Last Week at the Blue House of Joy

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In between the arm breaking and fall festival shopping craziness, things still did get done around here.

  • I got a plastic dresser from the clearance rack at Wal-mart (bright turquoise) for Greg’s closet and got his stuff moved over and Ben’s moved down. Now they have a shared Treasure Drawer and Ben has three drawers for clothes and so does Greg. I’d show you a photo, but it’s kind of boring in there.
  • I made my lunch drawer happen, even though it wasn’t on the Official List. Nick and I had a discussion about the plastic ware and where it needed to live (my answer: Goodwill. his answer: in the kitchen) : it’s gone into the top cupboards with the regular stuff. Some of the  stuff was removed from several categories and will be making its way to Goodwill this week: mugs we didn’t care about, bowls that didn’t fit our needs, lunch drink containers that ended up not being as leak-proof as advertised.
  • A tall bookcase arrived for David’s room, so he has room for the books that came out of my room (for his age and interests). We still need to get that moved in and the top of the old shelf arrangement mounted on the wall above his dresser for his Lego creations. The old shelf may go to its forever home in the garage.
  • I have plans for the garage. Oh yes. Plans that are not fully envisioned yet. But I did start work on making it tidier for the present. (For the future, I would like to take in half the garage and make a “project” room or -even bigger dream- the whole garage and move the master bedroom over there and let each kid have his own room. Nick would like to think on these further. Poor Nick.)
  •  Last, but not least, I got my lovely, lovely, lovely electric teakettle for a feast gift from my sister-and-brother-in-law. Isn’t she gorgeous?
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Life goes on…

You know what? I thought I’d post more once I got out of my hectic-working-two-part-time-jobs-and-pta-president lifestyle. It turns out that I just don’t. I want to, and I mean to, but then things just go on and it doesn’t get done because it’s not on my calendar of things to do.

So what have I been doing? Here, let me show you:

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First I made a weekly schedule of all our extracurricular activities, then added in the housework and stuff I need to do at home, then I put it into Excel and made a handy-dandy worksheet for the fridge and my family binder.

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Then I made a template for our meals and snacks. Nick and I still work on the dinner menu together in a two week format for the fridge, but having this here one week at a time gives me a better way to figure out what snacks and lunches go best with the dinner plan we’ve already come up with.

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Finally, after looking at a bajillion planners online, I realized that I wasn’t going to 100% love any of them and I’d better just make my own. So here we have it. I loved the idea of a TOP 3 for my week and I loved breaking down what I needed to do not by day, but by for what/who. My text/call/email/snail mail list is awesome, too, because I can do those things whenever I have time for them.

If you zoomed in on those pictures, you saw that I have time to clean, time to work out, time to eat… some of the schedule still needs tweaking. I forgot to put important things like laundry and Bible study time in there. But I also have time set aside for “Special Projects” which is super fun. So far “special projects” has really meant “in-depth house cleaning and reorganization.”

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If you follow me on facebook, you’ve seen this one. I cleared off my grandmother’s desk and rearranged my art (adding some new pieces and repainting frames) and added back my desk tray. I even found my label maker and labels! 🙂

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Ben & Greg’s room got the next treatment. We took down the bunk beds that were causing musical bed nights (the kids take turns sleeping with the puppy and she couldn’t be on the top bunk). Ben has a light he can reach now and he can look out the window at the pink crepe myrtle trees outside while he’s reading.

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We’re reusing the ladder as a magazine rack (though it’s moved into a different place since this was taken) for Boy Magazines (Lego, Cobblestone, Kind News, Boy Scouts, etc), and Greg has room for his side table and music stand & guitars in there as well.

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During the desk cleanout, there was also a cleanout of the Giant Filing Bag of DOOM (a queen sized-comforter bag filled with old papers and file folders). I spent a solid day and a half sorting through papers, shredding, recycling, labeling folders, and filing. I have four of these bins now living in my closet on shelves.

