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Posted on Aug 21, 2013 in How to simplify, My Journey

Simplify your closet: End-of-Summer Cleanup Part 6

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When I started this End of summer cleanup, I really thought that there wasn’t much clutter in my house.  I tackled most of my extra clothes the other day when I cleared out the winter clothes in the guest room, and the shoes were handled in the entryways.  Yesterday, I went through my bedroom, and found three areas that had accumulated stuff that I don’t think I really saw any more.

Abandoned books

First, there was a stack of books that I started reading, but were waiting to be finished.  I feel bad if I give up on a book before reading the whole thing.  Sometimes, I get caught up in another book, sometimes a book is just not what I am looking for.  Today, I gave myself book-amnesty.  All half-read books will be donated, so someone else can find exactly what they are looking for.  Stack gone.

Clothes I want to love

I don’t have a lot of clothes, jewelry or shoes, but after going through what was here, about a third of what is in my closet doesn’t get much wear.  I went through each item, and added it to the give-away pile if it fell into one or more of these categories:

  • Doesn’t fit any more
  • Out of style or no longer my taste
  • Has stains or unrepairable damage

I found that I keep things that I loved wearing at one time, even if there is no way to repair.  These have to be discarded.  I am also reluctant to get rid of things I purchased for a specific event (costume party or themed fundraiser), hoping that I might get another use out of them someday.  I also hold onto gifts, hoping that I can use the items to honor the gift-giver.

Baggage

I travel quite a bit.  I don’t like to manage checked bags, so I have become very good at packing only what I need in a small carry-on bag.  Once my extra clothes were gone, I noticed a set of 3 bags that I only used to pack my closet when I moved into this house.  They were stored inside of the largest bag in the corner.  I thought I had given these away a long time ago.  GONE.  Someone will find this set and find them perfect for their around-the-world tour.  I hope they enjoy them, but I sort of want to add a note in there saying that you don’t really need to pack that much, even for a long trip.

Like my guest room, most of the extra stuff in my room was stored out of sight in an organized way.  Other than the stack of books, my room does not look noticeably different.

After all was done, letting go of these items was such a relief, because they were covered with dust and guilt, both of which bother my allergies.

 

Photo credit: geishaboy500
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Posted on Aug 19, 2013 in How to simplify, My Journey

Simplify Your Bathroom: End-of-Summer Cleanup Challenge Part 5

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Today, I tackled my bathroom.  This room is not cluttered.  It has the necessities for everyday activities, and a few brightly colored towels to cheer things up.  Underneath the sink, though is a different story.  There were three sources of problems:

Stock up and forget

I ha a habit of stocking up on shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste when there were coupons and sales.  I got great deals.  Even without the stockpiles amassed by the extreme couponers, I used to just put the supplies in the cabinet, confident that I had enough when the current containers ran out.  Unfortunately, as these items were out of sight, I forgot about them.

Old prescription medications

This is scary.  I’m afraid to throw it away, and afraid of how dangerous these medications might be.  As a result, there were over 20 different expired items at the back of the cabinet.  The FDA had instructions on how to deal with this, but the easiest way is to bring the medications to a designated location.  This took some time, but I’m gld to have them gone.

Samples

What is harder to say no to than free stuff (maybe pie for breakfast?)?  This is something I have a new policy about.  If I would not pay money for the same item and use it immediately, I say no, thank you to free samples.  I have a pile of samples of cosmetics, shampoos and face wash.  More than I could use in years of travel.  These, I donated to a woman’s shelter.  They will get used instead of sitting in my cabinet collecting dust.

Now, there is enough space now to store the cleaning supplies and paper products in one cabinet, and toiletries and such in another.  I don’t have to use the guest bathroom for storage any more.

