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New computer and faster internet

June 28th, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Ok, this entry is NOT about saving money. It is about spending plain and simple. Our 6-year-old iMac has gotten incredibly slow. I think the last couple of software updates really did it in. It had gotten to the point of being almost unusable at times. Also, we have had Verizon DSL for years and from time to time, the service would be very undependable but lately it has gotten really bad. We never knew from day to day or hour to hour if we'd have internet access. As I'm sure you all understand, we depend on our net access a great deal at this point for all kinds of reasons from financial stuff like home banking to entertainment like streaming movies from Netflix to making travel arrangements to DD doing school assignments. Having access that we can't depend on just is no longer acceptable in 2010.

So... we are now the proud owners of a brand new 21.5" iMac and Comcast cable internet with a wireless network. The computer is beautiful, the screen is huge and the processor is way, way faster than the old one. And the internet access is now 3 times faster than the DSL and, I anticipate, much more reliable.

Oh, my wife also got her iPhone last week, so we now have 2 iPhones, an iPod touch, a netbook, a laptop and a desktop on the network. On the phones, the new cable hook up is superfast. On DSL or 3G, there was a very noticeable delay when checking email or viewing a website. Now, it is instantaneous. I literally hooked it up 10 minutes ago but I'm already loving it.

Home construction

March 16th, 2010 at 08:06 pm

A few months ago, before the winter, we discovered that the paneling on one wall of our family room was rotting. We had never seen any water coming in but we had a contractor come out and he found where water was getting in. The roof over the family room is about 14 years old and the roofing material is generally expected to last 10 years so we were overdue for a problem.

The contractor said he should be able to do the job by the end of January. Of course, snowstorm after snowstorm kept pushing that back but he finally came out today to start the job. So far, so good. When he opened up the wall and poked around, there was no more damage than expected. I was afraid he would find rotten ceiling beams but he didn't. Hopefully, that means the work will come in close to the estimate he gave us which was about $2,200. I set the money aside back when he first came out so that's no problem. I just didn't want it to balloon much higher.

My wife's been home supervising. I'll see it in a couple of hours. Hopefully, everything will be done by the end of the week.

Snowed out of our house

February 11th, 2010 at 03:52 pm

Those of us on the east coast have been buried under record snowfall this year. We've officially broken the all-time snow record by over 6 inches as of last night (and it is only early February). This week alone, we've had two major storms totaling over 40 inches which is unheard of in this area (hence the record).

Anyway, while most people have been snowed in, we actually got snowed OUT. Last night while I was washing the dinner dishes, I saw a bright flash out the back window. My wife happened to be looking out the front window at the time and saw the transformer blow on the electric pole and out went the power. Considering it was still snowing heavily and the number of homes without power was in the tens of thousands, we figured it could be quite a while before a crew got out there to fix the problem and restore power. So we decided to escape and spend the night at a hotel.

I called the local Fairfield Inn and booked a room, then went out and cleaned off the car and shoveled enough of the driveway so I'd be able to get out. My wife and daughter packed overnight bags while I was doing that and we hit the road. It was kind of eerie as roads that are usually heavily traveled interstates were deserted. Between home and the hotel, I doubt that we saw more than a dozen cars. We made it there safely and checked into a nicely lit and heated room, two things that were lacking at home.

This morning, I called the house and the answering machine picked up so I knew the power was back on. We had breakfast (included with the room) and packed up and came back to the house. Other than one large tree branch coming down (no damage done), everything was in order. So ended our little snow adventure. And only a tiny ding to the savings for an unplanned hotel stay.

Snow, Snow and More Snow

December 20th, 2009 at 08:28 pm

It started snowing about 6 am Saturday and forgot to stop. By the time it was done, we had recorded the record high snowfall for the month of December beating the record set in 1909. We also got the 2nd highest snowfall ever after the storm of 1996.

Needless to say I've spent a good part of the past 2 days snowblowing and shoveling snow. I'm done now. Well, not done in the sense that all the snow is cleared but done in the sense that I'm not going out there again. I've got my car shoveled out. The van is mostly cleared but needs a little more work. I'll probably do that tomorrow night after work and DW and DD can work on it tomorrow, too.