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Change of seasons: I do this every year, even when the house wasn’t clean. I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem like school is back until I’ve put up my fall decorations. There’s more than this, of course, as we’ve got a few things in nearly every room of the house. This is just my favorite view. 🙂

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I hesitated to post this. I’ve been feeling private lately, which may be why it took me so long to blog at all. Anyway, this is my bedroom. You would not even believe how awful it had gotten in there. My room used to be the dumping ground for everything any time anyone came over. NO MORE.

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Yes, I actually TOOK OUT a bookshelf from our bedroom. I didn’t get rid of the books. I just sorted them out into two categories: 1) appropriate for boys in the near future and 2) things the boys will probably never want to read or if they do, they have to wait til the far off future. Anyways, this made the hugest difference in my room. I really cannot explain how big a difference; it has to be seen in person. Anyway, the room looks twice as big now.

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Organized liquor cabinet. Yes, this is all some sort of scotch or whisk(e)y. It is nearly all earmarked for some special occasion or other (each of the boys turning 21, anniversaries, special whisk(ey) tastings). I made Nick move it all out of the kitchen so I could put kitchen items in the cabinet there. *gasp* I KNOW, right? Anyway, it looks much better here.

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Bins for Morning Snacks (we got notes this year from all three kids teachers that lunch is much later than usual and to PLEASE send healthy morning snacks) and Outdoor Toys that Live Indoors. A weird combination, I know. This is a temporary location at best. What I’d really like is a part of the kitchen cabinet set up as Lunch Making Central and a cabinet outside in the back for Things That Are Outdoor Related, but Shouldn’t Get Wet. But I have neither of those things at the moment, so we have bins sitting here. At least all the boxes of snack food in front of this shelving unit have a home now (scroll down for the next picture).

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This used to be the liquor cabinet. Now it stores the aforementioned Sam’s Club sized-boxes of extra snack items (yes, Ramen is an after-school snack for starving middle school boys), a few Need to Be Used Soon alcoholic beverages (that I don’t actually recognize, so maybe they’re just THAT old), oddly sized boxes of baking gear, and of course, the special-from-London chocolate I don’t want the kids to get their hands on (it really does taste better than the ones you buy here.)

What’s next on my list?

  • Moving the shelves from Ben’s closet to the front hallway closet and the bins from that closet to his closet.
  • Sorting through the last two boxes left in my closet.
  • Tidying the hallway bathroom closet.
  • Rearranging storage boxes in David’s room’s closet so stuff he needs is below and stuff he doesn’t is above.
  • Getting a second dresser for the younger kids clothing.
  • Tidying up the last bits of the garage (things get dumped there now that they’re not being dumped in our room).

Those are all small projects compared to the ones I’ve already tackled, so I’m going to do those on evenings and weekends as the year moves on.

So what’s really up next? Finishing the novel I started last year. I’m nearly there, I just have about a dozen scenes to finish and some segues to throw in between things I’ve been rearranging this week. When I need beta readers, I will tell you and if you’re interested, I’ll send it your way. 🙂

And now I’m off to do laundry. Because it’s Thursday, and regardless of the wrongness of the above (now corrected) chart, that means it’s Laundry Day.

What I’m doing this year

People are asking, so here we go:

