Bite-Size Decluttering Tasks

Out with the old…

Like many people, I get the decluttering bug after the excess of décor and gifts from Christmas. The idea of cleaning out a whole closet or garage or pantry is overwhelming to me right now, though—it’s dark and cold and I just want to snuggle on the couch!—but here are 31 ideas for mini decluttering sessions, one for every day of January!

  1. Christmas gifts you greatly appreciate but will not use
  2. Wallet
  3. Daily bag (purse, backpack, briefcase)
  4. Makeup bag or shaving kit
  5. Medicine cabinet
  6. First aid kit
  7. Shower/bathtub ledges
  8. Bedside table
  9. Jewelry box
  10. Top of dresser/bureau
  11. Sock drawer
  12. Undies drawer
  13. Refrigerator door (outside surface)
  14. Refrigerator door (inside cubbies)
  15. Coffee mugs and tea cups
  16. Drinking glasses
  17. Reusable travel mugs, water bottles, etc.
  18. Silverware drawer
  19. Canned goods
  20. Spare bags (plastic, paper)
  21. Laundry supplies
  22. Top of desk
  23. Pens and pencils
  24. Top desk drawer
  25. Gift wrap
  26. Pet toys
  27. Car: Glove compartment
  28. Car: Console and door pockets
  29. Car: Trunk
  30. Materials related to your hobby with the smallest stash/physical footprint
  31. Unfinished craft/hobby projects that no longer inspire excitement/interest

What did I forget?  Any other self-contained, manageable areas that you can think of?

–Angela

December Memories, January Goals

This was the thirstiest Christmas tree I’ve ever had. It drank 0.5 to 1.0 liters of water every day and is still supes healthy one week into January. Such a good, pretty tree. I hate to give it up.

Happy New Year! How is it already January 9th? Don’t tell anyone, but my Christmas decorations are still up.  😉  December was lovely and I’m looking forward to January!

The Good

  • My mother received a clean bill of health after a year of aggressive medical treatment.
  • I had a wonderful Christmas season full of family, good vibes, and abundant, delicious food.
  • I took my family and a friend to see The Nutcracker. It was their first time going to a ballet performance and I think they really enjoyed it (“I’ve never seen a ballerina in real life before! I knew they danced on their toes, but I didn’t think they would do that here!”). A golden retriever even had a brief cameo onstage!
  • I had extra quality time with my family, including some one-on-one time.
  • I better managed my holiday stress than in past years. I dialed down the ol’ expectations (of myself), accepted lots of help from others, and made enjoyment/relaxation my goal, not perfection.

The Bad

  • A dear great aunt passed away. She was always so sweet and generous to me and to so many others. Losing her is bad enough, yet it somehow also feels like another mini-loss of my late grandparents. My aunt’s passing is the loss of another of the fragile, dwindling threads of worldly connection to my grandparents.

The Ugly

  • I engaged in a little bit of the ol’ comparison game (“How does she do all that? Why can’t I do all that?  Why don’t I want to do all that, too?”).

January Goals

  • Put away Christmas décor, but leave up a few items for winter décor.
  • Declutter personal belongings (craft items, décor items, clothing and accessories, etc.).
  • Enjoy the many good things about the winter, even though the holidays are over (snow days, sweaters, warm drinks, a couple of long weekends, etc.!).
  • Brainstorm resolutions and “guiding words” for the year.

Did you have a happy holiday season? Is your new year off to a good start? I hope so!

–Angela

We List You a Merry Christmas!

“Booze” is on my shopping list as a noun and on my task list as a verb.

Christmas is almost here!  I’m wrapping up at work today for a short vacation at my parents’ house out-of-state, and I’m laughing at the number of lists tucked into my little pink planner (which is like the control center for my life).

Here’s a list of my current lists:

  • My list of tasks to do at work before I leave today
  • My list of tasks to do at home before I leave town
  • My list of things to pack for my trip
  • My list of things to remember to bring back from my trip
  • My list of things I’ve received as gifts this year
  • My list of tasks to do in January – personal
  • My list of tasks to do in January – work

There were many other lists earlier this month, too, that I’ve already worked through:

  • My list of people for whom I’d like to buy gifts
  • My list of gift ideas for the people for whom I’d like to buy gifts
  • My various lists of things to buy, by category and/or by location (groceries, stocking stuffers, gifts, special treats)
  • My list of gifts to wrap
  • My various lists of errands and tasks
  • My wish list to share with others if they ask for gift ideas for me

Does your Christmas celebration happen via a bazillion lists, too?  Or am I crazy?

Merry Christmas!

— Angela

Little Lanterns

QVC

I’ve noticed a trend this year in Christmas décor: tiny three-dimensional scenes displayed inside glass lanterns and jars. They are so cute and charming.