It has been a long time we've seen snow like this (13 years to be exact). I just hope this isn't a sign of things to come this winter.

Need money - Clean your house Pt. 2

December 13th, 2009 at 02:40 am

As I reported a couple of weeks ago, we've been working on some house cleaning lately. The first round turned up some monetary rewards by finding stuff to sell on ebay.

This week, cleaning actually turned up money. Wednesday night, I was cleaning in the basement. I came across a file box of papers from when my wife and I ran the Girl Scout cookie sale for our daughter's troop 3 years ago. I realized there was no reason to still have that stuff and started pulling everything out to recycle. In one of the folders, I found a $20 bill. I'm certain that we handed over all money due to the troop so this $20 probably belonged to us for some reason, but I have no idea why it would have been in that file. So the next day, I stopped at the Girl Scout office and told them the story and to give the money to her troop (she's not a scout anymore).

Today, my daughter found a $20 bookstore gift card and $8 cash plus some change while cleaning.

So that's almost $50 turned up in a few days. Get rid of your clutter and get organized. It may pay off more than you realize.

Need money - Clean your house

November 29th, 2009 at 11:28 pm

All 3 of us got on a cleaning binge this weekend. As has happened before, that has resulted in me listing some items on ebay. Yesterday, my wife came across a book/CD set from a work seminar. An identical set sold last week for $22.50 so I listed her set.

Today, my daughter unearthed her Game Boy Advance. I searched and they have been selling for $20-$30 for the player alone and DD also has a lighted grip thing that should add a few dollars to the value, so I listed that.

In the process, I also listed 5 other items that I didn't find due to cleaning but it put me in the mood to unload some things.

So I've listed 7 items in 2 days. Three items already have bids and I know from experience that most bids happen on the final day so I'm sure some of the others will sell, too. So cleaning the house may bring in $50-$100 in sales if we're lucky.

Our house is falling apart - Part 2

July 26th, 2009 at 04:22 pm

Several months ago (January, I think) I posted an entry entitled, "Our house is falling apart."

Six months later, we've fixed several things on that list, though not all of them. In the meantime, a few new ones have cropped up.

We had to have our oven repaired not long ago. I went to bake pizzas one night and the oven warmed up but didn't get to anywhere close to 450 degrees, so we ended up with warm but not fully cooked pizza. When the repairman came out, he was able to fix it but advised us that it is 20 years old and it probably won't last much longer.

We've had a recurring problem with carpenter ants and have had the house treated a few times over the years. This being ant season, they came back last week. The exterminator came out and retreated but discovered some moisture damage in the wall where the paneling is bowing and cracking. So now we need to have a contractor come out, rip out that paneling, see what kind of damage exists behind it and fix whatever needs to be fixed.

Now, our stovetop, which is just as old as the oven, is on the fritz. I was helping DD cook some potstickers last night and even though the burner was only set on medium, it got red hot and burned the food.

So it looks like we need to go shopping for a new oven AND stovetop. Oh, and replacing the oven means having the contractor rebuild the wall (it is a built-in model) because our oven is 26" and the standard now is 27" so it won't fit where the current one is. Also, the current unit is a combined oven and microwave (that died a couple of years ago) so we want to rebuild the wall to fit a new oven and build a cubby to put our free-standing microwave and get it off our countertop (that will be nice). Besides, we've always hated our stovetop. It has 4 burners, 2 small and 2 large, but they are too close together so you can't actually have 4 decent size pots going at the same time. I'm sure the end result will be a more functional kitchen, but we just weren't planning on spending any big bucks on renovations at this point in time.

Oh well, such is life.

More Decluttering and Ebay Stuff

April 18th, 2009 at 06:51 pm

Today is a beautiful spring day, the first we've really had this year. I spent a couple of hours attacking the disaster area we call our garage. I managed to make some progress, get rid of some trash, put some stuff in the recycling bin and condense some of what remains. I also made a trip to the Goodwill donation center with 3 boxes containing 3 sets of dishes, 1 box of children's books and 1 old computer monitor. That cleared some space in the garage.

