Communication: The Key to Avoiding Disappointment

Happy Birthday to Me! Yummy Chocolate Mousse Cake

Today I wanted to share a recent discovery I made. It’s really so simple that it seems ridiculous, but since it took me 52 years to figure it out, I thought others might find it speaks to them as well. So let me preface this by saying that I am in no way bashing my husband and kids. I love and appreciate them very much! I know some are going to read this and judge me for posting this, as it may not reflect too well on me, but as I get older I realize there is great freedom in being honest and real. So like it or not…here goes.

Mother’s Day and my birthday both land in May. Over the past few years, I have found that I am often left feeling a bit disappointed on both occasions. I found myself really battling these feelings, believing it was super selfish. I would literally fight this “edge” in my mood all day on both occasions. I didn’t really know or understand why, but for some reason I always felt like my family didn’t really understand what was important to me. I never really stopped to ponder it much, but just knew neither were highlights for me. Anyway, this year a friend alluded to the fact that she too dreaded Mother’s Day and we discovered our experiences/feelings to be much the same. In our conversation, she shared that her new strategy for creating a better experience was to simply tell her family exactly what she wanted/needed to make her Mother’s Day great (or at least better). It seemed so simple and yet a bit radical at the same time. It really got me to thinking. Here are a few observations I made about my own feelings and situation:

  • My mom passed away before we had children, so my kids have never seen me honour my own Mom. We all know how powerful role modelling is and they have not seen that modelled in any way.
  • My husband worked nights and weekends for most of our marriage and thus was literally never around on Sundays. When I really stopped to consider this, I realized that my husband never had the opportunity to dedicate this day to me, just as I had never done for him. Now don’t get me wrong, we always acknowledged the day, but it was often with a card, perhaps a gift and a very quick dinner between him getting up at 5 and leaving for work at 6 pm.
  • When the kids were younger, I created my own Mother’s Day tradition which basically involved attending a beautiful Mother’s Day service at church. Tim would be sleeping all day in preparation for work, so it was just a given that I would have the kids and it would basically be a typical day in every way other than perhaps a “Happy Mother’s Day!”, exchange of cards and sometimes gifts. I was okay with this because that was just the life and schedule we had, but perhaps always felt a bit slighted.
  • Last year (2019) was probably the first Mother’s Day that Tim was off and it never really dawned on me that we had no Mother’s Day and Father’s Day traditions. We had never really established a pattern for celebrating and I think that I somehow expected more and was thus left disappointed.

My Revelation:

As a teacher, it is my job to teach the lesson, explain the assignment and set the criteria. As I got to thinking about my disappointment and bad attitude, I realized how impossible it would be for my family to meet my expectations and avoid disappointing me, if they really had no idea what I expected/wanted. So, with my friend’s strategy in mind, I decided that I was going to test this out two weeks later when my May 24th birthday arrived.

I know I have shared about The Five Love Languages before, but it really warrants mentioning again. I think what every person really wants/needs is to be and feel loved. The problem is that not everyone experiences/feels love in the same way. When we speak different love languages it can feel a bit like communicating in a foreign language….full of misunderstandings, confusion and hurt. One can feeling like they are pouring their heart into someone and it seem to always fall short….it is all too common we speak different languages of love. According Gary Chapman, there are 5 basic love languages:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Quality Time
  4. Giving Gifts
  5. Physical Touch

Although we all have varying degrees of each of these, there are generally one or two languages that you primarily communicate with. So for example, Acts of Service is my number one love language. If I want to show someone I love/care for them, I am most likely going to step up and do something for them…..bake their favourite cookies, iron their shirt, help clean their room, etc. I show I love them by serving them in some way. Likewise, this is how I feel most loved. This doesn’t mean that I don’t love and appreciate a beautifully wrapped gift because I do, it just isn’t my primary love language. My family can best communicate their love by doing a job for me, spending quality time with me (doing something that I LOVE) or offering words of affirmation. For me, these three are stronger modes of communication. (To figure out someone’s love language, simply watch to see how they demonstrate love for others. This is always your best indicator.) So what was happening for me was that my family was giving me gifts and/or cards, but what I really needed was an act of service or a sign that they really understood me.

