Clearing out

I think I’ve mentioned Daily Om before, a website that offers life affirming essays and online courses. I’m currently taking a course on clearing. On any other website, it would be called decluttering, but it’s not just getting rid of stuff. It’s the why we hang on to things and how it feels to have them or let go of them. Not quite Marie Kondo, either, this. But rather a supplement to firm tossing and saying thank you to stuff. The course starts with exploring one’s attitude to things and to clearing them.

It’s slow going, which I like. I really do not understand “housework”. I’m not good with routines. I’ve followed other flaky people and their systems and have learned something from each of them. Still, I hunt for The One Method that will get me decluttering and cleaning and all that.

So why is this different? Maybe because it starts from the inside and you make the outside happen according to that. For example, one lesson was about movement. About how we get stuck in an attitude or a belief. We need to get ourselves unstuck. So act that out by moving something in your home: Find something that’s out of place and put it in place, or find something that is trash and toss it out.

That idea I could embrace: That the little household chore was about getting me moving, not about establishing some routine in the home. And that right there is the “hook” I need, the attitudinal approach that helps it make sense to me.

All the emptied and washed spice jars, ready for the recycling bin. This is the only “spice rack” I have ever had - or will need.

All the emptied and washed spice jars, ready for the recycling bin. This is the only “spice rack” I have ever had - or will need.

And from that desire, from wanting to get unstuck, from wanting more energy, I then get a routine: Every day I do that little thing in my home for me.

The course has motivated me to declutter all my spices today. That’s another thing: Understanding who I truly am, and what I’m actually likely to do. I will never do all the cooking all those spices suggest. Most of them were covered with a thin layer of gray concrete dust, so they haven’t been touched in the over 2.5 years since my bathroom was remodeled (!). So out the vast majority went. I even got a rhythm going emptying the little jars for recycling and felt really good about my little task. I was honoring my true nature: Salt and pepper go a long way with how I cook. And I finished, too!

I think that’s what has been missing: Feeling personal about the task at hand. Weird that I treat routines in my home like a service I do for a stranger. But housekeeping truly isn’t something I “get”. I do it because I understand intellectually that that’s what one does. (I admit, I do this quite irregularly.) I don’t understand it intuitively. It’s not second nature to me at all.

The things I do that “feed” me, that give me meaning on a personal or emotional level, those things I tend to do regularly. The penny dropped when I finally timed how long it takes to do dishes and realized it wasn’t that much of a chore. Now it’s something I do with pleasure. Also: The first place I can see in my home that my mental health is starting to stumble is my kitchen counter: the longer the dirty dishes don’t get done, the more “down” I’ve been. I’m back to my happy self again when I want to go into the kitchen and wash the dishes. Sometimes I’ll wash them anyway, because I know the cleared counters will make me feel better.

See, it’s an emotional thing, not a “let’s keep the house clean” thing.

And maybe, also, this is why apps don’t work for me. Lists somebody else comes up with overwhelm me because I don’t know how to use them for my own stuff. I don’t know where to start. Oh, yes, on an intellectual basis I know. I’ve read enough emails from FlyLady to have a pretty good grasp of what a daily routine should look like. But it’s not my routine. I can’t feel it. (FlyLady did help me finally do the dishes regularly, though.)

Happy accomplishment, Saturday’s decluttered travel stuff. How many of those little toothbrush caps does one person need?

Happy accomplishment, Saturday’s decluttered travel stuff. How many of those little toothbrush caps does one person need?

What works? Oddly, it’s writing a daily list by hand. Same thing with the grocery shopping. I can’t get comfortable with apps. I write my lists from scratch in Google Keep and when I’m done, “delete all checked items” and start over again next time. I think maybe this is how I focus and organize my thoughts.

Sometime last year I started writing daily to-do’s in a notebook I leave open on my kitchen table. It became a part of my healing journey through this past fall and winter. I saw the so-called “dot journals” or “bullet journals” and instantly felt overwhelmed by all the effort people put into those things. But I liked the idea of a dot in front of task and if you do it, write an X through the dot, else put a > there if you’re carrying the task over to the next day. I used to actually write little boxes to check, but the dot method is quicker and clearer. I also like that if I end up getting around to a task after all, the > easily becomes an X.

