Sunday, February 24, 2019

Kitchens Are the Hearts of Our Homes

Throughout my life, I have had small kitchens and larger kitchens. No matter the size, it always seems to be the place where everyone gathers, even if it is a tight squeeze. It is a very busy place and has many uses such as cooking, eating, or just hanging out with family and friends. Really, I don't have a problem with keeping it clean. Hygiene in the kitchen is a top priority. My problem is keeping it decluttered. 

It seems to be easy to just let things sort of pile up, especially if you are married to a Brit. (Disclaimer: This is not my kitchen, strictly for a visual to make my point). Certain things need to stay out and available for daily use; for me it is the toaster, the roll of paper towels, the tea kettle and the coffee pot. I certainly do not want to have these items stored and get them out daily, sometimes more than just a few times a day. On the other hand, there is no reason to have a big crock pot out or insta-pot or a large mixer, or blender unless you have smoothies every day. And most of all there is no reason to have dirty dishes out...everything needs a home. I had to start with my countertops. I still have not perfected them. It is a work in progress. It certainly is much better and I am closer to my standard of perfection. It is my belief that once I feel that I have reached my goal, my number one priority is to maintain this standard. 

For me, what happens is that we receive something new and it seems to look perfect out on the counter. It blends well with other things. Pretty soon, there is little space to work. A rule that I have given myself is there will be nothing new coming in until the decluttering has been completed.

Cooking is no fun for me when I have to wrangle with 'stuff' to find a space for chopping and dicing. Never could I be a minimalist in the kitchen on my countertops. I love for some things to be out, just in the right place and for the right reason. I will never have a sink full of dirty dishes, much less all along the countertops. It is just not my thing. 

There are no hard and fast rules except for each person to visualize what it is that they want to see and accomplish. Then be realistic in scheduling this picture in my mind to be complete. I have my times penciled in for when I do what needs to be done and how long I will spend doing my decluttering. After all, I do have a life and it most definitely is not spending days from 9-5 decluttering. Prioritize and keep it simple is my motto.

Just as in losing weight, one does not gain it overnight, nor will they lose it overnight. One's house does not start with a cluttered mess. It accumulates and it will take time to get the problem fixed.

Starting with what bothered me the most was my plan of action. That would be my closet and drawers plus the kitchen. As the progress continues, I feel happier and lighter than ever. I also have used a positive quote/mantra to help me through each day. I begin the day in a quiet meditation mode and attempt to find what will motivate me to get me through whatever challenges that I will be facing. For me it is just the fact that as I declutter things, I feel like I am making room for life. Hey, that could be my mantra!

Decluttering can be stressful, especially when it comes to sentimental items to decide if I want to keep, throw out, or donate. Keeping too much causes me a huge problem so I try to always remember everything must have a home. The bed is for sleeping, not laundry, the nightstand is for a book or two and a lamp and alarm clock, my desk is a work space, not a storage space. This decluttering is not just about physical stuff. It is about decluttering my mind, too. 

My rule of thumb is a quote from William Morris:

Sunday, February 17, 2019

"Tidying Up" My Way

Please don't get me wrong. I think that Marie Kondo's method of tidying up works for some people. Maybe even for most people. For me, it was just a little too overwhelming. My messy closet was not as bad as it was two years ago. At that time, my precious, helpful daughter volunteered to come over and help. She did it without knowing just how bad it really was. I knew it looked bad and I knew that I was having trouble  finding anything that I needed in the way of shoes, handbags, clothing, basically it was total chaos and in need of a major overhaul. 

She went about it the same way that I watched Marie Kondo do it with families on her program. She actually took EVERYTHING out of my closet and piled it on the bed. Shoes went over in piles with handbags and belts. She had me sit down and pick up each item one at a time and put it in one of three piles. I had to decide if it still brought me joy. Was there a spark when I looked at it and felt it? If not, I had to say, "So long!" If it was still nice, it went in the pile for donations. If not nice enough to donate, it went in the pile of throw outs. Otherwise, she took it and put it on a hanger neatly and placed it back in the closet. 

Sorting out sleeveless tops, short sleeve tops, 3/4 tops and long sleeve tops, to jackets, slacks, skirts and dresses. I might add that she had it arranged by colors also. (Just a touch of OCD, you think?) I thought that we would never finish but actually it was not as bad as I thought. Until I came back and she had all of my shoes out in the Master Bathroom Suite. They literally took up the whole room and not to brag but we have a very large bathroom suite. 

My granddaughter, who was 4 at the time, came back and said to me, "Lola, you have a shoe store! Momma, can I have this many shoes, too?" Okay, so I had a lot of shoes. I admit that. I love shoes and handbags. I was told to sit down and try each pair on if they brought me joy. The extra component here was they had to fit comfortably for them to stay in my closet. Basically, I almost understood what she was saying. If they brought me joy and I could not wear them, then why do I have them? We sorted by sandals, flats, different heel heights, and of course her color fixation was still going strong with the shoes, just as the clothing. 
Yes, you really can!

