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Archive for the ‘organization’ Category

It seems that my list of bookmarks on my computer just keeps getting longer and longer, and I just keep adding to it. The bookmarked things ranges for herb websites to blogs of all sorts, recipes and crafty things I would like to try. (ya, I have heard of pinterest, and I should probably use it more, but it seems I get lost in time when ever I log in there)

Every time I bookmark something it ends up at the bottom, and the bottom seems to be pages and pages down there, so I started working on organizing the bookmarks and as I did that I came across things I had forgotten about (what a concept!)… so I decided to try to either do something, like a craft, each week or try a recipe or read a certain blog I bookmarked but never got back to.

I have a lot going on right now, so I picked a few simple things that wouldn’t take up too much time. I started with a bookmark. I figured it would be perfect for my niece that had a birthday this week. This was a super frugal gift, because I used some of those left-over scraps of paper that I save. I found the original on The Girl Creative.Book marks 1I tweaked the pattern for me and simplified it. The original bookmarks are cute, but my niece is 11, and I wanted something a bit more tailored for her.Book marks 3I picked out some designer card stock/scrap-booking papers that I thought that she would like (blues and greens) and made a few. Another niece likes hot pink and animal prints, so I made a few for her at the same time.Book marks 5This was a quick and easy project for me to do and it felt good actually getting around to one of those things I had bookmarked off the internet.

Do you have a long list of bookmarked things? How do you organize them?

Do you ever have things you want to try? Do you ever get around to them?

Sincerely, Emily

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Kitchen deep cleaning is my favorite task of the January Cure. It’s one of those things that each of us knows should be done, but you never do it because, seriously, life’s too short.

Somehow the January Cure stands in for a scolding nanny who impels compliance.

As it happens, I had completely rearranged my kitchen in the spring when my husband moved out, taking half our stuff with him, so I didn’t really need to get that down and dirty with all the cabinets, so I tackled those projects that have been waiting literally years to be done. You know the kind– organize your bracelets. Clean off the tops of the hanging cabinets (haha, yah, I didn’t do that).

What I did do was finally caulk the counter behind the sink and the stove.

Now, I’ve never done this because I’m a little afraid of caulk. Instead, I’ve been letting moisture seep back there for more than 15 years; I’ve had nightmares about what it must look like behind that sink cabinet.

What I want to know is in what universe is caulk “ready to paint in four hours.” Because it’s going on 8, and it’s not just still tacky. It’s still wet. I guess I’ll paint tomorrow. Night. Because I have to work during the day. In the meantime, I haven’t been able to wash dishes all day.

I ran out to the local True Value for hooks and cleaner. This is one of those wonderful old neighborhood hardware stores with the little bins of screws, wooden floors, and an astonishingly huge inventory. The guy knows everything, remembers you, and will order what you can’t find. I asked for environmentally friendly cleaner, because he didn’t have anything obvious on the shelf. What he did have was something called SunBrite, which comes in a little tub that mixes up to the equivalent of several gallons of cleaning spray– I used an emply Mrs. Meyers spray bottle. I’m plugging it here, because it’s amazing stuff.

I also finally attached the Container Store roll-out cabinet bins (finally = we bought them when we first did the kitchen, in 1998. Mustn’t rush these things). You don’t really need to attach them. They work just brilliantly just sort of placed in the cabinet. But Nanny was in the corner telling me to get with the program and install them already.

Now, here’s the heroic part. And don’t lie, you have not done this. But I have. Yes, folks:

I cleaned the refrigerator.

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I get it– spring cleaning because you can set the wash tub outside, and beat the rugs when it’s warm.

But my washtub stays indoors since, despite my pioneer-woman conceits I actually don’t use a scrub board to clean; nor do I beat the rugs. I vacuum them. I don’t want to be stuck inside cleaning when the weather is finally nice and I can get out of the cave for a few hours.

Enter the January Cure.  This is one of those internet things of which you’re vaguely aware for years.  And then a friend says “I’m doing this!” and you think, okay, why not. It’s great “Dark Days” therapy.

