Photos: this week

October 17, 2012

The work around here continues to be colored by my knee. Apparently you don’t just have ACL surgery and then hop up the next day to do the hustle. It takes six months before that can happen (and then another six months of intensive dance lessons from Leif Garrett). And so, two weeks (and change) later, I am off crutches, but still in the giant knee brace, which renders me slow (and on stairs, slower).

So I’m still sleeping in the library off of our living room (note: this is an actual room; I’m not sleeping in the Little Free Library). Which makes it really hard to put the books back on the shelf, so the library floor is now taken up entirely by a mattress and huge drifts of books.

ACL surgery = many more messes (and ironic book placement) | World of Julie

We put the bathtub (tiny tiny bathtub) in our upstairs bathroom-to-be (tiny tiny bathroom-to-be). Progress!

Henry in our new tiny bathtub | World of Julie

Zuzu likes to take the camera and take 48 photos of toys she wants from a catalog, 22 photos of her feet, and 14 super-close photos of her own face. Dave swears she looks exactly like me in this one:

Zuzu, self portrait

And here’s one where she doesn’t look so serious:

Zuzu, self portrait

And with this post I further cement my role as The Blogger Who Isn’t Afraid to Show Her Messy House or Her Crusty Children.

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CATEGORIES: clutter, housekeeping, Julie

Ok, no need to freak out now

October 1, 2009

Today is October 1. You know what that means, don’t you? Only 91 shopping days until Christmas.  Ok, 91 days actually seems like a lot, but what you need to do is to plan now, right now, to make this Christmas less insane than it has been in years’ past.

First, eliminate anyone from your list who doesn’t really need to be part of your gift exchange. I did this last year with my sisters-in-law and such an enormous weight was lifted from all of us, let me tell you. All I wanted from them was the card with the family photo, and I’m pretty sure that’s all they want from me.

Next, consider having a Slow Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Festivus, or whatever). Slow Christmas is something I made up, partially because I couldn’t deal with all the clutter and craziness of the usual madcap presentfest. Basically, you get a lot fewer presents for everyone, and then you open them one by one, intermittently, over the course of the day. So: your kid opens a present, and then plays with it for an hour. You open a book, and you read it for a while. Much less chaos, much more appreciation. Much less clutter, much more family togetherness. And much less post-gift letdown.

This year I’m really concentrating on getting one, or maybe two, things for everyone on my list. When I do decide on what to get, the #2 issue for me (after “will the recipient like it?”) is whether or not there’s already a place for it in our house. So: marble run pieces would work, because they could go right into the marble run box. Books could work (kind of, our bookshelf is getting full). Clothes work (though that might not always pass criterion #1). A large unwieldy toy that has no obvious home within our home would not work.

For my mom and Dave’s parents I always get a Shutterfly book with photos of the kids from the year. They all love it (and I give the kids a copy too), it saves me from having to make any kind of photo album, and the results always look amazing. If you have hard-to-buy-for grandparents, I highly recommend going this route. Plus: you can do it every year, thus saving you the mental work of having to come up with a new type of gift. Start uploading photos now, get those Halloween pix in at least, and print ‘em up.

I guess my main message here is that I want everyone to stop buying so much junk, and give themselves a break.

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CATEGORIES: Parenting, toys

Taking a Break

August 11, 2009

I’m taking a break from the cyber madness. You know, we lost six weeks (more?) this summer to rain, and that sort of set me on the wrong path for how I wanted to be a summer parent (though, truthfully, I was already headed down that path). I wanted to have a schedule — albeit a free one. I wanted to have us all learn something every day. Instead, we wander around the house, directionless. I spend too much time doing nothing in particular on the computer (hello, Facebook!) while the children do nothing in particular all over the house (and make a mess while doing it). And so, with just a few weeks left in summer, I’m stopping. I need to pull back. My house is a mess, my list of summer goals is unaccomplished, I rarely exercise, and my children spend way too much time with the too-old-for-them neighborhood children.

We have a book that was Dave’s when he was little, called The Sandwich. It’s an early reader, with only eleven words, repeated in various repetitive sentences. Two children make a sandwich with “more of this, more of that, less of this, less of that. And some bread.” My life is like that sandwich. I need to do less of this (digital puttering), less of that (daily blog posting), and more of this. All this life stuff. And some bread.

