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This is not my beautiful life

A year to redefine who I am and how to embrace the rest of my life on my terms

Renewal

It’s spring like weather here in MN and as I walked the yard today taking down winter decorations and adding Easter, I noticed I have tulips coming up! In mid March. It’s a reminder as the Lenten season begins that its a time of renewal – shaking off winter’s heavy coat and bringing beauty and color back to our world.

40 Bags in 40 Days is decluttering project that uses the Lenten calendar to help clear clutter to refresh and renew your home and life. It started March 1st and runs through April 15th this year. So far I’ve made a trip to the county recycling center, have a big bag for the at risk teen center, a box for the resale shop and old tennis shoes for the recycling drop. Yesterday was going through a huge pile of misc papers and moving most to the recycling bin.

I also finished a project that I have been working on for at least two years. I’m so excited to add this beautiful wreath to our home. It started with a circular wooden B. After sanding and painting, it languished for a nearly a year. Then I finally found some silk flowers in my favorite colors of purples and chartreuse. But they stayed in the bag for nearly another year. Yesterday, I took about an hour and finally attached the flowers to the wreath and hung it outside. So technically it was a “bag.” It took two large items and moved them “outside the house!”

 

 

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AWOL with good reason

Wow – I discovered blogging is hard and I have a new appreciation for those who do it while balancing work and family. I can see why for those who are most successful, it is a full time job. It requires discipline and dedication – both of which I’m struggling to get better at.

But just because I haven’t been posting, doesn’t mean that I haven’t been trying to keep to my original goals for this year. I’m keeping my kitchen sink and counters mostly clean on a daily basis. Have been more diligent about house cleaning, working on getting my electronic life cleaned up and organized and most of February concentrated on my career life. After nearly 6 months of stops, starts and detours, I finished a huge project that had been hanging over me like the sword of Damocles. I literally and figuratively did a Snoopy happy dance when I hit send to my colleagues. Launching this project will help all of us do our jobs better and it was huge relief to mark another item on my DONE list.

After two months, I’ve made small strides that I’m building on, but still struggling to make the big leaps – paper mountain is holding fast – I’m not adding, but it doesn’t seem to go down. And weight loss has not started. I purchased new tennis shoes, that still haven’t seen any pavement and I’m still not exercising with regularity. Using the theory of baby steps – I decided to give chips and crackers up for lent. This is a good one for me because chips are my default stress eating and are nothing but carbs.It will be a challenge for me and good test of resolve and discipline.

The mail yesterday brought my monthly customer coupon from Kowalski’s and guess what, its a bouquet of Tulips! What more motivation do I need for this weekend – so I’m off clean house, cook my way out of clutter and reward myself with a trip to the store for groceries and flowers!

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Zen of Ironing – Week 6

While I’m not making the big, huge changes I thought, I’m finding that doing lots of little projects and small changes consistently helps the bigger picture. I’ve bleached my sink, done the ammonia descale of my stove grates (it really works) and switched out the holiday decor outside. This weekend was time to tackle the pile of ironing that was taking over the bedroom.

My mom lives to iron – she has a whole “ironing station” and she never leaves the house not pressed. I try not to buy too much that needs regular pressing, but there is always a few things that need ironing in the closet. When I Google “the Zen of Ironing” there were 226,000 hits, so apparently it’s important to others as well. While I find ironing to be very zen – the rhythm and repetitiveness is calming and destressing, I have to be in the right mood to tackle it. The lure for me is that I can kill two birds with one stone – I get ironing done and can watch TV without feeling guilty that I should be doing something else. I find that I tend iron when there’s a good game, movie or award shows on. Today was double duty – an afternoon hockey game and then the Grammy’s® tonight.

It feels good to close out the weekend with another pile gone and some favorite clothing items back in the closet ready to wear. Plus, some magazines left Magazine Mountain and I made two new recipes as I cook my way out of clutter and the recipes used items from my pantry – that goal is to totally clean out and start fresh by spring! And the beautiful yellow tulips the kid purchased for me last week are still going strong and reminding me of Holland! Plus I bought some mini croissants and Nutella and had one of my favorite Dutch treats Hagelslag (aka Chocolate sprinkles!)

