One Bag Nation

Archive for June 2008

For the last few days – since I had my “ah-ha moment” about being messy – I’ve been trying hard to keep things clean and neat around here. I’ve also been moving my home office so I’ll feel organized when I start my new job.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about my blog: what it means to me; what I really want to write about; blogging “scene” in general and where my voice fits in, etc.

And I’ve been thinking a lot about serenity – what does that look and feel like to me? How will I know when I’ve reached my destination?

This weekend was warm and sunny and I chose to spend my free time outside enjoying the weather and my family rather than writing my blog; hanging out with a chatty, active 6-year-old isn’t exactly serenity, but it does bring me lots of happiness!


I’m looking around my house and realizing that what I see is not really clutter, or the result of being disorganized; what I see is a messy house! The kind of clutter I’m seeing is not the kind of clutter you need to purge, it’s the kind of clutter you need to put away properly.

Although it drives me nuts when the house is upside down, I realize how much I contribute to the mess without even realizing it. Here is the evidence staring me in the face:

  • the dining room table is not cleaned off (remember the paycheck?); nor are the chairs pushed in
  • there is one basket of clean laundry upstairs and another downstairs, needing to be put away
  • my bag from a weekend away is still sitting – only partially unpacked – on my bedroom floor
  • my various coats and jackets are draped over chairs or hung on doorknobs – they’re anywhere but in the closet

I have walked by all of this many, many times over the last few days, and it’s like I don’t even see it. These are the times I feel like I’m suffering from ADD. I can’t seem to focus, but end up going from one thing to another, all day long, without any real results.

So, I will get up from the computer now and clean off the table; put away the laundry; unpack and store my bag; and hang up my coats! And I’ll try hard to be more mindful of this habit of “not seeing” from now on.

Any anti-procrastination advice worth its salt will urge you to just get started on whatever it is that you’re putting off. Everything from daily housekeeping chores – like washing the dishes – to really important and complex projects – like writing a will – can be broken down into small pieces. Start somewhere, anywhere, and you usually end up doing much more than you thought you could.

Sarah at posted about this today; after a very busy day, she was feeling really tired and not at all motivated to clean house. But once she got up and started picking up, momentum carried her until she finished. Her reward was the ability to sit and fully enjoy her television show without the distraction of the messy house.

I know I often spend more time dreading a task than it would take to just do it. This is a habit and a way of thinking that I’m working hard to change. I feel sure that if I do, I will experience far more order, serenity and peace of mind.

A while back I wrote about My Big Rocks, inspired by Stephen Covey in First Things First, and Leo at Zen Habits.

This week I accomplished a huge goal: I got a new job!

I’ve been working at a job for two years that’s been making me miserable, anxious and depressed. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why, then decided I needed to focus more on just making a change. I was in the middle of interviewing life coaches, when a friend sent me a job announcement she thought I’d be interested in – and I got the job!

I’m so thrilled. It’s a wonderful organization that raises money to improve the public schools in our area – a cause near and dear to my heart.

This really kills two rocks with one stone (mixed-up metaphor there); not only did I find a more satisfying and challenging job, but I won’t have to force myself to work anymore – I might even look forward to it! So . . . my third rock is still my decluttering and organizing quest, and while I’ve made decent progress there, there’s plenty more to be done! I hope that this new beginning will give me even more energy for my journey to order, serenity and peace of mind.

Yesterday I needed a gift bag and some tissue paper for the end-of-year gift for my daughter’s teacher. A few weeks ago I probably would have just bought them new, rather than face the mess in my basement.

But this time, down I went, put my hand (almost) immediately on a pretty bag, quickly found some matching tissue and we were all set. I could get used to this!

We had a wonderful last day of kindergarten morning: the gift looked lovely, I wasn’t stressed and frustrated, and I gave myself a pat on the back for the work I’ve done to create some order and serenity for myself – and for my family.

If you’re facing a decluttering and organizing job that seems so overwhelming you can’t even start, try working just a little bit at a time. I’ve done all this organizing in just five-minute bites; I aim for five minutes every day – slow but steady – and I see the results.

Give it a try – the payoff of a small amount of time is enormous!

Yes . . . chalk it up to end-of-school-year busy-ness, Father’s Day busy-ness, whatever! But this morning, I tried to pick up my check and it was stuck to a drop of maple syrup, left from yesterday’s Father’s Day breakfast.

And I was so proud of myself for getting the laundry done, making progress on clearing out my file drawer, going for a run, doing my five-minute declutter in the basement . . . oh well, a mother’s work is never done . . . and a little maple syrup never hurt anyone.

Happy Monday!

There are many areas of household management I struggle with, but I’m good in the kitchen. Even before I hit on some of these kitchen organizing solutions, I was able to pull meals together pretty easily. But I know that’s not the case for everyone!

My mother was and is a really good cook, and at this point in her cooking life, she hardly ever consults a recipe. I still love to read and collect recipes, and I aim to try a new one every week, but I do a lot of cooking out of my head, especially on weeknights. I’m infamous for tweaking recipes, but that’s half the fun!

Over the years I’ve learned some tips and tricks that have helped me get a healthy dinner on the table in less time. If this is a struggle for you, give them a try:

Make a Weekly Meal Plan: I do this sometime between Friday and Sunday. I get out my calendar to see what the week holds, and then plan a meal for each night we’ll be home. I aim for balance between meat, chicken, fish, pasta, etc. and I try to include “something green” in every menu. I jot down my ideas, assign them to a day of the week, and then make my grocery list.

Keep A Running Grocery List: I have a supply of those long notepads with a magnet on the back, and one always lives on my kitchen cupboard door, where we have a magnetic bulletin board. My husband and I both add to the list as we discover things we’re low on. It works very well – we rarely find ourselves without the essentials.

Keep a Well-Stocked Pantry: I always have certain items on hand. Some of my staples include canned tomatoes and tomato sauce; various kinds of beans; pasta and rice; canned tuna; olives, capers, and artichoke hearts; kid-friendly canned vegetables; onions and garlic; soy sauce; chicken broth; and good-quality olive oil and wine vinegar.

Store Like Things Together: I have a bin for oatmeal preparation, since I make it almost every morning; another bin for rice and grains; a couple of bins for baking supplies and equipment, including measuring cups; and small turntables for things like oil, vinegar, soy sauce, kosher salt, and my pepper mill. Cooking goes so much faster when I can just grab a bin, instead of digging around in the cupboard for the various items I need.

Create a Favorite Recipes Binder: I’m a recipe hoarder, and a post on finally inspired me to do some organizing. I had a binder, but the recipes were stuck in there every-which-way; they weren’t even alphabetized – silly! I now have two 3-ring binders to hold my “favorite” recipes, organized by category; these are recipes I have used, like, and go back to regularly. I still collect recipes to try; they’re stored in file folders by category. When I feel like trying something new, that’s where I look. If the recipe is a success, it goes into the binder; if not it goes into the recycling! I asked my daughter to decorate the tabbed pages for each recipe category; above is her “Layr Cacke” collage – I love it!

Stay tuned for more detailed posts on these ideas, and for more suggestions for setting up and maintaining an organized, efficient kitchen – guaranteed to add a little order, serenity and peace of mind to your life!