Sunday, November 14, 2010

Recovering from a Backslide, and A Tale of Woe

Bonus post here! Two posts in one! You can't get a deal like that anywhere else, now can you? :p

"Autumn is a season for big decisions -- like whether or not it's too late for spring cleaning."

So I'm back, after a few months' absence, and having backslid more than a bit. It's been a busy time for me -- a friend's daughter had her babysitter quit via Facebook the week before school started, and I fast talked one of Ally's friends into being the temporary babysitter while the mother applied for subsidized care for her two kids. After a few days of sitting at the mom's house, which was much, much messier than mine, it became apparent that the arrangement wasn't going to work. The babysitter was afraid to leave the house with the kids because a) she didn't have a key, and b) the area isn't the best. The mess meant that kids and sitter were confined in one small room (the living room), and the only thing to do was watch TV.

So one weekend, sitter and Ally transformed MY house into a daycare centre. Which made me immediately aware of the fact that mess isn't just unsightly. It can, with kids around, be downright dangerous. My living room got a thorough cleaning and childproofing, and the kiddy toys were moved in. Not too many toys -- just enough to keep the kiddies occupied when it was rainy outside. A whole lot more craft materials in a nifty storage bench, some wooden blocks, and some kids' books and CDs. The DVD player and TV were already on site, with a wide selection of appropriate videos, because my autistic son still likes to watch kids movies. (So do I, but I don't have to admit it, do I?)

Everything had a place -- a tote or box or shelf so that things didn't get totally disordered, and the last thing the kids did before heading home was put things back in their place. Between that single routine and a babysitter who took them to the park at least once every day, the place stayed in reasonable shape, and with a daily sweeping and mopping (and I'm now thanking God that my floors were re-done in laminate!), the living room and kitchen at least were kept livable.

The kitchen was rearranged so that dangerous stuff could be locked up, but we decided after all to block off the kitchen with a gate. The new arrangement has proven very inconvenient, so one of the things I'm going to have to do in the next few days is put everything back the way it was...

Because the kids were there daily, it did mean that the downstairs didn't get too messy, but the upstairs was another story. I'm a solitary person, and the arrival of two very outgoing little kids every day upset my routine a lot! I could hack it when I was younger, and none of my kids required the 24/7 one-on-one supervision that those two kids did (they're all introverts like me), but I'm fifty now, and entitled to a little peace once in a while, or so I believe.

Anyhow, my desk and office and hallway and bedroom are a disaster, and the bathroom is dirty again, so it's back to the old drawing room! Hopefully, though, in the next day or two I'll have at least the bathroom, bedroom and desk halfway decent again.

On a completely different note, there was a posting on one of the message boards I frequent a week or two ago that made me sad. A friend who followed her husband (who is in the navy, I think) to Japan says that when he was posted, they couldn't sell their house, and so they hired a management company and rented it out. They had just found out that the place had been trashed by their renters. The folks who replied to the posting related several similar experiences, and many of them vowed never, ever to rent out a house again.

Renters, if you're reading, please take note: This hurts us all! In the end, the only ones who are going to be willing to rent out to folks like us (the majority in North America, I believe) are large companies who a) will be extremely fussy about who they rent to, possibly leaving those of us with less than stellar credit histories or less than steady employment out in the cold (and if you have those two things, why are you renting?), and b) will extract humungous damage deposits, which they will then be very stingy about returning.

I don't get it. If I'm living in a place, I'd much rather live in a nice place than a trashed one, and that means taking good care of it, even if it's not mine.

One of the things I'm trying to demonstrate here is that you don't have to be rich or even moderately well off to have a nice place to live. I live in subsidized co-operative housing, and if I keep the place up, it will be a relaxing and wonderful place to call home. If I don't, I'll be living in a dump. How my neighbours live doesn't really affect me. How much money I have doesn't make all that much difference--a lot of the stuff I own was free or almost free, and none of it is "the best money can buy."

What matters is how well I can take care of what I have, and how well I take care of the walls (and windows and doors) that surround me.

So if you're poor, and if you're renting, don't believe that it's impossible for you to live in a nice-looking place. Don't think that it's okay to trash the house just because you don't own it, you'll be moving on soon, and it's easier and more fun to break down wall than to paint them. It's not okay, it really isn't all that fun (I get much more satisfaction out of cleaning something than I do out of breaking something!), and in the end, it hurts us all.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

OMG! *burp*

I'm beginning to reap the benefits of having a clean kitchen. Now that I can actually find my kitchen counter, and now that not all the food in the fridge is ten months past the expiry date, I'm starting to actually cook some meals.

Tonight I made me some spare ribs. I didn't have any sauce left (used it up in the pulled pork last week), and I didn't have a recipe, so I improvised with what I did have. What I had turned out to be Dijon mustard, honey, and garlic salt. I slathered the first two on, and liberally sprinkled the last over top, then put them in the oven to bake. And it was heavenly! Next time, I'll used real minced garlic instead of garlic salt--I can do without the sodium, and I could hardly taste the garlic. But other than that, it was easy, fast and yummy.

