Mind Games with the Clutterbug

We have a good bit of clutter in our house. A lot of it is semi-controlled: We have a box in the front hall where most of the shoes land as we come in the door, and another for corralling scarves, mittens, hats, etc. (actually being used this winter!). Almost all of the kids’ clothes that are in their dressers fit them at this time, even if they are shoved into the drawers haphazardly.

There’s lots of clutter that’s not really controlled at all: The toys spend a good deal of time strewn around the floor no matter how many different ways I try to organize them in easy-to-put-away systems. Our art supplies (especially the coloring books) are threatening to take over the house and need to be weeded. And don’t even get me started on our bookshelves.

All of this, though, I manage to live with without too much stress. I organize a little when I have time, inclination, and a reasonable idea about how to proceed. Otherwise, I live with the clutter. Toys are just going to be out because they are there to be played with, not to sit in their bins. My husband and I can usually find the books we want if we look carefully enough. Life creates clutter, and that’s that.

The clutter that I seem to have the most trouble with, though, is clutter I don’t even see on a regular basis. It’s the things that I’ve saved for one reason or another, they build up, and I only notice them when I need to add to their ranks…birthday cards, music programs, car maintenance paperwork, etc. There’s no reason why this stuff should bug me as much as it does. Life creates clutter. I go through it when I can. It clutters up more. The cycle continues.

I think I feel like it’s hanging over me because some of it has been around for so long…I have at least a few letters from elementary school and all my dance recital programs starting from 1st grade. Another contributor to the stress may be the impending possibility of moving this summer…we still won’t know for a while yet, but we are slowly starting to get things ready to move, and that brings the clutter to the forefront. I’m sure another reason is because I like to organize, but I don’t seem to have the knack for it that others do…just like my Pinterest board (that I don’t remember how to log into) will never have more than about 10 pins, I’m never going to have my house perfectly organized.

Whatever the reason, I’m trying to stop stressing out about it now. Life creates clutter. Yes, it sometimes needs to be pruned, corralled, and kept in line. But it’s not worth spending my mental energy on worrying about the clutter instead of the things that make life life. Playing and reading with my kids. Hanging out with my husband. Reading and writing and knitting. Doing the daily chores that make the household work. Baking a special dessert. Writing letters to friends.

Yes, the file cabinet and the boxes of cards will stay on my “to-do” radar. But I’m saying no to trying to have or keep everything in perfect order. There’s too much other life to live.

Say Yes to the Dress: Doll Edition

I snapped this picture the other day:

dolldresses

Baby, Sadie the dog, and Cinderella decided to borrow each others’ clothes: Cinderella (on the right) and Sadie are both wearing new outfits that Santa brought Baby, while Baby sports Cinderella’s ball dress. The post perhaps should be titled “What Not to Wear” in poor Baby’s case–she has a soft, huggable body that happens to be plumper than Cinderella’s plastic one, so the dress never quite fits her. It also doesn’t help that the ball dress will soon look just like rags from repeated putting on and taking off. The sleeves and overskirt are a gauzy material that is not sturdy, so they could fall off any day.

Anyway, I thought it was funny.

SAH Sanity Tip #7: Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

Our new year (well, the real new year, when we all returned to real life on Monday morning) got off to a rocky start two weeks ago when I walked into the girls’ room and found they had colored all over their wall.

With magnets.

Who knew you could color with magnets? I certainly didn’t, although I should have suspected that anything can be a writing implement when my older daughter used a barrette to color on the same wall about a year ago.

Oh yes, and this was the wall my dad came down and painted this fall because of aforementioned barrette coloring incident. So I was not too happy. I’m actually very proud that the first thing I did was walk away.

Anyway, I luckily remembered that we had some Mr. Clean Magic Erasers (and I’m not trying to sell a product, I promise–when I went to the store to replace our used erasers, I found a Food Lion brand version, so I’ve bought both and will in the future see if there’s any difference) that I mostly used when spiffing up our old house for sale/rental. I got one out and, with the girls’ “help,” cleaned up the wall.

It seems to have worked just like it should (no paint fading in this case, although I had already decided I didn’t care–we were going to have to repaint the wall if the eraser didn’t work, anyway), and I got a good story to tell all the grandparents over the next week.

I also know that if my daughters are caught without the usual lines of communication open, they will somehow get a message through.

Reading and writing in 2014

I am two weeks late for any sort of New Year’s post, but that’s just how I roll, it seems.

I made three official New Year’s resolutions (going on the theory that if I make several, I have a better chance of keeping/achieving at least one), and the one that I think will receive most of my energy is trying to finish writing a book-length story that I started at least 5-7 years ago. Like my knitting and sewing projects, I seem to pick it up and put it down, but I’m hoping to pick it up for good this year. That’s part of why I started this blog in the first place–to get back into a habit of writing–so now I’m just going to shift some of the time I would spend on blog posts over to working on the story. There will probably be less posting here because of that, but hey, since I’m not the most faithful blogger in the first place, you may not even notice!

