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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

finding joy in tidying (final check in)

While enjoying delicious curry a couple weeks ago, I dumped a bunch of sauce on our computer keyboard.  And then half the keys stopped working.  <groan>  While the computer is being repaired, I recycled an old photo.  Thanks for understanding my necessary awkward blogger move. 
It's been a little over a month since I read the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and began to organize our apartment.  I didn't finish everything within my allotted month (didn't really expect to), but I made really great progress.  Our apartment feels lighter, it stays cleaner, and I enjoy spending time in it even more.  My mind feels less cluttered in our house.  

I've been continuing to clean stuff out, but I lost a lot of my momentum when I got to the tougher things.  Papers were exhausting to go through, I realized I have a big emotional attachment to lots of my old mixed cds, and things just stopped feeling straight forward to clean out.  But I found this list of stuff to get rid of and that has been helpful for making a game plan for the rest of the apartment.  

Here's the final list of things I cleaned out/organized during my month of cleaning: 

- All my clothes (in closets, dresser drawers, and storage under my bed)
- My accessories, jewelry, shoes, jackets
- Our pens 
- Our towels and linens
- All of our books (including cookbooks)
- Some papers (including all my financial, student loan, and medical papers)
- Front closet 
- Pantry
- Tea
- Movies
- Art supplies (what a task!)
- Night stand 
- Dishes and serving stuff 

Marie Kondo says that you should clean stuff out in a specific order: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous, photos/memorabilia.  I learned in this challenge that "miscellaneous" is way too big of a category, and if you don't have a list of things to go through in a specific order it's really easy to get stuck and give up.  She has some things in her miscellaneous category, just not enough for me.  Because as this challenge taught me, I have waaaaay too much stuff!!  

A few other thoughts about tidying up since my last update: 

- Embarrassingly I noticed that I have duplicates of some things because I bought things I already had at home.  I just didn't remember I had them because I have too much!  How unnecessary.  I'm hoping that keeping things organized will help me remember what I have so I don't buy and consume unnecessarily.  

- I realized I had a similar problem with grocery shopping.  I would buy things we already had, then waste one thing or sometimes even both because I didn't have a plan for using them.  This challenge has surprisingly lead to less food waste, more effective grocery shopping, a better meal plan, and using stuff from our pantry.   

- One challenge of getting rid of stuff is actually getting it out the door.  I had gone through some stuff before Theo was born, and it's still sitting in a box in our basement waiting to be donated.  With this month's challenge, I've been more intentional about following through on tasks liking dropping clothes off at the shelter.  If I hadn't, boxes of donations would probably be gathering dust for another year until they just ended up in the garbage - or just as bad - coming with us to our next apartment. 

- Our house is staying cleaner (other than the donation boxes hanging out in random places).  My clothes are staying organized, and my bedroom and bathroom are actually less cluttered because i don't let my dirty clothes pile up.  Our mail also doesn't pile up as badly.  Overall our apartment just feels more awesome. 

 If these posts have inspired you to clean up your own space, yippee!  My recommendation is to have a game plan and to tackle your stuff in a specific order.  Set aside an average of thirty minutes a day for at least several weeks.  This helped me tremendously.  I don't think I would have made as much progress as I did, and I don't think my changes would have stuck if I had just done a little here and there.  Committing to it as a project was a big part of my success.  And finally, don't be afraid to just jump in.  The work I've put in as paid off ten fold in the level of enjoyment I experience in our house.  

Good luck!  And thanks for reading!

More reading: Finding joy in tidying up (first post), Tidying check in #1

Monday, October 5, 2015

oscar romero painting

Life's little coincidences and serendipities can be very special.  One such seredipity happened recently with the painting above. 

I created the painting about eight years ago for a mentor at my college.  The painting depicts Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was murdered in 1980 by the Salvadoran government while saying mass.  I had painted it as a thank you for helping with my Jesuit martyrs painting project, but unfortunately I forgot to take a picture.  My mentor moved to Central America, we lost contact, and I thought that was it - never seeing that painting again. 

And then a couple weeks ago someone from my college mentioned seeing a painting I had done of Oscar Romero.  I tried correcting them saying the only painting I had ever done of Romero was a gift, and there was little to no chance it was the same painting.  But amazingly it was the same painting.  My mentor had come back to the college for a visit and gifted the painting to campus ministry.  And eight years later, I have a picture of my Oscar Romero portrait.  I'm hoping to get an official picture taken so I can make prints; we'll see how that goes.  

It feels appropriate that this painting would come back to me (in a way) while I'm working at a center named after the Archbishop.  Life is funny sometimes.  

For more information about Archbishop Oscar Romero and his recent beatification, click here

Thursday, September 24, 2015

goodbye summer, hello fall

Each year I seem to have different feelings about this time of year.  Some years I can't wait for the arrival of fall so I can snuggle with a cozy blanket and warm cup of tea.  Other years I feel so sad saying goodbye to summer, and I'm not ready for the warmth and sunshine to end.  And other years (like last year), I'm pregnant and nauseous, and all I care about is feeling better. 

