Archive for the ‘Big Green Spring Clean’ Category

Buy Nothing: Ordinarily on a day like this–rainy Sunday where I was up before the sun with calamity and chaos, that is–I would do my damnedest to justify buying something.  And the temptation is here, trust me.  I have gotten thisclose to ordering some used books for Lucy.  The thing is, as soon as the house emerges from the pall of sick, I’m getting us signed up for a library card (I signed up online last year but managed to not activate the card within the, what, 90 day window I had) and it is totally ludicrous to buy books when it will be quicker to check them out of the library.

I don’t even need to analyze why I have such a strong desire to shop–it’s a gray day, I was up early with poop and nosebleeds and coughing children, the apartment is trashed from focusing on the kids yesterday and sitting on my butt with C watching The Departed last night and I’d rather feel like I’m doing something nice for my family by buying something for us than by getting back on track with the clutter, I kept Chico home from the museum on Friday and I feel like I missed out on my weekly treat.  If I don’t get myself into a project and off of the computer, my wonderful brain will come up with some justification for making a purchase.

Decluttering:  It looks like the Cut the Crap challenge is ending this week.  Which means I have fallen quite short of my personal goals, mostly because my efforts totally petered out last week.  I’ve gotten a lot done, though, and in the areas I used to dread the most.  I have sent out 2 boxes of books, 4-5 of toys, 2 bags of clothes, a huge box of cloth diapering stuff and baby stuff, 2 boxes of gifts that sat in my foyer from before Christmas, the baby swing.  Going later in May will be the co-sleeper and bouncy chair, infant car seat and car seat carrier plus likely another bag of kids clothes, a bag of curtains that are barely used, and all of my size 5 shoes since I my feet grew while pregnant.  There is a box (half full, I’m still working on it) of random picture frames and throw pillows and other ‘decorative objects.’  I have sorted through all of our spice racks and moved them off of the counter.  Lucy’s desk is sorted into inboxes–drawings to finish, blank paper, notebooks, and drawings to give away.  Markers are with markers, crayons with crayons, and pencils with pencils.  There is a workspace.  I went through my file drawer and took everything out of envelopes, unfolded it so it takes up less space, and got rid of all unnecessary paperwork, including sorting through the warranty/manual folder and removing anything we don’t need or no longer own.  And most remarkably, I cleared an entire shelf in Lucy’s closet, unpacking toys Chico will use in the next 6 months and putting them in a basket where we can reach them.  Lucy bagged up some of her stuffed animals to donate.  And I threw in some of my old ones as well.  I ate through some of our less practical and older stored food–a little can of mixed veggies, another of peaches and the boil-in-bag rice we got when Lucy was Chico’s age.  We mixed 2 half-empty boxes of pasta together for dinner one night and discovered 2 opened bags of dried lentils which we fit into the lentil canister.  Now I need to make a pot of soup to use up some of the tomato paste and  the little carton of veggie stock.  Then we’ll have room to store some more practical foods.

There is a lot still to do, most notably my closet, C’s and the hall closet.  I’m hoping to get to my closet tomorrow, though.  It’s a big PITA to empty everything out when so much is going back in, but I need to get it back to keepsies on one side, givesies on the other 🙂

I’m about half of the way through the box of crap from the final junk drawer and would like to have it finished today so that I can get Lucy’s living room toys separated from Chico’s.  Blah blah blah laundry, dishes, trash, recycling, water seedlings, water more seedlings, there are more seedlings  to water.

Growing Challenge: Sometimes I look at the table and wonder why the hell I thought it would be a good idea to grow so many things.  Mostly I’m excited, but it’s a lot of stuff.  Only the chives, parsley, onions and lavender haven’t germinated.  I remember last year being somewhere between freaked out and excited at the prospect of growing food on the balcony; this is a similar feeling but not nearly as dire.  I think it helped that we grew marigolds from seed last year so I knew I could do it.  I have this total fear of getting the seedlings planted and having them all die.  I try to tell myself it’s all about learning how to be more self-sufficient and I can always buy plants if these fail, but I hate when things don’t work out.  Honestly, the goal really is to grow some of our own food, not to become a master gardener person.  Still I have this fantasy of a balcony full of pots overflowing with veggies.  And seed saving.  I’m really into the idea of seed saving.

