The basement organizing spree: Stuck

We've ground to a halt on the basement reorganization of 2011.  All of our house decorations, personal mementos, and things are organized and in bins.  Shayne's LED stuff?  Not so much.  Some of it is in bins, baskets, and bags.  Some of it is strewn on the shelves.  There are a few things on the floor.  I'm trying not to rip my hair out, because the man insists that it is organized.  *snort*

Seriously, though, it is much better.  It's not photo-worthy yet, but we have made lots of progress.  We need to figure out exactly what's going on with the "family room" portion of the room, because that will dictate where we put things away over on that side.

Progress is so slow when you don't ever have time off with your spouse.  But speaking of that... I have something in the works that may solve it.  There's a good chance that I'm going to transfer into an IT position at work and be on day shift.  I have seriously mixed feelings about this.  It will, unfortunately, take me off road patrol for a while, but the trade-off is that when I get pregnant again (this summer??) I won't have to worry about "light duty".  I'll also have a position where I can pump at work and not worry about the logistics.  I'll also have my evenings with Shayne and Ethan.  We'll be able to have dinner together, and I'll actually get to cook it!

I'm a bit sad about it, though.  I'll really miss my guys from the road.  We have lots of fun, and I missed them a lot when I was pregnant last time.  I'd also miss the feeling of directly making a difference in people's lives.  Granted, not all of them are exactly grateful for our interference, but sometimes... sometimes you know that you have truly helped someone.  Or when everything comes together and you catch the guys that held up the pizza delivery person.  Or the chronic shoplifters from a pharmacy.  Or even just a drunk driver that could have killed someone.  When everything happens just right, there's such a rush of accomplishment.  Even if you're not instrumental to making it happen, just being a part of it and knowing you're making the world a safer place is a great feeling.

I should know what's going on by March.  I guess it's already been approved for me to transfer, but we're waiting on our new recruits to be done training so that our manpower is up where it needs to be.  We'll see what happens!


More basement cleaning, decluttering, and organizing


While the new shelves freed up some space, I seem to have a never-ending parade of boxes and baskets that need to be stored in the basement.  Baby clothes, baby toys, more baby clothes, Christmas decorations, baby clothes, Shayne's LED stuff , etc.  We don't have a lot, but there's still too much.  I've gotten rid of more boxes and a few odds and ends, but I'm still struggling with the amount of stuff down there.  We've emptied two, almost three, shelving units, but the storage area has an odd layout because of the pipes and well pump, and it seems there is always something in the way.  I don't think we have a single wall down there that's not interruped by something immobile. 

We've decided put another wall-mounted shelf on the opposite end from the food storage that will wrap around in an L-shape.  Then we can put the Rubbermaid bins on it instead of stacking them on top of one another on a low shelf.  But for right now, I'm frustrated.  What do we do with this crap until then?  We both go back to work tomorrow, so there's no time to whip up another shelving unit before then.  Gaah!

I'm also feeling guilty for wanting to donate a set of Christmas/winter dishes that we have that I've used maybe once in the past 7 or 8 years.  I just don't want the hassle of special dishes.  But I like them, and they were a gift, and...  Sigh.  Into the Goodwill pile they go, but I feel bad about them.

Oh well.  Back to the grind...


New basement storage shelves

Shayne built me these wonderful shelves this afternoon.  They're obviously not fancy, just plywood on wall-mounted shelf brackets.  But I can store all the food on these that I previously had stored on 2 5-shelf units.  So we've freed up a bit of space in the basement, and we can rearrange so that things we use often are closer to the door to the storage area.

I eventually want to expand our food storage, so we'll need more space some day.  For now this is plenty, though, and it will help me stay organized.


The end of the world! And other rambling thoughts on self-sufficiency...

Disclaimer: I am not crazy, though this post may make me sound like a paranoid nutjob.  I am just using my blog to clear my head.

I had a dream last night, which was kind of odd.  Either I don't remember my dreams lately, or I just haven't been having any because I don't sleep enough.  It's probably some combination of both.  Mostly, my dreams are about work: chasing people, shooting people, being shot, my partner getting shot...  Fun things like that.  I rarely have happy dreams, and last night's was no exception. 

