Let’s Get Organized!

As I typed the title of this post, I started singing Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical,” and I have a feeling that it is going to be running through my head all day.

I could write a book (well, a really, really long blog post) about my organizational history.  Here’s the quickie version:

I have always been really good at organizing my professional space but not my personal space.  As a kid, my pattern meant a tidy desk and backpack but a semi-messy room.  As a teenager, I had obsessively neat school notes.  I loved color-coding with cool pens (Jessi?  Are you reading this?).  I loved binders and folders and paper clips.  Staples was my retail heaven!  But as my life got busier and my pace got faster, my room got messier.  And messier.  I seemed to be always cleaning it, but it didn’t get better.  I would spend an entire Saturday “cleaning,” but I spent most of my time gazing at old photographs, art work from junior high, and other memorabilia.  The state of my bedroom was always a battleground between me and my mom (in an otherwise wonderful mother-daughter relationship).  College and grad school were about the same.  Organized work and schedule.  Semi-messy room/apartment/house.

Then in 2005, while still studying in grad school and working in various capacities at a university, we added a baby boy to our family.  Suddenly, I could not tolerate our messiness.  I wanted a cozy, clean place to raise our little family.  I tried hard.  I felt like I was cleaning all the time, but the house didn’t get better.  The baby’s room was the single spotless place.  The nursery was super organized and always tidy.  I was frustrated.  Then, in April 2006 when F was 9 months old, my mom and I attended a La Leche League conference.  One of the speakers taught us about home organizing, and for the first time, I learned about the FlyLady.  Now, the FlyLady might not be for everyone, and her methods might seem silly or extreme, but she changed my life!  At least for a little while.

By June, I had my home organized and clean, and I was maintaining the routines that are essential to the FlyLady program.  I felt AWESOME!  On the evening before my baby’s first birthday in August, I was ready for the party.  The house looked good.  The cake was ready.  The food was ready.  That never happens.  On the morning of the party, I was able to attend church, do some final party prep, and just enjoy my birthday boy without the usual frantic race before guests arrived.

My home organization lasted until baby #2 arrived (about two years), and I’ve never returned to that delightful state again.  We live in a state of semi-organization. Thankfully, our summer move left us without much of our old clutter.  I’m great at crisis cleaning.  I can pull together a clean, pretty house without much trouble, but it’s not truly organized.  My closets make no sense at all.  I’m often losing things or frantically hunting for things as we head out the door.  Our second floor has tons of storage near the bathroom and bedrooms, but the drawers and closets are almost empty while our belongs are still in boxes or stacked in corners. Our car is always full of stuff, leaving it unsightly but also unsafe.

On Thursday, I attended a MOPS meeting on the subject of organization, and I’m feeling very motivated.  I also have a sense of community support, and that accountability means a lot to me!

Project: Food Budget has been so helpful, so I decided to do a similar thing with organization.  I will report once per week on my progress in getting organized.  Here is the plan of attack:

Week #1:  (April 16-April 22)  Downstairs closets and begin family paperwork

Week #2: (April 23-April 29)  Master bedroom and upstairs closets

Week #3: (April 30-May 6)  Boys’ room and paperwork

Week #4: (May 7-May 13)  Leftover unpacked boxes, back porch, and paperwork

Week #5: (May 14-May 20)  Home library

Week #6: (May 21-May 27)  Kids’ papers and crafts

Week #7: (May 28-June 3)  Car, kitchen, and finish family paperwork

Notes:  The kitchen is thrown in at the end because it is fairly well organized.  I want to tackle only two spots:  the very junkie junk drawer and the top of the fridge.  Otherwise, I’m happy with the order of my kitchen.  Paperwork is spread out through the seven week project because as I organize each space, I will have more paper to manage.  There are other areas that I could add such as the garage and bathrooms, but those areas are functioning pretty well.  Our bathrooms are basically empty, so no trouble there.  My laundry area is really just a big closet, so I’m including it in Week #1.

Anyone want to join me?

A Different Kind of Advent

Advent is the beautiful season of getting ready.  Every year at this time the preparations begin. Lists and trips and evening obligations fill the days leading up to Christmas.  Growing up in a Christian home, I’ve always known that Chistmas means more than the stuff of the secular celebration, but I still hurry around checking off a to-do list like the rest of the world.  I know that when we “get ready” during Advent we are preparing in a way that is far more significant than finding the right gift, the perfect poinsettia, or an unforgettable dessert recipe for the big day, but I get caught up in the hunt!  The Advent, this waiting, is even bigger than the best Advent calendar, the most stirring devotional booklet, and the sweetest rendition of “Silent Night.”  These are good things, meaningful things, but I often see Advent and Christmas pass without the encounter that I want and need.

