Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Whatever, nasty book reviewers!

I have to confess that I'm media-illiterate.  My sisters, and even my mom know much more about pop culture than I do.  Sometimes, when they talk, or post on Facebook, I don't even know who (or what) they are talking about.  Both my sisters feel the need to explain cultural references to things that they think I won't understand.  "It's from Glee.  That's a TV show."  Every time I go home to NY to visit my mom, she has a line-up of TiVO'd shows to catch me up on pop culture; she runs the gammit from baby polar bears to that English guy who traveled around America, trying to make school lunches healthy.
What can I say?  I have a three and four year old.  I don't have cable.  My cell phone still has an antenna.  (And yes, it works fine.)

I don't watch much TV.  I'm going to lay some of the blame on my husband.  He doesn't listen to the second half hour of NPR news shows because they are too much about human interest and not enough about news.  He can't listen to Teri Gross if she's interviewing musicians or actors.  I, on the other hand, love this stuff.  So I knew all about Glee, because I'd heard the interview on Fresh Air.  I'd just never seen the show.  And before my husband was around, I watched Big World, Little People and Twenty-??? Kids and Counting on a regular basis.  Back when I had cable, I watched that show about Hugh Hefner's girlfriends all the time.  I LOVED those girls.

I had never heard the name Jeremy Lin until he was featured on All Things Considered a few days ago.  The announcer actually had the nerve to say something like, "and for those of you who don't watch TV or read newspapers, Lin is a Harvard basketball player...."  Whatever, Robert Segal! 

And I never heard of the show, Whatever, Martha, starring Jennifer Koppelman-Hutt and Alexis Stewart until my sister Diane told me about it. 

My sister is a talk-radio junkie.  She has a lifetime subscription to Sirrius.  She's ten times more plugged in to the real world than I am.  So when she called me, the other day, to tell me about Jennifer Koppelman-Hutt's radio show, Just Jenny, she immediately prefaced it with "she's this really smart, witty woman who hosted, Whatever, Martha, with Martha Stewart's daughter."  I drew a blank, but my sister wasn't phased.  "This week, she was talking about internet dating.  So I pulled off the road, called in, and plugged your book!"

My sister!  Then, as if that wasn't enough, she emailed Jennifer Koppelman-Hutt and Jennifer wrote her back, within fifteen minutes, and said she'd post a link to my book on her blog, Just Jenny.

So of course, I immediately started reading the Just Jenny blog.  Then I went onto You Tube and watched all the available episodes of Whatever, Martha.  They were hilarious, made even funnier when I saw an interview where Jennifer and Alexis said that the concept was Martha's.  So it's not like they are being mean.  Just funny.  My favorite episode is the one where Martha makes Smores.  Watch it and you'll see what I mean. 

Jennifer and Alexis used to have a radio show, called "Whatever," and now they have a book called "Whateverland."  As an author on Amazon, with my share of one-star reviews, I couldn't help but check out theirs.  As those of you who read my blog know, I have a lot of reviews that I consider gratuitously mean.  I see now that I'm not alone.  Actually, Jennifer gets mostly praise with a couple of kicks in the gut.  They tear her co-author, Alexis to shreds. 

Here's an example from 70kicks:
"Jennifer comes across as a girl's girl, loving and needy, but clearly possessing a generous heart and nature."  Loving and needy?  It's like you don't know whether to feel complimented or insulted.  She gets off easy, though.  About Alexis, 70kicks finishes with: "if she ever ventured out of the tri-state area the locals would beat her to death with her own bleached white bathmat."

The negative reviewers really bash Alexis.  It's as if they are transfering feelings of inadequacy triggered by Martha onto her daughter!  I'm guessing that Alexis is blunt and honest in the book, and they are crucifying her for it. A lot of reviewers felt that way about my main character, Quinn Malone, in The Truth About Dating. I think that not every reader appreciates that kind of honesty. 

Mean reviews just make the reviewer sound caddy.  I've been reading Jennifer's Just Jenny blog, and it's obvious right away that she has real heart.  The other day, she did a video blog from her treadmill.  She had to pause, just minutes in, because her sister called her.  I also liked her tribute to Whitney Houston.  Even though her book isn't my usual genre, I'm going to order a copy.  My sister loved the Whateverland, so I figured it's worth checking out.  Also, I want to do it because a big-time radio/tv personality took the time to respond to my sister's email, and then put a link to my book on her blog.  How many people like her do things like that?  Not many.  Just Jenny.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Another crafty blogger gets the better of me.