Riot For Austerity: I have been bad and haven’t tracked anything but spending and I can estimate food.  I’m going to use March’s numbers for everything else, and then May will be the big push to have a 90% reduction month in as many areas as possible.  I’ll even guesstimate water usage and we’ll use our old natural gas bills from the old apartment to estimate that just for accuracy’s sake.  I’m still hoping to get to the greenmarket in May.  If nothing else, I’d love to get us switched from plastic milk bottles to refillable glass.  It’s just tough carrying a full bag while wearing Chico, but I think I can do it once a week.  We’ve also finally cut out almost all packaged frozen foods, and since finding Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese, I can honestly say I can live without dairy.  I’m not ready to give up poultry or fish yet, though.  Also, I still need Fresh Direct for laundry detergent for now, but this week’s order is the last for a while.  That’s several fewer cardboard boxes a week, which translates to 3-4 lbs if they aren’t reused.  After the big changes of last year, we’re back to baby steps.  I’d like to cut out paper towels even though most end up in the worm bin.  I’m toying with the idea of a second worm bin because we’ve so many worms and so many food scraps–we could have one fallow while the other was in use.  I air dried sheets last week for the first time, proving it can be done pretty easily.  Mostly I want to get our food to mostly local and bulk, because it’s getting more important than ever.  The other ‘mostly’ is consumer spending, but I’m working on that.  The thing I’ve enjoyed most about Rioting is how much it has made me think, whether it’s as simple as doing dishes and hanging laundry making me take time to slow down or as complex as isolating the ways in which I convince myself to buy things I could do without or get used.

And so we come full circle.  Don’t buy things you don’t need; get rid of the things you already bought that you don’t need; if you don’t buy things you don’t need, you won’t throw as much away.  Know where your things come from, be it food or goods, and know why they’ve come to you.  The key word for me when I started last year was ‘mindful.’  I think I have become more mindful in the past year, and I think I have also been able to let myself shut off my  mind a little bit more than before.  This is the best part.

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I was awakened by a little man stroking my cheek and making cooey noises on one side and a big girl on the other asking to cuddle with her brother.  I gave her my place in bed and headed to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee and pack lunch.   The kitchen is littered with the remnants of last night’s dinner, the living room with baby toys and Lucy’s breakfast, and her room is, well, trashed.  Normally these things would have me set right on edge and growling at everyone, but for some reason, today it is ok.  Do you know why?

Because underneath yesterday’s detritus lying around?  Clear and clean.  On each surface I have cleared I can tell you exactly when each item was taken out and left there, and why.  I know it will only take me a few minutes to get everything put away because I know where it all goes.  This.totally.rocks.

Last night I took the night off.  I sat on the couch with Chico and watched part of the Cubs game, the Mary Tyler Moore show, and some other crap.  I nuked a Boca fake chicken patty for dinner and drank Sprite.  I lounged, I vegged, and I had a little whine about how much I’ve been doing and how I want to be done.  It’s funny, though, because I really don’t think I want to be done.  I just needed to have an itty bitty pity party.  So I thought about why this may be happening, and I realized why.  My MIL has been after me since last month to pick out some clothes for her to get the kids for summer.  My SIL had picked out a bunch for her kids (they live in Florida and are already in summer stuff) so she wanted to keep things even.  Which is incredibly sweet, but as I’ve written, I’d planned on getting stuff for Chico at Goodwill  (we do get SPF stuff for Lucy because she’s super-pale like I am.)  Anyway, I chose an SPF outfit for Lucy and another for Chico.  And then I picked out some shorts for Lucy, and a few outfits for Chico.   And then I thought nothing of it.  This was a pre-planned purchase, most of the clothes were organic cotton, and all will be handed down to my SIL when the kids have outgrown them.

