Category Archives: Clutter

Only Child gets her house in order – literally

Some of Only Child's house-cleaning tools.

Some of Only Child’s house-cleaning tools.

Part of my “delete project” includes sprucing up the house as I go along. You can’t just ditch stuff (into recycling or repurposing or the garbage) without cleaning up where they used to be. Or you can take it the other way around and in the process – ditch stuff.

It is also amazing what you will find.

This past weekend I decided I just had to do something about the wooden oak floor in the front hall, living room and my office (formerly the dining room) plus the laminated wooden floor in the kitchen. The former three looked a little scruffy – what you coul see. So I decided to do something my late mother seldom did – move the furniture to clean. (Mother’s idea was to vacuum and dust if company were coming and maybe a few times in between).

No company coming here but after seeing the shiny wooden floors at my cousins when on holidays last month my shabby floors looked terrible. True their wooden floors aren’t oak and are much newer but…

So I pulled out the chesterfield and found two pens, a cat toy, and dirt. So I got to work – removing the items, vacuuming and mopping and then using one of those Swifter-like mops (the ones with the bottle attached to put in water and in my case, Murphy’s Oil) all over the floors in the living room, my office, front hall and kitchen.

What a difference.

And when you physically cleanse something, it also helps cleanse your mind. You feel a combination of relief, satisfaction and “hey, my house now looks good.”

At least it does with me. It also frees me up to do something I have been wanting to do for awhile – another sort of delete.

More on that in another post.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Clutter, Home and Garden, Mother, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child clears the clutter

Only Child in part f her office where it is neat and tidy

Only Child in part of her office where it is neat and tidy

One of my friends is on the big paper purge at her place. She is doing it full time. I may get in a few minor sorting jobs – such as old magazines weekday evenings. However, I concentrate on bigger purges in my “spare time” on weekends  when I dig a little more into eliminating the clutter at my place. Weekends before garbage collection, I focus on “garbage,” and weekends before recycling I hit the paper “collection.” The latter and some electronic stuff are the bulk of my physical clutter. The rest have been purged over many years.

A lot of this paper pileup is old journalism stories (notes for published and unpublished story ideas). I don’t need all this anymore, especially as I no longer write feature stories – my writing focus is fiction, memoir, personal essays, and book reviews. Most of the first two is in book form. The other paper clutter is old editing client files. The delay with both (besides my time problems) is for safety and security reasons as you can’t just pitch it all into the recycling bin. So I rip them up – faster than shredding and I can’t afford to have one of those big shredder companies in a big truck come here to do the job.

My criteria for rip and dump is based on my late mother’s when we were downsizing from house to apartment. She tore me away from reading an Agatha Christie mystery novel to downstairs where she had big cartons of paper sitting on the laundry room floor. She pointed to the one with my school stuff and asked, “What do you want to keep here?”

I’ve changed her criteria slightly to “What do I still need here?

When that weekend’s clearing job is done, I look at the de-cluttered areas and feel like a weight has been removed. I’m not fighting files in a drawer (well, that drawer anyway). I have to keep going back to look at the emptiness and cleanliness. I’ve also learned that de-cluttering has another function for me.

Cleaning and de-cluttering even small areas of my place gives me some control. That is especially welcome when I have very little control over all the crap coming at me – house repairs and replacements that I can’t afford – the labour let alone the parts. I’ll be hitting some of the little left in the RRSPs this spring for money to pay for the most urgent repairs and replacements. Then there is my time. With no partner, time and money are barely there some days.

I’m really tired of having to do and organize everything myself (and pay for it too). So, a little bit of clearing the clutter goes a long way to give me back some control of an environment out of control.

The latter also means weather but that’s a topic for another post.

Comments on what clearing your clutter does for you?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Aloneness, Clutter, Home and Garden, Living alone, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford, Time management

Only Child says road construction sign of life’s discord

Only Child’s front garden – headed for some destruction?

Last weekend I did a lot of walking in downtown Toronto and was appalled at all the road construction. Supposedly it is to improve Toronto’s streets and sites. But as I slogged through the heat along Front Street West and down York Street I couldn’t help wonder if underneath it all there is a more serious sign. If you throw in the extreme weather conditions worldwide – more severe thunderstorms with flooding, tornadoes, forest fires, and the worst drought since the Depression in the mid-1930s, you have to wonder. No, folks, I’m not talking the end of the world, although some people believe that will happen later this year. I mean the extensive invasive construction and extreme weathers conditions  just might be signs of the clutter, overwhelm, and disharmony in people’s lives throughout the world.

It didn’t used to be so much construction at once, although I remember as a five-year old, poking my head out the front door and seeing the whole street dug up for pipe replacement.

Now, Union Station – Toronto’s railway hub – is going through a big renovation. From the diagrams displayed inside the station’s big hall, the future looks great. But the process is taking a long time and producing a spill-out of more construction nightmares. The actual entries to Union Station and maneuvering around inside appear tolerable. Front Street outside is something else as the islands of gardens in the middle of the street were removed last year and this summer more of Front Street is one big long hole while sewers, etc. get updated. In June, the construction and the extreme weather created a flood inside Union Station and the subway platform below.