I got really excited, a few weeks ago, about a blog site that showed how to make sturdy containers by recycling cardboard boxes.  Here's a link to the "make it and love it" site.  The instructions are so clear.  The end result looks great.  I wanted to make boxes for my bathroom. 

But, Readers, I've been fooled again!  These arts and crafts bloggers are professionals!  They make crafts all day long.  And I'm guessing from their ads that they are also making money off their sites.  So why do I always expect to be able to replicate their work? 

Look at the end result of the blog above.  Then look at mine:



Mine scream "Craft-project gone wrong!"  And I graduated from art school!   I could see it as I applied the paper and fabric.  In an attempt to save the blue one, I even painted strips on the material.  Now my tampon holder has a Naval theme.  Maybe I should have used prettier fabric.  But I used what I had, which means I cut up a pair of pants from Old Navy that no longer fit.  Hey, I was home alone with two sick kids.  I couldn't go out to the fabric store.  Plus, I wanted to use things from home.  I didn't want to spend money on these boxes.  In retrospect, I probably should have just left them as exposed cardboard.  Given the tampon holders an edgy urban feel. 

Crafts bloggers are like those hotty men who show you a good time but never call you when they say they will.  You end up missing out on all kinds of fun things because you're waiting by the phone.  And just when you get a grip and go off to do something else, the phone rings and it's Mr. Hotty, inviting you out to this really cool club.  You scrap the plans you had in order to go out with him, and the next day you're back to where you were, alone, by the phone, with last night's mascara making you look like you have racoon eyes. 

So why do I keep holding out hope that I'll ever be able to make something as well as these crafty bloggers?  I should throw in the towel now, but instead I'm already planning my next project.  I need a landing pad for my entryway.  My husband and I have been checking thrift stores for something appropriate, but I think a better idea is to custom make my own, out of cardboard.  Think I'm nuts?  Check out THIS blog from instructables on making cardboard furniture.  In particular, check out the spiral bookcase.  I'm salivating.  And I think I can do it!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Remember what it was like to be bored?

Ever since I've been home full-time, I've been practicing a manic kind of procrastination.  Instead of living in the moment of being home with my children, instead of taking this precious time and using it to make myself a happier, healthier person, by doing yoga, exercising, and writing, I'm decluttering my house.  It's one of those things you can twist around to sound positive ("think of how calming it will be when our house is decluttered and we can invite people over without having to clean for four hours first") but it's actually more of a deer-in-the-headlights moment.  I'm finally home alone with my children.  I'm not working for the first time in two decades.  Yet, instead of living my dream, I'm letting guilt ("how'd I get so lucky, when so many people are barely able to put food on the table with mutiple jobs") and frenetic energy take over and send me through the house, decluttering one drawer at a time.

But today, something interesting happened.  I ran out of things to do.  Both kids have been sick all week.  I've been decluttering in tiny increments because I can't spend much time away from them.  My downstairs is about as done as it can get.  When I awoke this morning, my plan was to do the studio space and maybe also move my son's dresser upstairs to their bedroom.  (It's heavy, but I figured with a blanket on the stairs I could slide it up.)  Then, this afternoon, both kids fell asleep.  So, obviously, I couldn't declutter upstairs. 

I stayed downstairs and finished off my cardboard boxes for tampons.  (They didn't turn out as great as that crafty blogger's did.  I'll post about that later.)  I worked on my book trailer video.  (For The Truth About Dating.  I'll post when it's ready).  I got all our paperwork together for taxes.  I made some phone calls.  I fought the urge to check my book sales.  I started to fold the laundry and then realized my husband had done it already.  I went through my to-do list and crossed off everything I could do downstairs.  And then I had nothing.  So I worked on my novel.  Then I did fifty sit-ups, down from the two-hundred I'd been doing before I left my job, but up from the zero I'd done since January.  I practiced the piano.  I thought about the next scene in my novel.  I worked on my novel again.  The kids are still sleeping.  I'm actually bored, which is why I'm blogging.  I'm bored!  Do you have any idea how long it has been since I've been bored????  When I finish this blog, I'm going to do another fifty sit-ups.  Then I'm gonig to read the Dining In, Dining Out section of yesterday's New York Times.    Then I think I'll wake up the kids.  I want someone to play with me.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day, Single Women of the World

This Valentine's Day, give yourself, or a single woman you love, the gift of laughter.  Give her a copy of The Truth About Dating (The Quinn Malone series),only 99 cents!  I hated Valentine's Day when I was single.  There was always so much pressure to not feel like an unloved loser.  In all my years of singledom, I never had a single Valentine's Day that I got to spend with a boyfriend.  When I married, I thought it would make every Valentine's Day perfect.  Instead, marriage somehow neutralized the day to where it no longer mattered.  Overnight, I suddenly couldn't have cared less about the day.  I guess V-Day is a day of torture when you are single and a day of meaningless hype when you actually have a guy around to celebrate it with. 