I'd used up all the garlic on Friday, making turkey burgers stuffed with goat cheese, minced garlic, grated carrot, and chopped spinach and pepper. Yes, you read that right. Spinach. As in, almost as much spinach as turkey. Got six burgers from just over a pound of meat. Ate one and froze five, as I was going away for the weekend. I had one of the frozen ones when I came back yesterday and...

It was great! I'll definitely be having both of these meals again, and soon.

Friday, September 3, 2010

It's Too Damn Hot!

Despite the fact that I was born in summer, I am not a summer person. I don't really like super hot weather--I'm much happier in the fall or even the winter, when the air is cool (or even freezing cold!) and the sky is blue, blue, blue. It rained yesterday, so the air is a little cooler, but it's super humid, which kind of destroys any benefit I might have felt from the cooler temperatures.

And this is a problem, because today's the day we finally rented a truck to get rid of some stuff. I got my new sofa delivered (cost of sofa=$12.50, cost of delivery=$19.95+mileage+gas), and we put the old sofa and chair on the truck and they're gone, gone, gone!

While the guys (ex and eldest son) delivered said old sofa and chair to the dump, I took the time to sweep and wash walls and set things in order, and now I have a living room that I'm actually willing to allow my friends to see! I may even invite someone over for a movie night, although the friend I want to invite has a better sofa and a big screen HDTV. So maybe we'll do the movie night at her house... :p

Anyhow, I've been trying and not succeeding to fall behind this past week. The kitchen's a disaster, because it's been too hot to do anything but hide in my office. The bedroom is fine, because I have a big fan in there and it's keeping it cool enough so that I at least can make my bed and throw the laundry in the basket. Bathroom's fine except the garbage, but it's "that time of month" again. I'm fifty now--when oh when will it ever end?

The office isn't much better than it was, but at least it's not worse. I cleaned off my desk (a weekly maintenance thing I'm going to have to do), and I've put my Sims games in order on the shelf. So little by little, things are improving.

Once the guys are back from the dump, I'm going to take the big blue bag of pop cans and a couple of boxes of paper to the church for recycling, which will make things just a wee bit cleaner. One step at a time...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Transitioning into maintenance mode

I'm definitely not done the major cleaning yet, but bit by bit I'm getting there. This week, the living room got cleaned, and much to Ally's delight, I took down the Harry Potter standee that I'd stapled to the wall. It now adorns the wall of her brother's bedroom, which is where it was intended to go in the first place. I covered the ratty furniture with a clean blanket (sofa) and a clean sheet (chair), no no one need be afraid to sit there anymore. And of course, I swept up a cat's worth of hair, in addition to the cat hair taken directly from the cat via combing.

I still need to mop in there (the floor is laminate, so I can do that). Ally and I were out earlier this week, and she waxed eloquent about the virtues of a Swiffer Wet-Jet. Since she usually has a horror of using disposable tools, I had to take seriously the fact that this mop was something I needed to try. So I bought one.

Of course, I didn't realize until I got it home that it needed batteries (which were, of course, not included), so it was only today that I got it put together and running.

It's easy to use, and if you don't like housework, easy is the golden word. I've done about half the dining room floor, plus my itty bitty front entrance floor (which was formerly adorned with cat puke). I still have rust stains on the floor from rusting furniture, but all the dirt on the floor where I mopped is gone, and it only took me a couple of minutes. I'll be doing the rest of the dining room and kitchen tomorrow, you can be sure. Then I'll have a go at those rust stains with a wash of vinegar, and maybe try the pumice stone, and that will be that.

The thing I like about this mop is that it's as easy to use as a broom, which means I can envision myself using it right away when I spill something. I don't have to drag out a bucket, fill it with water and soap, wet the mop, mop the floor, squeeze the mop dry, rinse the mop, empty and rinse the bucket, and put it all away. I just pull out the mop, attach a new pad if needed, and mop away. Then I put the mop back afterwards. I'll be getting rid of my old mop and bucket next week. :)

I continued on with my office cleaning as well. Now that things are mostly set, I'm into the extremely boring part--emptying the boxes and sorting what's within. Phil likes to spice things up by lying on the papers I'm sorting and getting more cat fur everywhere, and clawing at me when I'm not paying enough attention to him.

My biggest problem at this point is not the paper, but the box of "stuff" I have that I want to keep, but that doesn't have a place yet. I'm planning on sorting through all the boxes first, which will leave me with probably two or three boxes of "stuff", and once I have some clear space, I'll start finding a place for everything I want to keep. And who knows--maybe by the time I get all this done, I won't want as much of it as I think I do.

For now, the papers are getting filed or thrown out. I'm going to change to e-billing, I really am. Not only will I not have to file seven years' worth of utility bills, I won't be getting two envelopes (an outer and a reply, which I don't use because I pay online or by direct withdrawl), and a whole lot of advertising pamphlets that I generally don't read. Recycling is great, but reducing saves trees, space, and stress.

And I'm getting better at filing as stuff comes in (or at least once a week), rather than piling it up on the dining room table, putting it in a box when I can't eat off the table any more, and bringing it upstairs when I feel like it, there to moulder for years and years and years.

I truly am learning new habits that I hope will continue once the house is organized and once again fit for living in.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Yes, I have made some progress this week!

I've been bad about not posting this past week, but progress continues on the cleaning front.

