Sunday, April 29, 2012

Why can't I let go?

Decluttering success today... and a roadblock.  Blogging to the rescue?  I am hoping that writing about my struggles will help clear my own blocks--but may be helpful to someone else as well.

I emptied a milk crate from the garage today.  Big piles of paper cascaded straight into the recycle bin.  Yay!  This crate had been waiting for my attention since last summer's declutter efforts, but I knew there weren't garage-sale-items inside, so I put it off.  But I saw it every time I was in the garage.

Sunny day in April.  If not now, then when?  I sorted papers in the sunshine.
An empty bin is a happy bin!
Now for the tough part:  Not every paper in that crate made it into the recycle bin.  I saved a chunk...
Leftovers: 3 notebooks and 3 folders of school papers
The papers in the crate were schoolwork from my first master's program: 1999 thru 2002.  It was easy to part with notes from every math class--what would I do with those?  But I saved all the course info--handouts, my notes, homework/papers, readings--from 2 particular educational classes: media literacy and children, and foundations of education.  I had reasons for saving these papers.  When I said the reasons out loud, however, it sounded like the sentimental reasons people give for hanging on to useless stuff. 

It's true: I was sentimental about these classes.  The Media Literacy class lit a fire under me; I did so much out-of-class reading, extra not-assigned work.  I was entranced by the topic.  I wanted to study everything I could about it.  I wanted to *teach* media literacy.  I wanted to write a curriculum that would mesh mathematics and the media.  I still have a desire to write curriculum one day--maybe I should hold onto these materials, right?  There must be something valuable in there.

I gotta show some love to the Foundations of Ed class also.  This is a required undergrad class in the college of ed; I was a TA (teaching assistant) for that class, mentoring a small group through the material, which was new to me also.  I kept about half a step ahead of the students, attending lectures and doing the required readings right along with them.  I'm not sure I was the best TA for that class.  But I kept all the materials for one simple reason: the professor, Dr. Mark Shinn, did such a fantastic job of organizing the course around major themes and connecting every piece of information, every discussion, every little thing, back to those themes.  I want to be a teacher like that.  [Will I be that kind of teacher by saving all those papers?]

Sweetie put some pressure on me to just chuck it all.  I pushed back: I just wasn't ready to say farewell to the papers.  Even when reminded that the few kernels of wisdom I wanted to hold onto were buried within hundreds of sheets of paper.  Not ready to give up on the promise of those papers.

So I stashed them in the back bedroom.  I will visit them next when I finish my master's thesis presentation (and purge all the research papers associated with that project).  And I'm pretty sure, after some time has passed, I'll be ready to toss it all.  Why couldn't I let go today?

Thanks for reading.  I needed to clear my head a little.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Buck-a-block April pattern

Month 8!  Can hardly believe that a new block each month gets completed, and I have quite a bit to show for it at this point in the year.

As expected, this month's pattern is from The Farmer's Wife.  It is called "Cups and Saucers".  The ladies at the quilt shop demonstrated several variations: I will be playing with layout along the way.  But today's mission is to audition fabrics...
I decided on a blue colorway, so of course I am using the Moda cloud print as my background.  The navy fabric (bottom left corner) was provided in our kits: it will form the center and corner accents.  I want to use the turquoise star print for the inner triangles.  I think it will create a strong star shape.

The four fabrics at the top of the picture are auditioning for the triangles shown in green on the pattern.  I have a tendency to make my blocks too "busy", so I am scratching my head about which fabric plays best with the others here.
A quick mock-up of the block, with each of the four try-out fabrics in a different location.  Still don't know which one will win the beauty contest.  Stay tuned.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Being Good. at Goodwill

After a reasonably productive week of writing, I treated myself to a trip to Goodwill.  I was looking for 2 things: a pair of light-colored flats to wear with summer-y skirts (thank you, sun!  Last weekend was *amazing*), and some cargo capri pants to wear on an upcoming trip.  (Okay, so the trip isn't upcoming until July, but I started looking at the cute travelers in the brochure, and they were all wearing cargo pants/shorts/capris.  I have to be a prepared traveler.)

Bought 3 pairs of shoes, and 2 cargo capris.
In with the new (new-to-me!)

As I was shopping for these items, I was mentally figuring out what I could "trade" them for in my current wardrobe.  I don't know about you, but my closet and dresser are full.  I can't afford to acquire without getting rid of something at the same time.

Out with the old: two skirts that I don't ever wear, a pair of heels that hurt my feet, my beloved comic-strip-covered Converse that are more-than-a-little split along the sides, and comfortable clogs that are too ugly to leave the house in.  Yay: an even trade!

As I was trying on clothing, however, I ran into a recurring Goodwill theme of mine: I can fix that!  I can restyle that!  Wouldn't this look cute if only... this sleeve were changed!  So often I buy clothing that becomes "project" as it awaits my restyling efforts.  Indeed, both pairs of capris that I bought are now sitting in my mending pile: the khaki pair needs a new drawstring, and the black ones need hemming (I am very particular about my capri pants length--almost always have to hem them.)  But I don't consider those sewing tasks to be "project", just mending.

On the other hand, after being around so much clothing, I decided to take a quick look in the "project" area to see if there are any Goodwill-clothing-restyle items hanging around that I am no longer in love with.  Fresh in my mind was the powerful knowledge that cute, wearable clothing exists on the racks right now at Goodwill--I don't need to chain myself to outdated ideas that I had when I impulsively bought "I can fix that!"

