Organizing my mind

I fancy myself a fairly organized person. I make lists and calendars and set my phone to beep at me just before important (yet easily forgettable events). And still, every morning when I go to change from my PJs to my workout clothes (okay, not every morning), I walk into my closet and sift through a ginormous spandex lump. It's ridiculous really. I just sort of stick my arm into the pile and fish around, hoping to come out with the requisite items (does anyone else's closet make sports bras disappear into thin air?). And, generally, I also have to traipse over to the laundry room and root through the dryer. And then back to my closet where I throw the lump on the ground and finally, FINALLY find the item I am looking for. Ugh.

Sometimes, when I am really on my game, I lay out my workout clothes the night before. This just means I do the fishing and dumping at night instead of in the morning.

Also, I may be supporting some fat-cat Target executives because I often buy JUST ONE MORE workout outfit while I'm browsing the aisles for toilet paper and Nate Berkus animal heads. You see I'm just positive that if I had enough workout gear, THEN I could locate a pair of shorts and a moisture wicking shirt EASILY. I'm sure of it.

You can probably see where this is going. On Thursday, I asked myself, "Self, why don't you organize these clothes better so you know what you have and can find what you need?"

And then I answered myself, "Because. Netflix."

Not really. I pulled down the lycra lump (once again) along with 2,749 miscellaneous t-shirts and set to sorting. I put about 2/3 of the lump into the donate bin, folded up the rest, and placed the remains neatly on the shelves. When Friday morning rolled around, I leapt out of bed, skidded into the closet, and opened my arms wide to the beauty of my neatly-aligned workout-clothes-shelf. I screamed, "VOILA," to absolutely nobody. And then I got dressed.

I was so pumped by my organized closet shelf, that when I opened the door to my linen/bathroom closet, I decided to roll up my sleeves there as well. Because I'm very anxious about teeth, everyone in my family gets their teeth cleaned every six months religiously. For this reason, I have 127 travel-sized rolls of dental floss. Also, toothbrushes TIMES INFINITY. Travel shampoos, lotions, sunblocks, THREE fingernail clippers (been looking for those things), brushes, combs, deoderent -- just LOTS of personal hygiene items all jumbled together. And linens? So many old sheets and towels that we don't really use anymore. I got rid of 2/3 of our linens, lined the shelves with some groovy shelf paper, and piled it all back in.


Sometimes, in the middle of the day I open the closet door just to look inside. It makes me feel happy and calm.

I had forgotten how invigorating and peaceful a properly organized space can be. Why can't I remember and practice this? My point is that organizing our material world can be a powerful way to lessen the chaos of our minds. So, yes, spring cleaning is coming a bit early round these parts. Join me?

Up next on deck? My hanging clothes. There are items there I haven't touched since 2006. Not kidding.

Clearing out

I want these guys. I sat out front my grocery store staring at them for a solid five minutes. I just kept wondering where I would store them. I couldn't come up with anything. Too much stuff over here!

I want these guys. I sat out front my grocery store staring at them for a solid five minutes. I just kept wondering where I would store them. I couldn't come up with anything. Too much stuff over here!

Unless you live in Texas, you've probably never heard of Round Top. It's a tiny Texas town (population 90) about an hour from where I live, and every year Round Top hosts this fantastical, over-the-top antiques fair. I'm not precisely certain about the genesis of the phenomenon, I only know that three times a year every antiques dealer, vintage goods peddlar, and flea market purveyor for 1000s of miles converges on Round Top, Texas. Miles of tents. More reclaimed wood, and 1960s ceramics, and old maps, and vintage linens than you can shake a stick at. I'm serious. It would literally take you all day just to drive through all the tents while stick shaking. It's so, SO much.

I'd never been to the Round Top extravaganza before, so Debbie and I loaded up in the big truck (to haul all of our giant purchases) and headed into the countryside. We stopped at several tent cities, parked the truck, and set out to find some treasures. We walked up and down the aisles pointing out cool stuff. But we didn't really stop. How could we stop? There were MILES of tents to go. Also, it was 90 degrees outside with 137% humidity. After about an hour we were like two lost castaways, stumbling along the sandy dunes. Looking for water. A place to sit. A crumb to lift my depressingly low blood sugar. Guys, our treasure hunting skills were subpar. There was no motivation to pluck the gem from the pile of junk. 