Last year my friend petered out after a couple of weeks, but I stuck it out and went the whole month. I confess some of the tasks struck me as silly (buy some mass-produced art), or inconsistent with the eco-friendly mandate (buy some cut flowers in the middle of January– they’re only the most ecologically disastrous industry on the planet!). But for the most part it laid a really useful and effective structure for cleaning. Last year I had an entire 10-room house to clean, which was a little more than the “Apartment Therapy” home site was geared towards. This year, I’ve contracted onto my first floor, so I should be able to keep up a little more.

I’m going to add my disaster of a basement to the mix (in fact I’m headed there right after writing this).

I’ll be going back to my regular Tuesday posting day for  reporting. (It seemed ridiculous to post about cleaning on New Year’s Eve- I don’t know about you, but on New Year’s Eve my aim is making messes, not cleaning them up!)  I hope you’ll join me in signing up through the Apartment Therapy site, and that you’ll chime in on the comments here about your successes, misses, and surprises.

Happy New Year!

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Our wonderful Jen at Unearthing This Life has been posting these great month-by-month planners for a few years. Just because she’s not writing here anymore doesn’t mean we stop the reposts!

I’ve been pretty productive this April– completely reconfigured the usage of my house to reflect the new reality of being in it alone. Lots of painting, moving and patching. The garden’s been a bit neglected through all this, but I’m hoping to get back on track. You can follow my garden progress at MyFolia.com/gardeners/Xan.

Here’s Jen’s April planner:

Gardening:

  • Tilling garden beds where necessary to work in compost and get rid of weed seedlings
  • Edging beds or digging the last of the new beds
  • Add supports to garden beds for plants like tomatoes, peas, gourds, roses, peonies, and beans.
  • Sowing outdoor hardy annuals
  • Sow last of the peas, potatoes, and onions. Continue starting beets, lettuces, cabbages, radishes, and carrots.
  • Planting rooted raspberry canes and strawberries
  • Hardening off and planting of vegetable seedlings
  • Plant any remaining saplings and transplants
  • Rake around fruit trees to help with invasive bugs and/or treat for them. Use treatments only after flowers are gone.
  • Questions about what to plant when? Go to Mother Earth News!

Outdoor house and yard Chores:

  • Clean up fallen branches and sticks, nuts, and leaves.
  • Hang bird/butterfly/bat-houses. If you’re not a beekeeper consider hanging a mason bee box. Set up bird baths and drinking holes for beneficial critters like bees.
  • Tidy up gutters and look for winter damage.
  • Bring out water hoses and setting up water barrels.
  • Repair screens check caulking/insulation around windows and repair if necessary.
  • MORELS!

Animals:

  • Purchase/raise chicks
  • Consider any expansions and rotations for this seasons’ critters.
  • Repair fencing.
  • Add supers to beehives. Check brood.

Indoors:

  • Wash windows and curtains.
  • Organize and collect glass canning jars.
  • Clean out freezers and storage for this year’s crops.
  • Plan simple, yet filling meals for lots of energy.

What will you be working on this month?

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This is the second in our repostings of Jen’s wonderful posts on monthly planning. Originally posted in 2011, here’s what to do in the traditional dead of winter.

February can be one of the last chances to get indoor projects completed before the spring thaw arrives. Gardeners are getting excited and it won’t be long before the first of this year’s farm babies are here! Spring is really just around the corner, so start wrapping things up inside and get ready to head back outdoors.

Indoors:

  • Check basement or crawl space for leakage during thaws.
  • Check bathroom caulking for re-sealing needs. While you’re in there, check your pipes for leaks.
  • Freshen your kitchen sinks by pouring a mixture of 3 cups hot water and 1/4 cup vinegar (or the juice of one lemon) down each drain.
  • Keep an eye out for cracks in your drywall caused by settling during thaws and freezes. There are expandable putties and spackles available for problem areas. While you’re at it, you may want to mark outdoor masonry to be repaired. Plan to complete this project after the last hard freeze and once your biggest worries of the house settling are past.
  • If you don’t have a cold frame or greenhouse, set up an area to start seeds for your garden. Few seeds need light to germinate (be sure to read the directions) so you may be able to get by without any lights other than a window for the first few weeks. (Check out chiotsrun seedstarting 101 guide).
  • Research and prepare for any animal purchases for the year.
  • Keep a tray of water and spray bottle near indoor plants to adjust humidity levels, especially if you have central air. Running the heater can dry them out quickly and cover leaves with dust.