  1. I didn’t “quit” the PTA, despite how gleeful I might be about stepping down from President-status. I’m still going to Student Health Advisory Committee meetings and am acting as a Council Delegate for at least the middle school PTA (and I’ve offered to do the same for the elementary school, since I’m already going to be there and be writing up reports, may as well kill two birds with one stone, right?). I’m still on the Staff/Teacher Appreciation committees and bringing food up for those days and also doing the Flex Day and 93 and Up Party at the middle school, and heck, I’ll probably even chaperon some field trips and dances while I’m at it. But I’m not on any Executive Board this year and really, that is a lot of work/time/mental stress I’m “skipping out” on.
  2. What am I doing? To sum it up quickly: writing and exercising and organizing.
  3. Oh, you want details? Okay, here goes:
    1. Writing: I have a few novels that are nearing the end of Draft One that I’d like to see actually finish Draft One and move on into Draft Two and Ready for Human Consumption/Editing sometime this year. Also a dozen or so poems that are probably finished, but need Eyes and Sending Off.
    2. Exercising: I’m trying to lose about 90 pounds (a number which I find horrifying). I’m a stress eater/drinker. Boy, have the last few years been full of stress. (Joy, too, but still a lot of stress.) Plus I have been taking multiple medicines that have been shown to cause weight gain as a side effect.  So I’m starting with restorative yoga one day a week, strength training a couple days, aerobics a couple days, and a couple days off because I can’t keep it up if I don’t take time off for rest.
    3. Organizing: I’m a pseudo-hoarder. I occasionally watch those shows on TV and think “Oh, thank God I’m not THAT bad!” while I have boxes and boxes of things carefully labelled and awaiting sorting/filing/recycling. I love labeling things, but throwing things out or recycling them? AIE. I’d rather die. What if I need something out of that pile?!?!? No, really, I’d rather scrapbook them and move on, but barring time and energy to complete those tasks, I’ve labelled and boxed things up and now my house is impressively full. So my plan is to start going through the boxes and start tossing/recycling things that no longer have meaning to my family. Once that part is done, I’d like to get back into scrapbooking things again. I like scrapbooking; it’s just time consuming and I have been far too busy with working for money and working for the good of our schools and our church to get that kind of thing done. So part of my time this year will be catching up on that.
    4. Extras: singing in the church choir & ladies ensemble, helping out on the kitchen crew one weekend a month, playing with the church ensemble and playing piano/clarinet solos/duets for Special Music or Offertory, helping out with kids crafts/social time at church, maybe starting up a book club again, helping out with Cub scouts and Boy scouts, helping people figure out their computers and smart phones, writing blog posts, and updating Facebook. You know, the usual. 🙂

Flying!

Getting back on The FlyLady bandwagon and getting my house/life/sanity under control. Spring Break was fabulous, but the cleanup is going to take a while. Have had a nice last few days at home. It is so good to finally be at home and get things done that need doing. I’ve updated my household notebook and finally put some of my lists in sleeves so I can use the dry erase marker on them. I love technology, but somehow my brain does not equate checking something off a digital list with crossing something out on a paper list. My brain wants paper.  What can I say?

Also had a fantastic time having coffee with a sweet, uplifting friend of mine.  Have I mentioned how much I love having coffee with people?  And that I will continue to call it “coffee” til the end of time regardless of whether or not actual coffee is involved?  Oh yes I will. BTW, I need more people to coffee with.  I am available during the day and will even make time for coffee with dessert in the evenings for all you working gals because I still love you even though you’ve gone off and left me during the day (boo hoo. sniff-sniff.)

Create more

I’m finally getting around to the “Create more” portion of “Pin-free February!”

The first thing I’m trying to “create more” of is less chaos.  🙂  I know that sounds weird, but that’s the first thing on my list.  So I’ve been emptying bins around the house and making sure that they are filled with what they’re supposed to be filled with and then I’m labeling them.  I’ve also got a few new/new-to-this use bins and have been putting them into use.

New baskets for hats in the hall closet

New baskets for hats in the hall closet

Newly labeled (but definitely not new) bins in the hallway closet.

Newly labeled (but definitely not new) bins in the hallway closet.

Reorganized & labeled kitchen drawers.  I'm trying to teach the kids to be a bit more independent when emptying the dishwasher.

Reorganized & labeled kitchen drawers. I’m trying to teach the kids to be a bit more independent when emptying the dishwasher.

Kids bathroom drawer: now organized & with labels!  (that black tray came from today's kids meal - saving money FTW!)

Speaking of kids independence: kids bathroom drawer: now organized & with labels! (that black tray came from today’s kids meal – saving money FTW!)

I’m also trying to create more beauty in my house.

