Regime Change

Things are going to change around here.They have to.

We’ve had too many late nights, too frequent crying baby, not enough good food, and insufficient progress towards our goals.

Starting now: My new priorities.
1) Spirituality. Praying morning, evening + obligatory prayer each day. Doesn’t have to be long. Does have to be focused and sincere.
I’m going to add here the routines of connection we’re starting to build. Deep breathing and setting/discussing intentions with our meals; brief times in the evening when husband and I stop and connect. These are the heart of our developing family life.

2) Baby routines. Wake-up, potty, teeth, breakfast, play. Snacks. Lunch. Dinner. Bath at 6:30, teeth, potty, stories, nurse, bed by 7:30. Ab-so-lute-ly essential. Plus, of course, lots of love, cuddle, play, read and fun time.

3) Food. We need to switch to a gluten-free diet. We are also trying to save money. We have a great new cookbook thanks to friends. I will be studying this, making menu plans, buying the right foods and getting rid of the not-right foods.

4) Finances/Family Planning Priorities. I will support us in motoring through the creation of our new family budget, cash envelopes, tracking systems, wills, and the other priorities we’ve established.

5) Everything else??? The course I’m trying to finish teaching. Purging our possessions. Keeping the house clean. Starting new writing projects. Time with friends. On and on!

Hows are a big challenge for me. What does it mean if we make this list of priorities, but we have an entire kitchen of dirty dishes and piles of dirty clothes? Other things still need doing. Here’s how I think this might play out.
a) Spirituality first = getting the energy and focus to do what we need doing.

b) Keeping the vision in mind (Healthy family; happy daughter; moving out of this house and into better accommodations; financial independence; etc.) also helps to streamline my time.

c) No more facebook. At least for a while. SIGH. But, really, time is key and a few minutes here and there adds up.

d) Mainly: this new regime means doing the important things first, AND stopping doing anything else if a higher priority need comes up. I can purge to my heart’s content tomorrow, as long as I run through baby’s morning routine, and have lunch & dinner planned out and going.

Some of you may wonder where my husband – the male sex – fits in with this potentially gendered to-do list. Let me tell you! My husband is amazing. Truly loving, supportive and committed to equality in our family. Just one example: He does the dishes. Almost all the time, unless I sneak in and do them. He actively discourages me from doing them, because it’s something he can do to contribute, and because he wants us to approach chores in a non-gender-stereotypical manner. And yes, he cooks too. In fact, his meals are generally better than mine, in spite of all my talk and cooking effort! He is right now working evenings and weekends (plus weekdays) to finish off the renos on this house that we can’t wait to be rid of. When I say evenings, I mean frequently until 11 or midnight. And yes, dishes too. I can’t do the renos. He does them well and quickly. Maybe in a future fun project we will do this kind of thing together. We want to, and I’m sure we will. Right now? The strategy is divide and conquer, short-term pain for long-term gain. The least I can do is support us in changing our diet over to GF and taking the lead on baby routines and the budget. Which he is fully in support of.

So, that’s that.

It’s 11. I’m going to send a few quick emails and head to bed. Maybe, I might possibly finish reading “Oh the glory of it all” because it’s been consuming me and I”m almost done. Yes, I need to stop reading so many novels, too. At least for a while.

Material and Spiritual: My Saturday

Today was delightful on two counts. I participated in a conference on women and spirituality. And we moved into the basement of our home so we can get the renos done.
First, the conference. There were representatives of 9 different faith traditions, responding in turn to a series of questions about why we believe, how it affects our lives, and the role of women in our traditions. It was inspiring to hear others speak about their experiences – just like me, though different – and I felt that renewed spiritual energy that I always have after discussing spirituality. I often find I’m even more inspired after interfaith discussions than those with just members of one faith. Discussions across faiths enables me to recognize the universalities that are true religion, deepening my commitment to them and broadening my understanding of what they mean. Interfaith dialogue is so valuable from that perspective, enriching our understanding of our own faith, even while it connects is more to others.

I also saw some old friends and acquaintances there, lovely given my limited social life of late.

