Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Getting rid of stuff!!!

So I realize I have taken quite a hiatus from updating - sorry about that.  After the semester ended, I just really ramped up my "going through crap" mode and have gotten SO MUCH done.  I'll give some examples of what I've managed to do and what I plan to do.

1. Scientific journals - I had at least 20 of these laying around and of course never went through them *sigh*.  Signing up for them was well intentioned but we all now what happens to good intentions - "Of Mice And Men" right?  So with the power of the internet I was able to save pdfs of the articles I was most interested in and recycle the paper copies.  Talk about freeing up space!  Plus, I now have a much more streamlined way to find articles that may be useful in my future classroom :-)

2. Home magazines - Old editions of BHG, Country Living, and more had begun to accumulate.  I'd actually gone through some of them in the past but the pretty pictures had my packrat tendencies in a strangle-hold.  I set out this time around to tear out the pictures that were the most inspiring and cut out any good tips.  The next step is to tape the cut outs onto colorful pieces of paper so they take up less space and are all in one place.  I bought a 50-pack of page protectors which will eventually be filled with these pages of inspiration and ideas.  Also, I noticed that articles in these magazines fell into several specific categories: crafting, gardening, cooking, organizing, home decorating, personal care (hygiene and spiritual/emotional), and cleaning.  Now I can easily find information rather than just stare at a pretty cover with the different categories all mixed up behind it :-)

3. Scientific articles from college - Yes, I keep everything.  I had an accordion file full of scientific articles from my Sewanee days and because most of them contained hi-lighting and notes I couldn't imagine recycling them!  Well there is this fabulous FREE software program called "Mendeley Desktop" that's like a digital file storage system.  You can hi-light, write notes, and organize pdfs into collections.  Because I have fantastic access to a number of journals through UA libraries, I have been able to save the majority of these articles as pdfs and just add the notes on Mendeley.  What a space saver!!  I decided most of my hi-lights could just go by the wayside - there's only so much a person can do.  I'm still working on these but hope to finish them in the next couple of days.

4. Newspapers - I just finally caught myself up lol.

Those were the 4 biggies and I have to say that I feel quite proud of myself at this point, what with 5 full paper grocery bags of magazines and newspapers and 2 super full plastic grocery bags of papers to recycle!!

So while I have not managed to follow through on 4 Weeks to a More Organized Home this month, I do believe that I took care of what I personally needed to take care of.  *Smile*

Happy Organizing :-)
Oh, and book reviews are forthcoming!!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Organization + PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

          In regards to organization/cleaning I would definitely say that today was a good day.  While I didn't manage to move mountains, I still feel like I'm making a decent dent in what needs to be done before summer classes start in a week and a half.
           I also wanted to mention that I'm not strictly following the Assignments from 4 Weeks to a More Organized Home as originally planned, but that instead I'm doing what works for me and going along with my mood.  While this may not be the most efficient way of doing things, I believe that it helps me stay more on track as well as remain excited about accomplishing cleaning tasks.
          Today's accomplishments include the following:
   1. 15 minute clean up of the kitchen (washed pots and pans, loaded and ran dishwasher, washed and dried towels and napkins) {A2}
   2. Thorough wipe down of the sink, coffee pot, tea pot/water boiler, stove top, and half the counters {A2...sort of}
   3. Went through 1/2 a stack of BHG mags laying around...hoping to get through at least 1 more before I go to sleep.
   4. 15 minute clean up of my bedroom (unpacked travel bag, put away clean clothes, hung hangers) {A3}
   5. Found 2 more things to get rid of...this is the hardest part of the plan :-(...but also the most important really.
   6. And I'm still going through those piles of papers I mentioned yesterday...UGGGHH