I'm not sure what had happened.  In the way of all dreams, I started off somewhere in the middle of the storyline.  Shayne and I were in Michigan, somewhere west of Detroit.  It was far enough west that it was pretty rural, not in the suburbs of Detroit or Ann Arbor.  Something bad had happened, something big, and people everywhere were panicked.  There was no electricity, no running water, no social order.  It was every man for himself, what the "tin foil hat" people call TEOTWAWKI (The End of the World as We Know It).  Whatever had broken down society must have been fairly recent.  People were scared, but there was no violence yet.  Most people were simply wandering aimlessly or clustered together talking and crying.  Shayne and I had originally been trying to get to wherever my mom was, but because of the increasing chaos, we made the decision to get out.  It seemed imperative that we get to where no people were so that we could just try to survive the coming holocaust.

I woke up wondering if our little family could survive something like that.  While I have some food storage and have taken some prepatory measures in case of a major disaster, I know we couldn't survive a long-term crisis without leaving our home and this immediate area. 

I'd be lying if I said that the thought of something like this happening doesn't scare the shit out of me.  I don't dwell on it, and I don't think it's likely that there will be a single event after which all society in North America will break down.  But the fact remains that it is a possibility, especially on a smaller scale (natural disaster, political riots, etc.). 

For several years I've felt like I'm being pulled along a path.  I don't know if it's God, my own interests, or just my imagination.  I almost feel compelled to make my life more simple, to be as self-sufficient as possible, to learn as much as I can about raising and growing our own food and creating our own energy.  I want our home to be a refuge from the world; not isolated, but just a safe-haven where I don't have to worry about "what happens if..." scenarios because I know we can handle it. 

It started out with a spark of an idea, to store some food in case of an emergency, as well as Shayne and I both wanting to live in a cabin in the woods.  Granted, our cabin idea was more whimsical than practical, more an aesthetic ideal than anything else.  But the two together have grown and caught fire, and I now feel a burning need to make it happen. 

I am impatient and slightly obsessive by nature; when I want something, I plan it out to the last detail.  I think over the possibilities and look repeatedly for variations until I find what I feel to be the best course of action.  And I always want it yesterday.  I hate waiting.  I've gotten better at it, at least externally, but I continue to think and mull over an idea until it happens or I'm able to move on to the next great idea.  I've been doing it off and on with my bathroom and kitchen remodeling plans since we've moved into the house.  I have a friend who is exactly the same; if I have the seeds of a mental illness planted here, at least I'm not alone!

We're doing everything that we realistically can at the moment to save money, finish up the house, and move on to our dream.  I know that there's not much else we can do right now.  It's just making me nuts that I can't live the type of life I dream of right here, right now.  We've taken steps.  I have the garden, the chickens, the food storage.  I'm still learning, and there's a lot more I need to know before I can even pretend that we might be somewhat self-sufficient.

But that dream, that idea, is still there...burning.  And I don't want to wait any more.


2011 in 2011

In my previous post I mentioned wanting to remove 2011 things from our home in 2011.  I just started 2 days ago, and I'm already 6% there!

1.  set of stickers that came with one of DS's Christmas gifts
2.  Christmas ornament kit
3.  broken photo carousel, trashed. This one hurt.  I've been wanting to fix it for 2 years, but never did.  Plus, the photo covers are yellowed.  It was junky, but I miss it!
4 - 5.  2 straps to ??
6. ugly wall plaque
7 - 8.  2 old harddrives
9. box of envelopes (combined)
10 - 14. computer cords
15.  old Lemmings disk
16 - 17. manuals
18.  old discs
19.  crappy photo...
20 - 26.  crumpled and unusable gift bags
27.  mousepad
28.  USB card
29.  computer cord
30.  bottle of saline solution
31.  shoe insole
32.  can of ancient cherry filling
33.  unopened box of Peeps from Easter
34. 3 years of This Old House magazines
70 - 76.  books
77.  1 phone book (why did I have two?)
78 - 83.  6 bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion
84 - 85.  2 bars of soap that smell AWFUL
86. toy boat