1) The dining room is now a lot cleaner. Still have to scrub the floors, organize the pantry and remove a bit of stuff that doesn't belong there, but I got a lot of junk out of there, and the dining room table is clear, with a clean (!) table cloth and place mats. It's a much more pleasant atmosphere to eat in, which means that I have been eating in the dining room, and not at my desk or a restaurant.

2) I started on my office tonight. Basically, I cleared junk out from the closet, where I want to put the bookshelf. I swept the dust and cat hair out of there (I took an allergy pill first, so it wasn't a killer session). I dusted off the bookshelf. I put all that dust and dirt in a box with some of the greeblies from the floor. It will have to be sorted (there's some stuff in there that belongs in the blue bag, and the rest can go in the clear bag) before I can throw it out. I then started pulling the piles of books out of the junk. I sorted the books as I shelved them. First into keepers, garage sale (there will be one coming up in two weeks), and recycling. Yes, I'm actually throwing books away! I can hear a collective gasp from my writer friends, I know, but the truth is that some books are simply too out of date, too worn out to be resold or given away. And some of the books that I threw out should never have been published in the first place, but that's another story...

After I got all the books sorted and on the shelf, I put the remaining boxes against the window as neatly as they would go. I'm going to start sorting those tomorrow, one or two boxes every day. I should be done in good time for the garage sale!

3) Of course, I've been doing other stuff than cleaning. I had a job interview on Wednesday that went very well, but I won't know until the 25th at the earliest, so I applied for three more jobs, all in my field for a change. Also heard back from two of the places I'd applied previously. They were both rejections, but one of the emails I got was very encouraging--they would have interviewed me for sure if they hadn't already filled the position. So I'm definitely going to keep looking in my field (church ministry). Somewhere out there is the perfect church for me!

I've also been managing to keep up with the maintenance work. Laundry for this week is all clean and put away, dishes are done except for the most recent ones, bathroom is still cean. So all in all, I'm making very positive progress towards my goal of having a clean and livable house!

Ally's been busy too. She took a lot of picutures last week, but didn't get them posted. Instead, she spent a lot of her time babysitting the grandchildren of a friend of mine, and painting her younger brother's room. It's not entirely altruisting, that last--now I have to take down the Harry Potter standee from my living room, and put it up in her brother's room.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Cost of Stuff

My parents are visiting this weekend, and I'm having a great time. Not getting much cleaned, but since I've pretty much done everything Ally asked me to do this week, I've got a couple of days slack. I'm managing (by the skin of my teeth some days, but I'm managing) not to backslide and make a mess of what I've previously cleaned. My bedroom's slightly messy right now, but it's nothing that five minutes' work won't right, and I did get the sheets changed. The dishes are done and mostly remain so, the bathroom vanity is still neat and tidy. So I guess I'm doing okay.

But it's hard to keep paring things down, because people just seem to want to keep giving me stuff. Not a lot this week, or any week for that matter, but if what comes in is more than what goes out, I'll have a problem in short order.

Case in point: I have enough mugs and cups. More than enough mugs and cups, actually, seeing as I have about twenty or so for my household of one person and one cat. Even counting the fact that the kids are over pretty much every day, I have more than enough mugs and cups.

And now I have one more. Because my mom is clearing out her cupboard, and there was this mug with my name on it, and she thought I should have it. To give her credit, I'm about the only person she knows who she could give it too--my name isn't that common. So I have another mug. And a bunch of file folders from the church, and two videos for my son and those boxes of wool for my daughter. So in order for things to get better, I have to get rid of some stuff if I want to keep the new stuff I've got.

Because even though this stuff was free, it's really not free at all.

There's the cost of having a two-bedroom three-story townhouse for one person, one cat, and the stuff.

There's the psychic cost of living in a big mess.

There's the monetary cost when the stuff expands to cover all available space, and I can't find that bill and I forget that I have that bill and cheques bounce.

There's the cost of the time it takes to either find a place for it or give it away if I decide I eventually don't want it.

Stuff costs, even when it's free.

The file folders, I need. I'll make room for them by getting rid of a lot of the paper I don't need. Luckily, this can go to the recycling bin at the church, and our mission fund will get money for it.

The videos won't even play at my house--I don't have a VHS player any more. They went home with my son. (To be fair, my mom asked me before she brought these. My son does enjoy James Bond.)

The wool has been sorted. What Ally didn't need is already at the thrift shop, and what she wanted to keep is sitting in her dad's living room, and is not my problem any more.

But that mug...

On the one hand, it's pretty. Nice flowers and stuff. And it does have my name on it, so everyone will know it's mine.

On the other hand, I know what my name is, and haven't managed to forget that fact in almost fifty years. Not sure I need a reminder, though I may in the future.

On the other hand (not that I have three hands, but we're speaking metaphorically here), I have a job interview on Thursday, and having a mug with your name on it at work is a distinctly good thing, if your name isn't the same as everyone else's there. And I did give two cups away to Bill just this week, so the net loss is one cup.


I think I'll keep it, and if I'm so lucky to get a job with my own office (fingers and toes are crossed at this point), I'll bring it to work with me.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I'm In Love (With A Stone)

So it turns out that I didn't lose or throw away that old pumice stone I had. I put it away in a drawer in the bathroom, and when I went looking for a razor this morning, the first thing I found was the stone.

