Minimalist Cleaning

Long-time reader Sumarie asked for a post on my current cleaning supplies and items, seeing as I had reduced them from more than 400 items. This post is in response to that request.

I have a vacumn cleaner and a long handled broom. Then I have these objects:

All these things, except the dust pan and whisk broom fit in the blue caddy at the back.

All these things, except the dust pan and whisk broom fit in the blue caddy at the back.

I use the yogurt cup to rinse the tub after a scrubbing and the Comet cleanser is used to clean the tub and the toilets. I also use the product called Bar Keeper’s Friend. Just depends on which is cheaper when I go to purchase.

The blue fluid is an ammonia-based widow cleaner, and there is no label on it, as the kids used it in a film a few years back. After I use this product up, I will likely switch to plain vinegar or water for the things I use it for now–which is mostly cleaning up cat puke. My frequency of cleaning windows and mirrors in this house is so scarce, that it does not warrant it’s own product.

There is a toilet brush that is not in the photograph.

My cleaning routines are thus:

kitchen counters get wiped down daily with water and scrubby sponge. When the sponge starts to smell bad, I microwave it. If you have a dishwasher, you can put it on the top rack.

Cat puke gets cleaned up as it occurs, with ammonia cleaner and paper towels.

The toilets get cleaned when they start to have a pink ring at the water level or fussy company is coming.

The tub gets cleaned…..not near often enough.

The floors get swept when the cat hair tumbleweeds start to bother me…or company is coming.

The Resolve carpet cleaner is for when the cats vomit on the carpet……or I spill food on the car seat.

If I have forgotten to mention your cleaning pet peeve, just ask. I will come clean about how I deal with it. [no extra charge for the bad pun.]

2015 Count: 83 items

It is that time of year, my friends: The Annual Count.

2015-06-16 17.48.14

Person Care items #12: basket, toothbrush/paste/floss, conditioner, mascara, grooming scissors, nail clippers, face powder, lotion, lip balm, razor, hair paste, soap.

Misc. items #18: Back to front-shredder, laundry basket, suitcase, To-go cup, coffee pot, vase (with roses) towel, dryer, book, lap top, wallet, glasses, case and sunglasses, Christmas stocking.

Misc. items #18: Back to front-shredder, laundry basket, suitcase, To-go cup, coffee pot, vase (with roses) towel, dryer, book, lap top, wallet, glasses, case and sunglasses, Christmas stocking.

Miscellaneous items not in photo: bed, car and phone.

Clothing #53 items.

Outfits 1 & 2

Outfits 1 & 2

Outfits 3 & 4

Outfits 3 & 4

Outfits 4 & 5

Outfits 4 & 5

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Outfit 7 and the black dress/sweater outfit.

watch & earings

watch & earrings

“Holy soles, Batman! where did all these shoes come from?”

Here are three of the four sets of exercise clothes.

Here are three of the four sets of exercise clothes.

Gloves, ear warmer, basket with tights, 5 pair socks, 4 bras 5 panties

Gloves, ear warmer, basket with tights, 5 pair socks, 4 bras 5 panties

A et of painting/gardening clothes and the swimsuit.

A set of painting/gardening clothes and the swimsuit.

A fleece and a sweatshirt

A fleece and a sweatshirt

Winter coat, and there are 8 hangers in the photos as well.

Winter coat, and there are 8 hangers in the photos as well.

I need to do something about all those shoes!

Too Much Nature in the Basement

You all may recall that I am helping a friend clean out her 2,300 square foot basement of stuff that has been accumulating for 40+ years. It is a big project and we have been working on it off and on for over a year.

You may also recall that mice got into the stuff stored there, which was a strong motivator for my friend to finally do something about the basement. Well, imagine my delight [heavy sarcasm] when I arrived on Wednesday and she warned me before I headed downstairs, “I should tell you, I found a snakeskin in the basement. He probably was down there hunting mice. He might be gone by now.”

The one she found wasn't quite this long.

The one she found wasn’t quite this long.

We worked for eight hours over two days and filled up two large trash cans with trash, two large trash cans with recycle materials, a pick-up truck full of supplies to be donated to Habitat for Humanity and my car full of objects to go to Goodwill.

