Monthly Archives: February 2015

The 6th Box

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“Books – Heavy”

That’s what my husband had written on this box, and he wasn’t wrong. It was indeed full of books. And they were indeed seriously heavy!

Box 6 was full of coffee table/art books and books from my own childhood.

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There were programmes and catalogues and photography collections alongside books of fairy tales and handmade ‘zines by friends – and a street directory from 1999, AND a calendar from 1986 (which I held onto for the pictures of cute kittens).

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Thankfully the internet has rendered both these things moot now so that’s where I started with the culling.

There was also a bag full of memorabilia from my last ex-boyfriend. He’d given it to me after our breakup as the reminders were too painful for him to hold onto anymore.

Such a sweet guy. But so COMPLETELY wrong for me!

I felt awful breaking up with him. I was his first girlfriend. He was a shy, quiet type with painfully low self esteem and a desire to just live a content, everyday kind of life. At 23 he had fully paid off his university education and saved enough for a down-payment on his first home. He read the Saturday paper from cover to cover (even the Sports section). He listened to the radio in the mornings and had nice suits to wear to work. He gave me diamond earrings on Valentine’s Day.

Sensible. Dependable. A good provider.

Utterly stifling.

Something about the way we interacted brought out the worst in me. I was an AWFUL girlfriend – demanding, inconsiderate, selfish – but just couldn’t stop myself. In the end I got sick of hurting him and getting away with it. It was spiralling down into a potentially abusive situation and quite frankly we both deserved better.

I really hope he went on to find a life partner more suited to his personality. We stayed friends for a while but he dropped off the face of the planet when I announced my first pregnancy. I think he was hoping I’d go back to him up until that point but when it finally sank in that it would never happen he cut all ties.

Nothing in the bag provoked the slightest bit of sentimentality (in fact a few items were just baffling – I literally had no memory of them!) so it was all put aside to throw out or donate (apart from a few photos of me that were quite nice and a lovely photo frame).

Once I’d decided what to keep and what to donate I put the coffee table and art books under the coffee table (funnily enough) and popped the rest of the stack I was keeping to one side.

See the thing is, I don’t have very many bookshelves – and the ones I do have are mostly full of toys. If my younger self could see this state of affairs she would be appalled. Being a lover of books has always been a core part of my personality. I grew up around shelves upon shelves of books and was looking forward to providing the same environment for my own kids, but I find myself feeling quite ambivalent towards them now.

I never thought I would feel that way about BOOKS.

I still love reading but the thought of having all those shelves lining the walls is a little claustrophobic these days. This may require some creative thinking – there are many more boxes of books to get through ahead of me.

Cross your fingers for me!

I just applied for the Thiel Grant for Online Writing. $5000 for 50 posts over the course of a year. I pitched my “52 Boxes” project, as it will definitely last long enough (I have waaaay more than 52 boxes!!) and I think it has legs to become a great series.

If any of my fellow Aussies want to apply you have until this Saturday to do so. It’s definitely for Australian residents only though – sorry everyone else!

And now to wait until sometime in March for the results…

The 5th Box

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This one was a bit of a mystery. Nothing was written on the outside and I didn’t remember packing anything into it recently. Here goes!

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Oh wow! Wedding stuff.

This year (very soon!) will be our sixth wedding anniversary, which happened three years after we first met. Hubby and I really were a case of love at first sight: I’d met him at a mutual friend’s party and zeroed in, intending to just have a brief fling – but literally felt electricity course through my body when we touched. It was bizarre. I thought stuff like that just happened in books and movies!

One night turned into an entire weekend, followed by a mid-week date and another weekend together and before we knew it we were (for all intents and purposes) living together within a fortnight. I’d had a few boyfriends in the past but had never lived with a partner before. It was craziness!

But we just knew.

Fast forward almost three years and we were engaged, with a newborn baby to care for. We first met on 03/03/06, so on a whim I suggested we should get married at 3pm on our third anniversary, which would be 03/03/09 (when, coincidentally, our baby would be 3 months old). It was too perfect to pass up!

So we went online to see what we needed to organise – only to discover the government required notice of at least a month and a day. And it was the evening of 1st February.

