Seventeen years of Treehouse talk

Seventeen years of Treehouse talk

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Let's talk some more: how I ended up with fewer but better clothes, and had to re-do the page

I had fun with Project 333 this fall, in spite of the fact that I broke all the rules, kept finding new things all season at the thrift store (volunteering is bad for that), pulled out half my summer clothes again in a burst of KonMari, and figured I was finished with tiny wardrobes since I was obviously not very good at sticking to minimalism. The fall/winter page here was also a mess since I kept crossing things out and adding other things.

So I changed my mind and added a just-winter page. The clothes aren't new; but the list is cleaned up and easier to read. Strangely enough, I don't have many more items on it than most respectable "tiny wardrobes."  It may not look like anybody else's version of what people "should" have, but it's working for me.

I don't know how most other people go about "thrifting" wardrobes, but here's what I do. Take what you can use.

I've seen articles online talking about which things you should snap up at thrift stores, and which ones are not usually worth your time. I'd say, make up your own list based on your experiences. I've read that it's impossible to buy used pants (because of fitting issues), and that t-shirts and sweaters are usually worn beyond bothering. But I take a pretty standard (although petite) pants size, and if I see the magic number on a label, it usually fits. As for tops and sweaters...well, you have to look past the poor ones to find something you do like. So figure out your own must-visit categories, those you'll look at only if you have time, and those that are a no-go for you. My quick-looks are the bargain rack, for obvious reasons; shoes, because although I rarely find any that fit, the odd exceptions make a regular look worthwhile; and dresses, because I like them and they're often more interesting than the tops and pants. If I have time, I look at the accessories. Anything else just depends on what I don't have much of; maybe I really need pants, a new purse, or whatever. Is there anything I wouldn't look for at all? I rarely look at athletic clothes, yoga pants and things like that. I also don't spend time looking at very fancy dresses. Jewelry was another section I used to skip, but this fall I've started looking at necklaces again.

The point is, your must-try list will be different from mine. It depends on what you love, what you do, and what you need. And one other "what": what you would like to try, or change. Maybe you have never ever worn jeans, or dresses, or high heels, or anything bright red, and it's just time. Maybe your secret wish is to be Rhoda Morgenstern. Thrift stores are the perfect place to try out new things.

Watch for colours you like but which may be hard to find in the average mall store. One idea I've seen online, but haven't tried, is to buy a too-big t-shirt in an interesting colour, cut the body away from the neck and sleeves, and wear the resulting big loop as an infinity scarf.

The last bit of advice is an obvious one, but...thrift stores vary. Donors, merchandise, and prices vary. I used to visit one store that always had great books, but horrible clothes, because the donors were mostly frugal older people who wore their clothes to shreds. Some stores sort things more carefully than others do. Some places smell better than others. If your only thrifting experiences have been bad ones, remember that better things may be hiding in another neighbourhood, or the next town.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Let's talk minimalism theories (and a bit of clothes stuff)

How to Get Dressed, a book by a show business costumer, says that you should hang every possible piece of your clothing, to keep everything visible. You can even pin small things to muslin-covered hangers.

Japanese organizing expert Marie Kondo's advice is to fold almost everything. No muslin-covered hangers, but you can decorate the few hangers you do use with old hair ties and keychains.

Project 333 and similar capsule wardrobe plans tell you to keep only a limited number of items out for use at one time, and no shopping is allowed during the three-month period except right near the end when you're thinking about the next season. This is supposed to make your getting-dressed decisions easier (here's my hat and my scarf, not plural), and may help you to think less about appearances and more about big ideas. A tiny wardrobe can also be a source of more-with-less creativity; or an opportunity for absolute uniformity (t-shirts and jeans). (One thought I have is that the three-month experiment, like a Whole 30 month, may be most effective if you do it only once or twice or occasionally, and follow the rules exactly, rather than trying to follow it longterm but haphazardly.)

On the other side, Marie Kondo recommends doing a major closet purge once, but then keeping most of the joy-sparking remainder available to wear year-round...because clothes, like Toy Story characters, don't like "going in the box." The final amount is up to you, your needs, and your drawer space. One blogger suggested that this approach is perhaps more honest than storing non-capsule clothes in boxes, because you are not just delaying a decision on what to do with them.