The thing is, though, I do feel guilty.  Even though everything will be passed along, Lucy doesn’t need new shorts to get grubby, and Chico is through sizes every two months.  My SIL is getting new clothes for her kids on top of the hand-me-downs so there is still an inherent manufacturing cost to the environment.  This whole exercise is just a way to justify buying new stuff, and now I feel really guilty about it.  I was had I tells ya!

So now that I have figured this out I’m feeling much less like it’s a total losing battle.  I just have to  remember to look at purchases from all angles rather than straight on.  Sigh.  I have to remind myself that I’ve still done incredibly well on the Buy Nothing Challenge in comparison to what I would have spent.  When you take shopping off the table as a time-filling activity, you’re forced to come up with other things to do and those things are so much more rewarding!  Not to mention that when you aren’t bringing new stuff into a space, it’s easier to look at what you already have and determine if you really want to keep it.

I started looking at my bookcases over the weekend after realizing that they had collected things I wasn’t really in love with.  Like my use of passive voice there?  It was the bookcase’s fault, not mine!  Anyway, I have some pictures I framed and threw up on a shelf that commemorate things I’m not so fond of–one was taken during a particularly trying period in my childhood and another is of my father (holy baggage) that I had put up because I felt like I should have a picture of him displayed.  Those are coming down.  I have two framed pictures of Lucy’s sonogram in the foyer, one large and one small.  The little one is coming down as well.   I have several baby pictures of Lucy up, but none of Chico.  One photo of the two of them should do nicely.  The shot glass my ex-boss brought me from Mexico?  Don’t need it.  The bottle of linen water?   Will I ever use it or is it just pretty?  I barely even look at the shelves anymore, and if I really loved my displays I would.

And the one extra thing I’m doing today?  Still no idea.  It’ll come to me.  Maybe Lucy and I will have an electricity-free hour tonight.  Maybe I’ll get after C to hook up the Smart Strips.  And maybe we’ll do a little more ‘letting it mellow’ for good measure.  We may even eat dinner out on the balcony if it isn’t too chilly.  And maybe we’ll do that one thing again tomorrow, and it might become a habit, and in a month it may seem as though we’ve always been doing it.  That’s how it happens, you know.

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First and foremost, I did not buy anything last week!  Huzzah!

On the cleaning front–the balcony is almost finished.  It doesn’t look as fantastic as I’d like because there are still a ton of empty pots all over the place while we see how many seedlings we get.  Still, the rug is swept, the new oilcloth is on the table, and the trash is gone.  Lucy and I worked for several hours yesterday, and boy does it feel good to be thisclose to being done.  Tomorrow will be picture post day.

On the clutter clearing front–Lucy’s closet is sorted.  I have an entire empty shelf in there now, and the last big tasks are returning book jackets to their books and putting away the last few things (craft stuff, a blow-up baseball bat and the manual for the co-sleeper.)  I have a new box of baby stuff started.

Hey, speaking of baby stuff.  My MIL bought a bunch of Avent bottles while I was in the hospital despite my specific instructions that we were not using anything with BPA.  I finally cleared them out of the kitchen on Thursday, but I’m not sure what to do with them.  I don’t want to donate them and risk exposing another baby to BPA, but I don’t want to store them in hopes somebody someday organizes a recall.  Any suggestions?

As of today we have one strawberry sprout (teeny) and a bunch of basil sprouting.  This is ridiculously exciting.  I can’t wait for everything to be big enough to plant!  And, of course, to eat!  Exclamation Point!

