Friday, August 25, 2017

UnCluttered: Another Round Begins



Twelve weeks is a long time.

When I started the spring session of the course, we were working on the downstairs bathroom. My house was in utter chaos.


I didn't consider this cluttered, however. It was messy, yes, but everything out was either because of projects related to the bathroom or because it was just part of the ebb and flow of everyday life.

Oddly enough, when I decluttered, I chiefly ignored the main rooms of my house (except when told to do otherwise) and concentrated my efforts elsewhere right up until the final week when I finally woke up, had a look around and decided that everyday mess was clutter and needed to be addressed.

I'm happy to say it only took me a couple of hardworking days to get things in order. That felt like a kind of vindication. My goal is to keep the house "10 minutes to company ready." I'm not quite there, yet!


DECLUTTERING

When I started the course, I questioned whether or not I "needed" to get rid of any more stuff. But I kept finding stuff I could let go of!

The way the course is structured, there are six weeks of decluttering. I vowed to have something for each of those weeks. I almost made it.

Donations from the first run through the basement:


 Bedroom week:




The homeschool stuff:


Consider these four boxes for just a second. These four unassuming boxes held more than well loved homeschooling curriculuum. They held hopes. Dreams. A few realised, a few not. They were cherished. But they were no good to anyone sitting in my basement.

One of the things that makes this course so great--and different from other decluttering programs, is the shift in perspective from "me and my stuff" to "could this be useful to someone else?" It's subtle but profound and it happened to me when I considered the homeschooling stuff. I'd thought I'd sell it. But then someone suggested finding someone who may need it. So I did that. I found someone--and I was thrilled my stuff --still valuable--still meaningful-- could truly go and bless someone else.


Wardrobe Week:



Kitchen Week:



Declutter "a common area" week.


I started losing a bit of steam, here. We shifted our attention away from decluttering and towards establishing clutter-free habits. So, for decluttering, I turned my attention to some dead easy stuff outside.

The garage: These boxes had been here for probably two years or more. Ridiculous. Nothing more than forgetfulness and lack of intention.



The playhouse. My youngest will be 17 in a few weeks! We have not needed any of this stuff in a long, long time.





I am extraordinarily proud of all I accomplished in the basement. Especially this little area:




Decluttering gives me a sense of control over my surroundings. I am hoping to transfer that over into housekeeping.

I also cleared out areas not specifically "assigned" like the freezer:




and my inbox.




As a result of doing my inbox, I decided to pursue replacing some Canada Savings Bonds I had purchased before I was married. I'd lost my copies of the bonds, so I put the wheels in motion to replace and redeem them (since they matured about a year ago). I'd tried handling it a few years ago but got bogged down in the process. (At that time, I was able to call and have them re-invested.) So, there should be a tidy sum coming my way in a few weeks.


HABITS

Joshua assigns the first habit: clean up the kitchen before bed! I did well the first week and then it all fell apart. I jumped into Uber Frugal Month which required a lot of planning and food prep right at the start of the month. Doesn't matter. I shifted my focus. I lost my intention--and the kitchen turned into a disaster area again very quickly.

It's taken me a while, as I mentioned above, but my second habit is to pick up the house for 10 minutes every day. Set the timer and go. It's the only way to stay clutter free!


EXPERIMENTS

Again, Joshua assigns the first one: try out Courtney Carver's 333 wardrobe experiment for three weeks (not 3 months as Courtney advocates.)

I had a really difficult time wrapping my head around this one--not because I have too many clothes, but the opposite. I may have less than 33 items--depending on how you count them.  And I discovered, I am profoundly uninterested in counting my clothes.

A pair of capris I bought during the course. 


We were to experiment with simplifying other aspects of our lives. I chose to cut our grocery bill in half for the month of July. That wasn't exactly a challenge which simplified my life....but it did help me pay down some of our debt!

A few meals made "ahead." Life savers.


YOUR TURN!

The whole twelve weeks was an extraordinarily positive adventure. At one point, I actually wondered why I signed up--surely I was "decluttered." Turns out--not quite!

And it's not about decluttering anyway. Decluttering is simply a means to the end. What end? Whatever you decide. You get to choose. Your stuff, your life, your adventure.

My adventure includes mason jar Chicken Cesar salads! 


I'd love to have you join me and all my (Uncluttered) facebook friends. Registration is open only until September 3rd.

 Follow this link: Uncluttered: The Course and use the coupon code FF25 for 25% off. (Not an affiliate link.)

I'd be thrilled to see you there.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Basement, Oh The Basement!