Ahh!

Hubby took the next day off work and we went in to the Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages first thing to register our intent to marry. Since we had literally NOTHING organised we booked in for a simple civil ceremony at their offices with the assurance that we could cancel with a refund if we changed our plans.

The folder at the top of this box contained our receipt and various brochures about relevant government services. We ended up hiring a celebrant and booking the function room of our local pub for an intimate ceremony with immediate family and close friends (about 25 people all up), so nothing in this folder had anything of great significance beyond pure sentiment.

I flicked through it with a smile and then put it in the recycling pile, proud of how easy it was to let go. After all, I just have to look at my husband if I ever need a trip down that particular lane in my memory!

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The rest of the box was a mix of some wedding presents, some of my birthday presents from that year, a few baby items, and some musty old clothes and furniture covers.

The clothes and furniture covers went straight in the bin. They could have possibly been washed and donated but it would have taken A LOT of effort to get them to a usable state and quite frankly I wasn’t up for it. I did keep a soft cotton blanket and scarf that were still in good condition though, and put some unworn baby socks and a toy into a donations box. I also found a collection of pieces from a wooden jigsaw puzzle that I possibly threw out last year (since, you know, a bunch of pieces were missing…). Couldn’t remember for sure, though, so I popped them in a bag in our “random stuff” kitchen drawer for now.

Then, once I’d discarded packaging (keeping aside gift boxes that were still presentable) I set up all the gifts I’d found to take a good look at them.

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Such. Lovely. Things.

That I could have been using, admiring, and enjoying for six years.

But instead all that thoughtfulness and beauty has been languishing in a dusty old box, forgotten and unloved.

I’m so ashamed.

This is the real pain of the hoarder. The shame of it. The guilt. The embarrassment. The knowledge that mixed in amongst your jumbled mess are items that are useful and/or loved and/or needed, but it’s all inaccessible – and possibly no longer usable – so it’s easier to re-purchase things and try to hide the mess away.

But it’s always there, slowly and inexorably syphoning off your physical, mental, environmental, economic, and emotional resources. Accruing guilt like a high interest loan.

Taking the first step to tackle it is far harder in the moment than putting it off until “tomorrow” again, but I have to say that every step afterwards has been incrementally easier. For the first time in forever (apologies for the earworm to any fellow parents of Frozen fanatics out there) I feel confident that my ideal of a spacious, well-organised house is a possibility. And it’s glorious.

As for these gifts, now, they’ve been lovingly stored in the appropriate places – and will be lovingly used to celebrate our wedding anniversary next week.

And about time too.

Tasty Tuesday: Creamy Cucumber and Olive Salad

What? It’s still Tuesday in some parts of the world! (And heck – it wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t late to start my own new feature…)

Anyhow, as I mentioned last week I’m going to shift my “recipe” day to pile on to the Tasty Tuesday tag. My first recipe on this new schedule is a refreshing, easy salad to scoff down as a mid morning snack (like I did today) or a spectacular side to heftier meal.

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Ingredients:

Serves 1

1 Lebanese cucumber
1 tomato
A generous handful of pitted kalamata olives
A generous handful of chopped walnuts
Olive oil
Tamari
Cracked pepper
Mayonnaise (I used a store bought dip made from mayo and chopped olives, but plain mayo will do). *Sub with guacamole for a vegan option.
Tahini

Method

– Roughly dice the tomato and cucumber and combine in a bowl.

– Add olives and walnuts.

– Drizzle over some olive oil and tamari (regular soy sauce will do if you don’t need it gluten free) and sprinkle with cracked pepper to taste.

– Dollop on a generous spoonful of mayonnaise (or guacamole) and about the same amount of tahini. Stir through so everything is smothered in creamy deliciousness.

Serve with corn thins, rice cakes, or toast as a satisfying snack.

Alright! I’m Doing It

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After all that cleaning last week, it’s finally clear.

No more excuses.

10 minutes. Now.

Update 1: Literally – literally – as I hit publish on that post the girls needed help with something! HOW DO THEY DO THAT?!!

They’re now sitting in front of an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba with some supper.

*ahem*

10 minutes. Now.

