Part of April and May was me taking it easy…kinda, sorta. I never stopped working, but I did change the work from writing to editing (mostly). I did have an in-person convention (Norwescon) and a virtual one (Nebulas). I taught one class and did two interviews. Editing-wise, I’ve been proofing older Shadowrun novels for ebook format—taking this at a leisurely pace—and have completed the final TOC selection for The Reinvented Detective anthology with Cat Rambo. I’ve also started preliminary work on a new anthology I’m editing—it will be announced in June and have a one-month open call July 15 – Aug 15.
It sounds like a lot, I know. But it’s really not that much compared to my regular schedule. I’ve also been able to do some puzzles and to read for pleasure. I’ve decluttered my closet and we’ve restructured the cat room into a more well-rounded cat-workout-podcast pod-convention storage room. I appreciate the space being more effectively used. I’ve gotten the mind break I needed.
June begins the busy season for me. I have one in-person event for the next three months. As with last year, I am torn about this. I’ve managed to avoid the plague thus far by being as careful as I can while still maintaining my publishing career. I’ve been vaccinated and boosted. I minimize my contact with people as much as possible. It’s harder now that half the world seems to have declared the pandemic is over. (Try telling that to the virus and all my friends who have either caught covid, are still suffering from long covid, or have had to take care of a family member with covid.)
There are a lot of things I miss. Wandering the mall just because. Taking road trips so we can find and explore hidden gems. Hell, just sitting in a coffee shop people watching while writing/editing/eavesdropping. I don’t know when (if?) we’ll ever get back to that point. I hope so. Mostly, I’m still here. Still working in the background. Still lurking on the sidelines. There are very rare forays into public spaces that don’t involve a surgical strike for a specific task. I’ve been to the mall twice in the last 2.5 years. Both times with the same person. Both times to hit specific stores then to leave.
One of the things I have appreciated with all the mask wearing and hand washing is the lack of con crud when I do go to conventions. Most times, I can avoid it. But because The Husband deals with money and cash is filthy, he was the one who usually got con crud. The last three conventions, not so. (Of course, for The Husband, the return to the office has included a return to the germ pool of working parents and careless co-workers. He caught a bad cold that set off his asthma in a way that I hadn’t seen in years and scared the pants off me.)
I have hope for the future, but I don’t think that is going to bear fruit for some time to come.
Declutter Monday for the 19th was a bit scattered. The first task was to gather up all the cat toys, beds, and stuff that the cats don’t use but clutter up the floor. The second was a round 2 on the family room. It was a lot of editing down of big furniture. Not that exciting.
Declutter Monday for the 26th was actually a Round 1 for me; I tackled the rarely talked about digital decluttering of my phone, my desktop, and my computer file structure.
Thought 1: Decluttering my phone was hard…and easy. I deleted all the shortcuts of programs I never use. Moved like items into their own folder (IE: social media, businesses, games, and office programs). Then examined and removed unused programs. One of the most annoying things is that there are programs you don’t use that you cannot remove from the phone. The only thing you can do is remove it from the start screen.
Thought 2: One of the hardest things for me in decluttering my phone was hiding/grouping all my social media apps and all my game apps. I'm so use to going to them out of habit—a habit I want to break—that putting them one layer down will make me stumble. One day later and it’s annoying, but I’m twitching towards my phone less. So, that’s good.
Thought 3: Desktops are like dining room or kitchen tables: prone to collect things. Decluttering my desktop turned out to be surprisingly easy. I pulled ALL of the shortcuts, images, and files from my desktop into a single folder last week. If I reached to click on it, I pulled it out. I decided that if I hadn’t wanted to click on it in the last week, I didn’t need it on the desktop. I moved the one picture and two PDF files to their appropriate places and deleted the folder. No muss, no fuss.
I’ve never seen my desktop so clean. I now have 10 shortcuts on my desktop: 4 social media, 3 programs, my dowloads folder, trash can, and my main computer. Note: I do have a number of programs on my taskbar at the bottom of my screen and a notes app on the right side with a list of dates and tasks coming up. This is how I actually use my desktop. I like the minimal look.