I bought a cheap garland at the dollar store and prettied it up with some extra fake flowers I had lying around.  I looks a lot nicer in person, actually.

I bought a cheap garland at the dollar store and prettied it up with some extra fake flowers I had lying around. I looks a lot nicer in person, actually.

Prettying up my laundry room shelf - I think I'm finally going to repaint it once the rain goes away.

Prettying up my laundry room shelf – I think I’m finally going to repaint it once the rain goes away.

Later:

I spray painted the shelf and the picture frame (using a pinterest method that failed). and tried to decorate the other frame as well.

I spray painted the shelf pink, which is not a color you will really find a lot of in the house, and the picture frame I tried using a pinterest method that failed and I tried to decorate the other frame using a different pinterest method as well.

Combo: I spraypainted my  red key holder to match the shelf and run and I also labeled the hooks once again.  That empty space is awaiting a spraypainted basket.  :) I wanted to make it green but I didn't have the right shade so I once I realized it looked bad I decided not to hang it up until I got the color right.

Combo: I spray painted my red key holder to match the shelf and run and I also labeled the hooks once again. That space is awaiting a spray painted basket. 🙂 I wanted to make it green but I didn’t have the right shade so I once I realized it looked bad I decided not to hang it up until I got the color right.

My new laundry room rug - see how it picks up the colors from the fairies & art on the shelf?

My new laundry room rug – see how it picks up the colors from the fairies & art on the shelf now? YAY!  🙂

Little things

David stayed home Friday, so we stayed home and I did some little things I’d been meaning to get to (photo editing, making appointments, etc.) 🙂

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Greg helped Nick make dinner that night, which was super cute.
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:)Then later Nick and I had a wine & cheese night. 🙂 It was lovely.
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Yesterday was a church day, but today I got back to my little projects. I cleaned the front hallway closet, took out the hanging shoe rack thing since we haven’t been using it since we no longer exit out the front door in the mornings. I moved those items into bins on the floor of the closet (mostly spare hats & gloves, sunscreen & bug spray, and miscellaneous fun things we use mostly in the summer.) and threw out most of the junk that was in those bins previously.
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Next up I’m going to cut the shoe rack into fewer columns of cubbies since the outer rows are broken. I’m going to move those into the garage for wrapping supply storage. Then I moved my purse rack into the hall closet because it was messing with the calmness of my bedroom.
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After all that I put away my stamps & ink from last week and gave Greg the leftover bin for his science supplies.
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While I was doing all that, my menfolk were getting the garden started for the spring.
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Last week I was thinking that I’d love some kind of jewelry rack that hid my jewelry a bit more than what my current system did. By some miracle, I found just what I was looking for in the Family Dollar store:

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I bought two, because I have a lot of jewelry. (I also got a cute rug for my garage entryway/laundry room, but I forgot to take a photo of that.) I haven’t filled them with photos yet, but I’ve been digging through Flickr looking through 2009 photos (because they were lost in the Great Hard Drive Failure of 2009) and I’ll have those printed tomorrow while I’m getting things ready for a Secret Project.

Speaking of projects, I also helped Ben with his Solar System project this weekend. He decided to make a mobile, so we made balls from Sculpey, baked them, & painted them today.
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Now we’re having dinner and games with my parents. All in all a productive weekend.

More organizing

I promised more organizing for the next day’s post and many days have gone by and I can’t remember any more what I organized, so I’m looking through my pictures to help me remember:

See, now my three-tiered shelf can be for pretties again!  (Temporary display for now; first things my hands came to)

See, now my three-tiered shelf can be for pretties again! (Temporary display for now; first things my hands came to)

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This is our new art storage cart. I like that it has many drawers, so pens in one, markers, crayons, pencils, etc… I also like that it’s on wheels so it can live there in peace during regular life, or move to the kids room when Greg is on an art spree, or move into my room when we have guests over for dinner. 🙂

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This doesn’t look as tidy as I’d like, but for a $3 over-the-door tie-and-belt rack, it does the job. No more lost belts & ties! Woo hoo!