Outdoors/Garden/Wildlife:

  • Keep fresh water available and free of ice for birds and wildlife.
  • It’s National Bird Feeding Month. Keep feeding those birdies! Seed, dried berries, and suet are great meals for our feathered pals.
  • If you live in a climate with mild winters, this month may be a good time to dig new beds. You may also want to repair or build new composting bins to be prepared for this year’s cleanup.
  • Southerners could get away with planting bare root trees on warm days.
  • Keep driveways and walks free of snow and ice. Have shovels, plows, and salt/brine accessible and stocked.
  • Watch gutters and roofs for ice dams.
  • XAN EDIT: if you’re in a short-season zone (5 and up) start long season seeds like onions and leeks indoors
  • If you didn’t get to it during fall, now would be a great time to oil and sharpen garden tools.

Animal Husbandry

  • Be prepared for early birthing. Have any equipment you’ll need ready and accessible.
  • Nights are still very cold in most parts of the country. Keep your critters warm with fresh hay, heat lamps, or blankets, but be sure to avoid fire hazards.
  • If you’ve been leaving a light on for your chickens you can begin weaning them off of it. The sun is setting noticeably later and your gals should begin laying more regularly soon.

You can also find Jennifer in archive at Unearthing This Life where she used to blog (or as she called it “blarg”) a bit about good food, home schooling, raising chickens, and being a suburban Yankee transplant in a rural southern town. She’s not writing right now, but her wonderful posts are well worth scrolling through.

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I’ll be reposting Jen’s wonderful series on monthly chores and tasks throughout the year. Here’s January, originally posted on January 7, 2011 by Unearthing This Life.

So many of us are working our way toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. With that in mind we here at NDiN wanted to share some general guidelines of what to plan for on a monthly basis. Whether you’re a gardener, a beekeeper, a forager, or you keep animals, hopefully our monthly guides will help you plan ahead for the month. Depending on your exact climate you may find you need to adjust your schedule depending on your region.

Now that Winter is officially here most of us will be spending a lot more time indoors. For those in the more Southern regions, outdoor work is manageable on warmer days. It’s a good time to focus on the indoors, keeping warm, and getting a jump on this year’s activities.

Indoors:

  • Take down and store holiday ornaments and decorations.
  • Update your address book from holiday cards and gift envelopes if you’ve saved them.
  • Clean out your files in preparation for tax time. Rid yourself of out-of-date warranty cards (update if necessary) and manuals. Schedule service appointments for extended warranties.
  • Clean out dryer vents with a wire hanger and vacuum cleaner. Wash mesh filters with soap and a scrub brush to allow for better air flow.
  • When finding new homes for holiday gifts, clean out unused items and donate those in great shape to your favorite charity.
  • It’s also a great time to photograph your belongings, room by room, for insurance purposes.
  • Start planning your spring garden. Look at gardening catalogs, websites, and blogs (like us!) to get ideas for what to do this year and when. Purchase seeds by March to guarantee delivery and stock.
  • Research and prepare for any animal purchases for the year.
  • Keep a tray of water and spray bottle near indoor plants to adjust humidity levels, especially if you have central air. Running the heater can dry them out quickly and cover leaves with dust.

Outdoors/Garden/Wildlife:

  • Keep fresh water available and free of ice for birds and wildlife.
  • If you’ve already begun to put out birdseed continue to do so. They’re now relying on you as a food source.
  • If you live in a climate with mild winters, this month may be a good time to dig new beds. You may also want to repair or build new composting bins to be prepared for this year’s cleanup.
  • Keep driveways and walks free of snow and ice. Have shovels, plows, and salt/brine accessible and stocked.