Thought 4: You need to be thoughtful on your clean up, declutter, and re-organization of your file structure. I made the tactical error of moving a large folder with 8000+ files in it. That took 90 minutes and seriously interrupted my flow. Start small. Declutter/delete FIRST then organize. As a writer, I have way-way too many old files, novel versions, and redundancy options for “just in case.”
Thought 5: Decluttering your file folders and modifying your file structure is going to reveal emotional landmines you didn’t remember were there. (Terrible) Old, half-finished stories. Letters. That folder of ECC LARP admin stuff? I will say, as much as it is a pleasure to shred, it is also a pleasure to delete. I’m an intellectual magpie, but I’m old enough to know that I don’t need a lot of this hanging around.
Thought 6: If you think it will embarrass you, or your family, should the worst happen…and you don’t actually need that file or folder or story or information or letter…delete it. It’s not worth the mental or emotional baggage.
Thought 7: You may have to keep unpleasant stuff: stalking/doxxing proof. Bad contracts. Stuff that you need a history of. Put them in their own purgatory file. You’ll have them, but you won’t run across them unexpectedly.
I think this ends my official Round 2 of decluttering. I’ve got a lot on my plate right now. I can let my things and stuff rest for a bit. I suspect I’ll do a lot of random little decluttering here and there as time/emotions permit. I’ll try to keep track of them for a round up Declutter Monday.
Note: I know I haven’t done any sentimental decluttering. At all. I’m feeling a bit fragile right now with the death of my father. It’s probably going to have to wait until next year. Until then, the sentimental drawer can sit where it is: cluttering up the bottom of my nightstand—where it is out of sight and mostly out of mind.
Declutter Monday started over the weekend with decluttering the art in my bedroom, bathroom, and office. I have a LOT of art on the wall. When I go to conventions, I need to know where art is going in the house before I buy it. The Husband is very good at moving around artwork and hanging it. He gets out a level and a tape measure to do it. It makes everything look fab.
Thought 1: In the past, I’ve bought a lot of artwork on impulse. I don’t do that anymore. Not only do I not have space, my tastes have changed. I won’t say it’s become more refined, but I will say I’ve become more particular. I no longer keep artwork I don’t love.
Thought 2: I’ve bought a lot of artwork from friends to support them and help their conventions be better. Artwork I haven’t particularly liked. It’s okay to get rid of it now. My friends have the money. They won’t be heartbroken because I no longer have the print of that sketch they’ve sold hundreds of copies of. Don’t keep artwork that you don’t love.
Thought 3: It’s better to leave an area blank than fill it with crap. I love artwork. I find my wall-full of artwork inspires me and makes me smile. It helps my mood. But, a piece of art I don’t care for has the opposite effect. It’s taken me a long time to learn this lesson. I no longer keep artwork I don’t love (I have to keep telling myself this).
Thought 4: Random revisits will happen and you will change your mind. After 10+ years of having a Keurig, we have given ours away. The Husband doesn’t really drink coffee and I’ve been drinking my instant, imported coffee. Less mess, less waste, better taste. I was happy to give the machine to a neighbor whose Keurig was dying and they were considering a new one.
Thought 5: Some of the most unexpected things need to be decluttered. Our game table, ubiquitous and ever-present, I was blind to it until the Husband said something that made me think we needed to look at our dice collection and he suggested we clean out the game table.
Thought 6: I have a lot of dice. A whole lot of dice. A lot of very pretty dice I’m not willing to part with. I did bag up a bunch of dice to share with my D&D group, though. So I feel virtuous. Plus I only kept sets of dice.
The more I get into the general living areas, the harder it is to be concise on where I’m decluttering. There’s also a lot more organizing and cleaning in Round 2 of decluttering than there is of actual decluttering. I am not a minimalist. I just want to be more intentional about what we have in the house and what we use.
Next week I’m going to tackle the family room and the cat products.
Declutter Monday started over the weekend with the master bathroom, round 1 and ended on Monday with my office, round 2. That meant the bathroom was easy and the office was hard. It’s usually easier to declutter something for the first time. Especially when you have help. It’s always harder decluttering something for the second time because you don’t have the easy stuff to fall back on.
Thought 1: Pretty fades fast. The first thing we did was change out the shower curtain rod. The one we had was really pretty but it wasn’t stable. It kept falling on us. We switched it out for a simple tension rod with a holding bracket. Now it isn’t pretty but it doesn’t attack us. Pretty things need to be stable and functional.