So, with all of this new understanding of why I was feeling disappointed, I made a declaration. A few days before my birthday, I told my husband and kids exactly what I wanted for my birthday. At first it felt a bit weird to be dictating exactly how I wanted my birthday to go down, so I kind of made a game out it. I also explained my discovery and how unfair it was for me to judge them if they had no idea what my expectations even were.

The Birthday Experiment

Of course, everyone’s version would be different, but I thought I’d like to give this concept of setting the criteria a whirl and see how it turned out. Below pretty much sums up exactly what I told them in the days leading up to my birthday experiment.

  1. I wanted everyone up and out of bed for online church without moans, groans or arguments. Why? Because it’s important to me and “It’s my birthday!”
  2. Think about something that I LOVE and invite me to participate. “I know you don’t love board games, but I DO and you love me, so just maybe you are going to ask me to play a board game with you! Why? Because IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!!” How about a walk? A bike ride? It’s not about you and what you feel like doing… it’s all about me because “It’s my birthday!”
  3. What kind of job can you do for me without being asked? The best way you can show me how much you care is by doing something for me. Of course, I gave them some examples of this as well… make me a cup of tea/coffee, make a meal, unload the dish washer, literally any job that needed to get done….show me the love!
  4. Going out this year wasn’t a great option, so I told them what I wanted for dinner as well.
  5. Finally….I announced that I would be making my own cake. I think my husband was a bit caught off guard by this one, but here’s what I said. I don’t like or want store bought cake. I LOVE homemade cake, but I never, ever get a homemade cake on my birthday. It is always bought. I would much rather bake my own cake. I love dessert/birthday cake and if I’m going to consume those calories, it is my birthday and I want to choose how to spend them! And just like that….I got the exact cake I wanted.

So, in a very fun loving, yet direct way, I told my family exactly what my expectations were for my birthday and guess what…..BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!! Everyone got up for online church without complaint…yay!! I got some hugs and happy birthdays as well as a few cards with wonderful sentiments written inside. Tim prepared a wonderful breakfast of bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, toast and coffee without even asking me what I wanted…he just went for it. After a lovely breakfast, my dad and I played a few games. Later, Tim asked me to go for a walk. (More quality time!) Just before dinner, Shay came and asked me if I wanted to play a game or two…YES!! Tim picked up a few groceries, did some needed yard work and together we prepped dinner. (More acts of service.) I didn’t mind helping one little bit because my love tank was full! After dinner, my dad and I played a few more games while we waited for Eden to get home from work. She arrived home and we had the homemade cake I made with no Happy Birthday song…also my request. We ended the evening with a family game of Rummoli! I went to bed feeling like I had hit the jackpot. You may be thinking that didn’t sound so amazing….that’s because our needs are all unique, but my point is that I truly discovered that the key to avoiding disappointment is simple…..clearly communicate what your wants and needs are. (You may or may not have noticed I didn’t actually receive any gifts which was totally fine because it is not my primary love language. However, both my husband and kids did in fact give me gifts that arrived after the date…and both were super thoughtful….a book from one of my favourite authors (that I didn’t ask for) and a special hand painted coffee mug with my dog Hershey on it!)

As a mom, I feel like I always try to practise this for everyone else’s birthdays already…by asking questions…What do you want for dinner? What gifts would you like? What kind of cake shall I make? and so on, but after having such an amazing day, I also told my kids and husband to think about what would really make them feel special on their birthdays and to communicate it. Maybe I too was missing the mark. Why do we often make things so complicated? I can’t believe it took me 52 years to figure this out, but it did. I think we just want the people we love to figure the answers out, but why risk hurt feelings and disappointment. It just seems so much easier to set the stage in a loving and respectful way.

I want my kids to know how to honour others. Someday they will be married and they need to know how to show that love, honour and respect to their spouses. If it hasn’t been modelled and/or taught, how is a person supposed to know what to do. So to all you moms out there who go out of your way to make everyone else feel special…how about letting your loved ones know what they can do to make your birthday and/or Mother’s Day even better. Good luck!

