Archive for the ‘Homekeeping’ Category

It was pretty successful, actually.

Of course, I like to clean (don’t tell my kids), and I get positively giddy over big reorganization projects. Some of the fussiness of the way Apartment Therapy goes about it (flowers! Frame That Art! Was there something about cute hand creams? I d’no) set my teeth on edge, but I get it. All clean and no play makes for a let’s-not-finish-the-January-Cure.

So here’s a day by day:

1. The First Step: Create a Project List
Yup. Did it. However, I must confess that I have on-going lists. I have a whole moleskin devoted to lists. One of the things I put on the list was painting chalkboards at strategic spots around the house so I could make lists.

2. Weekend Chores: Flowers & Floors
Well, you know my feeling about flowers. Expensive, chore-like, and unsustainable. Floors are the one big task of the cure that I really regret missing. That was the weekend of the 12″ snow, so I shoveled. Does cleaning the sidewalk count?

3. 10 Mindful Minutes: Get a Fresh Perspective
Loved this. Not sure how it affected the cleaning project, but I loved having an actual excuse to sit and stare out the window. “Hey, the Cure said…

4. A Simple Step to Success: Set Up an Outbox January Cure:
I don’t need an outbox. I need a time machine. My problem is not that I don’t get rid of things I don’t need. It’s that I get rid of things I shouldn’t. I spend a lot of time going through trash cans (yes, and dumpsters) for the stuff that I should not have thrown out.

5. You Can Do It: Pick a Project to Cross Off Your List
I managed to do one of them– cleaning the basement, including my list-ready chalkboards. Did not get to the other one, figuring out a solution for my several dozen necklaces.

6. Making Your Home Your Own: Prep Artwork for Framing & Display
I rolled my eyes at this one, but in fact I actually did do this, because when I was cleaning the basement I found a beautiful drawing by my old art buddy Karen Lyverse. It is now hanging in my foyer. Thanks, January Cure.

7. Weekend Chores: Flowers, Kitchen Organizing & Cleaning, Make a Meal
Sweetie, flowers again? Also, I make all my meals already. Do people who live in apartments not make meals?  But yes, kitchen organizing. I love kitchen organizing. Now, there wasn’t that much organizing to do this year, since my ex organized me out of most of my stuff already, but I did get a 20-year goal completed and managed to caulk behind the sink. Don’t ask.

8. Keep Yourself on Track: Get a Get-Together Together
That’s for today. But it’s not for the January Cure, it’s gathering a couple of girlfriends for a major rant on my evil ex.

9. The Clutter Filter: Create a Landing Strip
Sigh. Seriously, do grownups need a special place to put stuff until they put it away? Just for god’s sake put stuff away.

10. Unplug for an Evening: Try a Media Fast

11. The Halfway Point!: Project Progress
Oh, was I supposed to track this halfway through?

12. Weekend Chores: Flowers, Bedroom Cleaning & Wardrobe Organizing
Yeah, that was the necklaces (the rest of the bedroom got reorganized in the break up)

13. Less Mess & Stress: Getting Your Paperwork & Files Organized
From this I infer that people don’t routinely keep their paperwork and files organized.

14. Worth It: Clear Up Cord Clutter
I don’t have electronics, for the most part.

15. Declutter & Organize: Bathroom Cabinets Cleanout
I was into this, until I discovered that my medicine cabinet has almost nothing in it. Can’t decide if this is empowering or depressing.

16. Lightening Up: Declutter Media Collections
Also not a media consumer. I would love to get rid of Wei’s records, still in my basement, but that would probably not be in the spirit of “amicable divorce.”

17. Weekend Chores: Flowers, Outbox, Living Room & Lighting

18. The Assignment We’ve All Been Waiting For
No clue.

19. A Gift to Yourself: Hang that Artwork!
And it looks just great. Thanks for the push, JC.

20. Final Stretch: The 60 Minute Quick Clean
I have no idea what this was. Are you seeing a theme here? Towards the “end days” it begins to get difficult to keep going.

21. The Last Lap; 22. Weekend Chores
I think the Apartment Cure people were getting tired too.

I will definitely do it again next year.

Did you do the January Cure? Do you like it better than traditional spring cleaning?

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The problem with full time employment, aside from the annoyance of having enough money to pay the bills, is that macro-projects like the January Cure are hard to keep up with.

I’ve been telling myself that I did a major home reorganization last spring, so I don’t really need to go through my closets.

I don’t approve of cut flowers from an ecological viewpoint, but the bigger problem is that I live in the ghetto (ish), where there are certainly no florists, and now there are also no large grocery store chains. We are not the sort of neighborhood that the yuppie chains like Mariano’s find attractive. Buying cut flowers is a chore, not a joy.

I did of course do the kitchen, but not at the level recommended by the Cure. Although frankly, my kitchen is pretty clean and well organized as that’s where I spend most of my time. I think if I lived in a one room apartment, that room would have to be a kitchen, with the bed stuck in a little alcove.

I did not create a landing strip, but mostly because I’m not an accumulater. I just get rid of stuff I don’t need- papers, old clothes, cracked dishes, husbands…. In fact the moving on of the husband is the reason I don’t need to reorganize things like the kitchen and the bedroom and the paperwork. Been there, done that.

