Tag Archives: procrastination

Keep Breathing…Friday Fictioneers.

“All my life,” Melissa sighed to her therapist. “I’ve been peering through the keyhole too afraid to live.”

Phillippa was trying hard not to yawn. Dumping clients was hard. Never mentioned the “F” word.  It was all about “finding a better fit”.  Being a “therapy drop out” wasn’t good for their self-esteem.

“Anyway…”

Suddenly, Melissa became strangely animated, even possessed. “I finally attended a writer’s group this week and read one of my poems. Thought I was gunna die. Then, I heard you counting and this other voice saying: “Breathe, Melissa. Breathe. You can do it.”

“It was actually me.”

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s image was provided by © Shaktiki Sharma.

This week, I’ve spent a bit of time researching my grandmother who was a concert pianist and I’ve been thinking about that experience I had as a child of almost looking through the keyhole into her adult world. There was definitely a “them” and “us” policy and children should be not seen AND not heard. That suited us and we’d round up change for lollies from the adults and disappear with our stash.

Yet, there were those times I distinctly remember peering into this adult world and watching through that metaphorical keyhole. Nothing quite like being a spy!

By the way, I’d also encourage comments about when therapy doesn’t work and what that was like. Personally, I’m a lousy one for taking action but I’m currently working through that with my physio. Or, should I say, I’m “walking” it out.

Hope you’ve had a great week!

xx Rowena

 

 

The Fork in the Tree.

What do you see when you look at this tree?

Initially, I saw the fork in the road but when I look at it now I see a very flexible, headless dancer whose toe is pointing up into the clouds. Mind you, when I came up with that image, I’d chopped the top off the photo on my laptop screen. or, maybe, the dancer hasn’t shaved her legs?

Unfortunately, I also noticed this tree isn’t looking very healthy.While it is deciduous, it’s neighbours are all sprouting Spring leaves and there isn’t so much as a bud on this one. I’m hoping my suspicions are wrong but is this tree deceased?

“C’mon! Grow, baby. Grow!…Just a leaf? A sign? A glimmer of hope?”

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My Pathway is Lost in a  Jumble of Twigs. Where am I going?

Meanwhile, looking further up the tree, I spotted “chaos central” where there is no clear-cut fork in the road… the A & B options. Rather, these twigs graphically portrayed:

“My life is such a Mess!” or “I’m soooo confused”.

There are no patterns and no pathway through. No exit from the maze but at least there is no minotaur but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a spider’s next in there…a tribe of Huntsmen.

When you have complicated decisions to make, what do you do? How do you choose which way to go? