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Getting Real and Getting Uncluttered, day 4

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Getting Real and Getting Uncluttered, day 4

Wow. This week’s exercise of posting the trouble spots in my house (ok, posting a small fraction of the trouble spots) and then posting “after” shots has been really encouraging. I’ve had a few insights I hope to hold onto, and I’ve made some real progress. I feel really good about my work on yesterday’s spot, but first let me share a couple things I’ve learned.

  • I need to pick small spots to redo one at a time. My whole house is pretty disorganized and cluttered, and frequently I try to get everything perfect all at once. Well, not frequently, clearly, or I’d be blogging right now on deep theological issues or world peace instead of a messy counter top. But my all-or-nothing approach is exhausting and unsustainable. Even with the self-imposed pressure to post each day this week, I’ve been able to make great progress on a defined space.
  • I’m not just a messy housekeeper. I am that, but there are other systemic issues at play. Our house is short on storage, and I need better space and better systems for my stuff – bills, kid papers, writing/blogging/speaking/comedy stuff. Those are both issues I can address, and there’s definitely an IKEA trip in my near future.
  • I have three little boys and a husband whose eyes truly do not register either messy or cluttered. He. Does. Not. Care.  A degree of chaos will always be present in our home. Since we’ve already established that I’m not a great housekeeper and I’d much rather read magazines than dust them, this ain’t never going to look like any of the houses IN those magazines. Life is too short for my house to be perfectly clean.
  • ON THE OTHER HAND, Mama deserves a little pretty, too. So I need to find the balance between chaos and perfection that allows me a few peacefully clean surfaces, a few beautiful sparkly things and a cozy spot to read those magazines, cause I’m worth it, baby! And speaking of magazines…….

Remember yesterday?

The Magazine Pile

So, there’s good news, and there’s bad news…..

I love my magazines, and I’m not ready to quit. I mean, I’m totally in control, I COULD quit anytime, just not now, you know? I mean, if I haven’t read them I could miss something awesome. So I did eliminate a stack nearly as big as the stack I kept, but that’s still a lot. But look, it’s a LOT better, now. Check it out:

magazines after

Oh, and those weird Sunday school sculptures? Let us never speak of them again….

Now it’s your turn, I’d definitely love input and advice from you, wise readers. What are your best tips for staying on top of clutter, or staying on top of messy, or staying on top of your magazine reading?

Did you miss the earlier posts? They are here, here, and here.

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Getting Real and Getting Uncluttered, day 3

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Getting Real and Getting Uncluttered, day 3

So……day 3 is actually happening on day 4. But you know what? That’s ok. This week is supposed to be about getting real on the Internet, and real is that life happened yesterday. Then I realized there were technical difficulties with day 2’s post which needed is now fixed, so I didn’t get my spot done til today. It’s as done as I can get it for now, but completion will require shopping! Yay shopping! A trip to IKEA may even be in order……oh, the excitement.  Here’s my clean and uncluttered, if not attractive, entryway:

Entry way after

Ready to see yet another photo that will make you feel FABULOUS about your house? Whoo, boy, my next spot to tackle is a doozy! This shelf SHOULD be beautifully decorated, really, because it is very centrally located on our open plan main floor, between the dining area and the living room, and it’s even visible somewhat from the front door. This spot, I’m ashamed to say, looked like this straight through Christmas. (On a side note, I think I have realized why I love decorating for Christmas – it seems so much more achievable than decorating my house without a festive theme and fun sparkly things. Perhaps I need more “regular” fun sparkly things to motivate me, and LESS un-fun clutter that overwhelms me. Hmmmmm…..)

Now, remember, this is about getting real, so try not to judge? Because this has clearly become a sad, sad testament to my addiction to magazines.

The Magazine Pile

I know, it’s out of control. But it’s largely my mother’s fault (and possibly the Mafia). First, my mom has always had a ton of magazine subscriptions, so I was exposed and then addicted at an early age. Second, about 6 months ago my parents started receiving about 15 MORE magazine subscriptions to their exact address, including apartment number, but addressed to “Sheepshead Bay Primary Care Clinic.”