After half an hour's work, the toilet was shinier than it's been in a long, long time. It's so shiny that I made Ally take a picture of it, which I'm hoping she'll post soon. I'm still working on the brown spot at the very bottom--it's been years since that part was white. But the rest of it is clean!

I found out that the stone works on the tub, too, at least on those stubborn rust and calcium deposits. I still have to use degreaser and scrubbing powder for the ring, but that part's the easy one. The bathtub should be white by the time Ally goes through the house with the camera again on Sunday.

Inertia is a very powerful force. It's really hard to overcome it and get started on something, but once started, I find it almost impossible to stop until I'm done. I've made some good strides today.

Last night, eldest son and the ex did some lugging for me, and some of the old, heavy stuff went down to the basement, where it will stay until we have enough together between two households to justify renting a truck to haul it away. Hopefully, that will happen later this month or early next.

This afternoon I started organizing my cupboards, and threw out a fair number of broken, soiled or otherwise useless containers, a whole lot of lids that had no containers, and then organized the remaining containers so that I know what I have. As I said to Ally, the biggest problem with having a big mess is you don't know what you've got or where it is, so if you need something, instead of using what you have, you go out and buy more.

Clearing up my mess has also helped with my mood, and I've been more proactive in looking for employment. Yesterday I filled out the two applications I picked up, and I took them back today, and picked up two more to fill out. I also emailed an application. So hopefully something will turn up soon on the job front.

I'll leave you with this comment from Ally: She said that the best aide in cleaning a kitchen or cooking is a playlist of music that you like to sing along to, but that everyone else in the house hates. Then you can enjoy what you're doing, and everyone else will run away and hide, and not give you any 'helpful' suggestions. Today our playlist included Beatles music, which isn't offensive to anyone in our family, but we did enjoy singing along, I while I chucked out containers, and she while she crocheted some new disclothes.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Lovliest Sound in the World

It's garbage collection day today--a day later than normal because of the Civic Holiday yesterday. And on garbage collection days I wake up to a sound that is either the most wonderful sound in the world, or the most annoying sound in the world, depending on whether or not I got my garbage out to the curb the night before.

Yes, it's the sound of the garbage truck picking up all my trash.

It's at that point that I feel that those bags I threw out the night before (or in some cases, the minute before) are really gone, and no longer my problem. Because in our municipality, if the garbage isn't sorted right, it isn't picked up.

So anyhow, that's a whole lot of trash off my conscience.

As well, Ally and I did sort through the wool yesterday. Phil helped, too. He was very interested in our project, especially when I was untangling a whole bunch of macrame cord, some of which was in short pieces. He made sure they didn't escape.

We took the one box of stuff we didn't like to the thrift shop, and came back with a piece of material for Ally to make into curtains. Total cost, $3.38. We had a bit of discussion about whether the curtains should be for the dining room or the office, and decided on the dining room, because it will cut down on algae formation in the goldfish tank.

Which leads me to: I cleaned the tank! The goldfish are very happy. I snitched some more plants from the upstairs tank for them to munch on. I'm going to time it, and see how long it takes them to eat them all. (Note: These are plants that grow like weeds in my other tank, which is filled with tropical fish.)

I also mangaed to do all of the dishes. Yes. ALL of the dishes, even the roasting pan that had been soaking for about a month. The only dishes left are the breakfast dishes from this morning.

The final thing I did yesterday was the floor in the bathroom. It really wasn't as bad as it looked--mostly dust and hair (mine and Phil's) matted together, and it wiped up well with a cloth. I still need to give a final mop and polish, but it's already much improved in there.

As for the toilet, on the advice of several internet friends, I went looking for a pumice stone with which to clean the remaining brown spot on the bottom of the toilet. Couldn't find one at all in Wal-Mart, where it was suggested to look. Dang it! I used to have one to care for my feet, which tend to callous, and I threw it out! I knew I should have kept it! (Except that's what got me into trouble in the first place...)

So on to today. While in Wal-Mart and Value Village, I picked up application forms. Gotta fill them out and take them back, and apply for two other positions I know about. Then I'm going to finish up the dining room, and put everything away, excpet for the heavy stuff. The heavy stuff is going in the basement tomorrow--I got the ex to promise that he and eldest son would come over and heave stuff for a bit.

Monday, August 2, 2010


I'm going to post more later, but I do need to clarify a few things:

1) The number of times I called her for clarification was ONE. Yes, one is a number, but it hardly counts as pestering. (ETA: I also emailed her once or twice, but not every day. Sheesh! I'm her mother, and I love her. She should call more often...)

2) As for the toilet paper thingy, may I remind my loving taskmistress who it was who taught me the wonders of Stumbleupon? So there!

3) Yes, the maker of the curtains and the dolls is quite a talented young lady. I need curtains for the office and the dining room, please. My birthday's in two weeks. *grin*

4) That 'dust bunny' under the bed has CLAWS. You were indeed lucky to escape with your life.

5) It's true. I do need a new toilet. I found one I like on the internets...

