Saturday, April 21, 2007

laundry

I've been watching with interest as many businesses have been jumping on the "green" bandwagon. Just today I was grocery shopping at Loblaws and noticed a large display of their new President's Choice Green products, including eco-friendly cleansers for laundry and bathrooms.

I bought a bottle of their President's Choice Green Coldwater Laundry Detergent. I've been using eco-friendly laundry cleansers for years, and I'm happy with my current methods, but it's always nice to try something new and be able to give people feedback about the products that are on the market.

Many people don't realize how manufacturers have manipulated our opinions about cleaning dirty laundry. We've become convinced that our clothing is full of dirt and germs, and nothing short of the most powerful cleansers, bleaches, and fabric softeners will give us the brightest, whitest and fluffiest results.

The truth is, we don't really need their products. In many cases they actually make our clothes dirtier, or wear out our fabrics faster. Most people, for example, add too much detergent to each load of laundry. It can't be properly rinsed away by the end of the cycle, and when you add liquid fabric softener to your wash, or throw fabric softener sheets in the dryer, you create a waxy build-up on the fabric that attracts even more dirt.

Try a simple experiment. Take some clothes straight from your dryer and stick them back in the washing machine with a tablespoon of TSP (trisodium phosphate), which you can find at most hardware or paint stores. Run the load again without adding any detergent or bleach, and have a look at the water after the machine has begun to agitate. The water will be a dirty, scummy mess. And those were your "clean" clothes!

The biggest problem with most laundry detergents is that they are made from petrochemicals, which use non-renewable resources in their manufacture, and pollute our waterways when they are sent down the drain after each load of laundry. They are mildly caustic, and are a frequent cause of household poisonings. The residues they leave on our clothing can cause skin and respiratory irritations in people with chemical sensitivities to the dyes, fragrances, or surfactants they contain. Many detergents also contain chemicals that are suspected carcinogens.

There are plenty of sustainable, non-toxic alternatives to conventional laundry detergents. A quick look through the organics section of most grocery stores will reveal a range of choices, including Nature Clean and Seventh Generation products. I've been using Nature Clean's All-Purpose Cleaning Lotion for years. I love it because it's multi-purpose - it does everything from dishwashing to general household cleaning to laundry. When washing my clothes, I add about a tablespoon of the cleaning liquid to a full load of laundry, and add vinegar to the rinse water to soften the clothes, which I then hang to dry.

When washing linens (i.e my sheets and towels, which are white or natural 100% cotton), I use a combination of washing soda and TSP, and again add vinegar to the rinse. I would use washing soda for all my laundry, except it can occasionally leave a powdery residue on dark fabric - especially if it's washed in cold water. When buying washing soda, avoid Arm & Hammer if you are sensitive to fragrances, since they scent their product.

copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

change

How many of us deal well with change? I like to think I do, but the honest truth is, you often have to carry me into change kicking and screaming.

I've made some huge changes in my life in the past year: I started a romantic relationship, changed singing teachers, applied for and was accepted into an Alexander Technique teacher-training program, closed my eco-friendly cleaning business, moved to a new city, started school, started a professional organizing business, and returned to a freelance writing business I'd set aside years ago.

Change? Piece of cake. Life was full, rich, exciting and interesting. I took everything well in stride. Or so I thought.

Then I broke up with my boyfriend.

Now I find myself coming home to an empty apartment. I check my voicemail. I hear Jim Carrey's voice in my head, reciting his character's line from The Cable Guy: "Nobody loves me."

I cry.

How did I go from being loved and cherished (and telephoned at least once a day by my beloved) to being alone? I want a do-over.

Strangely enough, I received a pertinent e-newsletter from Yoga Journal in my inbox today. It began:

How is it that when life is spun around by circumstances, benign or otherwise, some people flail while others sail? Why do some of us wallow in that place where we're so shocked and unhappy about an unexpected turn of events that we resist reality and find ourselves mired in bitterness or fear or hopelessness? Instead of accepting change with grace, we dig in our heels and suffer through each day of things not being what we think they should be. What's the secret to riding each new wave gracefully?

