The Home Stretch

Today I am on the last stretch to organizing and completing the cubby hole task. It’s been quite the long-winded venture, and for the most part I’m accomplished a heavy hearty burden that’s been a long time in the making. Phew, feels good. Have to finish first though 🙂 Thanks to my beautiful hubby for all his help and encouragement. Without him, it would have been a more monolithic task than I could have ever imagined or accomplished!

 

“Whatever you can do, or dream, you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
~ Goethe

 

A Dirty Job

It’s really been an interesting few weeks watching the interaction between Harley the farm tabby cat and the two new girl puppies, Barbie and Bailey (a Jack Russell and Australian Blue Heeler mix). The dogs stay in a caged pen at night but have the run of the farm during the day. Harley the feline has a box by the front door that he sleeps in. But over the past week, the dogs have adopted his home as their puppy home when not caged. The rivalry is hilarious. Lots of hissing, yipping, jumping and chasing going on. It’s a sad but funny love / hate relationship with Harley feeling very much evicted from his home. Even funnier is watching the dogs try to leap in to the cardboard box. Usually they don’t make it on the first try (envision a pole vaulter almost making it over the bar but falling straight down when smashing against said bar). That’s Bailey and Barbie for you. Comic relief indeed!

Today slaDE was brilliant in choreographing the finishing of the cubby hole’s makeover. The walls of the foundation lining the hole have slowly been crumbling in spots, creating huge amounts of dust and grime. It’s been sitting stagnant for about 10 years without any real attention made to the upkeep. But to be fair, it’s a concrete hole that doesn’t real play a big role in the house. However, we felt it important to keep it tidy and somewhat dust free. So slaDE took on the job of cleaning it up and painting the floor with a concrete sealer acrylic base, after blowing out all the dust and sweeping up the crumbling earth. A dirty job that I wasn’t really excited about completing myself. Bless my hubby for taking on the task with such vigour and style :).

More Memories

There have been many places I’ve lived and loved, wanting to bring home a piece of the regions essence and beauty with me. Oh how I remember the days before digital cameras, ebook readers, mp3 players and email. Nowadays, travel is so much more compact, friendly and sharable! In my fledgling days of world travel, I resorted to writing long letters and sending a ton of post cards to my friends and family. I still think that such an art is appreciated by many, although today’s method of armchair travel is far less expensive, instantaneous and easily-shared via the web. And over the past few years of rekindled travelling, I’ve made a conscious and notable effort to write letters or postcards, letting those whom I appreciate and love in life know that I think of them often.

During my 20 years abroad, being the packrat that I am, I would carry home souvenirs of the countries I visited and remnants of the events that had an impact. Right now, I find myself in an emotional quandary about donating some incredibly beautiful and useful travel photo books and guides from the places where my heart-strings were plucked like a wailing banjo. Moreover, destroying paper and photos that hold remarkable memories of an amazing and love-filled past (including home-made cards from my childhood days) is extremely difficult to do! Some of the examples of things which hold sentimental value:


Update: My sister took the beautiful table photography books for her bed and breakfast guests to enjoy. It’s much easier for me to purge when I know that it’s going to a home where the item(s) are actually used and enjoyed!

Declutter a go-go

A funny thing seems to be happening with the fall out of my chaotic rumblings of unpacking and assessing of belongings in the barn. I woke up early this morning to a mass of paper and ‘stuff’ that I had brought in from the barn, placed lovingly but haphazardly on the Airstream couch. The thought of the mess creeping in to our current home was too much to bear. So tackle it I did. And then I moved on to my file portfolio + my book drawer that needed organizing and decluttering. In with the new, out with the old. Rule #1 for me in bringing something new in to the trailer: remove an item for every item that is purchased and/or inserted. I’m feeling a bit more grounded in my ‘stuff’ in that although there is a huge amount of belongings that I own, I am more willing to part with the past and move forward (not true for everything of course, just yet anyway). The donation boxes are overflowing and I keep adding to the piles of odds and ends. You name it: clothing, books, office and beauty supplies, trinkets, house and appliance stuff, etc. No time for a garage sale, but plenty of paper purging and releasing to the gods. My gift pile is huge! I’m going to have to take make a separate entry in to my excel spreadsheet just for the gifts, so that I know what I have and am in need of releasing.