So show a little love to your single friends on this Valentine's Day.  Single women have it hard (yes, Smug-Marrieds, they have it harder than you do, so stop whining about how having a husband is like having another child and give your single gal pals a hug and this book.  And while you're at it, try reading it yourself.  You might learn a thing or two.)

Here's an excerpt from The Truth About Dating.  After months of unsuccessful dates on Match.com, our heroine, Quinn Malone, has convinced her best friend Izzy to join Match, too.



Valentine’s Day

 “I had a meltdown on my date last night.” I told Izzy.

“Meltdown or breakthrough?” she asked. “You’re just getting more efficient.”

Maybe she was right. Ryan didn’t look particularly distressed when I left. In fact, he’d nodded and said, “Good points.” And he shook my hand before I left.

“I’m loving Match!” Izzy told me. “I’ve been out on three dates this week. I can’t believe how good it feels. This was just what the doctor ordered. I bought a six-month subscription.”

“You paid for six-months? You’ve had three dates in one week?” I asked.

“Yes. And even just the goodnight kisses have raised my self-confidence through the roof. I feel unstoppable. Match is the best thing I’ve done in years.”

“You’ve kissed people? How many?”

“All three.”

“You kissed all three men you met on Match?”

“Yes.”

“And they were kissable? You wanted to kiss them?”

“They were all babes. The first guy, Joe, had a kind of country boy charm to him. He was sweet. He paid for dinner.”

“You let a guy pay for dinner?”

“Why not? And as we were leaving, I figured, I’m going to kiss him. So I leaned in and gave him a small kiss on the lips. He was taken completely by surprise. It was fun.”

“—”

“The second guy was a banker and he was a little straight-laced. But I think I’m just what he needs to loosen up a little. And he’s a little short.”

“How short?”

“It’s not too bad. But he’s just a couple of inches taller than me. It bothers me more than I’d like it to.”

“Height? Who cares? Remember Max?” I asked.

Izzy rolled her eyes. “The name rings a bell.”

Max was my…how do I say this without being trite? It’s not possible. He was my first love. We dated ten months before breaking up. Even though I’m the one who did the breaking up, I took the three-year plan to get over him. Izzy surely reached a point where she was so sick of Max’s name that she wanted to scream. But I almost never bring him up anymore. I probably haven’t mentioned him more than five times a year for the past 3-4 years.

“When I first met him,” I began, “I didn’t think he was good-looking at all.” Izzy had never met Max. I wasn’t living in Omaha back then. “I fell for him because he was so funny and because he had so much integrity.”

Izzy nodded. “I still don’t understand why you two broke up.”

“We were moving down different paths. We had completely different life goals. He wanted a wife. I wanted a partnership. But toward the end of our dating life, I remember sitting with him at El Patio. Remember that restaurant?”

“In the student ghetto?” Izzy had visited me enough times in Albuquerque to know my haunts.

“Yeah. And I suppose I knew that we weren’t going to make it. And I remember thinking that if I could just keep looking at him forever, I would.” I grimaced. “We broke up that same night. About some stupid fight. I can’t even remember now.”

“So, by the end, you thought he was handsome.”

“No. Even then, while I was staring at him, I remember thinking ‘All this pain he’s causing and he’s not even good-looking.’ I loved his looks anyway.”

“He sounds like he had a lot of charisma.”

“He did. Charisma is deadly,” I warned. I did a little internal survey. It was still painful to talk about Max. I moved on. “But some guys just make you click, you know? And no one has it all. So if it happens with the banker, if you fall for him, you won’t care about his height anyway.”

Izzy nodded. “And he’s a great kisser. And, we’re going out on Valentine’s Day!”

“Valentine’s Day? When is that?”

“Saturday.”

“How do you manage all this? I haven’t had a single kissable guy since I started Match. Except for Caleb, who just wanted sex.”