I wrote this post out longhand first, and it was bliss.

I have a few saved up posts in the hopper, and I’m going to schedule them over the next week or so. I’ll still check email, but there will be days when I don’t turn the computer on.

And I’ll leave you with this random tip that has been wanting to be a full blog post for a while: for Friday night dinner, make a starch- or grain-based salad to go with the meal (like quinoa salad, or potato salad, or tabbouleh). Then, all weekend, you will be happy to have the leftover salad to go with your sandwich or to mix with greens for lunch.

Ok! Let the breather begin! I’ll be back when school starts (or perhaps sooner if I have something especially blogworthy to say).

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CATEGORIES: Julie

Decluttering Mom Psychologically Damages Preschool Son

July 24, 2009

Two-year-old Neighbor Boy: Look what I have! [shows off stuffed animal]
Eli: Yeah, I used to have something like that. I once had something like that, but then my mom threw it in the garbage.

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Try on everything in your closet

May 27, 2009

I was completely inspired by Michelle Slatalla’s recent column about cleaning out her closet. The idea is to try on every single item in your closet, get rid of things that don’t look good, and then I guess reconsider everything that does look good, so that you think about wearing that fancy velvet blazer with jeans (that was her example; I don’t have a fancy velvet blazer).

And so, while Dave was occupied ripping siding off of our house, I attacked the closet. I pulled out absolutely everything and tried it on. The big surprise was that everything fit pretty well. I guess I know what looks good on me, because I didn’t have a lot of duds. I thought for sure that some of my party dresses would go, especially the hot pink silk halter dress with shiny beading, but that actually looked a lot more classic than I remembered. There’s a lot I’m not proud of from my shopaholic days, but at least I was obsessed with Banana Republic and J. Crew, so that the clothes I’m left with now are all cut really well and are all fairly timeless.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. I randomly look best in party dresses. It is certainly not any life of mine where I’d wear party dresses on a regular basis, but they were the only things I put on that made me think, “That looks GREAT!”
  2. I look best in brown.
  3. All of my t-shirts have a small stain on them somewhere.
  4. I look best when the waistline of pants hits right below my belly button. Surprisingly hard to find these days.
  5. We have moths in our closet.
  6. Never take someone else’s cast-off clothing. Or at least think really hard before doing it. Most of the clothes I got rid of were ones someone else was getting rid of.
  7. There are a lot of clothes in my closet I don’t wear, but should. Like a cute grey fitted 3/4-sleeve button down that looks good with jeans. And all those twinsets. I don’t know if I’m brave enough to wear my silk sweatersets while parenting, but I might. And the navy blue printed polyester button-down (Anne will know this as the “coffee bean shirt”). I regret that I rediscovered it now, when the weather’s a bit too warm for it.

The whole exercise (which took about four hours with continual interruptions) was also a great motivator to finally get back on the fitness horse. I’m almost there, but I need to reacquaint myself with Jillian Michaels and get shredded and all that. I stopped exercising when I was working on my final project a few weeks ago, and I need to get started again. Standing in front of a full-length mirror, trying on outfit after outfit, I could see how if I tightened things up a little in the general ab area, everything would look a million times better. So it was a worthy activity just for that extra (needed) motivational push.

In the end I only got rid of one big bag of clothes, and my closet didn’t look any sparser or more organized afterwards, but it was extremely helpful to remember what’s in there. Next step is to do the same thing with my dresser (jeans and pants, mainly). I should have done it at the same time, but I had closet fatigue and needed to move on to something else.

CATEGORIES: clutter

Makeup Bag Decluttering

April 21, 2009

I don’t really wear makeup. I used to, when I went to a Regular Job, but I haven’t in years. I don’t really have time, and Dave lovingly says I look better without it.

Lately, however, when I look into the mirror, the image I see screams, “Dark circles! Old!” and it seemed time to do something about it. I dragged out my makeup bag, but most of the things in it were kind of dried out, or I didn’t remember when I’d bought them, or I did remember, and it was for my wedding 10 years ago. So I went for the Web 2.0 solution and posted a Facebook status update asking for undereye concealer recommendations.

