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Getting Ready for the Holidays

November 30th, 2015 at 11:27 pm

Organizing for the holidays, decluttering the garage, trying to do my work...

1. F's two advent calendars are almost done, and just in time, too! We have a cookie advent calendar (I cut the fancy-schmancy cookies from Trader Joes - four different kinds of dipped oreos - in half, wrap in foil and put them in the pockets of the fabric advent calendar that Grandma embroidered (we use it every year). The second one is a set of "drawers" and I put a note for each day (often with things we may be doing that day). So the total cost is $6.99 for the cookies (although we really just use half the cookies and she gets the rest in January in her lunches!)

2. I bought two large storage bins at Lowe's today. My idea is to eventually have everything in the garage encased in bins! There was a deal, and with each bin, I got a smaller bin for free... so two bins was actually four.

3. I used a $5 gift card at Target today to buy some Hanukkah candles, mechanical pencils for F and some fancy candy canes. Also a couple of ingredients I need for dinner next week and sugar.

4. I picked up a couple of free magazines (New Mexico Kids and Tumbleweeds) to see what is going on during Winter Break so that F and I can plan a few things. There are all sorts of free programs at the museums. I will list of everything we plan to do in a post tomorrow in case it brings something to mind where you live!

5. I only have one more load of laundry from the week away; I'll have to do it tomorrow.

6. I recently wrote a recommendation for a friend who was looking for a job at the community college. He got the job! And he called me today to say there are some projects there that I might be interested in... so we're meeting tomorrow! That is great news for 2016!

7. The tree is up (it's artificial and has been re-used the past ten years)... we are going to start decorating tonight!

8. Almost all presents are purchased. It's really just little things for F...

9. Why did I take the medal for the 5k we did on Thanksgiving Day? F is keeping her medal, of course; it's her first 5k. But mine is just clutter! I'm tossing it!

Why I Haven't Done My Business Taxes Yet

January 8th, 2015 at 11:29 pm

I was supposed to start my business taxes on Monday (I did! I mean that I did start doing them, not that I finished). I wanted to finish on Tuesday (I didn't) and then I wanted to finish on Wednesday (I didn't, but that's excusable because I had a bunch of other work to do) and so I decided to do finish up today (I didn't and my excuse is really lame).

Here is my really lame excuse:
I got distracted. I had a long list of things to do around the house, room by room. It was like a fine-tuning list of things to do... just those little things that you mean to do but never get done. I got a lot done on the list (moved some stuff out of our bedroom and into the closet, decluttered some areas, etc). And on the list was to tidy up F's art area.

As the child of an architect, F has an abnormally large and extensive art area. I thought it was maybe a 15 minute tidying session, but as I got into it, I decided there were things she didn't need anymore (some baby/toddler things, baby scissors) and then I decided that it need a total makeover so that things she uses most are most accessible. Forty-five minutes later and I was still at it, and the taxes weren't touched, and it was time to pick F up from school.

It's still not done, and I very badly need to finish because I have art supplies all over my kitchen now! The worst part is I need F's help to finish because she needs to make some decisions, and she's doing homework, which is obviously a priority (I think).

Here is the thing: it is way more fun to organize the art area than to do business taxes.

I will definitely finish the taxes tomorrow! (ha, ha!) I have to finish the business taxes so that I can do my personal taxes (the business is a pass through entity - an S-corporation).

Do you do your own taxes, too?

End of Year Quick Declutter

December 30th, 2014 at 11:15 pm

Quick ten minute declutter:
- the "hat and mitten" bin in the laundry/mud room (found lots of teeny tiny stuff that doesn't fit F anymore)
- one old broken cheese grater that I replaced about a month and a half ago
- some kids' sunscreen and toothpaste F won't use from under the sink (bring to the shelter?)
- broken hanger

I Spend Less when the House is Tidy

May 31st, 2014 at 03:57 pm

Our house is usually very tidy and clean... except the closets. They're not terrible, but they are where things get shoved out of the way. That's how the rest of the house is so clutter-free!