This year is one of mourning the end of summer.  I've been associating sickness with autumn because of my intense morning sickness last year, so I really haven't felt super joyful about the change in season.  Day by day it gets a little less intense, so hopefully by November I may finally be feeling pumpkin spice everything. 

One objectively awesome thing this time of year is the lighting.  The sunshine seems to come in at the perfect angle, especially in early morning and late afternoon.  I captured some of these photos during a walk around the neighborhood with Theo last week.  Even if I don't feel great about fall right now, I feel pretty great about these pictures.  

Happy early fall! 

Monday, September 21, 2015

refound jewelry

Refurbished jewelry is basically new(ish), free(ish) jewelry.  And that makes it my favorite kind of jewelry.  I mentioned last week in my tidying update that I had a friend redo some of the broken jewelry I had come across in going through my stuff.  She did a great job and offered an amazing deal, and now I feel like I have all kinds of new pieces that I love -- when really it's all my own stuff that's just been stored away.  

This necklace was a birthday gift from my sister that broke one of the first times I wore it.  The chain was fixed, and now it's good as new!

I wore these earrings my wedding weekend, and I felt so sad when both sets broke because I thought that was the end of them.  These were both updated with new hooks.  

These necklaces both belonged to my grandma.  Both broke several years ago, but I held on to them in the hopes that I would someday fix them.  The thing about "someday" is that it often doesn't come -- unless you read a book like The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up that inspires you to make "someday" today. 

I had been holding on to this little trinket for years.  I've had it for so long I don't even remember where I got it, but I have the vague idea that it might have belonged to someone on my mom's side of the family.  My friend added it as a little charm to the beaded necklace so it makes that piece extra special.  

This necklace was created from a necklace my sister bought me in Mexico about seven years ago.  The string it was on was old and frayed, and I didn't wear the necklace anymore because of that but I still loved that wood piece.  My friend upcycled it using an old bracelet I gave her, and I love how it turned out. 

This last piece was built from a set of earrings I received from a nun who taught me some Swahili years ago.  I loved the wooden earrings so much I held on to them even after one of them cracked.  The intact earring was upcycled into this necklace using some other fun beads and that same bracelet as the one above.  

These necklaces and earrings bring me a lot of joy, and I'm so happy I finally have them available to wear instead of just sitting in boxes.  It's symbolic of the effect tidying has had on me and my house.  I'm rediscovering my possessions and utilizing what I have to great effect. 

If you like what you see, you can check out my friend's Facebook page here.  She's Milwaukee based but ships her creations across the county!  

Thanks for reading.  Look for more tidying updates in the coming weeks! 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

thoughts on motherhood (week 13)

Our boy is three months old this week.  We're done with the "fourth trimester," and Theo has officially transitioned to life outside the womb.  It makes me so proud we've made it this far and simultaneously breaks my heart that he's growing so fast.  Here are my thoughts on motherhood at 13 weeks.

- It's annoying that weeks and months don't match up.  Theo wasn't three months old at 12 weeks, he was three months at 13 weeks and 1 day.  How does that make sense?  

- Sometimes my job as "mom" involves rocking Theo and putting his pacifier back in over and over and over again while we wait for his hiccups to go away.  That boy hates hiccups, but I think he appreciates the company and care while he waits for annoyance to stop.  I think my presence comforts him, just like his does for me.  A good portion of the time, being a mom means simply showing up for your baby.  

- I had the overwhelming thought that no matter how much I try, I won't always be able to protect Theo.  He's inevitably going to get sick, someone will eventually be mean to him (and I'll have to beat that person up), he'll fall down and scrape his knees, he might get stung, or break a bone, or get his heart broken.  And in those times, I'll have to do what I do now when he gets the hiccups - just show up and be there to comfort him while he waits for the pain to go away.  

- Being a mom is already making me a better person.  When I have desires like "I'd love Theo to appreciate nature" or "it would be awesome if Theo grew up knowing how to cook"  or best of all "I hope Theo grows to be compassionate and loving" -- it means I have to make that growth possible for him.  We'll have to spend time in nature, spend time cooking together, and I'll have to model compassion and love.  Children learn what they live and see, so it means I have to step up to the plate for him.  

- This is one of the absolute best times of my life.  I love being a mom, i love my baby, i love my husband, i love my job -- life is just so good.  I've loved parts of every part of my life, but this just feels extra special.  (And there's a good chance I've said that about many parts of my life.)  

People have asked me since having Theo if I feel like a mom. In a lot of ways, I don't totally feel like a mom yet, but my reaction to the pictures of the little Syrian boy showed me that I've made the transition to motherhood.  I couldn't stop crying at that picture of the boy on the shore.  I had never had that reaction before to a humanitarian crisis, even though I feel passionately about social justice issues.  I felt empathy in a new way for the mothers who can't save their children from poverty, war, migration crises. They have hopes and dreams for their children, just like I have hopes and dreams for my Theo.  

