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?

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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.

I Couldn’t Wait for the Kids to Come Home

imagesI was looking forward to Thanksgiving weekend so much! I couldn’t wait to have both my kids home, together. I cleaned their rooms, washed their sheets, polished their furniture.

I shopped for turkey, stuffing, potatoes and all the trimmings. I baked a pumpkin pie. I was so excited and the days dragged until the day before Thanksgiving finally arrived. First, my son came in at ten at night. He looked great! I fell asleep before the midnight flight that carried my daughter.

Thanksgiving day was a blast. I cooked a delicious dinner. We had grandpa over and after we ate, we laughed and talked as we walked around the neighborhood. My kids were in a great mood, and I loved being with them.IMG_2814

But, by Friday, I found myself constantly picking and cleaning up after them. I carried dishes and glasses from the kids’ bedrooms into the kitchen. The sink always had dishes stacked in it, no matter how often I loaded the dishwasher. My once lonely washing machine had a constant load.

I got tired. Wow! This taking care of family is a lot harder than I had remembered.

images-4My kids were busy. Not with me. My son had tons of reading and a paper to write. My daughter had homework to do also, but she was off every minute to visit friends.

My husband and I sat together, alone in the house.

I kind of felt like the cat. Olive is my daughter’s kitty. Olive was so excited to have her person home, she went on a wild spree of hunting, bringing in birds to my daughter’s bedroom. She even left her a bird in her suitcase. When Olive wasn’t hunting she was glued to my daughter’s side — when my daughter was home.

The weekend ended, the kids left. I sighed. My first Thanksgiving after three months of an empty nest was not what I expected. I am thankful for my family. But, I learned that it’s also nice to not have the day-to-day responsibility of cleaning and caring for kids.

And once again, Olive is content to hang out with me.IMG_6037

3 Things I Noticed About An Empty Nest


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Towels

Let’s start with towels. First off, we own too many of them. I gathered our towels into one room and separated the wheat from the chaff. I asked my son Robert if he needed any. I recall sending him off to college four years ago with a small set of matched towels. He’s survived with those two towels all this time? Plus, a beach towel of course — since he goes to UC Santa Barbara.

One of the most beautiful campuses ever. UCSB

One of the most beautiful campuses ever. UCSB

Eighteen towels and two dozen or so hand towels and washcloths sit on his bed, awaiting his return Thanksgiving weekend. These 18 towels didn’t make the cut to remain members of our family — unless they commit to being shredded into rags.

images-3The next thing I noticed about my towels is that I’m no longer washing them every time I turn around. Raising two swimmers as well as overly hygienically-conscious kids, I believe they went through four or five towels daily — each — which never got a second use. I no longer have to hear the thump, thump, thump of my washing machine doing a jig with the over-packed, heavy towel load.

images-5Groceries

Have I mentioned that I raised two swimmers? We joined the Piranha Swim Team around 1999. I honestly believe that having my kids involved in swimming was the single best thing we ever did as parents. Sure, the kids worked hard. Yes, it was a time commitment. But, I will repeat, it was the single best thing we ever did. You can find a lot of my articles about the benefits here and here and here. Read what my friend has to say about swimming here.

Robert and Kat a few years ago on photo day for the Piranha Swim Team.

Robert and Kat a few years ago on photo day for the Piranha Swim Team.

So, what does this fact have to do with groceries? Well, it means I bought a lot of them. All the time. Robert drank a half gallon of milk a day and a box of Cinnamon Life every two days. Kat could eat whatever she wanted and she liked my sole, chicken and dumplings, meatloaf, and brown medley rice. At least I think she did because I was always cooking and buying more groceries.

Life-Cinnamon-Detail.sflbToday, my refrigerator is bare and I rarely cook. There’s no reason to buy more than three items at a time at the grocery store. When I enter the store, I don’t need a cart. I use the little hand-held basket.

images-4Dishes

 I cannot seem to get a load of dishes to wash for the life of me. My sink is empty. My dishwasher sits bare and lonely.