The process of using a spreadsheet helped me immensely throughout this process. It’s been a helpful tool that eases the burden of remembering and solely sticking with emotional attachment. Once photographed in categories and documented on paper, I am able to move forward through the disorderly mess that surrounds me. It is my first belief that amidst chaos, if one is able to find clarity and resolve, true strength of character will shine brightly and the end goal will appear more defined and closer than if drowning within the mess of ones own thoughts.

Swamped in my Earthiness

Unlimited and unencumbered space is a rare treat in my world (or anyones for that matter). A good portion of our existence is spent in a 34 foot trailer, which provides many joys to our existence, but at the same time it also provides many challenges for a packrat such as myself. I’ve lived with the excuses of my nomadic life resulting in the accumulation of much girth and property over the past 20+ some years of my life. But today, here I stand amidst all of those possessions, and I’m feeling swamped and buried by the unending unearthing of hidden treasures accumulated throughout my lifetime. Almost like a history reservoir has broken and suddenly flooded my very existence with the complete past, all at once. And to think, this doesn’t include all that I need and own within the confines of our trailer and home.

The question now is, am I open to the possibility of releasing, letting go of the past, or a good portion of it? The emotional baggage that was once hidden within the unknown crevices of the cubby now stands before me as I unpack, tabulate and catalog item upon item, folded and placed on the tables reminiscent of a community garage sale. Do I love it? Do I use it? Does my home need it?

Can you say overwhelmed? It doesn’t help when I have visitors who comment on the vastness of my possessions, saying: “You sure have a lot of stuff here. What are you going to do with it all? You surely don’t need all this!”. In fact, it stresses me beyond understanding, gnawing at me like a persistent woodpecker pecking for its prey. Thankfully, slaDE and my Father hold back their opinions and quietly watch me as I systematically begin the process of unearthing and revelation, purging and letting my spirit shine, opening like a sunflower in bloom.

As I go through this process, I sort of equate it to the planting of new seeds and the dawning of a new season. A clearing out of the old stock, re-evaluating the present moment with the past, replenishing with neat tidy seedlings of potential growth. Seasons of change.

Connecting

Beyond the confines of my mini-world exists a much larger picture of those around me. Of the valuable lessons that I continually learn from slaDE, one of the biggest messages I see ever apparent is the importance of connection with those around me, especially with those  who I am blessed to love. I sometimes battle with my introverted identity. It’s super easy for me to connect via the computer with my worldly friends: I direct the amount of invested time and energy. It’s easy for me to squirrel myself away, voiding all physical contact with the world, happy and content with my own presence and company. And buried knee deep in a life’s history contained within boxes upon boxes has me mesmerized and focused on the task at hand. But I’m really making an effort to connect and remember that life exists beyond the borders of my material belongings. A family whom I haven’t visited with in over 6 months is readily available and in need of their own attention.

At this time, slaDE has his own connecting to do. A giant reawakening of mammoth proportions is about to unveil itself to him. And I applaud his courage to face the unknown fully and with every ounce of courage and integrity that he can muster. It’s been an emotional path of growth and connection that brings us forward, flourishing like the beautiful sunflowers that we are.

Today I connected with my Dad and my sister, spending quality time with them whilst my Dad received one of his health treatments. And I connected with the earth, as Dad planted crops for the season. It was a beautiful day filled with much beauty and loveliness.