So finally, at age 58, I’m starting to understand myself, how I actually approach things, how I get meaning out of something.

Thank you for reading all this! Here’s your reward: Edvard Grieg in the Bergen city park.

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/ / marks the spot

I have seen the plans for the light rail station coming to my bit of the 'burbs. I know that the footbridge I have crossed to and from work since 1986 will become history and I'll get a new bridge about 50 meters to the west. 

"My" footbridge as seen on the way home

"My" footbridge as seen on the way home

It may happen sooner rather than later. At some point, the slope this bridge connects me to, where the trees are, is going to be dug into and reshaped. A new path to a new bridge will appear, forever changing my walk to work.

It may happen sooner than I realize. Barely two weeks ago, I noticed neon streaks on the pavement. I'd seen them before and knew the construction crew had left them. Today I saw why:

Aha! A hole!

Aha! A hole!

They're still moving pipes and stuff around underground.

But I see more paint streaks. I wonder how much longer I'll get to enjoy the sight of this tree:

More digging to come!

More digging to come!

I-haul

When I see the word "haul" the American in me automatically puts a "U" in front of it. I haul, however, without a truck or trailer. I own no car, so life is about getting stuff home without one. Or getting stuff back out.

Hauling becomes a project as well as a test of wits and endurance. I am actually proud of myself for being able to haul a 27" iMac home on the bus, the wide, flat box with a brand-new and expensive machine securely strapped to a small, collapsible baggage trolley. The cashier at the Mac store couldn't get over how clever I was with four bungee cords and two wheels. I was rather happy I was impressing a young, handsome man.

The awesome plaid of my shopping cart

The awesome plaid of my shopping cart

I have a similar set-up for groceries: A proper granny-bag of a wheeled shopping cart, conservative blue tartan and all. It holds two large grocery bags of shopping, and makes hauling canned and bottled stuff so much easier on the arms. I supplement with a rucksack, and there's the weekly shopping taken care of. I call my wheeled wonder my car.

So that's how stuff makes it into my home. But then there's getting stuff back out. And that takes on the feel of a project.

For example, there are bins for receiving clothing around where I live, set out by the Salvation Army and one other charity, but they are just far enough away that my bags of clothing to donate need to be on wheels—especially if said bins are full or out of order.

And there is the old stereo that has been sitting in a closet because the display doesn't work and who plays cassettes or even CD's nowadays? Norwegian appliance stores will take your stuff for free, as per the law, and there is a recycling fee baked into the price we pay for our electronic stuff.

The speakers are big, the stereo itself is heavy and did I mention I have no car and it rains a lot where I live? So it's a project: Dig the stereo back out of the closet I so carefully (and I could have sworn, temporarily) stuffed it in, wrap it in big, black plastic bags, get it strapped with colorful bungees to the trolley and then go to my local appliance store's back door where the recycling bins are.

I know what to do. I just don't feel like hauling ass to do it.

The Daily Prompt: Haul

Heralds

Gulls herald spring for me. They head for open sea during winter, and when the snow disappears from the land in April, they come back and start screeching at each other at 4 am in the morning. I'm one of the few people who can sleep through that racket, so I welcome the noise.  Gulls, in spite of their seemingly huge numbers, have become a protected species in Norway. They've lost their habitat by the ocean, and come into cities to build nests on our office buildings which often have gray gravel on the flat roofs and provide perfect camouflage for baby birds. The roofs of my apartment buildings are black asphalt but the gulls build their bowls of sticks there, too.

Since April, I've seen a gull perched on the corner of the neighboring building every morning, as I go to shut my bedroom window (yes, I have the Norwegian habit of sleeping with an open window). Often the gull starts calling in a voice meant to carry across the Atlantic. I have been aware of gulls on the roof all spring and summer. Until today.

