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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Oil Painting Dream

You hear everyday in America to "Follow your Dreams!"  When I was a kid I wanted to be an archeologist like Indiana Jones, an editor because I was constantly reading, a writer because I was constantly writing, and then a famous painter. I really thought it would be just a few years before I would be "discovered." I would have a huge loft studio where I would do encaustics and need a ladder because I was using such huge canvases. I might at times live in Paris or New York. Yep, my fallback plan was to be an art historian.  I would probably dabble in some restoration and write a few books on the way to stardom.  Then, I started doing more craft type arts. In college, I switched from art history to art education. I loved teaching. I took classes in weaving, printmaking, jewelry casting, drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, and ceramics. At home during the summers, I started making candles, soaps, body products, stamping, scrapbooking, and paper making.  I was consumed by teaching art.  After college, I worked in activities at a nursing home.  I started subbing at area schools.  I loved it..  I wanted to teach so much I could taste it. I went back to school to become an English teacher.  I got into book making and calligraphy.  I was now doing everything mixed media.  Then, I left the country and collected three years worth of beads, coils, jewelry, fabric, paper, and photographs.  Teaching art was a dream and a nightmare.  The cleaning was unending.  I was spending so much money on extra supplies. In Cairo, I would buy bags of plaster off the street with the help of my classroom "helpers." In Dhaka, I taught ms and hs kids how to do Japanese fish prints with real fish.  I saw art from all over the world and I never stopped dreaming of the day when I could devote myself to art. 

I always knew that I needed a big house for all of this. I thought of myself on a farm. Yes, I would homestead.  I would keep bees, grow my own herbs, make a fortune selling my soap and diy stuff.  I would have big looms with wool from my sheep. (Ha, okay, maybe I didn't go this far.)  What really happened is, I came back, subbed, and got hired and for the next decade devoted myself to school. I did a lot of art and crafts for gifts, scrapbooks, parties, but most of what I did was for school. For ten years, I put all my creativity into teaching. Next came the day where my curriculum was replaced by a scripted program. Gone was my ability to create. I couldn't really carry out anymore fun, interesting ideas. No more using my Cricut, laminating, or using my glittery scented pens to write a journal response to a student.  My journals were gone. I guess a part of me died. But I started to have time.  

I guess I had to rediscover myself.  I had started sewing.  I started thinking about what I wanted to do.  Of course, I was still spending a lot of time reading young adult lit.  I spent some time baking and working on things for my writing club.  I spent a lot of time trying to find things for this reading group I had.  However, it seemed like all of that fell flat.  I played around with technology and gamification. But I started to feel something...


My dreams were coming back.  I needed to paint. I always had on and off.  This time I couldn't even find my oil paints.  Sure, I had watercolor, acrylic, even gouche, but I needed to paint in oil.  I went out and bought new paints, mediums, and canvas.  I printed out pictures of things I wanted to make. I make collages, I started and then...
The clutter of the house got to me.  Oil paint stinks and is very messy.  I tried to paint in my sewing room, but I didn't have the room. I would then move everything into my dining room. When the kids would come, I would jam everything into various rooms.  Painting lay unfinished.  Everything was scattered. I started to declutter and everything got moved to my garage.  I tried to just "be."  But I can't stop thinking of painting again.  I think of when I was 15 and started to paint.  I think of the times I tried to quit, but it called me back.  Art will not let me go. I have to let out my creativity somehow.  It is not an option.  I found my OLD oil painting stuff in a box in my garage.  Some of those paints are from 1993.  I have canvases spread all over the house half finished. Now that I think of it, I haven't really finished a painting since 1996.  My life has been a work in progress. I want to start finishing things. I want to start painting, not looking for my stuff all the time.

The whole time I've been decluttering, I've been asking myself, "What am I making room for?"  Was it a man? (Nope, not unless he is a handy man!)  Was it just the peace of a near empty room?  Was it to go paperless and digitalize everything?  Was it for the kids? They are getting bigger and have more toys.  Also, I can't throw much out because the baby might want those toys when she is older.  Hmm, will she really want to play with this giant rusty old truck that even Jackson never liked? (I wanted to give that one to my cousin's son.  Nope, my brother wants to keep it.  Who's the hoarder?)