And last, today we are tackling Lucy’s desk.  I’ll have to get a before picture because it is exactly what you’d expect the desk of a very creative preschooler to be–buried under 2 feet of drawings and workbooks and other sundry nonsense.  We sorted through her stuffed animals last week and she designated a handful to be donated, so afterwards I went to Bat Conservation International and let her pick out a bat to adopt.  When I told her we were going to sort through her desk and get it organized, she asked me if we could go back and give more money to help the bats.   I am so proud.  Instead, though, we’re going to donate to the shelter where we got Bean.  One of the best things about not shopping is that when I want to treat Lucy, I’m not even tempted to go pick something up that will I will likely end up tripping over every morning.  And donating just feels good.  I’m so thankful Lucy is learning that it feels as good to help others as it does to get something new.

Please send good clearing/organizing vibes–after Lucy’s desk and the last bits of the kitchen (pantry-not-used-for-food cleaning and cabinet-used-as-pantry eating through the less practical stored items so that we can fit in the practical ones (which should actually happen today) it’s on to my closet and the hall storage closet.  The upside is that I’ll be able to get to my sewing machine to take it for repair.  The downside is all of the other stuff in there–holiday decorations mostly, and some baskets and then wrapping and shipping materials like gift boxes, packing peanuts and bubble wrap, gift bags.  I’m going to have to pull everything out and sort, and I’m both dreading and totally excited at the prospect.  I do these closets twice a year but they always get loaded back up with crap.  I’m hoping this time they’ll stay clear.  It’s been much easier  to keep my other spaces clear and organized this time around so hopefully this track record extends to the closets.

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Chile’s new area of the Cut the Crap challenge is the kitchen.  Now, I had a good clear-out of my kitchen in October so I’m ok on cabinet space.  What I am not ok on is counter space.  I give you exhibits A and B:

These are my counters.  All both of them.  This is what I’m currently working on–cleaning, organizing, getting rid of.  Thus far I have hung a wall-mounted spice rack and dumped/washed out more expired spice jars than I care to admit.  The glass ones will be reused, plastics go to Lucy for pretend cooking.  I am attempting to eat through the foods in the pantry-cabinet (our real pantry is makeshift cleaning product/cat litter/fancy stuff storage plus a towering pile of plastic take-out containers I’m slowly finding reuses for.  Towering.  Seriously.

I’m hoping to finish today, if el hombre Chico cooperates.  Last night Lucy made him laugh so hard and for so long that he collapsed in tears and passed out without even nursing for 2 hours.  It was heartwarming up to the meltdown, after which I found myself instantly transported back to those days of early infancy when I found myself incapable of soothing him.  Still, it was so worth it to see my kids cracking each other up while I watched from the kitchen.

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I did take Chico to the museum yesterday, and he did enjoy the Jasper Johns exhibit. In fact, he squealed at the first painting, whipped his head around to look at several others, and finally lost it close to the end and had to be whisked to the Courbet exhibit to nurse. Vigorously. He was pretty cranky for a bit, but settled down in time to come home. The downtown 6 wasn’t running so we hoofed it 14 blocks to the F. I could barely stand upright by the time we got home but miraculously, am fine this morning. Which is good because today is another outing.

After that, it’s back home to make necklaces for Lucy’s friends, who are having a birthday party tomorrow. I’ll have to face down my phone-terror again to find out the details. And then I have to launder a batch of diapers so that they are dry tomorrow. And then my MIL is dropping off Lucy’s old Exersaucer for Chico. There is a large pile of dishes in the sink from dinner Thursday and last night. There is baby detritus strewn about the living room. I have not decluttered, nor cleaned, a single item since Thursday. And, frankly, I’m feeling a bit down about it. I like momentum, and I like forward movement. I get very angry with myself when I feel like I’ve been slacking, even though intellectually I know it’s important for me to get out of the house and for the baby to be exposed to new things to look at (I’m not, despite how I may sound, turning into one of those NYC parents who think my 5 month old needs exposure to great works of art and music to get into a proper school; I just like looking at art and taking the baby places with Lucy.)