This morning, the bird with a 360 degree of my co-op was a crow. Crows are as big as common gulls but this one seemed even bigger. And with its dark coloring it was a startling contrast to the morning view I've had until now.

I knew it wouldn't be sitting there if the gulls still had flightless young on the roof. The lack of any calling from any gull confirmed that there was nothing to protect from crows (or magpies) any more.

A city girl takes her nature where she finds it, fascinated by and grateful for the life that insists on existing in an urban setting, and delighting in still discovering subtle changes as the days move on.

The hectic growth season of summer is over, heralded by a hooded crow.

Oh, hi!

I just have to leave this somewhere, so here it is: I was dreaming something last night (what, I never remember). The dream/something woke me up. I opened my eyes in the dark and a woman was standing next to my bed, looking at my nightstand (or the lamp on it?). She was 40-ish, slender, had dark hair and brown eyes, and the same sort of face as actress Melissa Gilbert. I have no idea who she is or why I saw her. What really got me was that my reaction was to say, "Oh, hi!" In Norwegian. And she looked at me, startled, and disappeared. And no, this has never happened to me before and now I'm wondering if somebody was astral projecting and happened to end up in my bedroom.

Egg cups are un-American

My own egg cups

My own egg cups

The thing about growing up with a Norwegian grandfather is that you assume everybody has a cheese slicer and egg cups. Turns out that one of the things American immigrants left behind in Europe were egg cups. I was reading an article on Lifehacker about how Americans eat soft-boiled eggs, seeing as how there is no such thing as an egg cup in the US. It was only then that I realized why a British friend who lives in Hawaii asked if I could get egg cups for him.

In every hotel I've been in in Europe, they serve soft-boiled eggs for breakfast. That is to say, they serve a hot egg that is still nearly raw, or a hot egg that is nearly hard. I therefore rarely eat soft-boiled eggs in hotels. But they do have egg cups (and teaspoons) for the eggs. And I have egg cups at home. Any complete set of dishes also includes egg cups here in Europe.

Now for some etiquette on eating a soft-boiled egg:

A cup and eggcup from my childhood

A cup and eggcup from my childhood

I learned by watching my Norwegian grandpa who had been a sailor for many years. I was quite proud of myself when I mastered lopping off the pointy end of the egg with a knife creating a "hat", like he did. Salt and eat the egg white in the "hat", then salt the rest of the egg and eat that.

Turns out that's the vulgar way. The in-polite-company way to open a soft-boiled egg is to crack the top of the egg with the back of your teaspoon, and peel the shell of the "hat" portion off. Then salt and eat.

All of this is of course easier to do with an egg cup.

Do add salt. Some people add butter. The taste of butter dominates too much for my liking, but I do like herbal salt on my eggs.

Oh, the perfect way to soft-boil an egg? Who knows. Many years ago I happened to win an egg cooker in a lottery (to my delight, as it turned out) and even that thing needs a bit of tweaking so I get my perfectly boiled egg: Solid white, runny yolk.

September blessings

This is basically a list, a gratitude list. Because in the midst of nearly feeling overwhelmed by everything going on in September, I have discovered something: People helping me.

  • The tradesman doing the tiling, also closed off the door to my bedroom and left the bedroom side looking very nice

  • The same tradesman also washed the lobby floor in my building for me, unasked, to get rid of the concrete dust

  • A couple of good friends lent me a key to their house, and let me come and go when I didn't have a toilet at home

  • The reflexologist I'm now seeing for my frozen shoulder, is giving me appointments outside her regular office hours, I've discovered

  • I'm ahead on my self-study course in insurance so I don't have to worry about keeping up

  • Another friend reminded me that I'm allowed to get all excited about my own creativity and seeing it come to life. I'd forgotten that grown-ups are allowed to jump up and down with joy. (See pic.)

  • And somebody helped my mom get a nice and cheaper place this month when she got a rent hike that was a bit too much.

Tiling in renovated bathroom

Tiling in renovated bathroom

All in all, I'm feeling a lot better, and even loved. Now, here's a picture of my nearly-finished bathroom, with the floor I designed.