Monday, June 19, 2017

Unclutter The Interlude: My Space Hogging Hobby

This week our assignment was to declutter the kids' rooms. Since mine are 16 and 19, other than moving the piano out of Emma's room and clearing her floor for someone to access her window to give us an estimate for a replacement, I didn't touch them. Instead, I stayed in the basement and confronted some demons. 

It makes me so sad.

I loved this hobby. I loved scrapbooking our lives almost more than the life I was scrapbooking. I remember I had layouts on the go all the time.

But no one ever looked at them.

the scrapbooks in the dining room

Except my Mom.

But I barely noticed this, or if I did, I didn't think it was important. They would look at them later, I thought, when they are older. I enjoyed making pages, anyway.

I had a goal to be published--and I pursued that for many years. I was published, actually, and I am quite proud of those layouts.

I think they are some of the last I ever did--except for Mom's Annual album. I stopped making that in 2014. Or was it 2015?

I had pretty much stopped taking photos of us altogether by then.

I am not sure why that happened. The problem with not keeping records, of course, is that you have no way of referencing the past.

I started working in the fall of 2013. Maybe that was it?

When you declutter, you essentially force yourself to deal with things you have ignored --either out of laziness, forgetfulness, or disinterest. Those things are easy to get rid of. But things you have been avoiding--as I have my scrapbooking--are much more difficult. I ask myself: why haven't I been scrapbooking all these years? Why did I quit?

I think there are lots of mundane reasons, like it's a messy cluttery hobby, it takes up a lot of space, you have to chase people down with a camera and teenagers don't appreciate that, it feels like an invasion of privacy once the kids reach a certain age, and whose story am I telling, anyway?

OK, so that last one is not mundane. But the real kicker for me was this: our family is, actually, boring. And since our last family trip --to the West Coast in 2014-- we haven't done anything as a family together (except for attending the first Star Wars re-boot movie.) We don't even eat dinner together. And it's been a crushing disappointment. That's what I've been avoiding.

The question is: what now?

Can I scrapbook? Can I accept the reality of our lives now, as well as how they have been? I mean, I do love each person in my family. I have a good relationship with each person. It is just that the four of us aren't a "family unit."

Here are some of my unscrapped photos, filed away in boxes:

On this wall in the basement are most of my tools and supplies (and more photos).

can you believe it? those plastic cases contain albums "in progress." 

Underneath this table are more supplies (paper, mostly):

yes, that's the toilet seat from the bathroom. It is in better shape than the one we have currently, we just can't figure out how to work the bolts properly. (We smashed the old toilet to release it). We haven't given up on it, though.

It is past time to let this all go. As much as I loved it, I don't see scrapbooking in my long-term future. But I'm not quite ready to let everything go. I think I have one more project that needs to be done.

Story albums.

Specifically, the Story of Ben, the Story of Emma, and the Story of Us. I'm thinking of 8 1/2 x 11 albums that begin with Chris and I getting married, then the birth of each child and carrying on until High School graduation. Ben's album will contain more pages about him and what he did as he was growing up, Emma's will have more of hers--and the "Us" album will be both albums in one (minus any duplicate pages, of course, like vacation, and holiday spreads.) To keep it simple, I feel each one should be more "photo album" than "scrapbook."

It seems daunting and exciting all at once. But if I died without doing it, I'd regret it.

I haven't decided exactly how I will do this. Handmade spreads seem exhausting, yet it's the tactile aspects of scrapping I've always enjoyed. I like the idea of creating a digital photobook....but I would have to scan in all the photos!! I have hundreds, if not thousands of physical photos. I have a few digital photos...but they have pretty much trickled down into nothing since 2013. That's a pretty big gap. I have some logistical issues to sort out, obviously.

I've given myself a year and a bit to complete it. Emma graduates high school in June of 2019. My Mom's birthday is July 27th. (She'll get a copy of the compilation album).

I am hoping this will be enough to satisfy my urge to create as I think we are truly done with decorating this house, at least! I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Persevering in the Bathroom. An Update.

The bathroom, just as it is today.

I confess, when the sink bracket broke, I just didn't have the heart to continue in the bathroom for a good long while. Luckily, Chris kept going.

