Life as I know it

It’s been a quiet week at home.  No guests in our respite home, just the three of us.  It’s been a little too quiet but I think it helps me appreciate what we do.  I’m going to be starting a binder soon documenting our activites here at our “hotel for kids”.  A retreat, a calm place to get away from the day in, day out.  I have found that I do more here.  I could have done more before but it always felt like work.  Now it feels like play.  We’ve learned how to make slime, floam, paper beads, cakes in mugs, banana bread, play dough, paper mache.  We’ve painted, created baking soda volcanoes, learned how to get stains out of clothing with dawn dishsoap and baking soda and lots more.  We even learned how to make the twist and loop rubber band bracelets with the twist -n- loop maker we bought at 5 Below.

We are now constantly learning new things.  My daughter and I learned to knit this weekend.  She learned on Friday, I learned yesterday.  I always thought that knitting was sooo hard so I didn’t want to learn.  My daughter however has been talking about wanting to learn to knit for several months now and has been asking for knitting books and supplies.  My coworker came over to teach my daughter the basic steps.  Yesterday my daughter taught me how to knit. 

Even though my daughter was patient with me, I just couldn’t figure it out so off to youtube I went.

Here is a really great youtube video that helped me with learning the basic knitting steps,

heather knit 1 izzy knit 1

The first picture is my first attempt at knitting.  Second picture is my daughter’s.  We held off buying supplies until after her first lesson.  I have a habit of buying way too much stuff and putting the cart before the horse.  So I patiently waited and then had my coworker tell me what to buy. 

We went to Joann fabrics and I was a bit overwhelmed by the multitude of yarn and needles.  My daughter was drawn to the large needles during her lesson so I bought a size 19 Boye plastic needles for her.  I picked up an extra set – size 15 Boye metal.  She recommended Lion Brand yarn so my daughter is using the hometown USA in Fort Worth Blue.  It’s a think super soft lovely yarn. The yard I’m using is Lion Brand Jiffy in Violet. It’s not as soft, it’s thinner (5 instead of 6) as the hometown but it feels lovely.  I also picked up the hometown USA in Charlotte Blue, the jiffy in country green and 1 thing of Lion Brand wool-ease in seaspray.  A nice little assortment to get her (us) started.

We also went book shopping yesterday.  It was the annual penguin book sale.  We tend to go a little crazy as the books are good, and cheap.  I get so excited about all the taste of home cookbooks, the children’s books, Eric Carle books, gardening books, the Complete Idiots Guides, and more.  As you all know I’ve been decluttering and downsizing so this can be a very bad place for me to go.  All books that are $10 or less are $1.  Taste of Home cookbooks for like $3.  That’s an amazing price.  My first year going I spent over $100 in books.  My arms felt like they were going to break and I was eyeing enviously those with wheeled bags.  This year my arms were still tired (4th year going) as I still don’t use a wheel bag but it was my lowest total yet – $38!  I’m so excited about the books I purchased this year.  (35 books for $38 – what a steal!)

For me:

taste of home The Taste of Home Kid approved cookbook.  I love taste of home so much because each recipe comes with a brightly colored photograph of the finished product.  I love this because it makes me want to cook.  The recipes from Taste of Home tend to be winners too.

good deeds The unofficial offical handbook of good deeds by DK was the first book I put into my bag for myself.  It is full of great ideas to encourage my kiddos to make the world a better place.  It’s a fantastic book full of practical ideas and brightly colored photographs.  I can’t wait to sit down and read through this!

bullying The Essential Guide to Bullying Prevention and Intervention is the last book I bought for myself.  As I’m going through the books I bought myself I realized they are all for the work that I do for and with my kids.  There were tons of fiction books available for a fraction of the normal costs but I realized that I prefer to read those on my ereader.  Easier to carry, easier to maintain and easier to read.

We picked out two for our nephew to be born next week – Baby’s First Year! and Baby Touch and Feel Farm


Our 4-year-old nephew will be getting two sticker books for which I’m sorry in advanced for

disney animals

and Winter according to Humphrey for my daughter’s friend.