I guess that’s what they make Thanksgiving weekend for.

This is a photo of Kat. She didn't want to be a ballerina. She wanted to swim!

Why Kat joined the swim team. “I don’t want to be a ballerina!”

7 Things I Miss About My Daughter Now that She’s in College

Kat at Carpinteria State Beach

Kat at Carpinteria State Beach

We took our daughter to college two weeks ago. She looks really happy in the photos posted on FB and Instagram. She’s made new friends, is enjoying her team and coaches -and likes her classes.

My life is busy with new and old projects. But, I notice a quiet, a sort of waiting sense, that I didn’t feel before. It’s the little things about her that I miss.

Kat swmming

Kat swimming

I miss her cracking my back. She could give me hug, tell me to relax and say, “One, two..” and lift me up in the air before she said three. The result was cracking, popping relief.

I miss her making me laugh. Kat is funny. I love her little half smile when she knows she’s especially clever. And the crinkles around her eyes when she laughs out loud.

I miss her cleaning out my wallet and organizing it for me. She’d say, “Mom your purse is gateway hoarding.”

I miss her walking through the kitchen door after her morning workout asking me to make her eggs. I don’t have anyone to make eggs for right now — except my husband and I — and we rarely eat them.

I miss her cat Olive walking on the skinny end of her four poster bed while she watched Netflix on my laptop.

Baby Olive Bear

Baby Olive

I miss when she was very young and called yellow “lallo.”  And when we’d go to the beach and she’d strip naked as soon as her suit got wet. I used to bring a bag full of swimsuits for her.

Kat in a dry suit at the beach with big brother Robert.

Kat in a dry suit at the beach with big brother Robert.

I miss going to the pool and watching practice, chatting with the other swim parents. That was a luxury that I took for granted.

Yes, I miss her.

What do you miss most about your kids?

Kat making an entrance into the room.

Kat making an entrance into the room.

1 Tip on How to Say Good-bye to Your College Student

University of Utah in Salt Lake City

University of Utah in Salt Lake City

Last week I wrote about 7 tips for parents on Move-In Day. At the end I wrote: “I made it through the day without tears–mostly. It was a long, busy and tiring day. When my husband and I stopped for lunch — alone — and I realized that we were truly alone — the tears ran down my cheeks. I wiped them off and prepared myself for battle for the next stop at Target. When, it’s time to say good-bye — well, I’ll tell you how that goes another time.”

Kat during our 6th trip to Target

Kat during our 6th trip to Target

So, how did it go when we said good-bye?

We had planned to stay until Sunday. Move-In day had been Thursday. We wanted to be around for a few days in case she needed us. She wanted us there on Thursday, but by Friday — not so much. It began to make sense for us to leave a day early. We didn’t want to hang out and wait to see if she wanted us around. It didn’t make us feel good and we weren’t enjoying ourselves exploring the city that much. We had a long drive ahead of us, too. So we went out for an early morning walk Saturday and talked about how we’d let her know that we felt it was time to leave.

She texted us at 7 a.m. Saturday. 

text from Kat

text from Kat

Okie dokie.

It was time to say good-bye. We walked on over to her dorm. I took a deep breath. I said a prayer to be strong.

“Do not cry. I can do this,” I repeated in my head.

She opened the door, I wanted to say something profound and loving. Something she’d remember — but I said nothing. My husband said a few things and I nodded my head.

I opened my mouth, my voice cracked and wavered. At this point I cannot remember what I was trying to say.

“Mom! Mom! Stop it!” she said. “Don’t!”

She held my face in her hands, like I was the child. “It’s going to be okay.”

A view  during our walk on campus

A view during our walk on campus

Tip 1:  Make it short and quick.

Bill and I walked out of her room into the bright cool air that is Utah. We walked all over campus for two hours and I felt much better — amazed at what a strong beautiful woman we had raised.

Sage Point dorms at U of U

Sage Point dorms at U of U, the athlete housing for Winter Olympics 2002.

Here’s an update:

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