Staying On Track When You’re Overwhelmed

IMG_0140Do you ever wonder why sometimes life is slow and easy and then bam! We get overwhelmed with everything that has to be done at the same time? I’m feeling that way today. I’ve made it through days of cleaning and cooking for our Christmas crowd, reclaiming my house by washing sheets, towels and putting away the decorations.

Now the New Year is flying by. I’ve got lots of work to do and am trying to take a deep breath before I freak out. Here are a few of my secrets to keep me calm and on track:

ROUTINE

I try not to mess with my established routine. For going on six years, I have followed Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” and it’s served me well. I start the day with three pages of journaling, a long walk and prayer. Even when I’ve got tight deadlines or a crazy schedule, there’s no way I’ll cheat myself of this time to get my head and body refreshed and ready for the day.

SWIM

Exercise is so important to staying stress free and to keep your mind clear. Unfortunately I have let go of swim practice when I’m too busy. It’s my New Year’s Resolution to be consistent with three practices a week. I’ve got a good start to January and I’m not going to blow it now.

PRIORITIZE and ORGANIZE

Figure out exactly what you need to get done and let go of the other stuff. When I’m juggling a bunch of projects at once, I figure out what is most important. If I do the harder tasks or work I don’t want to do first, the rest is easy. Getting the clutter out of the way helps, too. My daughter is big on color coding her work and putting it on a white board or calendar. I’m going to try color folders for each of my projects so I’m not searching through papers on my desk.

WORK AHEAD

When I have a few minutes of free time, I work ahead. Last week I was waiting on work, so instead of surfing the internet and reading news online, I made a list of everything I needed to get done for this week — and jumped in on it. Lists are my saving grace. I start each day with a list of to dos and work my way through the day. Then, I make a list for the next day, and start in on that, too.

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Views from my morning walk.

What are your methods to stay on track and focused when you’re crazy busy?

Santa in the park for the dogs

 

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The view from our park.

Our neighborhood park is an integral part of my life. I take at least one walk around the park every day, enjoying the gorgeous views of Mt. San Jacinto. I’ve walked countless miles around the park for years.

When the kids were young, I’d meet several other moms at the park and we’d sit on blankets on the grass while we watched our kids swing, climb and slide. The park is where we’d go when our kids would get some sort of flying gift like a simple glider, kite or a remote control plane or rocket. When the kids had friends over, they’d go to the park to play ultimate frisbee.

Two years ago on Christmas break my daughter was home with her 16-month-old pug Waffles. It was during that break that I learned something new about our park. It’s a great place to meet other dog owners. In fact, we found a group who gather in the afternoons and let their little dogs play together. Waffles, who is not at all shy, was trying to take over the group and loves chasing and being chased.

 

I’m not sure he’s all that welcome in this exclusive club, except by the two lady pugs, Mona and Sadie. The highlight yesterday was a surprise visit by Santa. Waffles, who thinks he’s a media star, thought all the pictures with Santa should include him. My daughter had to pull him out of other puppy pics more than once.

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Waffles with Santa at the park.

This year, my daughter and pug are home again for Christmas. I’ve been walking Waffles to the park early in the morning to play with some big dogs and meeting up with the 4 p.m. little dog group, too. The people are friendly but without having a dog in tow, I rarely stop to say hi. This week, I get to be in their exclusive group have have been invited in their circle.

Today, I discovered someone decorated our park with style! They covered three park benches with Christmas joy. Nobody knows who is responsible, but we all appreciate it.

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I’m grateful for our park and the daily joy it gives me.

Do you have a special outdoor place in your life?

 

Is it time to say good-bye to our beloved home?

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Our kids in the back yard.

It’s been an exhausting few weeks. I’ve been going through 27 years of stuff we’ve collected, had three rooms painted and interviewed several realtors. We aren’t planning on moving right away, but we realize it is time to get started on fixing up the house in case we sell. If we decide to stay, we’ll enjoy our house with a fresh coat of paint and years worth of stuff sorted through and hauled off.

Despite the physical work involved, I think what’s most tiring is inviting realtors into my home. Hearing from them that our home isn’t quite worth what Zillow says — followed by the emotions of being told our house will probably be a total gut and remodel by a prospective buyer.

 

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My bathroom sink.

We were looking for suggestions on what to improve and upgrade to get optimum money for our house. We interviewed more than one realtor this weekend and the consensus was “Unless you’re willing to spend more than two hundred thousand dollars in improvements, let this be someone else’s project.”