          Okay, so that doesn't actually sound like a lot, but I have found that cleaning is in fact exhausting...really?!...lol.  I've also been working on a project for my GAship that starts in the Fall (I got it!!!  YAYAYA :-) so that takes time and is well worth every minute (it's fun and will be very rewarding!!).  And since it is my break, I'm using time to read books and watch movies/TV - yeah, you can call me lazy, but I would just say that it's my way of enjoyably relaxing -- especially when it's the original Charlton Heston "Planet of the Apes" movie that I'm watching!!! ;-D

          Which brings me to a reflection on my re-watching of this movie years after my initial encounter with it's mastery...
          I have been gearing up for this one for some time now since video rental places have become extinct - which, honestly, really does suck if you have a hankering for viewing a super old film (a.k.a. one made in 1968).  As luck would have it, I found an Anniversary Edition on sale for $4.99 at Winn-Dixie Tuesday night; it was immediately a must have.  My fond and excitable memories were definitely justified in my re-watching.  Although there are times when the traveling from one place to another in silence with creepy, weird music gets a little old, the movie is so brilliant in it's satiric take on our human culture that the negatives are far outweighed by the positives.  I had completely forgotten about the focus on evolution, the missing link, and heresy.  It was like watching a modern day argument in the deep south about what school children should be taught in Biology class (except with the question of Apes evolving from Humans instead).  Can you believe it?  A movie made 35 years ago is still extremely relevant to this day!  I was also quite amazed with the jab at the way humans treat their environment since the first Earth Day did not occur until 2 years later.  Although, this was probably just a side bar of the point that humans are terrible to each other and, through war, cause mass destruction and devastation of themselves and the landscape.  The strongest memory I have of watching this movie, over a decade ago, was my reaction to the ending - I won't give it away if you have yet to see this version.  I don't think any movie has made me think and question for nearly as long as this one did as the "credits" began rolling.  The impact wasn't as strong this time around since I knew what was coming, but the politics in the movie, which I had missed before given my young age, gave this timeless classic new relevance.  Love it!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sewanee...How I LOVE thee :-) + Organization

It has been way too long since I last posted...I've been out of town pretty much since school ended.  The day after I turned in my last paper for the semester (on the horrors of standardized testing) I took a wonderful trip to visit my alma mater and was delighted to see friends that I hadn't seen in over a year!  Sewanee, a very small town with stone buildings and breathtaking views can be found nestled in the "mountains" of southern Tennessee, surrounded by gorgeous oak-hickory forests.  What a reward for a semester well done here in the flatlands of Tuscaloosa!  The air is cooler and fresher and peacefulness and calmness permeate the landscape.  A 4 day trip to visit my girls and soak in the serenity of Sewanee was exactly what I needed.  [I took both photos during my tenure at Sewanee.]  Of course this was soon followed by (as life would have it) a "business trip" to hang around my parents' house all day Tuesday while AC installers were there.  It was wonderful to see all of my family though and my favorite hours of that trip were spent talking with my grandparents on their patio as the sun set :-)

          Before I left to visit my parents I did manage to accomplish Assignment #1 of "4 Weeks to a More Organized Home".  Yeah yeah...I know...I'm WAY BEHIND on this goal of the month, but I'm finally staying put for the next week and a half before my summer classes start at the end of May.  I definitely have confidence that it can be done!  Doubling up really shouldn't be that difficult as the assignments are fairly smallish.  I'm ignoring the first 3 parts of each assignment because they involve getting dressed in something nice, making goal lists, and following your morning routine because (1) I live by myself so am not all that concerned with wearing comfy pants for most of the day - unless of course I go out for food or errands -, (2) as I've mentioned before, making too many lists and too many separate goals just overwhelms me, and (3) I don't have anybody else to worry about so there's really no reason to follow any morning routine except for my usual coffee and newspaper as soon as I get up.  So, what does this leave?  I spent 15 minutes picking up random stuff laying around my den, I cleaned out my purse (which included adding receipts to my Excel sheet), and I chose 3 books to give away.  We'll see how many assignments I can get through today...