Note that this hasn't addressed issues such as fast fashion, polluted rivers, overseas labour, poverty, and shopping addiction. And we haven't even gotten to the rest of the house, the dishes, books, vacuum cleaners, and guinea pig bedding.

So what's a confused home organizer to do?

Michael Pollan's famous food advice is “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” It's a principle that can be translated into practice. It also opens up discussion. What is "food?" How much is too much? What is "mostly?" What kinds of plants? Where should they come from? But you start with the principle.

So here's an adapted version of Pollan's motto: "Wear clothes. Not too many. Mostly low-impact."

How you hang or fold them is up to you.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Two thrifted finds and fixes

Found at the thrift store: one wine-coloured rayon maxi skirt, size 14, for two dollars.

The problem: size 14 is about three sizes too big for me. The skirt had an elastic waist, side slits, and pockets. What would it take to make it wearable? Would I have to take in the sides, or hem the bottom? Would the pockets and/or the rayon fabric make it too complicated for my basic skills?
The simplest solution turned out to be the best. I unpicked a bit of the waistband seam, cut the elastic, pinned my own waist-length of new 1-inch elastic (minus two inches for stretch) to one of the ends, and pulled it through the casing, discarding the old piece along the way. There was no extra stitching to interfere. I hand-stitched the ends of the elastic together and re-sewed the waistband.
That's all. Now it fits!
My other find: strap shoes with not-too-high heels. My size this time, luckily.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

From the recent archives: All Creation Waits (Book Review)

"Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God. Every creature is a word of God. If I spend enough time with the tiniest creature, even a caterpillar, I would never have to prepare a sermon. So full of God is every creature." ~~ Meister Eckhart, quoted as a preface to All Creation Waits
In his review of All Creation Waits, writer Brian Doyle refers to it as a "sidelong" book, which I take to mean indirect, something like a parable. In twenty-five short readings, accompanied with woodcut illustrations, Gayle Boss takes you on an early-winter walk around Lake Michigan, with stop-offs to visit skunks, foxes, porcupines, and other local inhabitants. What are they doing at this time of year? As "all creation waits" for the Advent of the Saviour, animal activities are lyrically described, but without much added-on interpretation. This is not a book of prayers or Scriptures; the animals are not analogies; they do not think of much beyond shelter and food, and they have no imagined sense that Christmas is coming. It reminds me more of Prayers from the Ark, or some of the Christmas readings that take the viewpoint of the cow and the spider; or the muskrat scene at the beginning of The Long Winter.

A sample from the chapter "Whitetail Deer":
"Gliding through the woods in groups of two, three, or four, their coats the color of brush and bark render them nearly invisible to us. So when, in October, we see herds of them out in the open, it seems a curtain has been pulled back on a secret society. They know the cold is coming. Banding together against predators, they forage widely in the fields before their food freezes, or vanishes under snow.

"But then, a drive deeper than feeding seizes them. By November both bucks and does, restless, verge on reckless. Trumping food and wariness, the primal urge to reproduce one’s self and one’s kind surges with the winds of the coming, killing cold."
This book would be most suitable for families with children, who perhaps are looking for something non-commercial but also not directly Bible-related for Advent reading times. [One possible note of caution: there are occasional references to mating which might or might not be appropriate for some families.] It could be useful for homeschoolers, or for those who need a set of readings for less-usual, out-of-church situations. It is a good reminder that the animals are (still, thankfully) all around us. Their stories are a (sidelong) glimpse of the way God creates and sustains them--and us.

Statement of disclosure: I received a complimentary e-copy of this book for purposes of review, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

View from the balcony (cloud photos)

Wednesday Hodgepodge: T H A N K S

From this Side of the Pond
1. T tightly do you cling to tradition when it comes to holiday gatherings and celebrations? For instance do you always do the cooking, never eat at home, always go to grandma's, never miss the parade, always watch football, never change the menu, always eat at 2 PM, etc.? Have you ever celebrated Christmas or Thanksgiving away from hearth, home, and family? How did that feel?

That one's hard to answer, because over fifty-plus years of my life, and twenty-five-plus years of marriage, of course some many things have changed. This year we are in a different home, and we have given away a lot of things associated with former holidays. The thought of holding on to things lightly (even traditions) seems to be the most relevant.