He rummaged through his incredible selection of odds and ends and found something called an "anti-tilt bracket." He figured he could make it work and thank goodness he did, because the blacksmith I called just laughed at me. We talked about trying a welder--but given how expensive labour is-- he'd probably laugh at us too for such a small job.

Thank God, it worked.

But it made the sink too high for her beautiful chrome legs. So, I hunted down some replacements --but we didn't like them-- and I don't believe they were any higher than our original ones. But they did give Chris the idea to use big washers to raise the height--so that fixed that.

So, looking it over, we have actually come a long way--just chipping away slowly.

Here was my "vision" board.

The light fixture turned out to be too large for the space--the door to the medicine cabinet would have had next to zero clearance, and the fabric is about 10x darker than this. Imagine that background a muddy grey and those white bits as bone coloured.

I never did show you my alternate plan. I made it when I was trying to decide which fabric to purchase. As it involved buying a new shower curtain, I rejected it. But that mirror frame sure would have been simpler to make!

And here was the to do list:

  • new fan 
  • new paint job
  • new light fixture
  • remove the tiles over the sink
  • create some sort of wainscoting
  • replace the old nasty black drain pipes with pretty chrome ones
  • new flooring
  • new window treatment
  • install new toilet
  • sew and install a new laundry bag
  • hang hooks for towels
  • put up shelves (maybe)
  • hang artwork
  • frame mirror

By week 5.  everything in blue and green was done. We had removed the tiles above the sink, nailed in the wainscoting, painted the room, installed the fan and the light fixture, and I'd sewn the window shade the day Chris and Ben put in the floor. I had also installed the pretty chrome drain pipes for the sink, but we were having problems with leaks. After Chris fixed the sink and adjusted the legs, he gave the pipes a good turn with the wrench--and they worked! No more leaks.

Isn't that purdy? So happy.

The sink caused a few glitches with spackling and sanding and re-painting the walls, but Chris persevered.

The toilet was apparently a nightmare. We purchased the tank already lined....and apparently it just causes problems when you try to attach the water line to it. (And yes, we needed a longer water line than the one we had, so another glitch. But easily solved.) Poor Chris just had a terrible time with it. We'd installed a one piece in the upstairs bathroom just before Christmas and Chris has sworn he'll never install another two piece again!

I just noticed I need to remove the tag on the water line hose. 

And it is high! You can actually see out the window while you are sitting on it.

I decided not to use the fabric from Tonic Living. It was just too dark. Instead, I headed out to Home Sense and browsed their table cloths and shower curtains. I wanted something with blue in it--and organic--like leaves or flowers. Both the mirror and the striped shower curtain have really strong geometric lines, so I wanted to counter that.

The best I could do was circles. It kind of talks to the floor.

The shade, right after it was installed. I love this shot. As soon as we put the toilet in, the room felt instantly crowded.

I got the hooks installed fairly quickly once I figured out how to do it. As the bathroom possesses our only tub and shower for four people, I needed them sooner, rather than later. Still, we had to wait 24 hours after they were installed before we could use them.

I'd had the laundry bag sewn up before the fiasco. I'd cut the old curtains apart and reused the fabric. I installed it just this week. I got fed up with everyone just piling their laundry behind the door!

Note how high the door is from the floor. Apparently you need two full inches in order for the fan to draw air properly to vent the moisture. Since we've done that, we have not had any water drip down the walls.

It is working well...and I love it, even though no one can actually see it beneath the towels!

I'm still working on the mirror.

It's coming along well, actually, though very slowly. If it were just a matter of making a mirror in a frame, we'd be done by now. It's complicated by the fact that it needs to be a door.

whoa, dusty!

I cut the horizontal wainscot board purposefully short so I could install a board there as the new right edge --and create a mirror centered over the sink. Of course, I didn't realise until much too late that the light was centered over the medicine cabinet--not the sink. Oh well.

I'd planned to install shelves, but I'm hesitating. I purchased glass ones from IKEA--and spray painted the hardware, so I can't return them ...but we seem to be managing just fine without them and I love not having the clutter.

I will hang some artwork, though. (I think.)

Ironically, I still have to clean and seal my grout! And I would really like to re-caulk the bath tub, too. I absolutely have to caulk behind the sink and around the toilet on the floor before too long.