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Shoes are always going missing in this house, but NO MORE. Bottom two rows are Greg’s, next two are Ben’s, and next two are next-size-up for each of them (for those days when Daddy is impatient).

Honestly, I’ve gotten nothing else done since then, except a tiny bit in my makeup & hair boxes.  Steph and I did a writer’s retreat this weekend, which I posted about here(from a writing standpoint) and here (from an RA standpoint).  Since I’m still working on last month’s holidays, I brought her her family’s gifts, and she sent some home with me for the boys as well.

There were cards & gifts from another friend in there as well.  :)

There were cards & gifts from another friend in there as well. 🙂

The kids were out of school on Monday, so we had a quiet, fun day:

Greg pulled out his science kit and we spent quite a while trying out all its tricks.

Greg pulled out his science kit and we spent quite a while trying out all its tricks.

I remember playing on this with them when they were all babies!

I remember playing on this with them when they were all babies!

This sign on the door of the bathroom at the park cracked me up!

This sign on the door of the bathroom at the park cracked me up!

and worked in the garden. Ben had scouts in the evening. I don’t know that we should call it that anymore, as he’s the only one that ever shows up any more. *sigh*

Yesterday I didn’t have to work, but I did have a bunch of errands to run: a Goodwill drop-off where I spoke to a man named Ram about how God changed his life, a grocery store run to buy lunch makings since the kids had eaten them all up over the weekend, and then my book study on Raising Resilient Kids over at the PDC. After school Ben had dance, so Greg and I hit the dollar store so he could use some of his Christmas money. Then off to piano lessons, where we got a lesson on what goes on inside the piano and how all the pedals work. It was awesome!

Our teacher is super interesting!  :)  We love her!

Our teacher is super interesting! 🙂 We love her!

Today I was hoping to sub, but haven’t gotten a call, so I’m going to go off and work on some stuff in my bedroom, which has all the boxes of “doesn’t live here” from David’s room cleaning last week. It’s pretty scary and I’m tired of looking at them! Once I get done with that, it’s time for fun stuff: writing! 🙂

January Projects

As you know, I go crazy in January and start cleaning and organizing everything in sight.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s the cold, rainy weather.

 

Yesterday I tackled my hallway bathroom closet, which I guess could also be called my linen closet.

 

Before:

Okay, so it doesn't look quite so bad as my brain says it does, but it was making me crazy.

Okay, so it doesn’t look quite so bad as my brain says it does, but it was making me crazy.

 

During:

There's a method to the madness. One box is labeled "Another Room," one is "Keep," one is "Donate," and one is "Toss." The "Keep" box is the giant pile in the middle.

There’s a method to the madness. One box is labeled “Another Room,” one is “Keep,” one is “Donate,” and one is “Toss.” The “Keep” box is the giant pile in the middle.

After several hours and possibly a billion interruptions (Next time I’m putting a Do Not Enter if You Value Your Life sign up.):

 

Done!  I filled one of each other above labeled boxes (except "Keep" which was the stuff that went back in).

Done! I filled one of each other above labeled boxes (except “Keep” which was the stuff that went back in). I took this photo before I labeled the shelves, but they are labeled by what’s in each bin.

Secret surprise if you look in my linen closet: preschool graduation photos of each of my kids!

Secret surprise if you look in my linen closet: preschool graduation photos of each of my kids!

 

Today I’m tackling David’s room as part of my Flylady plan.  It won’t be done in 15 minutes for sure, but today the desk is getting organized.  I’ve been at it an hour now and it’s finally empty. I’ve filled one trash can, one keep box, and one another-room box already.  Now I can see why he can’t ever find his school papers.  There were a few papers in each messy drawer.  AIE!

 

Don’t Just Talk About It, Days 6, 7, 16, & 17

Day 6 I was supposed to clean under the bed.

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Cleaning under the bed was mostly easy.  I took all the junk out & put it in the holding basket, then put it all away.