The Uncluttered course is now complete. I've a few posts left to write to wrap up my experience. In short, it was a wonderful experience and I am thankful I did it. The next round is Sept 5th. I'll have a discount code for you around the end of August! I plan to take it again, (hopefully, with my mom).

But first --my crowning achievement-- the basement!

As the weeks went by, the basement just got better and better. No matter what area upstairs we were focusing on in the course, I would come down here and work. Things which had survived many past purges got taken upstairs and taken away. I am absolutely thrilled.

I started my decluttering for the course down here. And that means pictures! Before and afters! My favourite.

The view from the bottom of the stairs looking at the back wall:


From left to right: The white shelf unit held home decor items and the last of the homeschooling books. I donated them to a lovely woman who had lost a lifetime of homeschooling books and supplies in a devastating house fire last year.

With some space freed up, I put a few dishes down here from the kitchen clear out to see if we can live without them.

Those blankets are protecting our new windows for the bedrooms upstairs. We will save some money by staining, varnishing and installing them ourselves.

The pine dresser and the black shelving unit hold various scrapbooking supplies.

There's my exercise ball and underneath it, my 12"/1" miniature townhouse. I am not sure whether I will ever finish it.

To the right, out of frame is my husband's workshop. I don't touch it--or photograph it. That's totally his domain! But I am happy to say it is in relatively good shape.

To the left is the Wall o' Shelves.

Some cubbies I decluttered, others I left alone. I went through the bins of fabric and home decor. I didn't touch the memorabilia. I also left the photos alone: but I have a project in mind that once I'm done will see more than half --and dare I hope? 75%-- of those photo boxes gone.

I would like to pare down our luggage, too, but I doubt my husband would agree.

(No, the table is not longer. I turned it lengthwise to make more room for our bags of recycling (blue) and bottles and cans (clear).)

Turn left again and you're in the "game room." I did ask the boy whether we could get rid of this TV (and some of the Lego pieces) but he said, "no," even though the Xbox is now upstairs (and very infrequently played. Still, he and his father still enjoy a game from time to time.)


I made room for this piano. It's well-traveled! It belongs to my Mom. We borrowed it for years and it had pride of place in the living room while the kids took lessons. When the lessons were finished, we returned it to my Mom. A few months ago, we took it back when Emma said she wanted it in her room. No sooner did we haul it over and all the way upstairs when she declared it "too big" (it was) and she wanted it out. I doubt anyone will ever play it again but Mom is not ready to let it go (and be useful to someone else) so I'll store it here for a while.



Isn't that cozy? The picture over the piano used to be in the living room. It is one of the first things Chris and I ever bought together. I'm glad it is on disply again. That's the flooring leftover from the bathroom. We had to buy an an ginormous piece of it. 

Going through some art I had stored on top of the wall o' shelves, I came across a few pieces Ben had done when he was around four or five. I'd gone to the trouble to frame them way back when, so I decided to hang them in here with a few other pieces I found. After all, if we were going to keep it, we may as well enjoy it!

I am still struggling to put into words the uniqueness--or the difference, if you will--between this decluttering program and others I've participated in. As I went through my buckets and bins and shelves the interior monologue was something like this: "Am I using this stuff? No? Why hang on to it then? Could someone else get value from it?" And I think the difference I am seeking is right there in that last sentence. There was a whole lot of awareness for me of other people and how they may be blessed with my things. Decluttering became this huge act of giving. And so it was easy --and fun!

And then there's the laundry room:

and look at that: stuff in the donation station! I'll take that out Tuesday. I wonder if I can scrounge some more to go with it? I bet I can!


Aaaaaand, last but not least, the area beside the stairs: the painting supplies.

aaah, that's so much better!


Of course, I am under no delusion that this is it, that for once and for all, the basement is done! No. Things change. And when they do, stuff comes down here to die. So, it will get cluttered up again, I suspect. But you bet I will enjoy all this space as long as I can!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Make Ahead Meals: Bye bye Pizza Night



The Set Up

A long, long time ago, I used to plan all of our suppers for the month. This was so I could shop for all of the meat and pantry items we needed during Safeway's Customer Appreciation Day. We would get 10% off the entire grocery bill. Now it's 15% and I'm even more interested in saving money than I was then, so I sat down earlier this week and planned two weeks plus everything we needed for the Make Ahead Meals. (All of our other shopping trips will be at other grocery stores so I can compare prices.)

The Rationale

It's summer. And while I normally love to cook, I am not a fan of spending any more time than absolutely necessary near hot things--like a stove--when it's summertime.