Now, this same closet has the beginnings of looking like it did when my daughter straightened me out before. I did not have the heart to get her that involved again. I knew what had to be done. EXCEPT, with writing my book, and it being only me and no helper, I am doing it my own way. This does go against how Marie Kondo suggests, but it works for me. I am slowly working my way through the mess. I am actually trying on the piece of clothing if I think it sparks joy within me. Because, sometimes, once it is on my body, the spark fizzles out fast. I had to be honest with myself. Am I really going to wear it? Then it went to the throw away bag or the donation bag. 

Just so you know, I am getting about 5 - 7 outfits tried on each morning as I dress. So far I have 5 bags that have gone to a donation site. There will be more. I have some clothes upstairs also and when I go up, I take a few that I know do not spark joy and I have a bag already upstairs for them. The others, I bring down to try on or hang up as the case may be. This includes drawers of sweaters, tanks, sweatshirts and bathing suits. 

Never, ever did I think that I could fold the Marie Kondo method. One of our sons folds this way and one of our daughters does it the very same way. That was not a learned lesson from me. I am admittingly ashamed of my folding compared to theirs. Then, on one of the 'Tidying Up' programs, Marie showed a mother and a father who said there is no way they or their children could do that. She then brought in her own three year old to prove them all wrong. Her daughter folded a shirt as if it belonged on a shelf in a store. 

That is when I knew that I had to get with the program. My plans are to do the whole house. I can't begin to tell you how it makes me feel. Even in my office, I am working on the bookshelves and decluttering, along with drawers in the kitchen reorganized and it feels so much better. 

In our bedroom, I have decluttered my nightstand, the tops of two chest of drawers and have worked my way through 7 drawers. Of all the things that we have, I believe that we need to declutter our books. I plan on doing this by starting with my books and my books alone. Steve has many 1st edition books that are valuable. Then he has books that bring him joy to re-read. He must be the one to take that on. Actually, if I manage to get as many as I am thinking that will be going to the Library for a donation just from my piles, it will give him more space. 

As Marie says, "I can think of no greater happiness than to be surrounded only by the things I love." I can feel the love already and I have only just begun.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Happy, Happy 17 Years

There are times in my life, as in most other people's lives, that I have ignored red flags waving in my face when making choices for the wrong reasons. Yet, I chose to ignore them. This is not something that I am proud of, just pointing this out because it is coming up on Valentine's Day AND our 17th Wedding Anniversary, all on the same day! And this is how it happened.

This anniversary is so special to me because when I met this man, there were no red flags flying around me, only fireworks going off, whether I was with him or just thinking about him. 

Counting up everything, I was married for one year at an age that I thought that I knew everything. NOT. The only good thing is that I did not quit college and did not have children. Then came a marriage that lasted about 20 years. The best part of that marriage was the fact that I have two very special children and wonderful grandchildren now.

Pretty much, I thought my marrying days were over. I was not one to say that I would never marry again, let's just say that it was not on my radar screen. It actually was the best thing that could have happened to me when this ex walked away from our marriage. 

My now and forever husband had very similar circumstances in his earlier life. A brief marriage at too young of an age with no children. Then a longer marriage with two fabulous children and even though he was like myself in not initiating this action, it was one of the best things that happened to him. 

This gave both of us some time to find ourselves at a time in our lives that we each had some life  experiences to draw upon. We were a bit more seasoned. Yet the question is always out there. How do you know when it is the 'RIGHT' one? There really is no specific check list that works for everyone. For me, I just wanted to be aware of red flags. Another way to word this is that I knew what I did not want. 

The best kind of relationships just happen. You can't go out and look for it - it comes to you at just the right time; the time that you never thought it would have.

For our 19 years of being together and 17 years of this time being married, we continue to grow together more and more just by being ourselves and loving one another unconditionally. We see the whole picture of each other, our strengths and our weaknesses. We tell each other things that we would never tell anyone else because we can trust each other. Trust is there due to the respect that we have for one another. We rarely have arguments because of our respect. We agree to disagree on some subjects and this is healthy. We don't brush each other off because even if we think the other one is wrong, we take each other's opinions seriously.

Laughing a lot with each other is a big factor, even if we are laughing at ourselves. You know everything is going well if you feel as if you can totally be yourself around each other. This even means that it is okay to be quiet. Every moment does not have to be filled with chatter. It should feel comfortable to have some quiet time together, not awkward.

There are times that I know how much of a better person that I have become because of being with him. He brings out the best in me and I know that I do with him because he tells me so. The bottom line is that he just "gets me."

Does anyone know exactly what a good marriage is? I don't believe that it can be written out in specific words. It is a feeling that comes from within yourself. Most definitely, I have learned that a good marriage has to begin with a physical attraction. Chemistry must be an ingredient for the beginning of a healthy relationship. Where one must be careful is thinking that there are not other components. Two people must be willing to always be there for one another through happy and not so happy times, along with being able to talk about it.