I was ashamed to recognize myself in the above paragraph. (The "mired in bitterness, fear, or hopelessness" part, if you must know.) Turns out that yoga mindfulness practices can help with the emotional fallout of change. Two quotes jumped out at me:

Accept Impermanence. Every day, repeat a gatha (mindfulness verse): "Great is the matter of birth and death; impermanence surrounds us. Be awake each moment; do not waste your life."

You can separate your feelings from your response to them. By distinguishing your core emotions from those that pile on afterward, you don't limit your emotional life; on the contrary, you unclutter it. As Boccio says, it's the clutter that leads you away from your true experience and into murkier territory.

I (who make a living from reducing clutter) had never thought about uncluttering my emotional life. What a concept.

You can read the entire article yourself, here. See if you don't start to look at change in a new way...

copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

Monday, April 16, 2007

the need for order

I've been living in chaos for the last few weeks, as I try to purge some of my possessions from my bachelor apartment. I love a clean, spare look in interior design - but I have a lot of stuff! Sometimes it's hard to reconcile the two.

One thing I know for sure: I feel better when things are neat, tidy, and organized. My living space is multi-purposed - it has to serve as bedroom, living room, dining room, home office, and artist's studio. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I need to have accessible on a daily basis.

It's easy to get bogged-down by a large number of material possessions. And when they are scattered around our spaces without any clear "home," they can drain our emotional energy as we find ourselves constantly searching for things, or moving things from pile to pile, or avoiding piles we're afraid to touch for fear they might tumble over.

My organizing solution has been to create a wall-o'-shelves that holds most of the things I regularly need. I married two of my favorite design themes - industrial chic and European rustic - by acquiring sturdy wooden utility shelving, and arranging an eclectic assortment of natural baskets and vintage wooden soft drink crates on the shelves. You'll also find a boom box and my computer equipment tucked in there, as well.

The floor-to-ceiling shelves maximize the storage space, allowing the centre of the room to be left clear and open. In fact, almost every inch of wall space in my entire apartment is utilized for storage, whether it's bookshelves, grey storage lockers, or the abovementioned utility shelving.

When everything is put away, there is nothing on my dining table/work table, and nothing on my desk except my laptop computer. I have almost no knick-knacks (I hate dusting). Only baskets, baskets, and more baskets...

copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

Saturday, April 14, 2007

plastic shopping bags

I decided to sort and dispose of all those plastic shopping bags I mentioned in my previous post. It was an eye-opening task; I consider myself pretty eco-conscious, but I couldn't reconcile my green efforts with the number of bags I found in my closet.

I started sorting them by size: grocery-bag-sized (and larger), or smaller bags (the kind you get at the video store or the drugstore - which is where I got mine).

About half-way through the sorting I realized I have WAY more bags than I imagined. I counted them: 121 large bags, and 42 small ones. It's only taken me seven-and-a-half months to acquire them - and I'm pretty frugal. I don't shop much. Plus I make good use of cloth bags and plastic bins whenever I shop for groceries. (Or so I thought - turns out most of the large bags are, indeed, grocery bags.)

I can't believe I have so many. Me - the eco-warrior!

I plan not to accept any more. I have plenty of cloth bags I can use when I shop. But what am I supposed to do with the ones I've already got?

There are the obvious uses:
  • re-use them in stores
  • use them as garbage bags
  • give them to a friend with a dog or a cat (for scooping poop)
  • donate them to a thrift store or a church rummage sale (which is where I think mine are going)

I figured there must be more creative uses for them, so I did an online search. About.com has a "frugal-living" guide, and one article discusses plastic shopping bags. Reader's Digest has its own list, as does Real Simple. Or you can try your own internet search, using the keywords "uses for plastic shopping bags."

Some of my favorite ideas:

  • use them to wrap brushes or rollers if you have to stop in the middle of a painting job - they will keep the paint from drying out for up to two days
  • use them as packing material instead of Styrofoam peanuts
  • use them to hold wet things (like compact umbrellas in your purse, or towels from your gym workout)
  • use them to hold dirty laundry when you're on a trip

Some grocery stores also accept the plastic bags for recycling - so if they're full of holes and not good for anything else, don't throw them in the garbage!

copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

the midst of chaos

How is organizing like childbirth? You might find yourself at the most difficult part, wishing you could change your mind about the whole darn thing.

