seen your place!” Once again, I took it positively. I may even have glowed a little.

I did feel obligated to show him the office closet and his comment there was “How can you possibly have so much stuff?” But he went on in the same breath to remember that I had moved from a much larger house to this apartment. AND I reminded him that I am a retired elementary school teacher! (We are well known to collect for the “just in case...” days!) But despite the fact that my closet looks full, I know that I have boxes of things in there that are on their way to being sorted, and that I stuck them in there in a hurry when I got the carpets cleaned. Yes, you're right...they're still there! I'll get to them one of these days.

In the meantime, I am glowing and enjoying my somewhat tidier home.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Day 23 - H - How Am I Doing?

Every now and again, it is good to sit back and evaluate. How are you coming along with your decluttering?

I look at my place and I realize a few things, some positive, some negative. If you are at all human, you are probably the same!

On the positive side I am sitting at my computer with a relatively clean table surrounding it. Notice the word “relatively”. I found a great organizer at Staples. I believe they call it a Bankers Box. It is one of those cardboard boxes that you put together with 8 compartments that will hold 8 ½ x 11 sheets. I have it together and have been using it to TRY to organize my writing papers. I have held back from sticking on the labels provided until I am sure how I want to use it.

I also picked up a gizmo for holding my office phone and desk lamp. It has a place at the side where I can keep the phone book, some notepads and pens. This sounds like a silly little thing, but for me it has been most helpful in that it frees up the table space beside my computer desk so I can lay out other things that I am working on. In the little cubby that is beneath the phone, I can store unsightly but important things, such as bills to pay and other business items that need immediate attention!

I have this wonderful colour-coded filing system I developed for such things (I think I mentioned that earlier). My problem was that once I filed things, I tended to forget them...not a good idea with bills. I am hoping that having them somewhat visible in this little cubby will help me to keep more on top of this part of my life.

So, I am making progress with the office papers.

Another great motivator for the rest of the house was getting my carpets cleaned. I had a professional coming in to do it. I decided I needed about 2 ½ weeks to be really tidied up before he came. Well, I got sick for about 2 weeks. I'll tell you, it is amazing what you can accomplish with a tight time line! Mind you I was up EARLY the morning he came and was still putting the last boxes away as he was setting up, but hey, it worked! What I have found is that once it was tidy, I was more motivated to keep it that way...and I actually started doing extra cleaning of things I haven't touched for a long time. e.g. washing my artificial plants. Good grief, I think I'm getting domesticated!

On the negative side, as you no doubt noticed, I had let this blog slide. I was focusing on another blog which I write, My Stratford at Thank you to Susan Barclay of the Word Guild for giving me a push to get back on track here. I find that I get gung ho on one thing and then get easily distracted onto something else. Maybe I'm ADD or something. I prefer to think "too creative for my own good". I need friends who will hold me accountable. With decluttering too, it is easy to get motivated for a while, but hard to keep going. Gathering a friend or two who are working on the same type of thing can be very helpful. So please do comment, do keep me at this, and together we just may move a more peaceful co-existence with our home environment.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Day 22 – C - Chaos

Once again I find myself in my messy, disorganized office. I have lots of excuses! Someone came to visit and I did a quick scurry through the house, threw everything in here and shut the door. My purse got too heavy so I took everything out and set the things I didn't need on my go through when I had time. I haven't been feeling well and just don't have the energy. My children's program finished up, so I had to bring my paperwork home to sort it here in the comfort of my office. Really, Helen? You find this comfortable? I have lots of boxes collected for my purging efforts...but there they sit.

I feel like I am stuck here back at the beginning. Somewhere along the line I missed following up on that motto. “Everything has a place and everything in its place.” In my case, and possibly yours, it all comes down to self-discipline.

So this is short today. I am determined to clear the flat surface by my computer. I'll let you know tomorrow how that goes.

Why don't you join me and just pick one little spot to clear? Good luck! Happy cleaning!

Sunday, June 14, 2009


During a couple of seminars that I attended recently, the speakers mentioned goal setting. Last night, I read an article from a January magazine (yes, I am still back in January in some of my magazines!). It was all about New Year's Resolution, and how this author decided not to make any but rather to live with resolve day by day. Interesting food for thought when applied to my clutter.

In the house there could be benefits in breaking down the tasks, just like we do our goals. Today let's focus on one yearly task.

I happen to be involved in a couple of organizations with minutes, agendas, etc. I am TRYING to keep these on the computer now, but I still tend to collect things at the meetings and bring them home to join the pile. Once a year it would be a good idea for me to cull what I really don't need to keep. I have decided that now is the perfect time, because the meeting season is winding down for summer. If I do it now, when it all starts again in September I'll be ready with a tidy file system . And maybe, just maybe, the effort that it is going to take to do it this year will teach me to cull as I go in the future!

So why not grab your resolve and join me in a paper purge!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Day 20 - M – Minimize!

As you can tell, I got waylaid from my project of decluttering my life in 35 days. So here I sit, surrounded once again by the growing mounds of paper and other assorted things in my life.