This weekend, yet another street where streetcars run, entered the construction act – to upgrade the tracks and prepare the area for a partial pedestrian walkway for Toronto’s Harbourfront. These streetcars (as well as those on Spadina Avenue) use a dedicated track line. The buses don’t. So, we have people, cars and buses (when they come) jamming streets and sidewalks. I gave up on waiting for the bus transfer from the subway (up the stairs, around the corner and down the street) for the walk to Harbourfront. Along with many others, I trudged through heat over to York Street and then some shade under the Gardner Expressway (which has had chunks of cement falling down in various places) and finally to Harbourfront. I was trying to make it in time for the classical music concert in the Harbourfront Music Garden. So I walked in the heat and humidity over to the west end of Harbourfront. As I arrived (late) and started through the gardens I could hear the “music.”

Somebody was insulting an accordion, hitting random chords of discord. I decided to skip the concert and wandered through the gardens. Here, beauty appeared and I found areas of the garden I hadn’t known existed. Truly this is an oasis of calm (except for the occasional sound from the concert popping through). When I walked back to Harbourfront Centre proper as I passed by the main outdoor concert stage, my ears were hit with more discord in sound. Another sign of the discord everyone seems to be experiencing in their lives?

And if I think sitting out in my garden will help, I have to think again – at least for the front garden. In my walk along the downtown streets Sunday and in my walks in nearby neighbourhoods the past month, I’ve seen the big gas pipe movement – replacement of old pipes for presumably newer and better ones. And if they have to, they go on your property and dig, although for the lucky ones, it stays on the sidewalk, roads, and maybe the driveway.

Not for me. I have gas lines under part of my front garden (once a front lawn). Why would gas lines (except the one connecting to the house service at the gas metre) be under a lawn? Who was at fault – the house builder/developer or the gas company back in the day when the area was developed? Somebody screwed up. And I’m terrified they will be coming to get my front garden – if not this year, then next. I’m having nightmares and daymares.

I need to find out more and make a plan.

Does anyone else find the extremes in weather, and such occurrences as too much radical construction, etc. a sign that our lives are really out of whack and we (I use the royal “we” here) need to make some changes before it is too late?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Clutter, Extreme Weather, Garden Destruction, Home and Garden, Music, Only child, Road Construction, Sharon A. Crawford, Sign of the Times, Union Station Toronto, Walking

Only Child on simplifying life

Ms. Worrywart - Only Child - contemplates her worries

When I was 15, my mom bought me Dale Carnegie’s book  How to Stop Worrying and Start Living because she was worried about my burgeoning worry habit. I guess Mr. Carnegie didn’t help me because the habit grew  over the many years since. Now, worrying is wrapped around being in constant overwhelm over too much to do,  trying to simplify my life and get back to some basics. A couple of weeks ago I blogged about renewing ourselves in September. (https://onlychildwrites.wordpress.com/2011/08/30/only-child-views-septembers-new-beginnings/). I posted some tips to try and I’ve done some of them.

I’ve  said “no,” to a couple of things, backed out of something (naughty, naughty) and organized a few things that needed doing  – and even got at some of them. That certainly made me feel better – for a bit.

I’ve also been reading self-help books on the subject and although I can’t agree with all the content (and I’m still reading it), I can recommend one book – Living in the Moment by Gary Null (North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, 2008). Mr. Null is an award-winning radio journalist, investigative reporter, health and science expert, documentary film maker, etc., and like me, a baby boomer.  He spares us boomers no slack in his book, blaming us for many of society’s ills and why many, if not most of us (here he includes the next generation down in age), are spiritually ( he differentiates between religious and spiritual) bare, bored, and in overwhelm. Even though I don’t agree 100 percent with him, he does make a lot of sense; however, I’m still waiting for more than a few lines on actually living in the moment. I’m in the Chapter on Embracing Our Bliss and I don’t agree with his definition on bliss.  He defines bliss as “about having the courage to release immature notions that make us toxic to ourselves and others.” That might be the first step for us to get to bliss, but that’s not all of it. I define bliss as being content and even happy with our life, filled with passion about something and maybe even at peace without ongoing worrying. Notice I said “worrying,” not “worries.” We all have worries, but most of us could use less of them.

For some of what Mr. Null (I love that last name – the paradox for what he writes) says I find I am already there and some of his advice I will consider trying. However, one thing he says  I can’t go along with, at least right up front and right away. He says we all need to reconnect with our community and be altruistic, be more like we boomers were in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It’s this altruism part that I’m questioning. Some of us got into our overwhelm partly by over-volunteering and hit burn-out there. I think, first you have to “be selfish” and sort yourself out, then if there is a cause you are passionate about, go for it.

Strangely, some of his ideas for straightening out yourself are good, including ones I’m doing.

Here are some tips, based on Mr. Null’s ideas and what I’m doing, to get out of overwhelm and live simply and in the moment.