“What about the guy from California?”

“Derek. He flies in next Saturday.”

“You should kiss him.”

“I don’t know if he’s kissable.”

“He’s cute. He’s flying across the country to see you.”

“I’ll try. Okay. That will be my weekend goal. To kiss him.”

“You won’t regret it,” Izzy said.



On Valentine’s Day, I had Moo Shu Pork take out and listened to the Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity Session cd until I felt completely desolate. Izzy called. “How are you doing?”

“Aren’t you on your date?”

“Uh-oh. You don’t sound good. Do I hear the Cowboy Junkies?”

I felt my eyes tear up. “I don’t know why I do this to myself,” I said. “It’s just a stupid greeting card holiday.”

“Yesterday, everyone at work was saying ‘Happy Valentine’s Day.’ I told everyone, ‘Happy Friday the 13th!’”

That made me smile, a little bit. “What about your date?”

“I’m dressing for it right now. So tell me, what are you going to do to make yourself feel better?”

“Eat a pint of Häagen-Dazs?”

“No. First, turn off the Cowboy Junkies. Second, watch a movie. Go rent something you haven’t seen before but always wanted to.”

“I’m kind of settled at home,” I said. “I thought I’d stay in for the night.”

“It’s 6:30!” she snapped.

“I don’t know how safe the roads are, what with all those happy couples driving around on dates.”

“Listen to me,” Izzy said. “You have a Match.com guy flying in from California next week, to see you! Now march yourself outside right now and rent something funny that will get you out of this state you’ve gotten yourself into.”

“Okay.”

“Promise?”

“Yes.”

I rented Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the movie. It wasn’t as good as the television series. Izzy was right, though. It did make me feel better.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Euphoria over Mundanity

So I'm decluttering my house.  The book I've been referencing, Organized Simplicity, by Tsh Oxenreider, has a 10-day schedule for decluttering your entire house.  It sounded so simple!  But aside from the mental fatigue and sore back that come from getting rid of all your crap, there's also the pesky little things like life. 

I've been half-assing my way through Oxenreider's schedule.  I've done half the studio space, half the kids' room, and half the bathroom.  Full conession: there is still some unresolved clutter, neatly piled on shelves in my living room (the first room I did), because we haven't had a chance to sit down and figure out what to do with it. 

My lofty goals for today included finishing the bathroom completely and making a little headway into the kids' room.  Yesterday, my excuse was that my son was sick.  Today, well, this morning, I mean like, at four in the morning, my DOG got sick.  From 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. my poor dog threw up seven times and needed to go out, each time, too.  I finally just dragged my pillow and a blanket downstairs and slept on the sofa, so that I could clean up the vomit without waking everyone else in the house.  You might wonder why I got stuck with that duty.  He's my dog.  My husband got him because we were a package deal.  He doesn't understand why our dog lives in the house with us.  (He grew up on farm.  I did not.)  So he cleans up poop and takes the dog on walks, but I can't really wake him and say, "Hey, I've been cleaning up dog vomit or two hours.  Can you take the next shift?"  I could.  And he would.  But I wouldn't be able to go back to sleep because I'd be listening to make sure he hadn't just put the dog outside in the dark and cold.  Which is why I was awake downstairs and listening for gagging sounds from my dog, who was locked in the kitchen, the only room with no rugs.  Well, there was one rug.  It seemed clean, until I stepped on it with my bare foot!)  

During the kids' breakfast, I discovered that he had also vomited all over his two beds.  Even though I'd been sanitizing the floor as I cleaned up each mess, I decided the best thing was to do a total wash down.  So, after breakfast, but before preschool, I washed the pantry, kitchen, and mud room floors. 

When my sidekick and I returned from dropping his sister off at preschool, we inspected the yard and saw that our poor old dog had continued the puking outside.  I shoveled snow over everything and we went back inside, where I tried to complete my goal of bathroom declutter.  I even sorted through all my earrings, etc, and cleaned the floor.  It's about 90% done.  I cleverly hung all my necklaces on the inside of our old, built-in medicine cabinet and then realized that the door can't close with the necklaces there.  So, I need to deal with that.  I'm also going to make some homemade boxes (out of recycled cardboard boxes) for sanitary stuff.  Actually, I'm just going to say it - for tampons and pads.  Someone sent me some neat blogs about building lots of stuff, even furniture, out of cardboard boxes.  I'll post those when I do the boxes. 