Photo credit: emdot
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Posted on Aug 18, 2013 in Menus and Recipes

Gifts of food: End-of-Summer Cleanup Part 4

Why is it that when I get a gift of food or wine, I want to save it?  I put these thoughtful gifts aside until someone comes over.  Now, I have shelves full of nice things waiting to be incorporated into appetizers, dinner or dessert.   Well, today’s the day, people!  I’m cooking with the gifts.  All of these are gifts from real people, OK?  None of these are advertisements disguised as recipes.  Not that I wouldn’t do that, just that nobody has asked.

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Swamp People Louisiana Critter Marinade

Now, you might not know this about me, but I am a fan of these guys.  When I was sick a couple of weeks ago, I watched a whole season of this show online.  These skilled alligator hunters are experts at their craft, something I will never be able to do.  A very good friend, who knows that I live near a river, and understands my respect for the SP got this for me at a promotional event.  I spent this past week trying to find some “critter” meat to use it on, but my local grocery and butcher shop do not carry anything that qualifies.  Undaunted, I tried it on some steak, pork chops and chicken thighs.  Fresh ones, not like the ones the gators eat.  I think it worked best on the chicken.  For me, it was not spicy enough for the beef flavor, and not sour enough for the rich pork, but it was still pretty tasty on all of them.  It’s sweet, so expect a bit of char if you are grilling.  It might taste good on gator meat.  Let me know if you try that.

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Low sugar grape jelly

To be honest, I made this myself from a batch of a friend’s grapes last summer.  I gave the batch to her as a gift, and she gave me a jar back to eat.  I had it for breakfast on toast today, and used it in a batch of peanut butter/thumbprint cookies.  Maybe someone else has done this before, but PB&J cookies are pretty brilliant, if I do say so myself.  You can tell that the jam has less sugar, but the grape flavor is more noticeable.

Cloud Berry Jam

I saw these berries on a cooking show many years ago, and the way they talked about them (the delicious unicorns of the berry world), I thought they didn’t really exist.  The other day, someone handed me a jar of cloud berry jam, and it turns out that they look sort of like orange raspberries.  I don’t know how to describe the taste.  Unique:  a combination of apricot and apple?  Also good on toast or PB&J cookies.

PB&J Cookies

  • 2 c peanut butter
  • 2 c white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t  baking soda
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 t vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix peanut butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the baking soda, salt, and vanilla. Roll dough into balls and place them on a silpat. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Allow cookies to cool slightly on baking sheet, press a small dent into cookies, fill with jelly or jam, and cool completely on a rack.

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Starbucks Refreshers Strawberry Lemonade

I have wanted to try this for a while.  This recipe was meant for regular lemonade mix with full sugar, and relies on the custard/lemon curd result of mixing sweetened condensed milk with something acidic.  I put it into a crust with vanilla wafers in the place of graham crackers.  It’s a little strange eating caffeinated pie, but it tasted great.  Also good prepared according to the directions as a drink.

Strawberry Lemon Icebox Pie

  • 1 1/2 c crushed vanilla wafers (1 small box)
  • 6 T butter, melted
  • 1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 pkg Starbucks Refreshers strawberry lemonade (enough for 2 quarts)
  • 1 container (16 oz sour cream)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 1/2 pint whipping cream, whipped

Mix cookie crumbs and butter.  Press into 9 inch pie pan, and bake 350 degrees 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool to room temperature. Mix condensed milk with lemonade powder.  Stir in sour cream and lemon zest.  Pour into cooled crust, and chill for 2 or more hours.  Top with whipped cream and strawberries.

 

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Dill pickles

OK, this is a big jar.  I shared them with friends.  They were great with cheese, crackers, olives and wine.  They never made it into the potato salad.

 

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Posted on Aug 16, 2013 in How to simplify, My Journey

Simplify Your Guest Room: End-of-Summer Cleanup Challenge Part 3

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Guests and guest rooms are awesome

OK, I’ll admit it.  I like my guest room almost better than the master bedroom.  I doesn’t get the morning light, but it’s painted a cheerful yellow to make up for that.  It has a comfy bed, pictures painted by my family members and its own bathroom, so guests can have privacy, and we can too.

What’s in it for me?