I am happy to report though that even though I haven't been blogging in the past while, I have been making some progress.

One of the things that has come to the forefront during this cleansing adventure is the whole idea of minimizing. I realize that I have been greatly affected by the journey of my parents through the Great Depression. They, as was the case with so many of their generation, became hoarders. “You never know when you might need it.” Perhaps there was the underlying fear that they could lose everything again, as so many had back when they were young.

I definitely inherited their genes, although I must admit, I have been fighting against that tendency for many years now. Moving frequently during the early years of my marriage was a definite learning tool in this area. Do I really need two or three (or ten!) of those? It's amazing what you can get rid of when you know that every little bit of weight costs you more! After we became more settled (and started hoarding) I used to joke that every two years we should pretend that we were moving! Although a joke, there is some wisdom to the idea. It begs the question, “Why do I keep what I keep?”

Maybe more than anything else, looking at our clutter with that question in mind might help us to get to the philosophical place of being able to let go!

So, my friends, grab those boxes that we mentioned early on in this adventure, and minimize, minimize, minimize!

Thursday, April 16, 2009


“For goodness sake, Helen! Just get at it and get it done!”

I was talking to myself once again about the state of my office.

Then I thought, for whose sake am I trying to master this paperwork? It is certainly not a sign of goodness, in my estimation. (Good housekeeping, maybe, but not goodness!)

It should be for MY sake. But sometimes that just doesn't seem to be enough motivation. At times it is, but then it gets away on me again, as I find more interesting ways to occupy my time.

But, aha! My son called and is coming home for the weekend. I haven't seen him since January...when this project was already underway with boxes piled all over the office. Have I told you that my office also serves as the guest room?

Usually when someone is coming, all the papers go into a box and get hidden away. (That's partly how I got into this problem in the first place!) I am really going to TRY not to do that this time. I have cleared away a few containers, but I do have my work cut out for me before he arrives tomorrow.

So, whether it's for goodness sake,
or for your sake,
or for the company that's coming...

for whatever reason, KEEP AT IT! Don't give up.

The reward will be the ability to see the top of the desk and the closet floor. It will be the knowledge that there are no hidden boxes awaiting your attention. It will be that wonderful feeling of overcoming a huge hurdle and the warm glow of victory.

Monday, April 13, 2009


“They're gone forever
So far apart”

Did Roy Orbison know that he was singing about my socks? About my plastic container lids? About....?

You get the picture. Why do I hang on to things that are one of a set, lonely and unusable on their own? Well, NO MORE! The lidless and bottomless plastic is in the recycle bin. The socks are a task set for today.

I wonder what other lonely things I have in my home. If you have any ideas, drop me a line in the comment box and we'll get rid of them together. Hey, how about lonely mitts, lonely shoes, lonely puzzles with pieces missing? We could create quite a cleansing just by getting rid of those items that lie isolated and incomplete amongst our clutter.

Have fun with your project today. I've gotta go. My socks are calling.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Day 17 – letter G – GO, GIRL!

I am back from holidays, a nice break after a challenging work assignment. I have discovered that when I am working outside of my home, it is much more difficult for me to manage the decluttering. My hat goes off to all of you who manage to do both!

Coming home from a break away always leaves me feeling fresh and ready to take on my world again. Seizing the moment of inspiration, I tackled some more of the kitchen. It is amazing how canned goods get lost in the shuffle in my cupboards. I hate to tell you how far past due some of them were! They are now in the garbage, and things I decided I had bought on impulse and probably won't use are ready to go to the House of Blessing. Every little bit counts in this process of regaining control.

This morning I tackled the front garden, a stern reminder that I need to get this household stuff cleared before the good weather tempts me to abandon ship and sit in the garden with my tea enjoying the long awaited spring and summer.

Wishing you a wonderful Easter with family and friends. Remember to seize the moment and “Go, Girl!”

Friday, March 20, 2009

Day 16 – letter N – "No! Not now!"

“No! Not now!” my mind pleads with me whenever I think about retackling the clutter in my office. “You have so many other things to do. This whole process is such a pain!”

Like a whiny teenager it goes on and on reminding me of deadlines looming, articles that I want to write and marketing tools needing to be prepared. It comes down to the battle of dividing my time between the urgent, the necessary, and my long-term goals.

Some days my clutter-busting goals win the battle. For example this week I went through all my bathroom cupboards, threw out a lot of outdated products, rearranged things to a more convenient place, and added a huge check mark on my list of to-dos in this process! I transferred the now unneeded shelving unit to my office closet. With a new home for them in sight, I took inventory and organized my CD's that are still waiting to be sold. Instead of carboard boxes on the closet floor, I now have a neater and more efficient arrangement for that part of my career. This is good, and encouraging.

Some days though, it seems like I am in survival mode, just trying to maintain what I have done so far. Spring arrived this past week with temperatures around 15 C. My cat is not the only one in this household with Spring Fever! Being an avid gardener I am just itching to get my hands in the mud. Good thing it snowed again last night. I don't want to rush the process out there. I am recognizing though that my timeline for indoor cleansing is shortening. Soon the garden will call and I will be lost to indoor activities unless it rains.