Then my little guy's fever came back.  I had to run him to preschool and rush inside to coat-up/boot-up my daughter (the slowest dresser in the world) while my son waited in the car, holding an empty yogurt container because he thought he had to throw-up, too!  (He didn't,thank God!)

The inserts for the dog beds could not be washed.  They were so old they were falling apart.  While my daughter had quiet time, and the little guy slept, I spent about an hour online, trying to find new inserts for my dog's bed.  When that didn't work, I decided to get him an orthopedic bed (he's 11-years old or so).  I spent about an hour fretting over how much to spend on a bed.  (Expensive but better made?  Is orthopedic just a marketing ploy?).

So my house isn't decluttered in ten days.  Or two weeks.  So be it.  Frankly, I'm proud of what I did accomplish today, especially considering I've been up since four.  In fact, now I'm left wondering why I haven't crashed yet?  I hope I can keep this up until the kids fall asleep tonight.  My husband left just as they woke this morning and he won't get home until they are sound asleep.  It'd be better, of course, if he was here.  But somehow, I seem to be chugging along, doing fine on my own, even though I've only been doing this stay-at-home business for just over a month.  I guess this is it  - this is the life.  My life.  And it's working!  I'm doing it!  I feel like shouting, "Look ma!  No hands!"

FOOTNOTE: Dog and his new, orthopedic bed.

20-Minute De-Clutters

Turns out, it's harder to throw out half empty bottles of conditioner than I realized.  As my bag of plastic containers grew, I realized that I'd probably have to wash each one of them out before putting them into the recycle bin.  And what do I do with ten tubes of lipstick that I'll never use?  Garbage?  They are perfectly good, but who wants lipstick that I've used once or twice.  (And why do I have that many?  I can't remember anymore). 

My son came down with another bug, so I couldn't devote myself to the bathroom project as planned.  Instead, I'm doing it in twenty minute incrememts.  One time, I cleaned out the shelf over the toilet.  Another time, I did the shelves over the sink.  Meanwhile, my husband cleared out tons of his books (again, a painful process.  Goodbye Backyard Astronomy, goodbye outdated organic gardening book, and piles of Graham Greene novels.)  I used to sell my books to used bookstores, but they are struggling so much that I wonder if we could give donate them?  My favorite, on Dodge Street, isn't even there anymore. 

In one de-clutter book, the writer suggested that if you do weekly laundry, you only need one bath towel per person, and a couple of extras for guests.  This sounded brillant, and so easy, until it was time for me to choose which kid towels should go.  The one shaped like a duckie?  Or the frog?  And which of mine should go?  The nice quality one?  Or the worn out, faded, slightly stained one that is so much more comfortable? 

Today, my plan is to finish the bathroom and reorder the bookshelves. I can't de-clutter like they suggest in the books, because I don't have enough free time. The bathroom was de-cluttered, primarily by filling up the linen closet. The final project will be to de-clutter that pig-of-a-space. But I'm not going to think about that right now. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Murder with Art, A Ruby Neptune Mystery (Book 2)

The second book in my Ruby Neptune mystery series, Murder with Art, is now available. 

The blurb:
In an art gallery in New York City, a wealthy banker is murdered. Manhattan’s art scene is full of people who would have benefited from his death, but newly-published writer Ruby Neptune takes it personally when her best friend, a local artist, becomes the prime suspect. Still traumatized from the death of her neighbor a few months earlier, Ruby jeopardizes her tenuous recovery to investigate. As the incriminating evidence piles up, she realizes she’s gotten in too deep, but it’s too late to turn back. Ruby has no choice but to seek out the truth, even if it means drawing the attention of the killer onto herself.

This book can be read on its own, but it's even better if you read it after you've read the first in the series, Murder Beyond Words.

I uploaded it last night (February 7th).  It probably went live at about 3AM on February 8th.  When I logged on this morning at 6AM, someone had already purchased a copy.  If that was you, would you drop me a line to say hi and let me know what made you buy the first copy? 


Click here to purchase Murder with Art on Amazon.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Gut-wrenching Pain of De-cluttering Bookcases

It's a dreary day, ideal, one might say, for de-cluttering.  But cloudy days bring out the opposite of productive energy in me.  However, here's a quick update on what happened over the weekend. 