I would love to hear from you. Maybe I’m one of few that feel this way about Mother’s Day and birthdays or just maybe this post speaks to you. For me, it was so freeing to finally stop pretending and truly enjoy my day – selfish or not! Tell me your story!

It’s a Red Plate Kinda Day!

I want to dedicate this post to our daughter Eden! She has really had to fight through a lot of crap during the past 5 years, but her perseverance and stamina to push through and never give up are truly admirable. She has been completely depression free since May! Her spark and confidence have returned and she is ready to take on the world.

The Red Plate

The Red Plate is the perfect way to acknowledge a family member’s special triumphs…celebrate a birthday…praise a job well done…reward a goal achieved…or simply say “You Are Special Today.” When the Red Plate is used, any meal becomes a celebration honoring that special person, event or deed. We encourage those who purchase a plate or celebrate this tradition to share YOUR story.

Red Plate Store

We received our red plate as a gift from a friend several years ago. The cool thing about the plate is that it comes with a special permanent marker that you use to record the “event” on the back of the plate. It is so fun to look back and remember all of the occasions in which the red plate was used. I had actually forgot about ours for a while, but came across it when going through my china cabinet this summer. I think it is a super cool idea and makes a wonderful gift! The plates are available through the Red Plate Store and Amazon.

What Made Today a Red Plate Day?

I got up this morning to take Eden for a bit of last minute practise before attempting her 5th road test. The first time she went she was super nervous and made it through the parallel parking and most of the test. She was basically on her way back and made a “critical error” which resulted in an immediate fail. Of course, she was disappointed and this seemed to compound her anxiety for future tests. On her second attempt, she had an almost immediate fail for a critical error before she even made it to the parking test! That was the end of the critical errors, but the third time she didn’t pass the parrallel parking and the fourth she had too many points deducted. Each time she left feeling disappointed, but we tried to encourage her and tell her how important it was to be ready for the road.

To me road tests are like swimming lessons …..please whatever you do, DO NOT pass my child if they are not ready. I was always amazed at parents who would complain when their child had to repeat a swimming level, especially when they were small and in the beginner levels. For me swimming was not an activity, it was a LIFE SKILL! My kids were forced to take lessons whether they wanted to or not. I didn’t want them to ever be in a situation where they couldn’t save themselves or help someone else because they didn’t have this basic life skill. It struck me as so odd, when one particular instructor took the time to explain every detail of the swimming report and why one of the kids hadn’t passed. I politely stopped him and thanked him for holding them back. It was comical because he couldn’t let it go, he kept trying to justify his decision. I told him I completely supported his judgement and that I would never want them to move on if they weren’t ready. He told me he’d never encountered that before as most parents argue, trying to get their child the “badge” they haven’t yet earned. I was literally dumbfounded.

The same is of course true with driving. I’m not sure about you, but I wouldn’t want my daughter on the road behind the wheel of a car, if she were not qualified or ready. Why would any parent? I always prayed with her for a pass, but was so thankful for each failed attempt, knowing that it gave her more time to grow, mature and gain confidence. I strongly believe checks and balances are a blessing! I knew that she’d pass when she was ready and was quite confident today would be the day. She has healed so much in the past few months and she went in knowing in her own heart that she was ready.

Getting your driver’s licence is one of those milestones that mark a turning point in one’s adolescence, but I didn’t bring out the red plate because she finally passed! Today was a Red Plate Kinda Day because the true measure of success is when a person is willing to put themselves out there over and over again, failing as many times as it takes to finally reach their goal! For me, today represented so much more that finally getting her driver’s licence. Today we celebrated her resilience, her willingness to never give up, her perseverance and understanding that all things work out for good, for those who believe and never give up. One can only truly fail, if they stop trying or never take the risk to try in the first place.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

Way to go Eden, so proud of you!

*This post was written on Saturday, September 7th, but I just got my kiddo’s stamp of approval to post it publicly.

