Cleaning Up and Cleaning Out

You know how some people have a junk drawer? For the past several years, we’ve had a junk room.

That wasn’t the plan. It was supposed to be my office, for the freelancing business I was going to have on the side. But that’s not now things turned out.

To begin with, I don’t freelance. I have a business license and no business, which means that every year I get to tell the City of Los Angeles that I am happy to pay them a percentage of $0. Add to that the fact that we have no time and no energy, and that means that on the rare occasions that we clean up, we wind up making stacks of things and then saying, “Just put that in the office.”

What that meant was that we had a room so full of stuff that we wouldn’t let Baguette go in there. We went in as little as possible, and then felt guilty just looking at the closed door. Our house is not that big, which means that removing a room from use drastically reduces our available space.

So last week, Mr. Sandwich and I took two days off of work. We sorted and threw out and recycled. We made a trip a day to Goodwill. And, based on a tip from a co-worker, we made multiple trips to Office Depot to deposit papers in the locked shredding bins that will be disposed of by Iron Mountain.

We pushed on through the weekend, and are continuing throughout the house. But this room was by far the worst, and that meant it was the place to start. So what did that process look like?






We’re exhausted. But we feel much better.

Meal Planning: Take One

I’ve been wanting to cook, but it’s been much too hot. Seriously, L.A. has been experiencing temperatures of over 100, and based on the current 10-day weather forecast, we’re not done yet.

But while I was thinking about what I want to make, I realized that I really ought to start using what I’ve already got–and not just because the freezer was so full that there was nowhere to put new leftovers. (“New leftovers”–now there’s an oxymoron for you.)

So this morning I pulled everything out of the freezer and was horrified. Why do we have steak from last year and ground beef from two years ago? And even if it’s safe to eat–it has been in the freezer for the whole time–it’s not going to be a pleasant experience, no matter how I prepare it.

After cleanout, however, I know what’s in there and what I have to work with. I’m able to start meal planning. Here’s what’s in the lineup for this week:

Sunday: Crock Pot Meatball Soup with Bowtie Pasta (although I’ll probably substitute some other kind of pasta).

Monday: Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Tuesday: Leftovers from one of the previous evenings

Wednesday: Vegetable soup (there are a LOT of frozen vegetables on that top shelf, as well as quite a bit of homemade chicken stock on the bottom)

Thursday: Leftovers from one of the previous evenings

Friday: Leftovers from one of the previous evenings

That may seem like a lot of leftovers, but I’m not sure how much of this will be eaten by anyone but me. Our family dinners are often individual meals eaten together, so Mr. Sandwich will fix his own food most evenings, and we feed Baguette whatever we can get her to eat (lately, mini pepperoni pizza).

My To-Do List

There are a lot of things I want for Baguette. The big thing, of course, is an innate sense of self-worth. She has that now, and I want to do everything possible to help her hold onto that. It’s good to question yourself and your actions–but I want her to know her entire life that she has inherent value.

I want her to get an education. I want her to learn to question herself and others. I want her to be not just tolerant, but truly accepting of difference. I want her to learn when to be kind, and when to protect herself.

But there are also things I want her to see me do, because I want her to see the world as a place of possibility that is not limited by her gender.

1) I want to do more triathlons. My last one was in 2009 (I think), so it’s been a while. I had planned to do one this fall, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen. But I definitely want her to see me, and not just Mr. Sandwich, be active. Because I want her to be active.

2) I want both of us to learn to drive a stick shift. (I want her to do this a long time from now.)

3) I want to cook and clean and garden, but I also want to learn woodworking and minor home repairs, beyond just tightening the occasional screw.

4) I want to learn another language. My high school and college Spanish classes are long behind me, and considering that I live in L.A., it is ridiculous that I don’t speak decent Spanish.

5) I want to volunteer. It’s very easy for me to focus on the ways my life is challenging. But I have it so easy in so many ways, and I want her to realize two things: that we’re fortunate, and that we owe it to others to help them when they’re not.