I found several dead mice and a couple nests….but no snake.

As I was finishing up, my friend served me lunch and from her kitchen table we watched a doe and new fawn, nursing. And they were in the backyard. Where nature belongs.

Backyard Projects

The weather has been nice here and I have been working in the yard. Last year I told you that the corner with the stone bench needed a little love and this year, it finally got  some attention.

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Those small green plants are Irish moss, that will eventually carpet the corner and the tall vine next to the electric pole is a Trumpet Flower vine and will grow up the pole.

Then I filled some planters with grass to give a little privacy from the neighbors and block the view of the air conditioner.

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The porch is a favorite place to be this summer, especially during a thunderstorm.

Minimalist Decorating

We have a tendency to stop seeing things in our routine environment after awhile. This is evident in my colleague’s office spaces and the homes that I visit during my work day. There are procedure manuals that expired ten years ago and phone books from 1992 in our office. I’ve seen kitchens in themed country blue geese that I know was being marketed in the 1980s. Or roosters from the 1950s. (Surprise-roosters are back!) I prefer a simpler decorating style that gets it’s inspiration from the alcove of the Japanese tea room. tea room Refined. Just a few well chosen objects. Elements of nature. It is not intended to be permanent. There is not a throw pillow in sight. And yet, the possible variations are endless and intriguing.

Relearning Play

I had thought that when my kids left home, or I retired, or both, that I would sleep for a month.  I imagined that when I emerged, rubbing my eyes, scratching my belly, that I would look around for my new purpose and throw myself in.

Silly me.

First off, it’s not taking a month of solid sleeping to get caught up on my rest. Just consistently going to bed on time and saving evenings for friends and reading.

Getting the cobwebs off the library card

Getting the cobwebs off the library card

So after I got rested, I discovered my second false belief:

That my purpose is all about service.

Not to worry, I’m not about to abandon my hospice work or stop paying for college for the kids. But as I work on the house to get it ready to sell, I’m learning that designing and completing these projects (I’ll have photos as I finish them) has a strong “play” quality to it.

I like taking something that is ugly or poorly designed and redoing it. It’s fun.


The Best Teacher

Last week I made the 8 hour trek north to pick up my daughter from college. After we loaded up her things, rather than heading south for home, we continued north for another four hours to a friend’s cabin which is near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. [The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a 1,090,000 acre within the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota.]

We stayed at the cabin, which has electricity and heat, but no running water and enjoyed the beauty of the area. We hiked.

The trail around Bass Lake

The trail around Bass Lake

It was a 5 hour hike around Bass Lake

It was a 5 hour hike around Bass Lake

30 minute hike to these falls

30 minute hike to these falls

And we canoed.

It was a blustery day.

It was a blustery day.

And we spent a fair amount of time quiet and letting the healing power of the outdoors do it’s thing.

Here are my take away lessons from the trip, in no particular order:

~There is a point when your children outgrow you. Like Kahil Gilbran says, “Your children are arrows shot into the future.” They move forward to a place that you can not go. This is a good thing.

~For me, silence is the best teacher.

~As healing as the fresh air and walking in a pine forest can be–a warm bed and a warm toilet are things that an aging body rejoices in.

~My dwelling place must be beautiful and organized. When it is not, I get restless until I make it so.

~I like my human contact to be purposeful. If we are just going through the motions or skimming the surface, I would rather retreat into silence, my best teacher.



An Abundance of Abundance

We humans tend to measure things by what is nearby. If my neighbors have homes bigger than mine….then mine must be small. Even if people in this location lived 5-10 humans to a room the size of my living room 100 years ago, or do so to this day, in another country.

My middle son says in high school his personality was label “Smart.” Even though, as he points out, “smart” is not a personality characteristic. Now, he goes to a college where most everybody is smart, an he says you can really see the flavors of personality that can be manifest in smart humans.

What I see in my own life (and those in my immediate surroundings) are people living lives rich and overflowing in abundance…but still focused on some small lack. I give you a few examples from this week. I would love it if you would add your own in the comments.

~ I am buying mostly raw ingredients, few carbs and eating only when I am hungry. I thought this would reduce my waist size as well as my grocery bill. So far only the grocery bill is affected. Still too much food.

