Category Archives: Domestic Engineer

Kids and clutter, and the proper spelling of memento

Your Child’s Messy Room is Your Fault – Minimalist at Home

This article is so right on. So many thoughts here. I’m currently feeling a struggle with my daughter (age 6) and her room. While she is actually not opposed to cleaning her room (she’s done it voluntarily a number of times), it’s gotten to the point where “cleaning” it doesn’t make a lick of difference. There’s just too much stuff in too small a space. So as the adult here, I do see it as my responsibility to help her.

I found some smelly and sticky things in her room today. Mementos she had forgotten she saved, because time had passed and they were hidden by so many other “important” mementos. Until now, I’ve been hesitant to take a strong and drastic stance with my kids on the subject, because I do believe that even young children deserve our respect. As parents we teach them to respect other people’s property, so if I were to go in while she was away and throw away half her toys and treasures (which constantly tempts me), that would kind of negate the whole message now, wouldn’t it? We need to lead by example.

You may ask why this is such a hot button for me. Why do I care so much about it? Well, because she is me. I was that little girl holding onto every memorable toy and trinket (and they were ALL memorable, of course), and proudly “organizing” every last item. Only it’s true – you can’t organize clutter. You may think you’re organizing but you’re not, you’re just rearranging. It takes a LOT of time and energy.  And while the end result feels nice for a second, it quickly fades (and quickly gets re-disorganized) and you are still left with the stress of the stuff and who knows what’s growing in it. I didn’t learn to come out of this cycle until my thirties, and I’ll be darned if I’m going to let my children enter adulthood stuck in the same cycle. I want to teach them good and healthy habits and attitudes toward “stuff” and I am in no way interested in a short term solution.

So that leaves me needing to land somewhere in the middle. And this article suggests a fairly simple method for doing that. Yes, this strategy involves the mom doing all the work, but she’s merely taking the blame/responsibility for letting the clutter build over the years, and is using the purge as a sort of reset button. That’s what I’m looking for. A reset button.

“Did they interrogate me about what I threw out? Yep, they did. My reply was to challenge them to tell ME what was missing and then we’d discuss it. Of course, they couldn’t identify a single thing.”

That right there not only makes me chuckle with a snarky sparkle in my eyes, but I suspect that will be exactly what happens with my daughter. So I’m gonna try it! I’ll just take a few hours, lock her out of the room, and pack up everything I suspect she doesn’t care to play with anymore (and throw away the trash in between). She’s in a stage right now where her tastes are changing quite dramatically, so I’ll be sure to have a good heart-to-heart with her beforehand, to get a good idea of what she will still make use of and what she won’t. I think as long as I do this with kind and thorough communication, it can really work. It’s worth a shot, anyway. Wish me luck!

My exciting life

I made a ginormous batch of potato soup for the crockpot this morning. Added all the leftover ham from Easter, diced an entire onion and threw that in. Threw in a little bit of chicken bouillon, dried parsley (which I’m convinced is just for show), and butter. It smells amazing and I can’t wait to eat it. There’s no way the four of us can eat it all, so we’ll have a lot leftover to freeze for another day. Win-win!

I’ve been working on laundry and dishes most of the morning. Those two never quit, do they? I just finished eating lunch, and now I’m left debating what to do next. More laundry, read a book, crochet, take a nap, run on the treadmill, walk the dog, watch more reruns of Parks and Recreation on Netflix… I just can’t decide. The nap is really tempting, but I know a walk or run would really boost my spirits.

This is my exciting life, folks! This is a normal day for me, and while it has taken quite some time to adjust to it, I’m finally starting to enjoy it and feel comfortable. I think this is the Acceptance part of the grief process. I am finally here, and can honestly say I am happy and really want to stay.

Oh, but that’s not what I got on the blog to talk about. Shoot. I guess I’ll have to draft that up and post it tomorrow 😉

Why the crockpot is my new best friend

This is not to diminish the value of my friendships with real people, because I have a lot of pretty amazing friends, but by golly, I am really loving my crockpot this year (I’ve had it a whopping 16). The internet holds a wealth of information and ideas for what you can make in these things, and I’m finding plenty of healthy, tasty meals.