Mud Room Mayhem #6: Vintage Sewing Machine Turned Entry Table

I had picked up an old antique Singer Sewing machine several years ago through Kijiji. I was attracted to this one in particular because it was only $25. Of course the low price was fair because it was in super bad shape.  The wood had been painted white and then left outdoors for an extended period of time. Needless to say it was warped and the paint was in horrendous shape. For me it was a steal because I really didn’t care about the cabinet or sewing machine. I was interested in the drawers and wrought iron base.

I had previously used two of the drawers as little storage containers in my laundry room makeover.

I was saving the wrought iron base for something…it just took me a few years to figure out exactly what I would do with it. When we finally decided to attack the mud room, I knew this is where its final resting place would be. This was a super simple project and it was so easy to make it a custom size to fit the space. The sewing machine base consists of two side panels. The size of the table is simply determined by the length of the boards you use. We purchased 3 planks and cut the two shelves, so that they would fit snuggly between the sides and rest on the old drawer supports. The third plank was slightly larger, so that it could sit on top of the supports and overhang slightly. We sanded, stained and urethaned them all and then secured them to the supports (which I had sanded and spray painted white). The finished result was a perfect sized shelve/entry table for our mud room! I couldn’t believe that I scored all of the baskets/trays at Dollarama for well under $30!

I feel like this mud room has been at a standstill for way too long, but with summer vacation around the corner I’m optimistic that we’ll make some headway. This summer my mantra is “finish old projects”. I feel like we have quite a list of jobs that are 90% done.  My plan is to take care of all of those finishing touches and try not to start anything new before these old projects are 100% complete. That would feel sooooo good!

Mud Room Mayhem #4: Feature Wall

Mud room feature wall

Mud room feature wall (The plant is not really part of the decor, but desperately seeking sunlight and hoping to revive!!)

Have I mentioned how disfunctional this space was? Not only was there no closet, the room was designed in such a way that you really couldn’t even add a nice wardrobe to solve the problem. In the end, I knew the only option that would work for this space was to install open hooks on the feature wall.

Shiplap Feature Wall:

The first step was to prime and paint the newly installed shiplap. I used my favourite, Simply White, by Benjamin Moore.

Upcycled Coat Hook Rack:

The next step was to install the coat hooks. I decided to make a base to mount the hooks onto. My mission in this mud room project was to incorporate reclaimed pieces that I already had on hand. For this, we used one of the boards from the old piano we had previously dismantled. I think it was the one that sits vertically above the keys and opens automatically when the cover for the keys is opened up. (You can tell I am no musician by my lack of piano lingo). I wanted a ledge on top for art or some other kind of accessory and was fortunate to find an old oak mantel for sale on Kijiji. I actually can’t remember what I paid, but I know it was cheap…maybe $15? So, I painted both the piano piece and the mantel for the top. I bought the antique hooks from Candle & Co. out in West St. Paul. We managed to fit 7 hooks across the middle, so it really provides ample room for the coats we use on a regular basis. Being that it is winter, it is impossible to “stage” it like you see in so many mudroom/entry shots on Pinterest. Our coat rack is pretty full and will remain that way for 6 months of the year. Perhaps by next summer the coat rack might look prettier, but for now it serves the purpose it was designed for….it stores our winter gear!

I tried several different pieces on top of the mantel and in the end I opted for an old bevelled glass window. I love the impact of the dark green in an otherwise very soft colour pallet. The best part was, it was yet another piece I was able to rescue from my basement storage and incorporate into the space at no extra expense.

Upcycled Single Headboard Bench Conversion:

Below the coat rack is a simple bench that we constructed from a $10 Kijiji headboard and more old piano parts. I can’t say I love the bench, but it will do for now and isn’t bad for our first attempt at making a bench. There are so many great repurposed bench designs and for me this would only be about a 5/10 in terms of the look I was going for. I really would have liked a piece with more “weight”, but we are confined to a small space, so I had to stick with a single bed and there weren’t many available at the time. This bed didn’t come with a footboard and my preference would have been to use the footboard for side rails on the bench. All in all, not exactly what I wanted. The wall is tall and a heavier looking, larger piece constructed from a queen frame would look amazing, but I can’t afford to loose the space under the window for extra storage. I will continue to watch for a single bed frame that may be more to my liking, but for now the one we have is fine. If you are interested in converting an old bed into a bench, check out My Repurposed Life for inspiration and detailed tutorials. I always find great ideas on that site!

