Category Archives: organizing

My Money Tree

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Somewhere along the path of 2015, I saw an idea that appealed to me. You create a drawing of a tree with leaves, with each leaf representing an amount of money that you are in debt. Each time you pay off that amount, you color in a leaf.

I bought the canvas a couple of months ago at least, but it sat, neglected, beside my desk day after day. My Simpleology process today helped me get in touch with the short-term goal of creating my visual tree. I put a kaizen step on my daily task list to simply get the canvas and the markers out and in front of me.

As so often happens when I actually start something, I was motivated to keep going with the momentum. I enlisted the Resident Artist, aka my daughter, to create the tree, and then I made all the leaves. This thing might not qualify to be hung in the MOMA, but it works just beautifully in my family room.

If you would like to create your own tree, all you need is a work surface, the data you are working with, and some type of medium for drawing. I used a wrapped canvas 12″x36″, and some Prismacolor markers. Decide what quantity each of your leaves will represent. Draw the basic tree, then add the number of leaves which equals the total you are trying to save or pay off.

If you are saving, as you save one leaf’s worth, color in one leaf. If you are reducing debt, as you pay off one leaf’s worth, color in one leaf. We were able to color in two leaves today. I always knew I was a visual person, but I am pleasantly surprised just how motivating this is to me. Every time I see it, I think of how I might be able to color in more of the leaves.

There are free debt repayment calculators online. I know because we used one to get the facts. Ooh, the facts are not nearly as fun as combining creativity and color and a visual reminder. The facts may not change since they are based on loan amounts and interest rates and certain payment amounts, but I can see the changes on my little tree.

I took a picture of it today and will be taking a picture every month to see the progress. Question of the day: how soon can we get all the leaves on our tree colored in?

This Electronic Life

Have you ever called a company and been frustrated by the phone menu? Ever tried to login and forgotten the answers to your security questions? Ever wondered if we might not be better off having personal relationships with the people we do business with?

Square the phone menu, add in a quadrupled set of websites, all with their own login, password, security questions, and blasted captchas.

And what do you get?

A REALLY LONG TIME on the phone, navigating the very complex phone menu, entering digits and passwords and account numbers, waiting on hold, finally reaching a person, and then confirming all of the same digits and account numbers, and then ending up with answers like: “Your husband will have to call us or write to us to grant permission for us to discuss your account.”

I admit I find this whole thing exasperating. I don’t see it as an opportunity, but maybe it is. An opportunity to write down every last detail there is for every account we have ever had?

The irony here is that my very capable husband has NO interest in talking with the XXXX Insurance Company about this claim or that coverage, and is so very happy that I am able to and interested in handling these details.

As much as I try to simplify things, the sheer vastness of the internet just makes it very challenging to stay on top of the details. I always thought of myself as a detail-oriented person, but the volume of details has increased to the extent that I dread trying to call someone, especially the insurance companies, to solve a problem or get information.

And then there are the places that require authorization EVERY SINGLE TIME from my dear husband. Not that he is working or otherwise busy or anything. Aargh. I love how they ask if he is right here with me so they can get approval from him. Ha.

Do you have any tips for how to simplify things? Because I’m all ears, here.

My Organizophobe’s New Organizational Tool

I’m happy to report that Joel’s new planner is being USED and it is helping him GET THINGS DONE. I can see how helpful it is for him to have one place to write down things that he needs to do. I work with him every day to create and prioritize the list and then he works to complete the list.

I think it probably helps that he chose the planner himself and he really likes it. It’s just a thrill to see this boy completing things that need to be done. Thank you Franklin Covey.

I’m So Organized It’s Scary

Remember this post about having such a hard time ordering the checks?

A little ha-ha postscript. The new checks arrived safe and sound a couple days after I ordered them. As I conscientiously parked them on my desk shelf, I noticed a box of checks there which had some deposit slips in it. I picked up the box, and lo and behold, guess what was tucked right under the deposit slips? RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.