87. greeting card organizer
88 - 94. picture frames
95. ledge/shelf thing
96. set of colored Christmas lights
97 - 100. wooden wall plaques with circus animals
101. japnese fan
102. japanese wall hanging
103 - 105. candle holders
106 - 108. more picture frames
109 - 115. random knicknacks
116 - 125. ceramic elephants (DH's. I had NO idea these were in the house!)
126. set of plastic dishes
127. set of ugly wine glasses
128. Christmas pillow
129. Eddie Bauer binoculars and multitool giftset
130 - 132. Christmas wrapping paper
133 - 134. old ceramic banks
135. desk lamp

I've realized that the more you get rid of, the easier it is to get rid of more.  I've learned that just because I like something doesn't mean that I have to keep it.  And since we've started to go through the bins in the basement, it's gotten even easier.  I now have one medium bin for all my sentimental stuff (old stuffed animals, knicknacks I'm not ready to let go of), and 1 small bin for old journals.  I think Shayne is down to 2.  We have a bin of picture frames, awaiting the day when I'm ready to start putting holes in the walls.  3 bins of Christmas decorations (1 of lights, 1 for ornaments, and 1 for our nativity and a few other figurines).  1 box of books (yet to be gone through), 1 of sports equipment, 1 of board games.  Other than that, it's just Shayne's LED-building supplies, my backpacking gear, and food storage down there.  We're getting there...


Reducing clutter and rethinking our "stuff"

Shyane and I have been actively trying to reduce our clutter and the sheer volume of possessions that we own.  The more I think about it, the more I realize that we have so much stuff.  Granted, we have a lot less than many people we know, and I'd venture to say that we have considerably less than average.  Our garage isn't stuffed to overflowing, our closets aren't packed, and we have room to move in our basement storage area.  Still, it's much more than what we need.

And really, how much do you actually need.  It's an interesting thought.  Many of the things we own are certainly not necessary to our survival or even our day-to-day life.  I read a blurb online about a man who reduced his possessions down to 100 things or less.  I suppose some of it is in the counting; is a set of dishes 1 item?  8?  32?  If I were to count things individually, I easily have 200+ items in my kitchen alone.  And I know we have at least 150 to 200 books.  We did donate about 1/3 of our collection, but books are something I enjoy having around.

We try very hard to have possessions that are both useful and beautiful.  My bookcase for example.  Yes, a $30 Sauder case would serve the same purpose as my $600 antique.  But my bookcase has character and adds quite a bit of beauty to our home.  Same with our secretary desk, dining room set, and most of the furniture we've aquired since moving to the Prairie Box.  While I'm sure I could survive in a modern, minimalist home, I do derive joy from being surrounded by what I consider to be beautiful things.

I was looking around the main floor today, after I'd completed my morning tidy-up.  I realized that there really isn't much clutter left in any of the three downstairs rooms.  What clutter we do have is hidden away in cupboards and drawers, and I go through the "landing zone" baskets pretty frequently to make sure things get back to where they should be.  It's simple without being sterile, and I'm really happy with the way it feels.

The rest of the house... not so much.  The basement, while not being Hoarders material, is awful.  I don't like going down there much, even when the family room area is picked up.  It has our junky furniture, a crappy futon, and ugly carpet.  The storage side feels like a rabbit tunnel, and I can't wait to go through and purge.  The office upstairs simply suffers from not being finished.  It's just become further complicated by the fact that we're considering adding a second baby.  The office would then become Ethan's room, and the new addition would move into the nursery.  My dresser and clothes would go... where?  I think an armoire is in order for our bedroom.  Then Shayne could stash his t-shirts in drawers instead of hanging them.  It's still a work in progress, obviously.

My goal, all in all, is to get rid of 2011 things in 2011.  Considering we have to go through the house and garage, I have no doubts that we can meet this goal.  I'll be posting updates occasionally and may add a sidebar to track my progress.  Want to join?  Let me know and we can help keep each other motivated!


It seems to have snowed...

 ...about 3 feet!  The South Bend Airport reported a total snowfall of 38" since Friday night.  Since I work out in the rural areas, I was given a four-wheel drive TrailBlazer to drive at work yesterday.  It was great to just cruise around the county looking at all the beautiful snow.  I only had 3 calls, all crashes, but nobody was hurt.  Well, except a deer, but a friend of mine is turning her into steaks, roasts, and burger, which he offered to share with us.  Sweet!