Here is an example from Valerie Parr Hill at QVC.com.  This lantern is available in three styles–“Cottage,” “Church,” and “Santa”–and they light up. They’re very cute but also overpriced, I think:

QVC

QVC

Here is a nightlight/air freshener version from Bath and Body Works. It’s sold out online and I’m kicking myself for not ordering one.  It looks so cute:

Bath and Body Works

Here is something similar, too, from Chip and Joanna Gaines’s Hearth and Hand line at Target:

Target

I decided to make my own version this year.  I have this IKEA lantern and I made a cozy scene with some mini bottlebrush trees, a barn ornament, some white tissue paper (for snow), and a string of lights behind.  Yay or nay?

My DIY lantern scene!

Did you DIY any decorations this year?  Have you noticed the little lantern trend?

–Angela

The Busy Season

It snowed last night in Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp!

A friend texted me an invite last week to play one of her favorite phone games. I felt really bad, but I had to text back and tell her that I simply don’t have the time to play it right now.  It’s Christmastime, and I’m already up to my ears in crafting, shopping, visiting, and gift-giving…in my own favorite phone games (ahem).

Whew. Managing these phone games during the holiday season is like having a second job.  I’m grinding like whoa in Happy Street, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, and Tsum Tsum to take full advantage of all the limited-edition holiday content.

I have major FOMO.  I don’t want to miss the window of opportunity to get all the limited-time things, so I have to regularly visit all my virtual friends, collect and send gifts left and right, and carefully plan my virtual schedules and budgets to maximize my goodies. I also have to attend to a few similar things IRL, too: crafting, shopping, visiting, gift-giving…  😉

I’m making good progress. I’ve already gotten one of each limited-time Christmas décor item in ACPC; I’d like to get multiples of a few things.  My Happy Street Christmas tree is on level of 3 of 4 and I’ve remembered to open the Advent calendar every day. Tsum Tsum is driving me nuts with its snowflake game this year. You have to play so much–hundreds and hundreds of times–to finish the challenges.  It’s boring but I don’t want to miss the little pin/medal for completing the game.

Please tell me I’m not the only adult woman who is stressing over her phone games this month.  Please?

–Angela

Tiny Christmas Treats

Illustration by Kanako Kuno.

There are the BIG Christmas efforts, of course (the tree, the meals, the events), but it’s fun to layer in tiny hints of Christmas in your life, too. Here are some ideas for little festive touches that are easy, inexpensive, and not too wasteful:

  1. Eat a candy cane. The taste and smell of peppermint reminds me of winter, Christmas, and my late grandmother, who always kept a well-stocked jar of hard candy in her den.
  2. Sprinkle cinnamon on your latte, oatmeal, or toast.
  3. Change the wallpaper on your phone, tablet, and computer screens to something festive.
  4. Hang some string lights on your desk at the office.
  5. Buy and load a seasonal Starbucks gift card to your app. Every time I open my app to pay, I see a cozy, wintry scene.
  6. Flag the Christmas chapters in your favorite books and display them in a basket for easy browsing.
  7. Do you have any Christmas (or Christmas-esque) jewelry? Find it, polish it, and wear it.
  8. Play a YouTube video of a crackling, popping fireplace on your smart TV.
  9. Gather and display pine cones.
  10. Use all of your “minty” or “piney” personal care items: lip balm, foot lotion, soap, shampoo, body wash, etc.
  11. Light and enjoy your candles. What are you saving them for?
  12. Wear your favorite perfume every day. Again, what are you saving it for? It’s a treat for you and for everyone you hug this season!
  13. Wear your coziest knit clothes. No thin, scratchy polyester allowed.
  14. Paint your nails a cheery red. Add sparkles.
  15. Feed the birds.
  16. Clean out your pantry and donate the good stuff to the food bank, or mail them a check.
  17. Take extra time with your makeup, grooming, and skincare. You’ll feel confident and ready for whatever the season will bring—unexpected guests, last-minute invitations and errands, etc.!
  18. Bundle up and take a walk in the brisk air. Enjoy your neighbors’ decorations.
  19. Use your very best things: china, silver, crystal, tablecloths, bath towels, etc.
  20. Turn off the TV.
  21. Buy and enjoy a special Christmas drink at home: apple cider, hot chocolate, flavored coffee or creamer, red wine, etc.
  22. Change your ring tone to something festive: church bells, harps, carols, etc.
  23. Choose a “signature” wrapping paper to use for all your gifts this year.
  24. Pull out your Scrabble game and use the tiles and holders to dot happy little words among your decorations, like family, gather, thankful, friends, merry, sparkle, twinkle, etc.
  25. Update your apps. Many games have free seasonal content, and many other apps will “decorate” their icons or interfaces for the season.

Yet Another Post about Advent Calendars

Illustration by Kanako Kuno.

It’s finally December 1st! It’s time to crack into my Advent calendars!