Sigh. I wish I could believe myself when I say that the house will always look torn up because we have 2 kids, 2 cats, and other shit to do but I still cringe every morning when I walk out and see stuff everywhere.

With that, I’m off to get things picked up and figure out what I’m going to wear. And Lucy. And Chico who has no pants that fit because he won’t stop going through a clothing size every two months. Goodwill on Monday if it’s the last thing I do!


On a side note, I walked Chico through the Museum store yesterday and came to a realization. There is a lot in there that I really like, that is attractive, and I would probably have bought a couple of little things for Lucy a month ago. In light of the Buy Nothing challenge, though, I was able to really think about why I would buy something. Sure, I like getting new things for Lucy because I love her and I love to feed her mind. But we are drowning in ‘educational’ toys. There are many really cool things at the museum store, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I want them in my house. This last part is such a huge deal because for years I have been picking up things for Lucy and then wondering why we have so much crap lying around. And I always blamed it on other people buying so many gifts for her because hello? I’m her mom. I get to buy stuff. It’s not the workbooks I bought her, it’s the ones her grandmother sent home with her. It’s not the picnic set I bought, it’s the one she got from school. Its not the million and a half stuffed animals her father and I have picked out for her, it’s the six rabbits my grandmother sent up because they were so cute together.

I had a talk with the MIL about not buying and Affluenza and decluttering on Thursday, and interestingly enough, she’s also going through a getting rid of period. She’s recognized that she has also contributed to the amount of stuff we have around here and is not bringing anything by. It’s a huge thing for her since, like me, she likes to show she cares by gifting. It’s tougher than it should be to recognize that the best gift is always an experience shared. It’s fun to get gifts and all, but memories are nicer.

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Two boxes of books on the way out tomorrow–donated to a library on LI.  A bag of Lucy’s old clothes to the granddaughter a woman my MIL knows.  Three boxes of toys to store at my MIL–deferred decluttering since the baby toys will go when they come back.  I did in fact bribe Lucy with a new Sigg bottle to send out her old Megabloks, so I’ll be hanging out in the confessional come Sunday.  It’s all good though–another load of plastic out of my house!

And!  yesterday I dug into the grease on the window by the stove and got so excited I did the cabinets and top of refrigerator as well as the part between the floor and lower cabinets.  I highly recommend Sun and Earth cleaner.  It made short work of a chore I’ve been dreading for months.  I still have a bit more to do above the window (hey, I’m short!) but it’s already looking much better.  It feels really good to chip away at my long-term to-do list.

Lastly, we’re starting our seeds, finally.  I’m hoping we’ll be ok starting this late.  Bean knocked a pile of stuff off of the heater (hello, maybe I should pu it away, eh?) onto the mesclun so I’ve got some smooshed sprouts.  It’s like vegetable Darwinism.

And for those of you reading this who don’t particularly care about my crap, I give you baby!

And Lucy dyeing eggs for good measure.  Because even Easter is sp00ky ’round these parts!

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check it out!  this is what I’ve been doing this weekend:

I cleaned off the granite:



I mostly got my nightstand under control:

I accidentally deleted the before picture but trust me, it was heinous and involved everything from Gautier perfume to a rubber squid.

Dresser?  Check!



and tackled 3 of my four junk drawers:

and from those drawers, I ended up with:

A shopping bag full of paper to be torn up for the worms!

It seemed like so much more work before I started.  Two of the junk drawers were boxed up, moved, and then unpacked back into the drawers.  This means I’m coming to the heavy-duty decluttering, though–closets.  It will be good to have it done though!