The other major activity of the day was the move. We came to the inspired decision a couple of months ago that in order to move ahead in any direction, we need to complete our house; and the most efficient way to do that would be to move into the basement (already complete), leaving the main floor free for my husband to work his magic. Our tenants decided to move out at just about the right time, creating the perfect opportunity for us.

Husband and a helper moved most of the big things down over the course of the week; then today, they moved the bed, coffee table, and ALL the rest (okay, most of it: dishes, food, fridge/freezer, clothes, front door mess, etc.) Baby was in heaven! Finally able to get down into the forbidden basement place; a cozy, fun retreat full of her favourite people and things. She was laughing, playing, running back and forth. I’m so eager to see how she likes things in a new, smaller space. I have the feeling that children often like smaller. It’s cozier, their things are closer, their people are nearby … it’s more kid-sized.

I’m also kind of in heaven. Strange, given that we’re losing several hundred square feet, plus some functionality (the only interior door is the bathroom, resulting in a need for quiet after baby’s bedtime). However, we’re finally getting our things into an even more compressed, manageable space. With less storage, we want to HAVE less and so are going through and getting rid of more.

The space already feels kind of together after barely a day. Still some sorting, purging and organizing to do, but it’s approaching functional. Admittedly, we haven’t moved everything down. We’ve left a few furniture pieces, and, notably, our books + one cabinet of videos (we really need to purge those!!). However, the bulk of what we have or use is here. We will then go through what’s left upstairs, deciding if we really need it.

Though I don’t love basements, ours feels really cozy. There’s a wide ledge around most of the space, creating a sense of roominess greater than it is. It’s open, and has pretty good light. The bedroom is SO cozy and nook-like, I hvae a strong urge to cuddle in and stay there.

And oh, having less space to lose baby and things! I won’t have to run around the whole house getting things or seeing where she’s playing. Her toys will be more manageable (plus we’ll put away a few). We will need to buy fewer things, because we have less space to put them. These all feel like huge positives.

I look forward to providing updates as this new adventure progresses. I am sure there will be challenges – accessing our files & some of our surplus goods; the noise (that will be a real problem); missing our gas stove and front-loading washer. However, I am embracing the positive and celebrating the opportunity to downsize like we’ve discussed forever.

More Simple Solutions to Stressful Problems

Cutting baby’s fingernails = I can’t do it.
For the first year-ish, instead of cutting, I ripped them (really, there’s science behind that. They’re soft and easy to rip. No damage, and a softer edge than if you use clippers). Now that she’s older, she is highly resistant when awake (to ripping OR clipping) so I try when she’s asleep. However, the lights have to be on, so it has to be during naptime. That means weekends only. And sometimes her nap is entirely on my chest, or she’s in the stroller, or I forget, or it wakes her up, and basically,

I can’t/don’t do it.

Today I tried one of my sister’s tricks: I played a video on the computer while clipping them. Worked like magic! The video also rocked: Feist on Sesame Street. It rocks! The only problem: She wanted to watch it again. And again. And again. And it’s so catchy, whenever we broke into the song later in the day, she started “Unh, UNH!”ing and pointing back to the computer. Not really a problem compared to hazardous fingernails!

Also: what to do if your house is a complete, absolute disaster?

Solution: Go on a walk with baby while your husband cleans! Then go on a purging frenzy, this time with even more zeal than ever before. Things are going OUT of here! Our desks are neat, tasks are getting done: it’s like a new regime is in power. I love it.

Finally: Quick tricks to get rid of stuff when you just can’t seem to let it go:

  • Break it (series of bowls and glasses)
  • Lose it (two toques, baby’s little bird in the grocery store)
  • Sell it (recouping $$ for it helps the pain of separation. Recently sold: old kitchen table)
  • Talk on the phone while purging – you won’t notice what you’ve given away until it’s gone!
  • Recycle it: baby’s drawings, cute glass jars, business cards you feel obligated to keep: our environment depends on your contributions, so let them fly
  • Chuck it: Revel in the clear, empty spaces where moments before grungy sponges and scrubbies stood. It feels good. It is good.

