Saturday, January 10, 2015

In Search of: a 2-step Organization Plan

How's January going for everybody so far?

I'm feeling a big "meh." I've had a head cold which of course doesn't help. But even if I felt better I still would rather not get out of the flannel sheets in the morning, and in the evening I feel like going on a kitchen strike. (Why do these people want to eat every day?!)

While I'm always relieved when the holidays are over, I seem to be struggling through a case of the winter blahs.

This is the time of year when most bloggers are reviewing the past year and thinking about goals for the twelve months ahead. But I can't seem to think past my next cup of coffee (that would be cream no sugar, please).

What I'm trying to say is that this is a bad time to talk about planning or organizing, and yet I seem determined to muddle through.

Because muddle is the operative word. A household of four kids and a working single mom never runs super-smoothly at the best of times, and there are just days where my life's not only not magazine pretty, it's sort of a ghastly storm system of shoes, dishes, sheet music, and homework papers that hovers over the household the entire week.

I'm not a naturally neat person, I know (my sister got that gene). And most of the time I consider that to be okay. There's always something I'd rather be doing than cleaning house. Who wouldn't?

That said, the clutter builds up to a point that I am tempted to endorse a simple two-step organization plan:

1. Prop open back door

2. Throw annoying shit out of it.

Doesn't that feel good, just thinking about it?

I don't think our family is any more consumerist than the next American family, which I realize isn't saying much. We live in an incredibly wasteful society. I like to think we are less so. But even with all the best efforts, with four children there is a constant downstream flow of outgrown clothing (this, especially), outgrown books, outgrown toys. And with a house that's got ongoing renovation projects, there's also a lot of building/redecorating refuse. I'd like to get a better handle on this, without resorting to my previously described 2-step system.

Gosh. That sounded like a goal, doesn't it? (It's not a resolution, though. I don't possess the backbone for those.)

I've been heading in that direction for awhile already, like this day in early November where I temporarily destroyed the twins' bedroom in a big clothing weed-out:

Or the items, including an end table, glassware, and artwork, I consigned to a shop in October:

I still liked this, but it just didn't "fit" in my current house or decor plan. Time to let someone else love it.

It's a big relief to move things out the door, whether they are going to consignment, charity, or the curb.

And I want more of the kind of relief I felt getting all this crap out of my garage: 

Pitching the clutter makes the remaining items much easier to live with, as I discovered with the hall closet organization that took place earlier last year. 

I'd just like to do more of it, and when I'm not in the throes of a tantrum of irritation like I was with the closet. 

I'm not sure what form "manage clutter better" will take this year, yet, I just know that the results are worth shooting for, whether it's a cleaner closet, fewer possessions, a more smoothly operating household, or all three. 

What have you got on your plate for 2015? 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

New Year, New Changes

I'm not a New Year partier even in the best years, but this year I spent the evening on the couch with a cold. It was sort of a bummer, but I wasn't going to be out on the town in high heels and a swanky dress anyway, so it's not like I missed anything.

It did, however, ratchet up my cranky a couple of notches putting the Christmas tree away. Come January I always want to get things back to normal as quickly as possible.

One thing, however, didn't come back. It was the little orange rocker:

It gets temporarily moved out every year so the Christmas tree can stand in the front window. I decided this year it was not returning.

It was a nostalgia piece from my growing-up years that, despite my affection for it and my love of vintage, wasn't working. It's too small and out of scale in relation to the rest of the living room furniture, for one thing. Secondly it's so small and light that the children tend to scoot it all over the floor, and I'm tired of it meandering everywhere while scratching the hardwood.

And for a third---well, lets just be honest here. My love ain't blind. This chair is ugly. And that's coming from a woman who loves her some crazy 70s stuff.

For now, a bench is acting as a placeholder until something better comes along.

No, it's not perfect either, but it's at least not, you know-- so orange.

It does look a little like I'm running a Shaker church by way of a Target store with the bench plus ottoman like that. But at least the colors work and the space is filled until something else happens. Most likely an arm chair, but I haven't decided exactly what kind/color/style yet.

My living spaces overall have been mostly serviceable, but I'm to the point I'd like to get them a little more finished up-- paint, curtains, things hung on the walls-- and deciding that the little chair had to go was the first step in that.

It is not gone forever. I'm not getting rid of it, and I'm not going to forsake a piece of childhood nostalgia so cruelly. It's going to return elsewhere in a different incarnation of itself; I'll get to that part later.

In the meantime, this was a good way to start off the new year, homewise-- a small step on the way to where I'd like to go.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014: The Small Details of Joy

This has been the Christmas of small details.

In the last few years I've decided that not only can I not do everything over the holidays, I really don't want to. And that's okay. In fact, once I decided it was okay, it became better than okay, and I've regained what I thought I'd given up. More, even.

Last year I blogged about some of the hows of that decision in this post, and those are still my guiding principles for keeping our Christmas to the scale of what's comfortable for us.

But this year I seemed to narrow my focus even further. And you know what? It turned out great.

With three growing hungry boys in the house and a college student returning from a semester of indifferent dorm food, meals were important this holiday. I baked dozens of cookies. We had homemade toast and cinnamon rolls for Christmas brunch. I made pies, dinner rolls,  and noodles, and I put a lot of thought into good coffees and wines.  There seemed to be flour in the air and sprinkles on the floor all. the. time. We've had a lot of great meals this holiday. Not just for what got put on the table, but for what we talked about around it-- snow and Batman and Revolutionary War generals and the Detroit Lions and balancing redox equations. And fart jokes, yes.