I also located a number of items that I will list on ebay, hopefully starting tomorrow. So my decluttering may yield some cash, too, and help my ebay challenge numbers. We'll see.

Fixed the front door today

April 12th, 2009 at 01:16 am

A couple of days ago, I went to lock the front door deadbolt and when I turned the knob, nothing happened. The knob turned but the bolt didn't move. I'm no home improvement whiz but I knew that wasn't what was supposed to happen. Fortunately, the door has 2 locks so I didn't have to rush right out and fix it.

When we first installed that door, we put in a better quality (more expensive) lock set. I don't remember exactly when that was, but it was somewhere around 8 years ago. I certainly expected it to last a lot longer than 8 years given what it cost. When I took it apart, I saw the problem. The metal ring around the shaft had just broken apart. So much for better quality.

I stopped at Home Depot today and bought a basic set. If the more costly ones aren't going to hold up any better than the cheaper ones, why spend the extra bucks. This one doesn't feel quite as nice in your hand, but big deal. It will do the job and if it breaks in a few years, I won't feel like I got ripped off.

I'm ready for vacation

April 3rd, 2009 at 04:58 pm

Today is my last day of work until April 13. I always take off for the week that Passover begins because we have so much to do at home. Lots of cleaning, shopping and cooking. So it isn't a vacation in the "sit on the beach and relax" sense, but it is time away from the office. It also gives me a few days when I can actually sleep past 7am. We've really been on a treadmill of activity lately so I'm looking forward to the break in routine, even if there is still a lot of work involved while I'm off. Plus, after Wednesday, the work will be done and I'll have a few days to actually relax.

So I'll wish an early Happy Passover to my Jewish friends and Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate that.

Ebay Challenge Update 3/15

March 16th, 2009 at 12:53 am

Just a quick update.

I've got 4 active auctions that end on Wednesday.

2 have bids totaling $8.98.

I went into the basement earlier to pack an item and was struck by the amount of empty space on some of the shelves where I store my inventory. Since starting back on ebay in November, I've sold quite a few items including several that were on the larger side. Also, any items that went unsold are now in the garage waiting for a yard sale. It is really starting to show down there. Perhaps this week, I'll spend a little time reorganizing down there to condense stuff. I'll probably find some good stuff to list in the process. All part of the decluttering process. There is a lot of stuff in the basement (not ebay merchandise) that needs to be stored more neatly, so clearing space in the ebay area will help.

Decluttering Update 3/9/09

March 10th, 2009 at 02:31 am

There is a shelf under my printer that has been jammed full of computer manuals, books and magazines that I never, ever use at all. It finally occurred to me that it was a total waste of space. A couple of weeks ago, I checked half.com and amazon to see if any of the books were worth selling. None were. Tonight, I pulled off all of the magazines and put them in the recycling bin. I'm going to put the books in with the stuff for Goodwill. I'll keep the manuals because I think I should, even though I will still never look at them again.

Once I do that, I'll take all the various computer papers that are piled on the floor and organize them on that shelf, which will open up that floor space and make the room look a bit neater.

Cleaned the garage

March 8th, 2009 at 03:22 am

Or at least I started to clean the garage. It is NOT a one-day endeavor. It is more of a lifelong challenge. LOL.

The temp rose into the 60s today - actually may have broken 70 - so I took advantage of the nice weather and spent a few hours in the garage. I made some progress, though there is certainly still much to be done. I broke down a bunch of cardboard boxes that went into the recycling bin. I filled a couple of trash bags. I got rid of some boxes from things that I just don't need to save anymore, like our laptop that we've had for 4 years or the CD player that we've also had for years. No reason to save the boxes anymore and they were taking up a lot of shelf space that can be used for stuff we actually need. I also moved some boxes from the floor area onto open space on one shelving unit. And, I packed up a few things to donate to Goodwill - stuff that we've tried to sell at least twice at yard sales without success. I didn't make it to Goodwill today but maybe later this week I'll run that stuff over. I also found one item that I put on ebay this evening, so I may even make a few bucks out of the cleaning effort.