You’re welcome.

 

Clearing Out

Things, commitments, worries, lists, links, emails, projects. They can inspire, stress, depress, transform, consume.
Right now, I’m feeling pretty good about my life. I’m also feeling lots of little threads tying me down and making it hard to fly. Perhaps it’s appropriate I’m thinking about this on day 4 of the fast – a chance to take advantage of the spiritual energies of this time to reflect on my choices, my life, my priorities. I still think I’m approaching all of this in a too materialistic manner, but I’m going to do my best to focus on the higher dimension to my choices, and recognize the interplay between the material and spiritual.

Last night, after a wonderful weekend with family, I settled in at 9:30 to do stuff. I bustled around for almost 2 hours tackling projects on my computer, cleaning up, putting away, and clearing out. Aaah.

My plan to respond to email when it arrives is going well. I still need to clear old emails. So let me I started to link here to a fun email that I hope one day to use: a suggested list of top movies to watch. And when I went to find the actual link, I realized that I somehow hadn’t included it. A super-useful summary of top movies for the past year, a year I’ve been out of the loop so much, that would have been super helpful when I wanted to look for a great way to spend some waste of time. Yes, while in the process of writing this blog post the sprites have had their fun with me. I wanted to link to something materialistic, they said, we won’t let you! And in fact, we’ll let you know that you could/should have 1) not bothered sending yourself that link in the first place, and/or 2) dealt with it right away so the unread message would not have been sitting in your inbox for almost a month, taunting you and stressing you out as the list of undealt-with items grew and grew.

So, no, I do not have a link to a list of movies. I do have one fewer items in my email inbox, a plan to deal with a series of 4 that I can tackle shortly, and the motivation to keep this up.

The spiritual twist: I have no idea. None at all. But, I hope to find it.

Peace to all!

 

Enough

As we proceed with decluttering and downsizing, I’m reflecting on a few ideas from other blogs.
The benefits of having a little bit extra is one idea discussed here. Some minimalists would have you eliminate all the fluff: one towel per person, one pair of sheets per bed, only the smallest of wardrobes, and throw out all the extra storage containers.

In fact, I have been finding that extra stuff often fills a useful purpose. Paring down to the bare minimum comes with a cost, just as having too much does. The trick is finding the balance.

I insist on at least 2 sets of sheets per bed. Two sets gives time to wash and dry one set, yet the bed can be ready for use right away. With a napping baby, this is very important! Extra towels, up to a point, are super useful when I’m washing sweaters and other delicates, to lay things out to dry. An extra pair of gloves and a hat would have been great to have around during a recent cold snap when a friend dropped by without. And I continually cycle through the assorted small purse-like bags I keep for the different small items I carry around. Similarly, a stockpile of envelopes and stamps saves time and money; a few extra bottles allows us to not wash them on late nights; and an extra few sets of pajama bottoms lets me get through a week where I may be soaked during bathtime and then peed on later in the night.

For me, there still can be too much. We never ever use up even half of our bath towels – I think we can safely turf a few. And when I finally really saw that I had an extra couple inches of old, used file folders, I knew it was time to get rid of them (as I have a couple inches of NEW ones waiting in the filing cabinet for all my filing needs). Finding the right balance is something for each person/family to determine.

Which brings me to another interesting post, about decluttering gone mad and its potential anti-feminist implications. This article made a lot of sense to me for a couple of reasons. First, I like beautiful things, I love nesting, and I want a home filled with beautiful things, though not too many of them. I can definitely see how the strict rules of decluttering, and the spartan discipline they inspire, could strip away items that are personally meaningful, leaving a home that is free of objects but also free of myself.

As well, I still feel like the caretaker of the people and the life lived inside my home. That stuff helps me care for people. Extra blankets for guests, spare soaps similarly, clothing duplicates for people who drop by, books to entertain, surplus tupperware to send away food. The stuff lets me care for people, and having enough of it spares me constant shopping and running out, an anti-woman result of decluttering.