Stuff I found under my bed.

Dusted under the bed, then slid the already tidy drawers back in.

Yet more stuff that lives under my bed.

 

Here’s where the cleaning bit gets messy. Day 7 was cleaning the shelving units at the end of my bedroom.

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The problem with the shelves is that they are where all the extra stuff is stored: books & movies that have been borrowed but not yet returned (I borrow from a friend that I only see once every 3 or 4 months so it’s a big pile), videos & DVDs from other areas that have been taken out but not put back (mostly because they no longer have a home due to changes in living room furniture), paper goods that need to be filed but can’t because of sleeping David (the file cabinets live in his closet), all our old yearbooks because they can’t live in the moist garage anymore, etc.

 

So the dilemma is that there’s no longer storage for videos in the living room and my under the bed space is totally filled up.  I started going through there and clearing out movies I was pretty sure we’d never watch again or would be easily available through Netflix. I only managed to get rid of about 6 items. Then I moved on to the drawer of them in David’s room (the old TV stand is in there and used as Lego Building Territory, but we’d never cleared out the drawer and had meant to) and got rid of most of those.   I also dug through the one drawer in the media cabinet that has DVDs and sorted through those and got also got rid of all our cassette tapes, as we haven’t had a cassette player in years (edited to add: some tapes that had sentimental attachments stayed, such as mix tapes made by us or friends).

I still had too many movies to fit into the tiny drawers in the media cabinet.  So I pulled the old media shelves back in from the garage, rearranged a bit of furniture again to accommodate them, and put them back into place.  The rest of the videos and DVDs fit there nicely…with lots of room to spare.  I started thinking about that extra room and how what I thought I needed for the sheet music was shelves.  I ended up pulling out all the music, organizing it by instrument (piano, clarinet, flute, recorder, violin, small percussion), then by book series & level, composer, or genre, depending on the book.  Put all those on the bottom shelf and they fit perfectly.

The newly organized music shelf. Series on left, compilations in middle, by composer next, then theory, books of popular or contemporary music, then the hymnal for clarinets followed by music for clarinets, flutes, recorders,  violins, & percussion.

So in the end I worked on days 6, 7, 16, & 17.  I still have some more work for day 16 – I’m going through and ripping CDs to mp3 that I never listen to because they can’t go on the iPhone as they currently stand – involving moving quite a few CDs into a “Discard if not used in 6 months” box.  But that I’ll leave for later in the month.

 

I’d hoped to get the rest of the shelves in my room cleared out, but the kids are coming home from their Nana & Pa’s house earlier this morning than I’d expected, so this is as far as I got, which is still so much better than it had been.

Iheartorganizing’s Project Purge: Week 2: The Kitchen

I was a bit nervous to start in the kitchen, as I really didn’t think there was much in there that needed to go after all that tidying I did in January.  Boy was I wrong!

 

Photo1: In 2009 I only had one apron, that black one from the café I worked at in college.  It was ugly, so I acquired a few more in nicer colors, but soon realized a couple things: 1) lower half only aprons are silly & don’t help at all and 2) You can only wear one apron at a time, so why have a billion of them?  (That last one was the kids art apron, which they never wear these days)

Photo 2: Spare bits of things we don’t use any more.  Those glasses are from our wedding.  They’ve never been touched again.  One was broken immediately after this picture was taken.

Photo 3: These were all hanging on the walls of my kitchen.  They don’t go together well and were just taking up what I like to call “eye space.”  I took down one other picture, but it’s going in the “find another home in the house” pile rather than the “leaving the house” pile.

 

 

Not pictured: a pile of papers & shelf full of glass jars that got recycled and a coffee grinder that got tossed because it ceased to work (it should have gone to the recycling center, too, now that I think about it).  Also I’m making up a box of only-for-parties items that can go live in the garage, so I can make better use of the space in the kitchen for things I actually do use a lot (like my muffin pans & cooling racks, which are always impossible to get to).