Casino visit and Decluttering update

January 25th, 2009 at 06:26 pm

I thought I'd take a break from the Ebay Challenge posts.

My daughter had a youth group event last night so my wife and I dropped her off and headed to the casino for a couple of hours. As usual, I took a seat at an electronic blackjack table and played for a little over an hour, winning $212.50 in the process, so I was happy with that. My wife didn't fare as well and lost $74, but that still made it a winning trip overall and a nice evening out.

On the decluttering front, my wife has actually been more inspired than me lately. Two main areas that she has attacked: We have a dresser in our hallway that constantly gets stuff piled on it. She has cleared that off to where we can see almost the entire top. Just a few things remain on there. Then today, while I was out, she cleaned out one set of kitchen cabinets where we keep storage containers, water bottles, cooling racks and a few other assorted things. She threw out a bunch of containers that we no longer have lids for, lids that we no longer have containers for, and water bottles that we don't like and never use and organized everything that remained.

I keep reminding all of us that if we can organize our storage areas - pantry, drawers, closets, garage - then we will have more room to store the things we do want and be able to find them when we need them.

Our house is falling apart

January 19th, 2009 at 02:24 am

This is going to be an expensive year around here.

Our garage door spring broke recently. I haven't gotten it repaired yet because it has been too darn cold to clean out the area in the garage that the service guy will need to reach to make the repair.

We have a cold water supply pipe in the basement that has sprung a pinhole leak

The toilet in my daughter's bathroom needs a new flapper.

The side entry door to the garage needs to be replaced. It is an old wooden door that is warped and won't open and close easily.

The washing machine is on the fritz. My wife went to get a load of towels out earlier and they were still all soapy. She had to run an extra rinse cycle twice, so something's wrong.

One of our alarm keypads is worn out and it is getting hard to get the keys to register, which is a problem when you've only got 30 seconds to disable the alarm.

Fun, fun, fun. The joys of home ownership.

Decluttering still... and again

December 30th, 2008 at 04:51 pm

My decluttering efforts wax and wane with my energy level, but lately, I've been at it again. Thanks to the record high temp on Sunday, I spent a few hours in the garage which is organized chaos with stacks of boxes of who knows what. My main goal was to clear a path to the side entry door which we never use. We've had some trouble with the garage door lately and we want to be able to use the side door just in case we need it. I did accomplish that. I also threw out a couple of items that were taking up a lot of space and had not sold at our last 2 yard sales or on Craigslist. I hate to throw stuff away but sometimes you just have to (it wasn't stuff worth donating anywhere).

Next, I realized that my dresser had gotten out of hand again. Not nearly as bad as it used to be, but not as nice as I had made it before either. That actually cleaned up pretty quickly. It is always easier to keep stuff clean than to get it clean in the first place.

Besides that, just the usual of trying to pay attention to the clutter and clearing things when I see them anywhere in the house (or car). Stuff just piles up and will sit there for ages until one of us gets tired of looking at it. I'm trying to stay aware of those kinds of things and just pick up or put away one thing here and there when I pass it.

Best wishes for an organized and decluttered 2009.

Our daughter thanked us today.

December 13th, 2008 at 04:26 am

This is not a financial post, just something I wanted to share.

Those who have (or have had) a teen will understand when I say that there are brief moments in time when you get a glimpse of hope, a sign that there is a light at the end of the parenting-a-teen tunnel. We had one of those fleeting moments today.

We were finishing up dinner and out of the blue, our daughter turned to me and said thank you for introducing her to good food and cooking and stuff. Dinner wasn't even anything particularly fancy, but good home-cooked comfort food - ravioli, homemade sauce, grilled veggies, fresh grated Locatelli, and Italian bread with freshly roasted garlic. She said she's glad that we make stuff like that and that we're teaching her to cook and to appreciate good food.

I nearly fell off my chair. It isn't often that sincerity like that comes out of her mouth. I'm glad to know that she actually does appreciate things that we do for her and with her, even if she doesn't always show it or acknowledge it.