But I will probably make a pan of cheater fudge for Christmas. Some things you have to hang onto.
The half-size tree we bought recently (it even came with lights)

2. H it easy for you to ask for help or are you a do-it-yourselfer? How is that a good/bad thing?

Not sure, it depends on the situation, and the help that is or isn't available.

3. A bundance...what is there an abundance of in your kitchen?

Space (compared to some apartment kitchens).
4. N ame...the smallest thing you're thankful for? the biggest?

Really, really small? Like cells and atoms?

Or a little bigger, like the bit of Velcro that Mr. Fixit stuck on the door behind where our dryer door opens, so that it doesn't hit me on the head when I pull the clothes out?

Or somewhat bigger, like a hat I crocheted last year from some free yarn Ponytails gave me to use up? I was thankful for that yesterday when the wind was blowing hard.

Jan Karon's new Mitford book. Sarah Mackenzie's interview with Katherine Paterson. Tickets to hear Steve Bell and Malcolm Guite next month.

Or much bigger, like our apartment building that means we will not have to shovel the driveway this winter?  (I also like going downstairs for the mail instead of around the block to the super-mailbox.) And the store next door, a real lifesaver. And the Chinese restaurant five minutes away, and the library about twenty minutes if you walk fast.

And there are so many other things, big and small. Clean water. People. Poetry. Clouds. Cough medicine (not me, another Squirrel). People behind desks who actually help with problems.

Which reminds me of another big thankfulness...that after several years of heart clinic visits, Mr. Fixit was recently told he doesn't need to come back, ever. He's too healthy.

(Mr. Fixit says he is also grateful for car floor mats that fit properly. If you've ever had to deal with dirty, salt-sticky towels on a car floor, you'll know why.)

5. K ey...What do you think is the key to living a more grateful life?

Having to go without something for awhile, then getting it back.

And concentrating on God's promises.

6. S tate your own random thought here

My random thoughts for this week were already posted here.

Linked from The Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Quote for the day: Stories tell us that we are

"Stories can feed our consciousness, which can lead to the faculty of knowing if not who we are at least that we are, an essential awareness that develops through confrontation with another's know that we are requires knowledge of the others whom we perceive and who perceive us. Few methods are better suited for this task of mutual perception than storytelling." ~~ Alberto Manguel, The City of Words

Thursday, November 16, 2017

KonMari and the Infrequent Sewer (photos)

There have been periods when one or another Squirrel was doing a lot of sewing, or things often needed quick fixes, and it was nice to have a semi-permanent sewing corner. Even before we moved, though, we did some reorganizing and the sewing machine went to live in a box.  

Since we moved, the sewing supplies have taken up the two shelves in the closed part of the cabinet in the photo below. And the sewing machine was still living in the box, in our pantry room. I have pulled it out a couple of times, but I had to pull other things out to get at it, and it wasn't a lot of fun.
Today I decided to get a handle on the sewing stuff. I'll spare you the details, but you can see (in the photo below) that it's reduced from two whole shelves, to two plastic containers and a cardboard box of thread spools. That took up just the bottom shelf nicely. 
If I moved that stuff to the top shelf, would the sewing machine fit in the bottom?
Yes It Did. The cords are inside that red fabric thing to the right, which was otherwise the sewing machine cover.

And the advantage of that to the Infrequent Sewer, is that I no longer have to haul the sewing machine out of the pantry to sew at the dining table, so I am that much more likely to sew.

Totally worth the effort.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

From the archives: The Cuckoo Clock (book review)

First posted November 2008

Crayons and I are reading The Cuckoo Clock, by Mary Stolz. It's the type of European-village fairy tale that reminds me of Tolkien's Smith of Wootton Major or maybe Walter Wangerin Jr.'s Elisabeth and the Water Troll (which we also just finished reading). It's also the kind of magical story that I can't imagine writing--at least, not going through all the "normal" drafting and editing processes. It seems, like some of Rumer Godden's stories, to have sprung to life complete and whole, like the wooden cuckoo bird itself that begins to sing all the songs of the forest.