Our basement had been totally torn apart because we got the walls insulated.  This meant that we had to move everything to the center.  If clutter causes stress, our basement would cause an anxiety attack in anyone who wasn't blind.  Just to do laundry we've had to navigate around piles of crap.  While we were all recovering from the stomach flu two weekends ago, my husband cleared up the area by the washer/dryer.  On Saturday, we turned on a movie for the kids and began moving everything back onto shelves, rehanging the peg board for the tools, and sorting through the stuff that we have but don't know what to do with so store down where we can't see it. 

The workmen who have been insulating our house were planning to return on Monday morning to put insulation on our windows.  We have a 100-year old house and our windows have a weight and pulley system that creates drafts.  They had some new device that covers the openings of the weight cavities.  So even though I didn't want to start the Big Bedroom De-clutter till Monday, I felt obligated to clean up sooner.  While my husband finished in the basement, I did a deep dust clean of the bedroom, vacuuming on the top of all the windows, all the baseboards, and in all the nooks and crannies of our weight machine.  From there, I did that in all the windows upstairs. Too bad dust is a completely useless resource. 

Since the bedroom looked pretty good, I decided to get back to it later and start on an easier project, my kids' room.  We have an entire wall of books.  I started sorting them out yesterday, because we are totally out of room.  I had my little boy with me.  He was busy trying to read all the books I took down and objecting to any of his books being given away.  We were rocking out to Six Little Ducks and a bunch of other kids' music.  Pretty quickly, he lost interest and started pretending that his bed was a train he was taking to Florida. 

Books I removed: Ethan Frome, Life of Pi, Biography of Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker's In Search Of Our Mother's Garden, which I've had since I was about 24 years old.  The Strange Incident of the Dog in the Nightime, Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimoto, The Three Musketeers, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, North and South, Mauprat, by George Sands (which I've had since I was a student in Brooklyn), and many, many more.  It was heartbreaking.  I bought tons of them when I lived in New York City in my early twenties, and I've carted them with me to various apartments, then to New Mexico, Minnesota, and Nebraska.  Now I've got a 1300 square home, more space than I've ever had in my entire life, and I'm getting rid of them?  It's painful.  I remembered exactly where I bought many of those books.  The stores and the street vendors.  And then, after I had this huge pile of books, I looked up and the bookcase was still completely overstuffed and full, with no real room. 

I got rid of a bunch of my kids' books.  Criteria?  If I don't like reading them, goodbye.  Then I opened their closet (which we never use.  I had to move two pieces of furniture to get to it, and inside were about sixty more books.  So I took a pile of them out, and put them on the shelf.  I'm going to try to read and throw out books that I don't like.  Also in that closet is a crib that we apparently can't give away because of recalls for side-dropping cribs.  We have a Visiting Nurse friend who gives a lot of our stuff to at-risk new mothers, but she can't take the crib because of the recall.  Ironically, she is the one who gave us the crib in the first place!  We used it for both of our kids.  Now we can't give it away.  I hated to think of it in the dump, so I just shut the closet door and moved all the furniture back.  I'll deal with the closet another day. 

I'll come back to the bookcase again, after my husband has sorted through all of his books and hopefully thrown a bunch out. 


De-cluttering is tiring because it's so emotional.  It was easy to just clean the bedroom this weekend.  It was draining to de-clutter the bookcase yesterday.  Since I've put the bedroom project on temporary hold, I decided to tackle the bathroom.  I'm going to go up there after nap-time today with a big garbage bag.  How hard can it be to toss out half used hair care products and expired tubes of cortisone?

Declutter Days Two and Three

On Day Two, I spent a quick hour or so clearing away the rest of my living room clutter.  All that was left was the space in the TV chest, which was full of empty music cds and assorted crap.  My son and I did this together.  He stacked the VHS tapes in one pile, CD cases in another, and CDs in another.  My city recycles the CD cases, but not the VHS or actual CDs.  They gave me this site: earth911.com which let me search for local places that recycle these objects.  I found a place, which charges 30 cents a pound to recycle each of these items.  The pain part is that it's on the outskirts of town, a good twenty minute drive or longer.  But, I've got them bagged up and ready to go.  While I was online, I also searched and found out that Best Buy would take my broken modem.  I can't find any where to recycle my broken Christmas tree lights...yet.