Animal Husbandry:

  • Early birthing will begin late next month for some of you. Make any preparations necessary to help mammas and babies along.
  • Keep barns and other animal shelters clean to help prevent illness and discourage wild critters from nesting. Change hay often, keep tools cleaned up, and be sure to keep water free of ice.
  • Put a light out for an extra two hours in the evening for your chickens. It will help keep their coop warm on colder evenings and promote more egg laying.

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Yesterday over on my personal blog I posted  a photo of a beautiful old hand-painted wooden tray that came from my mom’s side of the family. I also commented on how I love to be surrounded by “stuff,” meaning things passed down from both sides of my family, or my husbands family. These things bring a smile to my face and I have good memories of them.

Wooden Tray 1

I also mentioned that there are times I am bothered by the clutter around me. Not the clutter of things from the past, but the clutter of projects that I am in the middle of or hoping finish soon, even dishes that need to be done.

Yesterday came and I had a bit of motivation in me, instead of working on a presentation I have coming up in January, I tackled an armoire in our bedroom. Ok, part of an armoire. I have more clothes than I could even need or use and it was time to chip away and decrease the piles. About 2 weeks ago, I took several boxes of clothes and other things over to a thrift store  and it felt really really good. Today I managed to fill one trash bag full of clothes.

cleaning out the closet

These clothes have a lot of life left in them and I need to let them get on with it. Live their life. Move on.

I know when I am met by a bit of motivation, I need to run with it. I get absolutely not where when I am not in the mood and I also know that I need to tackle things like this in small steps or it becomes too overwhelming and frustrating and then nothing gets done at all. So, I was in the mood, had a bit energy and got a lot done.

A laughed a bit, because as I went through the clothes, ever single piece was something that was handed down to me, things I didn’t spend a penny on and I don’t think I wore any of them. I hope someone else can get some better use out of them. They certainly aren’t doing anybody any good folded up in my armoire.

I still have way too many clothes, but it fells good to go through some of it and move it out. This journey continues.

What do you find is the best way for you to clean out a bit of stuff?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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“It’s about time” is a series I have started over at Sincerely, Emily this year. Basically, it is about finally getting around to doing some things I keep putting off for one reason or another.

We all have our “lists” don’t we? Please tell me I am not the only list maker out there. Some of you have them in your head (that was me when I was 23 yo) and some of you have them on paper, in your phone or on you computer (paper for me thank you!)

I tape a list to the kitchen cupboard when I find I just keep forgetting certain things I need to do.  I tape a checklist to the door so when I am leaving for a meeting I can make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. It is terrible when you arrive at you culinary group meeting to find out forgot the dish you cooked! (I haven’t done that yet, and I really don’t want it to happen – therefore, a list)

I have a notebook in my purse with one page dedicated to grocery or shopping related things – everything is written in one place and that works for me. (like the dimensions of the oven rack I need because I did this!)  That notebook serves another purpose; it is always in my purse so when I am out I can add to it, jot down something I need to email someone, things I need to do, etc.

We all have things we need to do: take out the trash, clean the bathroom, call the dentist, but this is different. I am talking about things that I want to do (after I have cleaned the bathroom or taken out the trash). I don’t have to make kimchi… I want to (I want the healthy benefits from fermented foods). I don’t have to make this or that… I want to. It will help reduce the amount of other items that I buy. It will help reduce packaging, and reduce the amount of commercially made things I buy. It will improve our health because I make it and therefore I know what the ingredients are. I don’t have to plant flowers… I want to. These flowers will attract bees and birds. In turn, those bees and birds will help pollinate my veggies and eat bugs out of my garden and I can later save said flower head for making lotions of salves (calendula) or use it to make tea (chamomile or hibiscus.)

So far, this year, I have managed to check 3 things off my “list.”