So when my brain howls, “No! Not now!” I need to remember my long term goal. Even if I don't feel like it, the answer must be, “Carpe Diem. Now IS the time!”

Saturday, March 7, 2009


The informative and inspiring comments that I have received from some of you have prompted me to dedicate this blog post to letting you encourage each other to keep on with the task. If I were to tell the truth, I would have to say I totally fell “off the wagon” this week. Working full time at a particularly exhausting placement, leaving early and arriving home physically and emotionally drained, left my good intentions crashing down around me.

Dealing with my internal “clutter” by going to bed at 7:15 last night has me feeling much better this morning. I was up early, have put through two loads of laundry and done the dishes that were beginning to pile up on my counter, as well as in my “dishwasher” under the sink (see day 2).

So here are some ideas and encouraging news from other readers.

My sister Kathy from Massachusetts shares, “Isn't it encouraging when there's something that has immediate visible results? (That's why I like to make the bed first- a big swatch of space is cleared and tidied right away. It feels so satisfying that I get inspired to keep on going). I have been realizing that everything I have ever accomplished happens pretty much step by step. I learned to play the piano one note at a time; the sticking to it is what helped me get good at it."
"I remember Dad having a cartoon on his desk - something about procrastination being "the thief of time". That has stuck with me since I often puzzled over that cartoon. I dusted his desk many times, with all those gazillions of knick-knacks on it, and I think that helped me decide to be a little more Zen in my approach when I grew up. Keeping it simple seems to work best for me in terms of my surroundings. Otherwise I lose stuff and get stressed out about it."
"I do notice when I am in a creative right-brain phase I become obsessive about whatever I am doing and everything else goes out the window. Chaos reigns. (Boy, can I relate to that!)"
"I tend to get overstimulated really easily and have noticed that I am much more calm if I keep the mess at bay. So I try to clean things when I see them so they don't escalate. Somehow it is easier for me to put something away right away than to have to pick it up later."

Elena, (Kathy's daughter) says the most important thing for her is that everything HAS a place, so that everything can be put IN it's place.

A friend here in town has been telling me about shredding mounds of paper records from years back. We do tend to get in the habit of keeping those financial things for income tax, but often keep them for many more years than needed. She has also culled those recipes, you know the ones that you clip thinking “I'll try that sometime.” Really, if you haven't tried it yet... will you ever? After clearing my mother's recipe clippings when we were getting our family home ready for sale, I remember thinking I would NEVER allow myself to do that, and with each move over the years, I have gotten rid of a few more recipe books. But they do have a way of building up again, so that corner of my kitchen needs to be a little side task some day soon.

It has been very gratifying to have people write or catch up with me to say, “Hey, I am enjoying the blog and guess what I've done?” Please do leave your comments on this site so others can see them and be encouraged as well.

That's it for today. My desk top (yes, it also fell apart somewhat this week!) is calling my name.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Day 14 – letter S – SO . . .

Have you ever had one of those days, (or should I say weeks?) where life gets extremely busy and you feel like saying “So what!” to the whole idea of decluttering?

That was my space for the past couple of weeks. Supply teaching assignments, a sudden opportunity to speak to the local Kiwanis club about “Kid's Company”, my church's after school club, a push to finish my promotional bio sheets, some other opportunities to write, and a bit of personal “stuff” thrown into the get the picture. Decluttering was the farthest thing from my mind.

I did notice a few things, however, that give me hope.

Once you experience that sense of peace when you walk in the front door, being greeted by delicious open space rather than the “Oops, I forgot to put that away” sort of entryway; when you walk into the kitchen in your early morning daze, and no longer see last night's dishes drying in the rack, or worse still, waiting to be done; when you don't have that “Oh, no. I can't” feeling about inviting someone home on the spur of the moment; once you've experienced these things for long enough....even for the short time we've been working on this, you get to enjoy the freedom that decluttering brings. Like old Henry Higgins, you discover that you've “grown accustomed to that space...” Yes, I know, HE grew accustomed to her face, but WE, we can grow accustomed to that sense of freedom in our home. As Martha would say, “That's a good thing!”

Even though I was falling off the wagon, so to speak, on my decluttering mission, I kept having little spurts to keep the process going. For one thing, I started getting up earlier, even setting the dreaded alarm! Discipline in any area seems to have a habit of leaking into other areas of life. For that I am grateful. I found myself grabbing moments to do my “Boogie Fling” (see day 2) and felt proud of myself when I managed even that small step. Despite the craziness in other areas, I tried (and let me emphasize “tried”) to keep the areas I had already worked on up to snuff. If truth be told even the word “tried” is a bit of a stretch. At times in the past two weeks, I really let things slide.

“Why do I do this?” I ask myself. I don't know. But I do know that I don't like it!SO..... We come back to the question, “What do we do when we fall off the wagon?”