But here’s why I’m really learning to love the crockpot – it allows me to work around my fatigue and still manage to feed my family. The fatigue that MS causes has really been kicking my butt hard this past month, and by 1 pm (even after a morning nap) I’m pretty slogged (not sure if that’s a word but it sounded good). By 4 or 5 pm, after getting the kids from the bus stop and handling the flurry of that excitement, I’m close to non-functioning. Which makes dinner prep rather difficult.

Case in point: It is almost 7 pm. We ate dinner already (tacos!!) but I’m feeling the munchies so I went into the kitchen to get a bowl of cereal (granola, actually). I pulled the granola from the cupboard, the milk from the fridge, and set both on the counter. I then got a bowl and poured the granola into it, and proceeded to put both the granola back in the cupboard and the milk back in the fridge.  Notice anything missing?? I walked all the way back to my bowl of granola, ready to eat, and discovered I had forgotten to pour the milk.

It’s really frustrating, feeling so… I don’t know, lacking in ability to perform simple tasks, I guess, and pretty damn powerless to change it. But I’ve been faced with lots of things, big things, that I cannot change. If I have learned anything from these big, unchangeable things, it’s that I do still have a choice. And that choice is to accept it, adapt, and move on.

The crockpot means I can prepare a delicious, healthy meal for my family early in the day, before I get fatigued. I refuse to give up and feed them frozen pizza every night. So, for what it represents and for what it allows me to do, the crockpot is my friend. The thing is old enough to drive now (a wedding gift), but I suppose using it for a ride to the store would be asking too much. We’ll just stick to food preparation for now 😉

Funny story…

My husband is out of town for work, so I’m in charge for a few days. This is another small victory in my book, as around this time two years ago I was nearly a vegetable. He took this same trip last year, but this year I have that bed-shaker alarm to wake me up in the morning, AND I’ve been feeling so much better, so I was extremely confident in my abilities to hold down the fort sans husband. Pride comes before a fall, folks.

At 8:00 am, the time we are supposed to be AT the bus stop, my daughter was still fiddling to get her shoes on and I was frantically looking for my keys. The coffee was brewing, so that it would be waiting for me when I returned from dropping off the kids. Once Natalie had her shoes on, we headed out the door. I hadn’t found my keys, but figured I would just use the keypad on the garage door when I came back. No biggie. Right?

Fifteen minutes later, the kids are on the bus, and I am back home. However, as I was walking up the driveway I remembered that I had locked the interior door inside the garage the night before. The one I intended to use to get back in the house. Because, you know, my protector husband wasn’t home and I’m suddenly paranoid about people breaking into garages. I guess. This is my first garage, what do I know?

I was pretty quickly on the verge of panicking, but I knew that wouldn’t do me any good so by the grace of God I stayed calm and I didn’t even cry! (Seriously, there were no tears shed in the making of this story) My next thought was that maybe the back door was still unlocked from when Luke let the dog out this morning. I mean, why would he lock the door back up? It’s sort of a responsible thing to do, and not likely for an 8 year old to do without being told. So, I hopped the neighbor’s fence (it’s much shorter than ours, and the gate to their yard is not padlocked as ours is) and tried the back door.

As it turns out, my 8 year old is a responsible young boy.

Did I mention I had also left my phone at home?

Yes, I was in some serious trouble here. But it was still early, and lots of people were home. In fact, I knew the guy across the street was home because he was walking back just ahead of me after dropping his son off at the bus stop. So, I walked over and knocked on the door. Sure enough, he came to the door and let me in to use his phone. I left a message for my husband and then we walked over to my house to see if we could open a window (we couldn’t, not without doing some damage). Thankfully Mike called back while we were burglarizing the house in broad daylight, and he suggested that there might still be a key in the garage where he had left it for his dad. We looked, and it was not there, so we called back and had him call his dad to come and unlock the door for me. BIG sigh of relief!!