The surprising thing was that my husband bought some books for himself.  He doesn’t read – he knows how to, just doesn’t like to.  I was shocked because he bought himself some fiction and non-fiction.  So what does a man buy who never buys books?

merlin plants in pots rangers apprentice transformers

So he bought Merlin the Book of Magic.  He doesn’t realize that it’s book 12 of the set.  It looks interesting though – a companion’s guide to the series.  My husband gardens, he loves it.  He found Grow Plants in Pots and I thought it was fitting considering how he spents time each summer working on a small garden.  He bought book 1 of the Ranger’s apprentice series – The Ruins of Gorlan.  If he reads this I’ll gladly buy the rest for him.  Last, a guide for a video game.

Finally our daughter and the house got the most books.  We have teens and preteens all the time and I take them to the library and encourage them to read.  We have a book shelf on the 1st floor full of books but it’s been lacking on chapter books.  I picked up the Shark Wars series.

shark wars I found books 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6.  It was so strange – not a single book 3 anywhere at the sale.

My daughter picked up Remarkable by Lizzie K Foley.  She picked up the back and was excited, evil twins, pirates with two peg legs, a sea monster!  This is my kind of book – she exclaimed.


ninjago She also got Lego Ninjago Character Encylopedia.

As for the other 16 books?  She’ll find those under the Christmas tree.


Need to Read

I haven’t read a book in awhile.  I’m really sad to admit the last books I read was the Fifty Shades trilogy.  Honestly gotta say – i don’t know why I read them.  Also don’t know why I couldn’t put them down.  The series hurt my brain a bit – the writing repeated itself.  could have been better.  thought several times that if a drinking game was made about Fifty Shades you’d die from alcohol poisoning.  bite her lip – drink, she does something stupid – drink, etc.  It is no literary masterpiece and the female character has no self-respect but I read them nonetheless.

That was a few months ago.  They didn’t have anything to do with me not reading anymore.  Sad to say it was a mixture of getting my iphone, the unfortunate bit of wearing my CPAP mask (love to read right before bed) and my increasing addiction to Simpsons Tapped Out.  My ereader sits neglected in the box on my dresser.  I have even taking a few trips to the bookstore (purchased 5) and have gone to the library (borrowed none).  I guess I’m just not in a book mood right now.  Even though I haven’t read a book I still read daily.

I have been reading several blogs – giving me lots to think about.  Here are my favorites right now:

  1. Miss Minimalist – still a huge fan of hers.  She’s been on a writing sabatical so not much in the way of content from her but she continues to post Real Life Minimalists.  I’m not a minimalist but someday I’d love to be able to write my own to submit.
  2. Living Lagom – LOVE this blog.  It’s refreshing and real.  I love how she shares her weakness for starbucks and her personal goal to eliminate disposable cups.  She has helped me see how bad I am with disposables.  I realized I was using at least 2 disposable cups each work shift – 1 for coffee, 1 for water.  I have to cut back because it’s silly especially when I have reusable cups that I love.
  3. Minimalism is Simple – I starting reading this blog after Aly was featured on Miss Minimalist.  She is going through this process with her mother.  I love that.  I wish that I had a friend or family member that I could do this with because sometimes it feels so lonely to be purging things when everyone around you is purchasing stuff.
  4. Zero Waste Home –  I wish I was this passionate about anything.  Such an inspiration – am completely addicted to this blog.  I want to start composting eventually – I’m also starting to become more aware of how much garbage my family generates.  It’s eye opening.  I like how she prioritizes – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot.  and she stresses that this is the order.  I have always hated recycling but never could figure out why.  I think it has to do with “green” people who preach recycling while they are drinking water out of plastic bottles (to be recycled).  Recycling takes alot of energy.  It’s better just to refuse and reduce first.
  5. Be More with Less – the archieves are a wealth of knowledge
  6. One Good Thing by Jillee – she is incredible.  love the recipes – my favorite homemade laundry soap was found on this blog.
  7. How Does She – I get the newsletter.  I consistently read the newsletter too.  Typically email newsletters get deleted without me ever opening them up.  These are so good that I save them.  Crafts, home ideas, fun things to do with your kids – it’s all here.

I’ve also been going back to reading the FlyLady emails.  I feel like it’s time to give her program a try again.  I need routines and structure.  I’m missing both right now and I want to get better.  I still have the hoarding mindset but my house doesn’t show it right now.  I need change or else I’ll never learn how to save money, live with less and be content.  I’ve been buying less “junk” to bring into my home.  I’m truly questioning items now before I buy them.  My husband is also helping by asking if i would want to get rid of it soon after bringing it home.  Most of the time the answer is yes so I don’t buy.  Other things are not as easy.  I have bought some books but they are sitting on my bookshelf unread.