Our house projects have come to a bit of a standstill this winter.  The "new" door is at the carpenter's house getting plugged and redrilled for its hardware.  I'm hoping it will be returning home by the end of the month.  We also plan to entirely empty the utility side of the basement, build new shelves for my food storage, and examine and organize every bin and box.  I think we'll end up getting rid of quite a bit, and the utility area should be much neater. 

Also ahead on the radar is that the aforementioned carpenter is going to recreate our missing door and window headers.  We need new ones for the closets we re-made in the two bedrooms, plus we have doors that need to be hung.  I was going to have Shayne do it, but since door hanging is more of an art than a science, I think I'll leave it to a pro.

I know I've been saying it since we bought this house, but I really think we're going to get to the bathroom this year.  We've had too many water issues, and I'm worried about letting them go any longer.  Since by March we will be totally debt-free except for the house (joy!), we're going to really concentrate on saving our money.  Toss in our tax refund money, and we will hopefully be good to go around May.  I'm so nervous about this project that even writing about it gives me the jitters.  I want it to be perfect, and I'm worried about being unhappy with the final outcome.  I have good people lined up for everything but the plumbing, which will be fairly minor since we're only moving the sink.  We might take the opportunity to run PEX upstairs as well.  Still thinking on that one...  At least we have a bit of time to try to hash it all out.  For the thousandth time.


Backyard chickens: Another hen homicide

I came home for dinner tonight and went to shut the coop door.  I checked inside to make sure all the girls were tucked in and to gather any eggs before they froze overnight.  Then on my way back to the house, I noticed my favorite Australorp laying in the snow.  The mystery neighborhood dog strikes again...

I'm not sad so much as I'm pissed off.  I like my chickens, but I never named them, and I don't really consider them pets.  But...  I don't really like them being killed by a roving dog, either.  I want my hens to be able to free range, but that doesn't seem to be an option right now.  Maybe some kind of fence is in order.

I was able to get the breast meat off of the hen.  I wasn't sure how I would feel about doing it myself, since with the last hen I had just watched my friend do it.  But it wasn't a big deal, or difficult to do.  I don't know that I could kill my own birds, but at least once they're dead, I can take care of business.  I guess I can add that to my list of ever-growing homesteading skills.  It's an unfortunate thing to have to do, but I am grateful that I can have a bit of meat out of the deal.  At least her death wasn't completely in vain...


Backyard Chickens: Rainbow Eggs

My new girls are laying!!  My other Australorp finally started too (see the pale brown egg in the center that is smaller than the rest?), so I've been getting anywhere from 1 to 3 eggs per day.  I have no supplemental lights or heat, so I'm surprised I've gotten any.  It'll really be something in the summer to get 5 per day!  I love how they lay different shades of green and brown so I can tell whose are whose.  The dark green is from the silver Easter Egger, the light green from the red/gray Easter Egger, pale brown is the Australorp with the smaller comb, medium brown is the Australorp with the big comb, and dark brown is the Wyandotte.  The buff Orpington, before her untimely demise, laid pale brown eggs with white speckles.

I love chickens!


Backyard Chickens: New Additions

Today my friend J from work called me with a surprise: he was on his way home from his sister's farm with 2 Ameraucana hens. I lost my buff Orpington on Christmas Eve to a dog attack, and I was planning on ordering chicks again in the spring. I'm so glad thta now I don't have to! Not that I minded the chicks, but I don't want the hassle of a curious toddler and a boxful of chicks with a heat lamp over it. I don't think he could resist the temptation!

I met J at his house earlier and brought home these 2 odd-looking girls:

The red and blue one has a muff - feathers that stick out around her beak - and they're both supposed to lay blue or green eggs. They're more elongated and trimmer than my Australorps and Wyandotte, and neither has wattles to speak of. Looking at these birds, I can see why scientists theorize that chickens came from dinosaurs.

So far the silver hen is having a bit of trouble getting along with my Wyandotte, but hopefully they'll sort out their pecking order without any major damage. They were both roosting on the same branch tonight, which I think is a good sign. We'll see.


150 things out of the house!

I had originally vowed to get 150 things out of the house by Christmas, but we got a little behind.  Then I thought I'd have it done by New Year's Day.  But I was busy at work, and the baby and I got colds, and it just didn't happen.  But today, January 3, I've meet my goal!