As far as I can Google, such a clinic does not currently exist. There was such a clinic in Brooklyn, NY which was slated to close in 2009. I don’t know if the clinic and the magazine orders are some complicated Mafia money laundering scheme, the result of a rift in the time-space continuum, or just a boring error by a 3rd party supplier of magazine subscription packages to doctor’s offices. Either way, my sweet mother here in Oregon has tried to cancel each magazine individually and the magazines tell her they don’t have records of the order. Whattya gonna do? Fuh-geddabout-it!

It would be WASTEFUL not to try and read the magazines, right? I mean, it’s not like we read the baby magazines, that would be silly. (Because MY baby turns 8 this weekend. WHO LET THAT HAPPEN?) (Apparently, baby magazines are delivered in bulk to doctors, so it caused quite a stir the first few months my folks received 25 copies of the current issue delivered to their senior living community.) But there are some primo magazines too, and I can’t let them go unread. Add in all of the magazines I already get, and it’s out of control. Not sure the fix, but tomorrow I vow ACTION.

That’s right, even if I have to read magazines straight through the weekend, I will persevere!

Here are the links to day 1 and day 2 if you missed them!

Getting Real and Getting Uncluttered, day 2

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Today’s post is the second installment of my “Getting Real on the Internet Week”, which isn’t really a thing except according to Real Simple magazine, which made it up. But I’ve adopted hijacked it for my purposes. Instead of overly shiny “fakebooking”, or posting inauthentic but pretty things online, I’m forcing myself to go to my awesome blog readers for some down and dirty accountability in helping me Get It Together, Already. Today is going to be short and sweet:

Awwww, pretty!

Awwww, pretty!

I did it! Look how pretty my “launching pad” looks now! The one remaining item out of place is the rolled-up print in the back corner. I am embarrassed to say that according to the receipt still attached, I had it printed – gulp – three years ago. I don’t think it’s been here the whole time, but seriously, how hard is it to go buy a 16×20 frame and hang the thing? Pretty hard, apparently. But this week?

IT SHALL BE FRAMED. Watch, I won’t even like the picture anymore.

I promised to post before and after pics every day this week, so here’s the next one. This spot should be pretty easy, but tomorrow is a pretty booked day and I’m being realistic.

Entry Way Before

This is actually the corner next to my front door. This (?!) is the part of my house I WANT to say “Hi, welcome to our home and our family, come in and let’s have a peaceful fun visit.” But instead, right now, it says “What’s this? Look at me! Why is that plastic box there? Why would they leave broken hanging hooks on those mirrors? Why has that bottle of spray paint been there since before Christmas? Why is that weird cat toy staring at me?” (Let’s pretend you can’t see me in my jammies, ok?) 

I am finding that the problem is once I leave clutter – or allow someone else’s clutter – in a spot for very long, it gains magical properties of invisibility, and we stop seeing it. It’s still there, looking awful, subconsciously making me feel uncomfortable, but I don’t really see it anymore.

Parallel to real life, anyone? Anyone? I am definitely feeling like it is time to move things out of my life which aren’t helping me, or are passively making me unhappy. Anyone else feel that way?

I have also realized that I need to establish my own personal office space, stat. Much of my clutter comes from truly not having a spot designated for my stuff – comedy stuff, the book project, speaking engagements, etc. So that is a bigger issue, but one I am committing to tackle starting this weekend.

Stay tuned tomorrow to see what I’ve done here, and where I go next!

Did you miss Day One? Find it here.

Getting Real on the Internet

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If we are friends on Facebook, I owe you an apology of sorts. A few weeks ago, the night of Christmas Eve, I posted the following on Facebook. Accept my apology now, I’ll make my excuses in a bit. So along with this picture of my three boys dressed in matching blue Oxford shirts and suit jackets, all smiling adorably in front of the tree, this is what I posted:

3 Boys Xmas

“We’ve had our Christmas miracle! Managed to get the boys to do a video to mail Grandma in Arizona that included trumpet, violin and harmonica solos, the first EVER recording of the Rolstad boys SINGING, and they even got dressed up! Alleluia!”

