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Well, it’s been a WEEK, y’all.  And what a week it has been.  Three of us (including me) had the flu, and school was closed three days for snow and super-cold (for Tennessee) weather.  Staying on task under such circumstances was challenging.

But it’s supposed to be a Challenge, right?  So I persevered, with Lorelei’s (somewhat less enthusiastic) assistance.

This week was bathrooms, of which we have FOUR. However, one of those belongs to Emily (that is to say, it’s the one she uses and it’s full of her stuff, even though it’s also the one on the main level that gets the most use overall).  I can’t minimize someone else’s stuff (at least, not an adult someone’s).  I hope she will be inspired by my efforts and do it herself some time soon.  The other bathroom is in the basement, and was Jake’s domain before he moved out, which means all the drawers are still full of his stuff.

So we worked on the two upstairs bathrooms, the master bath and what we call the kids’ (i.e. Lorelei and William) bath.

It was super time-consuming to make all those before-and-after pictures I used last time.  So I’m not doing it, especially since I am already behind posting this.

KIDS’ BATHROOM

bathroom 13bathroom 25

Well, that’s the overview and I don’t blame you for being confused because not much happened there except rearranging things.  I wish I could have convinced Lorelei that we don’t need that Christmas bear to remain on display at all times but “it has always been there” is hard to argue with.  Anyway, the meat of this project was the drawers and cabinets, which I had been wanting to tackle forever but had avoided thinking it would be such a pain and take SO LONG.

Y’all, that took 15 MINUTES, tops.

We threw almost everything away.  I’ll bet we had 20 packages of unopened dental floss in there, just for starters.  (What that says about Lorelei’s dental hygiene shall go unremarked upon.)  Anyway, what wasn’t garbage was either relocated or organized and then it was on to the master bathroom.

MASTER BATHROOM

bathroom 1bathroom 10

Right away you are going to notice two things:  one, there’s not a huge difference; and two, I’m only showing you half of the bathroom.  I’m already fairly organized about my bathroom and all that stuff on the counter is more-or-less regularly used.  I like it out there where I can see it and don’t have to worry about putting it away all the time.  So the biggest change was getting rid of the coffee maker, which was purely aspirational as I have not used it ONCE in the six years it has been sitting there.

As for the other side of the sink, that is John’s side, and it desperately needs minimizing, believe me!  But he is going to have to buy in, and we are still working on that.  However, drawers and cabinets are ALL MINE, so see below:

bathroom 7bathroom 11

There is another cabinet and three more drawers but as you can tell from the picture above I am already pretty organized about the bathroom so there just wasn’t much of a change–not enough to justify pictures, anyway.  Am I oversharing by letting y’all see all that motel lotion I have collected?

I’m really pleased with this last little bit–the area around the bath, which required a little trip to Target. 🙂

bathroom 6bathroom 8

A little more detail:

bathroom 9

And that’s a wrap!  Next up, the kitchen!

Read about Week One: Master Bedroom

Read about Catholic Minimalism

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There’s something about a new year. isn’t there?  So fresh and clean with none of the last year’s mistakes . . . yet.  It’s natural to want to apply the newness to our lives, to make them fresh and clean as well.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who resolves to tackle household clutter at this time of year.  When it’s cold out, we naturally spend more time indoors enjoying cozy pursuits, and I have a hard time relaxing when my house is making me feel unhappy and anxious.

I wrote a super popular post a few years ago, about our American problem with too much stuff, and last year I acquired the popular minimalism guide by Marie Kondo.  And I made some progress, but this is going to be my year.

Because last year I read a book that didn’t only talk about minimalism and explain it.  This book anchored it in Catholicism, and that’s an unbeatable combination.

not of this world

Sterling Jaquith, the author of Not of This World  (which I was given by the author in exchange for my honest opinion in this post) hit the nail on the head when she wrote this: “Nothing in this world will ever really satisfy us.  Our ultimate desire will always be for God, and that is why I believe all Catholics should embrace a lifestyle of minimalism.”  This makes so much sense to me.  Our consumeristic culture encourages us to fill our emptiness with more and more stuff, but it never ends, does it?  We are always looking toward the next “must-have” item.

As my readers know, I was forced into minimalism a few years ago when my house burned down.  I was involuntarily relieved of the burden of too much stuff.  My relationship to the things of this world was changed instantly, and the result is that clutter I might have once not given a second glance now makes me anxious.  I have intentionally chosen to acquire very few extraneous personal possessions, and I ruthlessly get rid of things regularly, but the stuff seems to pile up anyway.

I find this overwhelming, and the problem is hard to tackle.  I need help, and this book provides it.  The opening chapters explain minimalism, and offer personal examples of what can happen to people who live their lives piling up possessions.  I recently traveled to Baltimore to help my mother-in-law go through some of the stuff in her home of more than 60 years prior to her moving into a small apartment.  She is very happy in her new place, but getting rid of her possessions has been very hard–not just logistically, but emotionally.  How much easier not to buy things and become attached to them in the first place!

Sterling goes on to remind us of the minimalist beginnings of Christianity–Jesus was born in a stable, after all!  His followers were poor, and throughout the ages those in religious lives have continued to vow poverty.  Following their example will bring us peace and space: “We’re going to create more space in our lives to connect with the Lord . . . The more we follow His will, the more peace we have and deep down, this is what we all desire.”