So now I am making room to do what I love to do. Paint. Make. Sew. Glue. I will never be a famous artist.  Heck, I'm not even a good painter.  But I can't stop.  Now watch, maybe they will tell me that I need to create a new curriculum and I'll never have time to paint a single stroke! That would be the irony of my life.

I wonder though what I can cut out from the rest.  Will I really make soap again with real lye?  Do I want to deal with the hassle of using my old Cricut Expressions 2?  Do I need all that rubber stamping stuff? Does anyone even use stamps anymore?  The worst hoard I have is my scrapbooking stuff.  With a new baby in the family, I would feel terrible if I didn't make her at least one album. Jeez, every second of Jackson's babyhood was documented!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Polishing Found Silverware

So I've had this silver plated silverware in a cardboard box for the last few years. Apparently, at some point, I had planed to polish this silver. There was a bottle of this in the box:
I noticed the "As Seen on TV" tag and thought the process would be easy. It said to leave it on for a minute and then polish off the grime with a soft cloth. Easy, right?  I kept having visions of having this big dinner party with real silver and serving food on giant platters.  I even found little copper bells in the box.  Yes, we could use them to summon the servants.  (Wait, I'd be the servant. Forget those bells!)
Hmm, something didn't seem to be working. Some muck came off, but not much. I had to get serious. I donned an apron, my plastic gloves, and several more rags. I put the silverware in file size plastic bin. I dumped the whole bottle on all of it.  I left it for a while.  No problem, right? I come back a while later and start polishing. Okay, this wasn't going well. I am polishing and my rags are getting filthy, but the silverware still looks awful.  I jump online.  
I find a lot of different recipes. There was one with cornstarch. (Ugh, I didn't want to get on a chair as all of mine is above the frig.) Also, I have a big bag of baking soda, but again I wasn't exactly sure where it was.  One recipe called for Super Washing Soda, boiling water, and aluminum foil. I had all of those things handy. However, I was just exhausted so I again plunged all the utensils into the bin and tried to immerse it all in the fluid. I put a soaked rag with the silver cleaning stuff on top. I was thinking that maybe I could just polish it again and it would be fine. 
So the next day, I start to polish again. Some pieces looked better and some looked pretty bad. I had also stuck a piece of aluminum foil in the bin the night before. Much that had touched the foil seemed much cleaner. Yay, chemistry in action! I finished yet another polishing of all.
I simply layered all the pieces into the bin with aluminum foil. The shiny side is what you want. I made a little layer cake as I put water on to boil.  I stuck the plastic bin in my sink.  I poured some washing soda over the foil. When the water was ready, I poured it in. I probably added too much, but at this point, I was tired of polishing this silver! There was a lot of fizzing and bubbling.  I see the timer for fifteen minutes. A weird gas was being produced and I didn't want to breathe it in, so I went to a different room.  
The moment of truth came. I threw out the foil and dumped out the washing soda water. I rinsed the utensils and washed them with regular dish soap in hot water.   I started fishing out the silverware and polishing it. I put each piece onto a dry cloth. It finally looked better! 
There were still some black spots on odd pieces.  I was still getting some black marks, especially from the butter knives.  I was pretty excited because some of the pieces looked really good.  There were some strange very long, very short, and jagged spoons.  Ice cream, coffee, and grapefruit. Weird, I think I have learned about table placement of thousands of random pieces of silverware (Girl Scouts, sorority, or from some rags to riches movie? I'll never know.) I then look up "Is my silver plated flatware worth anything?" Guess the answer?  Yep, it's value is mostly sentimental! Ha. I quizzed my mom on the possible origins of this newly polished silver. She thinks she might have gotten it at a flea market. Some of it is engraved with a "B." Is it a complete set? I guess I will have to do some research and check. I really don't know.  

Another lesson learned, store your silver with a piece of chalk to absorb the moisture that causes oxidation or wrap it in a special silver cloth.  Polishing the silver seemed very labor intensive.  However, it is much shinier than my basic set of flatware.  There are many other methods for cleaning silver.  I just hope I am not doing it again soon!












