Sunday, January 15, 2012

Organizing Our Homes

This week I've been reading a book on organizing small spaces by Kathryn Bechen, titled Small Space Organizing.  I posted a quote from the book a week or two ago.  The introduction drew me in.  My mom picked it up the day it arrived and read several chapters.  My sister in law read the entire book while she was here visiting and enjoyed it.  It was very easy to read.  One key thing about books on organization, I think, is that they are intended to give you ideas.  How we organize our homes and what we keep in them is very personal.  This audience for this book is middle/upper middle class women who have disposable income that allows them a lot of freedom in their choice of furnishings and the ability to purchase storage containers.  Are there ideas for women with more limited financial means?  Yes, but this book is for people who choose small spaces and can afford to furnish them to their tastes more than for people who choose small spaces because that is the most they can afford.

Her ideas in the introduction, though, and the idea that we should strive to "dwell well" are ones that I think all women would be encouraged to hear.  If you live in an area that puts a lot of value on where people live and the homes they live in (and judge others by this criteria), then this chapter is worth reading and taking to heart.   

From there, Ms. Bechen covers topics such as the one room dwelling, the nursery, kids' rooms, and all other rooms of the home one by one.  I enjoyed her ideas for a one room dwelling.  My mom particularly enjoyed this chapter and took several ideas from it as she has settled into her room in our new home.  I think she is pleased with the outcome though it's not entirely done yet.  

I was especially curious about her chapter about the nursery and kids' rooms.  She says at the beginning of the chapter that she and her husband don't have children.  I have found your perspective on many things like this changes drastically when you have children yourself (even if you've been a teacher beforehand as both this author and I were).  Many of her suggestions were great ones that I would definitely give people in light of my experience living with children in 4 different homes.  But, many of the things she considers needs and what you "should" spend money on are ultimately optional.  You only really need a crib, a place to change the baby, and some storage.  In your living room or the nursery it is helpful to have a spot you are comfortable nursing or feeding a bottle in, but if your nursery is small, there may not be room.  We didn't have a changing table for our first two or a diaper pail.  I put a pad on the floor and changed my babies there--and never had to worry about them falling off.  Oh, and I've never seen a crib that was high enough to store boxes of diapers under.  But, for a mom who's able to design her nursery, these suggestions would be a great place to start.  We were just coming from a very different place financially when we had our first daughter.  (God did provide very graciously for us and I am very thankful that we had what we needed.)  

Her ideas for kids' rooms are very much in line with what we see families have on television.  For the most part, they're pretty good general suggestions.  I suspect they'll align with what most families have found on their own to be workable ideas.  All my friends will understand when I note, though, that I disagreed that kids rooms should be wired with extra outlets so that they can support more technology and media in their rooms.  Um.  Nope.  At least not in our house.  In my mind, computers are best out in the open where they can be seen.  Televisions in a child's room?  My opinion is that they're really not a good idea.  I've heard too many stories of children waking in the night or not going to bed until very late because they stay up watching television in their rooms.  I remember one story of a parent being so proud that her 3 year old stayed in her room for 3 hours watching Shrek.  I wouldn't mind my children spending 3 hours in their room--if they're playing or reading or napping.  

So, was this book useful to me?  Perhaps not to me, but it was enjoyable to my family members and it is well written.  We just moved into a new home a month ago and I have had to buy about 10 large Rubbermaid bins for storage in the basement.  I opted for the sharpie marker labeling technique instead of a label maker as Ms. Bechen suggests.  I know people love label makers, but it hasn't been a need for us.  It's a want.  We came in with all sorts of ideas of what we'd need to buy and spend money on for storage.  We did buy 4 dressers, a small wardrobe, a bed frame, and 2 night stands for our room--all from IKEA and a new larger dining room table and chairs that we are waiting on.  But, aside from that, we are using what we had before.  We had other ideas, but those have been put on my garage saling list for the spring.  That's the one aspect that she doesn't directly address--organizing frugally or on a limited budget.  

If you enjoy reading books about organizing spaces or are looking for some encouragement to pare down and simplify, this book will definitely tell you that.  She doesn't give specific directions of what to get rid of and what to keep in many ways or a lot of directions of how to do it, but she throws in a few comments about it here and there.  This book is primarily a book aimed at helping you see the big picture of how you want your home to look and how you're going to use the space in it.  What you keep and get rid of is up to you.  It will give you ideas and start you on the path.  And it will give you a lot of encouragement to keep going and press on as you organize your home and find contentment in the space in which you dwell!

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Revell Publishing.

Planning Our Projects

I had this thought yesterday about my home and how burdened I've felt to fix everything right now.  It came after I looked through some old pictures of my family in our old house--before we'd fixed it.  I had forgotten what it looked like and we simply lived with until we had the finances to fix it.  In one instance we were compelled to take a loan out because it was such an enormous repair that had to be done right away.  But, we worked away at it to quickly pay that loan off.  What I realized as all of these memories came to me is that part of the reason we feel this burden to fix everything is that we are able to afford a lot of the fixes.  They aren't big fixes like the one we had to take a loan our for several years ago, though they do add up.  But, when we simply couldn't afford the fixes at the time, we had to wait until we could.

The second part of the reason we feel so burdened is a little different for my husband and I.  For him, he thought he was moving into a house that didn't need a lot of work, so it feels a bit like we got hijacked.  For me, I realize that my family does better when our home is settled and functioning--and not out of order.  So, I want things to be fixed and in place.  