Ebay update 12/5

December 6th, 2008 at 03:02 am

I started listing on ebay on 11/23. Those items ended this past Sunday, 11/30. Only 1 of 3 sold, but I wasn't surprised. I grossed $23.06 for that one which I was happy with.

My next 3 auctions ended today. All 3 sold! I grossed $92.53 for those.

I also got my Half.com statement today and I earned $28.21 from book sales this sales period.

That's a total of $143.80. My goal for starting back selling was to earn $200 by the end of the year. I'm pretty close and still have 13 active items with $27.00 in bids already (on 2 items), so there's a good chance I'll hit $200 by the time this batch of items ends.

I know most people do ebay for the money, but honestly, I'm really doing it as part of my decluttering efforts. The money is just a bonus. The real accomplishment is getting the stuff out of the house.

ETA: For those who wonder if they should offer worldwide shipping on ebay, 2 of my 3 items today went to non-US buyers. One is going to Canada and the other to South Africa.

Another decluttering update

November 23rd, 2008 at 03:41 am

The cleaning and decluttering efforts are still ongoing at the Disneysteve home. My wife and daughter were out last night (to see Twilight) so I had the house to myself. I spent the entire evening in our computer room/office with only a little of that time spent on the computer. The rest of the time was spent cleaning out the file drawers. A ton of paper went either straight into the recycling bin or into the shredder and the shreddings then went into the recycling bin. I filled the shredder 3 times last night and 2 more this morning and still have a stack of papers about 4 inches high left to shred (and I'm still adding to the pile).

By getting all that paper out of the files, I was able to put a whole stack of empty file folders into the drawer and get them off the floor where they had been residing for months. I had rescued them from the trash at my office but didn't have any room in our files for them.

Then, I attacked a large accordion file that has sat on my desk for years. I use it to file our monthly bills but they generally just pile up on top of the file rather than actually in the slots. I used several of those newly placed file folders to make new homes for the bills in the drawer so that I can eliminate the accordion folder from the desktop. I haven't quite finished that task but it should be done tomorrow. That will open up a nice big space on the desk which will be very nice.

Decluttering Update

November 4th, 2008 at 02:29 am

It has been some time since I blogged about decluttering. You may remember that a few months ago I was on a mission to clean the house. I accomplished quite a bit but did eventually lose the motivation as other things took over my free time, particularly all the work we did getting ready for our daughter's Bat Mitzvah in September.

I decided even before that day that once that was past us and the synagogue retreat my wife and I run each year was over (it was last weekend), I was putting my wife and daughter on notice that it was time for ALL of us to seriously work on cleaning the house. I told them that I wanted ALL of us to start doing what I had been doing over the summer.

Every single day, each of us is to clean at least one thing. That might mean doing as little as throwing away an unneeded receipt sitting on your dresser or getting that pair of shoes that you wore last week out of the family room and back into your closet.

Of course, the hope is that most days each of us will do more than one thing. It has been a week so far and everyone is cooperating. My daughter gets annoyed when I ask if she has cleaned something each day, but she is doing it. My wife has been doing really well. I think knowing that all of us are working on it has helped motivate her.

I've certainly been doing my share. Friday I attacked a pile of stuff in the basement that has been there for ever and ever. My reason for going there was to gain access to the exam/manipulation table that was blocked by the stuff (I'm an osteopathic physician and wanted to be able to use the table to work on DW and DD's necks and backs). I threw out some stuff and put some stuff away in the storage closets and, for the first time in a few years, was actually able to use the table. In fact, it was the first time my daughter was ever on that table.

Today, I spent some time in the garage and cleared out a bunch of trash and packed the recycling bin full of boxes and papers.

I've also done a variety of things inside the house, on my desk, in the kitchen, etc.

I'm sure that if all of us keep at it, pretty soon this place will start looking a lot better.

Haven't stopped decluttering

July 3rd, 2008 at 12:57 pm

In case anyone was wondering, I am still working on attacking clutter. It slowed down a bit but I'm still doing something every day.

