Almost exactly a month ago, as I collected final exams from college students in the journalism class I teach (adjunct) and cleared off my desk in our university-sponsored non-profit office (media coordinator), I looked forward to a lovely winter break of family, friends, festivities — and checking things off of a lengthening to-do list. There were holiday chores, of course, like making chocolate-peanut butter balls and trying to remember locations of presents I’d bought haphazardly through the year — Attic behind the wedding-dress box? Linen closet on top of the exercise step? But I knew I’d have plenty of time for those other pesky non-holiday to-do’s, too. You know, those things that pile up and you just need a few uninterrupted hours to get them done: organize your closet, completely revamp the class syllabus for spring semester, finish some work projects, start on freelance magazine assignments and tackle the pile of I’d-wear-this-if-it-were-ironed or -fixed or -altered or whatever. After all, I’d be off for weeks. WEEKS! Plenty of time. No need to hurry. Relax and enjoy. And I did. There was Christmas prep, then Christmas itself, then football (We shall not speak of the SEC West’s disastrous bowl games. Shall. Not. Speak.) and then New Year’s. And people got the flu and got sinus infections and went out of town and stopped by to visit. And there were movies and get-togethers and long gossipy phone conversations and cozy afternoons on the couch in front of the fire with a stack of library books and nice beer-and-pizza lunches with husband John Pitts and hours — apparently many, many hours — catching up on TV (“Gracepoint” did end differently from “Broadchurch!” Olivia Pope still drinks wine! Annalise Keating is smarter than everybody else. And a liar!). And now, a month later, we have arrived at the final day of winter break and I have about 12 hours to organize my closet, completely revamp the class syllabus for spring semester, finish some work projects, start on freelance magazine assignments and tackle the pile of I’d-wear-this-if-it-were-ironed or -fixed or -altered or whatever. But I’ve sure had fun. Here’s to 2015 — may we never run out of things to do. #backtowork #happynewyear
You all are so sweet to wade through my jumbled and scattered thoughts here in Bloggy World. You have no idea how much I appreciate that. But you’ll be happy to know that I can manage to string together some coherent sentences and actually get them in print — really, I can!!! Here’s proof:
You know the economy has tanked and everybody’s scrimping and saving wherever they can, right? You know folks are cutting back and slashing expenses, right? And you know that the book-publishing industry — like music and movies — is suffering. Then you’ll be as surprised as I was when you find out that there’s one category of books that’s seen an incredible increase in sales. And it’s no wonder — I’ll bet you’re like me and cannot wander past that section in your local bookstore without stopping and checking it out.
And you know what they say when you first start trying to sell your house: Your No. 1 top-priority chore is to declutter. But be careful, because sometimes you end up with more stuff than when you started!
Speaking of family efficiency, how are you at packing? I thought I was pretty good. I had a system based on my method of household organization and it worked for years … until I out-organized myself.
Success! Our yard sale this weekend was great fun. Plus, we sold a bunch of stuff. I mean, our garage has not been this clean and uncluttered since we moved in. This is all we have left. Compared to what we started with, it’s amazing. Yup, it was hot. Yup, it was miserable. Yup, folks thought we were crazy for having a yard sale in 101 degree heat and threats of thunderstorms. But the rain held off and, really, once you’ve sweated so much your T-shirt has become one with your skin and your hair has no resemblance to anything human, then you get sort of used to it. The most popular items at the sale that people asked about and I had to pry out of folks’ hand? Our bottle of hand sanitizer and our table fan. I know exactly what to stock up on for next time.
Tomorrow, this mess is going to be all organized into the Best Yard Sale Ever. Or, if it rains — a garage sale. We’re flexible that way. I’ve called in all the troops: Husband, Younger Daughter, Older Daughter and 2-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable to provide plenty of abundant adorableness. In addition, we’re having Bargains Galore. I promise — things you will not be able to resist. Also: I am not hauling this stuff back into the house. You have been warned. If you’re anywhere near northwest Alabama Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, c’mon over. We’ve got clothes, books, jewelry, home decor — tons of things that would look wonderful in your house!!!