How is organizing NOT like childbirth? With childbirth, there really is no turning back.

One more way organizing's like childbirth: the worst part won't last forever.

All of this is hard to remember when you're smack dab in the middle of a purge. As I am right now. I'm paralyzed by all the things that need to be done and the choices that need to be made. So you see, even professional organizers aren't immune. We feel the labour pains, too.

My biggest challenge at the moment: I'm trying to do too many things at once. My goal today was to clean out my "closet of shame," also known as the eighty-cubic-foot BLACK HOLE. Open the door at your own risk - heavy objects are guaranteed to fall on your head (while empty plastic grocery bags spread like confetti at your feet).

But I couldn't tackle the closet first. I had to work up to it. So I washed the breakfast dishes... and wrote a blog entry... and had a snack... and washed my snack dishes... and fed my compost worms... and discovered my compost worms were too wet... and shredded new paper bedding for my compost worms... and decided to add the shrivelled-up tulips a friend gave me a month ago to the worm bedding... and dug up the tulip bulbs, and bagged and labelled them to give to my ex when he shows up later today to pick up something else... and wiped off the table where I'd made a mess of the tulips...

I finally opened the door of my closet and took everything out. I wanted to sweep the closet floor, since I had kept some lavender sprigs in there, and they'd dropped lavender buds everywhere like mouse spoor.

So I went to get the Swiffer... and realized I'd piled all my junk too close to the door of the closet... so I moved everything further from the closet... and swept out the closet... and got distracted by the mops I kept in the closet, which I never use... and I called up my friend who just moved into a new apartment, to see if she wanted a mop... and I realized I'd never heard back from my ex about whether or not he was actually coming today, so I had to call him too... and then I freaked out because my apartment is a mess, and I don't want him to see it like this... and then I remembered all the other things I need to give him when he comes, so I raced about, collecting them...

Then I decided I was hungry (even though it's not really lunchtime, and I've already eaten breakfast AND a snack this morning). I sat down in front of the computer to eat my lunch, and that's how I ended up writing my second blog entry of the morning.

Organzing tip: Try not to get sidetracked.

Reality check: If you get sidetracked, learn how to shepherd yourself back to the primary task.

Epidural, anyone?

copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

kitchen utensils

Take me to Williams-Sonoma or the IKEA kitchen section, and I'm like a kid in a candy store. The Pampered Chef? Don't even go there. I drool over kitchen utensils the way seven-year-olds drool over penny candy. I'll take one of these gadgets here, and a couple of those tools over there...
But eventually the voice of reason must step in - I mean, how many wooden spoons does one woman actually need? (Especially when I don't even use wooden spoons?)

Have you ever wondered how FEW cooking utensils can you get away with using? It's a great question to ask if you want to do a purge.

Take a look at what you actually use on a daily basis. I'm betting you have one or two favorite knives, a favorite spatula, a favorite cooking spoon, and a favorite scraper. What if you got rid of everything else?

I know, I know - that melon baller might come in handy if you're ever making a fruit salad for guests. But how often do you actually make fruit salad for guests?

I'm not suggesting that you get rid of the things you really use. Just give careful thought to the objects that are taking up precious space in your kitchen.

My personal weakness is rummage sales - I love vintage utensils with their charming patina, and it takes all my self-control to resist buying every wooden rolling pin in sight. (I don't even bake.)

I've created a few ground rules for myself. I try to buy nothing that isn't stainless steel or wood. (That means no plastic, no silicone, no aluminum.)

I've weeded my utensils down to the few I really use, and remind myself every time I'm in a kitchen store that NOBODY NEEDS ANYTHING. (Well, okay - maybe it's just me that doesn't need anything.)

