Here’s what I’m up to instead of being outside on this beautiful Sunday:
Deep cleaning the bedroom
And recaulking our disgusting tub:
Gotta take advantage of these rare days when I actually feel like doing something on the house!
I recently heard someone refer to housework as “home care” and I really like that. Somehow just changing the language makes it feel less like work and more like the relationship with the house I was talking about in my last post. The idea of “caring” for our home sounds so much more appealing than “working” on it.
I always tell myself I’m going to participate in the Apartment Therapy Home Cure, but guess what? I know myself too well, and I know that the schedule that’s required to keep up with that is just not going to happen in my life. Instead I’ve decided to just go with a modified version that I can do on my own time. I’m planning to work on each room in the house, one at a time, and give each room a little TLC. And in keeping with the “monotasking” resolution, I’m not going to think about any other rooms until I’m finished.
I’m starting out with the kitchen, which is a room that is pretty much set, but there’ve been some straggler things I haven’t done, as well as some upkeep items I need to take care of. So yesterday, January 1st, I dragged myself off the couch and out of my pjs and took the opportunity to get started by cleaning the refrigerator. Like, REALLY cleaning it. I got all up in that fridge’s business and gave it the cleaning of a lifetime. I found areas that I never knew existed, and accordingly filth that I never knew existed. I found an entire little bag of Babybel cheeses in a weird nether-region behind one of the crisper drawers. I employed the use of sponges and dish soap, toothpicks, antibacterial wipes, paper towels, you name it. I threw out stuff that had expiration dates of 2012. I cleaned that mofo like nobody’s business.
So here’s the kitchen list as it currently stands:
sand and oil countertops
clean out cabinets
hang a print
clean the oven
wash all canisters
fix vent hood
touch up cabinets
hang shelf in window
purge uneeded things
door curtain – wash and hem
In case anyone (namely me) needed more motivation for their goals in 2014, a friend of mine posted this video on Facebook the other day and it was so inspiring – really a testament to the “take your time and do it right” approach I’m trying to go for this year. It also made me want to get off my fat ass and do some yoga ;)
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and all that jazz!
I’m not gonna lie, 2013 really sucked big time, and I’m really looking forward to the new year for a fresh start. This year I’m only making two new year’s resolutions, and I’m pretty excited about them:
1. BE KINDER TO THE INANIMATE OBJECTS IN MY LIFE
Allow me to explain.
Around Thanksgiving, I read this article on Apartment Therapy and was kind of inspired by it. It talks about how to give thanks to your home, and frames the article as if your home is a living, breathing being that deserves appreciation. It got me thinking about the house in a different way, and then it got me thinking about everything in a different way.
I’m an incredibly impatient person. Most people who know me probably wouldn’t guess this, as people have told me that I give off a very relaxed vibe and that being around me makes them feel calm. They’d be surprised to know what goes on in my head half the time. I get frustrated incredibly easily, but I suppose I mainly internalize it. I’m the sort of person who, if we’re out at a restaurant and my sandwich starts falling apart, my evening is basically ruined.
Most of the time, my life feels like a war – a war between my brain and everything else. I treat everything as an obstacle to get past, but I’m not sure what the ultimate goal is once the obstacle is passed. If the tub is grimy, I get angry and frustrated with the tub. If there’s a pile of clothes on the chair in the bedroom, I get angry at the pile. If the roof is leaking, I’m furious at the house. Every minute spent dealing with these obstacles is infuriating to me, and it makes me want to get it over with as fast as possible. Which means I half-ass EVERYTHING.
So after reading the aforementioned Apartment Therapy article, my thinking began to change. I started to think of the house as another “person” in my life. And then I began to think of everything as another person in my life. I began to anthropomorphize things and realized that these objects perform a service for me and are therefore deserving of my respect. So instead of being angry at the tub for being grimy, I started to think things like, “That poor tub doesn’t want to be grimy. It wants to be clean and white and have fresh new caulk. It’s only grimy because we shower in it every day and don’t take care of it.” Or if my car is a mess, I think, “This car treats me very well – it gets me from A to B, it drives me to work every day and keeps me safe. It doesn’t want to be full of dust and trash and dog hair.” I feel myself developing compassion for these objects in my life, and that compassion makes me want to take care of them calmly and thoroughly.