It's Starting to Pay Off

I just walked into my bedroom and I got a rush of...tranquility.  I just immediately felt calm, joyous, and at peace.  How is that possible?  My bedroom has always been nice.  It was the one room that I did buy all new furniture for when I moved in.  It's small and has a bathroom, but it is the perfect size for me and has an excellent wall for my flat screen tv. Today, I washed my sheets and even washed the mattress cover.  I have decluttered the closet, purged the drawers, and removed a lot of the visible books and things.  Wow, I'm just amazed.  All of this "Marie Kondo" decluttering is working. I'm feeling those sparks of joy.

It's right in the nick of time.  Today, I was in my garage and I felt despair.  I was hearing something move as I stood there ruminating without shoes on. I visualizes being attacked by a rapid chipmunk or something.  There is so much in my house that I cannot do physically.  I can't move that ugly heavy, broken, green metal desk that my brother "gave me" the first month I had my house. Actually, the two of us together couldn't get the darn thing out.  I was going through boxes and starting to put some art supplies in the newly emptied shelves in my office. The truth is: I still have too much. I guess I just felt powerless and overwhelmed. I am not patient when I am this motivated. I am determined to do this and I still feel like everyone is trying to stop me.
This morning, I turned off my air conditioning and put on my bathing suit. I put some of my house plants outside. I opened all of my windows to clean the sills. It was probably the hottest day of the year.  The house went from 68 degrees to 84 degrees in an hour.  I really don't think I've ever cleaned some of those window sills because I never open those windows.  I was doing laundry downstairs and ended up setting up a sorting table in my office. Starting my mom came over.  This is very ironic because she hardly ever drops by and she is always hot. I guess she came over to see why my windows were open.  Anyway, I had a bunch of silverware that she gave me in a sell pile.  I have never used this silverware and actually got matching silverware from my family one year. I went through my drawer and got rid of almost all except my set and some odds and ends. Of course, my mom is terrified that I am going to throw out this precious, but discarded silverware. She starts digging through it and tells me that she WAS GOING TO BUY SOME.  Are you kidding me?  She has giving me so much random junk and then she buys new stuff for herself.  I gave her a bag to load up on this junk. Then, she makes sure that I am going to try to sell the remaining 20 or so pieces at the upcoming 'garage sell." I then ask if I can at least throw away these 40 year old fondue forks that are ugly and old looking. "No, someone may want them." I guess it is too sad to admit that no one (except other hoarders) will want your worthless crap.  I guess that is how I feel about my art supplies.
                               
What irritates me the most though is that I stored this huge box of silverware under my hanging shoe organized in a bedroom closet for what? Eight or nine years?  Why?  Some of it was gold, other silver ware is silver plated (see next post!), and the rest just mismatched random silverware.  Forks with messed up tines, dull steak knifes, and bent spoons.  I looked at that box for years and just left it there.  Yet, when I finally decided to get rid of it, it is such an ordeal. So say, someone buys this crappy silverware for $2, great.  However, I will probably end up boxing it up for Good Will. The garbage sale is next week. So I have to wait ANOTHER week to get rid of it. Probably, I have to box it up and then wait longer to actually take it to the Good Will. The thing is, I want it gone now.  Eight years was long enough.

As I was feeling this dark depth of blah, it got dark and started to rain. I love rain. I went on my desk and got drenched. I was in an apron and a bathing suit so it didn't really matter.  I came inside and watched for a while out the windows. Then, after the rain started going sideways, I did shut the windows. The heat was unreal and I felt alive again. I just went back to work and now feel great again. I will get it done. I am getting it done!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Papers, Papers, Papers