For me, this focus on Christianity is what sets the book apart from other minimalism guides and makes it uniquely motivating for me.  But that doesn’t mean the other stuff is neglected!  Much of the book involves detailed week-by-week and room-by-room instructions for decluttering, along with access to printable worksheets to help you do it.  There are also special sections for larger families, homeschooling families, and people who live in small spaces.

I am starting on Monday to follow Sterling’s program.  Buy the book right here and you can do it too!  Even better, you can join in online and get explanatory and motivations videos from Sterling and feedback from other people going through the program!

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My house is a mess, y’all.

I’ve never been the best housekeeper, but my home usually had at least a couple of neat and presentable rooms that were suitable for unexpected guests.  That all changed about five years ago, when I started working at home.  Something had to give, and housework was that thing.

When you have to quickly clean a very messy house, it’s easy to overlook details like dusting, especially hard-to-reach areas like ceiling fans, air vents, and baseboards.  So when the folks at e-cloth offered me the opportunity to review an item, I was excited to pick the Flexi-Edge Floor and Wall Duster:

Here’s what the e-cloth website has to say about this ultimate dust mop:

  • Removes dust, dirt, hair, cobwebs and allergens from floors, walls and ceilings
  • Better than Swiffer®* and other leading floor duster brands:
    • Outperforms – cleaner floors in less time
    • Multi-purpose – cleans floors, walls & ceilings
    • Stronger stick – does not bend during use
    • Re-usable head – 100 wash guarantee saves money over disposable cloths
    • Environmentally friendly – significantly less waste than disposable cloths
  • Flexi-edges clean into corners, baseboards and easily around legs to chairs, tables and any other furniture
  • Lightweight and highly maneuverable

I’m not going to share before and after pictures here, y’all.  Sorry, the before is so dusty it would be embarrassing.  But let me just say this thing works!  E-cloth claims that their fibers break up, lift, trap, hold and remove dust, dirt, oil, grease, grime and over 99% of bacteria from any hard surface, using just water (or in my case, since I was only dusting, without any water at all!).  You don’t need to use any chemicals, and all e-cloths are reusable–the company claims you can save about $200 per year by eliminating your need for chemicals and paper towels.  The head on the Flexi-Edge comes off and can be washed in your machine (or just rinsed off during use).  I don’t dust very much so that thing is going to last about forever around here.

What I like: I live in one of those houses with (I’m guessing) ten-foot high ceilings, and even worse some places because of the architectural features are much higher than that and out of my reach.  With its telescoping handle, the Flexi-Edge allowed me to extend my reach to those cobwebs in remote corners.  Its unique fibers trap dust rather than just dislodging it, so that the many layers of dust on my ceiling fan did NOT fall on my bed as I feared but instead stuck to the head of the flexi-edge.  As you can see in the picture above, the edges are flexible (hence the name!) which makes it ideal for cleaning baseboards.  The head also swivels around in all directions.

Which leads me to my only complaint–if there is a way to lock the head in one position, I couldn’t figure it out.  And so I sometimes found it a little too flexible when I was trying to reach things about my head and it would spin around to a less-helpful angle.  When using it on the floor this is not a problem.

The Flexi-Edge is a $24.99 value (which I did receive for free for my honest opinion herein).  What’s really cool is that you can buy extra heads for only $9.99, which might be nice to have on hand in case one is in the wash.

There is a lot more great information about how awesome e-cloth is (they have many other products)–including the fact that they’ve been picked by Real Simple magazine as Best Product in three cleaning categories–and I would encourage you to visit them to read more, especially if you want to clean in a way that is more environmentally friendly.

And now I hope I have done enough to convince you that this is a product you would like to have–because here is your change to win your very own Flexi-Edge!  There are multiple ways to enter this giveaway which you can access by clicking on the link below, and you can come back every day to enter again!

Flexi-Edge Giveaway by e-cloth

e-cloth Flexi-Edge DusterOpen to US residents over the age of 18 only.  Giveaway ends at midnight on 7/20/2015.  I was provided with the Flexi-Edge in return for my honest review; as always, my opinions are my own.

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Spring Cleaning

Winter cleaning doesn’t sound right, and actually it was fall when we did it, but we (mostly me) thoroughly cleaned out our garage a couple of weekends ago in preparation for the arrival of the contents of Grandma’s house. [Update:  And I will be doing it again this week in preparation for the things we are getting as a result of my mother-in-law’s move to an apartment.]

Shortly after we moved in last September, we went to the storage space we had rented right after the house burned down and retrieved our belongings (except for our patio furniture and three other pieces we saved from the basement, it all fit in a 5 x 5 unit).  We brought the boxes home and put them in the garage, and there they sat for over a year.  Why?  Because they were boxes of movies and books (many, many books) that escaped burning but were thoroughly blackened with soot.

I’ve hated going into the garage because of the smell of fire.  And it was hard opening the boxes that had been closed, because the smell was even stronger.  But it was also good, because I found some things I did not know had been saved.  And even though it will blacken my hands to read them, I still can, if I want to.

The books that were in the basement were children’s books (left behind because at some point I got overwhelmed and just wanted to leave), homeschooling books, and series we had collected:  Star Trek (tons of these), Agatha Christie (I had them all!), Patricia Cornwell, Anne Tyler, and a few others.  We cleaned and covered the basement shelves, and now they are all out where I can see them.

Star Trek Books

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And now that it’s done, you know what?  The fire smell is going away!

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