A few hundred thousand dollars? What about a coat of paint? And a few repairs? Huh?

We heard we have a “beautiful view” and our house has “good bones.” The new people will see our house as a “blank canvas and want to create their own painting.”

IMG_9404Being told your home of 27 years is filled with charm and character, but someone is going to rip everything apart to make it livable, is like someone telling you your child is horrendously ugly. We moved in when I was pregnant with our first child and the home is filled with memories of birthday parties, Christmas, swim friends, nights of homework and family dinners. All of our years together as family were in this home. We love our house and letting go is going to be hard. I think the emotional break up with my home makes me more tired than the physical labor involved in the process — or a hike up the tram road.

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In my master bedroom with my daughter.

 

 

How have you felt after moving from the house you were emotionally attached to? Any suggestions on how to handle the transition?

 

 

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My son peeking out his bedroom door.

 

Now that the summer is over….

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My daughter and Waffles at home this weekend.

My world is a little less crazy in September than it was in August. Of course, it’s only September 2nd. But, I haven’t left our desert in more than a week. The last two weeks of August, I trekked from Palm Springs to Santa Barbara to Phoenix—and my daughter and husband threw in a trip to Salt Lake City in between.

I was supposed to help my daughter set up her new home in Arizona this Labor Day weekend, but after my husband’s shoulder surgery Tuesday, I postponed my trip. A friend lectured me about leaving my husband alone after surgery. She said that my daughter should drive home to help us out—not me drive to see her. “After all, the new house isn’t going anywhere, she can get by with slowly unpacking, and you can help her at a later date,” she said. My husband did need attention, just a little, and my daughter happily agreed to come home for the weekend.

It’s only a short drive from the Phoenix area to Palm Springs. Four hours to be exact on one freeway—“the 10.” In So Cal, we say “the” in front of every highway. They don’t do that in NorCal or Washington, where I grew up.

My son lived four hours away in Santa Barbara, which is in the opposite direction of Arizona. In the words of a native Southern Californian to drive from Palm Springs to UCSB, “you take the 10 to the 210 to the 118 to the 23 to the 101.” I feel so much more comfortable with the drive to Arizona on “the 10.” Period. Except for the big trucks, which I don’t like, it’s a one-shot deal. I hope to get there soon to help her set up her new home.

I’m also anxious to get a fresh start to the fall. I’m relieved we made it through so many hurdles. Vacation, the move, the surgery, etc. are all behind us in the rearview mirror. It’s time to look ahead.

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Olive the cat seems to have survived another few days with Waffles.

What do you think about the end of summer and the start of fall?

Less stuff and lighter in spirit

 

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I found these iphones 4, 5, and 6 plus chargers in a drawer.

We moved into this house 25 years ago this month. I have a few areas of the house I like to call “hot spots.” You know, the places where things fill up with stuff you don’t know what to do with. Our closet was definitely one of those hot spots. This weekend my husband and I decided to clear out the closet so we can do some remodeling.

One of my friends warned me when I told her we were getting ready to clean out our master bedroom walk-in closet. “You know what happens when you do that,” she said. “It never stops. You’re going to start a whole house-wide cleaning.”

I bought several clothing racks and we moved our clothes we decided to keep in the guest room—until construction is done. It’s amazing how much easier it is to see what you own and what you want to keep when it’s hanging neatly in the light of day, and not tucked away in a dark closet.

On Saturday, eight hours later with tired, sore back and legs. I was done. I can’t believe the amount of clothing I had stuffed into that closet. We made several trips to the closest Angel View Thrift Shop with our old clothes. Why is it hard to get rid of stuff? It seems exhausting because every item forces a decision. If way back in your closet, clothes are gathering dust, it’s probably a clue to let things go. I feel like I could have thrown out much more than I did and maybe I will.

The excitement on Saturday got me going on the drawers on each side of my sink Sunday morning. Then, I went into the bathroom shelves. There’s no end in sight to all the fun I can have. I still have my kids rooms to go through, too. Whenever they visit, I try to get them to throw their belongings out that they chose to leave behind. They never get around to it, though. I think I’d feel 20 pounds lighter in spirit to go from room to room clearing out all their junk.

We have way too much stuff. It feels so good to let it go. Once you start throwing things out and have made a few tough decisions, it gets easier. Just throw it out and I promise you, you won’t miss a single thing.

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Our casa where we raised our kids.