Upcycled bench

Upcycled bench created from a single bed headboard and old piano parts.

I can’t wait to add a few more accessories when the space is completely finished!

A Look Back:

Couldn’t finish the post without a quick look back to before and after shots of this wall. Oh my….was that awful!!

Mud Room Mayhem #3: The Shoe-lution!

Having no closet and dreading the thought of using some sort of messy shoe rack, I had my heart set on hidden shoe storage. I had planned this out long before the mud room make-over was ever really in the works. I had seen this idea years ago on Pinterest and knew that someday my mudroom was going to have drawers in the stair risers to hide the vast array of shoes that constantly littered our mud room floor.

Tim had already removed the old stairs from the kitchen down to the mud room. He custom built the stringers and stairs to fit the space between the kitchen door frame and the door leading to the back yard that sits at the base of the stairs. We decided to opt for simple 2″ X 12″ construction for the stairs and then sanded and stained the stairs to match the oak floors. We were super pleased with how the stairs turned out despite the fact that they were made very economically without spending on high end wood.

For the drawers, Tim re-used planks from our old wooded futon frame for the sides of the drawer boxes and then old 1/4″ fir for the base and drawer fronts. The fir was removed from the walls of an old walk-in closet/storage room in the basement when we reconfigured some of the basement several years ago. We had kept the wood for future projects and it came in handy for these drawers. Although the fir has much more grain and an orangey/red hue, the dark stain took beautifully and I actually love the fact that the drawer fronts stand-out from the stairs and aren’t so “matchy”!

Best of all, the drawers provide ample storage for our shoes, and short boots will even fit when placed on their sides. So thrilled!! Using stair risers for hidden shoe storage might be my favourite Life Hack yet!! Thank you Tim!

 

Puppy LOVE!

HersheyThe holidays are flying by, but luckily we still have one month to go! Summer is generally the time that I plough through my giant list of things to do, but not this year…..July has been spent training and caring for our new puppy!

After approximately 4 years of debating the pros and cons of getting a dog…we finally did it and couldn’t be happier! Tim and I always wanted a dog and of course the kids have been begging us for years, but the truth is we were terrified of the commitment. Although our kids insisted they would take care of a dog, their track record with past pets (fish, toad, crayfish- yuck!!) would state otherwise. I believed they’d help out, but the reality was… it would be Tim and I taking on the responsibility. We knew that we didn’t want to be dog owners that don’t walk their dog or leave him/her kennelled for hours on end. I finally decided I was ready and it was time…we needed some positive energy in our home and what better way to bring that in, than with the joy and excitement of a new puppy! Tim was still hesitant, but left the final decision up to me. The kids and I went to meet the one remaining puppy from the litter and absolutely fell in love. I must say, I NEVER in a million years could have anticipated falling in love with a dog. I am now officially a dog person! I could never understand when someone said they had to get home to the dog or spent oodles of cash on vet bills and yet, here we are obsessed with the health and well being of our precious Morkie-Poo ~ “Hershey”! Although there are times, when I feel tied down by the commitment (especially now when we are still training him), 95% of the time, I am thrilled to take him for a walk, play with him or just cuddle. My shortfall is easily consumed with the abounding  love and affection of Tim and the kids!

I honestly can’t believe what he has brought to our family. He is calming, funny, affectionate, playful and a smile maker! There is plenty of research supporting the positive impact of owning a dog on both physical and mental health. Owning a dog can reduce stress, cholesterol, high blood pressure, risk of cardiovascular disease and help relieve depression and anxiety. There is also evidence stating that infants that are exposed to dogs develop stronger immune systems and are less prone to allergies. If you’ve been tossing around the idea of getting a dog, check out these two articles to learn more about what a dog can bring to your home…. extending far beyond the love and companionship you’d expect.