This year is different.  Yes, we’re getting ready in practical ways for the upcoming celebrations.  Gifts are being planned and purchased, eventually wrapped.  Travel plans are being made, maps selected, reservations obtained.  Our celebration of Advent–a season that I love for its opportunity to tell and retell the most glorious story of all–is necessarily pared down.  We are just starting to unearth cookie sheets, special ornaments, and other pieces of our Christmas stash from dusty boxes.  There won’t be much time for baking and gift-making as we stumble through new routines in a brand-new-to-us house.

But this sense of difference is more than the fact that so many of our belongings will stay in boxes until well into the winter months.  This year, more than ever before, I have a sense of expectancy, a readiness to encounter the living Christ in a profound, yet quiet way.  My soul is in need of the deep Peace that He represents.  My insides have been tossed like a little ship on a stormy sea, and I am so longing to return to familiar waters where I can settle my heart and mind in the assurance of God’s love and His promises.  Aside from the fact that we have to drive about 1000 miles to celebrate with our families, this Christmas season is going to be exactly what I need it to be: simple.  I don’t have time to be engrossed in many of the traditional activities, and this year, that’s just fine.

Rest

Have a beautiful Sunday!

“Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.” Exodus 34:21

Have a great Labor Day!

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” ~John Lubbock

 

 

Success!


The party was fun! The weather was gorgeous. The birthday boy was his charming little self. The details of our bird themed party came together with the help of a few early party guests (thank you!!!). As with any family gathering, I was overwhelmed by the blessing of being surrounded by the people who love us most during an important milestone.

For very little money, the bird theme came to life! The decorations pictured above couldn’t have been any simpler. A trip to the library provided lots of “bird books” for decorating the tables, and my sister read a few to the kids.

Too bad I forgot the party favors at home. Bummer…

I don’t want to be melodramatic, but the very act of blogging seems to bring the drama out in me. Something about stopping, reflecting, and distilling a memory or thought into words heightens every emotion and romanticizes every experience. That’s exactly what I love about writing, but at the same time, it’s also what I want to subdue at times. So I offer this little prelude as I talk to you about simplicity…a concept that I know I romanticize.

I would call simplicity my Number Two goal. My first goal is to follow God, but secondly, I want to lead a simple life (I find these two goals to be significantly linked.). Oddly, my “simplicity” goal is pretty complex. Don’t you just love those pesky contradictions? I want simplicity to be the timbre of all aspects of my life: family, food, housekeeping, community activities, social life, faith. I look at magazines and fall in love with pictures of sparse living rooms, tidy nightstands, and bookshelves that have room for things other than books. I turn the page in my calendar and marvel at a clean-as-a-whistle month. BUT…contradiction coming…I also derive a sense of importance and value when I look back at a heavily graffiti’d calendar, layered with multi-colored notes about appointments, meetings, and deadlines. Look, I think to myself, I must really matter. Look how busy I’ve been. Of course, these thoughts are ridiculous. My worth doesn’t come from how many appointments I can squeeze in a day; yet, I would be foolish to brush aside those thoughts without a bit of introspection. How should I define success? Now that I’m not working toward a specific academic goal, what does it mean to have a successful day? How can I embrace the simplicity I crave but maintain characteristics of solid work ethic, perseverance, motivation, and industriousness? I look to my children, and as I watch them fall asleep, I realize that they feel no pressures to complete something specific in a day. They build block towers and stop on a whim to make a collage of purple circles and later a Batman mask tied with yarn. What do they know of success? They ask for food and drink when they need nourishment. They call to Mommy when they need comfort. They look to Daddy for silliness and laughter. They look inward for playful imagination and problem-solving. They measure the completion of the day by heavy eyelids and a feeling of contentment.

As I work toward a simpler life, one centered upon God and family, I’m trying to embrace the things that I love to do and grant them the same (if not greater) value than the things that I do “professionally.” Over the last year, I’ve been drawing great inspiration from a little prayer that our church’s Sunday School students say each Sunday morning. They recite: Father, give us every day work to do and time for play. Help us to be kind and good, and treat others as thy children should. Amen.” Initially, I was struck by the thought that small children are asking God for work to do. They don’t work, I thought to myself. But then I considered the work of childhood. The work of growing, discovering, learning to share and compromise, learning to take care of possessions, cleaning one’s own spaces in the world, learning to form friendships and maintain them.  These are important tasks, simple steps of growth toward a fulfilling life.  I can learn so much from that model.