A secondary resolution that has grown out of this one is:
2. START MONOTASKING
Part of my perpetual state of frustration and anxiety results from letting my brain become overwhelmed with the thought of “what else?!” If the tub is gross and I decide to clean it, I don’t do it well because I’m preoccupied with the thought of all the dishes in the sink. If I’m washing dishes in the sink I’m consumed by the fact that the living room is a mess. When I’ve moved on to straightening up the living room, I spend that time stressing over what a mess the closet is. And so on. I spend all my time racing through each activity to get to the next. My mind is never where I am but where I’m not, and that is a huge source of constant low-grade stress.
I need to reign in my thoughts and I’m thinking the solution to this is monotasking. In the short amount of time that I’ve tried this out it feels so good. Even when I’m washing my hands, I’ve tried to stop letting my mind wander further down the line and focus on just washing my hands and washing them well. When I’m folding clothes I’m just folding clothes, nothing more. And if I start to feel myself get frustrated because the fitted sheet isn’t cooperating and my mind starts racing, I stop and relax and give myself a little pep talk, like, “Kate, you’re just folding right now; this is what you’re doing, nothing more. Just relax and take the time to do it right.” Once I do that my body immediately unclenches and I actually enjoy folding the sheet. I know that this is really just what people refer to as “mindfulness,” and mindfulness is associated with all sorts of wonderful health and happiness benefits. But I think for me, saying “be more mindful” sounds a little vague, and “monotasking” has a more immediate meaning that I can put into action.
So I’m pretty psyched about these two resolutions. They seem more like building blocks to a better life than simply, “lose weight” or “keep the house clean.” Wish me luck!
At least a year ago, I bought a rug on Overstock. I paid $180 for it – a nice 8×10 orange jute rug. I thought it would lend a nice pop of color to the dining room. I got the mailroom guy at work to help me lug it into the car. Then Greg and I lugged it into the house. It was like dragging around a dead body. A very long, skinny, dead body. We took it out of the plastic slip, began to unroll it, and immediately realized it was way too big for the room. I’m not sure exactly what my thought process had been in purchasing an 8×10 rug, as it was meant to replace a 6×9 rug that, although drab, fits perfectly under the dining table. But regardless, it was going to cost about $70 to ship it back, so no thanks.
We spent the better part of that Friday night rolling the rug back up and trying to wrestle it back into the plastic slip. It was sweaty, exhausting, and dirty work. Then we lugged it upstairs to the guest room where it awaited its fate. Until, that is, a few months later when we actually had guests and had to lug it down to the basement, where it lived, propped up on an old door and some cinderblocks, for the next year.
In the ensuing year, I posted the rug on Craiglist several times, just wanting to get some of my $180 back. I posted it on my office classifieds with no luck. And all the while we had to climb over and around this stupid thing taking up half the basement.
Finally a few weeks ago, I said enough is enough. We decided to just load it up and schlep it down to the Goodwill and be done with it. As a last ditch effort, I asked a friend who had just moved into a rather large apartment that she was trying to fill, and she jumped at the chance. So last night, after a year and change of kicking this thing around, lugging it here there and everywhere, we loaded it up in the car one last time, lugged it into her apartment, dropped it on the floor and said, “NO BACKS!!”
This sort of thing happens all the time with me. I buy something that just isn’t really quite right, but it feels like such a waste to get rid of it so instead I just sit on it for ages and ages and generally avoid dealing with it. I cringed at the thought of spending $180 on something that we got NO use out of whatsoever. But honestly, that thing has been such a millstone around my neck that it was just completely not worth the stress. I think you have to allow yourself to make mistakes like these in life, to just cut your losses and move on. And what we’ve definitely discovered in the past few years of living here is that sometimes the feeling of relief from unburdening yourself of material possessions has far more valuable than the thing itself did.
