One Bag Nation

Archive for August 2008

I had to laugh when I saw this Purse Park advertised in the Solutions catalog. I’m sure Erin at unclutterer.com and all the wonderful simplicity sites and blogs out there would shudder at the thought of buying a special shelving unit just to store purses.

I had no business laughing, really, since just a few short months ago those shelves would not have been large enough to contain my purse collection . . . I do still have more than just one bag (true confessions) but the other one or two are for occasions when my big polka dot bag isn’t appropriate – and I sure do miss it when I have to leave it at home.

This got me to wondering: are ten purses clutter if they’re stored neatly in a Purse Park? Or only if they’re in a heap on your closet floor? Or are ten purses excessive regardless of how you store them? If you love them and use them all the time, are they clutter or treasures?

What do you think?

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I should probably start with coffee.

We got in late last night and were on east coast time, so getting to bed was the top priority. My superman husband went off to work this morning as usual; I dragged myself out of bed to the grocery store so that the cupboard wouldn’t be totally bare. I had a momentary panic when I couldn’t find the coffee filter holder; my niece was housesitting and she puts things in the strangest places . . .

The skies are gray, and it’s very cool and sprinkly outside – decidedly un-summery – but my daughter is still asleep so it’s kind of peaceful in the house – if you can ignore the unpacked bags and the mountain of mail.

Despite my post about losing my internet cravings while on vacation, I find myself at the computer this morning. I have a good excuse: I needed to check on an email about a playdate today. But honestly, who wouldn’t rather read blogs than unpack, do laundry and vacuum??

I’m very susceptible to feeling depressed and paralyzed after we get back from this annual trip. It’s hard to say goodbye to family and friends we don’t see very often, and I’m sad to see the summer end. Add a dose of jet lag and a cranky 6-year-old (or 6-11/12ths as she would say) and you have the recipe for a tough day.

I’m sure I’ll get into gear after the coffee kicks in. Meanwhile, it seems okay to ease back into reality with a little self-indulgence: my trusty laptop, my RSS feeds and a strong cup of hot coffee – what could be better?

Like most bloggers I know, I struggle with an addiction to the internet. I call my internet “habit” an addiction because that’s how it feels most of the time; I feel compelled to read and write and before I know it, an hour (or more) has passed. I suppose that if I were making lots of money blogging, internet addiction would be in my job description, but it doesn’t work so well if you’re a working mother with a household to run and a blogging hobby that feels like it’s taking over your life.

The thing is, I’ve been amazed at how little time I’ve spent online during my vacation. My husband brought his laptop and our rental house has easy access, but I’m completely off my usual routines and my internet “cravings” are all but non-existent.

I’ve checked my email a few times, and looked at my blog and peeked at a few others now and again. When the idea for this post came to me, I thought I’d be anxious to sit down and write, but it took a couple of days before I made the time.

I must confess that the weather has been picture-perfect, and in fact was so hot, that sitting in bed working on the laptop was out of the question for the first few nights. What a terrible habit anyway! But once my pattern was broken, I just didn’t feel the need to be online – I’ve actually read an entire book in just a few days! Isn’t that what vacation really should be?

A lot of self-improvement and productivity blogs and books talk about habits: how to break bad ones and how to establish good ones. While flylady preaches to homemakers about establishing housekeeping routines, Leo at zenhabits inspires his readers to empty their inboxes, get their important tasks done, even run a marathon – all thanks to the power of habit.

I’ve learned how powerful habits are when it comes to eating and exercising. Most people groan when I tell them I get up at 5am to exercise, but the truth is, it’s become a habit and it’s not that hard anymore. A few years ago I decided I needed to eat more fruit; it was hard at first, but now making a plate of fruit to serve with meals is automatic.

This experience of suddenly losing my compulsion to be online has been pretty powerful, and raises a lot of questions for me about my quest for self-improvement and how I might harness the power of habit to meet my goals. In general I think it’s harder to stop doing something (smoke, eat too much, surf the net) than it is to add a positive activity (eat more fruit, floss, make your bed); I think that’s part of the reason why dieting is so hard for most of us.

But if it only took two days of staying off the computer for me to (almost) lose my compulsion altogether, what else might I be able to accomplish? I have some ideas about that, which I will share in future posts.

In the meantime, what about you? Have you had this kind of experience with habits and routines? What have you learned or accomplished as a result? Have you found a way to manage your internet “habit” or do you feel it’s out of control?

Please share – I’d love to hear from you!

We’re headed out for a family vacation tomorrow. I have a couple of posts planned, but who knows if I’ll be able to tear myself away from the beach.

Once we get back home, there will be just a few days before school starts, so it will be a busy, exciting time around here. My daughter starts first grade, which seems so grown-up.

I hope you all take the time to savor the last days of summer: the messy basements, overflowing inboxes (not mine – yay!) and piles to file can wait . . .

Sometimes the journey to order, serenity and peace of mind winds through corn fields and sand dunes, and along the rocky shore.

Kelly at Almost Frugal asked if I’d like to submit a recipe for her weekly Friday is for Food post. Kelly is an American living abroad, raising her three children and blogging (mostly) about family, frugality and France.

This White Bean & Tuna Salad is easy, healthy and delicious – and a great no-cook dish for warm summer evenings. The recipe is very forgiving; you can change the proportion of tuna and beans, add capers or fresh herbs, or use red wine vinegar in place of the lemon juice. If fresh fennel isn’t your thing, substitute celery or seeded cucumber.

White Bean & Tuna Salad makes a wonderful light entree, served on top of crisp greens with sliced ripe summer tomatoes, olives and warm pita alongside – enjoy!

White Bean & Tuna Salad

1 12-oz. can tuna (tuna in olive oil is divine, but expensive!)

1 15-oz. can cannellini beans

1/4 cup (or more) thinly sliced red onion

1 cup sliced fennel bulb

1/4 cup good-quality extra virgin olive oil

1/8 cup lemon juice

Coarse salt and ground black pepper to taste

Drain beans and tuna and combine in a medium bowl. Mash tuna to desired consistency, add beans, sliced red onion and fennel and mix together. Add olive oil and lemon juice and stir gently. Add salt and pepper, adjusting to taste. Makes 2-3 main course servings.

I definitely fell off the wagon this summer and didn’t get downstairs to declutter and organize as often as I should have. Plenty of time for that when the sun isn’t shining . . .

But tonight, inspired and motivated by a call for donations from Community Services for the Blind, I got myself down there and pulled this stuff together for an early morning pick-up. It may not look like much, but those are giant garbage bags!

The clutter and junk is going, going, gone . . . and our playroom, exercise room, and craft room will become a reality – eventually!