This looks like we had our car all packed up and ready for family vacation, doesn’t it? And we did … although we really hadn’t started packing yet. Fourteen folks in my family were headed to the beach in various cars and at various times and turned out Dear Husband and I had the fewest people and the most room in our car. So of course when we were all in the pre-packing stage, I told everybody, “Sure, we’ll take those chairs/boxes/bags for you if you don’t have room. No problem.” I was happy to help out and it wasn’t a problem — until I realized I’d almost offered out all available space and left only a few square inches for Husband’s and my bags. But some creative shifting freed up the necessary room. And, as usual, I overpacked, anyway. Anytime I’m lucky enough to go to the beach, I end up being totally minimalist and pulling on whatever’s easiest — T-shirts and shorts over swimsuits most of the time — and not even caring if I’m wearing the correct white top-with-black-capris combo accented with appropriate jewelry and handbags I usually do during Real Life. (Hey, I’m a Southern girl. Appropriate handbags are in our DNA, you know.) Sadly, I forget that and always persist in carefully packing coordinated outfits that end up unworn in favor of the wrinkled three-days-in-a-row tank top. And I bet there are lots of you all who suffer from Vacation Overpacking Disorder, too. We should band together and start a support group. And of course the only cure for our afflication is — more vacation packing! Who’s with me???
Whether I’m traveling on a 10-day vacation or an overnight stay at grandson Capt. Adorable’s house, I overpack. I can’t help it. It’s not that I’m a fashionista and I have to change clothes three times a day and always be perfectly and impeccably dressed. On the contrary, I’m pretty low maintenance and can even wear a pair of blue jeans, like, three days in a row. It’s just that I’m wishy-washy and notoriously indecisive and when I’m standing in my own closet it takes me many many minutes to figure out what to wear. So when I’m packing to go somewhere I have to plan for that. I mean, how do I know in advance what I might think that I want to wear? I have to include all the choices I would mull over so I can dilly-dally in front of my luggage the same was I hem-and-haw in my closet at home. The result, of course, is that I end up with 2 1/2 tightly packed bags for a friend’s out–of-town wedding weekend, my husband as always brings along only a half-empty tote and I’m highly embarrassed when we stop on the way to visit another friend and she’s got everything she needs for a two-week tour of Italy tucked into A KID-SIZED BACKPACK. Read more in my weekly newspaper column at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100604/NEWS/100609931, and share your packing tips. Please!!!
No, Tasha the White Cat won’t get sold along with the rest of the stuff slated for our upcoming yard sale, but sometimes I’m tempted. She can be the most annoying, whiny, aggravating little thing — and then she curls up right beside you and tucks her head under and goes to sleep and looks so sweet that you forgive her for the 3 a.m. wakeup calls. Even my husband John Pitts overlooks her irritating determination to get on the other side of any — every? — door, no matter what time of day or night and her overwhelming jump-in-your-lap need to have some of whatever anybody else is eating. Too bad she doesn’t have thumbs and can’t help with yard-sale pricing. We usually donate stuff we accumulate and don’t want to a local church-run thrift store, but somehow we still had tons of stuff taking up prime space. We pretty much have an empty nest now with Older Daughter off and married and Younger Daughter off at college — I always tell them that I don’t mind keeping/storing their stuff, as long as it’s stuff they know they want to keep/store. If not, let’s let it be somebody else’s junk. We haven’t had a yard sale for years and years, and I sweetened the deal by offering each of the daughters half of the proceeds if they’d help declutter. You can see the response here — and this is just part of what we’ve got to sell. Except for the kitty. She stays. I guess.