We chose to go with a smaller breed and one that was non-shedding, as I knew the dog hair would drive me crazy. We definitely consider “Hershey” when planning any outing, but know that this will be less restricting once he is trained and can be left alone for longer periods of time. We chose to kennel train him and that has been wonderful. His kennel is his safe place and it helps us to keep track of him throughout the day/night when he’s sleeping. This also helps to make bathroom training easier as he always “needs to go” after a nap. The “cons” list seems to have dwindled in our eyes, but those things that remain would really be limited to the occasional inconvenience when you need to be out or are trying to tackle a big project and would prefer not to be interrupted with “puppy business”, as well as the financial expenses associated with owing a dog (food, toys, kennel, bed, blankets, treats, leash, collar, vet bills, etc.). The bottom line is that “it is all worth it!”  Tim and I took a long time to make our decision and most of our concerns were “logically based”, but you can’t possibly calculate in the positive emotional impact that a puppy has on your family life. It is so much more than a point on your “pros” list ~ a puppy literally has the power to change the dynamics and relationships within a family. Hershey brings joy to our home everyday! This positive energy is created by observing and interacting with him, as well as sharing in the stories told by other family members experiences. You have new topics for conversation, share many “ooh’s”, “aww’s” and laughs and have far less time to focus on the issues of life.  For us, it feels like it has allowed us to take our eyes off that which can sometimes drag you down, and instead direct your focus on the fun and playful nature of a new puppy.

Getting a puppy was truly life changing for our family and the best decision we ever made! If you are sitting on the fence and like us are having trouble making the commitment ~ take the plunge and just do it! I promise any compromises will be worth it!

Happy Father’s Day!

As always, the service at Springs Church was excellent today. The praise and worship team did a couple of special numbers, both of which were fabulous tributes to DADS.

Eden managed to video this performance, so she could show her dad later today, when he gets up for work. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did…..so hilarious (and true)! They sang this parody based on the Brittany Spears song “Hit Me Baby, One More Time”.

PS Dads, you may think you have us all figured out….don’t bet on it!

Happy Father’s Day!

 

Spare Room Make-over: Scrapbooking Storage Bench

When planning out the space, we decided that the spare room would become my dressing room as well as my new scrapbooking room. I already had a scrapbooking room located off the back of the spare room. I loved the room as it was banked with a wall of windows and offered great light. However, it wasn’t very functional and I found most of my projects were done in the evening and I rarely got to enjoy the windows anyway. After years of contemplation, I finally relented and we both decided that the benefits of main floor laundry far out weighed my reasons for keeping it as my scrapbooking room. So I needed to create a space that was visually appealing, functional and could be kept neat and tidy.

Once again, I decided that in order to make this really work, I had to go through the painstaking task of sorting through all of my scrapbooking and project supplies. Although I still had Marie Kondo fresh on my mind, it was impossible to follow the same steps I used for sorting my clothes only two days before. This job involved literally hundreds of small items that needed to be sorted, organized and in some cases tossed or donated. I literally went through every piece of paper and brad I had in my possession. Purging my clothes was a big job, but this was a monster. It took me two very long days to get through everything, but in the end, every item would have a proper home.

As I cleaned and sorted, I tried to think about how I was going organize everything neatly into the new space. The scrapbooking albums were a bit of a challenge to figure out. They are large and needed a shelf that would be about 14″ deep and approximately 3 feet long. They are very heavy and the books themselves are several different colours. I really wanted the colour scheme to be very neutral with white accessories. After pondering for a few days, I stumbled upon a bench seat that had been given to me by a colleague. She thought I might be able to use it for a project some day. Although the bench was rather plain and needed some work, it was sturdy. I was so excited when I tried an album and discovered that it held my whole collection perfectly. I decided to give it a fresh coat of white paint and upholster the top to create a comfortable seat to use while dressing. Here is what the bench looked like before I started.

Upholstering the top what quite easy. I just removed it and added foam and padding from an old leather chair Tim had just dismantled. It was really just a matter of using a staple gun to secure the padding and fabric. I then added a piece of white material to give it more of a finished look when you lift the lid. The fabric was discounted and I managed to pick it up for around $7.  After adding the extra piece of wood along the front and upholstering the top, the bench boasts a whole new look. Simple, but lovely.