Here's the final list:

1. dish drainer (does it count if I replaced it with a new, folding one so doesn't take up any space in the cupboard?)

2. 1 book
3. small pile of paperwork/old bills
4. box of glass votive candle holders
5. 2 stuffed animals
6. 2 pairs of shoes
7. bag of plastic bags (recycled)
8. mylar balloons from DS's b-day
9. free sample disposable razor
10. borrowed book returned to owner
11. lots of straws and plastic silverware
12. old set of dishes (given to a friend)
13. plastic outdoor table and chairs set
14. small pile of maternity clothes
15. small box of baby toys
16. sippy cups
17. little box misc junk
18. small box of baby accessories to sell
19. old hangers
20. doorway jumper
21 - 35. 15 pieces of 0-3 month baby clothing (to sell)
36 - 46. 11 newborn "gowns" (to sell)
47 - 64. 18 unneeded diaper inserts (sold)
65 - 72. 8 unneeded baby hand-me downs (to sell)
73. carseat bunting (sold)
74. fleece jacket with holes
75. OLD Gore-Tex rain jacket
76. DH's barn coat
77. 2 tiny stuffed animals
78. replaced blender with single-serving version to free up cupboard space
79. DH's old socks (about 20 pair!) that he trashed
80. serving plate returned to owner
81 - 85. another pile of baby clothes
86 - 94. 12-24 month baby clothes
95 - 100. 0-3 month baby clothes
101. 2 ruined paintbrushes
102. 2 pairs of jeans
103. a tee shirt from a musical I was in back in high school (it's only been 10 years! LOL)
104. old canning jar lids
105. old dog bones
106. lighbulb boxes (consolidated and trashed)
107. miscellaneous hardware from installing my blinds
108. nasty old rags
109. "paint-removing" sanding block that gouges wood
110. length of coaxial cable
111. telephone cable
112. lots of little odds and ends from back porch cabinets that aren't worth listing separately
113. hand-me-down dress that I've never worn
114. OLD but working electric razor that was handed down from my grandma to my mom to me (Goodwill pile)
115. Lots of boxes I was thinking I'd use to mail things. Right.
116. old dog toy
117. Video given to nephew
118. 2 old toothbrushes
119. fabric softener ball for the washer
120. backpaking fabric scraps
121. old ring
122. bead necklace that I haven't worn since 2003
123. Sauces, condiments, etc. from the fridge.
124. Baby bathtub (going to a family member)
125. Jeep baby walker
126. Baby sleepsack
127 - 129. Three new pairs of flame-resistant baby jammies (we don't wear that type)
130. 2 cans of baby "puff" snacks
131. ripped stuffsack (backpacking gear)
132. old backpacking food
133 - 135. backpacking water filters (sold on BPing forum)
136. pile of old Chinese sauces that just kept growing
137. old seed packets
138. bottle of hardened fabric softener
139 - 148. Still more baby shirts, overalls, pants, and rompers
149. Pile of baby bibs (at least 10!)
150. brand new baby shape sorter (we have 3 or 4 different types already)

I'm a little late, but I did it!

I cannot belive all the baby clothes we've accumulated.  I feel like every other week I'm amassing a pile to take to Goodwill or try to sell at Once Upon a Child.  And I still have enough for probably 2 kids.  Yeesh.  I'd like to have one more baby, so we're saving the clothing in case it's a boy.  If it's a girl... We're going to have an ebay or Once Upon a Child selling spree.  Most of the toys are pretty gender-neutral, so we can use them again regardless.

And I still even have some things I need to go through.  Like decorations.  I know we have things we'll never use, so I should probably quit storing them. 

I still struggle with the kitchen.  Part of the problem is that we do have a small kitchen.  But some things I just can't bear to part with.  We have a waffle iron that I bought at a rummage sale at least 5 years ago because it's exactly like the one my mom has.  I've never used it.  I have a pasta machine that I want to use but have yet to find the time.  And some items, like vases, mixing bowls (I have 10... But 7 can double as serving dishes too), and storage containers seem to be too useful to live without.  I'm working on paring down, though.  There are also items I use seasonally that should probably go live in the basement, like the food mill, apple peeler/corer/slicer, and canning utensils.

Sometimes I feel like I'll never get there...

Simplicity is a journey, not a destination!