It was probably three days before I reflected on that post and realized how COMPLETELY over-the-top nauseating it may have read to some. Trumpet solos? Seriously? It could easily be interpreted as just another polished-for-the-interwebs overly shiny and somewhat fake post that we find ourselves hating when done by others.

Social media posts like that can make us feel bad about ourselves, make us hate our lame vacations to the Sock Museum, hate our spouses for not buying us diamond-encrusted cars for Christmas, and even tempt us into embellishing our own posts to compete with the virtual Jones’.

But here’s the deal. We also need to remember to give each other grace, because I truly didn’t realize how overly precious that post could sound when I wrote it because here’s what my Facebook friends didn’t know:

1. on the other side of the camera? I was getting over the flu, generally cranky and phlegmy. I was gross.

2. My boys had been wearing their footie pajamas until I made them do this video. Even though it was like 3 in the afternoon. OK, it was later than that.

3. They were all wearing jeans with those suit jackets. Two of them were wearing visibly dirty jeans.

4. They were all barefoot.

5. None of them were initially too excited about being pulled away from TV shows and computer games. (I had the flu, ok? Mama has to do what mama has to do when mama has the flu and there are three of you.* We had a very electronically intensive Christmas break. Oh, well.) The oldest visibly pouted through much of the video.

6. All of those instrumental solos? Well. Said eldest somehow managed to look grumpy while playing his trumpet, the violin solo was a simple scale, and the harmonica solos were two songs completely made up by the 7-year-old, who does not know how to play the harmonica. (They did sound the same every time he played his “songs”, amazingly.)

7. Video of them singing was a big deal. I have not had the glorious experiences of friends who put their precious wee ones in the church kids’ choir, and beamed with pride as they performed for their church family. My youngest two flatly refused to participate after absorbing the misery caused to their oldest brother. He wouldn’t sing in choir practices because he “didn’t know the songs” (hey, perfectionist introvert child I do not get – hello? that’s how you LEARN the song???) He finished one of his only performances sitting on the floor in silent protest, as everyone around him stood and sang. He had begun the performance with a full minute of shooting death rays at my head from his eyes and making violent chopping motions at me with his hands. In front of everyone. He was 5. The three have not ever sang together, really, until this Christmas Eve afternoon.

See? It really was a miracle. A messy, imperfect, disorganized miracle. But in my virally induced state, I didn’t think to make the context clear, so it could have been perceived like a pretentious braggy mama post. Well, anyone who knows my family very well probably assumed at least 4 of the 7  points above, so they knew, but if you didn’t know me well…..I wouldn’t blame you for rolling your eyes.

So while I don’t normally jump on a bandwagon created by a corporate entity, I thought it was perfect timing to do this post today. One of my favorite magazines, Real Simple, has declared this week to be Get Real on the Internet Week. It’s all about “down with fakebooking”, and up with sharing more of who we really, authentically are with each other. Those who want to sign up get fun challenges all week, including today’s challenge: “Meals can’t always be gourmet. Show off your botched dinner, junk food, or sad sandwich.”

I’m taking a different tack, however. Partly as penance for my potentially pretentious post (nothing more fun than some good ol’ alliteration), and partly because I need to GET ON TOP OF THE CLUTTER ALREADY, I’m going to post one “before” photo of a different horrible and horribly true spot in my house every day this week. The following day I will have hopefully cleaned it up and can show you the “after” picture. Before and after pictures are fun, right? Hopefully, the public pressure of sharing my mess will help motivate me to clean it up, one trouble spot at a time.

If not, it will at least give you the chance to feel better about yourself, looking at what a bad housekeeper I am. (Warning – if you are a true neatnik, you should probably avert your eyes. My disorganized mess may give you hives or something.)

Ready for picture one? In the interest of  getting real, being authentic and motivating myself, here it comes………………I call this:

The Dumping Spot Next to the Sink

Why does this spot ALWAYS look like this? Such a small spot, SO MUCH crap.