You can find short descriptions of the plot anywhere, so I won't go into it much. A needy young boy, Erich, manages to connect with the one kindred spirit in town: the elderly clockmaker, who begins to train him as an assistant and allows him to help carve his final masterpiece. When the clock is finished, the clockmaker dies--shattering the small security Erich has found with him, but leaving him a fiddle and his carving tools. That's only the first half of the story: the rest of the adventure is Erich's.

I found this description on the Amazon site:

"Stolz' delicate ironies and precise writing style save her story from sentimentality, enabling it to teach an interesting and rigorous lesson about the liability of the self-involved to understand the true beauty of the world. Original, wise, and thoughtful. Christine Behrmann, New York Public Lib. (Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
And that's very true; the abused-orphan story has been done to death, and Stolz herself pokes fun at this tradition: "Boys even younger would leave unhappy homes and go into the wide world seeking their fortunes, which, according to the stories, they always found." It would be easy for this story to become forced and overdrawn. But in the hands of a master craftsman, even such a plain stick of wood can become something beautiful.

Thrifty finds today

Four things for nine for me.
Acrylic scarf (I could not pass up those pink and purple zigzags)
Metal basket that is going to hold napkins for now, but which may become a Christmas decoration
No, this is not a strange-looking pumpkin pie; it's a wooden tray with a shallow rim and handles. Second choice for the base of a Christmas decoration, or maybe it will hold baking.
Accordion file, which is going to hold stationery and cards-to-send.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Frugal fix: The Tri-light Zone

We have several lamps that were made to take tri-light bulbs. They can be clicked to low, medium, or high intensity. Two problems with this: tri-light bulbs are now hard to find and expensive, and a couple of those lamps needed repairs. The switch on our china lamp had suddenly stopped working, and one of the others turned out to be doing dangerous things inside its workings.
So Mr. Fixit took them apart and reconfigured them to take standard bulbs. He says that the biggest problem with fixing lamps these days is that you can only get certain types of innards, and they're not all compatible with older parts. But he has been doing these sorts of repairs for a long time, so he knows what's safe to mix and match.
The china lamp has a new on-switch spliced into the cord.
And the bedroom lamp is no longer coming on without warning.

Moral of the story: stay safe and make sure your electricals are up to date.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Something to read today: why neither less nor more will make us happier, and why happy maybe isn't the point

Some thoughts on the question of whether the trend toward minimalism and simplicity is a worthwile pursuit for Christians.

Can We Declutter Our Way to Christ?

On the minimalism trend and the allure of living with less.

Tech Warning: This two-page article appears on the Christianity Today site in a "preview" format. You can only access the story once, unless you have an account there. That's why I wasn't able to include the quote I liked from the end of the article: it's disappeared on me.

Sunrise, with snow (photo)

Thursday, November 09, 2017

KonMari Closet, or, I'll try anything once (photos)

This wasn't so much a declutter as a reorganization and folding spree.

One thing I didn't like about the way things were was the big plastic bin full of summer clothes. I've never quite trusted it; I had the feeling it made things smell funny. The bin is still there, but now it's holding some other non-clothes stuff (that still needs sorting). About half the summer clothes (like t-shirts) came out and got put with the other clothes; the rest are in the blue fabric bin on the top shelf.
The hanging shelf used to be scarves but is now t-shirts plus winter gloves and hats. 
Bin of pullovers and sweater dresses. I had the dresses hanging up, but decided to fold them since they're really long pullovers.

Basket of scarves. I seemed to have a mess of scarves, so it was nice to corral them. I am donating a few that didn't spark-so-much-joy.
Drawer of folded tops

(I did do the socks etc. etc. too, but no photos--sorry.)

You know you're living in an apartment..

...when the true sign of winter arriving is the addition of snow matting in the elevators.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Frugal finds, one fix, one tip

From the thrift store:
Fleece pullover top. Thrifting reminder #whatever: pay very little attention to size labels, both on store tags and on the clothes themselves. This top has an inside label saying Extra Small; but it's not only big enough for me, it's even slightly loose. Vanity sizing?
Teal green jean jacket with ruffles. (Size small.)
Books from my reading list. I have never read anything by Marie Kondo before. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was interesting: although I've never tried some of her "iconic" strategies such as folding clothes in certain ways, and I don't thank my shoes for the good job they do, I think our downsize this year was very much in the spirit of getting things in order and keeping them that way.