The past few days, I moved to some less obvious clutter - in the filing drawers. I've cleaned out numerous folders and gotten rid of lots of unneeded papers. For example, I have a file of all my professional licenses and certifications. There is no reason why I need to have anything but the current licenses, but the file held everything going back 10 years - to the shredder. So stuff like that has been getting thinned out.

Although this doesn't make the house look less cluttered, it does help in a couple of ways. First, it makes it easier to find something when I need it because there isn't as much junk to sort through. Second, it creates more available space in the files so that I can add files to store and organize other things that currently are out in the open.

So I'll keep at it. How is everyone else doing?

Still decluttering

June 26th, 2008 at 01:02 pm

I realized I haven't posted for a few days. I'm still doing the decluttering thing, though I have slacked off a bit. The beginning of the week is my long days at work, so not so much time (or energy) for anything else.

I've gotten a few things out of my closet. I cleared a bunch of stuff off of my desk at work. I went through the container where I keep magazines, saved articles, and other assorted stuff and got rid of a lot of that. And some other scattered cleaning here and there. Not as focused as it had been - more here and there kind of work whenever I see something that I can take care of.

Now that it is Thursday, I should get back to some more focused cleaning as I have more time free from now through Sunday, so I'll report back in a few days.

Weekend decluttering update

June 23rd, 2008 at 01:49 am

Nope, I didn't take a break on the weekend. In fact, since I was home, I did a lot more.

Saturday is typically our cleaning day around here. I went through the remaining pile of stuff next to my bed. I took the load of recyclables I had accumulated in the computer room down to the bin in the garage. I went back into the basement and did some further work around the same area as the day before.

My daughter was cleaning in her room because a friend was coming over. I helped her go through a stack of old books in her closet, almost all of which went in the garage for a yard sale or donation. I pulled out a couple that will get sold online.

Finally, I got outside and pruned some bushes/weeds filling up 3 trash cans of branches in the process. Decluttering isn't limited to inside the house.

Today, Sunday, I did some more work on the floor in the computer room. There was a bag of kids books that I don't even know how long they've been there. I realized that my cousin had given them to us. They used to be her daughter's and she thought my daughter could use them. I went through the whole bag and all but a couple ended up in that stack from yesterday to sell or give away.

I cleaned up some other stuff in the same area on the computer room floor, enough that I was able to consolidate other stuff and actually expand the usable floor space by a couple of feet which was nice.

I think that is the major stuff, though there were probably a few other little things along the way.

Friday and still more decluttering

June 21st, 2008 at 02:08 am

Ok, maybe posting is keeping me motivated, too.

I've realized there are two basic types of decluttering.

1. Recurrent: Things that keep re-accumulating like mail, laundry, papers to be shredded, etc.

2. One-time: Things that once eliminated or put away pretty much stay that way.

I worked on a little of both today. I went through the mail pile on the kitchen table and got some in the recycling bin and some filed away.

I then found myself in... (cue ominous music)... the basement. I took a few things down to put them away and decided to stay and take care of a little clutter down there. I worked on the area near the bottom of the stairs. I found a few things that went to the garage in a yard sale box, 2 outgrown coats that went in the give-away pile, some papers for recycling, some paper and plastic supermarket bags that got put where they belong and some old cans of paint that will go out in the trash next week (all latex - safe to throw out). I swept the floor in the area and consolidated/organized the stuff that was staying there. It looks much nicer now when you walk down the stairs.

My last thing came after my nightly walk. Rather than going right into the house, I grabbed my pruning clippers and a trash can and cut back the branches growing from the base of the tree in front of the house. I do that once or twice a year and it was past time to be done.

By the way, my daughter has been having a great time playing Rush Hour (that I unearthed a few nights ago).

Decluttering update

June 20th, 2008 at 01:04 am

I actually wasn't going to post again about decluttering yet, but since some others are finding it motivating, I'm happy to help out.

Nothing exciting to report from Wednesday. Just sorted through some more papers on the bookcase.