1.  Salt, Lemons, Vinegar, and Baking Soda.  It’s right up my alley lately.  My strong push to go more natural and to simplify the cleaners in our home means that these 4 items are even more important then ever before.  The book called to me at Barnes and Nobles when I was shopping for a birthday gift so I bought it.  I looked at it once and then put it on the shelf.


I also bought List Your Self – Listmaking as the Way to Self-Discovery by Ilene Segalove and Paul Bob Velick.  It’s this really great book full of lists that you fill out.  I looked at this and passed over it.  Once home I got it into my head that I couldn’t live without this book.  I thought of all these great reasons that I had to own it – tons of writing ideas, a great way to get to know myself, I’ll be writing more, etc.  I went back to the store to buy it.  It sits on my shelf next the the vinegar book.  Here are some of the great lists though:  List the situations that always make you cry, List your typical daydreams,  List what kinds of people should never drive cars,  List all the details you can remember about your childhood bedroom.  285 pages worth of lists.


Oddly enough I also bought Thinking of You A card Greeting for Every Occasion because I send out SO many cards to people.  I have given away more cards in my decluttering than I’ve ever given or sent.  I have this unhealthy obsession with buying greeting cards.  I buy tons of them with all the best intentions to send them to friends and family to make them feel special.  I’ve even bought stamps.  I just never get around to sending them.


Amazingly – I mailed out three Valentine’s cards just because getting mail feels so good.  My daughter and I mailed one to my sister, one to my brother in the Army, and one to my nephew.

There are two more books purchased recently but I’ll write about those another time.  I feel good and bad about buying these 5 books.  I’ve been working so hard at downsizing and getting rid of stuff.  I want to break my strong need to acquire.  I want to be happy with less.  but I also want more.  books are hard for me.  I love books.

I’ve been telling my husband the less stuff we have, the less time it takes to clean and care for the stuff.  This means more family and fun time.  More time to try new things, play games and read, write or whatever.

I’ve also found new things I want to try:

  • Single serving pie in a jar – yum!  I want to make these sooo bad.  I need to buy some Mason Jars!  I think this would be a great activity to do up at my mom’s house when we all get together.
  • Mini Rainbow Cakes – yes please!  again – the mini mason jars.  this would be so fun to make with a group!  maybe i’ll have to throw a kid’s party for my daughter just to have an excuse to make these!
  • 30 Green Smoothies – food must be on the brain.  i need to start making smoothies again.

More time to work on some designs:

  • Brush King – there are some really great grunge photoshop brushes.  I wish I was more skilled with photoshop.  People can make magic happen with this program.  I love the grunge brushes but never can seem to make them work on my projects.
  • I used to spend so much time putting designs on my cafepress store.  I was consumed by my shop.  It never really did amazing with sales but I was totally addicted.  I think I burned out and became discouraged because people were doing well and it seemed like no matter how hard I tried I just never really could make much out of it.  Now my designs just kind out hang out, I don’t do much but I make sales here and there and usually get an extra $50 per month.  not much but hey – my stuff is selling.  Sometimes it makes me want to design more but then I tell myself I just don’t really have the eye for it.

I’ve also been learning new things (mostly for Girl Scouts)

  • World thinking Day – my troop did table on Jordan.  We had pony bead swaps with black, white, green and red beads for the flag.  We offered fig newtons and pita chips.  At our troop meeting I had the girls try hummus and pita bread.  They were not impressed but they loved the baked pita chips.  I had wanted them to try figs but worried they would not appreciate the taste.  At the thinking day event my girls got to walk around to the different tables to learn something new about several different countries.  I would have loved to teach my girls more about Jordan because the information felt superficial but at least they are engaged and interested.

Ongoing Decluttering

I’ve started buying the 10cent plastic Aldi bag when I go grocery shopping there.  I have tons of the reusable bags (i probably should purge some) but I really like the plastic ones.  They are extra big, sturdy and a lovely shade of blue.  I’ve been using these as my declutter bags.  We have finally purged down to enough that instead of finding a dozen plus things in each section I’m now finding 1 or 2 things.