Welcome to the first Saturday of 2009 and the ninth day in Cathy’s New Year’s Countdown for a tip on dismantling Christmas at your house. Look, even if you are one of those wonderfully organized people who already have (almost) all the holiday things wrapped, packed, labeled and back in the closet where they belong, you probably have a snowperson here and a Christmas candle there, still hanging around. And of course all the rest of us are staring at the tree that needs taking down today — or is that only me? Anyway, I admit I’m only so-so at housekeeping and downright bad at organization and in no way should I go around dispensing advice on these subjects, but I do love that wonderful feeling when everything is clean and uncluttered and efficient. Granted, because I’m inherently lazy and content to live like a slob, I don’t enjoy that feeling very often. But I know how to get it without much effort, so here’s a quick and easy route to post-holiday satisfaction: When you finally take it all down and put it all up, challenge yourself to 1) Throw/give away three things you don’t use but keep in storage anyway (this is where you can guiltlessly get rid of all those ugly Santas your aunt keeps giving you) and 2) Reorganize so you can easily put your hands on the essential part of your family holidays (the stockings, the Christmas CDs, the Advent calendar) that you spent two weeks trying to find in 2008. Do these things, and I promise you December 2009 will be a little less stressful. Not much, but a little. And isn’t that good enough? Check back for day no. 10 in Cathy’s New Year Countdown.
Welcome to the sixth day of Cathy’s New Year Countdown — New Year’s Eve. I’m going to admit to extreme nerdy geekiness and say that some of my favorite things are new calendars and planners. C’mon, admit it: You love them, too. It might be old-fashioned, but there’s something about those pristine blank pages. Blackberries are nice, laptops essential and iPhones are pretty cool, but they don’t hold a pixel to a brand-new calendar. With an unblemished year in front of you, enthusiasm and optimism seem quite warranted. Oh, the things we could do! I could be organized! I could be on time! I could go to fabulous places! I could remember all my friends’ birthdays! Who knows? It could happen. With a new calendar, all things are possible. If you didn’t get one for Christmas, don’t let 2009 sneak up on you without one. Go to your local bookstore or office-supply store or big-box discount store and find what you need. I always get a big wall calendar for the kitchen family-planning headquarters plus one of those 365-a-day-whatever tear-off calendars for my desk (featuring a daily handbag or puzzle or knitting pattern or wild-women quote of the day) and a cute and sleek planner for my purse that looks great for about 3 days and then I spill coffee on it or lotion/perfume/hand sanitizer leaks all over it or I tear out pages to use as hasty notepaper and then find myself skipping from the second week in January to the first week of May. But my intentions always are good. That’s the thing about a new calendar — good intentions are all that’s important. Check back tomorrow for more tips on making the most of 2009 with day no. 7 in Cathy’s New Year Countdown. Since it’s still a party at my house, let’s keep the holiday spirit going and stretch the New Year out to Twelfth Night, or Jan. 6. Happy New Year!
In Day No. 8 of Cathy’s 12 Days Before Christmas Countdown, it’s time to look at the original holiday-simplification guide, “Unplug the Christmas Machine.” Even though it’s almost 20 years old, this book remains the signature how-to for scaling back and cutting down. But you’ll find more here than tips on re-using wrapping paper and getting decorations out of your own backyard. In fact, the rest of the title says it all: “A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back in the Season.” Authors Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli show you how to identify and make time for what’s truly important to your own family’s holiday celebrations and gives you permission to ditch the rest. Isn’t that the kind of Christmas we all want? And we’re talking real-life here. For instance, the authors warn you that while deciding to forgo massive present-opening on Dec. 25 could be a good thing and spiritually satisfying, you might find yourselves sitting around staring at each other without anything else to do. Awkward! And while it reads a bit dated — it was written, after all, before laptops, cell phones and Blackberries became essential family tools — the core message still is relevant: To get the most out of Christmas, you’ve got to regain control of it. It might be too late for this year — you’ve already gotten all your Christmas chores done for this year, haven’t you? — but reward yourself by getting a head start on Christmas 2009. More good news? You won’t derail your new holiday frugality when you buy this book because as an older paperback, it’s only about $10 at most online booksellers — less if you buy it used. It’ll be a $10 you’ll never regret (unlike the $10 I spent on Max Factor Lipfinity Lipstick Sweet 55, but who knew?). Check back on Christmas Countdown Day No. 7 for one of the best online sites I’ve found for Christmas shopping.