My Go-To Friend

A challenging day for slaDE and myself, and our sense of patience and communication. I spent a good portion of the evening last night holed up in the cubby, shifting and organizing, trying to rein in the loose items as best as I could. But today, hubby and I clashed about my definition of containment. Although everything was basically boxed or bagged, the items were not necessarily as neat, tidy and stackable as the first round of yesterday’s entire collection of rubbermaid containers (which numbered around 40). The rest of both Aaron’s (my sister) and my stuff was haphazardly boxed, bagged or contained in a cube box or suitcase. slaDE had a vision of how he would help me. I differed somewhat in that perspective of the process of elimination. Trust me when I say that I understood how HUGE it was for slaDE to donate his time and effort in to transitioning my belongings from the basement to the barn — envision the birthing of all of my worldly stored possessions though a small hole in the wall, carted up the 20 stairs to ground level and in to an awaiting trailer, only to be offloaded and piled at the other end. I was there in the Part 1 of said process yesterday. His patience and love was unwavering and greatly appreciated. However, the conflict arose whilst I was knee deep in the muddled mess of the cubby. Tired, dusty and painfully aware of my knees and lower back, I was anxious and eager to finish the task at hand, no matter how many small trips were needed. ‘Just get me out of this claustrophobic dust hole!!!’ were my persistent thoughts. And although I believed that I was well-organized, I was drawing short on the concept that: the smaller the containment, the more the effort. So after a cool-off period for us both where I emptied and carted the jumbled mess to the awaiting utility trailer, slaDE returned to help me finish off the last of my relocation. Bless him, kind soul that he is! The truest of friends is there throughout the muck and the mire. Empty at last! Although my process has just begun, the vast void space of the cleared out cubby was a giant step towards the cleansing of my life.

Do you have a go-to friend that will be consistently there for you, through the bad and the ugly times, even knowing that those situations could stress and strain the boundaries of your friendship? I am so blessed. I have that go-to-friend, in my best friend and husband.

The winds of change

It’s amazing how a moment in time can change the path of decision. A huge learning curve for uS in this new lifestyle has been to cre8te lists and priorities, setting daily goals for our ever-increasing tasks on our to-do lists. Without a sense of direction visually available, trying to get everything done in a limited time-constraint would be far more difficult.

Although I had every intention to clean out the cubbyhole, slaDE~ and I had to seriously look at our priorities in heading south before the snow flies. The biggest time worry for me is learning to drive a brand new trailer (which is a whole new way of thinking and driving) in inclement weather conditions. Finding our way to a place below the snowbelt, to actually acclimatize ourselves to this new lifestyle, is the priority. The area where we are staying right now is THE snowbelt. The Great Lakes area is a huge snow area, and with the changing weather and world we live in, there are no guarantees as to when the first snow will fall. Hence, a sense of urgency behind leaving ASAP. De-cluttering with a purpose is one thing, purging under pressure with time constraints is another. So, with a somewhat heavy heart, I am leaving the cubbyhole cleaning until spring, when we hope to return to the farm and re-evaluate our whole wintering / travelling process. This will also be a juncture to polish up our Airstream into a glossy finish and take our time in weeding through our belongings. In coming to this decision, I seriously had to ask myself if this was an excuse to procrastinate. Coming to the decision and determination to clean out the storage area took a lot of dedicated resolve. But with complete commitment to the task at hand and the priorities we have for heading south, I do believe that we’ve made the right decision.

With that said, I STILL need to unleash the cubbyhole, and find my stuff! Namely a canopy in hiding, dishes and useful items for the trailer that will make our life complete over the winter (why buy new when we already may own it?). This means unloading 80% of my boxes and rummaging through their contents without the stress of needing to find a new location for it all. I’m truly blessed to have the farm as a home base and I’m very thankful and grateful for Dad and Karen opening their home to us, not just as guests but as family on a new road to living. Bless them.

Cleaning out the …..

Clutter. Stuff. The ultimate treasure hunt, leading me down a memory lane extravaganza. For me, the task of the century, the epitome of my mental clutter resides in the cubby hole downstairs in my Father’s basement. A 3.5 foot tall cement alcove, covering the width of the ENTIRE farmhouse, solely built to withstand the elements of earthquake, flood and even possibly fire. Built to store and stockhold all that belongs to his children. I’d say 90% of what is hidden in its depths belongs to yours truly. sKY, the pack-rat. Who would have ever thought that a world traveller, perpetually in adventure backpacking mode, could retain and stockpile so much STUFF?! But somehow I managed. After each traverse into the big wide world, I came home, unloaded, started over and took off in a new direction. Only to leave my discarded belongings in limbo, waiting patiently for a day such as this. I think my Dad even got tired of finally moving and shifting my stuff around whilst I was off gallivanting. And now, the task resides with me. Head on, no holds barred confrontation. Empty it out completely, stack it in the barn, and attack it with wild abandon. 30 some odd years of pat-racking everything that symbolizes my being, my wants, desires, dislikes. Everything that I own and covet …. STUFF. Now begins the process of emptying, sorting, filing, cleansing, purging, donating, recycling, freecycling, eliminating, selling, organizing, repairing, repacking, labelling and putting away all that doesn’t find a useful / needed place within our new home, our Airstream. Everything. All that fills my life, clutters my physical being, hidden in nooks and crannies long forgotten.