I'm a vegetarian foodie who avoids Teflon pans. Here are my basics:
  • one chef's knife
  • one bread knife
  • one paring knife
  • one pair of utility scissors
  • utility snips

In my utensils drawer I keep:

  • a vegetable peeler
  • a combination can-opener/bottle opener
  • a jar opener (it releases the vacuum and makes opening new jars easier)
  • a garlic press
  • small tongs
  • measuring spoons
  • two stainless steel bag clips
  • pliers (great for breaking up cinnamon bark or cracking nuts)
  • a fine wood rasp (amazing for mincing fresh ginger or grating parmesan)
  • a large, flat grater
  • a small ladle
  • a wooden citrus ream
  • a honey "spoon"
  • a pastry brush
  • a tiny funnel
  • a cheese slicer
  • a pizza slicer
  • tea balls and strainers (I'm an herbal tea fanatic)
  • a ball of string
  • a vintage candy thermometer (it's just so cool)
  • a rolling pin (can't get rid of it yet)

In a large clay flower pot I keep my long utensils handy:

  • two wooden stirrers with flat edges for stirring pots (I use them more than anything else in my kitchen)
  • two stainless spoons with flat edges, one with holes for drainage
  • a larger, flat ladle with holes for drainage
  • two other ladles in different sizes
  • a wire whisk
  • two sizes of tongs
  • a vintage potato masher with a wooden handle
  • a spatula
  • an ice cream scoop
  • a vintage crank-style egg beater

That's it. It sounds like a lot, but only takes up one narrow drawer and eight square inches of counter space. How low can you go?

copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

Friday, April 13, 2007

the "i don' wanna" demons

Even the most conscientious of us fall into the procrastination trap from time to time. I feel your pain. I need to finish a purge of my apartment soon, so I can donate everything to my church rummage sale (Church of St Timothy, Anglican) by next weekend. I'm in the middle a heart-breaking split from my boyfriend. I'm cranky. I can't focus. I don't want to do anything that challenges my brain.

I've had many clients with similar emotional or mental resources - running the gamut from ailing seniors to disorganized chronic-fatigue sufferers. How do you deal with the "I don' wanna" demons? Try the following suggestions:
  1. Get help. When all else fails, if you really can't muster the energy or inspiration to do it on your own, ask a friend for help, or hire a professional.
  2. Know your peak energy periods during the day, and make good use of those times.
  3. Start small. Set the timer for half an hour, and stop when it goes off. Do this often enough, and you will reinforce the idea that sorting and purging isn't that difficult after all.
  4. Start with the easy stuff. It may sound like a cop-out, but if it gets you moving...
  5. Take a break when you get tired. Get away from the mess. Get out of the house. Go for a walk. You'll return with a fresh eye and renewed energy.
  6. Reward yourself for a job well done. We're more likely to continue behaviors that are positively reinforced.

copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

Thursday, April 12, 2007

sorting other people's stuff

At various times in our lives we may find ourselves sorting through other people's things. You help a friend move - or you clear out a relative's house after a death. When I had my eco-friendly cleaning business, I felt it was a sacred trust to be invited into people's most intimate spaces. And in my organizing work I am continually reminded of how careful I must be not to abuse anyone's faith in me.

But I still find myself fascinated by the things that people hold onto. Last night I was sorting through some papers that a friend gave me to dispose of. They were mostly photocopies of vocal music that another friend had studied over the years; she had given them to him thinking they might be of value to his teaching studio, but he prefers to work from legitimate original scores. Besides, he didn't want to take the time to sort through four thick binders full of paper.

So I did the work for him, patiently flipping through the songs to see if there was anything worth keeping. In the end, most of it went in the recycling bin. (Photocopying sheet music without the publisher's permission is illegal, after all.)

I find it very humbling to go through other people's things. I've studied singing myself, so I was familiar with much of the classical repertoire I looked at last night. It felt so personal, seeing this woman's handwriting on the pages. Musicians often mark up their scores, but I think singers do the most: breath marks, phrasing marks, translations of foreign words, reminders of how to pronounce certain vowels - and my favorite, the forests of exclamation marks and emphatic arrows pointing all over the place.

Looking through this woman's scores I could "read" her bad habits and her weaknesses. I could hear the comments her teachers made to her. I could feel her struggles with each song. Those photocopies were a record of her vocal development, and it seemed a sacrilege to throw them away.

When my brother died ten years ago, I helped my mother go through some of his things. Realistically, you can't keep it all. But it was my brother's running logs that touched me the most. In his engineer's tiny, precise handwriting he had recorded week after week of daily runs - weather, mileage, pace, heart rate. Running meant a lot to him, and it was an interest I shared when I served as his support team for his first (and only) marathon.