The worst closet is F's closet... Mostly that's because I won't just toss or donate her things. I make her help me, because I want her to get into the habit of figuring out what to get rid of, but also because I want her to feel that she has control over her things. I was sort of a hoarder as a child because I never knew when my mother might throw something out. I kept little stashes of things in secret boxes marked "secret box - do not touch" or something like that.

Anyway, F's birthday is coming up, which means new things are coming. So we have a deal that we'll set the timer every day until her birthday for 5 minutes and declutter together. Today was super-successful. She wants to get rid of the "habitrail" for her zhu-zhu pets (but keep the pets and their car which is fine) since she never plays with it. She wants to get rid of two American Girl style dolls (which she never, ever played with - she wasn't a baby doll kind of girl. And her bike is too small (Grandma is getting her a new bike). So - need to post on Craigslist asap!

All of this leads me to the title of this post: I spend less when the house is tidy. I discovered all sorts of things in F's closet. Not just toys but clothes. I am turning one old dress into a tunic for her (she just grows taller but her circumference stays the same!). When I can see what we have I don't buy doubles of things. When I can see what we have, I realize how MUCH we have, and I'm not tempted to buy more.

Do you feel the same way? Do you spend less when you can see what you already have?

Got a New Project! So I'm Decluttering the Office Storage Room....

April 8th, 2014 at 01:32 am

I really didn't think I'd get this project - but I am so pleased I did! It's for a new pavilion (for classes and weddings) and interpretive trails at our Audubon Preserve. I teamed up for the project with a landscape architect who I really admire (and she's very passionate about educational landscapes!).

Anyway, we'll need to sign the contract this week, so I have a few days to clean up the office, particularly the storage room which was really out of control.

I bought 6 boxes at U-Haul (total $22) which were the right size (12x12x24) to store plans. I've been going through every set of plans in the office, putting them in the boxes (which I stacked up in the corner) and inserting a label in them, as well as cataloging which plans are in which box. I should end up with a lot of space on the shelves (I hope so).

Plus I've tossed a ton of old fedex boxes and duplicate plans as well as some design-stage plans which I don't need to keep once projects are complete.

The next step is to toss a bunch of old samples. Samples go out of date quickly; they introduce new colors/patterns/etc. I can give them to a school (they love stuff like that for art projects).

I hope to be done with all of this by tomorrow afternoon so that I can finish up another project (should be fast) and then start the Audubon next week.

I just like a nice clean, organized office so that I can think clearly.

Can you have too many books?

March 9th, 2014 at 04:44 pm

When we were married, we marveled that we had only one book in common (it was a Douglas Coupland book - I actually despised that book so not sure why I still owned it; I've since gotten rid of my redundant copy).

When D and I moved back to the US, he sent over a partial shipping container; it contained a lot of books! (and some other stuff, but there really were a lot of books).

I don't remember when I stopped buying books and instead borrowed them from the library. D still buys books (and likes to receive them as gifts), and he won't part with books he already owns.

I think you CAN have too many books. Look at our bookshelves - wow! I dust the books every week. And I just did a mega-dust where I took every book off and dusted behind them. And aside from our reference books (one shelf) and photobooks we've had made, we rarely open those books at all. I'd also rather walk by the shelves and see only my favorites - and I do have favorites that I would never part with! (Jasper Fforde, Kate Atkinson, Milagro Beanfield War, One Hundred Years of Solitude).

So I have decided to select one book a week to sell ( or donate to the library.

We used to do PaperbackSwap (which is brilliant if you want another book to come into your life to replace the book you just got rid of. That was my first step to forgoing new books altogether and just visiting the library).

Book no. 1 - Animal Dreams (Barbara Kingsolver). I really loved her book The Bean Trees. I didn't love Animal Dreams, but I bought it and kept it. I am now selling it for $1 over shipping costs. It's not much, but it'd be another snowflake, right?

When I think about the money I wasted buying books I feel slightly ill.

My Cleaning Calendar

January 28th, 2014 at 05:12 pm

This is my cleaning calendar (for those who are interested). It's actually three calendars: Weekly, Monthly and Yearly (some things appear more than once on the yearly). It's personalized; lots of things would be different for different people.

There are climate/seasonal differences (I have to wait until after our monsoon season to wash our windows/screens, for example).

