Downsizing and Decluttering

A while ago, I met a guy, fell in love and got married. We moved into our first home, and my desire to keep it beautiful was in overdrive.

Believe it or not, as a single woman living in her parent’s home, I owned more stuff than would fit in a two bedroom apartment. Still do, actually, but it’s getting better. When we got engaged, it looked like we’d be moving to a different state and probably to a one bedroom or studio apartment. I looked around me at my collection of 2,000 books, shelves of art supplies, dresser, closet, and six totes full of seasonal/various size clothing and heaps of boxes of my ‘”hope-chest” that had been stashed in the garage attic since I was 16. I knew it wasn’t okay. If I was moving next door into a big ol’ farmhouse and could stay home and be a housewife… mayyyyyyybe it would have been okay. And you know what? The irony is that I hate clutter. I love open spaces and clean surfaces. I was constantly cleaning and weeding out stuff I didn’t want, re-organizing so all of my stuff was more efficient, and always frustrated.

                                                                    Moving in

I set to work right away. I had to downsize, and knew that being sentimental about stuff was not going to work for me. I donated bags and bags of clothes that didn’t fit, boxes of books went to the library sale, years of gardening magazines went (sadly) to be recycled. I had a lawn sale, and the twenty remaining boxes of stuff (I kid you not) were donated to a local share shop.

A HUGE thing that really helped was the actual act of packing and moving. I’d lived in the same house my whole life, and my material life piled up around me, as it does after nearly 30 years in one spot. I pictured unpacking in my new home… would I be happy to see this item? Would it be worth the space it would take up in a small apartment, when I already knew that clutter frustrates me? Do I NEED it? The idea that we should ask ourselves if an item is either useful or beautiful stuck in my head years ago, but I had to change that around for my own situation. Some things I had were very useful… but would have no place to go, and would be more useful for someone else. Some items were beautiful… but a huge collection of beautiful things is called clutter.

BOOKS, for goodness sake, were the hardest thing to figure out what to do with! I love my books, and there are some I’ll hang onto forever, but possessing thousands things that sit on a shelf collecting dust 360 days out of the year, and keeping me from having a place to put what I actually NEED to have, well… that doesn’t make sense when there’s a public library right down the road. I could walk there in 5 minutes. I didn’t want to just throw them in the trash, and recycling them is a huge laborious task. Selling them online was tempting, but in my experience, they sit around for months and years waiting to sell, which is just… clutter.Finally, one local library welcomed about 200 of them. I have two book cases in my apartment now, but the rest… they are still boxed up at my parents’ house. I even asked social media for suggestions on what to do with so many books, but I got very few suggestions… most people felt it was more helpful to tell me that books are friends, and I shouldn’t get rid of them. Thaaaaanks for that.

                                                     Nice and tidy… never lasts.

Moving in, I brought with me just the stuff I wanted. I knew the remnants of things left at my parents’ would be a challenge. A lot of the things that got left behind I really did want… we just didn’t have the space. Lately, every time we visit my parents, more and more of that stuff ends up in a box or bag thrust into my hands to take with me, haha! I can’t really blame them. Now it’s time to make more decisions. Clutter is piling up in my spare rooms/office. At first it was my favorite room in the apartment. It’s just so pretty and the lighting in there is perfect. But yeah, it’s now the “What do I so with this thing?” room. Also the “We don’t have a shed or garage so let’s store motor oil and air conditioners in here.’ room.

But just so you know, it’s not all dismal despair… I’m not just another first world problem child. (Or am I?) I have found that with the help of videos by ClutterBug on Youtube (I found the 30 day decluttering series to be life changing. And yes I did binge watch them all in two days.) and listening to A Slob Comes Clean podcasts, there is still hope for me. A few more emotional attachments to overcome, yes. But I’ll get there. I’ll never be a minimalist, and I don’t think you have to be in order to be happy. But clutter is like a material manifestation of brain fog to me, and that’s something to battle against!

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Drink Weird Things.

About two weeks ago I got myself some kefir grains, after being intimidated by the idea of ‘rotten milk drink’ for the past couple of years. I’d never tried kefir before, never had any fancy flavored store-bought kefir, just dove right in to the craziness of ‘home brew’ as my dad calls it. And let me tell you, so far I’m much happier with it than the sad results of trying to make kombucha a year and a half ago. It never ever got fizzy no matter how many tricks I tried, and un-fizzy kombucha just seemed wrong to me. I ended up dumping it and watching my scoby die a long drawn-out death. Kefir on the other hand, I can handle. Every night after dinner I simply strain it into a jar and set it out for an over-night second ferment which I pop in the fridge in the morning, and pour fresh raw milk over the grains for the next batch… so I basically have two jars going at the same time to keep myself and my family supplied. Right now I just use kefir in green/fruit smoothies which are DELICIOUS, and I honestly like it better than I ever liked yogurt in smothies. Someday I’ll be brave and try kefir straight, but for now I’m happy with what I’m doing.

 

THEN, we had a couple of really hot days, and while I was at work my kefir over-fermented and separated into basically a floating island of what looks like ricotta cheese, and perfectly pure whey.

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Another hot day, the separation begins. I have yet to find an area in our house with even temperatures.