Dhaka, Bangladesh 2003
I'm having a problem with papers! Namely, I have a lot of trouble throwing them out.  In Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she mentions to throw out all your paperwork.  Really, it's brilliant.  I thought, "Wow, no more binders and stacks of paper with post-its notes and file folders and...that's impossible."  Could this really work for a teacher? I guess if you work in a cutting edge school where kids have iPads and laptops. I've always dreamt of a paperless classroom.  Okay, it is probably not going to happen for a long time.  I guess that's fine because deep down, I love paper. I just to make paper. I've visited villages in Chiang Mia, Thailand that made paper. I have a big hoard of handmade paper from India and Bangladesh. I stuffed that paper into suitcases that I dragged 8,000 miles home. I wrapped my handmade soap in paper, torn it and glued it into cards and scrapbooks, and I've spent quite a bit buying expensive watercolor and drawing paper. I needed it to have a tooth, a little bit of roughness. Jeez, I am obsessed with paper. I've gotten so many little notes, cards, and letters from students over the years. I posted their drawings and played with the origami frogs and cranes they've made me. I love making awesome handouts and picking scented stickers to put on tests or in journals. And pens! I like to write with a fountain pen in blue ink. I can't wait to get those new ink joy gel pens. I love to write.  I have so many journals and notebooks.


YET I hate looking for something in my papers. I often do find it after a prolonged struggle.  I have so many folders, file folders, binders, and piles. That's what I detest.  Can I just scan everything and throw out the original? Or take a picture of it and put it in my dropbox?  I often plan on retyping my favorite handouts in cute fonts and then selling everything on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Is that even worth it?  Did I give up on selling things?  Do I have anything left to offer? Are my ideas even good?

I just don't know anymore. All I know is that I have some papers I can't get rid of.  I packed away my hole puncher and I just don't know what to do.



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Decluttering the Kitchen, Etc.

Before
After

There is no doubt that my pantry was a mess.  I think a can of green beans exploded on the bottom. There  was some type of black goo that had dried. (Scrubbing that off was fun.) I knew that some of my food was probably past the BEST BY date. I decided to get rid of those first.  What I didn't realize was that I had food from 2008!  Unlike my papers, it was easy to toss the old food.  


My kitchen is pretty small. I guess if I didn't live alone, I would have that wall on the right turned into some type of breakfast bar.  It would be nice to have more counter space. For now, I used both my kitchen table and my dining room table when baking.
An area that I have to use a chair to access is the above the frig cabinets.  I had old glasses and some Carb Out pills and things like curry up there.  Basically, things I never use. Weirdly, I had four boxes of corn starch there. 
To start the pantry I basically cleared out most of the items thrown in. I toss things right into my garbage bag. As I filled a bag, I ran it outside as the garbage men were on the way.  I had a lot of garbage! I found at least 11-15 types of sugar. I stored all of this up above the frig. I didn't want to throw it away because I used to bake a lot. I tried to put like with like. 
Every few years I go on a "whole healthy food" kick. I buy things like spelt flour. Then, I never use it. This flour was from 2007.  Yep, it went right in the garbage.
So I sorted like with like. I made a Mexican food section. I put cans with cans.  I ended up with two empty shelves. I was able to store some baking pans and pots on the bottom shelves. That is something I've never had the room to do.  It's weird to think that when I moved it, this pantry was completely empty.  I'm sure my mother gave me a bunch of food. Those cans that exploded were probably her old food!
Next I decided to go through the dinning room.  Sadly, I unloaded the cabinets under my dining room dishes, I realized that NO ONE THING was actually mine. I found all kinds of vases and bowls.  I've never used any of them. 
I like glass or cream colored vases. I don't know where this came from. I feel like I've never seen it before.
Here's the truth, I don't like things with birds or poultry on them.  This rooster plate and duck bowl must go. The little liquor set is nice. However, do I have people over for liquor? Not really. Well, no.
 This orange vase might have been my grandmothers or my sister used to keep her incense in it.  There are black marks on the side.  I was tempted to throw it away.  However, I guess there is always the fear that it is some type of valuable, collectible glass. Probably not. 
I boxed up all the stuff for a future garage sale. My fear is that my mom will just take this stuff for herself and add to her clutter. 
Next was the hall closet. The worst thing I do with this closet is put my garbage in it and load it with plastic bags.  I put everything in the living room.  
I also keep my soap blender, soda streams, and a piece of wood that is supposed to make my dining room table bigger, but doesn't fit. I just I should get rid of it, but I keep thinking, "I might need that."
I took out all my coats and scarves.  I organized the scarves on a scarf hanger. I put the coats on matching hangers. I stuffed the bag in a bag holder. I put the rest aside for the garage sale.  I found this framed picture of Notre Dame. I do have some rooms with French paintings and pictures. However, this picture just didn't look right. I did not feel a spark of joy as I held it. I put it in the garage sale box. 
Ugh, this was my nightmare. This is my under the counter tupperware cabinet.  I knew I had all of my pie making stuff under here.  I also knew that I had to throw out everything without a lid.  It took me a while, but I sorted through it all.  I threw out everything that was "upcycled." 
I have this expandable island that my mom gave me (shocker!) However, I have it in the corner as a kind of liquor stand. I basically ended up oiling all wood surfaces with wood block oil because I found two of them.  I polished everything from my wooden cutting boards to my tables and the shelves in the pantry.  Then, I loaded this island block up with the rest of the stuff that wouldn't fit in the dining room cabinet. I feel like I got rid of a ton and still have too much. 