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As promised, here is my big ‘I have to get stuff done’ post. Namely, while I was pregnant and subsequently early post-partum and then with the meningitis and the other folks cleaning my apartment, things got seriously out of hand. Part is because we truly do have way too much stuff. Part is because it’s really hard for strangers to know all of the hidey-holes one uses. And so I’ve been cringing whenever my gaze falls upon certain troubled areas in the apartment. Well, folks, this is where (and when) I get started taking care of these spots. Later today, after Francis’ doc checkup, I will take pictures of said areas because the only way I’ll actually keep on track is if I have to show as well as tell. Plus it will remind me of what I’ve done after it’s over and I’m complaining about getting nothing done 😉

The first half of this list deals with areas where there is just so much stuff that needs put away that I can’t even seem to get started. Mixed in are actual cleaning tasks that my cleaning woman doesn’t do and quite frankly, I don’t feel comfortable asking her to because she already does so much, because they don’t bother anybody but me, and because I actually like cleaning. These are what I would consider once or twice yearly cleanings. Lastly, there is the list of places that need sorted and either donated or trashed. Junk drawers, closets, etc. The heavy duty clutter-clearing. I’m going to start with the first list today, with pictures to follow as I actually tackle each area.

  1. My nightstand–a mishmosh of Lucy toys, cloth wipes and diaper covers, and various sundry crap. A good, small space to start with which will be rewarding to finish.
  2. My dresser–this was the receptacle of piles of miscellanea while I was in the hospital. All of my display items were piled on top of each other to make room for the crap. I almost cried when I saw it. A prime example of how differently two people can look at a space.
  3. The big bookcases in the foyer–for some reason this is where I put things to do. There is wool to be washed with lanolin soap, print cartridges to be recycled, a spice rack to be hung. Bad mojo for this stuff to be the first thing you see when you get inside.
  4. Oh, my granite counter tops in the living room–this is where papers go to die. Throw in some video game cases, dead batteries, live batteries, and huge accordion folders of filing and ugh. The view from the couch, and it nags me constantly. I just can’t seem to keep it cleared off
  5. The kitchen counter–see spice rack to be hung and raise a corner full of random crap. RC battery packs, matchbooks, a dry erase pen, and heaven knows what else. We only have 2 counters, so to lose 8″ x 36″ of workspace from a 24″ x 36″ counter is a huge deal.
  6. The first cleaning task–our kitchen window is adjacent to the stove and thus the frame is spattered with grease and some muck. It is in the corners of the frame, and it has been cleaned, but not chiseled off. Plus there are these ugly brown spots over the window, and I have no idea what they are, but I was horribly disappointed to come home to find them still there. Example two of how different people are bothered by different things.
  7. Taking Lucy’s artwork off of the kitchen cabinets and scrubbing them. Small kitchen, proximity to stove, grease. Plus it’s time to make room for new artwork to display.
  8. The balcony–as ex-smokers , our balcony is pretty gross. There is still a trash bag of butts out there (didn’t want to handle it while I was pregnant.) The rug needs swept. There are dead plants to be made into ‘worm salad’ as Lucy calls it. The chairs need scrubbed and a table needs moved to make room for the tomato planter. And I got a fancy new oilcloth for each table!
  9. The ‘pantry’–I put this in quotes because we keep no food in it. This is where we keep cleaning supplies, the cat litter box, and some non-food items. I cleaned it out last fall, but it needs washed. There is cat litter dust in all corners from before we switched to Feline Pine. There is regular dust. There are some things I can probably get rid of, like an extra bucket, an old humidifier, a Swiffer Wet mop thingie. Mop floor, dust shelves, thank goodness for dust-free litter. Next!
  10. I wish I had thought of this before I committed to buy nothing for April because I’d really like to saddle soap our nightstands. Anyone have some saddle soap they can loan me for a day? I’ll have to look around for a homemade method of cleaning leather. There has to be one, right?

I will take pictures of these tonight but I can’t promise when I will actually get them posted. I’m still proofing the report and I have day-to-day stuff to get done in between that and the doctor. I’ll even have pictures of my decluttering crisis spots for my next list so that you can see what I’m up against! Wish me big luck.

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The Big Green Spring Clean.  With before and after pictures to come.  Oh, am I ever excited!

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