I only needed to wait a half an hour, but a half hour sitting in a garage with no one to talk to and nothing to read can feel like an eternity. Also, my freshly brewed coffee was waiting for me just on the other side!! What was I to do?! Well, I swept the garage floor – thoroughly. Then I blew some bubbles in the front yard. And sure enough, Grandpa came pulling up the drive soon enough. I sheepishly kept my head down, embarrassed as ever, and Grandpa just chuckled at me. This stuff happens to the best of us. If you can’t laugh about it, you are taking life way too seriously. So, I’m laughing about it now. And you can bet I owe Matthew from across the street a big batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies!

Every Day Is Yours To Win

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The photo above is the view from my back porch. Do you see how the sun casts sort of a glow over the deck? Or is that just me? I took the photo this morning. Our house faces east, so the back porch is still cool from the night air as the sun is rising on the other side, and under the gazebo there is a nice breeze. So this is where I have come to love sitting in the morning (granted, it’s only Day Two), with my coffee and Bible, while Piper runs around the yard or rolls in the grass. When she’s done with that nonsense, she comes and lies down at my feet. It’s lovely. Just lovely. We are so blessed with this new home.

And if that wasn’t enough, we have some really awesome neighbors. All of them. Really. They even have a private Facebook page they use to keep in touch with each other. So while we’ve done some chatting with them leading up to the day we moved in, today we actually got to meet several of them. In fact, when people started getting home from their respective jobs, they seemed  anxious to meet us and say hello. The woman from across the street walked over to say hi, and we discovered we both have sons named Luke. A lady from the end of the street stopped at our driveway as she was leaving the neighborhood, and I was able to meet her and her son (whom I found had already met Luke yesterday). Then after Mike came home we met the man who lives next door to us, as well as his wife and two kids. It’s amazing how friendly these people are. We had heard this was a great neighborhood, but now we’re experiencing it and finding it to be absolutely true.

Oh, and get this – there are at least three other couples on the block whose first names start with the same letter, just as mine and Mike’s do (Mike and Mindy). There are the S’s next door, the D’s across the street, and another set of M’s further down. I love alliteration, I really do. What can I say? I’m a geek, all the way.

The unpacking is moving along. Throughout each day there is a constant feeling that I’m about to hit a wall, but I haven’t actually done it yet. I figure if I just go slow, then even if I do hit that wall, I won’t break anything. Just in theory, of course. I am developing some killer calf muscles, going up and down the stairs. But overall, life is good here and we feel pretty well settled. We have internet now, toilet paper, milk. You know, the necessities.

And here is where my brain is shutting down for the night, whether I like it or not. Good night!

Lunch coolers

We had six thermal lunch bags. Two for me, two for Luke, and two for Natalie.Mine are the black & white paisley-ish and the red toile patterned, Natalie’s are the colored polka-dots and the pink with the butterfly, and Luke’s are the plain black and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
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Now we have three. One for each of us. We decided to keep the red toile, pink butterfly, and plain black.
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My kids use lunch bags for school occasionally, and they may more often at the new school come September. I don’t have a job to go to anymore, so I don’t use mine much. However, it is nice to have one in case we go to the park, or on a long drive. I like having healthy snacks available. I thought keeping one for each of us was reasonable.

I have to be honest though, and disclose the fact that I have several more thermal bags and boxes down in the basement. I have used them all on occasion, for camping trips mostly. We camp once a year, so it might not seem worth it, until you get rid of them and six months later you are packing for that camping trip and asking yourself where you are going to pack the hot dogs and string cheese and drink boxes. Because these need to be kept cool, but don’t fit real well in the cooler with all the water and Gatorade bottles. So really, it’s justified, right? Am I right??

I’m afraid I am far from done.

The Secretary Hutch

It’s only been a little over a week since the offer was accepted on the house we are purchasing, but since that day I have been mildly obsessed with where I will put my “office”. In our current house, it is at the end of our large kitchen (pictured below, don’t judge!) and though it tends to become a clutter magnet, the location does work well. Because I spend a lot of time in the kitchen anyway.

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 However, the layout in the new house is quite different, and there is no obvious space for an office area. I feel like I need to have a plan. Not that I need a plan before we move in, just that I need a plan so I can sleep better at night.