 

How often do you throw things out and clean out closets? Do you feel a sense of freedom by lightening your load?

Is it worth it to DIY? Or, how I almost burned the house down…

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A burst of creativity.

A friend told me the other day, “You could do that yourself.”

I was asking her if she knew anyone who could refinish my butcher block countertops. I hadn’t thought about doing it myself for more than a fleeting moment. Could I? I watched a youtube and called her back.

“I think I could do it myself, but I don’t have the power sanders. I’d have to buy them and all the other stuff—and if I did that, I might as well hire someone else to do it.”

“I have sanders and I’ll loan them to you,” she replied.

That settled it. I decided to go for the first of about 20 trips to our local hardware store and start the process assembling things to begin stripping, sanding, staining and lacquering my kitchen counters. We have a small kitchen, so the project didn’t look too overwhelming–when I began.

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All finished!

It was more work than I expected, I admit. Many trips to the hardware store—“where everyone knows my name…” Yes, they were calling me by my first and last name after a few days and it reminded me of this song from Cheers:

“Where everybody knows your name
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
the troubles are all the same.
you wanna be where everybody knows your name…”

The problem started when I asked my husband for help. I nagged him into adding a second coat of stain one night after he came home from work. Bad idea. 

The next morning we woke up to a gooey mess. The first coat of stain apparently didn’t dry all the way, and the second coat didn’t soak in–and he didn’t know that you ‘brush it on against the grain and wipe it off with the grain.’

Thank goodness for Google. I found numerous youtubes and sites on how to fix it—or basically start over. I needed to find something called “mineral spirits” to wipe off the mess and then re-sand. My buddies at the hardware store informed me that mineral spirits are illegal in our area and they sold me some paint thinner.

In the garage, I had been practicing each step on an old nightstand of my husband’s grandmother. 

Here’s the biggest mistake I made in the process:

I tossed a pile of rags soaked with paint thinner on the old nightstand.

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The next day, I could smell a faint burning odor like a distant fire. I was done with my counters and I began to put away my supplies. I thought, I need to throw away those old rags. Lo and behold there were no rags! Instead was a pile of charcoal that reminded me of the “snakes” we’d get for 4th of July when I was a kid. Also, there was a long metal object on top, which I finally recognized as a large flathead screwdriver without a trace of its hard plastic handle. I had used it to open the can of stain. After I removed the black charcoal smoldering rags I poured water on the smoldering nightstand, which was by the way, directly under the dry rough wood of the garage.

I almost burnt the house down—by doing a simple DIY project. Who knew that rags soaked in paint thinner could combust? Not me.

My next project, after the kitchen counters, was to salvage the nightstand. After all, it had belonged to Granny. Except for a little lingering smell of charcoal, I think it’s a keeper.

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Working on the Guest Room as the Guests Arrive: A Horror Story of a Small Remodel Job

A finished guest room I  had envisioned.

A finished guest room I had envisioned.

We started a remodel over a month ago. We told the contractor that we needed the guest room done, finished, completed no later than March 10th.

WELL. It’s March 12th and it’s not done. The guests arrive for spring break mañana.

Not that I’m stressing or anything. YIKES!!!!

The room today with guests on their way.

The room today with guests on their way.

It was a simple job really, too small I guess for a contractor to take seriously — sprucing up one room with attached bath. They said, “no problem.” They started off with gusto, a handful of workers spending from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. working away.

I believed that the work would be done. I was excited and happy.

Then there was no one showing up. For days on end.

What’s with that? I have guests arriving tomorrow, and we’ve seen neither “hide nor hair” of workers — except for two separate, brief occasions.

One was to paint the gorgeous wood beams, which my husband (who has absolutely no taste whatsoever — except for his taste in women) had determined needed to be a deep chocolate brown rather than left alone in their natural beautiful state.

He didn’t take into account that the French doors and ceiling fans were a natural color — and they all matched perfectly!

The beams in the natural glory.

The beams in natural glory.

The other occasion we’ve seen a worker was when one came back to undo the chocolate brown and try to return the natural wood to a close resemblance of it’s former self.

Natural wood beams painted chocolate brown. Seriously?

Natural wood beams painted chocolate brown. Seriously?

Honestly, after this experience, I wonder how married couples make it through remodels. I refuse to update my kitchen.

As for the houseguests, I guess we will have to make do with things the way they are, and I have to relax about it.

I've got some cleaning to do.

I’ve got some cleaning to do.