There are lifestyle differences (number of rooms in your home, number of kids, pets, where the cleaning and decluttering challenges are, when is garbage day).

There are preferences (such as how often you thing something should occur - should mopping be weekly or monthly? should you deep clean the refrigerator once a year or twice?).

And, there are time limitations... I work about 35 hrs. a week, and work limits what I can get done.

MY METHOD - Every Sunday night I copy and paste the relevant things from each list into my to-do list for the week.

OK, here goes!

mirrors or stainless (alternate)
take up bins
F’s bathroom
water plants
our bathroom
fur fight
sheets or towels (alternate)
file emails
grocery shopping, clear out old food from the fridge
clean birdcage
collect garbage
lunch pictures

week 1 - magazines to library, clean tile in F’s bathroom, pay RGS
week 2 - clean windows, clean out purple caddy in alcove, straighten rug, go through inbox/filing
week 3 - mop
week 4 - clean shower, clean tub surround, vacuum out car

week 1
toaster crumbs - both toasters
clean microwave
go through F’s artwork, scan, put in portfolio
take down Christmas cards - put some in keepsake envelope
week 2
wipe top of refrigerator and top of oven
wipe and clean play kitchen
clean vacuum cannisters (dustbuster and dyson)
week 3
take down all dishes and clean dish shelf
clean trash pullout and bottom
winter clothing sales
week 4
clean tea shelf
inventory for reorder for household supplies

week 1
purge medicine cabinet
clean out paper stacker thingy
week 2
wash car
dust legs of wood chairs and tables
week 3
go through F’s sock/underwear drawers - toss, reorder
go through my sock/underwear drawers - toss
toss papers in garage filing cabinet
week 4 
sale on bags/foil at Albertsons - last week in Feb
do individual bookshelves - take all books down

week 1
declutter bedside drawer
declutter F’s guys baskets with her
wash and rehang white curtains
week 2
declutter F’s bathroom drawers and under sink
water trees
week 3
wipe fronts of kitchen drawers and handles
declutter F’s dressup drawer with her
test smoke alarm
week 4 
clean fridge (freezer is next week!)
turn mattress

week 1
declutter/clean guest bedroom
clean freezer
week 2
survey of things that need repair/upgrade in house
wipe and clean play kitchen
front entry - sweep and tidy, portal too
week 3
paint - touchup 
clean light switches and door handles with wet wipe
week 4 
declutter F’s closet with her
wipe dining room chairs
inventory for reorder for household supplies

week 1
declutter laundry room, put away coats, bring out swim bag
clean top of pantry shelves and closet shelves
week 2
water trees
week 3
go through my winter clothes - purge, summer clothes within reach
laundry sink, surfaces, dryer lint
week 4 
go through F’s winter clothes - purge, summer clothes within reach
dust the picture rail in the den

week 1
declutter bathroom drawers
wipe down remotes
week 2
tidy and wipe pantry shelves
go through F’s artwork, scan F’s, put in portfolio
put memento envelope on shelf and start new envelope
week 3
dust top of light fixtures in kitchen and dining
wipe kitchen appliances
week 4 
declutter F’s books with her
wipe lampshades

week 1
clean engagement/wedding rings
declutter garage
week 2
toaster crumbs - both toasters
clean microwave
week 3
declutter spare room closet
take down all dishes and clean dish shelf
week 4 
wipe and clean play kitchen
wipe cabinet fronts
inventory for reorder for household supplies

week 1
declutter hall closet
reorder plates and bowls that are broken
week 2
wash car
dust tops of all framed pictures
week 3
clean out paper stacker thingy
wash and rehang white curtains
week 4 

week 1
clean windows - screens and all - level 1
week 2
clean windows - screens and all - level 2
week 3
clean windows - screens and all - level 3
week 4 
go through all kitchen drawers
clean fridge (freezer is next week!)