We went home with nothing. Well, actually Debbie bought one metal Santa (measuring about 8" high), so GOOD THING WE BROUGHT THE TRUCK! Yeehaw! 

Part of our lack of success was that we were plumb overwhelmed. But the majority of our reticence to purchase came from a feeling of TOO MUCH STUFF. There was too much stuff all around us and too much stuff in our homes. How could we fit more stuff? Where would we put it? 

With Christmas swiftly approaching (oh, so swiftly), I'm getting myself all worked up about stuff. Christmas, as the grand poobah of consumerism, could, and probably will, mean a whole new wave of STUFF lining up to enter our already STUFFed-to-the-gills closets and drawers. And don't even get me started on the garage.  

My point is that I need to pair down. In the early years of our marriage I wanted STUFF and more stuff -- to feather our nest, to prove we were making it, to appease that gnawing need deep inside that can only be satisfied at Target. And babies need STUFF. And toys. And exersaucer things. I'm feeling more and more that I need to teach my older kids about being content. About buying high quality goods that last, rather than shiny baubles that satisfy only for the moment. About avoiding a consumerist trap that requires so much money, and time, and UPKEEP. 

But first I'll have to walk the walk. I'm initiating project NO MORE STUFF (except for the stuff I really, really love or really, really need). I realize that if my movement is to catch on I'll need a more succinct title. Anyone want to join me?

I'm currently mildly obsessed with this blog post -- "Clutter-free Forever {Vintage Tips for an Organized Home} ." Ruth, the author, writes about the limitless spending and collecting that our postmodern cultural allows and encourages: "We live in a time of more excess and waste than ever before.  We think nothing of a closet full of clothes, where our grandmothers and great-grandmothers only ever had a few dresses and a single pair of shoes to get them by.  Holidays and birthdays are accompanied by piles of gifts rather than just one or two, while our kitchens and bathrooms are packed to the gills with gadgets, accessories, and products." And then she gives TIPS, and an entire PROCESS for becoming clutter-free forever. It sounds dreamy to me. Also -- a lot of work. But I'm game. I'm in. What about you?

Also, check out Ruth's post about taking away her kids' toys. Apparently this caused quite a stir (and I'm the last person to find out). I think her idea sounds FABULOUS.



Scout binder

My husband grew up doing Boy Scouts with a group of a dozen or more boys in his neighborhood.  The momentum of that many squirrelly but focused boys pursuing scouting (not to mention the longsuffering and encouraging moms who nudged them along) meant that just about every last one became an Eagle Scout. Almost from the moment Sam was born, I think G has pictured him in a scout uniform and looked forward to the dad-son bonding era of scouting ahead.  

I, on the other hand, was a complete novice to this whole scouting thing. My two brothers had chosen other pursuits about midway through their teen years and so scouting wasn't as much a part of my household growing up. To help make up for my complete ignorance, when Sam was getting ready to start I asked around for hints from friends who had boys already in scouts.

One friend gave me this sage advice: Start a Scout Binder. Now. She lamented how difficult it had been to prepare the Eagle scout application because all of the little signed badge cards and badges and earned rank cards and other sundry items had long been shuffled to the back corners of random drawers and pockets. She had no idea that they would need those again. So they had to gather it all up and, in some cases, track down old scout leaders for dates and signatures (or do some things over) to get a complete application submitted. 

And so the Scout Binder was born.

NL scout binder 4.jpg

It's just a thick (3-4 inch) binder with different types of page covers: some full page for slipping in certificates, some pocketed (the ones for baseball cards work really well for badge cards and badges), and a big velcro-flapped one at the end for odds and ends. 

NL scout binder 2.jpg

Whenever he brings something home from scouts, we just tuck it into the binder. (Or, in other words, whenever I run across one of those little cards that he's thrown on the counter or floor or left in his pockets, I cajole Sam into putting it in the binder.)  

It's not rocket science, I know. It's a binder. But it's helped to know that, while I might not know where any of my camera chargers are and we all somehow have only rogue single socks but no pairs, we know where our scout badges are sleeping at night. And that's at least one thing we won't have to worry about down the line.

How did the scout binder do, three years later? Update here.