Oh and as a bonus, my friend sent me a photo of the rug in its new home in her bedroom, and it looks fantastic. Nothing like a little closure.
My coworkers/friends Grace and Josh have just embarked on a cross-country adventure. They quit their jobs, sold most of their possessions, packed up their dog and are making their way from Philadelphia up to Alaska, where they will spend the summer, after which they will drive back down the coast to California on a hunt for a new place to settle. They’re also blogging about it. Obviously this is bittersweet for me, because we will all miss them dearly, but I’m incredibly happy and envious that they’re taking this chance.
Greg and I aren’t packing up our stuff for a cross country move anytime soon (sorry Susanne!) But in my sadness to see them go, I decided to let them inspire me in smaller ways. I worked with Grace for two years, but only in the past few months have I gotten to know her better and was looking forward to spending more time with them. Then came their big announcement. Since then I’ve been kicking myself that we didn’t hang out more, but it’s just one of those classic situations where you think you have plenty of time, and then BAM. You don’t.
So one of the lessons I’m taking away from their adventure is to stop letting time pass me by with nothing to show, stop putting things off for later. Because later comes WAY faster than you think.
First thing to stop procrastinating: Finishing the house. Second thing: Blogging about it.
The happy coincidence about this is that our contractor happened to have started working on two of our big remaining projects today: First floor powder room/airplane bathroom, and the front hallway. Check out some before pictures:
I know I promised a while ago, but here’s some shots of my (not so) recent project. I picked up an old letterpress tray at a flea market a few months back, and decided to use it to display all the little sand samples I’ve been collecting. I try to remember to bring sand back from the various beachy places we go, but don’t always remember a suitable container, and as a result have been known to shove loose handfuls of it into my pockets when necessary. Thankfully Greg tends to have random extra dog poop bags in his pockets. I got the apothecary bottles from American Science & Surplus, which is the most addicting online shop for weird little fun supplies.
I do want to ask everyone’s opinion though. I actually had made a little shadowbox kind of display for the collection a while back, but I was looking for something to do with the letterpress tray and wanted to try this. What do you guys think? Which do you prefer?
I think I’ve posted before about my terrible case of house-related ADD. The minute I think about a project, there’s about fifteen other projects that immediately jump to mind, and they’re all jostling for my attention. Over the years I’ve learned that multitasking house projects is a recipe for half-assed disaster. So I’ve been trying something new lately, inspired by my attempt to develop a meditation practice: I obsessively focus one ONE project.
It started a few weeks ago when Greg was away camping. A weekend alone makes my mind reel with the possibilities of what I’ll get done when I’m not pressured to do annoying things, like leave the house and eat real meals. Unfortunately history has taught me that a free weekend full of possibilities can quickly turn into a depressing Sunday night of failure when you try to fit too much in. I typically go through four stages: 1. Excitement. 2. Overwhelmingness (yes I just made up that word) 3. Paralysis and 4. Eating a block of cheese and watching X-Files reruns.
Actually remembering these past failures, this time I decided not to overdo it. My only goal for the entire weekend was to finish painting the new bedroom doors, and do it well. A very doable project. Anything more than that was free game. So leading up to the weekend, I kept thinking about the doors, and nothing else. I burned it into my brain. ”Just paint the doors. Just paint the doors. Just paint the doors.” And amazingly, it worked. I painted the damn doors. I listened to some podcasts, took time to tape everything off, get all my materials gathered, and do it properly. And since I felt so gosh darn good about myself for doing that, I was able to spend the rest of the weekend (between coats of paint) doing things like hanging out reading at a coffee shop and going out for dinner and drinks with friends, and yes, watching X-Files reruns. But it wasn’t depressing, “I love you Mulder, but I should really be working on cleaning up the office” X-Files reruns, it was actual “I deserve to hang out with my boyfriend Fox because I worked so hard on those doors” X-Files reruns.