Thought 2: Closets are a magnet for stuff. So much stuff that you don’t know what’s in there. Example: we found four Costco-sized bottles of the Husband’s shampoo. Mostly because he never knew what we had and couldn’t remember if we had shampoo. The answer is yes. Probably enough for the next two years.
Thought 3: Clean closets with enough space to store everything (while still being able to see it) lend themselves to more/better organization. The Husband surprised me and decided he wanted to clear 90% of the stuff on the sink and store it in the closet. Lucky for us, I already had the perfect organization solution for that. Now, he has only the stuff he uses on a daily/near daily basis out and the rest is at eye-level in the bathroom closet.
Thought 4: My office. What a rollercoaster. Declutter, round 2, of the office was hard. Some things were very easy to declutter like letters from 1991 from people I couldn’t remember, didn’t care to remember, or were no longer the same people they once were. It is always a pleasure to shred. On the other hand, I couldn’t get rid of my leather boots. I kept both pairs because they both looked good, felt good, and would last. Apocalypse Girl doesn’t care that I didn’t wear them at all this last winter. I might need them someday. Then again, I did get rid of three pairs of sandals I haven’t worn in ages.
Thought 5: While the closet, cubbies, and bookshelf were pretty decent to give another go over, I realized that I’d never dug into the boxes I had on my desk and cubbies. Why should I? They hid the mess. My desk boxes were fine. They still served their purposes. But the cubby box was just depressing. It was hard to force myself to go through the process of finding a home for everything that didn’t fit in the box.
Thought 6: The more you clean/declutter, the more you see what needs help. With this round 2 of my office, I’ve realized that I want to do a complete reorg of all my artwork. This time with intention. That, however, is a project for another time.
This time on Declutter Monday, I tackled the hall closet, the cat room, and my jewelry box. We were supposed to do the Master Bathroom, but we didn’t because of reasons (life). I’ll try to get that done for next week.
Thought 1: Round 2 of any declutter seems to fall into one of two categories: really hard or really easy. Hard, because you’ve already done the easy decluttering. All that’s left is the hard stuff—high quality, sentimental, unique. Easy, because you’ve already done all the hard work. What’s left is a bit of organization—now that you have space and a new eye.
Thought 2: My jewelry box fell into the hard category. I had already gotten rid of the trash, the mis-matched, the tarnished, the stuff not worth saving. I was down to good stuff I had a hard time donating. Suddenly I understood some of that need to pass it (whatever it is) on to family and friends. However, one of my sisters-in-law whom I recently re-met has almost exactly the same taste as me and is more than happy to take my good jewelry off my hands. That made the task of sorting, keeping, purging, and packaging it up so much easier.
Thought 3: The hall closet fell into the easy category. It had already been worked to death. All it needed was a bit more organization. I got to move some stuff out of the cat room now the closet had space. A place for all things. That’s the nice bit about the closet. I know what is on each shelf.
Thought 4: When decluttering a place like the cat room where you don’t want to have to dig the cat(s) out of the closet, there are some steps you need to take. Step 1 is to close the room door before you get into the closet. Step 2 is to make sure there isn't a cat already in the cat room, hiding. Steps 3 and 4 is to close the closet door before the cat gets in and remove the cat. Then you can get down to the looking, staring, and organizing.
Thought 5: The cat room was easy. Mostly because I avoided the “office/convention” shelves. All of them have been cleaned up but not perfectly organized. Since I’m about to destroy it by going to Gen Con in a couple of weeks, I decided I would do the official clean and declutter of that one bit of the room in August after we got back.
Thought 6: In truth, I think the hardest thing to declutter was my jewelry box—made easier by knowing who those pretties were going to. Yesterday's Declutter Monday focused on areas that have been cleaned and organized and not actively used in a general sense. They are not “lived in” areas. So, there wasn’t much to do. Mostly, after a bit of thought, clean and straighten.
Next week will be a different story. Sunday will be the Master Bathroom with help from the Husband (unless life) and Monday will be my office. I’m really not looking forward to my office. All that’s left is the hard stuff to think about. We’ve already bought me a new shredder in anticipation. My last one died a horrible death yesterday. Then again, it was twelve years old.
This time on Declutter Monday, we tackled the Husband’s closet and drawers (Sunday) then my bathroom (Monday).