I didn't want to let those books go - even though I never looked through them, and kept them packed away in a box in the basement. Finally, years later, I was able to say good-bye. I kept his marathon medal, and that was enough.

I think what gives us pause is the thought that what matters most to us won't matter at all to the people we leave behind. And if a life can be reduced to a few recycling boxes' worth of paper, what does that say about the value of our lives?

More and more I think the value of a life is the personal connections we make with other people - the little ways we show love, and caring, and compassion. And none of it is ever lost. Love, once expressed, feeds the love of the universe.

copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

donating versus selling

Sometimes when we're faced with getting rid of something, we balk at donating it or giving it away for free. It's understandable, especially if we've invested a lot in the object, and it has maintained its value or appreciated in value.

A case in point: I recently sold my crystal singing bowl, which was worth $400 new. I couldn't rationalize giving it away, so I listed it on craigslist, and was thrilled to sell it for $200 to a musician who uses singing bowls to accompany dancers.

On the other hand, I've known clients who couldn't get rid of their clutter - even though it was interfering with their lives - because they couldn't find buyers for their things and they refused to let the stuff go for free.

I had one client, for example, with several boxes of craft materials that cost hundreds of dollars. There was no obvious market for the raw materials in her small community, but she could not bear to lose her investment. So she stubbornly hung onto the stuff, dreaming of the day when she would get her money back - in the meantime weighed down and hampered by the things, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally.

Entertain the possibility that the old maxim, What goes around comes around, might be true. If you can generously and without remorse give your possessions to the natural flow of universal energy, you will be repaid in kind somewhere down the road.

Find a recipient who makes your heart feel lighter. I rediscovered the benefits of this when I recently gave away my hand drum to an inner city music program (read the details here). My initial reaction was sadness at the loss of a treasured possession, but now I can honestly say that I'm thoroughly delighted with my choice.

Give it a thought. Give it away.

copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

Monday, April 09, 2007

the cooling-off period

I'm in the middle of a purge (my own - not a client's), and I'm reminded that when we're getting rid of stuff, we need to give ourselves a chance to change our minds.

We won't always choose to keep something that we originally planned to give away. But if you're really not sure (and sometimes even if you are), listen to your heart and put the thing(s) in a safe place until the decision to let go seems right.

A case in point: In an earlier post I said I wanted to get rid of an antique white china wash basin. I don't use it and I didn't have room to store it.

But something in me just couldn't give it away. I may get rid of it someday; for now I want to keep it.

So I compromised: I made room for it on one of my shelves by getting rid of some other things instead - namely, a wok and a copper bowl.

A frequently-mentioned organizing tip is to box up whatever you want to purge, and then store the box in a safe place until a certain date - say, six months or a year from now.

Then when that date rolls around, if you haven't gone into the box to find something you needed, get rid of it without even opening it again.

My nemesis is books; I love to buy them, but I have only a finite amount of shelf space. So I weed through them every now and then, but then procrastinate actually getting rid of the books I've pulled off the shelves.

After several years I realized I need time to re-evaluate the book-purging decisions. Sometimes I go through the books again (usually after a couple of months) and confirm that I really don't want them anymore. Other times I put a few of them back on my shelves. The only downside is that I really don't have room to store them in the meantime.

Use your own best judgement. Don't let yourself be bullied into getting rid of everything quickly if that's not what you want. You have choices, you know.

copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

Saturday, April 07, 2007

removing stickers

How do you get those %*&#@! stickers - you know, like price tags and UPC codes - off of things? I just bought a new coffee pot and wooden bathtub rack from IKEA, and both had very tenacious UPC code stickers on them.

Here's my trick: A two-part strategy to foil even the stickiest goo (and this also works for things like labels on bottles and jars).

First, gently try to pull the sticker off. If the manufacturer is kind, the adhesive will have a low tack, and the whole thing may come off without any residue.

If there's still some paper left behind, either soak the item in warm, soapy water, or if the item can't be immersed, dampen a small cloth (like a dish rag or a facecloth), and put the cloth over the paper sticker for several minutes, until you can easily scrape the paper off with your fingernails.

(If the item is glass, you can also use a razor blade in a safety holder to scrape the sticker off.)