We had so much stuff before that we were using large boxes and 33 gallon garbage bags for our donations.  The large garbage bags that we were using take too long to fill now that we have less to get rid of.  I honestly don’t want the bag to be hanging out for too long – I have a tendency to take things out of the bag to return to the house if it sits for too long.

Another nice thing about the Aldi bag is that we can’t see through it.  I can put items in there and my daughter can’t see what’s in there and take it out.  She wouldn’t get rid of anything if she had the choice whether it was hers or not.  She doesn’t want my husband or I to get rid of stuff either.  she tells us she’ll take it if we want to get rid of it.

I hang one on a doorknob and randomly throughout the day place items in the bag to get rid of.  Once it’s full I put it in the trunk and donate it – without going through it, just to make sure.  Once it’s in the bag it no longer belongs to us. Today I gave my daughter a blue Aldi bag to hang on her doorknob.  I told her to put clothes that are too small or anything she no longer wants in there.  We will see:)


My Bookshelf

So this is what I’ve noticed.  I’ve been paring down my books since my husband gave me my ereader.  Books that made the cut last yard sale weren’t so lucky today.  I pulled everything off the shelves and took a good long look at each book.  I had to really ask myself if I would ever read or use the book.  I then had to ask myself if my daughter would ever read or use the book.  I forced myself to be honest with myself and some of my “favorites” are just dust collectors.  Many more cookbooks landed into the yard sale box.  A handful of parenting books and self-help books landed in the box.  Most of my case worker books are in the box.  I figured if I don’t know how to be a case worker by now then I’m definitely in the wrong field.  My life skills books that I swore I’d never part with are in the box.  I simply don’t use them enough to justify the space they take up on my shelf.  I’m hoping someone who will put them to good use will find them.

I have about 8 books that I’m undecided on.  Most were recently purchased but I haven’t read them yet.  I have them in a pile on the book shelf so that once I read them I can either pass them along or add them to the keep shelf.  I may need to pick a date and if I haven’t started any of them I may as well part with them.

You know what’s strange?  My hoarding part of my brain is starting to flare up big time.  I think the purging is starting to trigger it.  It’s especially bad with the books.  I rarely crack open a cook book.  I either cook what I know or look it up online.  I rarely use a craft or activity book unless it’s colorful and illustrated.  Typically I go online for ideas.  I’ve been switching out my favorite physical copies of books for digital copies to free up more room plus I enjoy reading them more on the ereader.  Here’s where the hoarding monster comes in – disaster, survivalist scenarios in where there’s no way to recharge my laptop or ereader.  with no electricity I will lose all my books and have nothing to read.  Writing it out makes it seem even more ridiculous because if there were a catastrophe I would unlikely be reading but trying to survive and two, if there were a major disaster I doubt that I would last long considering my cardio skills suck.  If there were a zombie outbreak I’d be the tasty treat or the fat girl who trips and falls and gives the fitter people in my group an extra few moments to get away.

Here’s a sore spot – my bookshelf is fairly clear and has some open space.  my family sees this as a drop spot.  I need to create a habit of boomeranging their items from my space or shared spaces to their spaces.  This rings especially true for my daughter.

We always work better when we have goals in mind so today my husband and I came up with our wish list.  These are expensive items that we need/ want so I wrote them down so that I stop wasting money on items not on this list.  We can’t afford to take on new debt so we are left with the following options to pay for the following list – we can sell our clutter/ excess possessions, we can cut back on our spending to include food purchases, we can find alternative ways to increase our income (try to sell my husband’s jewelry he makes on etsy/ try to sell more of our photos and graphic designs on cafepress) and reevaluate the list periodically to see if these items are still important to us down the line.

Here’s our list – the first one is our top priority right now due to problems with our current vehicle.