In case you'd like to catch up on all the posts on the bathroom makeover, here they are:

ORC 2: Jumping in Relunctantly.
ORC 2a: Evaluating the Bathroom
ORC 3: Using Inspiration to Solve a Bathroom Design Dilemma
ORC 3a: Progress Report
ORC 4: Yellow Alert! Yellow Alert!
ORC 5: Tick Tock
ORC 6: Disaster

Thanks to all of you who have kept me going through all of this. I am getting anxious to get this finished and out of my life--so let's hope I'll have that reveal for you soon!

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Intentional Kitchen.

The assignment for this week (#6): declutter the kitchen cabinets, drawers, closets, and countertops.

This is a doozy of a post. You may want to get a coffee (or something).

I've been looking forward to this week. I've been itching to weed out a few things for the past couple of months. I did a great job of decluttering and reorganizing just before Christmas, but I'd noticed recently that the kitchen had become almost completely unmanageable. I joke that I can get dinner in 2 square inches of space, but when you do that night after night after night, it isn't funny any more.

As well, when the kitchen is messy, the whole house feels bad. And then I feel bad, and hopeless and angry. And, really, who wants that?

When I started this course, about 5 weeks ago, I had a mitre saw in the kitchen.

Fortunately, I started this project a little further ahead than that! But it was still outrageous.

Looking towards the back door:

The Stove Wall:


cart to the left of the stove:
cabinet above the stove

the drawer in the stove:

to the right of the stove, beside the back door. 

The mess at the back door.

The mess of the table:

The cabinets and drawers:

The bank of drawers to the left of the sink:

Under the sink cabinet (we keep recyclables here):

The drawers

The "baking drawer"

The "utensils drawer"

The cabinet underneath them, to the right of the sink:

The "junk" drawer beside the fridge:

The cabinet beneath that.

The Upper Cabinets.

To the right of the sink:

Beside the Fridge:

Above the fridge:

And back around to the fridge and corner doorway.

Straight ahead, the dining room. To the right, the back hallway.

The Method

There are four of us. I decided we needed only two glasses and two mugs each. I pared down our cutlery. Our plates and bowls are already down to two or less per person, so they stayed the same.

Then, I took an evening and went through all the food cabinets and sorted and consolidated.

I had half filled jars and open bags and unopened bags--sometimes all of the same thing! I have a huge selection of mason jars--and since jars are easier to manage than floppy bags--I put all I could into them. When I could,  I labelled them simply by cutting open the bag and taping it onto the jar I wrote the expiry date on it with a fine point sharpie.

As part of our course material, Joshua Becker asked us to read an article by Mark Bittman on the essential tools and supplies one needs to outfit a kitchen in order to cook in it.

These are some of the items Bittman recommended:

  • vegetable peeler (U shape)
  • Stainless alloy chef's knife
  • bread knife
  • paring knife
  • knife sharpener--either a whetstone or "a steel" (which is what I assume I have.)
  • can opener
  • (not mentioned by Bittman, but included: the metal spatula or "turner" or "fish slice." (Thanks to the Brits in my Facebook group for that last one!)
  • slotted spoon
  • sturdy tongs
  • heat resistant rubber spatula (can replace the wooden spoon, apparently)
  • big whisk

  • plastic cutting board
  • 3 stainless steel bowls (I have 3 ceramic ones on their last legs)
  • Sturdy sheet pan
  • colander
  • 3 Pots/Saucepans: small, medium and large "cast aluminum." (I have stainless steel)
  • 2 fry pans: 1 medium (10") non-stick, 1 steep sided heavier duty steel pan (14"). I have my two cast iron pans.
  • single lid. Absurd. I have lids for all my pots and pans.
  • blender

Bittman also recommended a few things I don't have:

  • instant read thermometer
  • Japanese mandoline
  • skimmer
  • 12 cup capacity food processor
  • salad spinner
  • microplane grater
  • coffee and spice grinder

But I happen to use a lot more items for cooking, so I got out those things and put them on the table.

clockwise from left:

  • small aluminum pan with lid, perfect for boiling eggs
  • rice cooker with insert and server
  • weigh scale nd basket
  • two saucepans with lids
  • steamer
  • 1 tea ball
  • 1 tea strainer
  • cake/pie server
  • meat fork
  • thin rubber spatula ( for digging things out of long jars)
  • short rubber spatula (for digging things like honey out of measuring spoons)
  • salad tossers
  • soup ladle
  • pasta ladle
  • large spoon
  • potato masher
  • pasta measurer
  • egg slicer
  • microwave lid

  • across the bottom:
  • ice cream scoop
  • pizza cutter
  • basting brush
  • zester
  • tiny whisk (I don't use this (I prefer a fork) but my husband does.)
missing: small non-stick frying pan and non-stick plastic "turner" or flipper, and the crockpot.

As I was sorting, I realised Bittman's list did not include items for baking. So, I piled up those next:

  • two sets of stainless measuring cups
  • top half of double boiler
  • 3 ceramic bowls (same as above)
  • electric mixer
  • rolling pin
  • sheet pan (as above)
  • muffin tin
  • 12 silicone muffin cups
  • biscuit cutter (I have used a floured glass in years past)
  • whisk and beaters for mixer
  • rubber spatula (as above)
  • 2 wooden spoons (1 as above)
  • icing tip
  • basket of various stainless steel measuring spoons (not pictured: One complete set of plastic measuring spoons)
  • pastry mixer
  • two cooling racks

But then, I turned around and confronted two areas I'd completely forgotten: above the fridge and beneath the stove.

  • pedestal cake thing
  • roaster
  • angel food cake pan
  • spring bottom cheese cake pan
  • 3 bread baking pans, 1 glass, 2, metal
  • 2 glass 8x8 pans
  • 1 glass 9x13 baking/roasting pan
  • large round metal cake pan
  • 2 metal pie pans
  • 2 metal cake pans

I didn't declutter too many of these baking pans, even thoughI don't use them very often. The thing is--an angel food cake must have an angel food cake pan....a cheesecake is a million times easier with a springform pan. I have the space. Even if I only ever make one of each again before I'll be worth keeping them.

I got rid of a few items. But a lot more I took down to the basement "to see" if we can live without them for 29 days.

I wasn't sure if I'd want it again or not, so it is on these shelves in the basement in the meantime (where the homeschooling books used to be, coincidently).

This was my donation/drop off pile for this week. (I do wish I had gotten better pictures of the kitchen items I gave away, but oh well.)

yep, there's the old bathroom light in that box. And the bathroom "fish" tiles.


stove wall:

I have decanted these drink mixes into jars and I may do it again.



I removed an old tin full of sweet 'n' low...and my "everyday" serving dishes. We just don't eat "family style" anymore, but plate from the stove and go our separate ways.


to the right:

I still love that spice rack!

I really wanted JUST flowers on mt table, but there's really no where else for the fruit!

The bank of drawers to the left of the sink:

I'd like to get rid of that water filter, but I am not sure how.


Baking supplies.

I decluttered all the black plastic measuring spoons I always avoided....and a set ofplastic square measuring cups I'd had since the 90s.

The utensil drawer

The junk drawer. 

 Lower Cabinets

to the left of the sink:

the large soup pot and lid is on the stove.

the cabinet beside the fridge:

 The Uppers:
beside the sink:

the small one beside the fridge.

the larger one beside the fridge:

 above the fridge:

and back around to the fridge and the doorway.

All that stuff on the fridge is necessary. One of those pieces of paper is my 2 week menu plan. Another is my Smoothie formula...and the big pile in the middle are all the recipes we need for the week. Oh, and there are some store coupons, too.

We keep our bread in those baskets on top of the fridge.

I don't feel like I actually removed all that much from the kitchen...and yet, it feels different. It feels like its easier to keep clean--easier to prepare food. I don't know if that's because I have been keeping it clean (which mostly means I've been doing the dishes) or because there's less in it--but it feels good and I'm glad I've skimmed another layer, as it were.

But I don't think by any stretch of the imagination you can say I have a minimalist kitchen.
Nor, I think, will I ever.

But I do have a very intentional kitchen.
And, I hope I always will.

If you would like to see the kitchen as it has evolved through the years --and gotten less and less cluttered--  check out this post: A Retrospective: 6 The Kitchen, 2007-2014.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...