Inspiration…

I’m feeling inspired. We went on a little road trip a couple of weeks ago to a small community where farming, crafting, home-cooking, cheese-making, gardening, thrifting, and the throwing of pottery (in the artistic sense) are very much alive. This little town is everything I want my life (and my blog!) to be. It’s quiet. It’s colorful. It simply feels genuine. When we walked into the small restaurant where we always go for lunch on these outings, the waitress rushed over to give my mom and I hugs and kisses on our cheeks. She gushed over how big our baby has grown and claimed that she had been thinking of us. What a welcome (the theme song of Cheers was playing in my head).
After lunch we went into a tiny—and I mean tiny—yarn shop. I picked up two cozy, wonderful yarn remnants. I have no idea what they will become, but I enjoy imaging the possibilities. One is a khaki green cotton, and the other is a plum-colored wool/alpaca blend. And the price! Both pieces were ½ off of almost nothing.
We ventured over to the cutest little school house that is kind of year-round yard sale. Lots of funny odds and ends. Vintage and antique this-and-that mixed with…well, junk. But fun junk. I picked up a stack of ten white cloth napkins. My mom found additional settings to her grandmother’s China set. What a find!
So why am I feeling inspired? An Amish farm is for sale out there. Of course, we are not in the market for a new home…certainly not a farm, but the place left me daydreaming all the way home. The basic white house with simple cotton curtains drawn to the sides, the clothes line across the yard, the big barn, the chickens and little kids running in the yard. The farm and our whole trip reminded me of the life I crave: simplicity and family.

A miniature farm at the conservatory. You gotta love the pig on the roof!

Spring Break: Saturday and Sunday

Spring Break comes to a close.  My primary goal was to clean the whole house.  I would call it a success.  Our attic still needs a lot of work.  We’re trying to make half of it an exercise area.  The other half is already a home office, but it is totally out of control.  But I’m not going to dwell on the negative!  Every bit of our living space is clean and happily organized (happily, not perfectly).  My in-laws visited yesterday, and my parents stopped by today.  I always feel wonderful after having people over.  I feel like I can really enjoy my home when it’s clean and full of the people I love.

As I sit here at my computer, I am noticing that at almost seven in the evening, the sky is still light–despite a few clouds.  Daylight Savings robs us of the lovely morning sunshine (our eastward facing bedroom positively glows in the a.m. sunlight), but I do appreciate the lengthening evenings.  I wonder what it will do to our nice little bedtime routine.  We’ll see.  We’ll go with the flow.  I have a feeling that everyone will call it an early night after being up late gabbing with Grandma and Papa!

 By the way, my husband’s parents were here because they are giving us their dining room table.  Whoo-hoo.  Good-bye to our $25 yard sale find!  Last night, Mom G. reupholstered the seats with a beautiful fabric that I had chosen.  It’s an almost army green with a wonderful sheen to it, and it is detailed with dark brown twiggy, leafy things.  I’ll take a picture later.  Then it will make more sense.  Anyway, it’s been a fun, highly productive Spring Break.

 Five Random Notes to End the Week:

 1. I’m a happier person when my house is clean.  I feel in control.  I can focus on the present.  Focus on the fun of two amazing little boys.

 2. I’m reading The Wizard of Oz.  I’m delighting in all the things that are familiar (because I’ve seen the movie a zillion times), but equally delightful are the surprising difference.  What fun!

 3. Friday was my monthly La Leche League meeting.  Every month I leave with a new commitment to being a better mother than I was the month before.  LLL has helped me grow so much, in so many ways.

 4. Mom & Dad arrived home from the state high school wrestling championships.  They brought home chocolate.  Oh yum.

 5. Yesterday, I stared at fabric for about 45 minutes, and I still haven’t chosen the material that I would like to use for my couch pillows.  I just don’t know what I want!

 Bye-bye.

Spring Break: Wednesday

Ah!  The weather.  After the snowiest February on record (not an exaggeration!), these mild days of early March are a welcome blessing.  Snow is still lining the streets and sidewalks, but two days in the low 60s will put an end to the dirty reminders of record snowfall soon.  We’ve walked.  We’ve taken the tricycle for a spin, and tonight, we’ll fire up the grill.

After picking up Big Brother at preschool, the boys and I drove to the library where we enjoyed our very first outdoor picnic of the year.  PB & J, cottage cheese, and bananas at a picnic table (the very table featured here) seemed like just the combination to welcome a season of picnics.  We loaded up on books and a few craft DVDs for me.  The library has a fun selection of books about spring, Easter, and even a few Irish folktales in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

Now at home, the hubby and the kids are hanging out while I grade some papers. 

 

Spring Break: Tuesday

Hooray!!  A clean bedroom.  I could sing!  I could dance!  When my preschooler came in the room after I had run the sweeper and removed the garbage bag this afternoon, he said, “Wow!  It’s pretty.”  That’s right, my boy!

The master bedroom is the most difficult room for me to keep clean.  I spend most of my cleaning time on the main living areas, and our bedroom is always last to receive care.  I want to change this pattern.  My husband and I deserve a tidy, pleasing room that can be a kind of peaceful refuge.  Our baby shares our room, and when we were preparing for his arrival in the summer of 2008, I chose soft greens, yellows, and cream shades for the curtains, bedding, and other decorations.  The effect is a clean, cozy look, but no color scheme can maintain the atmosphere that I desire when laundry takes over and clutter gets the best of me. 

I took the advice of Mindy Starns Clark (The House that Cleans Itself) and created a devotional corner–a place to spend time in the quiet and stillness, a place to speak to and listen for God.  I have my Bible, my journal, and some other books there.  A couple of pillows and a throw made by my Grandma make it a pretty spot.