  • A car – I definitely need something more fuel-efficient and something smaller than what we are currently using.  A car would use up less gas than our jeep and the tires will be cheaper when we need to replace them.
  • Fix the Jeep – tires, a windshield plus some other things needed.  Once we get the car the Jeep will be the back up vehicle.  We were going to try selling the Jeep but if there is an emergency with my daughter and I’m at work it could take an hour or more for me to get home (40 miles from home to office).  some of my visits are much further away.
  • Fix the external hard drive –  the larger dog we used to have knocked this on the ground and broke it.  It’ll cost about $2000 to recover our photos off of this.  about 7 years of photos that we are hoping are recoverable.
  • Upgrade camera – my husband and I are hobbyist photographers.  He wants to be a professional photographer but we just aren’t there.  Tonight we discussed what we needed to do to become better photographers.  We need to practice, practice and practice some more.  We are not as good as we used to be.  I haven’t taken the time to learn my new camera (my camera recently broke and we had to replace it).  I can tell you this much though – it’s way too slow and works lousy in low lighting.  It seems like my husband has gotten sloppy with his work.  The lighting is off, the posing is off, angles are bad.  We also should upgrade both of our cameras but we need to at least upgrade mine.
  • Upgrade photography equipment – some filters, a new flash, etc.
  • Another AC unit.  It’s so hot and our window unit in the living room is just not enough anymore.  My husband really wants one for the bedroom since he’s been struggling with sleeping due to the heat.
  • Paint the walls in the house.

I also thought it would be helpful to write down how I want to be spending my time so that when I’m trying to declutter I can see if it fits into my categories.

How I want to spend my free time

  • Working on adding designs to cafepress
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Gardening

This list came rather quickly to me and there were a few things that surprised me.  Gardening came without hesitation which means my OCD exercises are working.  Gardening would not have come anywhere near this list this time last year.  That area of OCD is weakening and I am getting stronger.  Three of my four activites are solo activites.  I went to write down “playing games” but the urge really isn’t there.  I’ll play if my husband or my daughter asks me to but it’s not as strong as it used to be.  Arts and crafts are no longer on this list.  I think it was my fantasy self who liked these activities – the person who I wanted to be but not who I actually am.  I really just want some time to myself, to read, think, process and write.  I want to have outings with my husband and daughter, eat meals together, spend some time talking together but I need time alone as well.

Decluttering my Books and Family room

Decluttering is mentally exhausting.  I’m in the middle of a break from the dreaded family room.  My vision of the family one is reasonable I believe.  I’d like a clutter free room to give my daughter space to play during her inside time this summer.  I envision a bright, clean space with open possibilities.  My requirements for this room are as follows:

  1. The couch has to be useable at all times.  This means nothing on the couch or piled in front of the couch.  It’s a hot mess right now – just saying.
  2. Her table – clean and cleared for projects and games.
  3. It has to be comfortable for reading with easy access to the books.  My book shelf and my daughter’s bookshelf should have only books we would read that fits activities we would actually do.
  4. Art supplies – neat, organized and within my daughter’s reach
  5. Board game book shelf easy to access.
  6. Plenty of floor space.

Currently, it’s filled with everything.  It’s also full of too much – books, games, supplies.  I called my mom and asked her for help.  We have a declutter date planned for two Saturdays from now.  She will help hold my hand through this process and I will buy her lunch.  My mom reminded me of how hard it was for me to originally sort through my daughter’s clothes.  I wanted to cling onto everything regardless of the size or condition.  Mom pushed me to keep only what was good and what fit her.  Since that initially struggle it’s become easier to maintain my daughter’s clothes.

A big problem is that my husband and I hold onto things because they are in good condition, we paid good money for it, it might be useful someday.  We both agree however to not keep things deemed to be garbage but sometimes I think that certain things could be useful someday.  We also differ on when we want to purge.  When my husband is ready he gets rid of things and I want to beg him to reconsider some of them because I can’t let go.  When I’m ready to purge I want to donate everything just to be done with it but there are many items he will only get rid of if we sell it.  I do need some help though because we have nice things, useful things.  It would be easier I think if the family room was full of junk but it’s not.

I realized that my daughter would save everything.  scraps of paper, every assignment and worksheet ever brought home, expired coupons, dollar store toys, outgrown toys and more.  She saw me sorting through her school papers and wanted to know why I was throwing some away.  I told her that I look carefully at all of them but only handpick a few to save.  She said okay but I could tell she wanted to reach into the trashcan and pull out the papers.

I think the big reason I hold onto things is because of dreams – I dream that I’m going to be a crafter selling beautiful items on Etsy.  I have glue guns and felt and pins, buttons and beads, this and that.  I had a great idea for felt flower pins with button centers.  I rushed to Walmart and bought the supplies.  A year later and everything is still in the wrappers.  not a single flower pin created.