Yesterday I decided to tackle my office closet. Like a mausoleum stacked with cardboard coffins, it holds the remains of my career. I pulled out one and cracked open the lid. Things I will use at Kid's Company are now neatly stored in folders in my new Kid's Company filing system. Things that I have no idea why I kept are safely esconced in the garbage. (That felt good!) Things I will try to sell, and if not will give away, are in their own small box and are NOT allowed back into the closet! As I sit here typing, I can look over and see a little bit of closet floor smiling at me as that area begins to come to life again. The rest of the office....that's for another day, maybe even today if I stop writing and get back to the project!

Something that helps me to get back on track is accountability. I told you, my readers, that I was going to do this. I have a few good friends who will ask, “How's it coming, Helen? I haven't seen a Blog entry lately.” Even though sometimes I wish they weren't quite so supportive, it does help. I would encourage you to tell a couple of friends what it is you are trying to do. Share your successes. Ask them to hold you accountable. If you are anything like me, it is just too easy to give up. We need emotional support, so don't be shy; ask for it.

I think this entry has reached the point of procrastination, so I will wish you a good day and go out to inspect the damage... no, to bask in the successes. Enjoy your day, and remember to stay grateful for small steps!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Day 13 – Letter N – New Ideas

On coming home from work today, I decided to watch a little TV. Oprah was on, and what do you suppose her theme is this week. You guessed it – decluttering! I decided to pass along some of the ideas that I found helpful.

There is a connection between what your house is like, and what your life is like. Does your house tell you that your life is cluttered and disorganized? Decluttering your house will actually help you to improve your life.

The speaker mentioned that it is important to think through what you want from your living space. Knowing that, will help you to know what to keep and what to throw away or donate. That was a new thought for me, an interesting thought. As I ponder what I would like my home to be, the words that come to mind are such things as peace, beauty, freedom, a sense of comfort and ease, a thoughtful ambiance. Perhaps to attain that I need to clear my shelves and only have a few carefully chosen items on display. Those scraggly- looking plants that I am trying to overwinter ...they certainly do not add to the atmosphere! And the collections that I started, when I am really NOT a collector....what is that about? Get rid of them, Helen.

He suggested that one must set strict limits as to what you allow in your office and desk area. I already knew that! It is how to achieve it and keep it that way that is my challenge. Joking aside, it is a good piece of advice. What am I going to allow in the office? Just my materials for my writing? Or am I also going to use it as my bill and records centre? That makes sense since I make my payments on line. But what about the closet full of materials left over from my teaching days? They need to go! My books...yes, I think they will stay, but after I clear the unwanted items, I will have a better idea as to whether this is the right place for them.

He suggested using the same approach in other areas, like the closets, the kitchen, the bedroom. I could add the cellar, the laundry get the picture. As you work through each area, set a limit as to what you will allow to be there! For some of us it would be encouraging to know that he had his client decide what she could sell, and what to just donate, or pitch. A little extra cash never hurts, and if it provides incentive for you, then go for it!

The last idea that caught my attention was his question, “Does your house say that you don't care about what you own?” When you spend money on something, you should value it, and therefore take care of it. Otherwise, why buy it? Save your money! If it is lying around, guess what? Maybe you don't think enough of it to keep it. If you do, then pick it up and put it away in a place that shows it is important. Here he was not talking about precious items, but clothing. Are your clothes neatly folded or hung in their spot? ...a thought for me to remember on those nights when I come home tired and just want to crash.

Thank you, Oprah and friends, for providing these new insights in the quest for peace and order in the home. This week on there is a program you can sign up for, Oprah's Clean Up Your Messy House Tour. You will find the things I have been sharing and a lot more.

Remember to keep smiling, and enjoy the ride!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Day 12 - letter A - The Appetite is Whetted

Today was a housework day. It's amazing how when you begin to see progress, it whets the appetite for more.

Yesterday I had oragnized a few shelves in my kitchen. This morning, as I was innocently doing my dishes, a sudden urge overtook me to tackle more: the cupboard with my good dishes and all the wasted space, and the one I had trouble getting things out of because it goes way back into a corner that is hard to reach. Aha! The perfect solution! Put the good dishes into that cupboard where they can await their rare ventures onto my table, and use the cupboard with all the handy space for large and frequently used items.

I am not sure everything has reached its final destination, as one really has to give it a trial run to smooth out any kinks. This I do know. I open that long cupboard and see my dishes, and crystal neatly stacked, and I feel proud, proud of myself for persevering, proud that I was open to doing things differently, and proud for finding a good solution.

That's what this should be all about; feeling good in our nest. And that I am ... for now.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Day 11 – Letter E – ESCALATE!

Yesterday I mentioned that I wanted to shake things up a bit today. To be honest, I was starting to get bored with the process, and for me that it not a good sign. It means I am going to be tempted to give up.

I woke up thinking, “I have to do something where I will see more progress.” Dealing with papers is good, but it takes a long time, and well, one can get bored of making progress by inches, so to speak.

With the big Give Away box in hand, I headed to the kitchen. The use of my shelves to house my family heirloom china has still been weighing on me. What could be done? I actually started with another cupboard, the one where I keep my everyday dishes.

