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Autumn Decor

Time to put away the Halloween decorations (they’re piled on the dining room table) and get out the Thanksgiving decor. The autumn sign is above the fireplace, a ceramic pumpkin light on the kitchen table, and a few little wooden turkeys are about to take their places. And the quilts are out.

I have two that I use in the fall, both of them my creations. The tiny pumpkin quilt comes out for Halloween and stays out until the Christmas decorations go up. The turkey quilt came out today. I love the fall colors, and the turkey is quirky and unusual. It goes well with my son’s school project turkey from long ago.

I’ll enjoy these decorations for a short time, then it will be time to exchange them for the Christmas decorations. Now THAT’s a job!


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Tidying Up

I’ve been slimming down. Well, perhaps that’s an overstatement, but I have been watching what I eat and I’ve lost a few pounds. I still have a long way to go to get to “slim” and frankly, I don’t know that I’ll ever reach that status, but I am making positive changes.

The decisions that I’ve been making have been based on what works for me, and they are becoming a little bit easier to make. Yes, I still have some bad habits, after all they are deeply ingrained, but I’m making progress. I like looking in my refrigerator and seeing things that I know are good for me.

I like having a pantry with items that provide me with strength, not empty calories.

A super tidy closet. Disclaimer: not mine!

A super tidy closet. Disclaimer: not mine!

I feel empowered by the control I have over my environment.

Except that I don’t really feel that I have control over my environment at all. The other day I looked around my house, and nearly every flat surface had stuff on it that didn’t belong. I knew it was time to clean it up, in a big way. Imagine how glad I was when the online library I use informed me that The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo was available. People have been buzzing about this book, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

First of all, it was a really quick read. The tone is conversational and it’s easy to follow. There is a lot of content about her own history of learning to “tidy” and her way of thinking about the objects a person has. She believes that our things all want to serve us, but we often have so much that we don’t take care of what we have, or even use it. We should make choices about what to keep and what to discard based on one simple question, “Does this item spark joy?” Just reading that question brought to mind many items that do not spark joy, and even cause irritation. Why am I hanging on to those things?

Her method for “tidying” follows a specific order, and since she’s the expert and I have no desire to argue the point, I decided to try it out on the first item on the list: shirts. The idea is to take them all out of their hiding places (drawers, closet, wherever you keep them) then pick up the items one by one. Each one should “guide” your decision, either it sparks joy or it doesn’t.

I suppose I have a lot of shirts. I have t-shirts and tanks that I fold on shelves, I have blouses that hang, I have long-sleeved t-shirts folded on a different shelf, and I have a few jackets, sweaters, and sweatshirts. So far I’ve only gone through the t-shirts and tanks. I kept about half. I feel lighter already. Tomorrow I tackle the long-sleeved t-shirts. Who knows, I may even finish the tops tomorrow.

When I walked into my closet tonight to get my pajamas, I felt the difference. The t-shirts I kept were happier because they weren’t squished and they had more of a chance to be worn. The whole closet is starting to look and feel a little lighter and better. I can relate!

Just like my weight loss, it will take time to go through the steps necessary to make long-term changes, but it can be done. I’m looking forward to living with less, and enjoying my space more. As Flylady always says, “You can’t organize clutter.” Amen to that!


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Why I Decorate For Holidays

jack-o-lantern1-192x200Have you been inside a store lately? Someone thinks it’s Christmas already. It’s not. It’s still October. I’m not ready for Christmas. Or Thanksgiving. Or, frankly, even Halloween. In fact, I went out looking for some cool yard decorations for Halloween yesterday, but apparently you’re supposed to do that further in advance of the holiday than one week. Who knew? I did pick up a few small Thanksgiving decorations, on clearance, no less.

I’m slowly trying to rebuild my Halloween and Thanksgiving decoration stock, as I foolishly allowed most of it to be given away by my ex. It wasn’t his fault. I moved out of the house and left behind lots of things to donate. Somehow the box that contained some really wonderful decorations (including some handmade items and some treasures that my son made in his early years) ended up in that group. I’ve been mourning its loss for three years now.

The stacking jack-o-latern boxes, the ceramic haunted house candle holder, the cross-stitched ghosties, the tole painted pumpkins, the elegant ceramic pumpkins that used to grace my Thanksgiving table… all gone. So are the mini-pumpkin lights and the larger jack-o-lanterns stake lights for the yard. It still makes me sad to think about it.

As we speak, my house has a hand-made fabric wreath on the front door and a small wooden sign with a jack-o-lantern. There is a doormat in orange with a jack-o-lantern face on it, and a plug in jack-o-lantern that isn’t plugged in, because we need an extension cord. How is anyone going to know that we’re a house to trick-or-treat at? I know, I know… turn on the porch light and they will come. But it’s our first year in our new neighborhood, and I want to make a good impression. There should be some sign on Halloween on the premises!

When I was a kid we had a large plastic jack-o-lantern. We would place a small lamp inside of it and put it in the front window. It looked awesome! Then we would carve a pumpkin or two and stick those out on the porch, with candles in them, of course. I loved how it looked. It was the only time our house was ever really decorated for a holiday, at least from the outside.

My parents were immigrants, and my family is Jewish. We never did Christmas lights. In fact, it made my mom a little uncomfortable when my dad would bring home a wreath for the front door, which he did a couple of times during my growing up years. Our house basically always looked the same, inside and out.

Back in those days people didn’t go quite as crazy with the decorations as they do now, of course, but there were lots of Christmas lights in our neighborhood. They looked especially beautiful in the snow. I loved visiting my friends during the holiday season and seeing their Christmas trees and other decorations. I was always fascinated and enchanted by all the things that people would do to make their homes different and special during holidays, whether it was embroidered hand towels or special placemats or garland along a bannister. I always wished that we could do that at our house, but it was never going to happen.

gingerbreadhouse2008We did have out our menorahs at Chanukah time, and one year my dad built a huge gingerbread house. We also dragged home a small evergreen and put it in a bucket in basement one year, much to my mother’s horror. Then there was the year that my dad and I built a “tree” out of dowels. I’m not sure if that was cool and creative or just plain pathetic. Anyway, our holiday decor was extremely limited.

I vowed that when I had a home of my own I would decorate it for the holidays, and I did. I still do. I don’t fill it to the gills with junk, I try to use pieces that make me happy individually, and that collectively create a festive feeling. That’s why replacing items is so difficult. The missing items were collected over years, and each had its own story. You can’t just load up at Target and call it done. Well, I can’t.

So now I’m back to clearing out clutter so I can enjoy my holiday decorations, such as they are, and I’m planning a trip to the hardware store for that extension cord. Who knows what I might pick up along the way? Maybe something spooky.