week 1
go through my summer clothes - purge, winter clothes within reach
clean freezer
week 2
clean outdoor light fixtures
go through F’s summer clothes - purge, winter clothes within reach
new toothbrushes
week 3
water trees
wipe and clean play kitchen
week 4 
sell items on craigslist or ebay
clean top of fireplace
vacuum behind sofa
inventory for reorder for household supplies

week 1
declutter kitchen cabinets 
start buying Christmas presents - make a list
week 2
tidy art center
tighten any loose kitchen cabinet hinges
washing machine - clean outside with a wet wipe
week 3
book purge
under kitchen sink
week 4 
declutter holiday box (ornaments, etc)
declutter linens

week 1
water trees if there hasn’t been much snow
tops of fans
week 2
discard old/expired spices
wipe cabinet fronts
week 3
do photo book in shutterfly for the previous year
toss all receipts from previous year 
week 4 
declutter game cabinet
clean washing machine with 1 c vinegar on hot
clean dishwasher with vinegar and pick out calcium deposits

Cleaning/Decluttering Calendar

January 27th, 2014 at 11:24 pm

On the Cleaning Calendar for this week: purge medicine cabinets, clean paper stack.

Haven't tackled the paper stack yet (but it doesn't look toooo bad). Later in the week.

But I just did the medicine cabinet. D had four expired medications in there! And there was some Lactaid. It doesn't matter how much Lactaid I eat, cow dairy still doesn't agree. So I put that near D's sink to see if he wants it. And we had some ten-year-old hippy sinus drops; in the trash. There was nothing weird or old in F's medicine cabinet.

On the monthly list are: take magazines to the library and wipe the tile in F's shower. Both easy tasks. Will probably do F's tile tonight since it's bath night.

The other thing we do at the beginning of the month is pay tuition. And because it's February, we also pay our deposit for next year. I have money in our Tuition account, so it's not a big deal; it's just scary watching it plummet so much in one month.

I need to find out if we got any tuition assistance and, if so, how much. Will report back.

How Much Stuff Should You Own

January 1st, 2014 at 10:47 pm

I re-read this brilliant post today, about how much stuff is the right amount to own...

This is what she says:
The right amount of stuff = the amount you can fully and regularly use.

I think that is spot on. That's how I came to the "ideal" amount of clothing to own. That's how I know that my kitchen is a little bit overstocked. I own a cheese thingy (I don't even know what it's called, and I never use it) that scrapes off a thin silce of cheese. I never use it; I never will. Why do I own that? I own these very cute ceramic chinese soup spoons. I don't use those.

Regular might be once a year (as in the case with our Christmas tree and ornaments). Regular might be daily. But over the course of a year, the things that get used are staying. And as I declutter each area of my home, the things that are never used are going.

I rarely buy more stuff... it's the "leftovers" that I have to address. And broken things. They don't get used, they'll never get used. I am dumping the broken calculator in the trash right now. I use the calculator on my phone. I did it; I just dumped the broken calculator in the trash.

New year = new resolve to simplify my life!

Another Snowflake - and P Found Money in My Car!

November 22nd, 2013 at 03:22 am

I like those days when I can drop F off at school and sit at my desk and work hard uninterrupted. But today was not like that!

But in all the craziness of today, I managed to sell something on craigslist and made $8.

Then I was at F's horseback riding lesson (this is paid for by my parents - my dad used to ride so they're very supportive) and the teacher C's 3 year old son P got in the car with me so we could hang out where it was warm. We draw together, and he plays with the hazard lights button. He's super precocious and very cute.

Anyway, after informing me that he was going to shoot a bear and we'd have bear burgers for dinner, and then letting me know that I'd drink water and he'd drink whiskey (!!) he reached into the car door pocket and pulled out a few dollars and announced "I found money! Here!" and he thrust the wadded up bills into my hand. Cool! I guess I don't ride in the passenger seat of my car very often. Either D or I must have stuffed it in there.

I need to pay down the mortgage principal this month, but I'm waiting until tomorrow because Friday is popcorn day at the bank!

Snowflakes and Decluttering - Yes!

November 14th, 2013 at 03:57 pm

I brought some old cd's to Hastings yesterday, and I got $18 for them! I was expecting about $5 and was set to donate them to goodwill, so I'm pretty happy!

And it declutters the house in the process!

Today - just turned in a proposal for some work with the County. Fingers crossed. There's a Starbucks right near the County's purchasing office, so I took my half off groupon Starbucks card (paid $5, get $10) to Starbucks and got a coffee as a treat. They gave me a survey thing which I filled out online, so now I get another $1 off my next coffee treat. (I get a Starbucks coffee about once a month).