Update 2: DONE!

The battery died halfway through so I’m not sure how far I “ran” but I’m sweaty and panting and all jelly-legged so it definitely had an impact, regardless.

*sticky high fives*

Doable.

The 2nd, 3rd and 4th Boxes

This’ll be a long one, but well worth the read (if you enjoy delving into a stranger’s personal history – which I must assume that you do since you’re already reading this…). Do grab a cuppa and get nice and comfy if you can.

I sat down with a calendar the other day to check where I should be up to with my resolution to clear out at least one box a week. With school starting and the house inspection to deal with I’d let it slide a bit lately.

I should’ve emptied seven boxes by now.

Wait…. what? Really? 2015 is already seven weeks old?!

Wow.

So at that point I’d gotten rid of four boxes – and only blogged about the first one. Bad Meg! Time to catch up.

I’ve created a Category called “52 Boxes” to gather all these posts under (yep, I finally worked out how to make categories!) and will catch up over the next few days. Once I’m back to where I should be I’ll aim to post about my progress each week on Thursdays. For now…

The 2nd and 3rd Boxes

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It was week three by the time I did this so I pulled out two boxes to deal with, one full of random things and the other chock full of party supplies.

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What. A. Mess.

This box was given to me after my parents hosted a MASSIVE joint party at the midpoint between both of them turning 60. It was their 120th, and they hosted it at their place.

In October 2010.

The box was full of leftover disposable plates, cups, cutlery and napkins, and everything had been randomly shoved in (including pre-wrapped cutlery sets in napkins) with the box left open.

And it had been stashed like that for four and a half years.

Needless to say, everything open was thrown out – until I came to the cups.

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The basic tumblers were yellowed and disgusting, but the wine glasses were made of sturdier plastic and totally still usable after a soak.

It was a dilemma. On the one hand I want to shed a bunch of stuff and learn to be more ruthless about stopping myself from holding onto things “just in case.” But…. I’d already tossed a bunch of stuff and my resolve was well and truly waning.

But I can easily and cheaply buy more of these IF I ever need them! But…. they’re still usable. And not donate-able.

But they’re recyclable! But…. I don’t want to contribute so much to the waste stream (and before you say anything, yes, I know, they’ll be thrown out eventually anyway!).

Ahh!

By this stage the girls had discovered them and started stacking and sorting and offering drinks to their toys. That settled it: I’ll hold onto them for now and use them for games and craft projects, if nothing else.

I used this opportunity to finally designate a proper storage spot for party supplies to minimise the chaos that normally accompanies birthday parties around here. I chose a corner cupboard in the kitchen, next to the plastic storage containers (which I was inspired to sort, cull and organise a few days later).

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Niiiiice.

I also gathered up all the gift bags and boxes I’ve been holding onto to reuse and popped them in there too.

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Aw yeah! Bring on the parties! I’ll have that shit sorted this year!

On to the next box.

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This one was a random assortment of stuff that had been sitting on a shelf in our old living room. Everything had been packed away dusty but was still mostly pretty good (except for the craft glue that was immediately chucked out). There was a small set of drawers full of sewing supplies; a wire ball/movable sculpture-thingy (that my youngest immediately grabbed to play with); a tiny hat I’d made for a cabaret/punk gig; a gorgeous Asian wooden lion ornament; and…

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MOAR CRAFT BOOKS! Just look at all this potential gorgeousness. As an added bonus, I found one of the two books that really set me off down the yarn-crafting path:

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I bought this book at a giant second-hand shop many moons ago, when I was a wee gothling who LOVED handmade lace but couldn’t really afford to buy the nice stuff. When I first stumbled upon this book (along with another book of tatting patterns that is still MIA) I was immediately taken by the delicate swirls of knots in such intricate patterns. To me, lace appeals to both my musical and mathematical brain: it is music made physical, with its repeating patterns of activity and rest, but based upon a logical “formula” of stitches strung together in predictable ways.

I haven’t tatted in years – the crochet bug kind of muscled in and took over – but back in the day I tatted doillies and chokers and gloves and embellishments at every opportunity. Such beautiful lace! But so time-consuming and painstaking!