I couldn’t be more pleased with the finished bench. I am so glad I figured out how to make the albums accessible and yet out of site. The thought of having all of the different coloured albums up on a shelf was just not the look I was going for. Can’t wait until the whole room is pulled together. Just a few more projects and it will be done.  Stay tuned for the next project I have to share from our spare room make-over.

Spare Room Make-over: The Purge ~ Clothing Cast-a-ways!

As mentioned in a previous post, one of the struggles with an older home is the lack of suitable closet space. I never realized how disorganized my clothes were until my friend Robin began sharing with me some of what she learned by reading Marie Kondo’s book on how to organize your life. While we painted the spare room, she shared some of Marie’s thoughts on how to de-clutter and free yourself/life of the weight of all of those things you’ve collected, but don’t really need or even use. I must confess, I haven’t yet read the book. Never the less, I decided to take action and apply some of the tips I learned. I got up the next morning feeling inspired and began to tackle my clothing problem.

Clothing Cast-a-ways:

Step 1:

Collect all of your clothing and I mean all. Every stitch ~ from off-season to outerwear. Dump it all in the centre of a room on the floor. This is key – you must see it all together in order to be able to truly sort it. pile of clothes

I have never felt that I own many clothes. I hate shopping and seem to add only a few new items a year to what I already own. I don’t believe in waste and am not one to spoil myself. Having grown up with very little money, I learned at an early age how to stretch a dollar. (This is not always good, sometimes we need to learn to break free of the belief systems from our past as they can in fact hold us back in life ~ I’m still working on this.) I regularly donate clothes that we no longer wear and I honestly didn’t believe that this would be too big of a job for me. Wrong.

Step 2:

Sort the clothes into three piles: keep, donate and toss

Keep Donate Toss

The far pile is my “keep” pile, the one to the right for “donation” and the smallest was what I deemed garbage. (You can see the bottom two shelves of the armoire in the background ~ this is a mad mess of board games that now have a new home – yay!)

Step 3:

Toss the garbage and bag up the items to be donated.

Left over hangers

Here is a tub with the left over hangers.

I was astounded when I ended up with one black garbage bag of clothes to toss and three more to donate. How was it even possible that I had 4 black garbage bags of clothes that I didn’t really want or need? I felt like I had been through my clothes regularly, but the difference really was having it all in one place. One of the things that my friend shared that really helped me to part with items was to stop and ask myself how a particular item made me feel when I wore it. If I didn’t love it and feel great in it, then why keep it. I quickly realized that I had kept many items that I would try-on and end up hanging back-up because I really didn’t like the way it made me feel. Some of the items were virtually new and just never made me feel good about myself when I put them on. It was so freeing to finally just allow myself to be honest and discard what I really didn’t like without feeling guilty. After all, someone else might embrace that same item and be blessed by it.

Step 4:

Sort the “keep” pile ~ t-shirts, pants, scarves, underwear, socks, etc.

Step 5:

Fold and organize all of the clothing that you are planning to keep.

Traditionally, I have hung most of my clothes. I don’t know why I opted to hang, but I think I believed that it would save me having to press everything before wearing it. I’m a pretty low maintenance person and the thought of ironing all of my laundry was just not going to fly. I spend enough hours doing laundry as it is and my iron is used only on a “as necessary” basis. However, when your clothes are crammed onto hangers and squeezed into closets that are too small, they rarely escape without creases. The idea of folding everything seemed almost foreign to me, but I decided to do what Marie suggested and give it a try because what I was doing just wasn’t working. I even followed her suggestions on how to fold the items. I was already doing the vertical folding, but this took it all to a whole new level. She doesn’t believe in storing clothes and says you should be able to see every item of clothing you own.

My plan was to use the armoire which had previously housed a mish-mash of items including my pants, board games, linen, fabric, batteries and a few other odds and ends. This meant finding new homes for everything that didn’t fit into the category “Cindy’s Clothes”. The armoire has mesh wire doors and you can see into it. I know Marie suggests using containers/boxes you already own, but I wasn’t okay with this since they would be visible. I didn’t spend much, but did pick-up a few containers to add to what I already owned. I really just wanted them all to be white. I began the process of folding my clothes with the goal being to fit everything in one cabinet and one closet.