You may remember that my house was built in 1870. I think the kitchen cupboards may be the originals! That is probably an exaggeration, but they certainly are not new. They are like old farmhouse cupboards; big, solid, and with unmoveable shelves, with a LOT of space between them. How could I make better use of the space and still have things accessible? Home Hardware had just what I needed. With one of those rubbermaid stacking units for dishes, and a stacking corner unit for my glassware, all for the enormous outlay of about $12, everything I use regularly is now on ONE shelf, and two shelves have been opened up to house items that free up space in my storage unit.

Exciting! Now there is an E word. This escalation of the attack was just what I needed. I can see my progress, and once more I am keen to carry on. After all, I still have my fancy dishes taking up too much space, and my storage area needs to be more efficient, and there are all those other cupboards still to be culled (farm kitchen, remember?), and,...and, ......and ....... You get the picture. My enthusiasm has returned.

So if you get bored, just remember an escalation to an area that will show faster progress can be a good diversion to get you back on track. Keep flinging! Happy cleaning! Take tomorrow off as a day for you. Monday comes soon enough.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Day 10 – Letter L – LOVE AFFAIR

How appropriate for Valentine's Day. But this is not a love affair of the romantic sort. This is a love affair with things. I think it is a malady of the times. We love our things. I watched a movie last week-end called Love Comes Softly, a romance in a pioneer setting. At one point the little girl, who is quite the tomboy, says to the woman in the story, “ I don't see why you need so many dresses. You can only wear one at a time!” A cute line...but with some truth attached.

No, I am not bundling up all my clothes and sending them to the Thrift shop, but I do need to open my eyes to look and see how many possessions I have. Our western world is crazy for possessions; and although I live reasonably simply, I too have fallen into the trap of being a collector of things.

This culling we're doing is good. It is cathartic. As one more shelf is tidied, one more file emptied, one more bag in the trash, there comes a sense of lightness, of freedom. Are you beginning to feel it? I am a long, long way from having my office as I would like it, but in my hour today I made more inroads. I have to keep reminding myself, this stuff did not arrive in a day; it will take more than a day to deal with it. It gets discouraging at times because it takes so long. Perhaps a change of pace is in order. Stay tuned for tomorrow's shake-up!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Day 9 – letter C - CULLING

As we cleanse, we need to release those old things that are no longer valued or needed.

My day began with my Toss, Save, Not Sure, and Put Away boxes around me. I was tackling ONE of the To Do piles that have accumulated in my office. I hate to think how many boxes of quickly cleared papers and other things I have awaiting me on this mission. That was my old method of cleaning.

“Company's coming!”
“Quick! Grab a box and run through the house. Toss everything in it that looks out of place!”

Do any of you have that habit? It would not be so bad if when the company left I dealt with it, but not me. Oh no. Out of sight, out of mind.

And so, over time the piles, the boxes, the bags of untended items has grown.

This morning, with the alarm set for an hour, a small pile disappeared and the collection in one of the boxes began to diminish. Unfortunately there were magazines en route. Even though I KNOW this is not appropriate during a cleanse, I must admit I did flip through several of them. (After all, I had to know if I needed them for research, right?)

Perhaps tomorrow I wil be more dedicated to the task at hand, but for today, I'm happy with the recycling pile that is growing in my blue box.

By the way, I apologize for not blogging yesterday. It was one of those work all day, meeting at night kind of days. It happens to us all. I hope you forged ahead without me. I've heard a few of your success stories...shredded files, clean closets. Good for you. Keep sharing the victories. It adds to the pleasure of achievement to be able to brag a little!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Day 8 – letter E - EVALUATE

You now have some of the daily clutter out of the way, I hope. I am really making an effort to keep the kitchen counter and the bathroom tidy, and the areas that I have tackled so far in the bedroom, notably the windowsill and dresser top. In the evening I try, not always successfully, to pick up the newspapers and put them in the recycle box. If I don't get that far, they at least get put in the stacking area where they can await transport.

In thinking about that last statement, I decided to check how many steps it was from my newspaper chair to the recycle box. Fifteen steps!! Wow! Perhaps with that little bit of knowledge tucked away, that task may never be left until the next day again!

I was not intending to discuss evaluation in this way, but it does bring up a good point. Maybe it is time to evaluate the organization of our major traffic areas. Are they as convenient as they could be, or do we have to go out of our way to put things away? Are our storage areas for frequently used items easy to access. I have been pondering my good dishes, passed down from my family home for at least one generation, possibly more. Right now they are beautifully esconced on two large shelves right above the kitchen counter. (There are 12 place settings plus accessory serving dishes.) How often do I use them? Maybe once or twice a year. Do they even merit room on a kitchen shelf, or should they be stored in a box somewhere? It certainly would make my kitchen more convenient.

Part of what rises to the surface during such decisions, at least for me, is the whole values issue. These are a family heirloom and as such should be treasured. Surely putting them in a box does not show enough respect. Who am I kidding? Can dishes feel respect? Really! When I take it apart and look at it logically, that attitude makes no sense. The problem is, when it comes to family treasures, we aren't dealing with logic, but with emotion.