Why does this spot ALWAYS look like this? Such a small spot, SO MUCH crap.

OK, Interwebs, we’re getting real. Tomorrow, the “after” version of this spot, and a new spot to make you shake your  head and wonder how I can be such a mess. See you tomorrow!

Oh, and want to join me in my quest? Go for it! Share your spots in the comments, or tell me how you’re being real on the Internet!

*Ha! I wrote a funny poem! If I was artsy, I would design a cute word graphic out of this and post it on Facebook, or maybe needlepoint it onto a pillow and then Pin it on Pinterest…..oh, wait.

Not a Christmas Letter Kind of Season

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Good thing I rarely write a Christmas letter. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting them, opening that envelope and reading them, so I know that makes me a bit of a hypocrite. When I do write one, it’s a surprise to everyone (especially since it may arrive at any random time of year that ISN’T Christmas). This year, though, I’m grateful for the low expectations I’ve nurtured amongst friends and family.

‘Cause this year, the Christmas letter wouldn’t be very fun. Or it would be VERY fake.

Not that I couldn’t talk about my kids, how they are growing, how they are doing in school, what extracurricular activities they enjoy. I could wax eloquently about summer family camping adventures, or my husband’s job, or my new-found conviction that I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now, even though I am about the least-qualified stay-at-home-mom EVER. IN. HISTORY.

But that letter would be bunk. Hooey. Bull-hockey, as a friend’s grandpa used to say.

The truth this year, as I stumble my way through Advent towards Christmas, is that I’m weighted down with sadness. An inescapable sadness from different tough things going on in our just-outside-nuclear family, a sadness that pours down over me like sticky, heavy syrup.

And sadness ain’t Christmas-y, people.

Truthfully, sometimes life just sucks.

Sometimes, the very best available option of a whole pile of bad options is still pretty awful.

I hadn’t put a name to what was up until I took a few minutes recently to just sit quietly and “feel my feelings”. As the sadness made itself known, and I realized how deeply the sticky heavy had sunk into me, I felt myself getting panicky.

It’s Christmas! Season of joy, happiness, and celebration! I have gifts to buy! Cookies to bake! Teacher gifts to wrap! Decorations to decorate! A tree! Carols!

Much of the fun hullabaloo of Christmas is up to me to create for my family, and we have three boys who need fun! And Christmas! and more hullabaloo! (Tiny tangent – in case you were concerned, that is the correct spelling. Hullabaloo is in my spell check. Really? Hullabaloo? OK.)

So I began to forbid the sadness, and to feel guilty for feeling it. Panic rose up in me, telling me loud lies about how the sad and I would ruin Christmas.

And then I felt a Whisper*. A Whisper that said it was OK. It was ok to be sad. I am sad for good reason. If I faked my way through Advent, convincing myself and everyone else that I had it All Together All By Myself Thank You, then why would I need Christmas?

If I can’t be honest that I’m grieving real things that are really happening, that we live in a broken world of broken people who are hurting and who hurt us, then I don’t need a Christmas from a God who would reach down to us through time and space and history to give us Hope.

And I DO need that. I do need hope.

And I need to be honest. Honest with you, Blog Readers, with my friends, with people I see. Because if I say all is well and I fake it till I can make it, there is no authenticity or vulnerability that leaves room for healing or for hope. There is only room for the lies to get louder.

So….yeah. I’m sad, and it’s Christmas. But that’s ok. ‘Cause if I am real about the hurts in my life and the empty places, I make room for Him to reach down, and room for us to reach out. Then we get to help be Emanuel, God Among Us. We get to be His strength and peace and hope for each other.

And that is Merry for sure.

In case you were wondering, BTW, I don’t think I’m depressed, not clinically. (Honest, Mom.) Been there, done that. (And I’ve already given the hubby permission to be on the lookout anyway, just in case.)

*(I’m from way too moderate a tradition to probably ever feel comfortable saying “I heard God say….” However, I do feel Whispers. And Nudges. And occasionally Kicks in the Pants.)

Have you ever had a Christmas that included some sad? How did you honor that?

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