In the end, I was able to downsize considerably. I no longer store my off-season clothes in a huge tub in the basement and was able to give up the dresser I was using in the master bedroom. I now have almost everything in one place. The armoire is full, but completely organized and not cluttered at all. It contains both my summer and winter clothes. My main closet has the few items I chose to hang. All of those easily fit on the top bar in the closet. The bottom bar was completely empty, but I decided to move my hoodies from the hook on the back of the master bedroom door to the bottom bar in the closet. I do still have the closet in the master bedroom for longer items such as dresses. It isn’t very full, but the length doesn’t allow them to fit in my main closet in the spare room. My outerwear is still kept at the back door.

It feels so light and airy with all the extra clothes gone. So far I haven’t missed one item. Everything I own is at my fingertips and visible. The change is dramatic, but I will admit it took me a long time to complete this job. I was so busy that week that I honestly don’t remember exactly how many hours I worked on this from start to finish, but I think it was more than 10. It is a huge task, but the payoff is tremendous. I love how accessible everything is and find that I spend so much less time getting ready in the morning because I only kept items I like!

The time spent definitely took away from the time I had to work on transforming the spare room, but was completely necessary if the make-over was going to be successful in the end.

If you are interested in learning more about what Marie has to say in her book, but aren’t ready to buy it, check-out One Kings Lane for a post outlining 8 of Marie’s decluttering lessons. I for one can’t wait to read the book!

Dutch Elm Disease: The Destruction of a Neighborhood

BEFORE Dutch Elm Disease

Just updated the post with this photo. A great shot of our street in July 2012.

I have to admit, I’m no “tree-hugger”. I like camping and appreciate the beauty of nature, but by no means consider myself to be any sort of activist. However, today I can honestly say….I’m saddened to the core. I fell in love with our street long before we ever bought a house here. The heritage homes were beautiful, but what captivated me most was the incredible canopy of hundred year old trees that lined the street. It was simply gorgeous in the summer when the leaves of the huge trees were fully grown and the expanse of green foliage created a tunnel-like effect when looking down the street. In fact, I remember telling Tim, “Someday I want to live on Machray.”

Although I have oodles of pictures, it amazed me that I had few that really captivated the beauty of the street. I guess that is often how life goes, you don’t truly appreciate what is before you until you lose it. I managed to find a few pictures that give a bit of an example of how our street looked clothed in the beauty of those huge trees.

Over that past few years, we’ve watched as the city has “tagged” the odd tree here and there, indicating it has been infected with Dutch Elm Disease. Eventually, the crews would come and remove the tree, to the disappointment of the entire block. However, this fall things took a huge turn for the worse.  We watched as tree after tree was tagged and how the process seemed to quicken from months to mere weeks. Last week, on my day off, the usual silence of our street was disrupted by the sounds of chain saws and falling trees.  I would have prefered to be at work.  It was bad enough to come home at the end of a work day to see which trees had been removed, but clearly the city was trying to beat the snow and seemed to be on a mission. I listened as the chain saws fired up, felt the shake as those near our home hit the ground and looked on with a deep sadness as our street evolved into something more reminiscent of a war zone.

One of the workers said our street had been one of the hardest hit. I am not surprised by this news. The initial length of time between tagging and removal seemed like a long drawn out process ~ with plenty of time to for the disease to spread from tree to tree. Although they are now working diligently to remove the infected trees in a timely manner, it is much too late for our beautiful street.

The canopy that first drew us here has been stripped away and the dreary day seemed almost fitting to the mood on the street. A piece of our neighborhood is gone, but our spirits won’t be broken. We are blessed to have such awesome neighbors and although it will never be as beautiful as it was, we can not let the absence of trees ruin the street we have grown to love and appreciate so much. I know deep down it is not the trees that make a neighborhood, but rather the people who live here. I was actually surprised by my own feelings as I watched it all unfold, it feels like such a significant loss. Despite this,  we will continue to love this street we call home. Hip-Hip Machray!!