We have a very old secretary desk/hutch that we inherited from a family member years ago. It’s sturdy, well-built, and I think could work for my office space. I like the functionality of it because I can bring down the platform while I work, then put it back up when I’m done. And the three drawers underneath can serve as storage for paper and other supplies. It’s just not the cutest. So I was looking online to see what options are out there for new secretary desks. Ouch. For anything decent, it’s quite expensive. So I’m starting to think we could make this one work.

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For today I’m  just going to try and clean it out. Let’s see what we have here…

{Twenty minute intermission}

Okay, I’d be lying if I said I made any real progress. But I did discover a few things of interest.

1) I found my Riverdance CD, which just last week I had been wishing I could find because I think it may be music that would sound good to my bilateral CI ears.

2) I found the Puzzler!! I made for holding puzzles in progress (I used to be crafty). It’s really just a giant cardboard tube with a long piece of felt attached. So you assemble the puzzle on the felt, then when you need the table space for doing “important” things like eating, you just roll it up, and it saves it for later. In theory. It’s been at least a decade since I’ve used it, and I don’t remember how well it worked. I’ll be getting rid of this for sure, but maybe as a gift to my puzzle-loving sister 😉

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3) I have 22 VHS videos in the bottom drawer. I purged my VHS movies ages ago, but these are all home movie types. I’m actually not sure what’s on all of them, and several belong to my husband, so this may be a joint project to continue later. I know that we also have many more tapes, along with our camcorder, hidden in our daughter’s closet. So yes, a project for another day. Archiving outdated technology is something I know nothing about.

And yes, I confess I am procrastinating. But I did make progress on the pull-down desk part! See??

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Ok, that’s enough for today. The little people need my attention…

Type A Confessions

I’ve kind of been on a mission to de-clutter my home, one tiny area at a time. I’ve written about involving the kids recently, but it’s been going on for much longer than that. And now that we are buying a house, it’s time to kick it up a notch.

As a woman with a type-A personality, my problem is not so much with figuring out where to start as it is with learning where and when to END. Because once I get started, I get so thrilled with the progress I’m making and I fear that if I stop when the timer goes off, that I’ll never get the motivation or time to start again. Have I mentioned I’m home all summer with two young children and a dog? The dog is the least of my worries, actually. She doesn’t interrupt me every 3 minutes to ask a question. Or tell me something, or show me something she made. Yes, I love my kids, and I know one day I’ll look back fondly at these pestering moments. I’m just saying they infringe on my inner need to GET THINGS DONE.

So I’m looking for balance. For a realistic plan to accomplish my de-cluttering goals. How can I be sure I’m doing the best I can, with what I’ve got, to get this place ready to pack up and move? I’ve started by listing the areas that need attention, and I think I’m just going to make it a daily ritual. Each day I’ll just work on the area I feel most like doing that day. Which totally goes against my planner mentality, but attempting to plan it all down to the last detail just seems too overwhelming. And unrealistic, as I need to be flexible enough to work around whatever is going on that day here at the house. Will the kids be at Grandpa’s today, playing outside, or playing video games? What kind of moods will they be in? Are they cranky & defiant or are they cooperative and willing to play together without screaming bloody murder every 30 seconds? Because some days they require closer supervision, and that affects the type of work I can get done that day.

I’m guessing if you are still reading, either you share in this type-A personality or you have run out of good reading material. Either way, I thank you 🙂 I think I’m done with this subject for now. Oh, wait, no. I just had an idea; let me know what you think of this… what if every day I blogged (briefly, I promise) about what I have de-cluttered that day. Some days I could even make it interesting. It would be a sort of accountability to keep motivated, and if I come across some interesting junk, it might be fun to write about it before I ditch it. In a way it may be easier to let go of certain things, because if some things had a story, I could post a picture, write the story, and be able to preserve the memory. Because you know that’s why we hoarders like to keep things – it’s the memory attached to the thing – and it’s often super hard to let go. Yes, that’s what I will do. This will be my pre-moving project, to rid our lives of unnecessary clutter, and to share it here on the blog. Who’s with me?!?

Conquering the hoarding addiction?