I remember talking to my sister about this at one point, as I was feeling guilty about not wanting to keep a certain piece of furniture that came from my family home. She told me that when she had to get rid of a treasured piece of furniture when her family was moving, she spent time thinking about the wonderful memories that it held. She was able to hold the memory close to her heart, and that freed her to let the object go for someone else to enjoy. I've heard others say that when you no longer need something dear, you could take a picture of it to keep the memory intact.

“Goin' on a sentimental journey...” Sometimes evaluation takes us on there and that's OK. It may take us a little longer as we reminisce, but that is time well spent in this journey that we are on, the journey of not only decluttering, but cleansing our lives. Sometimes the cobwebs of the past hold us too tightly and we need to take the space and time to disentangle ourselves. So grab your kleenex box, if you need it. Tell yourself that it is OK to let go. As you consider an item, if you are not sure, it may not be the time to let it go. In that case, either put it back in its place of honour, or put it in the “unsure” box to evaluate again at a later date.

May you experience lots of happy remembrances as you tackle the past and evaluate the present.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Day 7 – letter V - VARIETY

You may have noticed that I did not post to this blog yesterday. As a Christian, I like to keep my Sundays for things other than work: church, time with those who are close to me, going out for a meal with friends.

Yesterday afternoon, I had the opportunity to sing one of my ballads as part of a Valentines Cabaret put on by the Stratford Concert Choir. It was a great event, giving the audience and choir members a chance to hear the individual skills of the people with whom we regularly sing. As a fairly new member of the choir, I was thrilled to hear the wonderful voices, the different genres chosen, the poetic humour, the comic acting ability of those fellows who often just get to show their serious side, and in the silent auction to see the artistic and handcraft skills of others. It was an opportunity to marvel once again at how we are all created uniquely with our own special gifts.

That brings me back to the issue of cleansing my clutter. As I approach this task I need to realize that I am one of those people gifted with creativity ... and a short attention span! Hence, today's topic, Variety.

If you find yourself getting bored with a cleaning routine, just mix it up a bit. For example, for this morning's 27 Boogie Fling (, I decided to focus my boogie on putting away 27 things. I amazed myself to discover a duster in my hand. After I had put things away and revealed the beautiful oak on of one of my antique peices of furniture, the dust was so evident I just had to deal with it! So 27 things are put away, and all of my oak pieces in that room are now dusted. Because my kitchen and bathroom are staying relatively tidy now due to the “put away what you use” philosophy, I have time to get out for a walk in today's beautiful sunshine before I come back to try another half-hour attack on my office.

I was thinking as I write how simple this all seems. Why could I not do it without this creative cleansing blog? I guess I need that sense of accountability. So thank you, my readers, for the role you are playing in helping me along this path. Here's wishing you a great day, and praying that you also will breathe a little easier and smile a little more as you view your domain.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Day 6 – letter I - INVESTIGATE

Not having a lot of time today, it seemed right to choose one drawer to investigate, the notorious Junk Drawer. Most people seem to have one, if not two or three, or one in every room ( like you-know-who)!

Deciding to tackle the kitchen drawer, I set my alarm for 10 minutes and started pulling. How can one possibly collect so many plastic bags; big ones, little ones, fat ones, thin ones? Whoever thought I would need five rolls of scotch tape, two flashlights with dead batteries, or all those elastics; big ones, little ones, fat ones, thin ones? It was rather depressing to see what had collected there.

A half hour later (yes, I miscalculated!) with enough twist ties to build a small sculpture organized once again, and the elastics of many colours draped over a pill bottle in the corner of the drawer, I ended this phase of the cleanse with a smile on my face. And tomorrow when I go to find a sandwich bag, I will smile once again.

Take time to investigate, one spot at a time, and enjoy those little feelings of victory when you master even one corner of your castle. Yahoo! We're making headway.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Day 5 – letter T – TAKE TIME

I had an inner debate this morning. Would the letter T stand for True Confessions? Would I tell you that when I looked at my dresser this morning, I discovered that the clutter monster had snuck back into my room, not leaving a huge trail of chaos fortunately, just enough to let me know that he was still lurking in the shadows. As I walked down the hall I saw he had passed by there as well, and into the kitchen too. It was rather disheartening. Here I am doing this creative cleanse, and I still haven't been forceful enough to let him know he is no longer welcome here.

But then I thought to myself. “It's OK, Helen, this is only Day 5.” They say it takes 30 days to create a new habit. That is why this cleanse is geared for 35 days. So pick up the little trail of stuff, smile as you hear his muffled groan, and move on.

In my office it was reinforced once again, that turning on one's computer before the morning routine and the 27 Boogie Fling (See Day 2 and/or if this sounds bizarre.) can prove disastrous. One e-mail led to another, and before I knew it, it was time to head out to help a friend. (That's why I had to turn on the comupter in the first place. I thought I had enough self-discipline to just read the one note that I needed. Hah! It can't be done! least not yet.) I DID delete a few files though, to justify the time spent.