I’ve included this autostereogram for your viewing pleasure, to give you a sense for how close the checks were. Let your eyes go out of focus and you will see some mushrooms springing up from the picture of leaves. No mushrooms, actually. For some reason, the picture disappeared and I had to put in another. Try this one!

If only I had crossed my eyes when I was looking for those checks!

Lost and Found

Missing cell phone status: FOUND. Even though we had looked down in and under the couches, yesterday I stuck my hand down in the cushions and pulled out a cell phone! Kind of like Tom Thumb — Oh, what I good girl am I! (Told you I’m still a good girl!)

Missing library book status: STILL LOST. But I was able to renew it, and I also found out that losing it will only cost us $3.91 so I’m not sooo worried anymore.

Missing Sure Steps: STILL MYSTERIOUSLY LOST. So strange. I still believe I am going to find them because I still have hundreds of nooks and crannies to check.

What all three of these items have in common is that I am going to keep them a little closer to ME and a little farther away from the KIDS as I find them. I know Kepler loves dangling his little Sure Steps, but he can dangle these once he has new ones to wear on his feet. And I think I will just hold onto Joel’s phone for the time being.

Making progress!

The Fine Art of Looking for Missing Things

There are three things missing in my house.

1. Joel’s cell phone.
2. Kepler’s Sure Steps (foot braces he wears in his shoes).
3. A library book checked out by Anna-Jessie and overdue and unable to be renewed.

One of my most pettest peeves is not being able to find something. When something is missing here at home, I have my radar on almost all the time as I move about the house and I look and look and look and look. Now, almost all the time I find it.


1. Joel’s cell phone has been missing for quite some time. He found it one Saturday, had it for an hour, and, sadly, lost it again. I’ve looked and looked but haven’t been able to find it.

2. Kepler’s Sure Steps, for which we were charged $1400 just over a year ago, were on his little feet last Thursday afternoon. Sadly, on Friday when it was time to put them on, they were nowhere to be seen.

3. Library book. Aargh. Not in sight.

The Fine Art of Looking for Missing Things mainly consists of leaving no stone (or shoe, or sock, or piece of furniture, or article of clothing) unturned. It also usually includes moving the furniture because I have found that is the best way to really find out what is underneath.

Over the past several days, I have conducted three archeological digs — one in Eli’s room, one in Joel’s room, and one in the living room. Archeological digs consist of picking up every single thing in the room, throwing away the odd bits (or large bagsful) of trash, putting all the stuff that goes elsewhere, well, elsewhere, moving the furniture of course, and just generally putting things in order. And, a big goal of the digs is to make the floor clear, so that one could vacuum, or maybe walk.

These three rooms have been certified clear of the three missing objects. I do have two more rooms on this floor, but if the missing pieces are not there, then I have to descend (jaws music here) into the basement, that pit of packrattery, that den full of piles of everything.

Wish me luck. I will need a flashlight.

Before and After

Oh, yeah! I remember why I started this blog in the first place! I was organizing and decluttering and wanted to share my accomplishments with all of you. OK, I got a little distracted for a few weeks. But he-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e’s another installment in the incredible tale that is my decluttering and organizing adventure.

So Val was taking a shower about four years ago and was holding onto the handicapped bar so she could better reach the shower head, shrimp that she was. Oops. The wall fell off because water had been getting behind the tile for a long time. Good thing it was a lithe youngster for whom the handicapped bar gave out! Seeing as how the tile color scheme was black and blue, we voted to remodel the entire bathroom rather than replace the tiles. Plus, who knew what havoc that water may have wreaked behind the tile?

As part of the remodeling, we put in a laundry chute. Here’s the business end of it:

And here’s the resulting mess:

Although the lovely laundry chute saved me running down the stairs with baskets full of clothes, and also led to me finding some interesting items among the clothes especially when the kids were younger, I was not happy to have this big pile of mess on the floor. So I put my thinking cap on and came up with this:

And now the floor looks like this:

I got that hanging basket for free from Discovery Toys in my brief insane foray into multi-level marketing. It’s been hanging around my basement for quite awhile and I finally found a great use for it! The hardest part of the project was hammering the %$^%#$%^ nails into the floor joists since there was only 8 inches between them and the hammer wanted more space. But, now that little rectangle stays concrete-y and uncluttered just all the time.