One jaunty trip to the Benefit counter later, I was ready to streamline my makeup bag. Here’s what it looked like before:

Lots of old foundation and mascara. I do have to say, though, that after throwing away the obvious things, I was still left with more than I expected. There were a lot of eyeshadow colors that are pretty good and weren’t cheap, and while I don’t wear eyeshadow very often, maybe someone will get married or something and I’ll have to dress up more. (Is this rational? Should I pitch the eyeshadow?)

Here’s the after:

Last week I stopped by at Dave’s office and he said, “Hey! You look really good today!” “I’m wearing makeup!” I proudly declared. To which he said, “Darn!” because it disproved his better-without-makeup theory. It does say something for the Benefit stuff I got, though, and that it looks makeup-free, and can be smeared on by a tired mom with her fingers in one minute and still yield excellent results. I got:

  • Boi-ing, undereye concealer. Covers everything and looks great.
  • That Gal. Called a “brightening face primer” which doesn’t really help. I don’t really understand how this works, because it’s very pink, but somehow it makes me look like I have perfect skin.
  • Creaseless Cream Shadow in Honey Bunny. This also seems like magic. I smear it on my eyelids, and it doesn’t look like I’m wearing eyeshadow, but just like I’m perky and awake, which I mostly am not.
  • Bad Gal mascara. I am really not very good at mascara, but since all my other mascara was many years old, it seemed like a smart idea to get some new stuff. This mascara has a brush that’s roughly the size of a toilet cleaning brush, and despite the name making it sound like it’s going to be all smudgy and punk rock, it’s actually fairly subtle and lovely and adds to the whole “I’m not wearing makeup, no, I’m just this fabulous all on my own!” aesthetic.

So there you go. In the spirit of my continued decluttering, I have partially decluttered my makeup bag, and have feng shui-ed my face, as it were.

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CATEGORIES: clutter

Clutter Update

April 3, 2009

After my Goodwill haul on Monday, I did a thorough combing of the baby bins and took two huge bags of boy clothes to the 16-month-old across the street, and another big bag of clothes that would be too small for him went to Goodwill. I added a bit more to the bag of special girl clothes that is being saved in the hopes that one of my two good friends who is currently pregnant will have a girl (you know who you are! it’s a fight to the birth!). I also made it to the consignment shop to drop off all the jewelry I cleared out a week or so ago, thinking of Christina the whole time, because I was actually moving the clutter beyond my own personal property and into the hands of someone else.

Best of all, last Saturday at 3:45, Dave announced he had to bring some wood to the dump. We had only 15 minutes to get there before it closed, but as we were gathering our brood and throwing coats and hats on them I rushed down into the basement and grabbed the two broken bouncy chairs that have been languishing there for months. One was broken beyond repair, and the other was marginally usable but only if you’re ok with your baby bouncing next to some odd wires sticking up. On our way to the dump I suddenly had a pang about getting rid of these bouncy chairs, the ones we’ve used for all three kids, and the fact that they’re too big for bouncies already. When we got to the “Household Goods” bin and I was about to throw them in, I wondered if any part of me would regret getting rid of them. And then, as I threw them in, it felt like a literal weight was lifting off my shoulders. Regret? Hell, no! Elation! Getting rid of the bouncy chairs is not getting rid of my bouncy chair memories, but it is getting rid of two monstrous space hogs that don’t even work in the first place.

It made me feel like I may need to re-Freecycle the crock pot and the juicer. I like them but they don’t really get used enough to justify the space they take up. I’m still slightly on the fence about this, but leaning toward getting rid of them.

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CATEGORIES: clutter

50, 365, whatever, just clear the clutter out

March 25, 2009

Several people have asked me what I think of Gail Blanke’s new Throw Out 50 Things book. I actually read an article by Blanke in “Real Simple” about the benefits of getting rid of 50 things sometime in 2007, in the middle of my grand 365 Things Decluttering, so I wasn’t really surprised when her new book came out. Part of me does feel like, “But mine is 315 better!” but mostly I think that anything that helps me move the junk out is great.

I read an article by Blanke in “Body + Soul” on Sunday, and then went for a long run, and the article plus the run had me so inspired that I kept right on running upstairs (ok, I did stop to shower and change) with garbage bags in hand. All I could think about during my run were things in my closet and dresser that I wasn’t wearing. In about an hour, from an area about 4 square feet, I unloaded at least 60 things. Though, honestly, a lot of that was jewelry I was no longer wearing (lots of hippie stuff from high school — remember those anklets with bells on them, Sarah?). If I count all the jewelry as one “thing” then I probably got rid of 25 things. A bunch was also outgrown Zuzu clothes, but they’d been sitting in a pile in her closet, so I freed up a lot of space just by transferring that pile into the Goodwill bag.