Gone!  Adorable kid-print vest that really didn't fit me at all.  (I'm sure there are more adorable prints in the world; and if I ever get back into wearing vests, I can find one that actually fits.)  Rayon tribal-print pants that I wanted to make into capris, but that had huge fit issues.  This one counts as a discarded project because I had disassembled and cut and pinned already: GONE.  And some gauzy rayon-y striped something that had been totally disassembled, and which I have no desire to sew into something new.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Musing on "28 Items"

A blog post (28 Items) by Judy at Patchwork Times got me thinking about:
  • making progress on decluttering
  • cleaning out more projects/UFOs
  • what's on my bucket list?

Basically, Judy made a shorter-term bucket list--28 things to do, each about the number 28 (example from her list: read 28 fiction books)--with a deadline of the November 2016 presidential election (which just happens to be 4-years-plus-28-weeks away from this week).
My bedside reading - about half fiction

I am feeling like I haven't really "done" anything lately (yes, I've noticed that the blog posts have slowed down considerably).  Of course, this is because I've been fretting and writing heavily on my thesis.  But as I wind down the writing (or at least feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel), I am getting itchy to "make progress"...

So I've been marinating the ideas for a few days.  Blame it on the salad dressing incident.  Or the fact that I wore a beloved skirt to work that is showing some wear-and-tear.  It's time for decluttering to come back into focus!

I won't make a spreadsheet of far-off goals, because that won't really help me.  Just need to remember the New Year's resolution: have less stuff.  My decluttering in the past year worked best in two situations--when the landlord gave us 30 days' notice and we had to move; and when the garage sale was scheduled for two months away.  Hmm, what do these have in common?  A deadline.  And a willingness to part with things--lots of things, enough to make a difference in the amount of stuff.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Declutter pantry (mini-version)

It all started with the salad dressing.  Seven open bottles of salad dressing in the fridge- many with less than an inch of dressing left in them.  Should we just make a concerted effort to use some of them up?

And what other dressings do we have?  In the pantry...  Oh dear.

A quick 10 minutes later, and we have a full paper sack of groceries to donate to the local food pantry.  Dressings that no one living in the house would eat.  Foods with wheat in them (someone is wheat-free, and others won't cook them).  Envelopes of seasoning for red meat that we don't eat.  How our food habits have changed over time!

I thought this would be a major undertaking, but it was over almost as soon as it started.  The whole pantry didn't get a once-over, just a couple shelves.  And how much better it looks!

So much nicer to do a bit at a time.  Leaves room for the other chores that were scheduled for today.

And we were inspired to have an eat-up-the-leftovers lunch.  Yummy!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sewing goal? Sewing restriction.

I said on Friday that my sewing goal for the weekend was to cut out fabric for an Indygo Junction dress pattern.  Sweetie looked at my To Do list and said, "Goal?"

Well, given how much other stuff I had to accomplish, it was my sewing goal to complete *only* the cutting out portion of that project.  Not to get side-tracked with other projects, or sewing room tidying, or just a bit of pinning.  No: restrict my sewing activities to this cutting and nothing else.
Well, maybe I did indulge in just a bit of day-dreaming: what else might I make with that piece of leftover fabric?  The scraps are put away.  The cut-out fabric is awaiting another day when I have more time.  Yay for prioritizing my school work.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


In between writing bouts, I have been sewing in 30-minute increments.  Which means I know how long it took me to double-fold-over and sew a hem on four napkins.  Let's just say that they give the six-hour curtains a run for their money, time-wise.

These are napkins I cut out when I was sewing the unplanned dresser scarf back in February.  (Detour on the day of that detour: in searching through my fabric stash, I found a homespun that would work with the color scheme of our dishes.  And used it all up cutting out four 16" napkins.)  Yes, this was starting a new project; but also using up some of my stash.  So it all balanced out.

Done!  I was not working on deadline, so I don't really mind how long they took.  As my adviser said when I had to switch my teaching master's degree program from an 18-month to a 3-year proposition, "No one will know in five years how long it took you to finish.  They will just see that you are done now."

I'm still looking forward to completing a project that I started *before* this year.  But for now, back to writing...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Buck-a-block March complete

Not much happening in the sewing room recently.  I am committed to finishing my master's thesis THIS MONTH, and only carving out the smallest times for a stitch or two.

So, it seems like an accomplishment to finish a block!
Unfortunate choice of background to photograph it on--doesn't calm things down at all.  As I knew it would, the red stripe overwhelms the rest of the block.  But that was the fabric provided in the kit (I substituted for all the remaining fabrics.)  I do like how the black triangles show up nicely.  And I feel like cutting the stripe on the bias in some places so that it runs the same direction throughout does help to keep the block calmer than it would have been otherwise.

But then again, it seems silly to give such a lengthy critique to a single block.  After all, each block will find its place within a quilt eventually, and they will all harmonize together.

Seven months down.  And back to writing.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Project report for March

Having spent the past week on Spring Break, I figured I would finish at least two projects.  But no, just one got done.  I have been plugging away at various WIPs, but things I was working on most of the month were longer-term projects.

So done!  I took a purple jumper that I bought for my birthday and hemmed it to the length that looks best on me (just below the knee--I've heard it looks best on most women, actually).  Then discovered that the newly-shortened version was too boxy and didn't have enough of a waistline.  So I monkeyed around with side seams, front and back darts, making it too tight and then loosening it again.  Too much time on a simple project, but it's something I will wear in the next week.
Cute teacher-dress/jumper

Monthly project count...
Completed projects this Month:  1
Completed projects Year to Date:  4
New projects this Month:  none
New projects Year to Date: 6
Discarded/donated projects (farewell!): 1
Net Project Count for 2012: 1