Thought 1: When encouraging your partner to declutter, be the change you want to see. It took about a year to convince the Husband to tackle his closet. (It’s open to the bedroom. I look at it every day. So does he.) Most of the convincing was me doing my decluttering and exclaiming how awesome it was, the relief of knowing what was in my closet and loving everything therein. My closet is not perfect but it is a 1000% better.
Thought 2: If your partner has a block, see if you can figure out what it is (use your words, make observations) and suggest a solution, then let it go. His block turned out to be the second shelf that the cats liked to climb on and hid in his shirts. It (and the shirts) was SO full of cat hair, it seemed like too big of a deal. I suggested we get rid of that shelf. After a week, he agreed.
Thought 3: Don’t do the decluttering for your partner unless they ask. Be there to support them. Fetch and carry, express an opinion, but let them do it themselves. This is stuff that belongs to them. They get to decide what they want to keep, what they love, what is too sentimental to let go, and what to get rid of.
Thought 4: Revel in the new found space and hidden gems (Gothic Hawaiian shirts). Celebrate with your partner. Understand when they want a sentimental t-shirt drawer. They have the space now. Listen when they ask for a specific type of help. Do that and nothing more.
Thought 5: Decluttering my bathroom, Round 2, wasn’t hard this time but it was a lot more thoughtful. It’s been six months. This time, I didn’t have anything expired, but I did have stuff that I hadn’t used and wasn't thinking of using in the near future...but...I grew up very poor and had a rough patch in my 20s. Some of these things are hard habits to break: Hotel shampoos. Hair/face products that came with what I actually bought. A birthday gift. In the end, I got rid of most of the excess stuff I just won’t use. I also rediscovered some stuff I use all the time in travel size and moved it up to where I would use it when not traveling. (I keep a separate packed toiletries bag now—it will get a declutter in Jan 2020.)
Next week’s decluttering will start on Sunday, too. The Husband decided he wanted to be part of the master bathroom clean out. I said I would do it without him. He didn’t want that. I didn’t touch this room last time, so this isn’t actually a round 2 on it. Since the Husband wants his two cents worth on it, he gets it. That bathroom closet needs help in a big way. After that, it’s the hall closet and another look at the cat room.
Now that we’ve hit the half-way mark for the year, it’s time for Declutter Monday, Round 2. Technically, that’s 1 July, but I have enough travel that I wanted to start this month and it’ll work itself out in the end.
Today was all about the clothing. I decluttered my drawers and my closet. Every single drawer, every single hanging item.
Thought 1: How do I have so much clothing still? I know I did a heavy round of clothing decluttering but I still had / have so much clothing it feels ridiculous. I got rid of 15 t-shirts, 5 sweaters, 4 shirts, 5 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of pants, 5 good quality bras, and 3 pairs of socks. I still have a lot of clothing. Some of it new. Some of it old.
Thought 2: It was both easier and harder this time around. In the grand scheme of things, decluttering my clothing was easier—Does it fit? Do I like it? Have I worn it in the last 6 months? But, it was also harder. Last time, there was so much to get rid of, it was easier to toss something in the “maybe” pile. This time, I was working with things I mostly liked. Or thought I liked. Or wondered if it was insecurity talking. There were a lot of emotions tied up in the clothing. I’ve now got a sentimental/“work” (re: conventions) t-shirt drawer for t-shirts I just don’t want to give up yet.
Thought 3: Fighting the “just in case” syndrome. I’m a fat woman who is losing weight. I’ve lost weight before. I’ve gained it all back. I want to say this time is different. I think it is. But, the part of me that grew up poor wants me to keep some of the bigger clothing for “just in case.” I can hear my inner voice whispering, You like this. What if you gain the weight back? You’ll never see it again if you let it go. None of this is true. My style has changed. My needs have changed. If I regain the weight, I’ll deal with it then.
Thought 4: Weight loss is inconvenient for decluttering. When you are in the process of losing weight and your body is in transition, it’s hard to declutter. You don’t know where the new norm is. All you know is that half (or more) of your clothing doesn’t fit anymore. Old favorites don’t fit, look awful, are unwearable. Thank goodness my sister was able to save some of my favorite shirts by cutting 6-8 inches from the sides and sewing them to fit my body now. It ticks me off that some of the good quality clothing that was barely worn needs to go. It’s because of this that I think I need to give my closet a full year before I do another round of decluttering. I need to know where the new normal is.