One frugal fix from Mr. Fixit: he says that the vitamin E cream we keep on hand for "owies" has done a great job getting rid of a bothersome foot callus. Cider vinegar was helpful, but the cream finished the job. (It's just a brand you can find at Walmart.)

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Quote for the day: A word to the wise

"We are  in such haste to be instructed by facts or titillated by theories, that we have no leisure to linger over the mere putting of a thought. But this is our error, for words are mighty both to delight and to inspire." ~~ Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children

Thursday, November 02, 2017

About home stuff: something to read today

Blogger Leah at StyleWise has a post up about the way homes have become, more than ever, public fishbowls for our "image." It might not be a bad image; it might be a very sharp minimalist or delightfully retro image. The point is that what you had in your house didn't matter so much in years past, any more than what your lunch looked like. Now there's a push to keep ourselves on display, and even to keep changing and updating so that "our" social media pics don't get stale.

I put "our" because even that idea is a bit contrived. Probably only a handful of people you know in real life worry about those things. Contrary to expectations, not everybody has a phone-plus. Some people I know don't even have email. Gasp.

But the push on expectations is there, and we're probably going to run into it or up against it. Like our family story about taking a Squirreling to the fast-food indoor playland for a birthday party, and discovering that it was no big deal for her little friends, who were probably there every week. Or like inviting people over who Just Don't Get It.

Well, it happens.

But read the post anyway.

From the archives: Start with a word

First posted October 2014. Lydia was doing AO Year 8.
"The smallest significant element in a book is, of course, a single word."  ~~ Mortimer J. Adler, How to Read a Book
Today's plans and readings:

Three pages from How to Read a Book.  Adler says that in the early chapters of his book, he was explaining how to break a book down.  Now he's going in the opposite direction: starting with the smallest units, the words and terms; then building up to propositions (which are composed of terms) and arguments (which are composed of propositions).  Or you can think of it as going from words / phrases, to sentences, to collections of sentences (paragraphs).

Picture Talk: Titian's "The Madonna of the Rabbit" or "Madonna and Child with St. Catherine and a Rabbit." 

Poetry:  Sidney, "My true love hath my heart"; e.e. cummings, "i carry your heart."

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Well, that was a quiet night

From this Side of the Pond

1. What does/did Halloween look like at your house this year? Did you decorate? Pick pumpkins? Carve pumpkins? Expect trick or treaters? Wear a costume to a party or event? Make a costume? Feel glad you didn't have to come up with a costume? Cook a Halloween themed treat? Eat all the leftover candy?

Mr. Fixit and I went down the road for Chinese food, came back and watched two episodes of Stranger Things. Lydia wore a retro-movie-star costume to high school, but she had to work after that, so no parties. We didn't buy any candy; I bought a package of Jos Louis (sort of Canadian Ding Dongs) for a treat for us instead.

2. What are you waiting for? Elaborate.

Waiting to start a university course the first week of January. The first one I've taken in over twenty-five years. I guess that's long enough to wait?

(Reminds me of the crusty-mannered customs officer a few years ago who couldn't fathom the twenty-five-year gap since I last visited the U.S.)

3. Do you wish you were friendlier, braver, more creative, more athletic, or something else? Explain

Sure, why not? But everything has its price. When Nesbit's Five Children got their wishes to be beautiful as the day and to have wings, things always went wrong. Then there was Faust...

4. When it comes time to paint are you a do-it-yourselfer or do you hire someone? What was the last paint job completed at your house? What room most needs painting now? How do you feel about wallpaper?

Our apartment is all neutral walls. At our former house, we had some paint, some wallpaper. The girls' rooms got repainted a couple of times, but some rooms never did get updated from their earlier-era paint colours. It just wasn't that important.

5. What is one specific thing you felt gratitude for in the month of October?

Lots of things! I mean, aside from actual Thanksgiving.

Hot water and soap
Inter-library loans
Emily Dickinson poems
 People who write thank-you notes
Doctors who took care of a family member having surgery
Friends from other cities and other countries
People who donate nice things to the thrift store
People who volunteer at the thrift store

 This post is linked from The Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.