We put up the tree, and decorated a bit here and there, but we didn't sweat it much. We did, however, put earrings (antler-rings?) on Bob. We thought he looked especially festive:

Every year, I get each of the boys an ornament for the tree. Sometimes I make them, sometimes I buy them, but this year I concentrated on making sure each one was thought-out and personal, either way.

Grant is off to college these days and in the process of launching himself in adult life. His ornament was this little laser-carved house (World Market). I want him to know that wherever life takes him, he'll always have a home here too.

Noah, my guitarist, got the laser-etched Strat to hang on the tree. It's from Etsy seller Miller Custom Solutions (link here).

Ben's ornament took the longest to make, but mostly because I was assembling it out of several things: a small picture frame, spray paint, old sheet music, and hand lettering.

Ben plays the viola, and music for that instrument is in the alto clef. It turns out that it is one of the only instruments for which music is written in the alto clef, so I wanted him to have something that symbolized the uniqueness of his musical endeavors. Also? No alto clef stuff to be had out there in retail.

And Joe is passionate about pears. They are his favorite fruit, and he averages at least one daily. So I made one for him out of wool felt (plus a little "test pear," to make sure I was making it the way I wanted. I made a few changes on the final version).

The little blackbird was a gift for a friend. Here it is finished:

Some years, I also get an ornament for myself. Having four sons, my Christmas tree is a whole lot of trains, bears, fish, and other masculine stuff. Sometimes I want something overtly feminine, just for me. This year it was a wool ornament from the Purple Pincushion (Facebook page here) I think I fell in love with the vintage button: 

If it sounds a little like all I did this Christmas was roll out dough and either shop for or craft ornaments, well--- yes. It was all I really focused on. Sure, other things happened, like Christmas Eve candlelight service and gifts under the tree and some other stuff. But the house wasn't all that clean and the kids wore jeans to church and there weren't any lights on the roofline and there was even a box of something, I don't remember what, that didn't get unpacked and strewn around. The Christmas cards will be late.

It didn't matter. In fact, I think it improved the overall success of the holidays. We were well fed. More importantly for me, my sons each received a small gift to show how well they're understood and appreciated. 

I don't think I really could ask anything more out of our holiday together. 

Merry Christmas to all of you! 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mid-century Modern Dressers Poorly Timed (but still awesome)

I had it all in my head how it was going to work out. And then these dressers happened.

In 2014, my bedroom was supposed to be one of my remodeling goals for this house. But it's ended up being the unloved step-child of the entire year, with work in this room ending up last on the list of everything else going on.

Not because I don't want a nice grown-up lady refuge from the rest of the world, and there HAS been some progress I haven't blogged about yet. But that's where I need to sleep, there are often socks and running pants piled on the floor, and the lighting is bad for pictures.....

How it looked at the beginning of the year:

And the alcove now stenciled: 

In the meantime, I'd been living out of these two dressers, one from my mother's childhood bedroom, and the small one a curb find from a few years ago:

This was not ideal, and in real not-pretty non-blog life I was frequently piling stacks of folded clothing on top of both of them, or in laundry baskets strewn about the room. To say it tended to exacerbate my already slob-like tendencies about laundry is an understatement. 

But I had an order-of-work plan that didn't include buying new dressers until the room itself was further along-- that last wall drywalled, the plaster work finished, the rest of the floor painted and stenciled. That was the point at which it would seem the right time to get new and better furniture up there. 

I even had some picked out. On the budget plan, I'd decided to get some combination of Ikea Malm dressers: 

Ikea Malm Dresser (Source)

It seemed perfect for the dark woods and reds/grays/metallics I'd been using or plan to use in this room, and with good looks for a reasonable price. But I was waiting to purchase them when the room was ready, and when I'd have the time to not only make the trip to Ikea (there isn't a store in Iowa, which means driving to Kansas City or Minneapolis), but also to put them together once I got them home. 

Then I saw something in a furniture consignment store in the complete and opposite direction, and it changed everything. Including my so-called order-of-work plan. 

It was a second-hand dresser and chest of drawers, blonde wood, mid-century modern, and not what I was thinking of at all. It was exactly what I didn't know I was looking for. AND less expensive than the Ikea option. And better quality. And completely at the wrong time. Not only for the fact that I wasn't where I wanted to be on the room, but also because it was Thanksgiving week, and I had a house full of guests. 

I bought them anyway. Because duh. 

The chest of drawers features a shallow "handkerchief" drawer at the top, and the next one down is a divided drawer in three parts. My undies, hosiery, and bras have never felt so...orderly. 

The dresser has six gloriously just-the-right size drawers. 

The hardware, though a little worn, is still original. I had to vacuum glitter out of the bottom drawers, and eradicate some "old lady smell" with Murphy's Oil Soap. But that. was. all. That's been the glory of this situation in many ways-- not having to do an extensive rehab on an inexpensive but neglected second-hand piece, or getting the Ikea-induced migraine of assemble-it-yourself new furniture. 

I didn't realize how badly I needed more clothing storage until these two babes came into my life. Now I've moved on from my shuffling parade of laundry baskets. The largest of the two old dressers went into my twins' closet as off-season clothing storage, another badly needed improvement. The smaller chest may be re-purposed for another use, but I haven't decided yet. 

Of course, the the two new dressers will have to slum in their new environment for awhile, but their appearance motivates me to put the bedroom back at the top of the list in priorities for the new year. Sometimes poor timing is actually the shake-up one needs, and I'm going to take these pieces of furniture as just that.