As this year goes by, some months may be more productive than others when it comes to these things on my list, but each month I am planning to make or do a few things that I have put off. I know I am heading in the right direction.

I did a post here a few weeks about my best intentions and my plans for making up some tinctures and throat lozenges. Well, this is the year to do it.

You would think with all these “lists” I make that I would have one for all these “things” I want to do. Nope. So I am finally making a new list…It’s About Time !!!

What do you have on your list?

Sincerely, Emily

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I know they’ve moved me from Zone 5 to Zone 6, but I’m still planting based on the Zone 5 frost date of May 10.

I always plant a range of home starts, nursery starts (although fewer and fewer of those) and direct. I like to do traditional seed starting, and a little winter sowing.

The hardest part of all this is to make sure that you’re planting, first, in a way that doesn’t overwhelm you, and second, so that your seedlings are ready to plant out when the proper weather hits– the cool weather ones in early April, the tender solanums not until almost June around here.

I use the wonderful “seed stash” tool at MyFolia.com to keep track of my seeds, but it’s most useful as a database. While it lets you note when you should plant indoors, and transplant, it doesn’t yet have a reminder function, and anyway, a pop-up box on my calendar or desktop is not a useful method for me. I like something really hands-on and visual, that puts it all in one place at a time.

I’m pretty organized, plus like all gardeners I get antsy (plantsy?) in the middle of winter and start wanting to do something–anything–that seems like gardening.  I used to sort by date into planting pots, but they tip over and get out of order. It’s really not optimal.

So what I’ve developed is a seed keeper system, organized not by type, but by planting date and method. It allows me to select out of the larger seed stash the seeds I’m actually planning to plant, so I’m not constantly pawing through seeds trying to remember what to do, and  I have a beautiful basket woven from recycled materials that a friend got me from Ten Thousand Villages which is a perfect size.

Here’s the method:

Make a card divider with the planting date on it, and list under it the method (indoor, winter sowing, direct) and the seeds you’ll plant. Those seeds go in front of it. I have my cool-weather, long growing season ones starting Feb 15 (leeks, brussels sprouts), then nothing for about a month. Here’s what they look like (hmmm, March 20 is a little bit early for tomatoes, may have to redo that one):

I use them year after year. As you can see, I used some old fliers from one of my clients. If I was the entrepreneurial type, I’d probably propose that NDiN market these with a logo and a guide book for the different zones!

Once I have my cards worked out, I pull out my seeds, all organized by type (as you can see, this task is yet to be completed) and start pulling packets, to load into the planting system.

When it’s all ready to go, it looks like this:

Ready to go.

How do you organize for the planting season?

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boxes

In my adult life I’ve moved seven times; two of those as a family with a child. Averaged out, that’s once every three years! Ugh. No wonder I despise the process so much. Each time I move, I dislike it more and more. (I say as I’m breaking from unpacking.) It seems as though we’ve got this thing figured out, though, and perhaps I can offer some advice to those of you that are planning on a move any time soon.

I’ve learned that it will always take longer than you plan, or want it to take to get everything moved and unpacked and in working order unless you downsize your belongings. We Americans like our Stuff, even those of us that don’t consider ourselves “Normal”. As soon as you plan to move, begin ridding yourself of excess. Reduce, recycle, or give it to someone to reuse (or if you’re a glutton for punishment, hold a yard sale). E-bay, Craig’s List, or Freecycle are some excellent alternatives to a yard sale or Goodwill – and I like them because it is a lot less stress than spending an entire week to set up and clean up a yard sale.

Avoid purchasing items for your new place until you’re moved in. Yes, you’ll want your new joint to be happening and functional the day you walk in. First of all, that’s a completely unacceptable expectation to put on anyone, even your own self. Second of all, why bother getting more stuff you’ll have to pack and transport when you probably have too much as it is?

Start gathering boxes, newspapers, and other packing material as soon as possible. These are items it seems you can never have enough of. Liquor stores, grocery stores, and farmer’s markets are all great places to look for boxes. Also, look for sales on packing tape and big permanent markers. Find a home for them and put them away every time you’re done with them so that you know where to find them the next time you start packing.