Eating out--or, more likely in our case, ordering out is expensive. And it doesn't help my waistline, either! So, the only way to beat the heat, save time (and money) and stay mean and lean--is--you guessed it--to make meals I can re-heat quickly or throw in the crockpot.

Because I am an excessive planner, I sat down with my work schedule and figured out how many of these meals I'd actually need--and then I doubled it (sort of).

The Recipes




Lentil Butternut Squash Curry x2
Cilantro Lime Chicken x2
Slow Cooker Turkey and Black Bean Chili x2
Mediterranean Eggplant x1
Spicy Peanut Chicken x2
8 hamburger patties

We've eaten all but the Spicy Peanut Chicken before. That one is from a recipe I found in a book from the library. Any Peanut Chicken recipe would do, really, as it is essentially cooking the meal and the freezing it, just as you would left-overs. The rest of the MAMs are all assembled, frozen, and then thawed and dumped into a slow cooker. Easy peasy.

The Assembly

"I made thirty meals in four hours--and then I didn't dread dinner-time any more."
Most blogs are full of cheerful statements like this one.
Not this one.

I may never set foot in my kitchen again.

I set everything up (well, what I thought was everything) and began. I honestly expected I would be able to chop and assemble everything the same day. I had only one small problem--I needed black beans-- but I hadn't cooked them yet. And then I realised I didn't have enough spices for everything. I had to make a late night run to Walmart for paprika, chili powder, and parsley flakes. Of all the stupid things.



This shows them after they'd soaked for a couple of hours. I put them on the boil while I chopped the squash.

The squash nearly killed me. It seemed I chopped forever. And of course, I had to make dinner, too.
At the end of Day 1, I'd made only two of my recipes. Just before bed, I realised I needed to cook even more black beans.



On Day 2, I was pretty anxious to get the meat based meals out of the fridge and into the freezer. I took the beans I'd soaked overnight and started cooking them. As I had to leave for work at 5pm, I'd also planned a crock pot meal for supper with some really old chicken backs I'd found while doing my freezer inventory. Thawing and deboning those took a solid hour. So, after about three hours in the kitchen...with temperatures rising by the hour.... I'd managed to make only one of my Make Ahead Meals, the slow cooker Turkey and Black Bean Chili (which is awesome, by the way).


The third Day I was desperate to get the remaining chicken breasts and ground beef into the freezer. The Spicy peanut stir fry was time consuming, but very simple.



The burgers were messy--but also simple. Apparently, the key to homemade burgers is not to man handle the ground meat too much--and to dimple the center of each patty. My husband was quite disappointed we weren't having any for dinner that night.




Finally, finally, late today I made the Mediterranean Eggplant.



So, now I am all set for those night's when I am not home to cook--and the morning's are too rushed to make anything.

Bye bye, pizza night.


More MAM's:

New Leaf Wellness has several recipes and free batch cooking/assembly instructions.

5 Dinners 1 Hour is a batch cooking meal plan site. There are some recipes for free.

Thirty Handmade Days has quite a few original recipes. Looking forward to trying them.

Once a Month Meals is another meal plan site. All the meals are freezable, though. I tried a few of their free plans but didn't really like it. I also found the way they constructed the prep lists confusing.

Happy Money Saver Mom has many different kinds of Make Ahead Freezer meals, including some that can go into the crock pot.

Self Magazine has some really delish looking MAMs for the crockpot.

eta from the comments: Living Well Spending Less has an 11 part series, each one with five recipes made twice for freezer to crockpot cooking. I'm linking to Part 11 as it has all the previous parts linked on the page. (Thanks Marie!)


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Musical Fruit: Saving on the Grocery Bill.




Our single largest expense, by far, each month is our grocery bill. It eats up about 15% of our income--net income. That is more than we should be spending--even given the higher price of food in Canada. (source)

So, one of the first pieces of advice you get when you ask "how can I save money on my grocery bill?" is "Buy dried beans. Not canned!" But how much do you save, soaking, cooking and freezing your own?

And so, needing kidney beans and chick peas (alias garbanzo beans), I bought a two pound bag of each.

I was so excited about cooking my chick peas, I forgot to get a picture!


I asked Google how to cook them, and ever helpful, it offered me several methods. I portioned out a pound. Then, I chose to rinse them, boil them for 10 minutes on medium, change the water and then bring them back to a low simmer until they were done. (I tasted them.) I was anxious to get this done.

Then, I carefully measured them out into a pint mason jar (in the past, I figured out that a pint holds the same amount as the cans I usually buy.)



I would have preferred to freeze them in the jars, but I don't have enough.



I got 3 "cans" from one pound.

So. The bag of chickpeas cost me $3.39 at Safeway.