 

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Motivation Strikes

It’s been a crazy month at work – we closed out 2016 with a bang and there has not been a chance to catch our breath in the near year either. As the business manager, this time of year is hectic anyway because it’s time to close one year and start a new one with all of it’s attendant work of closing out files and projects, building new planning and forecasts, and updating files, vendors, records, etc. A big portion of my job can not be delegated, so it’s easy to get overwhelmed. And when I do that, I tend to go for low hanging fruit and/or find distractions to not have to tackle the hard work.

Because I’m a visual person and like to “triage” work into piles – it can get out of control and when that happens, I loose all effectiveness and spend my time just looking for papers, notes, etc. Plus, I get “snappy” and that doesn’t make me a good co-worker and when my office gets too out of control, they loose their confidence in my ability to get things done. So tonight I stayed late as I was on a roll getting things crossed off the list and moved into the done column. I then really tackled getting my office back int0 a clean and organized structure. Wow – I actually have a desk underneath everything. All ready, my stress level has gone down because there are clean surfaces. I have pictures of my friends and family that I can actually see now. And I found a torn out article with the reminder to “breathe.” Which really needs to be my work mantra this year.

My piles have been consolidated and prioritized. You can see the desk and floor and my goal is to get my “problem children” projects off my white board before the weekend. I made several piles to move on to others as well – I have to constantly remind myself that I can’t do it all and others can do it, even if they don’t do it just like I would. Plus, my boss often gently and sometimes not so gently reminds me that I need to delegate more as well. I guess delegate needs to be a work mantra as well!

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End of week 4 – Flowers and Surfaces

It’s the end of January and the 4th week of this year long experiment. What have I learned so far? Tulips are starting to come into season. Yeah!

Well, I’m less stressed when I come home to fresh flowers and clean counters. By staying on top of keeping my kitchen and bathroom clean, i have to spend less time keeping them clean. I’m slowing creating more clean surfaces in other areas of my life as well. I’m starting to work my way through Magazine Mountain, cooking my way out of clutter and I’m striving to get finish projects. I’ve cleaned my junk drawer and fridge and kept them clean. And laundry is done for the week.

I haven’t done a very good job on attacking exercise and weight, but as I get a handle on other areas of my life, hopefully, more time will open up to focus on getting healthier.

Because I’m less stressed, I’m finding time to do things that bring me pleasure. I picked up books from the library, I watched hockey and have actual returned two Netflix DVDs.

On to February!

 

 

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52 Weeks of Muffins

As I work through my pile of recipes that has accumulated through the years – I decided another way to keep motivated is to make at least one muffin recipe a week. That would get rid of 52 recipes out of the pile. My family likes muffins – they are a quick, on the go, healthier option than donuts, bagels and sugar laden breakfast bars.

My first muffin recipe comes from Midwest Living magazine. This magazine is directly responsible for many of the recipes in my pile. They are always good and highlight the bounty of the midwest. This is a very Minnesota recipe – Cranberry-Orange Wild Rice Muffins.

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Recipe Counter

I’m trying to cook my way out of the huge stack of recipes I’ve torn out of magazines and newspapers over the years. I’ll share along with any feedback I’ve gotten from my family and friends.

2/10/17 Sticky Asian Pork Wrap – Midwest Living Magazine recipes never disappoint. This was a tasty change of pace for our family. I think it will going into rotation.

1/28/17 I’m always on the look out for a good, quick dinner and our family likes stir fry. But there just so many things you can do with chicken before you want some variety. Tonight I tried a “Saucy Sizzle” from Kraftfoods.com. It was a saucy pepper steak with barbecue sauce instead of the traditional teriakyi based sauce. It was different, but not a new favorite.