Thought 5: Impatient to start. I’ve been thinking about Declutter Monday, Round 2 for more than a few weeks. In truth, I probably should’ve put my clothing last because of the weight loss and body changes, but I’ve been impatient to start an “official” round 2 for a while. I’ve thought about getting rid of random things in a haphazard manner and forced myself to stop. I think after this official round, I’m going to let myself declutter as I go…with the exception of clothing, of course. Maybe a monthly general scan? I don’t know.
One thing is certain. I’ve changed my viewpoint on how I look at my possessions. I’m more careful about what I bring into the house. I’m more thoughtful about what I have and how I use it. I know I appreciate my knick-knacks and the other things I’ve chosen to keep more. This is a good change for me.
A great picture of Mena playing, taken by Raven Oak.
This is going to be the last Declutter Monday for about a month for a couple of reasons. As the Pacific Northwest is in the clutches of the Polar Vortex, we’ve received a significant amount of snow. Personally, we’ve had over 20 inches of snow fall on Bothell. Thus, the Husband was home to help deal with the family room and the coat closet.
The family room contains all the hardback books, anthologies, oversized books, and my random reference books of a supernatural, religious, psychological, or cultural bent. It also has all our DVDs, blu-rays, and videogames.
First thought: Apocalypse Rules are awesome! They were in effect: if there was an apocalypse and the only way we could watch movies/play videogames was DVDs/CDs, would we miss it? It’s an effective rule to use. We culled about half our DVDs and videogames.
Second thought: I will admit though, we kept all the duplicate blu-rays of favorites we had that were unopened. I’m not completely sure why other than “just in case.” I suppose because they are favorites. I’m decluttering. I never said I was a minimalist or perfect.
Third thought: I think my decluttering has rubbed off on the Husband. He already cleaned out the Apocalypse Closet so I don’t have to and he’s slowly shifting things around in his office as well as cleaning up his games. All his choice. I’ve offered to help but he’s declined and I accept that. It will happen if he wants it to and not before.
Fourth thought: I’m officially done with this round of physical decluttering. The dining room got done when we got the new furniture. The part of the family room that is all games is not mine to go through. The coat closet was super easy and quick. There is no other discreet area for me to declutter. The snow has also limited the garbage pick-up, recycle center runs, and charity shop donations. We’re out of storing room.
Fifth thought: While I feel like I’m in Declutter Interruptus, I realize that I have an entire computer full of excess digital crap that needs going through. But, I don’t think I’m ready to tackle that yet. So, round two of decluttering isn’t going to begin until Mid-March at the earliest.
Sixth thought: Declutter Monday is a designated “don’t be on the computer” day. That means I need to figure out something else to do on Mondays for a bit. It’s probably going to turn into “Project Monday” and I’ll focus on finishing craft projects I’ve started (like that baby blanket for one of my nieces who is six(?) months old now. That should keep me busy for a little bit.
Final thought: I’ve really enjoyed this first round of decluttering. There’s a certain pleasure in opening drawers and closets and cabinets and being able to see everything and know where everything is. There’s a greater pleasure in knowing there isn’t a huge mess lurking behind closed doors, just waiting to leap out at the most in convenient time. As the decluttering gets done, I can see things I want to improve in my home/home office. Somehow, I have more confidence in getting it all done.
Recently, the Husband and I discussed the future possibility of owning an organizing, decluttering, and downsizing service. We work well together. Our strengths and flaws complement each other and we like the end result. This wouldn’t happen until our next life. For now, it’s up there as a possibility.
Next week: work on the baby blanket for my niece.
Too much snow.
It was a snow day today. 7+ inches of snow on the ground. The Husband took the day off because his tiny smart car wasn’t going to make it through any snow and the internet was too spotty for him to VPN into work. I had an appointment in Everette that got cancelled. Thus, the Husband helped me tackle the kitchen. This was the best possible thing to happen. He does most of the cooking and is more sentimental than me. Having him here helping me saved a lot of worry and wondering.