So, last night we were feeling so burdened, we sat down and made a master list of those projects we want to do over the next year.  We broke it down for the winter (now-next 2 months), spring, and June-December.  We also made a list of projects for next year.  When we spread out the projects over time, it didn't look so bad.  I also made a list of the little projects I need to get done now and need to work through.  I took my calendar and spread the projects and phone calls out over the week.  My goal is to only tackle one day's jobs at a time, so that I can still get my regular work done and feel at ease that it is all going to get done.  

Now to stick to that plan...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

What we need and what we don't

It's hard to believe that it's been almost 1 month since we moved.  My oldest daughter has been asking all week to go back to our old house.  She keeps telling me that our house doesn't feel like "home".  Her biggest reason when I ask is because we're so busy.  She's right.  We've been working a lot on our house and I've honestly had less patience to sit with them.  My mom's made up for it, but really, she's not me.  I'm their mom.  So, as I was going to bed last night I realized this.  I need to fully do my job again.  I made a goal to work harder at doing things little by little rather than all at once.

Goal #1:  Bag 1 bag of leaves in the yard a day.  The former owner of this house had her yard mowed, but didn't do anything else.  There were sticks buried in the yard because they were never picked up.  It's overwhelming to me, but I need to just bag bit by bit.  It will eventually all get done, right?  Yup.  It will.

Besides feeling like we have to do the work at once this house has made us feel like it needs to be fixed all at once.  Sometimes that's been because it really needs to be, but sometimes it's been because of our own anxiety. This is why I titled this entry "what we need and what we don't".  

I don't need to rake the leaves all at once, but I feel like I do!  What I really need to do is not burn myself or my kids out but working too much all at once and not having time for them.

Our fireplace is the case of something we felt needed to be fixed right away because it didn't work properly, but really we made a mistake.  We didn't step back and think about the wisest way economically to fix it.  I'm thankful the Lord threw in a snag on Friday to help us see a better fix.  On Friday, as I've come to expect, the fireplace log set installer told me he couldn't do it.  He explained 2 snags to me.  1) the damper had to stay open 24/7 (which we didn't know) and we had no doors to keep our house from losing heat constantly up our chimney and 2) we had no screen or doors in front of the fireplace.  Ugh.

We were very upset because we can't get all of the money back that we spent on the log set--but we can get most of it.  We realized that we would rather put a grate for wood in the fireplace with a screen in front of the fireplace and on the side.  We've called someone to come disconnect the gas line that runs up into the fireplace this week.  In the end, we will lose a little money, but we'll also save a lot of money and feel better about the whole thing.

We thought we needed a gas insert, but really we don't.  We could have saved ourselves the loss and the weeks of waiting for something to be fixed that didn't end up being fixed.

Many people buy new houses and so everything is fixed to begin with.  But, when you buy an older home, there's many things that need to be fixed right from the beginning.  The hard, but important, part is to fix them as you go and figure out what really needs to be fixed when.  That's what we're working on... 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Small Houses, Big Houses

Two weeks ago, a book arrived for me to review.  My mom picked it up that very day and began thumbing through it.  She enjoyed it right off the bat.  This weekend my sister in law was here visiting and she read the whole book.  So, I picked it up yesterday.  My full review of the book will be posted in a few weeks, but several of the quotes were very relevant to what we've been going through.  

Our new, old home has had a lot of issues.  We've been working hard on fixing them and getting it in shape.  There have been so many things that have run through my mind as I've been working on them.  One of the things I've pondered is that I need to seek daily to be content with my home and in my home.  

The book I'm reading put it this way:  that we should seek to "dwell well".  The author talked of how large houses cost people--personally, economically,professionally.  Houses can restrict people, rather than free them.  

So, here's a quote by Kathryn Bechen to consider:
"Small spaces give us the opportunity to live sincerely, forcing us to choose which of our possessions make our hearts sing."  
from pg. 15 of her book Small Space Organizing

Last week, when I was at a friend's house discussing houses and possessions, the idea was brought up and discussed that the more possessions one has a) the more one has to take care of and clean and b) that more choices lead to greater unhappiness.  If we only have 1 platter, then we use the 1 platter and are thankful.  If we have 3, we want to make sure we choose the right one and spend more time making that choice.  I use the platter example because up until last week, I had no platters.  My mom was sifting through her things and figuring out what we should keep.  We decided to keep 2 oval platters and 2 round trays that she had.  On Saturday, one of our guests brought some food and asked for a platter to put it on.  I brought the larger one out and our friend wasn't sure it was big enough.  After a moment, it was decided that it would work after all and it looked great with food on it!  For me, that platter was the only choice I had.  I was thankful to have it!  I knew that the person's request wasn't unreasonable at all, but that she must have several platters and be used to having them available to use.  We were coming from different perspectives and have different things in our homes.  

But, that tiny moment brought to my mind what happens when we have choices.  I want get a new camera case that will make it easier for me to carry my camera and lenses.  The internet has a myriad of choices.  I want to make sure I make the "right" choice--or else what?  Well, the fear is that I'll be unhappy with it.  

Having a home that is just right for our families and even perhaps, smaller than we'd like compels us to not hold too tightly to our possessions.  There simply isn't enough room to keep a lot of extra stuff.  But, sometimes it can go the other way.  I've seen how only having a few possessions has made me become overly concerned with making the "right" choice of possessions instead of letting go of those possessions.  Something that someone gives another may not be received because it wasn't exactly what was wanted.  I don't want to get caught in that trap either.  Having possessions comes with many traps and we have to be careful not to make them our homes into idols.  

What really matters?  Our houses?  No.  Our stuff?  No.  Rather, we should desire to dwell well--to seek to love others well with our home and in our home.  Ideally, I think it should be a comfortable place to all who come and go.  

I think I have some more purging ahead of me this week as I finish storing my homeschool books in our basement...  and some more time to think about what I really keep.