Monday, January 5, 2015

Tidy Mania

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday season and that 2015 is the best year yet! This year, instead of driving all over during the holidays, we stayed put. I wish I could report that we did wonderfully fun things like take an exotic vacation somewhere warm or kayak all over the bay, but we chose (and some of us grudgingly) to tackle some home improvement projects.

First up was managing our pesky kitchen pantry. That stupid Japanese tidy book convinced me that we lived in a hovel more so than watching a Hoarders marathon. The boy didn't know what hit him. Since we had company over, the house was clean, but I argued that our house was skinny fat. Just because it looked good on first glance, didn't mean that there weren't disgusting things behind closet and pantry doors. Faster than he could ask me to define skinny fat (a horrible term that implies skinnier people look better - so not true), he was installing new pantry drawers and I had dumped old flours, seasonings, and sauces. Now our two-feet deep pantry shelves are transformed into usable drawers where hopefully nothing will be forgotten due to never seeing the light of day. This was a much easier task, from my perspective at least, than weeding through our clothes, and I felt emboldened to continue tidying our closets and office room.

Several trips were made to the El Cerrito Recycling Center + Environmental Resource Center, the most wonderful place in the world for someone wanting to declutter with less guilt. I got rid of old office supplies, old clothes, electronic waste, kitchen tools that were redundant or not my style, and random memorabilia that had no place in the house anymore.

For those of you who live in the East Bay, East Bay Humane Society accepts donations of clean, used bedding and towels (and they are also walking distance to The Rare Barrel if you want to make an afternoon of it). Figuring out where to take used bedding instead of throwing it out was the hardest challenge. We had a ton of sheets that were ratty due to dogs and cats having claws. Out they went for a second life!

I even went through old photos and purged ones that were awful. Remember when you had to get film developed? You would end up with perhaps two good photos from an event, and 20 blurry photos. To add to the clutter, every photo developer offered 2 for 1 deals, so you'd get 40 blurry photos. So, yeah, although I initially thought it would be hard to throw away things that may have sentimental value, it wasn't hard to whittle down our photo collection and keep the photos that were truly precious.

The same went for old letters. I had saved old holiday and birthday cards and letters from friends, again these mostly were back in the olden days before email and Facebook. These items have served their purpose, although I did save a handful that I can use for blackmail. 20 years later, I do not need to know that my friend went to Costco or had coffee at so-and-so cafe. It's funny the things we hang on to thinking they have so much meaning.

Henslow shawl knit mostly in Sri Lanka

The tidying process also gave me a chance to unearth WIPs that needed finishing. I blocked and finished my Henslow shawl, a Wildcat Canyon scarf, and a ripple afghan that took me 4 years to complete!

Wildcat Canyon Scarf for Jen!

The never-ending ripple afghan has finally ended
I even had a chance to crochet some cool hot pads (Starburst Hot Pad), and I neglected to make one for myself. Once I finish some more tasks, I need to make myself a couple of them for the table.

Crocheted Starburst Hot Pads

In the office room, I had a box of vintage canning jars my MIL gave me. Among the odds and ends, for the box was full of lids jars that did not always match, I found a matching set of Triomphe canning jars in great condition. Fortunately, I had new gaskets laying around for them since Fido jars also use the same sided lids. Ta-dah!

Triomphe jars!

We also had time to experiment a bit with food and drink. The boy had picked our backyard plums last year and turned it into wine. We were skeptical that it would be something quaffable, and to our surprise, it was more than quaffable. It is delicious and it will be a good substitute for the gew├╝rztraminers and edelzwickers I like to pair with spicy foods! So far, it's been aging for 6 months. I think it will be better in a few more months to smooth out the rough edges, but I'm happy with the finished product.

We also had a chance to play more with the extruded pasta press, this time making bucatini to pair with the last of our 2013 season tomato sauce. Man, that thing is fun! Expect to see more pasta posts soon.


  1. You are so brave to see what's in the back of your pantry! I did mine about 5 years ago, and it's time again. Yikes.

    So cool that you made your own wine with your own plums. My 3 years planted plum trees still haven't produced (I had 2 plums, once, a couple years ago). But when they do, it will be plum bourbon jam. I have made plum ginger several times, but had plum bourbon on a donut at Pip's (local shop) and it was indescribably wonderful.

    Carry on with the purge. Happy new year!

    1. The back of the pantry is so scary! Good luck! Plum bourbon jam? That sounds delicious. Our plums make rotten jam.

  2. Could you do a guest post on making the plum wine? That sounds great!

    Your whole Christmas break sounds very productive.

    1. Sure, Foodycat! Sadly, I didn't take any pictures of process, but I could write it when we're making this year's batch. I'll take better notes and pictures!

  3. So, I was just about finished reading your post, thinking how much I always enjoy them, and for some reason when I got to you "plum wine" section, I thought to myself, "She's got to to write a book." You're so funny, and such a Renaissance woman. I'm afraid that my house is completely "skinny fat." I'm better than I used to be, partly from being the daughter of a minor hoarder and having a fear of getting overwhelmed by stuff. Anyway, thanks for being so entertaining.

    1. Aw, thanks! I blog so I can document my activities. I've looked up my own posts to remind myself of something more times than I care to admit!

      I hear you on the fear of being overwhelmed by stuff. Once we tacked the office closet, box by excruciating box, I felt so much more at peace in the room because I wasn't thinking about all the things that needed to be done in there.

  4. I've also gone through a purging (the fall of 2007) which involved many a trip to the El Cerrito Recycling Center, and its resident Goodwill truck, as well as THE DUMP. In fact, I think it's time for another!! I do mini-purges here and there, particularly of my books. I actually set out many bags of items on Veteran's Day as the DAV was supposed to be collecting in my neighborhood. By the end of that day, all of the stuff, with the exception of about 5 books that are still sitting right inside my front door, were taken by passersby. There's one of those Little Free Libraries around the corner from me, so I may make a donation!

    1. Periodic purging is a good thing to do, for sure. I'm hoping that now that we've done such a drastic reduction of stuff, we can be mindful of what we bring into the house. So long as everything we bring in has a place, we should be fine.



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