First thought: A workload shared makes for an easier job. We started from the bottom of the kitchen up. This meant that the Husband sat on the floor and pulled stuff out of the cabinets. I ran them around, putting them in the correct place or trashing them. It was good for both of us. Also, I learned how to change the filter on the refrigerator. Yay me!
Second thought: Drawers are a magnet for dust, dirt, crumbs, and other crap. We had to vacuum and clean out each one. We also considered each tool and put it in the “most used” or “least used” drawer. We’ll see how this organization works out. As I put the dishes away, at least they will stay this way for a little bit.
Third thought: Check your spices! Check your due dates. We had 10+ year old expired spices. The one that was the oldest expired in Feb 2008—just after I moved into this house.
Fourth thought: When you’re on a roll, you might as well push through. We were going to save the bar area and the cubbies beneath for me to declutter next week. But we finished before 1pm and decided to press on. Now, the entire kitchen is clean, decluttered, and reorganized. There’s so much more space than before.
Fifth thought: We played a lot of “Do we ever use this?” and “Can this be used for something else?” and “Use This, Not That.” For example, we got rid of the crockpot and the rice cooker in lieu of the instapot since it will do all the things. Also, we donated one of our huge pans because the Husband hasn’t reached for it in over a year.
Sixth thought: I’m really glad the Husband was there to help and to talk things through. Decluttering around other people means compromise. He’s attached to things I’m no longer attached to. We kept the tea and coffee service; keeping out a couple of the coffee mugs that he really likes, and storing the rest. It works. Of course, I wasn’t willing to get rid of my Mother of Pearl caviar spoons—that I haven’t used in years—and he couldn’t have cared less about them. So, there’s that.
Final thought: Once we were done decluttering and cleaning, the Husband took on the one “fix me” chore in the kitchen that had been lingering for years. There was no longer anything in his way to make it hard. Getting things cleaned and organized highlights what’s left to do in a big way.
It was a good day. We have to wait to take the donations to the charity shop because of the snow. The kitchen didn’t have any emotional landmines and the only thing the Husband really wanted to keep that I wasn’t thrilled with was the coffee/tea service. Who knows, maybe I’ll get excited about it again someday in the future.
Next week, the coat closet and another round in the dining room.
It’s been a month since I started decluttering, cleaning, and organizing my house in earnest. I’ve completed round one of the upstairs. I’m keeping a weekly blog post for the good, the bad, and the emotional. Just so I can remember it all. I know there will be a round two. I’m just not exactly sure when. I think decluttering the downstairs is going to go slower because it’s not just my stuff. I’m going to need more of the Husband’s input.
One of the things I didn’t expect was how much the decluttering would be so emotional and so full of mental landmines. A lot of pictures (and duplicates of pictures) that brought back unhappy memories. I spent a lot of my late 20s and early 30s very lonely and depressed and hiding it (successfully) from everyone—even from myself—a lot of the time. The increased joy in my late 30s and all my 40s is a stark contrast to the unhappy memories I feel when I look at these pictures.
Then were the baby writer mistakes unearthed—scams I fell for, the terrible contracts I signed, the even worse manuscripts I wrote. So many mistakes that happened in my early writing career. I don’t mind the agent rejection slips. They showed I was actually trying. I do mind the books I got from the poetry.com scams. I do mind the books forced on me “for my own good” that weren’t worth the paper they were printed on by people who “mentored” me.
Then there the fantasy accoutrement I collected for my vivid fantasy life that wasn’t just in the online gaming or LARPing. I spent hours dreaming up wish-fulfillment stories. On the good side things, these daydreams were the seeds of some of the stories I’ve written and sold—in a very different form. It hurt to see and remember. It was nostalgic, too. Part of me misses that innocent age. It’s easier to dream up a fantasy life than to work hard to realize my dreams.
It isn’t all bad. All of this mental rediscovery has shown me just how much better my life is now. I’m not lonely. I still have depression and anxiety, but it’s managed. I have a career I’m happy with—even though it is hard work. I keep getting better. Decluttering shows me what I’ve been hiding. Like writing, if I write to get the demons out, my mind feels clear. As I declutter, I have the serenity of knowing that I’ve already dug up the mental and emotional traps of my past and I can be secure in knowing that I’m not going to run into one of them unexpectedly.
Except for the sentimental drawer. I’m not sure when I’m going to be ready for that.