Oh, we did get our new RecycleBank container for our township recycling program. I posted about that not long ago. With the new program, your recyclables get weighed each week and you earn credits that can be redeemed for gift cards and discounts at a bunch of local merchants. Our first pickup isn't until July 3 but I've been saving up our recyclables in anticipation and yesterday after work, I loaded up the new bin, so that counts as decluttering since a bunch of stuff was scattered around in the garage.

Today, after work, I discovered that my wife had done some decluttering of her own. There was a pile of assorted stuff on the floor in our bedroom in front of the cabinet where we keep all our wrapping paper, ribbon, gifts bags and such. She got rid of most of the pile. So I made that area my focus tonight and went through the remaining part of the pile that was mostly my stuff.

I also straightened up all my sheet music by my piano.

How's everyone else doing?

Tuesday Decluttering - Found something good

June 18th, 2008 at 12:33 pm

I've been staying pretty motivated, but posting here can only help, so I'll keep updating periodically.

Last night (Tuesday), I did some more work on the bookcase in the computer room/office. I worked on the bottom shelf. That was a bit more of a challenge because much of what is on that shelf is items that are part of our Disney memorabilia collection: old brochures, commemorative guides and programs, vintage magazines and other assorted paper items. I was able to get a few things out of there, but most of the stuff are things I still want to keep.

However, I realize that decluttering doesn't just mean throwing things out. It also means organizing the things that you want to keep and finding an appropriate place for those things. I didn't get to that point last night, but now that I've gone through that pile and removed the items I don't need, I will box up the stuff I do want and get it out of that room, probably into the attic, garage or basement. Even though I want the stuff, there is no reason it needs to be taking up space in that room since it isn't stuff we need quick access to.

Finally, on the bottom of the one pile (it is a large, deep shelf) I found Rush Hour. http://www.puzzles.com/products/rushhour.htm That is a puzzle game that has been missing for a couple of years now. My daughter and I both love to play it. In fact, my wife had bought me a new set of puzzle cards for my birthday a while back but I could never use them because we couldn't find the game. See what happens when you clean.

The one thing I'm hoping is that my decluttering motivation will start rubbing off on the rest of the family. I don't have much hope for my daughter but I think my wife is starting to think about it. In the course of cleaning, I've come across a few things that were hers and got her to sort through them. Pretty much everything I've given her has gotten thrown away/recycled, so I think she is also realizing how much useless stuff we have taking up space. She was off yesterday and mentioned last night that she did some cleaning in our bedroom closet. Every little bit helps.

More decluttering notes

June 17th, 2008 at 09:47 pm

The night before last, I sorted through the bookcase shelf that holds all our travel guides and maps. I ended up with a nice big pile to recycle.

There were several guidebooks that were way out of date for places that we won't be returning to anytime soon. If we do, we'll just get new guidebooks (the free kind from the tourism boards).

There were guidebooks for places we go regularly, but we had the 2007, 2006, 2005 and 2004 editions. I discarded all but the current ones.

Then last night, I went through a pile of papers on another shelf. I found 3 more travel guides, 2 of which were duplicates of ones I had dealt with the previous night.

Also in that pile were numerous magazines that were saved because I had articles published in them. I didn't toss them, because I still want them around, but I did decide that I no longer need to keep several copies of each, so those are out of here, too.

I'm going to keep chipping away at all the clutter. It is very stress-relieving to clean and organize and declutter. You should all give it a try.

Decluttering - I'm serious this time!

June 16th, 2008 at 12:35 am

I must confess - our house is a mess. Plain and simple. We just are lousy at keeping things neat and organized. I occasionally get upset with our daughter for having stuff strewn all over, and then my wife points out that we haven't set much of an example for her to follow.

I'm a piler. Every flat surface tends to have a stack of papers, magazines, books, whatever, whether it is my desk, the computer desk, the dresser in the hall, the kitchen table, the floor, the closet, etc.