The funny thing about “50 things” is that I can almost guarantee that 50 morphs into 100 into 200 before you even know it. As soon as you start decluttering, you feel buoyant and floating and as you watch the albatross fly away you start looking around your house for what else you can get rid of. The thing about clutter is that it weighs you down, physically and mentally. You know there are things you want to be doing with your life, and I’m willing to bet that dusting tchotchkes is not one of your life ambitions. Once you clear out the stuff, you suddenly have time to write that book, plant that garden, paint the dining room orange, or suddenly find out that you’re pregnant with a baby girl. Ok, that last one might only have happened to me, but I really do think that my massive decluttering was saying to the universe, “Ok, I made this space, what should I fill it with?” (answer: Zuzu).

If you’re anything like me, you can start almost anywhere in your house and find an area to clear. Stand somewhere in your house and look around. Do you see something you’ve been meaning to put in a different spot, or get rid of entirely? Do it! Do you see more? Get a bag, grab it all, move it out! (My next area to tackle is under the bathroom sink.)

Need more inspiration? Get Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston, a book which totally changed the way I look at Stuff. You can read an article in The Sentry and another in The Portland Press Herald about my own project. It’s impossible to be totally clutter free when you have kids; they bring in a crazy amount of stuff every day (the acorns, sticks, and rocks alone just about do me in). But you can seriously and constantly and regularly edit and get rid of all that crap that’s hiding in the closet of your house and therefore weighing on the closet of your mind (ok, I promise I’m going to stop being so new agey right this minute).

CATEGORIES: housekeeping, Julie

Tumbleweeds rolling through my newly-cleared-out inbox

March 17, 2009

The clutter in my email inbox has been bugging me since my massive decluttering, but I’ve only made sad minor stabs at it, until now. I got all inspired by an article in the New York Times, and finally cleared it all out once and for all.

When I started, I had 1000 messages in my inbox. I resorted them by sender, so I could more easily delete blocks of email from one sender (like all those messages from Facebook saying someone had written on my wall, or whatever). That, plus some other one-at-a-time deleting got me down to 240 messages. Then I made a few folders, one for school-related messages, one for website-related messages (like login information), and one for Ideal Bite messages that I want to refer to later. Putting messages in those folders got me down to 100 messages. Then I highlighted all those and moved them into a folder called “archive.”

And there it was. My empty inbox. Right after I did it, my first thought was, “Oh my goodness, something’s broken! Something’s wrong with my email!” even though I had just emptied it out myself seconds before. It just looked so…blank. And then, when an email shows up, and there it is, seemingly your only email…well, it’s enough to make you feel a little unpopular.

But after having an empty inbox for over a week now, I love it. I remember once when my desk was in horribly cluttered shape, and I finally just dove in and cleaned it all up. And then I panicked. What would I do with my time now, now that my desk was cleaned up? It meant I had to do something productive or something. A scary feeling, but a good one. It’s the same with my inbox. The rules put forth in the NYT article are that if you can deal with a message in two minutes, just do it and get it over with. Otherwise, deal with it at the end of the day.

When the goal is to have your inbox be empty, you are not at all tempted to leave messages in there to deal with later. You want it out of there. You also don’t leave worthless emails in there that by all rights should be deleted, but just get lost in the clutter. Try it! It’s great, really.

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CATEGORIES: Julie

Clutter Queen Indeed

March 1, 2009

You know what happens if you see a tempting-looking prize package in a magazine, and all you have to do is mail in a tip about how to set small goals, and you’ve maybe had a glass of wine and it’s 10:00 p.m.? You write up an email and send it in, and then completely forget about it, and then you get the March issue of the magazine, and therein you are suddenly declared a Clutter Queen. That’s what happens.

The Clutter Queen part in particular is cracking me up. It’s like they read my email, and then looked into my windows and said, “Yeah, this woman is stupid. Who does she think she’s kidding? She hasn’t decluttered a bit. You know what would be funny? If we just declared her Queen of Clutter.” And so they did.

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CATEGORIES: Julie
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