That's it for now. Today Ally and I are going to sort the wool I brought home. Anything she can't use is going to the thrift shop TODAY. Also on the list for today is the dining room, including the poor fish, who WILL NOT end up in the toilet.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Pictures: what was done, and what's being done next

Taskmistress here,

A number of times during this week I got emails/phone calls asking just how much cleaning needed to be done in order for me to not to detail the state of her house again. I kept answering "if you need to ask, you haven't done enough." It worked OK (you'll see in a mo'), but I've come to the conclusion that she needs smaller goals to prevent such badgering in the future, and to set a standard for how much work needs to be done. Plus, it lets me post more pictures.

So she did indeed sort the box, and the rest of the garbage. She also moved the mattress that was on the floor of the office back to where it's supposed to go and only 3 weeks after the heatwave where she needed it ended! I'd take more pictures showing you the improvement in the office but there wasn't really one. So here's a closer picture of the mess:

She told me to take this picture. Honest.

I think part of her plan for this week is to move the blasted bookshelf into the closet shown in this here picture. I'M NOT HELPING MOVE THAT THING!! And I presume that moving that bookshelf involves some organization of this mess. (You never know, Mum is quite talented).

The biggest improvement is bathroom wise:

Toilet improvement! W00t. It's a terribly old toilet, so I won't be too fussy. I still think it could get a bit cleaner. However, that floor...

Ewwww... Official Task Number 1 for the week. This includes the whole floor of the bathroom (not pictured, but this is the worst part). And I'll be checking behind the door.

Shiny. Even the soap dish is clean. :)

Improved. Not done, but improved. Finishing this off is Official Task Number 2 for the week.

This woman should not be allowed on the Internet. Ever. *sigh* That cabinet needs painting... not this week though. Because painting generally seems to be my job.

Now, I didn't take pictures of her bedroom before, but she told me too this week because she did clean a bit. But I think it's mostly to show you that at least one room is a normal level of clean.

Vanity. I like the dolls. Whoever made those is obviously quite talented. :P

Nice neat bed. You can't see the curtains, but a nice job was done on those. Really talented sewer made those, I bet.

Missed a dust bunny! The fact that I got down on the floor to take this picture and live to tell the tale is kind of amazing, considering how much dust is normally under there.

Also, improvement on the kitchen front:

This is kind of miraculous. It's never been this clean, except for when I've gone on a rampage. However, only half of the kitchen is shown (and definitely no floor). These will come in time. Official Task Number 3 is:

Organization. You can't cook if you're afraid to go in your cupboards.
I'm also challenging her to have the other half of the kitchen as clean as this one. And the toaster oven could use a good scrub. Floor not required, yet.

And the last official task for this week:

Help us!!

Along with these four official tasks comes the understanding that the stuff that has been cleaned shall be in this (or better) condition next weekend. Minus the stupid toilet paper thing. (Or I shall cut off the Internets).


Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Box

Fear not gentle readers!

A couple of posts ago, my taskmistress threatened to give you a closer picture of the contents of "The Box" if by Sunday said contents had still been in "The Box."

You have had a fortunate escape, for "The Box" is empty! Yes, this morning I sorted garbage. My goal was to have ten bags ready to be taken to the curb Sunday night (or Monday night if it proves our garbage pick up has been bumped to Tuesday morning). I'm at nine, with a bunch of cardboard as well. I also managed to change the cat litter and sweep the stairs while I was at it. I done good, I think!

So today I'm going to explain why I needed to sort through that garbage piece by piece, rather than just bag it and put it on the curb.

You see, our municipality has recycling and a triple bag system. No blue box, with all the rest conveniently being stashed in a black bag, where the collectors can't see what you've put in there. We have clear blue bags for recycling, clear green bags for composting, and clear clear bags for the remaining waste, which is mostly plastic film. If you don't sort your garbage right, it doesn't get picked up. Even then, the clear bag only gets picked up once every other week.

To top that off, I've also been sorting stuff for the church. We're collecting pop cans for something-or-other, an item which makes up far too much of my garbage. We're collecting milk bags (look it up on Youtube if you don't know what the heck I"m talking about) for the local Seniors' Centre, where they're cut into strips and crocheted into sleeping mats for people in underdeveloped countries. We collect eyeglasses and old cell phones and used inkjet cartridges and grocery store tapes, too. And out back is a shiny new bin where we collect paper. So all that stuff has to be sorted out, too. I need a room just for sorting garbage! Unfortunately, I don't have a garage or room for a shed (we'll post a picture of Ally's garden soon so you can see why), so I have to find room in the house for all that sorting.

My solution up until now has been to have smaller garbage cans in the bedroom and bathroom, and sort them as they get full. Except I was sick a couple of weeks back, and went through three or four boxes of tissue in short order. In addition, it was that time of month. Sorting was out of the question, so when the little cans got full, I just emptied them into this big box I had. It worked like a charm, except then a bunch of little disasters had turned into one big one...

So now you know aobut "The Box," and if you are clever (as I'm sure you are) you know what was in "The Box." It won't happen again, unless it does, but in the meantime, once the kitchen/dining area is clean there will be a "sorting station" there for clear/green/blue plus milk bags and paper, and once the office is clean I'll have a clear/green/blue plus paper/grocery tapes/miscellaneous in there, too.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Backslides and Bedrooms

I went backwards a bit today. All in a good cause, and I'll pay for it later, but the fact is, I brought some stuff home, rather than pitched some out.

