Saturday, October 31, 2009

Go Yankees!

So this pictures offends me in two ways. One my sister Kate is so photogenic it's offensive. Two my husband is perfectly willing to take a nice picture with Kate.

To prove my point:

Something truly terrifying for halloween

We have this enormous closet (we call her Red on account of the red door, the hall pantry is green on account of the green door, etc) and it is truly an organized persons nightmare. On our final walk through, my father looked at Red and said "How can people have so much crap" and well, I'm ashamed to admit that it looks almost exactly the same now as it did then.

I just organized it a few months ago (yes, this is organized) and I hope that apartment therapy's next project is the giant red closet with so much stuff cure because doctor, I need the cure.

Trust me, that part looks better blurry.

Before Pictures

Well I did things a bit backwards. I wrote about my big cleaning purge in my previous post and have now found my before pictures. Note the stacking! The clutter! The general state of disarray! To be fair we are in the middle of the great wall project of 2009 but I have to admit it usually looks pretty similar to this. If you want to see the afters look at the next post.

Kitchen Cure

A few weeks ago I signed up for apartment therapy's Kitchen Cure. They send you instructions, you follow them, and send them documentation of your progress. The first week's assignment was to clean out your fridge and pantry and then wipe everything down.

This was easy and some what terrifying. We've lived here a year and a half yet we had stuff that was a couple of years old. Note to self, don't move frozen food. I also discovered things that I keep buying every time I shop. Kidney beans (for soups and chili), chocolate bars (for what ever), and fish sauce. Nice combo. I need to go on a good restocking the pantry run down to Fairway to restock the shelves for the winter. In the summer most of my cooking is from fresh ingredients but in the winter I turn to the pantry and freezer for most of my ingredients.

This morning I decided it was time to put all the stuff back that I had moved for the wall demolition. I had gotten into some bad habits and wanted to make a clean break. I also discovered how poorly organized everything was and decided to declutter and relocate (which was the assignment for week 2).

Bad Habits:
1. Not having a place to store everyday cooking items like olive oil, salt, pepper, tea, etc. These things lived on the counter top but were always making a mess and cluttering things up. It made cleaning the counter tops annoying and turned the only usable counter space into a mine field of things to knock over.

Before this was just a place for tupperware but by adjusting the shelf and moving things up a little I could accommodate the everyday items.

2. Keeping every possible kitchen utensil out on the counter. Again, cluttered and dusty. I used AT's classification system of daily, weekly, and monthly (or less) and separated out my utensils. Everyday ones went in the top drawer (garlic press, wine key, can opener, and tongs) while weekly/monthly stuff went below (spatula, silicone brush, meat thermometer, lemon squeezer), neatly organized into wooden thingys. The stuff I rarely use, it super specialty (like a lemon zester, frosting spreader, grapefruit spoon, and duplicates) went into a small bin in the pantry. I use a lot of this stuff but I decided I should sacrifice a cluttered, kind of gunky gross space, for the sake of having everything right there.

3. Stacking things in precarious ways- Just plain dangerous in a way that made me avoid using those items. I shifted a lot of stuff to this random, awkward cabinet over the stove. I realized that this is where all the stuff that we only use with company and that isn't pretty should go. Extra mugs, dishes, and some specialty dessert dishes were all nicely stacked here, out of sight but not out of mind.

This freed up a lot of room in the main dish cabinet to actually put the things were used daily and weekly in a safe, easy to reach place. We have very tall cabinets and I am always tempted to climb on the counter to avoid getting the step ladder. I hope that rearranging things will make me less tempted to do that since the things I need all the time are within reaching distance and the things that I don't need all the time, well, quite frankly if I need to get them down there will probably be guests. And those guests will make me less prone to do dangerous things.

I did the same for our very deep, tall corner cabinet. I followed the same pattern while organizing as I went along. I have a habit of putting things in things (like non matched serving utensils in the salad bowls) and both losing them and dumping them on my head while looking for something. I made a "nothing goes in anything rule" to reduce the head trauma.

As I reorganized everything, I realized that I had basically booby trapped the whole place for my husband. This may explain why he refuses to take serious pictures with me.

So blah blah blah, declutter, wash, dust, recycle. Rinse and Repeat. I should also note that I cleaned everything (with cleaning products!) and am pretty sure that nothing had been cleaned since the kitchen was finished 10 years ago. I had cleaned all of the lower cabinets after the great mouse infestation of 2008 and was very happy to see no mouse poop this time.