So I’ve been putting this to use on other projects and it seems to be working pretty well. Going into this past weekend, my only goal was to switch out my winter clothes. So when Sunday came and the drizzle started drizzling, I was all prepared with what to do.
Next on the obsession list? Working on the laundry room. But the trick is that I didn’t think about it. It was somewhere in the distant back of my mind that the laundry room needed to be cleaned up, but I kept that feeling at bay and didn’t let it get in the way of the “switch out my winter clothes” declaration. But it was there, patiently waiting in the wings for when the closet
was done, at which point it jumped out and screamed, “IS IT MY TURN!?! Oh pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease!!!” So Monday afternoon while the rest of the east coast was suffering devastating wind and storm surges, I was hunkered down with the vacuum, some masking tape and a Sharpie, as evidenced by my last post.
What’s that you say? Three instances do not a trend make? Well first off that’s actually wrong, according to my memory of plotting points on a graph in geometry. But if that’s not enough for you, stay tuned for the results of my most recent obsessive project…
If only we had more hurricanes, I’d get so much done around here. I spent yesterday performing the dreaded semiannual “Seasonal Clothing Switch.” Normally that happens in about January after I’ve made do with layering all my summer clothes over tights for three freezing months. Not this time, no sirree. I finished up work at about 1 this afternoon and spent a few hours reclaiming the laundry room. Unfortunately I didn’t think to take any before pictures, but try to imagine piles of old dog beds and blankets, overflowing boxes, bags of donation clothing, and a metric ton of cat hair and dust. Got the picture? Ok, then take a look at the semi-finished product:
The pegboard is “attached” to the washer (i.e. propped up against) with magnetic clips and holds the majority of the attachments for my beloved Dyson vacuum. And yes, the attachments do sometimes fall off during a particularly rigorous spin cycle. And yes, it does scare the crap out of us.
A suction cup hook on the side of the dryer holds our laundry bags.
The Martha in me wanted to label everything with daintily typed stickers, but in the absence of that nice stuff, I did some half-assed masking tape labels.
I even labeled the hamper, and hung a bag that’s to be used specifically for bleachable items!
I also finally set up the folding table that I picked up a few months ago because I was so tired of trying to fold fitted sheets without letting them touch the cat-hair-and-dust-laden floor. Why not fold them on the bed, you ask? Because then they’d touch the dog-hair-laden duvet. Duh.
Who knows what sort of fun/nerdy project I’ll work on tomorrow! That is, if we still have a house tomorrow.
Also, I’d like to thank Zac for outing this blog and forcing me to post something. You should now go read his blog, where he’ll actually be doing real things, as opposed to posting about masking tape labels.
Remember how we spent a lot of time and a ridiculous amount of money to have it professionally gutted and rebuilt from the ground up? Yeah, I vaguely remember that too. And I was just thinking about what high hopes I had for it. It was going to be the heart of the house, I was going to cook delicious meals involving things like risotto and produce from the farmer’s market and have friends over and sit around the table laughing and eating and drinking wine. I think I could count the number of dinner parties we’ve had on a woodshop teacher’s one hand, and when I do cook I try to find the simplest recipes possible and get out. The cabinets are disorganized, the walls are blank, and there’s a layer of grime on everything.
Well it’s time to do this kitchen justice. For the next couple of weeks I’m going to be giving it some TLC, including a good cleaning from top to bottom, reorganizing the cabinets and drawers and adding some decorative touches.
It’s a small room, but when you start to work on it you realize all of the nooks and crannies involved and it starts to feel pretty overwhelming pretty quickly. Then I start to think about the rest of the house and all the nooks and crannies that need to be gotten into and all of the junk that needs to be sorted through and the dust and pet hair and….and then I start to hyperventilate. So that’s why I need to reel myself back in and focus on the kitchen.