Do a little research of the area you’ll be moving to beforehand. Get contact information for utilities, locate grocery and hardware stores, arrange internet/cable/telephone start dates, and find a convenient restaurant or two to make things easy on yourself.

Keep tape, markers, scissors, box cutters, garbage bags, and newspaper available even when you’re UN-packing. Surely you’ll have second thoughts on a few items and need to repack them for storage.

Label. Label. LABEL! You will never remember what is in each box unless you only have five of them or have a photographic memory. Write clearly on the top and two adjacent sides of the box what is inside and a general idea of where they belong. You may also want to come up with a color code for especially fragile items. We used bits of blue painters tape on fragile boxes so that we knew at a glance which weren’t good boxes to play basketball, soccer, or football with.

Don’t stress about dusting or making things spotless before packing them. Dishes and glasses will inevitably get fingerprints on them when unwrapping, and you’ll want to wash any newspaper/box germs off your dishes, silverware, and cooking tools anyway. You never know what’s crawled on those boxes or papers.

A quick rinse through the hot cycle of the dishwasher may be good enough to get some of those prints off. If you’re worried about germs, you can use some mild detergent in the machine, or quickly wash them in the sink.

Put your toiletries in a carry-on bag so you don’t have to search for them when you’re bedding down for the first night. It’s an awful pain to have to dig through boxes to find saline solution so you can take out your contacts. Even worse, fumbling around for your glasses once you’ve taken your contacts out!

Make sure that you have enough clean clothes to get you through the move and a day beyond. A washer and dryer will probably be one of the first things you hook up if you own them, and keeping a load or two running while you’re unpacking and cleaning is almost painless.

…however it’s a good idea to wash all your towels, bedclothes, and curtains to have them ready to hang or put away as soon as they’re unpacked. I put mine in large garbage bags for easy transport, then reuse the garbage bags for clean up in the new place.

Prepare food in a crockpot, cook a roast in the oven, or even (gasp) order out if it helps you stay sane. There’s no reason to cook big meals, bake breads, or go over the top if it’s going to add to your workload. Think of simple meals that you can make at home to save money, perhaps eggs with mushrooms and kale in tortillas topped with hot sauce and sour cream; an easy salad with sliced leftover roasted chicken; or even a bowl of oatmeal with nuts, fruit, and cream. And keep healthy snacks available! You’ll most likely be using up more calories than normal, so keep your energy levels in check. (Don’t fail like me and fill up on junk and completely crash when everyone is counting on you….)

Use up all of those disposable plates and cutlery you’ve been hording because you’d otherwise feel guilty having thrown them away.

Arrange tools like screwdrivers, wrenches, drills, and hammers in a small carry-on bag so that you don’t have to dig for them when you need them. Don’t forget any hardware you may need.

Keep cleaning supplies nearby all the time! You will drop something. Something will spill. Food will spoil. Your child will dump her drink in the backseat of the car during a poorly-timed trek through rush hour traffic in a major city. The Gods of Moving say it must be so. Keep rags, towels, a broom and dustpan, mop and bucket, trash bags, and some simple cleaners around for basic cleanup.

Don’t forget to spend time with those kids when you can so that they’re feelings don’t get completely crushed when you scold them for dumping said drink in the car during your poorly-timed trek. Remember that time spent with your loved ones is also supposed to be relaxing for you.

Ask, pay, or bribe friends and family to help you early on. Remind them (although not obsessively) when they’re expected. It’s considered excellent manners to feed people and even provide cold beverages!

Take time out to celebrate, relax, and just be with the people you’ll be leaving behind. Goodbyes are difficult, especially in these times of email, Twitter, and Facebook when short statements are the norm. Say what you feel, and keep in touch.

Finally, remember that you’re not perfect. Be realistic with your expectations concerning your time, finances, and energy, and do the same for those that are along with you for this crazy ride.

Jennifer can be found blarging at Unearthing This Life and on Twitter as @unearthingthis1.

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