I'm a slob and have a tendency to leave things everywhere. I also recognize that I don't follow any organizational scheme and organization schemes basically lead to losing things, tucking them into places where they will never see the light, and general mayhem and clutter. I have switched to a bin system for most of my organizational needs. This means that instead of folders and filing cabinets, I have switched to bins and piles. I know, it makes my accountant and work colleagues very nervous, but if I just put it in a contained pile I won't outsmart myself.

My work piles

In the kitchen, the bin system sort of gets morphed into the "put everything where I can see it and position it so that I can't put anything on top of it" system. If it's in the back I should consider it lost so nothing goes in the back unless I can see it peeking out the top.

So what's one to really do with a tall, deep closet for a pantry? Well, I hid a lot of stuff that I don't mind losing until I need it again. The blender, toaster, wine chiller, and growler bottles. Those are seasonal so they'll come out from hiding. The big green closet didn't really need that much rearranging. What it actually needed was a serious scrub.

The previous owner left all sorts of stuff there including sample granite tiles, a very large cutting board, and tons of other little crap. Word to the wise, no one ever wants your crap so do them a favor and get rid of it. When I lifted up the crap I realized he had used it to cover this disgusting sticky mess. I tried everything to clean it and ended up just putting the tiles back over the slick and stacking things on them. A good scrub and vacuum (all the dust from the electrical work) and it felt a lot better and now has enough room to house the liquor which had been living in the husband's office.

I also used this time to decide what I needed to repurpose or buy. A few more bins (I've seen these great lucite ones) and a spice rack solution is really all I need.

So my few simple rules:
1. Organize by amount of use
2. Don't hide anything
3. Don't stack anything unless you only use it when people are around to supervise its removal
4. Things do get dusty when they're not in cabinets
5. Organize by weight, put heavy things down low, lighter things up high
6. Don't booby trap the house
7. Don't over organize
8. Don't buy organizational things until you know you need them. The corrollary to this is don't buy things at Ikea just because they are cute. You will end up buying organizational things just to organize your cute, miniature, useless things and repeat the cycle.

We have a lot of stuff. I can imagine that my "after" pictures look a lot like people's before pictures. But I've spent a lot of time trying to reduce the amount of stuff I have while pretending that I'm not a pack rat and more organized than I really am. So I've embraced my pack rack (and my pack rat spouse) in an attempt to only be able to mess up the things that I use on a daily basis and reduce the clutter that drives everyone crazy.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I've been laid up inside with a case of the "blahs" all weekend long. We've both lounged around, sipping tea, eating left over chinese food, and watching bad cable movies since Friday after work. The weather is horrible, low 40s with rain and clouds like the inside of a dirty dishwasher, and it took the promise of a soy decaf cappuccino hand delivered by my husband to get me to go outside.

So to warm myself up, I've been staring at some pictures I took last weekend of the sunlight bearing down on our displaced kitchen goodies. The yellow slippers were a wonderful christmas gift from my sister last year. When I first opened the box I was not inspired by them but as soon as I put them on they became one of my favorite items in the world. Who wouldn't want incredibly warm, silly yet stylish yellow slippers with pompoms? They make me giggle and remind me that my sister has incredibly good taste. I should have her pick out all my stuff, she picked out my prom dress and my most wonderful cocktail ring, so why not?

The final picture is of some tortilla chips held closed by an unused mouse trap. My husband was looking for a way to close the bag and picked this instead of the various clips and rubber bands scattered around the place. It is stuff like this that makes me love him, he has a practical whimsey that is just so darn endearing.

The repurposed mouse trap + the slippers + last weekend's sunshine gives me the warmies.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bye Bye Wall

Last week Frank, Bernie's friend, came to take down the wall between the living room and kitchen. It was a relatively quiet and orderly demo, not at all like you see on the DIY channels. There were no sledge hammers only careful deconstruction of some original baseboard, giant actual 2X4's, and quirky drywall.

We're still working on the design for the peninsula and are trying to maximize seating area and storage while retaining the flow of the entry way and room. The top will be butcher block and we'll have some open shelving for pots and pans underneath. I think its going to be pretty great and I can't wait to have the whole project done. I have some other small projects on the brain but I'm pretty sure the Husband needs a break.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Much Doing at Our House

I think the husband has reached his breaking point. First the bookshelves, then the paint, and now the wall removal and minor kitchen renovation. When ever I suggest a new project he just looks at me, signaling me "not to push it". We embarked on this kitchen project when we first met Gabe, the incredible carpenter who did our bookshelves.

There is this random wall in our kitchen. Okay, I should back up. We thought it was random because it wasn't load bearing, blocked a nice flow into the living room, and made it very awkward to have people over when you're cooking. So we decided to bring it down and put in a counter top and some shelves. Gabe draws some stuff that we like and I start lining contractors up.