See, I've been helping the administrator at our church clean out old files this week (irony, anyone?), and there were a bunch of empty hanging files left over when we finished the first box. So I brought them home.

I also brought home three boxes of wool, so that Ally can make my Christmas present, when she remembers to come and pick up the crochet book I got from the library. So you see, I have to get rid of at least four boxes of crap in order to make room for the new stuff. Goal is to have whatever-it-is out of the house by Sunday evening. Okay?

Anyhow, on one of the message boards I signed up for, a mother was bemoaning the fact that her 8-y-o daughter's bedroom is a big mess, even though she cleaned it out completely just this past May. Now I may not know how to clean my own house, but I do know how to teach my kids, and this is what I've discovered over the course of my parenting journey:

1) Yelling doesn't work. Hitting doesn't work. In fact, both of those things will make the problem worse, and when you get to the teen years, you'll be in for a big rebellion phase. Trust me on this. You do not have to yell, and you do not have to hit. You can get what you want without doing either of those things.

2) Kids aren't born knowing the difference between "clean" and "dirty." And the only way it's possible to teach them the difference, is if they have examples of both to compare. If the whole house is a mess, asking a kid to clean her bedroom won't do any good at all, because she won't know what you're asking for.

3) A kid will feel even more overwhelmed by mess than an adult, given that they know what's being asked. They know where point A is, and they know where point B should be, but they have no ability to plan the route between A and B. You need to teach them.

4) A lot of my friends over at the AW Water Cooler have suggested that I team up with a buddy. Things go faster with a buddy. It's the same with kids. Having a parent in the room, especially one who is calm and can gently guide the child to the next step will not only ensure the room gets clean, but it will strengthen the parent-child bond as well. I don't know if Ally remembers me sitting on her bed, telling her what to pick up next, but I remember a number of those sessions.

So with those four things in mind, here is my patented method for cleaning any bedroom:

a) Start by stripping the bed. Put the sheets in the dirty laundry, and put the bedspread and pillows in another room until your finished. If the sheets are clean and the bed doesn't need changing, make the bed up instead.

b) Put everything that's on the floor onto the bed. Have a trash bag handy while you're picking up, and throw trash into it as you go.

c) Get the trash out of the room.

d) Sweep and vaccuum, including under all the furniture.

e) Find a laundry hamper or basket. All dirty laundry goes into the hamper. Take the hamper out of the room.

f) Dirty dishes go down to the kitchen.

g) By now you'll find that the pile has noticably lessened, even if you've still got a long way to go. Next up, choose a category of item that's taking up a lot of room. Toys and/or books are often good places to start. Gather those together on the bed, and start dusting, cleaning, and putting them away. Continue on with a different group of items.

h) Clean laundry gets folded/hung up and put away.

i) As you work your way through, you'll be left with a small pile of greeblies that belong elsewhere. Sort by room, and put them away. The steps above can be done in any order, but this one is usually last because it's the smallest pile (usually) but requires the most running.

j) Clean any animal pens/tanks in the room. Prune and water any plants.

k) Now that the room is in order, finish by straightening out what's on the shelves and dresser, and dusting if necessary.

l) Finally, look around. If the room still looks cluttered, THERE'S TOO MUCH STUFF! We always want to give our children the world, but far too often we never figure out where we can put it. Nor do we take the time to realize that we only have so much time in the day, and if we're playing with a new toy, we're not playing with an old toy.

Take the time to look through the stuff your child owns, with her present, and decide together what to keep, what to throw out, what to box away for a bit, and what to give to less fortunate children. (And please note, this isn't something you should do without your child present, or without giving your child a vote. You gave the toys to her--they're HERS, not yours. Respect your child's property, and she'll grow up respecting the property of others.)

Hope this helps somebody out there. In the meantime, I used this method just today to clean my own bedroom. Not that it was particularly dirty, but I had some laundry to put away, and the bed to make, and a lot of dusting to do. Now it's not just neat, it's CLEAN. And I'm happy with my progress for today.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Little Explanation

I was going to blog about "The Box" today, but I didn't get to it because a) it's exceptionally hot and humid, b) my hip is hurting, and c) I had a bunch of things outside the house to do today. Plus, I need to do some prep work. So "The Box" will be dealt with tomorrow, or more likely Friday.

That doesn't mean I did nothing today. I *did* do some thinking about how I want things arranged when everything's done...

All right. I've done no cleaning at all today. That will change once this blog post is up, I promise. I HAVE to deal with the papers on my desk before any of them disappear into the void--my EI application is in there, along with some job application stuff and banking details. I've already had one mishap this week with the banking stuff. I don't want another one. Ever.

Which brings me to the question I was asked on the Absolute Write Water Cooler earlier today: Why bother?

Well, the poster didn't put it exactly like that, but he did state he was fine with the mess he was living in, and he wasn't going to clean up any time soon.

I was like that as a teen. My stuff was strewn all over my bedroom floor, and I knew, to the square foot, where every single thing I owned was resting. I do have an excellent memory.