I dream that my daughter and I are going to explore the world together.  I dream that I’m an outdoorsy adventurer type – even on a good OCD day I will never be that person.  I dream that I’m a muscian, an artist, a photographer and a writer.  We have books on art and science and crafting, cooking, camping, play activites and 101 things to do and be and training guides and research materials.  We have camping gear, photography props, crafts, art supplies, graphic design books, paper plane kits, gizmos and guitars, a microscope and hats – tons of hats.

I worked on a pile here and a pile there today in the family room.  Slowly the garbage can is filling up, the yard sale tote as well.  Too much still is still piled around.

I needed a noticeable difference to the room or at least one area that finally looks decluttered.  I worked on the four red baskets ontop of the shelf.  I labeled them finally, one for cords, one for DS/electronic games and items, one for photography related items and an assorted bin.  I cringed when I wrote assorted on the label.  Almost any article you read about decluttering and organizing tells you not to label things misc or assorted.  How do I define the hodgepodge items in this basket though as anything other than assorted?  (air pump to my exercise ball, foam piece for the AC, spare brita filter, voltive candles, etc).  No other title seems to fit.

I worked on my book shelf.

My beloved Harry Potter series is now in the yard sale pile.  I’ve read them twice and have an electronic copy so the books have got to go.  Also in the pile to sell are my Lemony Snickett books – The Series of Unfortunate Events.  I love them but they take up so much room.  Parenting books and social work DVDs are being donated to my work’s collection.  How-to books on things I’ll never do are in the pile to go.  I held on to some that really should go but emotions are wearing me down.  At this point in time – there are no books doubled up on my shelves.  That makes me feel real good.  One series remains on my shelf even though I have the electronic version for my ereader – i guess I’m just too attached to my Hitchhiker books.  maybe someday but definately not today.

The yard sale pile is getting bigger and the mess is getting smaller.

I look around my living room and am reminded about why I am going through this emotional roller coaster of decluttering.  I have ADHD and I believe my daughter does too.  My husband is chronically depressed.  We need a calm, clean environment to be healthy.  The dirt and clutter wears us down, makes us worse.  Our home is our santuary and we need a place to relax and heal.

My living room is calming down, clearing out.  The purpose is known.  Our gaming center with tv, three comfortable recliners, a table for our laptops and a folding table for games or folding laundry.   a student desk tucked away for my daughter.  the dog’s crate and the cat’s tower.  the clutter sneaks in but is swept away in 15 minutes or less.


I just updated my ereader and borrowed the following titles from my public library!

1.  Eight Grade Bites (Chronicles of Vladimir Tod) by Heather Brewer – I’m sure it’s a bit too immature for me but it looks like it’ll be a good read none the less.  I have the box set sitting on my book shelf in the family room brand new still in the box so hopefully I’ll give this a go.

2. Nine Grade Slays – book 2 of the same set – because you know – if I actually read the first one then I’ll have to read the second one.  If not – im really sorry to any library patron who may have wanted to read this.

3.  The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz.  – just because I love it so much.  Also need to start making plans for our Daring Club for Girls this summer.  I have this in hardback and should buy the e-version but I find it so hard to own two of the same book even though it’s different formats.  I also promised my husband that I would sell/ donate any physical copy that I purchased an e copy for and I can’t bare to part with my Daring Book.

4. Sanity Savers:  Tips for Women to Live a Balanced Life by Dale Vicky Atkins and Barbara Scala.  Because as a wife and a mother of a very active, emotional girl I could definately use some sanity saving advice.

Currently Reading

I am still reading “Organize for a Fresh Start: Embrace Your Next Chapter in Life” by Susan West.  This book has taken me FOREVER to get through but there have been some gems in the process.  I find myself reading the same page over and over again.  I think it’s because my ADHD brain has a hard time understanding the concept of organization that it’s like I’m trying to read a foreign language with this book.  I would love to find an organization book for people with ADHD, maybe even written by someone with ADHD but alas the book would wind up being about squirrels or puppies or pretty sparkly jewelry.  I’m almost to the end of the book and will write further on this once I get there.  I’ve bookmarked the pages to information I’d like to try to use.