1/15/17 My family loves cranberries. Just the three of us can go through five pounds of them during the cranberry season. The coffee cake was interesting. You made a cranberry brandy “sauce” that you then put in a sour cream coffee cake batter. It came from an old Kraftfoods.com magazine. While good, it didn’t go into the recipe file.

1/14/17 I needed a new salad for my friend’s wild game feed. I always try to take something light and fresh to counter balance the “meatiness” of the potluck. A broccoli salad from the Penzeys catalog looked good. Any it must have been – the bowl was empty by the time I hit the buffet line!

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End of week 2

I made it to the end of week 2 and if you follow the conventional wisdom that it takes 21 days to make a new habit, I’m well on my way. I have new, sunny yellow flowers to lift the gloom of cold winter days and my counters and sink stayed unstacked and clean most of the week. My bathroom is clean and I read a few magazines to keep Magazine Mountain shrinking and I actually had time to sit down and watch some playoff football!

While I still feel somewhat guilty about all of the January “declutter” challenges that I’m not keeping up with – I decided to be happy with what I do get done. The January Cure starts with cleaning a drawer with the thought that one simple, small project can set you on the path for larger projects. I decided to tackle the kitchen junk drawer. It took well over an hour, mostly for all of the points for school and Campbell’s soup labels that had just been thrown in the drawer, but it was a huge difference and I even tested and threw out pens that didn’t work. And for me, the act of throwing something away is hard – but I did it and found it felt good. If after a few scribbles on the paper, if it didn’t work – out it went. Now when I reach in the drawer to add to the grocery or to do list – I don’t have to try three or four pens to find one that works!

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This is my running tally board on how many magazines I can get read and recycled from Magazine Mountain. Updated as a magazine leaves the house via recycling or passing along to another reader.

2/10/17 I’ve not been posting much in the last week because I’ve been busy reading. Three magazines went out this week and two of the new magazines that arrived, including this month’s Vanity Fair didn’t even make it into the pile! Plus I read a library book, too!

2/4/17 It doesn’t seem like we’ve had a new president for only a few weeks – it all ready seems like years. But finally getting to this look back. Again – not to the recycling pile but moving on to someone else.

1/22/17 A December 2016 Entertainment Weekly goes to recycling. I need to get into a better rhythm of reading to keep the flow moving out the door.

1/10/17 A December 2014 Entertainment Weekly goes into recycling. When my kitchen sink is clean and I actually leave work on time – I can get a magazine read and off of Magazine Mountain!

1/7/17 October 2016 In Style – very timely read. I can’t wait to see what Michelle Obama’s second act is. In pass along pile to my mom who shares my fascination with Mrs. Obama.

1/4/17 – Thanks to a hair cut appointment, this month’s Better Homes and Gardens didn’t even make it on to the pile. In and out the door in 48 hours! A record.

1/3/17 – working on a year old Entertainment Weekly…..

 

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Magazine Mountain

I love reading – you name it –  books, magazines, newspapers.

I’ve finally conceded on the newspaper, however, and subscribe to digital only versions of the Star Tribune and NY Times and get daily updates from the Chicago Tribune, The Daily Skimm and Des Moines Register. With a few clicks, I can see headlines or delve deeper  on the daily news, avoid the morning “news” shows and not add to my paper piles.

It’s a different story when it comes to books and magazines. I’ve never meet a Little Lending Library that I don’t stop and peruse and I always keep a book or two in my car and bike bag to leave. That bi-monthly sign outside my local library “book sale today” is a siren song. Another bag of books joins the to be read stack. Having a sports playing kid helps – I get a lot read during the sports season. Getting to the field an hour early for games and weekend tournaments let me plow through books pretty quickly and I do a good job of moving them out of the house to other readers.

Magazines are another story. I usually take a quick run through the day they arrive and then set them aside to dig into deeper. Problem is that by the time I get back to them – the fashions are out of date, pop culture has moved along and I can’t find the recipe I remember seeing. One of my goals this year is to whittle magazine mountain into a mole hill by spending that time each day I would be on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat by reading a magazine and putting it in the recycle box.