          Another thing I'm doing at the moment in regards to organization is going through the clutter of papers, magazines, and mail that I've allowed to pile up over the last month (when I'm in a rush to clean up my junk, I usually just throw everything in multiple eco-bags and deal with it later).  As soon as I got home last night I pulled out some desk trays I have and labeled them "Hobby Room", "To Do", "Urgent", "To Read", and "To File."  I have NO idea why I never thought of doing this before when going through my piles, but at least I figured it out this time around!  So far things are going really well and I'm pretty excited about what the final result will be :-)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

It's Just Hair - AMAZING "self-help" book

It's Just Hair: 20 Essential Life Lessons by Judith L. Pearson (Book # 27 of 2012)

It's crazy sometimes how life works in serendipitous ways.  My receiving this book when I did was definitely one of those instances.  I won this book, in exchange for a review, as part of a Member Giveaway on LibraryThing - and if the website is correct, only 10 people won out of 67 requesting.  The good Lord above was definitely watching out for me on this one :-)  Anyway, this book was written by a woman who battled breast cancer (using her favorite way to describe it) and won.  The book is separated into 20 different life lessons that Judith learned from her experience; including everything from "You Were Chosen" to allowing others to help you to, of course, "It's Just Hair."  I started this book the minute I took it out of the mailbox and finished it within a few hours - I could NOT put it down.  The author's sense of humor and light approach to such a heavy subject was refreshing and extremely enjoyable.  She uses anecdotes, lists, and quotes from famous people to put her point across.  This book is never devoid of variety and interest.  While I may not be currently dealing with something directly affecting my physical health like breast cancer, I do have serious issues with depression and loneliness.  Being a 25 year old very single female surrounded by so many other 20-somethings who have spouses and children eats away daily at my feelings of worth and happiness.  All of the lessons Judith details were lessons that I desperately needed to hear.  One of my favorites, which she referred back to several times, is that you are not the only person affected by your negative circumstance.  In fact, all the people that love you are also deeply tied into the way that you feel and the way you approach life.  I always forget how my being down and despondent affects my parents, little brother, and few close friends that I have.  But whenever I can't find the energy to be happy or encouraging on the phone with any of them I can tell that they are strongly affected by what I'm going through.  I in no way want to bring them down with me because I love them too, so much, and so was thankful to be reminded of this truth.  Another lesson that profoundly touched me was that of "You Were Chosen."  This lesson actually has a very Christian perspective about it in that I would interpret it as God has chosen me to be single at this point in my life so that I can focus on Him and love Him and show others that He is all I need.  While I may fail at this royally most of the time, it's still something that gives me hope when I put my mind to it.  Also, I can show people that I am happy (which I really am a lot of the time, it's just that the down times are so intense that I tend to forget the happy times were ever there) with my life right now and that I have found ways to enjoy myself and make my life meaningful even without a significant other - which I most definitely have.  I know that there are plenty of other females my age who are unmarried and single and showing them that I'm okay with it can make a huge difference in how they approach life.  I'll mention one more of her lessons and then leave it at that since this has turned into quite a long review (I'm telling you - READ THIS BOOK).  "Lesson 11: Helping Hands" discusses how we absolutely cannot do everything by ourselves and thus must willingly accept help from others.  Not only will doing this help us, but it will also bring joy to those helping us.  One time recently, I had let my house get super cluttered as I was devoured by loads of constant school work.  I asked my brother's girlfriend if she would help me make a dent in the mess and she gladly accepted.  That night, she and my brother showed up to help me clean and they noticed things that I hadn't even realized - they were obviously getting a helper's high in making my house a neater place.  This is actually a concept that Gretchen Rubin talks about in her book, The Happiness Project.  When I find myself in the future desperately needing a little help to tackle something, I will ask for helping hands.  So in conclusion, this is a book that I will keep around and refer to frequently when I need a little encouragement and need to remember that I do have worth.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A charming read about faith, love, and the Revolutionary War

The Messenger by Siri Mitchell (Book #26 of 2012)