But now I've just got too many square feet of floor space, and too much critical mass, and I can't find anything. My son is going to have to go out and buy a copy of a book that I KNOW I have lying around somewhere, if only I could find it...

The mess also saps my creativity and contributes to my bouts of depression, and it becomes a never-ending spiral of gloom and mess. I need to live in a clean and tidy place now. So I'm cleaning up.

Notes about the pictures:

The Living Room: Ally has an almost 20-y-o brother who is approaching six feet, and indulges in the three most common past-times of teen and twenty-something males: eating and watching television. Yes, that's only two, but this is a family blog. If you can't figure out the third, I'm not going to enlighten you...

He's also autistic, and very hard on the furniture. He mostly lives with his dad, who gets his disability allowance, part of which goes to buy new furniture every year. I don't have that income, but I do have him over enough so that the legs have come off the sofa, and the chair has been destroyed. So yeah, I need new furniture. It ain't gonna happen anytime soon, though, unless I win the lottery or a very rich relative dies. Since neither one of those scenarios is even possible for me, I'm stuck with the dumpster contents.

The kitchen and dining room are my sore spot, really. Without a functioning kitchen, I eat out far too much, which is very bad for my waistline, my blood pressure, and my bank balance. This is a must-do, and it has to be done quickly.

The fish tank: Yes, there were plants in there. There's only one in there now, because goldfish + living plants = bigger goldfish. The plants were extras from my upstairs tank. I'll re-plant when I clean out both tanks, probably next week. I do have a bucket full of plastic plants if I run out of real ones, so the goldfish will never live in a completely bare tank.

The basement: I used to have three cats, all of which got sick one after another and died. The place was a total health hazard for about a year. Not fun at all. I've also used it over the years the way folks use their garage.

"Let's clean up, honey!"

"Great! Where will we put all the stuff?"

"We can box it up and put it in the garage, and sort through it a box at a time!"

"Great idea!"

NOT. Trust me on this. You will be happy with all the floor space. You will live your life, and gradually the mess in the garage or basement will recede from your memory. Until you look around and realize that once again you're living in a house full of junk. Whereupon the following conversation will ensue:

"Let's clean up, honey!"

Before Pictures Part 2

Ally here,

I feel that there definitely needs to be a warning before this. The upstairs is relatively livable, but most of the main floor and basement has not been repaired, or cleaned all that much, for many many years, and it shows. Continue at your own risk.

The Living Room

This living room has quite a bit of potential, because the floors were also recently replaced and I painted the living room last summer. And I cleaned it weekly for a while because I needed the space for a studio (I was teaching Cello). But there are a few things that need to be changed...

This, for one...

...and this. And yes, that is a Harry Potter Poster in the background. I painted and organized that living room so that it was almost sort of lovely (furniture an exception) and then she made me put up those silly things. (You don't see the Ice Age one in these pictures.) *sigh* There is a reason for them, and also for the condition of the furniture, and I will let my lovely mother explain them to you. But they are still going. (No arguments, mother). And a living room ought to be a place where one enjoys being, not where you are afraid to touch the furniture.

The Kitchen and Dining Room

At this point I would like to remind everyone that I have permission for the person who lives in this house to post these. Just sayin'...
A messy kitchen is one of my biggest pet peeves, because I am a total foodie. And she wonders why when she asks me to cook something for her, I run in the other direction. No, I will not become your personal chef if you clean up your kitchen, Mother.

I didn't really take a picture of it, but I started to paint her kitchen last summer too, but I stopped when I hit this little road block. Moving that stove frightens me. There is probably something living under there...

Along with "The Box", my mother is going to explain why there is a big pile of garbage in her dining room on garbage day. And then she's going to deal with them, and make sure they are out next Sunday evening. Those shelves are dusty, ugly, and most of the food will never be eaten that is on them. The floor is not clean enough to eat near, never mind off of. And that fish tank...

Poor Sharks. (That's what we call those goldfish.)(Yes there are goldfish).(If you look really closely you can see them, I swear). (There's also plants). (I think). (I haven't seen them for a month, so who knows).

ummm... You may want to stop now. No, seriously. Are you sure? Absolutely sure? Well, here's...

dun dun dun!

I would like you to take it as a sign of dedication to my mother that I went down here. I wasn't even wearing a biohazard suit.

Ummmm... we block off the downstairs with a board, so the cat doesn't go down here. There used to be carpet on here, but I ripped it up. I never got to painting this.

This little room used to be habitable (almost). At least, I'd played down here when I was little. But as you can see, it's storage. I recently scavenged some art supplies from down here. From ten years ago.

As you can see, she tried to make this part of the basement into a little room. But that was over 10 years ago. If this basement gets cleared up, scrubbed down (preferably with pure bleach or something) it might suite as a rec room.

Ummm... the close up photo I took didn't turn out. Thank your lucky stars. Errr... yeah.

So yeah, that's The House.
No more updates from me until after the weekend. Lets hope my mum cleans enough, or I'm gonna have to go back into the basement to take more pictures. Do me a favour and nag her in comments, will ya?