 One thing comes to my mind is the fact that I still get butterflies when he holds my hand or see him walk around the car to open the door for me. It is our anniversary plus Valentine's Day so let's just go ahead and get a bit mushy. Something that he says that melts my heart is when he tells me (and quite often) that his favorite time of the day is when he is with me.

There are ways to show each other how much you love one another. Little things add up to big things such as my husband does not even drink coffee yet he makes my coffee daily and even brings it to me. When one of us starts off on a job around the house, the other one comes to help or takes care of another must do around the house. It surely does not hurt to be able to say, "I love you!" I imagine that we each say these special words to one another many times each day. This is not out of habit but a reminder to each other that we are in each other's lives.

The Beatles said it well when they sang," Love is old, love is new, love is all, love is you!" 

Saturday, February 2, 2019

My Own Self Awareness

Time after time I must remind myself to not be too busy with my life to live. When I now have to stop and ask myself about how did I actually work a full time plus job outside of my home and still get all things accomplished, then I know that it is time to slow it down and take a breath. LIVE! I am in control of my schedule and what I do and when.

Even though I am retired from that full time job of 10 hour days when I was lucky (several times a month it was closer to 13) I am aware of going overboard on certain aspects in my life. That is the good news because it means that I am somewhat self aware.

The most important goal that I have is to finish my novel to the point of getting it to an editor. Then, there is my weekly blog to continue to work on. This is very important to find my creative "voice" in writing. There are times that my blog is read by over a hundred people a day and other times that I get two readers. I suppose that some blogs are more interesting to more people than others. That is okay. I am writing and that is the important thing. 

Throwing that out there takes me to the fact that in order to write in my voice, I must have authenticity and to do that I must be self-aware. This fact has been proven to make one grow much faster than others in their productivity. Having a clear understanding of my own personality, including my beliefs, emotions, motivations, strengths and weaknesses will take me, I have discovered, further toward my goal. YET, still give me the time along the way to enjoy living my life; thus the picture and saying at the top of my blog. Be busy in a good way. 

Sometimes, I have learned that one can't put a time limit on long term goals. When I begin to feel overwhelmed, and asking myself why can't I get it all done, I need to take a step back and allow myself to see what is causing this problem. Almost always is putting too much on my plate at one time instead of delegating out specific times to get things done.

My days run much more smoothly when I am to bed early enough to get up by 7:30, dress and have breakfast. Fact! Then use 30 minutes to have a quiet time to meditate and reflect, find my positive mantra of the day which I post on FaceBook.  Read my e mail and check local, national and international news, then disengage from the internet. 

Time to get busy writing and revising through my storyboard or on line with my chapters. So that I am not sitting still all day, it is fine to get up, move over a load of laundry, take dishes in, refill coffee or water and even take the dog out. My dear sweet husband usually does this. I must admit though, I did get more writing done when I left my study and went to an offsite location to write using my laptop. I may have to start that again just to jump start my writing.

Then once the time is put in for writing what I feel is a reasonable amount in my novel, or the ideas need to marinate for a bit before beginning again, it is time to work on the project that I have given myself, "Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. She has gotten to me. I know myself and it would be way too overwhelming to just dump it all out. I must do a section of a closet or a couple of drawers at a time so  that I am taking my time. Already, I have taken three bags to a donation site. 

Another project that I have not been able to get into, due to nobody's fault but my own is to paint. I really want to paint some guitars for decorations. The best place for me to paint is in our inside out room (screened in porch) so this is best done in weather that is not frigid nor so overwhelmingly hot and humid that breathing is difficult. For now it will be another goal that is on my plate and that is to read more. I am happy to say that I am off to a good start this year.

One must know their limitations and there is no way that I or the two of us in this house can clean it in the way that we like for it to be cleaned. We do have someone near and dear to us come in on a weekly basis to take that off of our shoulders. When our cleaner underwent knee surgery, we hired out someone ever other week and we took care of the in between week. The house was not the same. Lucky for us that we can afford this and make it work in our budget.

The same with grocery shopping. We were spending way too much time weekly grocery shopping. Plus, we bought things on impulse and things that we already had because neither of us could remember seeing and it was not on the shopping list. What the heck, just pick it up and add it in the cart. Now the grocery does that for you on line and then loads it in your car. The amount of time and money that this has saved us is tremendous. 

It has been proven that those with high self awareness live happier and more fulfilling lives. The scientific reason for this is that they become more confident in finding and expressing their authentic selves, they are proactive instead of reactive, they have deeper thoughts and this reveals their true purpose. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson's quote: "If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me." This is exactly how I feel if I don't remain self aware. There are several techniques that I continue to use to help me stay away from losing my confidence and work on my awareness. Each day a brief meditation with a positive mantra and journal writing to reflect on how I felt in what was accomplished for the day. Also, if you have family members and close friends who can give you feedback concerning your actions, beliefs and motivations, I have found this to be essential. Some will be positive and hopefully they will know how to share with you a bit of constructive criticism; just a simple question of how is your book coming along can get me back on the right track.