DeClutter Mind Map by Paul Foreman

De-Clutter Mind Map by Paul Foreman

I suppose the process began in Calgary. What a painful experience that was! How could we have possibly contained so much in 500 square feet? But we did. And with only 2 weeks to deal with our STUFF (plus everything else that goes with leaving a job, a home, a lifestyle, our community, a life and our friends), I was traumatized. S T R E S S F U L was the name of the game (thank you Robin and TJ for saving our butts in the final hour). My inner yogi basically flew out the window, and has yet to return! All the skills and abilities and advice I so often extolled to my students took a u-turn and was nowhere to be seen. Overwhelmed, drained, energy-sucking, vitality draining vampire. Stuff.

© clangnuts.com

The Evil Clutter Fairy © clangnuts.com

People say that we are brave in the new life we are about to embark on. I say that bravery starts on the inside, dealing with STUFF. It takes courage and honesty to approach the task of decluttering both our inner and outer worlds. slaDE~ and I started the process last night. To say that our process started out smoothly would be like saying that I fear nothing in this life. Quite the opposite. I fear everything and anything. I’m a huge scaredy-cat. Facing change and the unknown are 2 of life’s biggest challenges. Forever and always. My nemesis. But that’s okay. I know that I’m not alone. And slaDE~ is patient and willing to accompany me on this journey, of de-cluttering the possessions that WE own. However, single-handedly I must evict the cubby hole of all its belongings, sorting, organizing and cleaning my way through it in whatever way possible. The onus is on me. For only I can decipher the meaning and depth of it all. Where to start? Unload it ALL into the barn, and sort through each and every container, one rubbermaid box at a time. Bit by bit, piece by piece, breath by breath. Oh yes, with kleenex and camera at hand. It’s going to be one heck of a memory hike. I’m actually starting to look forward to it :).

Organization 101 – – a start

declutter houseI’m starting to get into that mode of de-cluttering. Or at least think about it. But where to start? Starting the task of clearing out the ‘stuff’ is always the most difficult part of the challenge, for me. Because there’s always SO much to do. But once I get into that mindset, that mode, the task becomes easier.
Here’s some tips on starting in the bedroom with your closet. One of my own personal tips (adopted from my husband) is to roll all my clothes, when they’re not hanging up. Allows for much more storage and I can then also see everything when they’re not stacked, but rolled instead.

Starting with the closet —

7 Tips For a More Organized Master Closet

1. Keep all clothing and shoes off the floor

2. Keep the floor clear easy to clean

3. If you don’t have built in shoe cubbies and you have extra pole space, use hanging bags for shoes

4. If you need more drawer storage and you have the extra pole space, use hanging shelves for jeans, sweats and other bulky items

5. Use space bags or plastic bins on the top shelf for off-season clothes

6. Remove lids from hampers so clothes actually go into the hamper instead of getting stacked on top

7. Separate and organize clothing items by the way you determine what to wear in the morning. Variations include dividing by color, occasion or warmth.

Moving into the kitchen —

5 Tips For an Organized Kitchen
1. Keep all papers off of kitchen countertop

2. Create zones for each type of activity ie prep, store, cook, bake

3. Keep tools for each activity within reach of that zone

4. Use large lazysusans for deep, hard to reach cupboards

5. Use stacker shelves to keep track of canned good inventory

Now the question is, can she come and help us organize our Airstream, with all the curved cupboard space and limited allotment for weight storage. Time to start thinking about cut, cut, cutting back. That’s HUGE for me. The sacrifices one must make to live the dream :). I’m ready for the challenge! Now I need to find me one of those container stores.