I'd planned to start Day Three next week, but life happened.  My husband was home and when a visit from a friend was canceled, we decided to tackle our piano room.  (It's the dining room of our house, but we have a four-square, so the dining and living room merge and we really use it as a second living space.  Our plan was to move the futon in that room upstairs to his newly unoccupied office (my painting studio.)  All we needed to do was move the futon, clear clutter off the piano top, and organized the craft cabinet.  But to move the futon, we had to first take the giant desk out of the studio, which meant unhooking the computer up there.  My husband did this while my little sidekick and I reorganized the craft cabinet.  With all the cds and VHS tapes gones, there was room under the TV for this, so I turned the old craft cabinet into a paper and crayon station for the kids.  Now that stuff can be put away at the end of the day. 

Meanwhile, we couldn't fit the futon where the desk had been, so in addition to moving the desk, I had to completely reorganized 15  years worth of paintings in my studio.  I had planned that to be my LAST declutter project, done sometime way later, like summer or fall, and instead it became my third.  I didn't have time to organized the shelves or closet, so it doesn't really count.  In fact, by the time I get to those areas, the paintings will need to be redusted.  Our house is a dust factory.

Now the piano top is just for photos and some electronic stuff we don't want the kids to touch.  (I couldn't just leave photos, because there was too much extra space, and for someone like me, empty spaces are nothing more than an invitation for dump clutter there.  I have a basket of toys up there too.  Balls for juggling, cards, a harmonica, stuff that we don't want the kids to have full-time access too.  My husband is the one who's learning to juggle - in fact most of the toys are for him). 


I have two tables of papers and misc stuff that I didn't get to yesterday.  I'd planned to do it today but I'm blogging instead.  So...Friday.  The dust is gone from behind everything and I even vacuumed under the rug.  It's cool to know that our downstairs is almost clutter free. 
1. Entryway - check!
2.  Pantry - check!
3.  Living room - check!
4.  Piano room - check!
5.  Spice cupboard - check!  The kitchen cupboards need to be cleaned out, but otherwise it's fine so I can wait a little longer. 

I want to tackle our bedroom next.  It's going to be the worst room, by far.  But first I want to rest.  So I told my husband to call me today from work and say, "You had better not be cleaning our bedroom!"  He did, too.

Check back with me on Monday or Tuesday.  By then I should be deep into the bedroom.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Declutter 2012! Day One

Today was probably the wrong day to start my massive new project.  If I was a little less rigid, I would have canceled, but I've been so excited that I didn't want to lose my momentum.  As mentioned in the last blog, I'd been preparing by reading a declutter book by Tsh Oxenreider.   My first plan, to start with the easiest room, which I'm calling the Piano Room for lack of a more meaingingful term, was nixed this weekend.  The room has the least clutter, but it has a lot of furniture that we aren't going to keep in there.  Mainly, it has a futon that's go to go, and my husband's plant table - a table of herbs and hydroponic tomatos that he's been trying to maintain over the winter.  It's ugly and cumbersome and most of the plants are dead.  Which is why he agreed to get rid of it.  But I don't want to declutter a room halfway, especially not for the first one.  So instead I decided to do the living room.  Its function is to watch TV or read.  That's pretty much all we do there.

THE STATS:
Two easy chairs (where we sit, so they stay.)  Not anything beautiful, but functional and we don't get worked-up if something gets spilled on them.

A two drawer chest (stores hats in one drawer, mittens and gloves in the other. Top is used for resting whatever we are drinking, and our books/Kindle.  On the back of it we have a smart strip.  Into it is plugged two reading lamps, one general room lamp, speaker for the TV, and powercords for the laptop and Kindle.  This way, the cords stay plugged in at all times but we can switch each one off individually to stop vampire energy)  Ugly but functional.  If it was pretty, we couldn't have screwed the powerstrip into the back of it.

Church pew.  This thing is on its way out.  We are waiting for a garage sale. 

Son's dresser.  It's also a changing table.  We had it downstairs when the kids were little.  It's time to move it up to his room, as more and more the kids are changing upstairs before they come down here.  The good news is that I decluttered the insides of it a couple of weeks ago.   Dated but well made. 

Bookcase.  It's kind of our junk drawer.  It's behind our chairs, so the kids can't access it, and that status explains why we put all the crap we don't want the kids to find into it.  We have three baskets on the shelves that hold nail clippers, crazy glue, scotch tape, Swiss Army pen knives, etc.  Pretty old antique.