An unofficial resolution that I make just about every year is to try to read the books that are sitting on my nightstand. It never happens. This is largely due to me getting distracted by other things to read, but sometimes I’ll put something on the nightstand that I know I should read but am not really in the mood for so it sits forever. Similarly, any book that I receive as a gift goes there, some of them eagerly and others not so much. I also had some ARCs that are way past the “advanced reading” stage, and so on. This year, to help somewhat with the nightstand phenomenon, I actually took everything off and only put back books that I really do want to read. A few (the ARCs!) have been marked for giving away (don’t worry, copyright people, I gave the ARC’s to my local library to use as teen event prizes or some such thing, NOT for sale in a thrift shop or library book sale), others just put on our regular shelf, and the ones that stay on the nightstand arranged in what I hope is a tempting manner:

The nightstand in all its glory.

The nightstand in all its glory.

First, we have the whole thing, which may look deceivingly empty and easy to get through. Note the Kindle on top, which creates its own problems. I have found that to actually read something on the Kindle, I kind of have to impulse buy (buy it when I want to read it right now only), because otherwise the book sits there without even a physical dust catcher to remind me that I need to sit down and read it.

shelf1Next, the first shelf, which includes space to stick whatever I’m currently reading on top of my diary and a few books-in-progress on the side. (Finding Calm in the Chaos is a devotional book, so it will probably stay there for most of the year as I try to use it every day).shelf2

The lower shelves are not arranged in any reading order, but by how the books best fit. I do try to put books I want to read sooner in the front with others in the back. People of the Book has been there (and I’ve been truly wanting to read it…just not tonight) for about 2 years. You can also see my French book-in-progress and some kids’ books my mom lent me that will go quickly when I finally pick them up. Relic is a Christmas gift YA book that I’m looking forward to.shelf3

The lowest shelf includes some of my cheating: I’m already about halfway through rereading Little Women, and the orange book on the side is the English translation of the French book (which I’ve still only been referring to after I read a given section in French first). Also, you may notice that there is both a print and audio copy of the same book on the right, so I will listen to that one for my next audiobook.

Judging by the first two weeks, my 2014 is already off to a busy start, and I know I’ll never finish everything I want to this year. But here’s to an optimistic late start, anyway!

Something to tide you over…

Ok, I doubt anyone is just checking this blog everyday just to see the next post, but I do feel bad about not having posted in a good week and a half. I will try to get some more posts up in the next few days.

In the meantime, this posted on YALSA’s The Hub today (and was a large part of why no other blogging got done in the last week):

http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2014/01/14/literary-knitters/

It was a fun chance to combine two interests in one project. While you’re there, you can check out the many other Hub posts, including a reading challenge for finalists of the William C. Morris Debut Award (for a first time YA author) and the Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction Award. The ALA Youth Media award winners (including those from YALSA and ALSC–the latter include the famous Newbery and Caldecott awards)  for this year get announced on January 27, so stay tuned!

Library Books Enjoyed, 1/2/2014

Happy New Year! Around here, it’s also still Christmas, so here are some Christmas library books we enjoyed before the New Year:

The Little Drummer BoyThe Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My son wants to learn to play the drum and, this Advent, has become fascinated with the Little Drummer Boy song. So when I saw that Ezra Jack Keats had made a picture book of the song, of course I checked it out. It was a hit. I’ve only been asked to read it once, but he has sat and looked through it over and over. The pictures are very familiar as being by Keats, and it’s a pretty traditional adaptation of the song.

Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas StorySilver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story by Cynthia Rylant

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I checked this out from a library display, partly because the picture appealed, and partly because it was by Cynthia Rylant. I had to suggest it to the kids for the first reading, but after that they requested it several times. I thought it was a touching story, and it’s interesting that it’s based on a true phenomenon (the Christmas train). The kids loved the train, and the older two were able to understand that the boy who’d always hoped for a doctor kit eventually became a doctor.

The Night of Las PosadasThe Night of Las Posadas by Tomie dePaola

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love all the Tomie dePaola Christmas books that I’ve read, and this one was no exception. It tells the story of the Las Posadas procession that takes place on Christmas Eve in New Mexico, and about a miracle that happens during a snowstorm one year. Like many of dePaola’s books, it’s influenced strongly by his Christian faith. The kids enjoyed that it was essentially a Christmas pageant, since they are gearing up for ours at church.

Llama Llama Holiday DramaLlama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Llama llama is back again, this time caught up in the holiday rush. I like Llama alright, but my kids LOVE him, and we had to reread this one several times. This is a good one if you need a classroom holiday story, because no mention of any particular holiday is made.

Henry and Mudge in the Sparkle Days (Henry and Mudge, #5)Henry and Mudge in the Sparkle Days by Cynthia Rylant

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Henry and Mudge enjoy the first winter snow, Christmas Eve dinner (a fancy dinner that, at first, Mudge is not invited to…), and a winter walk. Henry and Mudge have been around since I was a kid, and we are just getting to the point where the kids can sit through the slightly longer books (although, with chapters, we can always just read one chapter in a sitting). They are a charming pair, and they have the kind of adventures normal kids have. We reread this one several times.

Welcome ComfortWelcome Comfort by Patricia Polacco

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Patrica Polacco has never been a favorite author of mine–I recognize both her skill and that her stories resonate with lots of kids, but they just don’t usually click for me. This one did. It’s a sweet story, and the adult main character is based on a real person, but this is a magical Christmas story. I’ve just read it once so far, but I think my kids have gotten their dad to read it already, and I won’t mind reading it again. It’s a little long for a bedtime story, unless it’s the only one you read.

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