1. Get rid of the clutter – physically. He goes on about the consumerism and possession-collecting of boomers. (Just watch those hoarder shows on TV to see it in extremes). Well, for the past few years I’ve been purging stuff in my place and I actually turn my nose up (down?) at accepting stuff from friends (excluding small Christmas gifts, which I also buy for them).

2. Get rid of the clutter in your head (my idea). Right now my mind swims with all the stuff I have to do, etc. and it drives me up a wall and down again. Being an “only person” here, responsible for doing and organizing everything doesn’t help. If you have a significant other, persuade him or her  to help you with the next point because that will help with this no. 2.

3. Downsize what you do in your life – I hit on this in that previous post, but you need to decide what you need and want to do, not what someone else thinks you should do. Whose life is it? Remember, delay, delegate and (my favourite) delete. Make “no” the biggest word in your vocabulary.

4. Go out into nature and reconnect. I can’t emphasize how much a nature walk or going out in my garden helps soothes the psyche – whether pulling weeds, mowing the lawn with my push-mower, or collecting raspberries or tomatoes or just sitting out in the garden and absorbing.

5. Exercise – now here Mr. Null and I disagree on the philosophy behind this. He says that boomers go out and exercise in ways they really don’t like but for me, that’s not true. I love walking and gardening. Now, if he is referring to snow shovelling, I agree with him.

6. He also has much the same attitude about people’s motivation with meditation and yoga – I only partly agree when someone’s meditation wanders all around their concerns. But meditation, yoga, NIA, Tai Chi – whatever works for you – are good ways to relax. So are listening to music and reading, and maybe even watching some TV (the latter is for me, but not reality shows – Mr. Null and I agree on those).

7. Experience the holiday, the festival, etc. instead of using it to pile up on more possessions, something I already experience them, thanks to limited funds.

To sum it up, I think you have to sort yourself out first before you step outside, so to speak. But I still recommend reading Gary Null’s book Living in the Moment. Lots of good wisdom and he gets you thinking. Check out his website http://www.garynull.com for more info on the man and his works; for the book, go to http://www.amazon.com

Comments please.

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, Baby boomers, Balance, Burnout, Clutter, Gardening, No, Only child, Overwhelm, Time management, Worrying

Only Child clears the clutter from home and office

Only Child by bookcase in her home-based office

My late mother used to let the dust bunnies collect under the fridge, tables and other pieces of furniture.  When company was coming, she’d whisk out the upright vacuum cleaner,  the mop, Pledge, and dust cloth and get to work. Not exactly Good Housekeeping spotless house material. However, she had another setup for clutter. I call it her Organized Clutter System. For example, she filed bills and other business-personal stuff in a draw in her bedroom bureau and her sewing paraphernalia, including the machine, were somewhat organized on the dining room table for easy access for her constant sewing projects. Of course, all that table-top “clutter” had to be moved away when we had company.

I’ve inherited some of her modus operandi here for both my home-based writing and editing business and for the rest of the house,  although I’ve long ago sold my sewing machine at a garage sale. My sewing is limited to mending and hem-shortening by hand – the latter always necessary when you are only 5’1″ even when buying petite. But my basement closets (many built by the previous owners in the laundry room of all places) are cluttered with old photograph albums, some of my son’s stuff and the biggest shelf hogs – outdated computers and printers.) I  do have a weekly housecleaning ritual- very basic to keep the dust bunnies away (well 80 per cent of them) and have clean laundry. But I’m right on Mom’s tracks with my organized clutter. Trouble is, when the drawers get stuck or overflow, something must be done.

I did something about this over the weekend. In the laundry room I sorted/cleared and pitched out some stuff from my large gardening workbench and some of those closet shelves. Most of the electronic stuff is too heavy for me to move (my “invisible, mythical brother” would come in handy here). The City of Toronto now lets you move this stuff to the end of your driveway on garbage day so any I can move I will do – when it isn’t snowing or raining outside. I also phoned a friend and she said she would help me get some of these curmudgeons to the city drop-off depot in the new year. We’ll see how that plays out.

Then I moved upstairs but only managed to find time to clear out one kitchen drawer and file some current papers in my office.  Next weekend it will be my office desk drawers. I’m tired of having them get stuck when I try to open them. (And the “blue air” from my swearing isn’t healthy.) I had already started tackling the files (the hard copy ones) in my office previously – like in the last couple of years, so that progresses – slowly.

All this sorting and purging takes time. I find once I get into it I get interested and can keep going. The key seems to be to do a little at a time. One of my cousins, Anita,  has an interesting practice which she uses to renovate her farmhouse – she calls it picking away at it a bit at a time. Nobody likes to face a huge mass of books, paper, computer equipment, etc. and have to dive in and do it all at once. Following Anita’s modus operandi may be just the way to go.

Then, you have the satisfaction of actually doing something to clear your business and personal clutter. And you know, when you walk into the de-cluttered room, even when it is partially finished, you can feel the energy moving around. The stale block of clutter has disappeared.

And that opens up more energy in you to go about your business – whether it is the self-employed home-based kind or personal sewing projects.
Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Clutter, Only child, Organizing home office, Time management