One day I’ll have time for it again…

Speaking of back in the day, check out this little hat:

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Not long before I fell pregnant with my first daughter I performed in a band for an amazing nightclub/cabaret event that a friend organised. It was so much fun! He drew on an olde-timey circus aesthetic and enlisted some amazing performers from the local burlesque scene. Then he pulled together a bunch of musician friends to create some new music for the performances.

The main composer was a lady who busked all over the place on piano accordion. Along with her, we had a guy who created drum tracks and played bass guitar, a girl on rhythm guitar, the promoter on lead guitar, and me on keys. The music was a kind of warped, steampunk/industrial/carnival cacophony and was so much fun to perform!

We accompanied a pair of pole dancers, a SUPER talented hula-hooper, and the grand finale with ladies on silks and lira, floating majestically through the air.

It was, in a word, amazing.

But this hat? Now? Dusty, rusty and disgusting.

I’d cobbled it together from a cut up takeaway container held in place with gaff tape, covered with scraps of material hand-sewn into place. Then I’d glued on the ribbon with a hot glue gun and pinned on a beaded jewel with the feather threaded through.

I sewed on a hair comb but it didn’t hold it in place firmly enough, so for the performance I’d had to pin the back of the brim down with bobby pins – which I’d left on the brim, leading to rust marks on the felt.

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It was a bedraggled mess of a memento. I have photos to remember that night (which I could never forget anyway!!) and more than enough trinkets in general, so I made the decision to ritually pull it apart and throw it out.

Given how slapdash I’d been when putting it together, it was surprisingly hard to destroy. In the end, none of it was reusable or even in any state to recycle:

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…so I said a final goodbye and added it all to the big bag of rubbish from the party supplies.

Once everything else had been cleaned up and put away (the lion into a display cabinet, the sewing supplies into my craft box, the small drawers in the cupboard next to the party supplies until I find a better use for it) I took the rubbish through to the hallway until I could take it out to the bin.

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Buh-bye!

The 4th Box

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This one was fairly empty and pretty straightforward.

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The spray bottle, rack and pegs were added to the kitchen supplies. The books were added to a donations box. The stack of craft books (ok, this is getting embarrassing now) was added to my almost-overflowing shelf. The rubbish was thrown out.

And then I came to the boots.

2015/02/img_1696.jpg(Sexay!)

2015/02/img_1695.jpg(SO not made for walking!)

They were actually in decent condition. I used to wear the sturdier ones out clubbing quite a lot and could see myself still able to get away with them in winter now. The strappy PVC ones? I barely ever wore them (and only ever to things where I knew I’d be sitting down a lot) – but still don’t want to give them away.

They’re in my cupboard for now. I’m thinking I’ll polish them up and sell them.

Just…. not quite yet, OK?

All Done!

The house inspection went without a hitch. Thankfully our landlord is a decent guy. He’s pretty hands-on and reasonable (manages the rent privately rather than through an agent) and would rather keep good tenants than have to hunt around for new ones.

He commented on how well we’d organised the toys and promised to get on to replacing the ancient oven as soon as he’s finished renovating the house next door. The rent is definitely going up in a couple of months though – by an extra $50 a week. I simply have to find an income. There’s just no getting around it anymore.

Damnit.

For now I’m enjoying all the clear space we’ve created in the house. Between the work hubby and I did last night (he did wake up again last night but I took one look at his tired eyes and sent him straight back to bed!) and all the vacuuming and rubbish removal this morning EVERY room is vastly improved. FEELS SO GOOD!!

Excuse me while I give myself a pat on the back. 😀

House Inspection: Less Than 12 Hours to Go

OK. It’s taken a lot of stress, effort and tears, and has been hampered by another bout of depression (thanks to a mix of accidental gluten ingestion and the stress levels I’ve been toiling under), but the house has successfully been downgraded from “festering, stinky hell-hole” to “clearly lived-in by small children and borderline hoarders but not an outright health hazard.”

I’m pretty happy with that.