The Family Room of Our House

My dear husband, Toyota T., bought this house without me even seeing it. I think he did a great job. He loved two things about this house: the yard, and the family room. This room has windows on three sides, and is on the west end of the house so it gets some lovely natural light all year long.

When we first moved in, one wall was red brick, presumably the outside wall of the house at some point, the floor was 1950’s green patterned linoleum, there was a screen door between the kitchen and the family room and the counter opening between the two rooms was divided with some fancy plexiglass panels. 9 years later, we have painted, added carpeting, removed the door and plexiglass, and incorporated it into the rest of our house, year-round.

Since we all love this room, we have added more and more stuff to it. Finally, at the breaking point, we had two couches, the tv and components, the tv cart, a dresser, several little drawer units, a toy corner, a bookshelf, a telescope, a tub filing cabinet, both computers, a glider, and, finally, a 6 foot by 4 foot desk for me to use (translate: cover completely with stuff). I had added the desk because I thought my problem was that I didn’t have any drawers at my desk. That’s a good one.

As you can see from the above photo, we had this room jam-packed. I finally realized that the drawers in the desk apparently weren’t doing me any good at all since my desk was constantly covered in stuff, and I mean deep.

When I decided to apply “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful,” I saw that my really big desk was turning out to be neither useful nor beautiful. I began to transport almost everything out of the room. I’ve read that in several books — take everything out of the space before figuring out what you want there.

After removing the majority of the stuff in the room, I ended up with the two couches, the dresser (now holding the tv instead of the tv cart), one table holding two computers and two printers, the tub file, and two drawer units. I also gleaned a table from my mom which fit perfectly in the corner and is now holding several houseplants.

The room is now open, and everyone loves being in here. I think the clutter was really getting to everyone, and even though no one had to use my desk for anything, the heap of stuff was frustrating everyone. I think the thing that finally got me to make a change was that I could never find anything I was looking for. I spent so much time looking for things. It drove me crazy.

The good thing about this room now is that it is REALLY easy to pick up. To get this photo, I had to pick up a wristwatch from the table, and a pair of socks. Otherwise, there’s nothing else in this end of the room and this is where we all sit to watch TV.

The only secret to my success that I can claim is that I have a lot less stuff in this room and it is very easy to see when something is out of place. My family can even easily clean up this room because it is so obvious when something doesn’t belong. I highly recommend it.

Decluttering Update

I know you must be wondering what the next step is in the decluttering road I’ve taken.

It’s called: hit a roadblock.

I haven’t yet told you all my wonderful success of clearing out the family room and part of the basement, and the kitchen. But I’ve had some wonderful success clearing out the family room, part of the basement, and kitchen.

That was on spring break. Since then, I have realized that my newfound love of decluttering is having to be subsumed to the minutiae of the day.

Today I will spruce up the decluttered family room, give a nod to the part of the basement that has been cleared out, and tell myself that I am STILL decluttering even if I haven’t taken a carload of stuff to Goodwill lately.

And, I j-walked this morning, so I’m good for exercise today. (J-walking is interval training consisting of 200 steps walking, then 200 steps jogging. I love it. It’s not pronounced jaywalking. But jwalking.)

I have been worrying about whether or not to go lo-carb again. I realized this morning that a high protein diet PROBABLY isn’t any worse for me than a high junk food diet might be, so I’m back on high protein.

Update on The Fragrant Car

I’ve been in the car twice today. The first time I didn’t notice any smell at all. The second time I put my nose on alert when I got in the car and I smelled the faint fragrance of the dryer sheet. So, either the whole dryer sheet as deodorizer thing lasts 3 days per sheet, or it calms down after one day and leaves a nice subtle fragrance for awhile. I vote it’s the second one.