Oh boy. We’ve been having a fun summer break so far, but it hasn’t been all play. I’m enforcing the “No Screentime Until” rules, most days, and it’s working fairly well. Luke has embraced it, because he is my child, and loves following a list. Natalie, on the other hand, moans and groans at it. Every. Single. Time. But I do realize she is only 5 years old, so I have lower expectations for her. The success with Luke more than makes up for it.

Here’s the thing… I am a recovering hoarder and I’m fairly certain that the tendency for hoarding is genetic. I have unfortunately passed this on to my children, and I am on a mission to reverse the effects and teach my kids early on to overcome it. So far this summer we’ve accomplished some MAJOR de-cluttering in this house. It’s been primarily in the kids’ rooms, but I’ve done my share in other areas too.

Last week we took everything out of Luke’s room and dumped it all on the living room rug. Then we cleaned his room and rearranged some furniture (at his request). Then Luke went through everything that was out in the living room, deciding what he wanted to keep and what he wanted to get rid of, keeping in mind that he could only keep what would fit comfortably back in his room. This was a huge job, folks, but he loved seeing the transformation in his room. And now he has easy access to the toys he uses most, and it’s so much easier for him to keep his room clean. He recognizes this new reality very clearly, which I think at age 8 is no small miracle.

The process worked so well for Luke,  a couple days later I tried it with Natalie. Did I mention she’s 5? Yeah, it didn’t go nearly as well with her, because as soon as she spotted a toy she hadn’t seen in awhile, she immediately wanted to play with it. So while she played, I sorted through her things, trashing obvious junk and sorting the rest into categories. She does well with categories, and does a decent job of keeping similar things together. I still have a few tubs/baskets of Natalie’s things to sort and organize, but we will get to it. Eventually. I’m just happy right now to be able to walk through her room to kiss her goodnight.

When all was said and done, we were able to donate a trunk full of toys to the kids’ pre-school, and several bags of clothing and assorted toys to the local recycling service (to be re-used). I am so proud of both of the kids, but especially Luke. He and I are so similar in so many ways, so I understand his struggles with keeping his room neat and parting with cherished items. I still remember my bedroom from high school days – it was a disaster – and I do not want him growing up with the same terrible habits.

I am 37 and have yet to really conquer my hoarding habits. I have come a long way, yes, but I still feel like I’m managing. They say an addict is always an addict, even if they’ve managed to stay clean (figuratively AND literally, in this case). The temptation and draw is always there. But these kids, they are still young, and they are still forming habits. Now is the time to instill the good habits, so that they grow up to be adults who will naturally pick up after themselves and say no to buying things they don’t need or have space for. Sound too neurotic? Maybe. But this is important, people! I am doing this for their future roommates and spouses! Someday, someone will thank me!!

I did not chuck it all

In reference to my previous post, I did not throw in the towel. I did not chuck it all and join the circus. Heck, I didn’t even stay home and get drunk. Turns out some good, quality sleep is all it took to snap me back to reality. Today I gladly accepted my responsibilities. I went to sleep by 11 pm, was up at 7 am with the kids, and only took an hour long nap during the day (which is not usually sufficient, but this time it was!). I got a lot accomplished on the homefront: sweeping, mopping, cleaning toilets, folding laundry. I even fed myself a decent lunch of fried eggs and toast, though I’m pretty sure I got egg yolk all over myself in the process of eating it. I fry my eggs over easy, and I can’t see colors well due to my vision loss. So, runny yolks folded up in my toast got messy. And I only know this because I felt it dripping. All. Over.

Anyhoo, I have been mixing my regular coffee grounds with decaf. I don’t want to go completely caffeine-free, but I do want to be able to drink more coffee and not have the crummy side effects. Caffeine is a diuretic, and we people with MS  have bladder issues as it is (97% I think I remember reading). So caffeine doesn’t help. Gradually switching to decaf – which is not entirely free of caffeine – seems to be a good alternative. This way I can have my coffee and drink it too. So far it has been a painless process, and I’m already noticing improvements, like the better quality sleep. I’m glad for the change. We’ll have to wait and see if it sticks.

Pastor gave a really good sermon (as usual) last Sunday, and I want to  write about it this week. Tomorrow’s looking good for that. For now it’s time to wind down and hit the hay!