I ended up running out with a full garbage bag and talking to the garbage men again. Luckily, they are really nice and took EVERYTHING.  I need to slip them some $100s at Christmas time.   I was so exhausted and in some much pain by the time 3 pm rolled around. I had to take to my bed. My right foot was throbbing.  I went to the doctor last Friday. He pushed on my bad foot and something shifted. It has hurt ever since. I am supposed to go back, but I'm hoping that motrin and soaking it in epson salt will help.  The weird thing is that it hurts in bed.  At this point, I don't even think I can drive. I was able to resume decluttering at night. When I go to sleep, I like my house to be perfect. Now, again, I have a bunch of boxes in my living room.  

It's like I want all the clutter to magically disappear.  Getting rid of it is harder than I ever imagined.  First of all the people encouraging me to keep things. Then, those people trying to get me to sell things. Then, people secretly putting more clutter in my garage.  I guess the worst is the big items that we physically cannot lift.  Without a lot of manpower, a truck,  and a place to store things, it has been hard.  I guess this is a good reason to stop taking other people's junk. 

















Sunday, July 17, 2016

Getting Rid of the Clutter-Physically

It was not a pretty process. Did I really want to put this junk back into my now clutter free rooms? No!
The hardest thing I am finding about this whole process of purging my junk is physically getting rid of it.  When I dumped every piece of clothing in my living room and went through it, I was able to to call my mom and brother to come over.  My brother immediately filled up his car with garbage bags of clothes and took them to Good Will. That was great.  The clothes were gone.  It felt great. Bam! It was like magic.

Here are my purging tips:
1. Remove items from your house as soon as you can

2. Donate things to the Good Will if you don't want to spend time selling it. Think: is this actually worth anything

3. Don't push off your stuff on other hoarders. I have family members who will take almost anything whether they have the need or room

4. Throw things in the garbage. In my neighborhood, people drive around taking things out of the garbage.  For example, we put a broken lawnmower in the garbage. Minutes later, someone in a truck picked it up.

5. Be as ruthless as you can.  I am starting to have a wash of euphoria wash over me when I just dump a junk drawer in the garbage. Sadly, I often do pick up things like emery boards and matches out. However, I have tossed most of the useless items out.