I do love, love, love sorting through excess stuff and culling what isn’t needed. If I could do it as a job, I would. At the same time, I hope to bring a more compassionate tone to the process than I might have to date. Loving things … I know it might sound wrong, but I’m okay with it. Hanging on to objects that help you create a home … important. Cushioning your future by hanging on to more than the bare minimum: logical, useful, and completely acceptable.

Into Order

Our attempts to create more order in our home are moving ahead. We’re tackling different corners of our home together, purging as much as we can, and organizing what’s left.
A few nights ago we tackled the tea/food storage shelves in the kitchen. Gone: two teapots, two tea balls, some tea, lots of vitamins, one basket holding those vitamins. And other stuff.

Today/tonight it was the storage closet in the office. Gone: box for my laptop, pile of paper & old file folders, assorted notebooks, pens, stationery, a book or two, and other stuff. Repurposed: photo album, now to be used for recipes (once those are sorted). Other things (it’s late. I’m tired. But I”m here and I’m blogging!).

I’m quite excited to tackle some other areas (front entrance; laundry room; pantry; my section of the office). Tackling it together generally helps. Until we enable each other and end up  keeping more than we want! Overall, though, we’ve got the goal of downsizing in mind and are trying to be realistic about what we will use. If we have a stockpile of things (envelopes, anyone? Random little labelly stickers? Extra notebooks?) but we think we will use them (envelopes will get used up … in a few years. Baby will love the stickers. And some of the notebooks for drawing), we can keep them. But if it’s excessive (8 extra highlighters??? 5 or more blank journals when neither of us can remember the last time we used one?) we whittle.

Also tonight: paid a series of bills online.

This weekend: bake bread. Make lots of other food. Plan meals for the week. Make our wills (found a couple of online sites – will report back on this!). Get some exercise. Get a haircut (me for sure – tomorrow – hubby maybe). Dinner at the family’s!

And now, waaaaay too late: bedtime!

Say no to clutter

Getting rid of things in the house has been going well. The trick to keeping it that way is to stop other things from coming in. That was today’s test.
As I get rid of things I see items we own that are old, worn-out, ugly. Though I don’t feel that I want a lot of things, I do want to love what I have. The temptation is strong to buy nicer newer things right now to replace what we have.

Problems with this:

  1. That cycle will never end.
  2. I don’t always get rid of the old when I get the new.
  3. Another priority is saving money, and buying nice new things does not help with that.

Today I was out running errands and ended up in Winners to pick up something. Okay, a requested treat for my husband. And maybe, just maybe, I wanted to take a quick look at their clothes and see if there was something I could wear for an upcoming event. And since I was there, I checked out the linens for another king-size sheets set. And found a gorgeous set of green pillow cases. I’ve just dumped a few of ours, so I thought new ones made sense. Possibly, some time after this, I checked out their kitchen supplies and found a rectangular glass storage container that had a RED TAG and would work for sandwiches. And hey, that’s on our shopping list! And possibly I spent around $20 on impulse purchases.

Back home I thought them through. I checked with my husband on the advisability of the purchases. He of course didn’t tell me what to do. But we talked through needing more pillow cases (no, we both agreed) and he mentioned something about the characteristics of the tupperware (a similar model he bought recently has a part that comes out, water gets in, possible mold source). So tomorrow, back they go.

Stop clutter at the source! Just Say No!

By the way, baby slept through again last night – 9:15 – 5. Then off and on until almost 8. But regardless, I am still exhausted tonight.

A Good Night’s Sleep

Last night, out of nowhere, my daughter (I think, to the best of my knowledge, as far as I can recall, drum roll please) slept through the night.
Yes, at nearly 15 months of age, she provided me with the longest uninterrupted stretch of sleep I’ve had since her birth. Excluding the first night after she was born when she slept 7 hours (! – related I’m sure to my milk supply somehow).

The details: After a couple of naps during the day, and massive amounts of food in the evening, she was asleep by 9:15. I went to bed around 11. She didn’t wake up when I got into bed, which is unusual. I recall her stirring in the night, and I remember shushing her and maybe some gentle jiggling. I do not recall nursing her. Eventually she woke up and I could tell by the stretching that it was the real deal. She nursed and boy, I had a lot of milk! By the time she rolled over and went back to sleep I checked the time and it was ten to six. I estimate she slept from 9;15 to 5:30. UNPRECEDENTED!