I also have not planned a get together, which is actually something I’d like to do.

Partly this is procrastination, and partly it’s fear, because the last get together I planned, half the people who R.S.V.P’d didn’t show up. I’m still getting through the leftovers, more than a month later. Who needs the stress, or the cost.

I am determined to get to my Goal Projects: boxing up my husband’s detritus from the basement (he is not someone who does not accumulate things), painting “blackboards” in key places, and organizing my necklaces (I have several dozen).

I figure I have 17 days before I have to admit defeat on that.

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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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There’s a certain degree of hubris in writing about the things we accumulate. George Carlin pretty much said it all. (Caution- link contains strong language).

I throw stuff away– I joke that I spend an embarrassing amount of time going through the trash for the stuff I should have kept. But I’ll tell you, in two weeks I will be wracking my brain trying to remember what it was I needed so badly that I dug through the garbage looking for it.

There’s a nostalgia to stuff– who doesn’t love going into the attic or the basement (or better yet your mother’s attic or basement) and finding that childhood stuff that you had forgotten about. Or even just that blouse that you loved 8 years ago, which is hopelessly out of fashion or never going to fit again. But the thing with stuff like that is that if you didn’t know you had it, you don’t need it.

When the kids were little and apparently unable to ever put their stuff away, we would pack up the clutter in paper bags. If they didn’t ask for it in the next three months, we’d chuck or donate it. I cannot remember a single instance of my kids ever saying “hey, what happened to…”

Some of those forgotten items you should keep, for future generations. If you find something from a prior generation, I guess I’ll let you keep that, on the theory that in another 2 generations it will be a best-of on Antiques Roadshow. But your stuff? Don’t put it away, throw it away.

I’m the child of gypsies– both sides of my lineage were immigrants who came to America with the things they could carry, and then spent the next two generations moving from one place to a better place, so I suppose I’m culturally, if not genetically disinclined to save stuff. When you move a lot, you don’t accumulate things, because you’re just going to have to pick it up and carry it with you the next time you go, and there will be a next time. By the time I was 30, I had lived at 11 different addresses, moving on average once every 2½ years before I graduated high school. The longest time I lived anywhere before my current address was seven years, and that was in my late 20s. Growing up, the record was four and a half years.

After I left home, my parents didn’t stop moving either. My father has lived at nine different addresses in three different countries since 1978. That’s a move every 4 years. He once moved to England with only the things he could fit stuffed into a single carry-on and the sleeves and zipper lining of his trench coat.

After 30 years at this address, I feel now like I have more stuff than I can handle. When you don’t move, the dust settles. But I have friends whose every closet is packed like McGee’s, with drawers stuffed to uncloseability, and every surface covered. You just never know when you might need that jar (never).

Give it up, throw it out, don’t make it do, just do without (with apologies to grandmas everywhere)

Are you a keeper or a tosser?

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Things he now has to do for himself:

Make the bed

Wash the dishes

Write a budget

Call friends

Pay taxes

Balance the checkbook

Go grocery shopping




Find a plumber (and an electrician)

Plan entertainment

Water the plants

What would you hate having to learn how to do, or do without, if the housekeeper your spouse wasn’t around anymore?

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I had a (rather wealthy) friend walk into my house once and remark “what a cute little place!”

Which surprised me, because I’ve got 10 rooms and a full basement and “little” is not the term that comes to mind when I’m dusting them.

With my recent, ahem, lifestyle change (husband decided he needed “spark,” whatever that is, and moved out), and both kids gone (ish), I find myself with far more rooms than I need.

So I downsized. Or rather, downstaired.

My house is essentially a really nice one-story house that had three bedrooms, a bath and attic storage added on the second floor. We’ve never been entirely sure whether the second floor is original or not, as the first floor would easily fit a family of four or five. As my son put it, my first floor is a really awesome apartment.

I’ve spent the past month moving myself into it.

I now have a 6-room apartment: living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom, office, and studio.  (Office for my consulting business, and the studio for sewing and art.) It’s still a luxurious amount of space for one person.

Most of the “renovation” has involved just moving furniture downstairs, but this brings its own needs. A lot of the furniture left with Wei, so there are bare spots on the walls. Or actually, shadows on the walls, where pictures have been hanging for 30 years.  So there’s been a fair amount of patching and painting.  Some of it has been less “renovation” and more “renewal” like getting rid of books and clothes and things that you store when you have the space, but that you really don’t need. I’ve been applying the “if I didn’t know I had it, I don’t really need it” rule.

Upstairs there’s now a second, rather charming “inlaw” apartment– Living/Dining room, bedroom, office, full bath and tons of closet space, and even a half-sized fridge which I’ve been using for my home-preserves. My daughter is using it right now (that’s the “ish” in the the kids are gone), but I’m thinking of renting it to a grad student or intern.

When you live in a space for a long time, you grow tentacles. Even for me, who does not tend to accumulate clutter, a lot accumulates over 30 years in a space. When you remove stuff you’ve had for a long time, it’s not that you’re getting rid of things you need; it’s that you’re relinquishing myths– the myth that you will fit into your honeymoon suit again, that your daughter will want the baby furniture eventually, that you can furnish your kids apartments from the detritus of your life, that you’ll finally sell all that art you made in your twenties.

There’s an awesome garage sale in my near future.

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