Bernie, my new favorite electrician, came this morning and just left. He had to do a bunch of stuff that involved poking very large holes in the wall. We felt a little weird watching but the Husband asked permission and Bernie very patiently walked us through what he was doing. Electricity scares the heck out of me (a totally rational and important fear to have) and watching him figure it all out was like taking the reasoning part of the GREs all over again. Anyway, we had a lovely day with Bernie and all of our lights and outlets are moved and back to their normal functional state.

One Wednesday, Frank, Bernie's friend, is coming to take down the wall and fix the sheetrock. Then, we have to make some decisions about what goes in its place.




The after pictures don't really show you anything but the holes in the wall. According to Bernie we couldn't have picked a "more happening" wall in terms of electricity. The electricity comes from the box, across the ceiling in the kitchen, then down the wall and spreads out to the rest of the entire house. Cutting the power to the wall knocked out most of the living room, dining room, and hallway. All of that, and the creepy giant transformer for the undermounted lighting, needed to be rerouted and repositioned.

My guess is that you never really know what you're going to get in an old house. Bernie seemed fond of new construction where everything was obvious but then seemed to relish the challenge of the maze of wiring in older houses. Regardless, we were very lucky that there were only minor surprises and that the previous renovation had been done correctly. I kept expecting disaster but felt like we were in good hands if it occured.

Sunset sans Antenna

Last night's sunset was a beauty but in the process of taking its picture I noticed that my most favorite antenna had been snapped off in the recent wind storm. I had luckily, just a few days earlier, exchanged emails with the owner of the building next store so I quickly sent him an email about the dangling antenna. This afternoon, as I was staring out the window I noticed a man on the roof fixing the antenna and threw open the window and introduced myself.

"Hi! You must be Andy?"
"Um, Hi. Who are you?"
" I'm Meg."
"Oh, hi!"
"This is a weird way to meet."
"I take pictures of your antenna all the time, I was very sad to see it and the owl go."
"What owl?"
"The owl, tied to a string, on your roof. It must have blown away."
"Nice to meet you."
"Okay bye!"

Saturday, October 3, 2009

My Childhood

I was recently given a bag of childhood stuff from my dad's office. I've been going through boxes of the stuff at my mom's house for years but this was a very concentrated set of report cards and notes and represented a snapshot of my childhood. I was a bit nervous about going through it since it was literally every single letter I had ever written and notes from every single parent teacher conference he had attended, but once I began exploring, I saw what a gift this, and those boxes from my mom, were.

My absolute favorite thing was a note that my dad took out of the mail. It was from a boy named Mike written to my in 6th or 7th grade, thanking me for attending his birthday party. It had never been opened but upon inspection it must have appear to my dad as some sort of awkward early teen advance. Why he thought a boy would write and mail me a love note and not just put it in my locker is totally beyond me. But the idea is adorable. I'm not sure he knew how unbelievable awkward I was around boys in middle (and high) school but he would perhaps have rested easily if he knew the first boy that asked me to slow dance was met with a shriek and a very awkward run out of the mess hall at camp. My weirdness was boy kryptonite and an overprotective dad was enough to scare any potential suitors. Maybe the US Postal system wasn't such a bad idea.

My second favorite find was a large percentage of baby teeth. If anyone needed proof that the tooth fairy doesn't exist they just need to look in this bag. There must be 15 teeth in there, all carefully taped to the notes that came with them. One note asked for the tooth back (to show my mom) while others asked from ridiculous amounts of money (see above). There is a whole mess of them from camp where I carefully wrapped them in color-coded stationary with a short explanation of how and where they came out, and a very loving "Mr Postman please hand cancel" written on the outside. The idea of these things sitting in a drawer a foot or two away from my dad for 20 years just makes me smile.

Finally, the report cards. I was a totally average kid with a few very obvious problems and strengths. I was very helpful in the class, worked well in groups, and was always happy to read when given any down time. The negative comments should just have been cut and pasted from year to year: bad handwriting, can't spell, and makes careless mistakes. My most treasured comment was "Meghan would do much better in math if she slowed down and didn't try to be the first in the class to finish". I also scored off the charts for all of my physical education markers and apparently loved to climb the ropes in the gym. Great so I was a hyper competitive gym rat in elementary school with the patience of a meth head.

I had been making good steps to do away with my pack rattery but I suspect finding this cache of my childhood will send me strait back to where I came from, two pack rats who loved their kids enough to save every little piece of childhood.