Goodbye, old books!  
Then I started on the books...Even when I was a kid, I had a lot of books. Every month I did that Scholastic Book slip, I went through boxes of paperbacks, I went to the book store, I read my parents' books, and I even was in about five book of those Book of the Month clubs. I used to store my books everywhere. I carefully displayed my Dean Koontz hardbacks on my tall wooden shelf. I had a water bed (think a bag of water) with storage drawers on the bottom and it was filled with books. I think I even broke some of the drawers with the weight of the books. Shocker.  Fast forward 20-30 years and I think I did had some of the same books!  Plus, about a 1000 more.  I mean, I'm an English teacher.  Not only do I read true crime, historical books, education books, art books, suspense thrillers, and young adult dystopian fiction novels, but I basically had 200 other favorite books in topics from angels to how to think like Leonardo Da Vinci.  Oh, I also had cookbooks, travel guides, and hundreds of How To craft books.  Thanks to this little thing called The Internet I realized that most of my books are obsolete.  For example, if I need a recipe, I go to my lovely Mac and do a Bing search (ugh, those Bing points I get turn into Amazon credit that I use to...buy more books!) and then print out the recipe. Or I just use my iPhone 6s Plus.  I really am much too lazy to go downstairs and dig through this huge, heavy recipe book that my mom gave me.  Jeez, I don't even have room in my kitchen to set that book down.   So I start going through the books and get rid of a lot. I'm able to take them to Good Will or just put them on my curb. My brother says, "I'll give them to my friend." Said friend has still never shown up.  Then, my brother decides to put them on eBay.  We do lots of 20 books on crafts and scrapbooking. Days later, we get some bids.  We go to the Post Office.  Sadly, it cost me MORE to send the books than we made.  My brother said something about cancelling the order.  I said I would just pay for it.  Crafts have to stick together.  So by selling the books, I lost money!  I am actually PAYING people to take my books.
Thanks for taking my old books!  Let me pay you.
Moving on, I have a lot left to go in terms of old coffee pots, a fondue pot, an aerogarden, and a few other appliances that I really don't use anymore.  Should we throw these up on eBay?  I think we have a neighborhood garage sale coming up. You have to pay to participate, so there is a chance I might not even break even.

So here is where I am now:
*my living room is filled with boxes from the bunk beds and mattresses (We're planning to make a fort of them with the kids.)

*my garage is dangerous piled with those storage bins and multiples of other junk. (I called my mom to ask why she had four Shark vacuums that we exactly the same in my garage. She was clueless. I tried to throw them out and my brother stopped me.)

*I have several huge bins that I cannot move down in the office. They are just too heavy.

*I cannot box anything new up because I have no where to put it.

*I'm still waiting for the mysterious "friend" to pick up some of these books.  I hope he can take all of them.

*I backtracked a little.  In a frenzy right before garbage day, I threw some stuff in the garbage and took it out. This is exactly what I need to avoid. It's like if it was ALL thrown out, I wouldn't miss it. However, to see it sadly being discarded, is pretty sad.

I am also thinking of donating a lot of the art supplies to my school's makerspace.  I could also set up a tinkering corner in my own classroom.  I certainly have enough tools. Also, I could probably have a jewelry club with all of my extra beads.  I have thousands of packets of plastic beads that I really don't want to throw away.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Decluttering Update-Bunk Beds and Art Room

I'm still plugging away at the decluttering. We got a little side tracked by the border in the kids' room.  After getting the bunk beds in, I was thinking we could easily just pull down the flourish border.  No, that would have been too easy. It turns out that there was no paint under the border.  Yes, it is another wallpaper nightmare. I detest wallpaper.


The sheets came and I washed them and got them on the new bunk beds. Wow, I wish I knew how difficult this was going to be. I had to get on a chair to do the top one and it is pretty messed up!  
The bottom is a Disney princess theme for Syd. The top is Jurassic World for Jackie. 

Here's my old bedroom.  As you can see, there was stuff everywhere.  
I have also have been working on my art room.  From the days when I first started painting at 15, my room was jammed with supplies. I was constantly reorganizing and go through my things. I couldn't throw away a magazine without tearing out pages to use for collage. 
Syd as a young artist. 

I had the closet filled with storage bins. Most were filled with empty boxes and cleaned out jars.  I also had tons of collage materials. I did go through most of it and tossed a lot out. 
Before
After

 I basically stripped everything off the walls and boxed it all up. The visual clutter just got to be too much. I wanted a blank slate. I wanted to feel free. I bought a white shag rug from Walmart.  

I am starting to go through everything bin by bin. I'm scrapping off the old labels. I'm using baby oil to remove most of the stickers.  I need to relabel most of the drawers. 
                                         
                                                    Before
                                      
                                                   After
Although I thought I was living in organized chaos, I was just living in chaos.  I could not longer find anything. I had no room to put my projects. I felt buried in scrapbooking materials.  When the garage gets cleared out, I'm thinking of moving some of this down there. I am getting the urge to paint and draw.   I just want to go back to the basics.