Although this novel was a little out of the usual for me genre-wise (historical Christian fiction set during the Revolutionary War), I absolutely loved it!  The format of the book is such that each chapter alternates between the point of view of either Hannah Sunderland or Jeremiah Jones which allowed for really intense character development and a much more functional use of the first person since your not stuck in just one character's thoughts.  The premise is that of two unlikely spies working together to coordinate a prison escape for some four dozen Patriot soldiers during the Revolutionary War.  Hannah, a Quaker, originally gets pulled into the scheme because her twin brother Robert is being held prisoner, and she believes his rejection by their family because he chose a side in the war does not mean his squalid imprisonment deserves to be ignored.  Jeremiah Jones, a Tavern owner, pretends to be a Loyalist by all outward appearances, but ever since the Indian Wars, when his arm was removed due to a gun wound brought on by a fellow soldier who was British, he has sought vengeance for the life he lost.  Not to mention, the habits of the British in treating the Colonials as inferior absolutely infuriates him!  Hannah's questioning of her faith's version of peace and Jeremiah's questioning of his heart's desires intertwine to create a beautiful story of love flowering where it is least expected.  I found myself absolutely unable to put this book down because the characters and their lives were so engrossing.  Usually it takes some secret plot or strange happening to keep me turning pages, but all this book needed to be a page turner was really good character development.  The ending was phenomenal and left me with a huge giddy grin on my face.  You will not regret reading this book.

Note:  I received this historical Christian fiction book for free from Bethany House Publishers to write an early review on and am so glad that I made the request.  The above review is my honest take on the novel.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

April Goals Update + New May Goals

I actually did really well last month in maintaining my goals, even with the craziness that comes along with finishing up a semester!

April Goals:

1.  Conquer the Bugs - Still need to wash out the vials, but at least everything is consolidated and organized...and I'm talking about a LOT of insects and spiders :-P

2.  Go Through Food - All old food has been thrown out...unfortunately this included more food than I would've liked, but since I've been dealing with some odd stomach issues lately, I'm not going to risk keeping food past the expiration date even if information on the internet tells me that it's fine for longer...

3.  Deal with Saved Trash - Well I did manage to put all of the glass jars and coffee canisters in an eco-bag in the back room so at least it's all together in one place...

4.  Come Up with Goals for Edu Materials - Yeah, this is definitely an ongoing project and I will think about this more in-depth for May...

Speaking of which...ON TO MAY...

May Goals:

1.  Maintenance - So I've realized that one of my biggest obstacles in decluttering is that I tend to let chore-type activities build up until all my time is spent catching up on dirty clothes and dishes, unclipped coupons, unfolded clean clothes, clean dishes sitting in the dish washer, and overflowing recycling.  Keeping this in mind, and recognizing this weakness as a monthly goal should help me stay on track.
a.  Do a load of laundry as soon as the hamper fills up.
b.  Fold clean clothes before noon the next day.
c.  Get dirty dishes put up right after they are used.
d.  Take out recycling as soon as one type fills up it's bag.
e.  Start clipping coupons as soon as I get them.
f.  Put up clean dishes the next day (I let them air dry so I don't have to towel them off and just smear around the water).

2.  Edu Materials - This will be the month!!...lol
a.  Label notecards that align with my newly written Standards.
b.  Type up hand-written notes so that they can be organized on my computer and take up way less space.
c.  I'm still thinking about more specifics...

3.  Spring Cleaning - While this is not organizational in nature, my house definitely needs a good scrubbing and I have a feeling that this will not only improve my health but also my sense of well-being (not that it's gross or anything...It's just not sparkling by any means).
a.  Follow through on the 4-weeks to a More Organized Home Challenge from Money Saving Mom.
b.  Finish hanging wall art that's still...well...on the floor...

4.  Still TBD

Well, that's all for now...wish me luck!!!  And good luck to all of you who are also on a mission to organization :-)