 

I have the book ‘Cultured Food For Life‘ and I knew there were recipes for home-made sodas started with whey, and there are some great-looking recipes, but I didn’t have the right ingredients for any of them just now. (It’s still a great book, and she’s also got pretty much all of the information on her website, go look!) Then I remembered seeing ‘Lacto-Fermented lemonade’ on The Healthy Home Economist’s facebook – and when I first saw it, it sounded bizarre and actually slightly gross, as I associate lacto with milk, and milk and lemon anything means curdled lumpy mess. But here I was with a bunch of lemons and limes and a jar of whey, so what was I to do? So I did.

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And the results? YUM. So much yum. There’s nutmeg in there, I never would have thought to add nutmeg with lemon/lime, but it’s seriously delicious. Tangy. Zippy. I added just a couple of drops of stevia to replace the sugar that was eaten up in the fermentation process. I almost can’t wait for another scorching hot day just to see how refreshing this fermented lemonade will be then.

Today

My day so far:

Woke early because a spider was crawling up the side of my torso. Flicked him off and rolled over, but the birds were singing, so I didn’t get back to sleep. In case this anecdote hasn’t informed you already, spiders don’t freak me out… which explains my affinity for the Wizard Howl.

Baked these grain-free vanilla cup-cakes.

Frosted them with this home-made nutella.

But first I blanched a bunch of hazelnuts… which is ridiculous. Spend a little more and buy them blanched. I tell you what.

Ate two cupcakes. I justify it that by the time everything was done it was nearly noon.

Then I mowed the lawn and puttered a bit in my garden.

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Spent some time petting and crooning love songs into the ear of my beloved Oliver. (He’s a cat, btw.)

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Picked great mounds of plantain leaves (yes, the yard weed), washed, chopped and covered it  in olive oil in a jar. After several weeks, it’s supposed to be useable for an amazing skin salve for bug bites and i know not what. We shall see.

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And the day’s not over yet. 😉 I have great plans for more gardening and working on a painting later this evening. My aunt has commissioned two paintings from me, the cost of which almost exactly covers the amount I still owe her on my car loan. Perfect! I love that even though I am not waking up to an alarm and groaning my way out of bed to head to work every morning, I am still able to earn my keep while I’m home. I’m not growing rich by any means, but my time is my own and I love it.

The Ugly Old Chair (and how we fix it)

Behold my desk chair. A reject from my dad’s work place, brought home… 12 years ago? 15? It’s been around for a while.  It’s wearing out. It’s still comfy, but the vinyl is cracking. With the hot weather we’ve been having, of course I am wearing shorts, and the tears are painful against the skin. So. We must fix this.

Click through to see What Happened to the Ugly Chair.

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Newspaper Seedling Pots

 

 

 

You will need:

  • Newspaper
  • A small can or straight-sided glass about the size of the pot you want. (Tomato past or condensed milk sizes are good, you don’t want it huge.)
  • Scissors

Cut the newspaper into strips 1 1/2 to 2 times the height of the can.

 

Line the bottom of the can up with one edge of the paper and roll up snugly. Then crush/shove the excess length of the paper roll down into the open end of the can.

 

Remove the can from inside the paper tube and turn it over. Re-insert the can, bottom-first, into the tube, so that the bottom of the can presses the folded paper back down, and press tightly on the table surface, forming the bottom of your pot.

Fill with soil that you have pre-wet (not soaking wet, but moist enough to plant directly into.) . Poke a hole in the soil with your finger (Dibbles… I never understood those. Why pay for something that you have built in?) and gently guide seedling roots into the soil, slightly firming the soil around the base of the plant.

 

That’s it! Keep your seedlings moist until planting time, then plant pots directly in the ground where the paper will compost naturally.

 

I know I should have gotten a good picture of forming the bottom of the pot, so if you need extra help figuring out what I am trying to show you, there is an excellent video of this process HERE.

Sprouting Lupines.

 

 

I am a big fan of lupines. However, I’m not a big fan of their tendency to peeter out after three of four years of gloriousness, the cost of buying fully grown plants (especially when one wants a dozen or so). So, one starts lupines from seed.

This is ridiculously easy to do. Buy a packet of seeds (roughly $2, depending on your source. If you need a source, GOOD HEAVENS, I will give you ten.). Take a damp paper towel, fold it in half and spread the seeds so they aren’t touching each other on half of the surface, then fold again, covering the seeds with the paper towel. Carefully place the bundled seeds into a ziplock bag and place somewhere warmish but not hot, and check in a few days. I will bet that by the third day you will have some sprouts, and a week later most will have sprouted for you. If not, don’t worry, just keep the seeds moist and most of them should come eventually. You can tell if the seed isn’t going to sprout because it looks shriveled and hard even after being in a damp towel several days.

Mine got away from me this year…

 

I should have planted these a week ago. As you can see, they are actually growing roots through the paper towel. I had to carefully tear the paper away from them so as not to break the roots.

This is more like what they should look like when you plant them:

 

 

My germination rate was quite good!

 

 

If yours get too far along too, just pot them up with the ‘leaves’ above soil surface and put them in indirect sunlight for a day or two so as not to scorch them. Then move to full sun and watch them grow like crazy. 🙂

One last thing; Lupines do not like being transplanted, and I am not a fan of peat-pots, so I make newspaper pots for my lupines. Plant them directly in the ground, and the paper disintegrates within a few months.

Thrifty! In a year I'll have 12 mature lupine plants. At a garden center, that would cost me at least $120 - $150.
Seeds - $2. Soil - less than $1. Paper pots - Free.