If the paper comes off without any problem but there's still some sticky stuff left behind, you can use a product like Goo Gone - but if you want an eco-friendly alternative, try using a pure citrus essential oil.

Citrus oil is the active ingredient in a lot of the newer eco-friendly cleansers, and it's a great solvent for nasty, petrochemical-based gunk (I've used it successfully on adhesives and tar, as well cooking-oil stains and oil paints).

I prefer to buy Aura Cacia essential oils because I trust that they are 100% pure and high-quality. Put a few drops of the essential oil (I like to use lemon) on the sticky areas, and gently rub with a damp cloth until the adhesive is removed. It may require several applications of essential oil if the adhesive is especially stubborn.

If the item is to be used in the kitchen, just remember that essential oils, while preferable to products like Goo Gone, are not food-grade. If you decide you want to use a solvent on items that will touch food, use your own best judgement, weigh the risks, and if you decide to go ahead and use the essential oil, do everything you can to remove all traces of it from the item afterwards.

One last caveat: Essential oils can degrade some plastics - so when in doubt, test the oil on a small, inconspicuous spot first. I once used a citrus solvent on a plastic shower door, and it ate away the surface of the plastic, leaving behind a hazy, pebbly mess.

copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

Friday, April 06, 2007

just throw out 50 things

I read a great article ("The Motivator" column) in the latest issue of Real Simple magazine (April 2007). It was written by life coach Gail Blanke, author of Between Trapezes: Flying Into a New Life With the Greatest of Ease.

Says Blanke:

"...when I coach people, I always ask them to throw things out. But not just a few things. At the end of the second or third session, I ask everyone I work with to go home and throw out 50 things.

"In fact, I not only ask them to throw out 50 things but also ask them to make a list of what they're throwing out, so they can look at it later and actually feel lighter. Here's why: When you start throwing out a lot of physical clutter and you get on a roll, a new urge kicks in - the desire to clear out all the clutter in your mind."

Blanke goes on to say that it's easy to get into the swing of throwing things out - just start with the obvious. Her mother once offered some sage advice: "If you don't know what to do with it, or where to put it, or why you ever bought it in the first place, or if looking at it depresses you, throw it out," she'd say. "Never keep anything that makes you feel heavy or weighs you down."

That single sock you've been hanging onto for years (just in case you ever find its mate - or wear out one half of another pair that matches it)? Gone.

That coupon for herbal tea that you keep in your wallet because your friend gave it to you - because she knows you used to drink herbal tea (but you don't anymore - although you probably should, but that would mean finding a place to keep the tea, and really, your cupboards are too full already - besides, you never liked the taste of herbal tea anyhow)? Recycle it.

What about those pennies? You know, the ones that reproduce on the top of your dresser, or in the corners of your desk and kitchen drawers. Maybe you're "organized," and keep a colony of them in a jar in your closet. Gather them up (along with the rest of your small coins) and take them to the automatic counting machine at the grocery store (which reminds me - I need to write a separate post on those machines - I love them!), or dump them into a charity coin box (which is what I do with all my spare change as soon as the cashier hands it to me).

I've already started my list. It looks something like this:
  1. Antique white china wash basin. I bought it at a rummage sale because I loved it, but I have no place to put it. And I never use it.
  2. Inexpensive black platform flip-flops. I love how tall they make me feel, but I can't walk more than 20 steps in them (they're too wide for my feet), plus the fabric on the uppers is starting to fray.
  3. Miniature roulette game I won as a door prize two months ago at a business meeting. Need I say more?
  4. Beautiful, large, cream-enameled colander. It drains food perfectly. But I worry about the enamel being hazardous to my health when it scratches and chips off. Plus I own three colanders - including a narrower, higher, stainless steel (read: non-toxic and recyclable) one that fits perfectly in my bar sink.
  5. A grilling plank for fish. I'm a vegetarian. I never eat fish - haven't for 21 years. Another rummage sale find, which I thought I could use as a cutting board. But I own two other cutting boards, both of which I love, and both of which are bigger and easier to use.
Once you're warmed up, start thinking of all your mental throwaways - you can even add them to your list of 50. Blanke describes them as "the old convictions, fears, negative assumptions, past "mistakes," and depressing "voices" that weigh you down." Then commit to eliminating them from your day-to-day thinking.