I felt sooo much more awake this morning than I usually do! Simply delightful.

The timing on this is interesting to me because just recently I have started to find the nighttime wake-ups intrusive and exhausting. I have started to think about the fact that since she was born I’ve rarely slept more than 3 or maybe 4 hours at a stretch, and often 1 or 2. Frankly, I was starting to get tired (ha ha) of it. And as the Sears’ say, when you resent something in parenting, change it. We had already made some changes with working on an earlier bedtime, and I was doing more shushing and less breast/milk offering right when she woke up. She’d still get milk within a minute or two 🙂 but I tried other things first. All this to say, when my conscious brain started to register the need for a shift, my daughter responded.

I don’t necessarily expect this to continue. And sleep is always a back and forth and up and down proposition. I do think that it marks her ongoing growth and steady maturation, and that she will over time sleep through the night more and more.

For now, though, I’m just celebrating that this transition has begun. And I’m grateful that we’ve continued to stick to our commitment to respond to her needs and let her know that we’re right there to take care of her.

In other news, after way too much blog reading last week, I had a lot of purging energy today. Got rid of 3 – 4 bags of stuff, including a yarn collection (No crocheting in my immediate future and I’d like other yarn/colours), 3 books (massive # for me, booklover that I am!), 4 – 5 DVDs, some baby clothes, some personal clothes, our first set of glass bottles, a pair of boots, an old towel.

Incoming: a pair of boots (exchange on the ones I got last week as those were too tight on my toes). And the clothes yesterday 🙂 – but I got rid of some today to make up for it.

I’m excited to get more out over the weekend and enjoy the luxury of more space.

Love the moment/ Work update

Last night baby woke up at 3:30 to snack. Not unusual. However, she then stayed up until almost 5:30.
We: nursed, tried a bottle, nursed, tried a bottle, heated the bottle more. Rocked, cuddled. Let her climb off the bed, walk to the door and come back. Walked around the house with her. Read books. Looked out the window. Ate. Walked. Nursed again. Finally … finally! … slept.

I had a hard time staying calm and happy while this was going on. I kept thinking, “GOOOO TO SLEEEEEEEEP!!!” I was angry and frustrated. I was tired. I kept thinking about how tired I would be in the morning.

But then magic happened. We were looking out the window in the middle of the night. WE were eating almond butter and rice crackers. She cuddled right into me in the Ergo, saying “MaMa.” I was thrilled once again to have special time with my wonderful daughter.

And today, in spite of a real dearth of sleep (went to bed after midnight – amazingly productive evening!), went well. I wasn’t really tired, got work done, enjoyed my yoga class.

You might as well enjoy the moment. Because it’s what you’ve got. And because however frustrating it seems, within an astonishingly brief span of time (minutes, days, years) the situation will be gone and you will miss it.

Maybe not the same as the “don’t carpe diem” message, which I also love. Not every moment will be delightful. But don’t let myself spin off into negativity; keep perspective; and let myself enjoy the beauty when it’s there.

On to work. I largely followed my program today. Started on big work at work. Took my lunch break (at 12:20, but still). Drank water and refilled my water bottle.

The major shortcoming in the day was blogs. I am becoming re-addicted to blogs. They are like candy: fast, yummy, and I want more. Especially blogs about people’s personal lives, homes, journeys, decluttering, parenting. I can read and read and read and revel in the window into someone else’s life.

i was interested to see yet again that blogs about decluttering were the most interesting to me. Next up was fashion. Though they’re kind of opposite (getting rid of stuff versus acquiring it) they both relate to perfecting the physical space you inhabit. And that material direction is where my mind goes, even after weeks of saying prayers regularly. Oh well! It is a current obsession. I’m sure there are important roots. I accept, enjoy, and move forward without giving it undue energy.

With that, I’m wiped out. Drumming was good after work. Must get some sleep.