To help motivate me – I’ve decided to log my magazine reading and try to get rid of 4 to 5 magazines a week. This is truly going to be a challenge because, while I dropped a couple of subscriptions, I’ve added some new ones. And deadly ones at that – two recipe magazines – which get lots of pages torn out and added to a different paper stack. #paperpiles #numberonecauseofclutter

 

 

 

 

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Spring Cleaning

I’m still struggling to find a posting rhythm, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working hard. Having some great successes that I continue to build upon. My inbox at work is empty. I’ve gotten caught up on a couple of big projects that have kept me behind at work and I started cleaning up the paper piles that live under my desk. I’ve become more aware of how my clutter piles impact the confidence people have in my ability to get a job done.

On the home front, I continue to keep the kitchen sink and bathroom clean. It’s amazing how good that feels. It’s so simple, but so important. I’ve not been as diligent with 40 bags in 40 days, but have made some heavy hits. This week I took a big pile to the resale shop, made a drop at Goodwill, took a pillow in for re-ticking and added some bags to the recycling bin. And yesterday I cleaned out my car and took it for a good wash and vacuum to remove winter’s salt, sand and grime!

I also have been working on lingering “life issues” too. Got bills organized to contact companies, finally dealt with on-going estate issues and helped the kid get her taxes done.  All of these have financial implications and it feels really good to mark done. Now I can focus on our own taxes.

But you ask, what does this have to do with Spring Cleaning? But getting all of this other stuff done becomes a self fulfilling, domino like change. I’m less behind the proverbial 8-ball and more proactive, especially at a time of the year when we instintively make change and feel renewed.

A big Spring Cleaning is new curtains for the basement window. This ticked several boxes – the fabric came from the attic while working on 40 bags for 40 days and it was one of those unfinished projects. I had purchased the material years ago and then didn’t do anything with it. It was more of a “test” piece, so I did have to make a run to the fabric store to get some additional yardage to make it work for 2 curtains and pre-wash, but by Friday night, I was ready to complete this project. Two hours later, I have beautiful, bright, new curtains for my basement. As I did laundry this weekend, I smiled everything I looked up. Suddenly this the stress project/pile has become something that brings me pleasure.

Excited today to officially switch out my dishes from my beloved winter cardinals and birds to the bright floral summer set. And for the first time in years, my outdoor decor matches the season and holidays.  All of these positive steps keep building to keep me on a roll and it feels good!

Battle of the Bulge

One of the things my family needs to do is eat better. We don’t keep a lot of sweets and pop around but we all love our carbs. Plus, while I cook up a storm on the weekends, week nights and especially during busy weeks become hit or miss and too often we pick up the phone for a pizza. And it doesn’t help than when I don’t leave work until after 6, we often don’t eat until after 8 or just give up and snack.

This spring I purchased a Wildtree package at a charity event. Wildtree is an in home meal prep party where you prepare 10 freezer meals or in our case 20 since we are a small family  – breaking each meal into two. You prep all of your proteins in advance and add the Wildtree products at the party from your pre-ordered kit. I’m hoping the Savory Selections  I’ve chosen will make week night meals and meal planning less painless and my family will eat better.

 

Week 3 – Real life intrudes

Like so many others after a strong start, real life intruded on my best intentions this week. Two late nights at work, a party, an evening meeting and busy week for the rest of my family challenged my resolve to keep the kitchen counter clean. It did well until the two late nights hit – I came home after midnight and left before 7:30 the next day. And, guess what, I was super stressed and coming home to the full sink didn’t help. So the lesson of this week – is not matter how late or early – take 5 minutes and make it happen. It will actually help the stress level.

And today, as I work to reset, my beautiful flowers from last week are going strong. It’s why buying semi closed Alstroemeria are always a great grocery store or florist buy. You can usually get 10 days to two weeks out of them. I have a new candle courtesy of a co-worker from the holidays and am starting to “cook my pantry”  to clean it out and restock with healthier foods and so made cupcakes from a mix in the cabinet.

 

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