Hubby is still organising the mess in the front room and we’ll have to do one last dust/vaccuum in the morning but otherwise the place is good to go. Plus, hubby has finally – FINALLY – put a bunch of donations in the boot of his car to drop them off somewhere over the weekend (seriously, he goes on and on about not dealing with the clutter but he isn’t exactly “Action Man” about this stuff himself!). The place is definitely more organised and clean than the last few inspections so hopefully the landlord will be impressed.

I mean, look at how clear the living room was for about half an hour before the kids started playing after school!

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Not gonna lie, it felt pretty sweet. (For context, this is what it normally looks like when I push tidying down to the bottom of the priorities list:

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I domestic good!)

The girls’ room actually has a slight amount of order going on, even though that “order” mostly consists of boxes and baskets randomly stuffed full of crap. The kitchen has a few clear surfaces, although the cockroaches are having another resurgence so I shall be shaking out appliances and laying out borax over the weekend. My room is acceptably higgledy-piggledy and will be fine with a quick straighten/vaccuum first thing. The yards are fine, the bathroom sparkly, the storage room de-cobwebbed and neat.

Mission basically accomplished.

Hopefully we can build on this momentum and maintain a few oases of order in the chaos.

And hopefully the landlord doesn’t decide to raise the rent too far and/or kick us out so he can renovate!!

Update: Wait, no. Hubby has passed out with piles of stuff everywhere and the front door wide open. Looks like I have another hour of cleaning ahead of me before I can sleep tonight…

Needless to say, he owes me BIG TIME for this!!

Wednesday Recipe: Caramel Slice

I’ve been craving something really nutty and caramel-y since the fudge I created last week but thanks to the upcoming house inspection I haven’t been able to experiment. *sadface*

Instead, I’ll share this recipe from bumpy road to bubba that ticks all my dietary boxes. I will be making a batch to celebrate on the weekend for sure!

I’m also contemplating switching my “recipe post” day to Tuesdays so I can jump on the Tasty Tuesday bandwagon. Might try it out from next week and see how I go.

Meanwhile, I am so over cleaning!! Only one more room to really de-mankify though. The rest will need a once-over on Friday night but overall the place is looking pretty spiffy! Hopefully I can maintain things afterwards…

House Inspection: T – 5 Days

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Seriously.

My life right now is all about fussing and cleaning and sorting faster than the kids can mess it up again. I basically tidy one room enough to distract Miss 2 with a box of random toys on the floor, to buy myself enough time to tidy another room enough to clean walls and vaccuum a section, by which time Miss 2 is bored and wanders in – to be distracted by another pile of toys, at which point I dash back into the other room, quickly throw things back in that bucket, and dust/vaccuum a section in there. Rinse. Repeat. And it’s not much better when Miss 6 gets home from school (although thankfully it’s not much worse either).

To say it’s exhaustingly frustrating is an understatement.

Yesterday the hubster took both girls out to the park for a couple of hours and I got so much done! Sadly it was just the tip of the iceberg though, thanks to the sheer amount of stuff that needs to be moved around.

I grabbed this tub fully expecting it to be able to contain all the random small toys in the kitchen, living room and girls’ room. This is what it looked like after my pass through the kitchen and living room only:

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On the plus side, there’s a full garbage bag right next to it that was sent to the kerb last night. Yay! On the minus side… yeesh. That is so much freaking stuff to go through (eventually) – not to mention the equally full smaller tub behind it. And the several other boxes and tubs scattered liberally around the house.

I am the clutter-bucket queen.

Ugh.

Thankfully my new pottering-fu is making slow but steady progress. There’s currently a lot more clear space in the kitchen, for example, with a couple of new organisational protocols in place. Our hallway is still full of dollhouses, but the shelving in the girls’ room is all clean and sparkly and starting to have things put back into it. I have thrown out a bunch of rubbish and put aside a few things to sell/give to charity. I’m finally caught up on the dishes again after a few days of de-emphasising them.

Plus hubby did a bunch of work on the yard on Saturday and it’s looking the best it’s been since my oldest’s birthday party last November. I’m so glad I left that up to him! There were a couple of crumpled tarps on the ground that housed a few cranky huntsmen. *shudder* I hate startling those guys.

I think tomorrow will be all about resting and strategising and only doing stuff if the urge takes me.

And cleaning up the mess my kids make in the morning…