About 4 or 5 weeks ago, I once again realized my dresser was covered with assorted crap. I came up with an idea. I committed to taking care of at least one item per day on the dresser that didnít belong there. That might have meant throwing out a receipt I didnít need, putting something back where it actually belonged, filing a paper that I had left out, putting loose change into my change bank, or whatever else needed to be done. I stuck with it, most days doing multiple items, not just one, though some days I did do only one thing. After about a week, I had cleared off a pretty decent section and what was left was stuff that pretty much belonged there. Iím glad to say that I have continued to keep the dresser cleared off since then.

Once the dresser was cleared, I moved on to my desk, home to a couple of ever-present piles of assorted papers and a vast assortment of other junk. Over several days, I got one pile down to nothing except items that are part of a project I am currently working on. The other pile was cut in half, though there is still work to be done with what remains.

Then I started branching out tackling the ďto be shreddedĒ pile in a few shredding sessions, papers piled under the desk and on the computer scanner and a few other places. The past few days I started attacking the large bookcase in the computer room. Just before posting this, for example, I cleaned off the Travel shelf, tossing outdated guidebooks, maps and other items that we no longer needed, putting them all in the recycling bin.

Little by little, my efforts are starting to show. There is noticeably more floor space and desk space in the computer room. The kitchen table pile isnít gone, but now holds just current items. The bookcase has started looking much neater (at least on the 3 shelves I have worked on so far).

Is any of this financial? Kind of. One thing that invariably happens when we clean is we find things we had forgotten we had. Knowing we have them and where to find them helps prevent us from buying duplicate replacement items at a later date. For example, there is now a neat stack of spiral notebooks on the bookcase and another stack of 3-ring binders. When it is time to shop for school supplies for next year, that supply will get checked first before heading to Target or Wal-Mart.

Reducing clutter is also a psychological thing. I just feel better looking around and seeing what Iíve accomplished so far. I still see plenty left to do, but seeing what is already done helps motivate me to keep at it. And taking it in little steps of one item per day helped keep it a manageable goal, rather than being overwhelmed by the big picture.

Entertaining at home is expensive

March 23rd, 2008 at 06:14 pm

We hardly ever have people over anymore. I realized today that one reason for that is the cost. We were hosting a meeting of the planning committee for a retreat we do every fall. All together, there were only 7 people but we spent nearly $50 buying food and goodies to put out a nice spread. Of course, not everything got eaten and we kept all the leftovers, so the true cost wasn't that high, but still, the money got spent on stuff that we wouldn't have been buying otherwise.

Having a bigger party for a couple dozen people can easily run into hundreds by the time you add in paper goods and plasticware and everything.

I'm glad we did it and we had a very productive meeting, but it was still kind of pricey.

Bat Mitzvah Planning

March 2nd, 2008 at 09:32 pm

My daughter will have her Bat Mitzvah in late September. For those not familiar with Judaism, that is a service/ceremony when a Jewish boy (Bar) or girl (Bat) reads from the Torah, the Jewish bible. It symbolizes them becoming adults in the eyes of the Jewish community.

Anyway, along with the service, there is typically a celebration party. Both to be creative and to keep costs down, we are doing a lot of the work ourselves. I've designed the invitations and place cards. We will be making the centerpieces. And we will be making some of the favors.

Today, we went in search of something to use as the base for the centerpiece. I had seen a metal planter at A.C. Moore recently that I liked, but it was $6.99 and I was hoping to find something a bit cheaper. We checked Michael's and found nothing. Then we went to the new Container Store and found something novel for $4.99. We bought one so we can play with it and make a mock-up centerpiece to see how we like it. I just searched online and I can get the same item for under $3.00 each from a few different vendors, so if we like the idea, I'll order them online and save a couple of bucks on each.

For favors, we want to do a chocolate mold related to our theme. My wife searched at Amazon and found just what we are looking for, so I just ordered a couple of those along with a few other things I needed from Amazon. I have nearly $400 in gift certificates with Amazon from doing surveys, so that helps limit the out of pocket costs.

In case you wonder why I'm being kind of vague on details, I want everything to be a surprise and you never know who might be reading your blog, so no specifics.

All of these little costs will keep adding up to a not-so-little total by the time we're done, but we're doing our best to find the cheapest way of doing things.


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