OK, back to work...

Still Working on Home Improvement

September 14th, 2013 at 06:51 pm

So far I've spent about $150 on the various home improvement projects around our house. This project was basically a freebie (bought chalk at Office Depot - used a rewards coupon).

Before we had a corporate-y looking whiteboard.

I had the scrap wood in the garage and it's coated in chalkboard paint. I cut a bit of wood for F also, and she made her own little portable chalkboard. She's been playing with it all morning!

Very Big Snowflake! Yay!

August 17th, 2013 at 04:10 am

I put a bike travel box that I've had about ten years (back when I was dragging my bike to centuries and other countries). It's huge, and I've wanted to sell it for a while, but it was out of the way in a corner of the garage, and I didn't think about it a lot.

I put it on Craigslist and got $190 for it!

Now I just have to decide if that money goes to pay down mortgage principal or goes into the IRAs.

On to the next thing to sell...

Snowflake and Delayed Garage Sale

August 14th, 2013 at 12:08 am

I received $20 (this is a lot less than usual) for teaching spinning. But it's $20 I didn't have before! There were rumors that my gym is going to close; I spoke to the owner, and he said he's closing the gym half, but keeping the classes (weightlifting and spinning) in the other half. So I still have a (once-a-week) job! (The $20 will go either to the IRA or paying down the mortgage).

I was going to have a garage sale this weekend, but due to Indian Market (a yearly event here which pretty much shuts down the city) I'm delaying it. I forgot it was Indian Market! This gives me another week to gather things up to sell.

Craigslist = Money + Decluttering

August 7th, 2013 at 11:54 pm

We finally sold our two carseats on Craigslist. F is in a booster, so no need for them. We got $75 for both (into savings! yay!).

I also got $40 for teaching at the gym. (Savings, also!)

I have more to put on Craigslist before we have our garage sale in two weeks.

Today we went to the pool, which has been a bargain in so many ways. You have to go a lot to justify the membership, and because we go a lot, F has become a great swimmer! I feel so much more confident about her in the pool. And it's starting to feel cooler (maybe it'll warm up again, but right now it's raining at least once a day, and that cools the air temp off a lot), so I'm really appreciating the last few days of summer and the pool (it closes on Labor Day).

Lots of free summer and fall activities coming up, though. I might go by Indian Market this year (we have a downtown office, so we can use our parking space) and there are all of the parades associated with Fiestas (September). Hope you're all enjoying the end of summer, too!

All of Those Unfinished Projects around the House

August 3rd, 2013 at 04:00 pm

Last month I briefly investigated building another house (lot prices are very low right now, and as an architect I can get good pricing on construction and do a lot of the work myself). The investigation was brief because the numbers didn't work out the way I wanted them to (my goal was to wipe out our mortgage - about $86k left - or the project was a no-go).

Also - things would be too iffy (how much could we sell our house for? would it sell quickly) and the whole thing would be a giant pain (moving into a rental for a year, managing construction when I am supposed to be working).

OK, enough of that. The result was a new appreciation for our house. I built it in 1998, 16 years ago. If we sold it, there are a few things we'd need to do - these are mostly minor repairs and updates like painting (I've never repainted most of the rooms!). Since we are not moving, it makes sense to do these things so we can enjoy them!

So I decided to make a list and tackle those things a few at a time. My goal date for completion of most of these is Thanksgiving since the entire family is coming here for the holiday. Some of these are five-minute tasks (sometimes it's inexplicable why I haven't just done them).

In case you ask why my husband is not helping with the list: he is not allowed near my tools! I like him with all of his fingers.