The errand led to coffee. You know how it goes. I was back around noon, and settled on my target area, the office. I have decided that if I boogie in my office for a few days I will actually gain a fair amount of control in here. So boogie I did. My computer table now shows its wood! I moved to the desk and worked my way through a pile or two. It's amazing how much paper one can recycle when cleaning the office! Another friend called who I hadn't spent time with for a while. That allowed me to get out to enjoy the sunshine as I walked downtown and to run an errand after the obligatory coffee. After a further appointment that took longer than expected, I got home just in time to make a salad and head out for supper and a video.

Coming home around 8:30 gave me time to reflect on my day and how it fit with this cleansing process. I realized that it's all right to experience a delay or two when life brings along a more important choice. For me, being there for my friends is high on my agenda, it is part of what God calls me to do. I think carefully before closing the door on opportunities to build relationships or to be of service. It really is a matter of balance. If I left the clutter constantly, and forgot the goal, this cleansing would not happen. But occasionally...I think that's OK. It adds to life's sparkle. And after all, life is not so much about sparkling kitchens as sparkling moments in time. This process of cleansing the clutter will take time, but while I'm going through it I need to be true to myself, and to occasionally take the time required for that.

I hope you will too.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Day 4 – letter A – ALL THOSE BILLS!

One of the frogs that I referred to yesterday is my ever-growing stack of bills and other assorted papers awaiting attention.

Last year a speaker at Christian Women's Club tried valiantly to give us the magic solutions to clutter in our homes. I must admit I learned and incorporated this wonderful filing system that she advocated into my office. I ran out, bought and carefully labelled the multicoloured file folders. I added yet another small file holder to the wonderfully wide window sill by my computer. And I must admit I am more organized than I used to be because of this system. All my financial papers are in red files, ministry things are in blue, my writing projects in yellow, my home business in green. It looks beautiful, this rainbow in my office; beautiful that is, except for the overflowing of the papers within!

Despite the lovely system, I still have to deal with those papers that get stuffed into the “Bills to File” folder. Those are the ones that have graduated from the first folder, the “Bills to Pay”. I must confess that sometimes the “out of sight, out of mind” rule has taken over with that folder, and I have learned by paying the consequences that I do have to keep an eye on it, or better yet, deal with it immediately.

This morning was an hour-chunk morning. I cleared off the kitchen table and took the bulging folder of bills to sort. All of 2008 is now safely esconced in yet another file box awaiting Income Tax time, with each bill sorted under the appropriate heading. During this process, I decided to add a few more red files to the sorting area on my window sill. Next time I won't have to go through all the bills. The Hydro has its own little folder, as do all the other utilities that need tracking. What a novel idea! It's amazing how creative this cleansing can be!

Now to relish the victory. One section of my overflow of papers is neat and tidy. I am not even going to look at all the others stacked on that window sill. They are for another day, another letter. It's beautiful and sunny so I am off for a walk before work.

Blessings to you, and my your clutter pile begin to disappear for little pile at a time.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Day 3 - Letter E - ENJOY

A beautiful sunny day here in the snow belt of southwestern Ontario, it seems like a day built to enjoy.

That is the word for today. ENJOY!

I am still trying to persuade myself that dealing with clutter can be an enjoyable process, but as I sat up in bed and admired my clutter-free windowsill, and turned my eyes to my newly cleansed dresser top, I was flooded with a sense of “Yes! This is good!” So good in fact, that before I left the bedroom I had cleared off the top of the washstand.

I porbably should explain, in case some of you modern homedwellers are wondering how I could possibly accumulate stuff on my window sill, that I live in the mainfloor of a grand old home built in 1870. Its wide windowsills are perfect for wintering my plants, but also for collecting books, magazines, and other assorted paraphenalia!

A newsletter from an inspirational site,, arrived with an article called, Did You Eat Your Frog Today? It refers to a book called Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy. In one chapter he discusses the 80/20 principle. Basically it was a creative call to tackle the most important tasks first, those tasks on which we tend to procrastinate, because they are the hardest and most complex. It was a great little article and I strongly recommend taking a moment in your day to read it. Maybe not now if you were all geared up to tackle something else; I wouldn't want to be the cause of procrastination in anyone else's life. Being responsible for my own is quite enough, thank you.

So, here I sit, procrastinating perhaps, but gearing myself up to enjoy my day. This is my big ministry day, when I direct an after-school program for about 80 kids from theschool next door to our church. I know that preparing for that will take a big junk of my time today. But I will do my boogie fling (see yesterday's blog) and I will take a 15 minute bite out of my frog (my office paperwork), maybe more if I can find another chunk of time.

So here's to you. Here's to conquering our mountain of clutter. Here's to enjoying your day!

This is the day that the Lord has made. May He bless you in all you do.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Day 2 - letter R - Raising the Bar

Upon waking this morning, my mind was a-buzz with subjects I could discuss that begin with R.
I settled on Raising the Bar.

I definitely need to raise the bar on how I care for my home. Not that I don't love my place. I do. But I'd much rather be puttering in the garden, or working on my writing, than wandering through my space with a dust cloth. I'm sure at least some of you will understand this mindset.

So Raising the Bar it is. But the question remains. How do I do it?