Chest.  This holds our TV on top.  Inside, it's a big empty space that's taken up with DVDs and CDs and a pile of New Yorker magazines that we hate to throw away even though we will probably never read them again.  There's also a bunch of crap on the surface.  It's another place where we put things we have no spot for -- glasses, phone messages, pens, pencils, etc.  Our phone is up there, as is our radio.  A pretty antique.

Wall Shelves.  These are over the dresser/changing table, which is probably why they hold lots of kids stuff.  Actually, we put them up to hold kids' stuff, a few years back.  Now they hold the kids' medicines, hair stuff, sunscreen, baby lotion, the paperback versions of my books, a can of WD-40, assorted childrens' books, and clothes that either don't fit them anymore, are too big, or are the wrong season. 

Time to take it all out!  My plan was to move it all into the piano room while my daughter was in preschool.  But then my husband woke with the stomach flu that the rest of us had on Friday, and my daughter woke up acting sick.  So he's upstairs, ill.  She's home, ill.  My son and I are pretty much back to normal health again - just a little tired.  I lost five pounds from spending all day Friday in the bathroom with stomach issues.  See?  Should have waited.  But I couldn't.  So I spent the morning check on my sick wards, and unloading each site and sorting.  Then my daughter perked up to where she didn't seem sick, so add distracting both kids from the piles of junk on the floor. 

Now it's almost 1pm.  Daughter is upstairs, having quiet time.  Husband is in bed, which is also where son usually sleeps at naptime.  Son is downstairs with me, "sleeping" on the futon.
Bookcase is clear.  Shelves are about half clear.  Piano room is cluttered full of crap that I don't know what to do with.  I've got other piles, for basement, bedroom, crafts location (as yet, unknown, but probably in the piano room), Goodwill, recycling, and garbage. 

Surface of TV chest is untouched.  I'm just sitting here, decompressing a bit.  It's the first time I've sat since I woke up and I've already been interupted twice to wipe my kids' butts and dump potty bins.  Thank god my husband is a low maintanence patient!

I'm going to go on Facebook for a minute.  Then check my email.  Then I'm going to finish.  Before the kids get up.  I've got beans soaking for dinner.  I hope I get to it, but if not, we'll just do grilled cheese sandwiches and I'll make a nice dinner tomorrow. 

My plan:
Tackle the rest of the shelves.  Maybe even take them down so I'm not tempted to store things on them temporarily.
Tackle the TV surface. 
Surface clean the piano room of all the crap that's filtered into it. 
Figure out where to store the piles of things I won't know what to do with. 

I can do it!  I can do it!  I will do it!  I will.

UPDATE: I'm wicked tired, but I did it!  It's all clear.  The wall shelves have temporary stuff on them.  Things that need to go other places or into our garage sale pile, but I want my husband to look at them, so I'll save that clearing until the weekend.  The room looks good.  It feels good to have everything extra gone, and no place to casually leave things.  If I can manage that in every room, I truly may get a clutter free house.

The Great De-Clutter Experience

On January 1, my husband and I switched roles, and he went back to work full time while I am home with the kids.  In addition to enjoying my family, I was going to start work on my next novel, and do some yoga.  Oh, and clean up the house a little. 

Officially one month in, I've devoted almost all of my energy toward house cleaning and decluttering. 

I guess it's time for me to admit to myself that I'm pretty much using the cleaning as a form of procrastination that's keeping me from my intended schedule of exercise, writing, yoga, and painting.  However, I am usually so messy, that I think it will be good to harness this energy while it's here and how far it takes me and how clean I can get my house. 

RESOURCES: (In case you're looking for a little inspiration, too!)

The site that first inspired all of this was a video on Apartment Therapy that talked about getting a landing strip in your house - you know, the place where you organize all the crap you've carried into your home. 
http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/day-8-find-a-recipe-the-2020-h-129698

They also had a cleaning schedule (20 minutes/day).  Their schedule isn't quite right for me, but I've been tracking all the cleaning I'm doing, over the past month.  After I've got two months of daily cleaning, I'm going to sit down and try to create my own schedule for our household. 

For my house-wide decluttering project, I'm also referencing a book I got online, Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider.  It was free when I downloaded it to my Kindle.  Now it looks like it's only free for Prime Members, and there are probably lots of equally good but free sources if you want to take the time to troll through all the decluttering blogs out there.  But I like how Tsh approaches each room differently, and asks you to think about what you need (and don't need) in that particular room. 

http://www.amazon.com/Organized-Simplicity-Clutter-Free-Intentional-ebook/dp/B004AM5IJW/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2