This project starts today with a trip to Home Depot! I will keep you posted on the progress.

have a garage sale (find items in hall closet and spare room closet)
crack repair in master bedroom, pantry stain, threshold to bedroom, big chip in F’s room, shower)

Master Bathroom
declog drain
new showerhead

Master Bedroom
put in baseboard (measure, buy wood, cut, paint, install)
reattach trim
fix peeling paint

Living Room
adjust strike at front door
find out about glass in door
sand door and seal
cabinet for tv
paint table white
remove black covers off of track lighting
remove nail and spackle
declutter entry table

Dining Room
move play kitchen upstairs

adjust strike
trim piece below door (measure, buy at home depot)
appliance garage of some type
shelf for my grandmother’s cups and saucers

Fs Bedroom
new rug (measure, get sample of paint color, Home depot)

cut nail ends at nicho
spackle at nicho

spackle holes
paint wall behind desk
weatherstrip (already bought! remove old strip and reinstall)
picture frame for picture I want to hang
edit the pictures on the picture shelf; frame as needed

paint unmatched stucco
replace dead aspens with foresteria

Fs Bathroom
redo grout (remove old grout first!)
paint table white

Weekly Recap and Craigslist Woes

July 8th, 2013 at 04:45 am

This week was ok in terms of spending/savings. I put $44 into the 52-week challenge.

It was a low-cost weekend...
- went to the pool twice ($0)
- held the training session for my volunteers for the Folk Art Market (bought some pastries and grapes, but they didn't eat much, so that will be breakfast for D and F, and the grocery bill was still in budget)
- went to a book launch for a book that D's photographs were in this evening ($0 and some yummy food)
- got pizza (this is the only time we're eating out until we're on our trip - $26)

I already finished the declutter tasks for the week (removing crumbs from the toaster, cleaning the microwave)

The meal plan this week:
- bready/cheesy: quesaillas, guacamole
- eggy/potatoey: crash potatoes and broccoli
- chickeny: chicken sausage, rice, corn on the cob
- fishy: home-made sushi with cucumber/shrimp/avocado
- pasta-ish: penne with goat cheese/bacon/peas
- something from the freezer with a salad

We are down to $84,179 on the mortgage (our only debt).

I am trying to sell some things on Craigslist. The first time I listed them, I got an error when I tried to reply to the people who were interested (I had people interested in both items). So I put in the ad to leave a phone number when they responded, but this time only one person was interested in one item. And we arranged to meet, but she canceled last minute and said she'd reconnect next Fri if it's still available. Ugh. I guess I'll lower the price on the other item. These items are really too good to sell at the garage sale, but I will if I have to...

Declutter Calendar

June 22nd, 2013 at 05:27 pm

This week on my yearly declutter/cleaning calendar: declutter F's books and wipe the kitchen appliances.

Instead of decluttering F's books myself, she is now old enough to do this herself. I paid her $5 to go through all of her books and decide which to sell at our upcoming garage sale (and if they don't sell, we'll donate them to the library). This is blatant bribery, but my real goal was that she learn to declutter by herself. And it worked! She also went through old cuddly toys (and we're selling quite a few of those).

I just wiped the appliances, and it only took like 5 minutes. Makes me think I should do this more often! My toaster (the gluten free toaster) was not that bad, but D's gluteny toaster was gross.

Last week's declutter item was to wipe and declutter the pantry shelves. This is taking forever! I am still working on it (about 5 shelves to go). I am being careful about what I keep and setting things aside for the garage sale.

The thing I really want to do (because for some reason it's fun) is balance the checkbook since the statement just came yesterday, but I am using this as a reward for finishing up the pantry! So, I'll see you later... going to do those last few shelves and make some lunch.

(Probably most of us have our weekly and monthly cleaning tasks; do any of you also have a yearly calendar? Do you ever get a little bit behind?)

My Daughter Cleaned her Desk... For Fun!

June 5th, 2013 at 04:58 am

I have succeeded as a mother. My daughter (learn by example) cleaned her desk FOR FUN! I am so proud. Perhaps she'll rebel as a teenager, but for now she's clearly got my family's genetic material.

We aren't OCD, but we like things tidy and clean. OK, my brother is probably OCD, and my mother. My father and I are relatively normal. Actually it's possible we're OCD.

I am a fan of order, all kinds of order.
Decluttering = getting your house in order
Frugality = getting your financial house in order

My interview today went so well I bought donuts for F and D in the town where I was interviewing (they have an awesome bakery there; they also make homemade tortillas). They gave me a bag of fresh corn tortilla chips because I can't eat gluten. I bought a donut for my consultant who went with me, too. It was $5 all together.