Assuming I'll get the equivalent of 6 "cans" of beans this way, each "can" costs $0.56 1/2

I made sure to price check the can of chickpeas I usually buy. They were $1.79 at Safeway. That seems like lot.  (I rarely, if ever, buy them at regular price, though. I usually get them on sale and stock up.)

So, my "homemade" beans are 1/3 the price.

An instant 66% savings on our grocery bill!

I wish all of it could be that simple.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Introducing Uber Frugal Month



The next step towards a more minimal, no, scratch that, a more intentional life, seems obvious to me: get a handle on our finances and get out of debt.

As well, our situation is dicey. My husband is losing his job some time this fall and, I confess, it is freaking me out not a little. There are all sorts of complications with the timing of it all, his pension (and cuts to it depending on various scenarios which we are still trying to work out) and the severance package. The fact that we are thisclose to the warehouse shutting down and no one has answers for us is maddening to say the least. One thing we can pretty much count on, unfortunately, is that it is not likely he will be employed again at anywhere near the wage he is getting now.

This is the rainy day we should have been preparing for--and we haven't. So, rather than learning to be frugal proactively, which we should have done--we are going to do it reactively.

But we are going to do it!

I am not sure what to expect.

I just wanted to put this out there so you can have a chance to join up as well, if it interests you. Every day during the month of July, starting on the first, the blogger behind Frugalwoods will be sending out prompts to encourage u to be, well, uber frugal.

We had some homework to do prior to starting. Here is mine.

Step 1: Establish your goals.

1. Why are you participating in this Challenge?

 I want to get a handle on our finances. I need some help and support to spend less.

2. What do you hope to achieve?

At the end of the month, I want a clear do-able plan for living uber-frugally until our debt is gone, no matter what our income may be.  (Yes, we did Dave Ramsey. No, we were not gazelles.) Specifically, I want to see my way clearly through Steps 4 thru 10, below.

3. What are your long term life goals?

 I still want to travel. I'd love to take hiking and biking tours in Europe, Iceland and the U.K. If I dared dream big, I'd say Thailand, too, or another equally exotic location. Dreams. Dreams are nice.

4. Where do you want to be in 10 years?

I want to be in a small house by the sea.



5. What about your current lifestyle might prevent those goals from coming to fruition and what can you do about it?

I think I spend money mainly for convenience and to treat myself, food-wise. I also use money to indulge my love for creating, designing, and decorating.


Step 2: Review last month’s spending.

Done. I used to track our spending. I haven't in a long time. Funny, there's a direct correlation between how much we save to how much I track. I guess it really isn't funny at all. 

Step 3: Categorize your expenses.

Fixed Mandatory Expenses. Yep. Got 'em. Surprisingly, they only make up about 20% of our income. 

Discretionary Expenses (everything else.)

Step 4: What can I eliminate entirely?

Eating out and snacks
Clothing (for a while)
Entertainment


Step 5: Embrace the art of substitution.

The idea behind this frugal step is to substitute something free for something you are paying for. So, for example, I do pay the city a certain amount to use the pool for my aquafit classes. I try to go once a week. I love aquafit. 



Step 6: Reduce spending on discretionary expenses.

I could shop for groceries at a cheaper place than Safeway, I'm sure. 
Now that I've lost a bit of weight, I'm looking into paying a little less for life insurance, perhaps.
As for our utilities, I have this little project in mind for a spot in our basement:



I am hoping the challenge can help with this step.


Step 7: Empower yourself to insource!


The idea with this one is to stop paying other peopleto do things for you. Do them yourself. So, these are the things we paid other people to do this month: 

  • repair the Jeep
  • make two windows to replace our bedroom windows which are failing.
  • prepare food in restaurants so I (or someone else) didn't have to cook.
  • repair teeth (the dentist)
  • align the body (the chiropractor)
  • cut hair 
  • teach me what to wear, and how to declutter. (two on-line courses)
  • groom the dog

Hmmm, that seems like a lot all written out that way.

Step 8: Examine your habits.

Someone needs to be taking shorter showers, ahem. Again, this is an area I hope will be easier for me to see and thus do something about by the end of the challenge.

Step 9: Plan ahead.

Yes. Keeping up the meal planning and grocery shopping is de rigeur and it would be wise to add in what I plan to eat for lunch, too. I should also talk to the teenagers about this. 

We could also seriously cut down on the number of trips we make to the grocery store. We made over 25 visits to Safeway this month alone--only two were large weekly shopping trips with responsible lists. Not really sure what's going on there.

Step 10: If you do buy stuff, get it used (or cheap!)