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Seeking Employment

So it's been pointed out that I'm looking for a job, and prospective employers might see these pictures and be less than impressed. I decided to go ahead with it anyway, with this to say to any employers who should stumble upon this blog:

My house does not reflect who I really am, or how I present myself to others. That's why I'm trying to change it.

I bathe daily. I brush my teeth. I don't wear rags, and I wash my clothes regularly. I can present a professional appearance when needed, and a neat casual appearance any other time. I don't go around in sweats, or dressed like folks from the People of Wal-Mart blog.

I have two master's degrees, and I graduated with an A- average. This is not a feat that can be done by anyone who is totally and hopelessly disorganized. So I do have hope.

At work, I've been known as the one who actually vacuums the office, sorts through old papers, and organizes the files. I just can't seem to get my act together at home.

So if you feel the need to judge me for this blog, keep this in mind:

In me, you'll be getting an employee who is competent doing a great many things. But no one is competent at everything. In me, you'll be getting an employee who has a proven track record of recognizing her areas of incompetence, of facing them head on without hiding or blaming circumstances or others, and of taking positive action to correct them.

As someone with supervisory experience, I know that an employee with those particular qualities is even rarer than someone with two master's degrees.

I look forward to meeting with you to further discuss my qualifications with respect to any positions you might have open! ;)

And now for the update:

I took care of the pile of laundry in the hallway. I still have to make my bed and put another load of laundry away, and dust a bit in my bedroom. Which leads me to the reason my bedroom wasn't in the pictures that Ally took of the upstairs.

It's *gasp* relatively tidy, and has been for a while. I got new flooring put in last year, and I painted the bedroom at the same time, and I made it into a sanctuary. Now the worst that happens is clean laundry piles up on the floor, but that pile usually doesn't stay more than a day or two.

And the dusting builds up, and it's a pain to deal with it because of my allergies.

But I'm going to take my allergy medication, and tidy my room right now.

Tomorrow, I'm going to deal with "The Box." I'll tell you what it is, and why it's there.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pictures and Commentary: The before pictures part 1

Hullo, Ally here.

This is my first bit of "Before" pictures, and my loving respectful commentary of the whole schebang. And by loving and respectful I mean sarcastic and brutally honest. Because that's the best way to be loving and respectful, imho. *grins evilly*

Mum, if you are reading this, get back to cleaning.

The Office

Here you can see the clutter of the office. It's been this way for months. Phil does not look impressed. I would like to say now that I refuse to move that book shelf, because during the last time she attempted to clean I had to move the darn thing twice. Not doing that again.

The desk. Nothing too horrible in this picture, except for Phil's chair. Lack of vacuuming is an issue. I forgot to grab that Happy Hooker book. Mum wants a hat for her birthday. That's the lovely lady herself, already hard at work.

If that box of trash is still there when I come over next week, I am taking a clearer picture of it. That should not be in an office.

The Bathroom

Uhhh... yeah. Words cannot describe that toilet.

So here's another picture. Maybe I should put a warning at the beginning of this post.

Stupid lighting, you can't see all the dirt. Next week I'm using the flash. It's not as bad as the bathtub, but still needs lots of cleaner and elbow grease.

The Hallway and Upstairs-stairs

I should have taken a closer picture of everything, but I know there is a pile of swept up dirt that hasn't been cleared for a month around here somewhere. The entire hallway needs to be swept and mopped, because Phil leaves hair everywhere. And mum wears her shoes inside the house. (Totally a pet peeve).

This reminds me I forgot to take pictures of the downstairs closet. I'll do that in a bit, but God only knows what's in this cupboard (and the other side too). Needs to be organized, and lots of stuff probably chucked out. (She's had that paint by number set for at least ten years).

Reason behind shoes in the house, at least for me. This is an improvement over what it was before I ripped up the carpet

Stairs. Notice the cat fluff everywhere. And yes, that is the kitty box.

So that's the upstairs, tomorrow I'll post the downstairs and *gulp* the basement. If you were severely grossed out by this update, I suggest you halt your reading of this blog right now. Truly. You have been warned.


p.s. Mum, have you cleaned anything yet?

Day Zero


I honestly don't know what I've gotten myself into. One of my goals this summer, seeing as how I'm mostly unemployed right now, it to get my house into a more livable state.

That is, clean, tidy and uncluttered.

Now a blog of this sort would be absolutely no good if I just told you what my house was like, and didn't take any pictures. But I do not own a digital camera. So...

I've enlisted the help of my daughter, who has agreed to take and post the pictures of my house as I go through this process. In fact, she just went through my house now and took the "before" pictures, so y'all can understand just why I need to do this exercise.

We brainstormed a couple of ways to get the pictures from her camera onto the blog, and we decided to add her as an author. She's going to post the pictures, and I'm going to write the blog. Except...

She gets to post her own commentary on the pictures. Without any input or editing on my part.

Um, ulp?

Those of you who know my daughter will understand my fear in this instance. Those of you who don't--well, you'll soon find out.

Anyhow, it's Day Zero. I may do a little bit tonight, or I may not, but one thing is for sure. The terms of this agreement with Ally say that she will post pictures only of the part I clean, if I clean anything. But if I don't do any substantial cleaning, she posts the whole lot of "before" pictures again.

Wish me luck!