~A co-worker, who paid for a vacation with the money from her recycled cans (Yeah! Recycling!) But still laments that there is not enough money. She drinks about 12 sodas per week. I calculate that 32 cans=1 pound = 0.50 cents. A 12 pack of Diet Coke is about $3.00. I figure she would save $2.50 just in money (not to mention time and health benefits) each week to forgo this habit. That’s $130 per year. I do not know how long she saved to pay for her vacation.

aluminum money

aluminum money

~ I recently met a woman (fairly organized) who kept her clothing in 18 gallon plastic tubs. She had them labeled, stacked, in her bedroom. There were twenty such tubs in her bedroom and about that many in the dining room. Some of the boxes had not been opened in a decade.

~Another person, I have known for decades reports that “small spaces make me claustrophobic.” She lives in a dwelling with 4,800 square feet. She mostly occupies two rooms with a footprint of 300 square feet. She assures me that to move to a smaller space would be difficult and traumatic for her.

~Another person, who requires public assistance for food and medications has 3 cats, 2 dogs and a pig in a cage (a pet–not planning on eating it, which would be more rational.) I wonder, does she need to give back?

~ Another person, spends more than $1,000 per month on eating out at restaurants. This person has many anxieties about money. Hmmmmm.

~Another person, has a home in this state. A home in a different state. A mobile home (RV), a boat, a golf cart, four cars for 2 people….one of which does not drive anymore.

All of the above persons are entitled to their different entertainments, their diversions…..up to the moment that they complain to me that they do not have enough time or money or….for what they want to spend their time on. But with all this abundance, or excess… do we find balance?

Reset Buttons

Cup of morning reflection

Cup of morning reflection

I think we adults have three main reset buttons to our psyches when our emotions are in a twist. I try to practice them each day so I only have to do little resets and not huge, scary ones.

The first reset, I’ve talked about before: gratitude. A little time each morning before the day begins or at the end, wrapping up, reminding myself all I have to be grateful for. And there’s lots. Our health. Spring birdsong in the morning. Running hot water for showers. It’s a very long list.

The second reset is forgiveness. This one is tougher, but like anything else gets easier with practice. Are there any humans or deities that I am angry with? That I feel have done me an injustice? Am I angry or disappointed in myself?

In this situation: Am I angry with my son for leaving? No, he is just being who he is. Am I disappointed in myself for having “failed him?” No. He has been a challenging person to parent from the get-go and I have given it my full attention. In this case, there is no need for forgiveness.

The third reset is discarding incorrect beliefs. We see the world through our belief filters. The information that gets through is colored by them, and then we make “rational” choices based on those facts. But sometimes the beliefs we hold are not true. I think most of us over the age of thirty have had the experience of freedom that comes when you realize a belief you held is not true. “I’m not stupid. Just because my third grade teacher said so. It isn’t true.”

In this case, I have believed that I could make my son’s transition into the adult world of responsibilities easier by providing for him a couple more years. Do I know that this is true? I do not. It is possibly true, but I can’t know that it is true. Maybe his life will be better in the future for the struggles that he has now. My oldest son has told me that the struggles he had with his step-father made him a better person. It was a difficult time in his life, but he appreciates the strength it has given him.

The turbulence of my emotions eases, and with renewed vigor and appreciation for the beauty of the spring blossoms and warmer temperatures, I face the new day.

The Lethargy of Grief


What I notice most about missing my son is how much energy it seems to take.

I have a lot of work to do on the house. I’d like to get a couple chapters further on my novel, or work an extra shift to pay more college expenses, or go out with friends. But I don’t, because I’m so tired.

I’m not a stranger to grief. As a hospice nurse, I spend my work day with grieving people. I’ve been through it before when my marriages ended and when my father died. And still, it kind of surprises me that I can’t just will myself to get up off the couch and DO something.

I tell my hospice families that there is no easy way through grief, but there are less difficult ways.

For me, that means feeling what I feel. Not distracting myself from the discomfort.

My son came by last night with a friend to gets some of his stuff. He looks healthy and excited about the new adventure he is on.

I will be okay. Maybe after this next nap.