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!