I'm kind of excited about my list of mental purges:
  1. My ex-boyfriend was "the only one" for me.
  2. I'm never going to find a man who truly loves me.
  3. I always mess up my relationships.
  4. I'm too needy.
  5. Life without romantic love is hopeless.

(Gee, I'm sensing a theme here.)

I think you get the drift. It's spring - the time for renewal and regeneration. Make room for the new growth in your life by cutting back the deadwood.

Make a list.

Enjoy knowing that those things are gone from your life. Then welcome what comes next...

copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

Sunday, April 01, 2007

moving

I helped a good friend move across the city yesterday. Her home is no longer a tiny basement apartment in a bungalow, but a beautiful two-bedroom second-storey apartment in a heritage building with not one, but (count 'em) TWO balconies! I'm excited for her, although I can only imagine how tired she is this morning.

The move went very smoothly, even though she hadn't been able to rent a truck to transport everything. Instead she depended on a handful of friends with vans and cars. In the end, that was probably the best choice, since her new street is a very narrow one-way, where street parking is at a premium. Finding a spot to unload a big truck would have been a headache.

As the day went on I found myself reflecting on the subject of moving. I've compiled a grab-bag of tips which, while not exhaustive, will hopefully point people in the direction of a less-stressful move.

Book your truck early.
My friend waited until moving week to make her call, and by that time everything was already taken. When I moved last September, I called the truck rental company four weeks in advance, and had my choice of trucks and dates.

Don't book a U-Haul for a self-move. I hate to say it, but anyone I've ever known who has tried to rent from U-Haul has had problems with this company. Read more frustrated consumer stories at Don't Use UHaul (a site I just discovered as I was writing this post).

A friend of mine booked a U-Haul for a move a couple of years ago, and when he showed up the morning of the move to pick up his truck, they had nothing for him. They didn't even help him find a location where he COULD rent a U-Haul. He ended up driving clear across the city, scrambling at the last minute to find a truck, leaving his helpers cooling their heels amongst the piles of boxes at his old apartment.

Go with a local, established truck rental company. When I moved from London, Ontario I was very pleased with my choice, Bennett Truck Rentals. They don't overbook their trucks, they're very strict about return times, and they bent over backwards to address all my questions and concerns. Renting their beautifully-maintained vehicles cost more than U-Haul, but I considered that a small price to pay for peace of mind.

Their experienced staff were also able to recommend the best size of truck for me to take, based on the kind of move I was making.

Purge early.
I promise you that on moving day, you don't want to be transporting anything superfluous. Each unnecessary box you have to pack, carry, and unpack is a supreme waste of your time, energy and money.

Not everyone is as lucky as a client of mine who moved after a divorce. For several months she and her son stayed with her parents while her new house was being built. Luckily the parents had ample storage in their basement for all her things, because she decided to wait and purge after she moved into her new house, when she knew how much space she really had. She hosted a yard sale after the final move.

All I can think about is the stuff she moved TWICE before she finally got rid of it. I know how difficult it is to purge. If your mind is already swimming with a million details, trying to make well-thought-out decisions about your possessions can seem like a ticket to insanity. Do try, though. The friends who help you move will thank you for it.

Pack early.
If you have the time, pack as much as possible, as soon as possible. If you're like most of us, you have a LOT of stuff. It's going to take a long time to pack - probably two or three times longer than you think. Save yourself the headache of doing it all at the last minute. The mind balks and becomes fatigued after three or four hours, so don't plan on doing all your packing the day before you move, when I can guarantee you'll be up for twenty-four hours straight, brain-fried.

There's going to be some stuff you can't pack until the last minute - your regular dishes and cooking supplies, your toiletries, the things you use every day. Keep those aside, and pack everything else. Your necessities are good candidates for storage totes or bankers boxes, which have lids and can be reopened as needed.

Pack your suitcase.
Pretend the last few days before the move are a "vacation." Pack a suitcase with everything you would need for a trip, and then the morning of the move you won't have to scramble to pack your last-minute toiletries and clothes. Just pop everything in the suitcase and you're good to go - plus you'll know exactly where to find these important things at the other end.