This is an area we do not do well in, I admit. But, I have promised myself that I will go to Value Village for temporary clothes while I am losing weight. Of course, I say that, and yes, I did buy a pair of shorts there this month--but I also bought two T-shirts, a pair of capris and a dress--at a regular clothing store where people bring you alternate sizes to try on and you don't have to wait in line for a change room. sigh. Frugality is hard.

Step 11: Banish excuses.

I take it back. 


Major Lifestyle Changes

This whole section of our "homework" seems a bit premature and since this post is already too long, I'll spare you my thought processes for now. In brief:

1) Do you need to earn more?

Yes. We will.

2) Would moving help?

No. The house is paid off. We will move, eventually, and that will help substantially but that won't happen until the youngest finishes University--in about 5-6 years.

3) Should you get rid of your car (or one of your cars)? 

We would have to be pretty desperate for me to live without a car again.

4) Are you paying to work? 

No.

Conclusion

I am going to give the penultimate word to Mrs. Frugalwoods:

The crux of successful, joyful frugality is spending in service of your goals and on the things that matter most to you. By identifying what you want out of life and eliminating spending that doesn’t get you to that final destination, you will succeed.

I only wish I had started down (and stayed on!) this path long, long ago. 

We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Habits: A Clutter-Free Kitchen


Our challenge this week was
to tidy up the kitchen to clutterfree each evening before going to bed. 

This is not my first kick at this particular proverbial can. From courses I've taken at Simplify 101, I've learned two things:

1) As Abby advised, if you hate something...do it often.

Say what?

But if you do the dreaded task--before it becomes a gigantic dreaded task you can avoid all the discouragement and overwhelm that comes with just thinking about doing the dreaded task. And, of course, it's the only way you can avoid this:

 This is what my kitchen counter looked like on May 13, when I began the course. I think that is every dish we own. On the stove, you can bet there was every pot we own. 


Doing it more often makes it more manageable, hands down!


2) It works! 

I found that if I did the dishes--if even only once--before dinner, doing the dinner dishes was a snap. And there's no excuse not to do something if you know it takes less than 10 minutes. No excuse. Even better-- other people in my house did up a few dishes here and there. Here, my daughter--without prompting from me-- looked after the dishes she used to make Mac 'n' Cheese for a pot luck.

Yes, from scratch!


Other things I learned this week:

3) Clutter attracts clutter.



The day before, I had cleaned out the fridge. I had left these cherries out of the counter as an invitation to people to eat them. Instead, a certain member of my household took it as an invitation to leave out his breakfast things. 

4) A tidy kitchen is essential.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about what is essential this year. I've been trying to figure out what those things are which I absolutely have to do in order to feel like my life is ok.... And by OK, I mean, not spinning out of control, not casting me into despair and helplessness.

Yes, well, not going there would definitely be a plus!

The standard is a bit higher than that (but I seem to have only two settings on my internal gauge.) I was thinking about this: what do I need to feel like my life is OK?On the right track? As trite as it sounds, I came up with what my Grandmother told me, what I tell my kids and random facebook strangers. "As long as you do your best., you'll have done all you can." And so that's the new daily standard. Do my best, every day. And do what is best for my life, every day.

And cleaning up the kitchen is one of those things. The rest of the house can be in chaos (actually, this week, most of it was) but if the kitchen wasclean--even just before bed-- I found that I could think more clearly and I was calmer than, say, the week before, when it wasn't. A tidy kitchen is essential to my peace of mind.

5) It brings me joy. 

Actual caught-in-the-throat joy.

More than a tidy dining room (where I spend all my time), or a tidy bedroom (where I am in the habit of making my bed every day) or even a clean bathroom (though that's up there), a clean and tidy kitchen is essential to my happiness. I have actually felt joy as I have looked at my kitchen every night this week. And that feeling was worth overcoming the pull towards bed at midnight more than once. (I worked late shifts this week.) 

And so, my joy-filled week in review:

 There is no Day 6 because I was heading up to bed--without doing the kitchen! and I thought I'd just do one thing...and then I did another...and another...and before you could say "I am so tired I can't even remember Jack Robinson's middle name" I had tidied the kitchen...and gone to bed.


On Friday, I grabbed a few things still hanging around in the garage from previous decluttering sessions. Previous YEARS, I mean. This course has been amazing that way--pretty much everything I've gotten rid of is stuff that has survived past purges. This time, I'm looking at it with fresh eyes and wondering, "why?" So, out it goes!

These are all books from the bedroom bookshelf purge of January 2015. I confess, I did fish out two books to keep. But only two.


The mirror for the bathroom is still bedeviling me.


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.

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