Realism certainly needs to play a part. I am not suddenly going to change my personality. I do have a life other than tidying, cleaning and organizing. So I need to be realistic. How much time am I prepared to donate to this cleansing of the clutter? If you are joining me in this adventure, how much time can you realistically afford? Deciding this is definitely an important first step in getting ready.

Resources are needed too. This time, (thanks to the book I picked up yesterday) I did not run out to buy containers and a mountain of cleaning supplies. I already have those, and they will do just fine.

I told you yesterday that as we work away at this creative cleansing, I would share things that were helpful to me. The first one is a website, which puts the fun into cleaning and motivates to boot. A friend who shares my aversion to housework recommended me several years ago. Last week I pulled out the things I had learned from it. To encapsulate her teaching is difficult, because she shares a wealth of wonderful, crazy, humourous ideas, but one thing that struck me is her constant theme that one should use small blocks of time, and not let yourself get overwhelmed. The new book, Common Sense Organizing, by Debbie Williams that I purchased yesterday, picked up the same theme.

A few years ago, as I was going through a time of healing, my doctor said, “This is going to take time, Helen. It took years for you to get to this place.You won't heal in a day.” It was good advice for that area of my life. It is also good advice for this. Don't rush. Slow down, set aside the panic that may have arisen just thinking about this cleanse, and enjoy the process.

“So, what did you do today?”, you ask. Let's see.

As soon as I got up, I made the bed. I learned that from Flylady last time around and have done it ever since. The other day I had started on her 27 Boogie Fling, so I had my boxes already gathered.
1. Toss
2. Give Away
3. Keep
4. Not Sure
5. I have added a Put Away box for the things whose storage place I know and that I can do

After I dressed, I boogied around the bedroom picking up 27 things. Guess what! My dresser top and windowsill are now tidy. Amazing! (If you are intrigued with the idea of me boogieing around my bedroom, do check out the Flylady website and have some fun yourself.)

Raising the Bar and the whole cleansing idea has another element. How am I looking after my body. I tend to be slack in the area of feeding myself well. So, while cleansing the house, I decided to also work on caring for my own interior, so to speak. Sitting down to a bowl of healthy cereal, I planned out my day. Included in that was a block of 15 minutes to start on my office. I will probably work in another 15 minute block later this afternoon, but right now I have a clear table top beside my computer except for the work laid out to do immediately after I write this. The toss bag is waiting by the front door to go out the the garbage can. Taking another 5 minutes to empty the Put Away box is essential for me. If that isn't done immediately, it will become another box waiting to be dealt with. My give-away collection is growing. I decided to leave that box in the room until it is full. Then it will go out to the car, ready to be dropped off.

I put supper in the crock pot and forced myself to make a healthy wrap for lunch. The dishes are either done, or rinsed and collecting in a dishpan under my sink, my version of a dishwasher as a collection place for dirty dishes, another hint from Flylady that preserves water and keeps my kitchen looking tidy. I have done that one, more or less, since I first met Flylady, but lately my kitchen counter had become quite cluttered, so I am really trying to do apply it more faithfully.

That's it for today. How do I feel? Great. Join me tomorrow for day 3, letter E.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Idea

February 2, 2009

It is the beginning of a new month. Wiarton Willie has seen his shadow, so we will stay bundled up for six more weeks. I spent some time on the road today, prowled a new bookstore and went with my purchase to an adjoining cafe. Finding yet another book on organizing your home reminded me once again that although I vowed when I retired three and a half years ago (Can it really be that long?) that my number one priority would be to get myself organized and efficient, I am still sitting in an office crammed with papers and break into a sweat every time the doorbell rings.

As I drove home, I had this idea that maybe if I committed to you, my readers, to faithfully organize for the next month or so, and to be accountable by reporting my progress; maybe, just maybe, I would manage to tame the monster, or whoever it is that keeps messing up my home!
I am a creative person, sometimes too creative for my own good perhaps...but that's a whole other issue. “So,” I proposed to myself as I drove along, “if I can find a creative way to do this, maybe I will actually achieve my goal, have fun along the way, and still get to write, which I love,...and which, if truth be told, often draws me away from duller chores like housework. (Who needs tidy when one can escape into the wonderful world of the imagination?)”

As I waited in the lineup for the car wash, ( That's a first step, right?) my plan was finalized. I am embarking on a 35 day accrostic journey for the “CREATIVE CLEANSING OF MY CHAOTIC CLUTTER” (I do have a penchant for alliteration.) Perhaps you would like to journey with me. Check in each day to find out what the next letter of the title entails, and join in the fun. I hope you will share some of your own joys and successes by using the comment option...and, although I don't want to envision such a possibility, maybe you can encourage me to keep going if you sense I am falling off the rails.

So here we go: Day 1, letter C – CONTRACT.

I am contracting with you to make the most valiant attempt possible to embark on this creative cleansing of my chaotic clutter. I promise to keep you posted and to share any little tricks I learn along the way. I have a feeling we are going to have a good time, and come through at the end with happier households... or at least a better handle on managing our now calm and comfortable castles. Ready? Let's go.

Check in tomorrow for Day 2 – letter R