This year, I have *four* Advent calendars to enjoy. Whoo-hoo! It’s an embarrassment of riches.

I have:

A Literary Advent Calendar. I’m not very organized about this, but I did gather several of the books and passages I mentioned in this post. I’m enjoying reading bits and pieces as the mood strikes. I bought two new (used) books for my Christmas library: Volumes I and II of A Little House Christmas, which is a compilation of all the Christmas chapters in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, including several original illustrations by Garth Williams. They are precious books.

An Ol’ Skool Chocolate Advent Calendar. A sweet friend at work gave me a classic chocolate Advent calendar—the kind with a piece of chocolate hidden behind each punch-out door (like these). I’m keeping it on my desk to enjoy each day.

A “12 Days of Beauty” Advent Calendar. I love the many beauty Advent calendars for sale each year, but most are too costly for the value for me, as they often contain many items that I don’t think I would use or enjoy. I liked and bought this Target one because it was inexpensive and included a mix of products that I would actually use (more skincare products than hair stuff, for example). I do wish it had 25 gifts, though. I can’t decide whether to start it on December 11th as a countdown to the day I leave for my parents’ house for Christmas, or if I should start it on the 26th as a way to extend the fun of Christmas. In the meantime, I’m trying to forget what’s in it so I’m surprised each day.

The Happy Street Advent Calendar. The Happy Street developers released their annual Christmas update! You can collect daily items from an Advent calendar and more gifts on Christmas Day if you level up your Christmas tree. Many items repeat from year to year, but sometimes the developers throw in some new stuff for us veterans. I started playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, too, and I hope there are lots of virtual holiday goodies in that game as well.

Bonus: I also ordered a Danish-style Advent taper candle this year (a kalenderlys). I read about these in The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. Families burn the candle a little bit each day as a way to mark time until the 25th.

Did you get or make an Advent calendar for yourself or your family this year? Tell me all about it!

–Angela

November Memories, December Goals

My “autumnal tableau.” Also pictured: YouTube fireplace.

November was a quiet, thoughtful month for me. Autumn finally arrived to the mid-Atlantic region and I love driving among all the yellow, red, and orange leaves.

I’ve written down some November memories below.

The Good:

  • A family member’s surgery went well.
  • We hosted family and friends at our house for a relaxing Thanksgiving weekend.
  • Lots of reading and writing.
  • We went to our city’s annual Christmas parade.

The Bad:

  • The unexpected passing of a friend. He was the father to a beautiful, spunky little girl and I pray that she is showered with love and support.

The Ugly:

  • Prince Harry is off the market.
  • The Florida Gators football team continued to shock and disappoint. We got a new coach, though, after the abysmal season. Here’s to a fresh start!

For this December and Christmas, my mantra is Cozy, Classic, and Simple. I want to:

  • Catch up on household tasks after a leisurely Thanksgiving; put away autumn decorations.
  • Decorate for Christmas!
  • Book tickets for one or more holiday events: the Nutcracker ballet, a Christmas tea party, a tour of decorated houses in a local historic district, a Vienna Choir Boys concert, etc.
  • Bake and decorate tiny gingerbread houses.
  • Don’t fret re: Christmas gifts, food, etc. Make a decision and stick with it. Baby suits!
  • Host a local Christmas gathering.
  • Travel to my parents’ house for Christmas.

How was your November? What are your plans and goals for the busy, wonderful month of December?

–Angela

Book Review: How to Be a Victorian

Cover of How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life. Written by historian Ruth Goodman. Image from Amazon.com.

I recently finished reading How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life by Ruth Goodman. I really enjoyed it. Goodman devotes a chapter to each major aspect of Victorian life and organizes the book by the time of day, beginning with morning grooming and dressing rituals and ending with evening activities such as bathing and sex.

Goodman provides a ton of great detail, including the results of her own personal experiments with Victorian life (trying period clothing, recipes, chores, etc.). She is careful, too, to compare the widely varying experiences of the wealthy, middle, and poor social classes, as well as the differences between those living in urban London and those in the countryside of England, Ireland, etc.

If you had lived in Victorian London, the odds were that you would be most likely poor, and most likely:

Cold. Coal was expensive and used sparingly, mostly for cooking. Plus, the early Victorians believed that illness was carried via bad odors/air, so homes, workplaces, and schools were left drafty and windows left cracked for ventilation where possible, even in the winter. It was so cold inside buildings that ink would regularly freeze in ink wells. People wore intricate, thick, layered clothing to combat the cold.

In the dark. Again, fuel was expensive. Most people went to bed early for warmth and to avoid burning fuel for light.

Dirty and smelly (in some ways). Victorians were very clean when water was accessible, with regular laundry schedules, daily sponge baths, etc. There were no sewers, however, and the outdoor privies (deep holes dug into the ground and surrounded with sheds) filled up quickly in the overcrowded cities. The poor could not pay to have the privies emptied regularly (a manual process that took place at night by specialized workers), so the overflow would seep into yards, streets, basements, houses, and natural waterways.