And that's all for now.  Thanks for reading and sharing my journey into motherhood.  It's been quite the adventure. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

tidying check in (number 1)

“Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.”

I am very proud to be checking in for the first time about my September tidying project.  Proud because (1) I'm actually checking in and (2) because I'm making great progress.  This week I cleaned out/organized the following:

- all of our books (even those hiding under our guest bed)
- some papers (including all my financial, student loan, and medical papers)
- front closet 
- pantry
- tea

The papers are taking forever because I'm a bit of a pack rat when it comes to keeping paper mementoes and what I'll call "art inspiration."  I'm working on organizing all of my art inspiration papers, the cards I've kept over the years, and my photos in one space.  I haven't decided if I'll return to these at the end of the project (mementoes and photos are supposed to be tackled last) or if I'll try to go through more of them this week.   

Next up: 
Finishing my papers.  This will still take a while, but it's been so worth the time I've put into organizing.  I've been dumping papers into boxes for years - which means that I have boxes that accumulate lots of crap besides the papers, and I really have no idea what's in any of these boxes.  Now I'll know where things are and actually be able to access them when I need something.  

If I finish all the papers this week then I'll move onto the miscellaneous stuff: CDs, DVDs, skin care, makeup, accessories, valuables, electrical equipment and appliances.

Some reflections on the process thus far:

- I'm already tidying our house more.  I'm putting basic things (like my clothes, jackets, Theo's stuff) back where they belong right away.  This helps our space feel lighter even though the tidying project isn't finished.  I'm also maintaining a clean house a little better - mostly because I spend less time tidying since I'm doing it in small chunks every day.

- I like sitting in our living room more now.  Do you have room "problem spots" that automatically draw your attention to them over and over and over again?  I had about a dozen, and I finally fixed them.  I dusted, vacuumed, put away clutter that had accumulated, and organized our books.  I like looking at all the books on our entertainment center - I know they all bring me joy (or bring Paul joy).

- After cleaning out my clothes, I love looking at our bedroom closet, and I find I'm wearing a wider variety of clothes.  Thinking about what clothes gave me joy was a little tricky at times, but it was ultimately a successful tool for judging what to keep.  It was tricky because being   twelve weeks out from labor means I'm in between maternity clothes and my old "skinny" clothes.  Being reminded that I couldn't quite fit into my old clothes did not really elicit feelings of joy, but I'm hopeful that the stuff I decided to keep will keep fitting better and better.

- Putting my house in order has inspired me to check a lot of things off my old to do list.  (I find productivity usually leads to more productivity.)  I dropped off all our donations from the things we've decided to give away.  I asked a friend to fix a lot of my broken jewelry (post on this coming next week!).  AND I've started putting all my financial records and accounts in order.  It feels amazing!!

- Lastly, I've been thinking a lot about the connection between living simply, having fewer possessions, and environmental stewardship.  My tidying kick is appropriately happening at the same time that I'm developing an environmental retreat at work.  I've been realizing a lot of our environmental problems come from our consumer culture, and I'm seeing that getting rid of things that don't spark joy is a great reset for the need to consume.  I see how much I already have that I enjoy (and how much I have that I don't), and it has helped ease my need to buy more.  For example, I see how many beautiful clothes I own, and literally being able to see them better now has helped me be more creative with how I use them -- limiting my need for adding to my wardrobe and consuming more.  

I'm realizing this whole tidying process is a marathon, and I'm trying to keep my energy going.  When starting this, I really wasn't thinking about how many things we own and how many things I would have to go through and organize.  It's just further inspiration to keep simplifying and letting go so we have less to keep in order in the future.   

Sunday, September 13, 2015

gwen frostic

I'm sharing the last of the Michigan vacation photos, appropriate since we've been back for a month now.  (A month closer to going back next year?)  

One of the most inspiring places I visit in Michigan is Gwen Frostic's home and shop.  Gwen Frostic was an artist, poet, and nature lover who lived in northwestern Michigan.  Her shop is described on her website: 

Tucked away on a wildlife sanctuary in northern Michigan is a shop built of native stones, glass, and wood. A building that brings the outdoors in and blends all nature in its structure. From the display room with its huge fireplace and natural fountain, one can watch as twelve Heidelberg presses print. 

I love the quaint feel of the shop, the sounds of the old printing presses, and how close I feel to nature.  On top of that, Gwen's art prints are gorgeous - simple, colorful, and a reflection of the natural details found in northwestern Michigan.  I buy way too many postcards and prints every year I visit.  Proof: all of the prints I found when cleaning out our guest room as part of my tidying up 2015 project. 

So many beautiful prints and cards! 

I love all the details of this place.  Up on one of the walls are cards Gwen received from all over the world.  Love thinking about all the letters that have been written and sent on her stationary over the years.  Thanks for the inspiration Gwen.