There are many, many others. I want to teach and show Baguette so much. But this is a start.

January 2, 2012: Looking Ahead

I’m not a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions, primarily because I never keep them. But I do have goals. Here’s what I’m looking at for 2012:

  • Get our house in order. Literally. I can’t teach Baguette to clean up after herself if I have piles of papers lying around. Also, who wants piles of papers lying around?
  • Get in better shape. I’ve done a few sprint triathlons in the past, and I want to do another this year–I’m probably looking at September. Immediately, I’m going to start regular crunches and stretching.
  • Cook more. Between my job and commute, it’s hard to cook a nice dinner in the evenings. I need to dedicate weekend time to cooking in advance so that we can eat as a family during the week.

None of these sounds huge on their own, but together they can make a huge impact on our lives. I’m looking forward to it–and to the year.

Tower of Clothes

So in keeping with my ongoing overhaul-one-room-a-month plan, I took today off. Well, originally I took today off so that I could go to the Halloween parade at Baguette’s day care. But as long as I was home, I figured, I might as well tackle the room I didn’t get to last month: our room.

There’s still some work to be done, but I accomplished my main goal:

This used to be a huge pile in the corner of our room, making it difficult to get into the closet. How huge? For a sense of proportion, please note the toy poodle in the lower right corner.

We’re Going to Live Like Kings!

We closed escrow on Friday and have started moving boxes over to our 3-bedroom, 1-1/2 bath house. The kitchen and bathrooms have been cleaned, and now we’ve moved on to painting. Painting, by the way, is a full-body workout. Climbing up and down the stepladder is better than Stairmaster, and wiping down walls and using rollers and brushes does a lot for the arm, shoulders, and back.

Now I just need a core workout.

The house, garage, and yard give us so much more space, and so much more space of our own. The neighbors on either side seem very nice, and the neighborhood is a delight. I’m told that at Halloween, I’ll need six bags of candy. Hopefully the trick-or-treaters will eat all of it, because otherwise I’ll undo all of my painting workout.

But as it stands now, we’re going to live like kings. Very fit kings.

“The Worst Bathroom Plumbing Disaster You Can Imagine”

That’s how Mr. Sandwich refers to Friday’s multiple-appliance backup and overflow. And because of how nasty it was, and how well he handled it, from now on this blog will refer to J as Mr. Sandwich. He deserves that respect.

I missed most of it, because I get up and go to work earlier than he does. So Friday morning I was at work when I got a call from Mr. Sandwich. Over the course of the day, and several phone calls back and forth, it became clear that drastic action was needed. He wasn’t able to snake the drains, and neither was the drain specialist, because all of the access points were closed so tight that they had frozen in place.

While waiting for the regular plumber, Mr. Sandwich continued to wrench on one of the access points–until the u-joint broke, sending foul water flooding through the outside laundry room. On the other hand, it stopped backing up through our tub.

The plumbers crawled under the building, cutting and replacing pipe, which was the only way to get rid of the clog. Then the steam cleaner guy came in and cleaned the carpet and bathroom floor. I came home at the end of the day and did a much more thorough job on the bathroom floor and tub, because I was pretty sure that it needed the three-part process of all-purpose cleaner, bleach, and rinsing (BTW, I was right). Then it was on to the kitchen floor, because everyone came in and out through there.

We’re all clean now.

During the afternoon, I got a call from our realtor, saying that they had heard from the seller’s agent. Apparently the bank had decided to approve the short sale, and determined that they would accept an offer of $7000 more than our most recent offer. Our agent said, “If my clients do this, will they get the house?” The answer was yes, but all three of us have a we’ll-believe-it-when-we-see-it mentality at this point. So in between cleaning stages, we faxed over a letter stating our intent to offer more.

Lots of ups and downs. But at least the bathroom is no longer a hazardous waste site, and we have some new pipes.