Exhausted. The middle and poor classes worked extremely hard, and 12 to 14 hour-days were not uncommon, even for children in the early years of Victoria’s reign. Housekeeping was physically difficult, too, and required hauling water and fuel, washing heavy clothes and linens by hand, copious amounts of sewing, etc.

Sick. Horrific overcrowding, poor sanitation, and poor nutrition made people especially vulnerable to the many (and deadly) infectious diseases of the time period, such as cholera.

Addicted. The popular, heavily advertised health “tonics” and “cures” of the day were made with opium, cocaine, alcohol, and other addictive ingredients. It was easy to become inadvertently addicted. I was sad to learn that many working mothers would dose their children with these tonics to keep them quiet and docile and avoid having to feed them during the busy day. Many of the opiates and other ingredients were appetite-suppressants, though, so the hungry babies wouldn’t eat even when milk and food were finally offered to them.

Malnourished. Fresh fruits and vegetables were difficult to find in the city, plus prevailing thought held that starchy foods such as potatoes and bread were better to eat (especially for children).

Hungry. Many people suffered insufficient caloric intake. The poorest of the poor often found themselves in charity-run workhouses and jail. Records show that some of these residents/inmates received only 80% of the calories they needed each day, so they were slowly starving to death.

Endangered. The jobs of the Victorian period were horrifically dangerous. You could be easily injured, maimed, or killed while working in factories, mines, railroads, etc. In addition, food, medicine, and other goods were not inspected or regulated in any way, and unscrupulous vendors would sell goods adulterated with chalk or brick dust (or worse) to stretch profits.

Crowded. The poorest London Victorians crammed into rundown tenement houses. If I remember correctly, Goodman reported that some houses had only 1 privy for every 80 people.

Of course, those in the middle and upper classes were more comfortable and healthy than the poor, but even they still suffered from illness, addiction, and malnutrition.

Ugh. It all sounds miserable.

I was particularly surprised to read that Goodman tried wearing corsets in her experiments and really liked them. If the corset wasn’t laced too tightly, Goodman found that it actually provided welcome back and torso support for the hard physical work of Victorian womanhood.

I was also struck by Goodman’s details regarding household laundry routines. Laundry was incredibly hard physical work and quite time-consuming. Goodman concludes that:

My own historical laundry experiences have led me to see the powered washing machine as one of the great bulwarks of women’s liberation, an invention that can sit alongside contraception and the vote in the direct impact it has had on changing women’s lives.

Wow. That’s a big, bold statement, but it makes perfect sense when you consider the tremendous labor of the many women who could not afford to send out their family’s clothes and linens to the commercial laundries.

The only thing I feel this book lacked was a chapter on religion/spirituality that could have touched on the elaborate Victorian funeral and mourning customs, etc. There are many other books on the subject, of course, but I would have liked to hear Goodman’s thoughtful take on it.

It was especially timely to read How to Be a Victorian over Thanksgiving week, because it reminded me of the hard work and sacrifices made by our ancestors to give us the more comfortable, healthy lives that we live today. Thank goodness for their fights for worker rights, consumer rights, voting rights, etc. Our lives would be much, much different without them.

— Angela

Happy Thanksgiving!

Illustration by Kanako Kuno.

Thanksgiving is only two days away! Huzzah! At my house, we’ve been planning and cleaning and shopping and making all the lists.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it’s the official kickoff to the whole holiday season. The fun and anticipation of Christmas is right around the corner, but the long Thanksgiving weekend is a chance to savor the last moments of Autumn among golden light, crisp leaves, and cheerful pumpkins.

My family’s Thanksgiving traditions are simple. My parents and siblings come to town and stay at our house for the long weekend. It’s fun to have the house full-to-bursting and everyone under one roof again. On Thanksgiving morning, we watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and someone pops out to buy a newspaper. The paper is always thick with glossy holiday catalogs, which we like to peruse throughout the day.

We eat our big meal at lunchtime, buffet-style, and we invite local friends over, too. Each person has favorite family dishes that he or she is responsible for making: Will makes the turkey and his Nana Stella’s stuffing, my mom makes her famous pecan pies and my late grandmother’s cornbread dressing, my sister makes cranberry vodka, and I make mashed potatoes and bacon-grease green beans. After we eat, we spend the afternoon “visiting,” napping, grazing, drinking, and watching football.

I almost forgot to mention our most important family tradition: Before we begin to eat, everyone gathers in the living room and we take turns telling the group what we’re especially thankful for this year. There is always laughter and always tears. After that, my dad says the blessing—and then we feast!

I hope everyone has a happy, happy Thanksgiving!

—Angela