The guest room also serves as a storage room.  I have a cedar chest in there that holds a palm tree and serves as a place for guests to put their suitcase.  Just like a nice hotel!  But, the closet serves as a linen closet, and has my ironing board, iron, fan and step stool.  It still has plenty of hangers and room for clothes.  Hotels have ironing boards in the closets, right? Inside the cedar chest is where I keep my winter clothes during the summer, and summer clothes in the winter.  The truth is that over the years I’ve lived here, things that don’t fit well and gifts that are not my taste just don’t seem to find their way out of the chest in their season.

The actual linen closet is in the guest bathroom.  I have never liked storing linens in a damp-ish place, so this closet stores cleaning supplies, paper products and necessities for guests.  I have plenty of storage space in this house, but I don’t need to have stuff just because it fits in the space.

Time to go

Even though I have a modest amount of stuff for the space, I have more stuff than necessary. If a friend came over and needed to borrow a towel (I don’t know, maybe an emergency shower situation or a litter of kittens in the back seat?) I would happily give them one of many in the closet without a thought of getting it back.  Why not give them to someone else who needs them?

First, I removed older sheets and towels from other homes and other color schemes.  I reduced further to one spare set of sheets for each bed in the house.  I usually wash and replace the sheets to avoid folding them anyway.  Then, I removed all clothes from the cedar chest, and only replaced items that I routinely wore last winter.  I don’t wear a lot of different clothes, and this was pretty easy to do.  Finally, I once I’m done with the my bathroom, the cleaning and paper supplies will go there, leaving only what guests might need to use.

Here’s the thing.  After all of that, and a pretty sizable pile for donation, The room looks EXACTLY THE SAME AS BEFORE.

Ready for my next guests in less than 2 weeks.

 

Photo credit: Effervescing Elephant
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Posted on Aug 14, 2013 in How to simplify, My Journey

Simplify your entryway: End-of-Summer Cleanup Challenge

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Part 2: Entryway Cleanup

I have two entrances to my house.  Neither has much in the way of furniture, and both have closets.  Whoever designed this part of my house has my eternal thanks.  This means that not much clutter shows, but it is easy to build up the hidden stuff.

 

A landing zone

If you have room, a table or shelf to put your keys and sunglasses is ideal.  This way, they are ready as you walk out the door in the morning, and you never need to spend your time looking for them.  I have to walk all the way into my dining room to do this, but the first thing I do when I enter the house is to put down my bag, keys and ID badge in the same place.  It’s like a coming home ritual to leave work behind.

I like to leave a leash, poop bags and a pair of shoes near each door, since my dog sometimes has emergency trips outside.

Hooks or a closet for coats, hats and scarves are essential.  This time of year, we don’t use them much, but these can really pile up.  We have coats for both humans and dogs in there, and there are too many.  I took a large bag, and went to work.

  • I left the dress coat and the down parka for extreme uses, and got rid of more than half of what was left.  The main thing to go was coats that have removable liners.  I rarely take the time to make these changes as I am leaving, the liners end up unused.
  • Next, the same process for my hats, gloves and scarves.  Since I don’t have shelf space in the closets, I use reusable grocery bags on hangers to store these items.
  • This was a big bag of donation stuff.  In a couple of months, someone else will be able to put these to good use.

I stopped wearing shoes inside my house when I lived in New York City.  I did not want whatever was on those sidewalks to be tracked into my apartment.

  • I keep a rack near the back door for shoes, but I have a bad habit of just kicking my shoes off as I walk through the door.
  • I also have a habit of not wearing any shoes that are uncomfortable, and those are at the bottom of the pile.
  • I excavated the shoe pile and got rid of those beautiful but painful shoes, and put the rest back on the rack.

I like to think that the person who planned all the closets in this house argued against the white tiles in the kitchen and entryways.  The floors do not stay clean.  I keep a broom nearby, and have rugs inside and outside each door.  I would love to hear any suggestions on how to manage these impractical floors.

Did anyone else to a closet check?  What did you find?

 

Photo credit: pixieclaire001
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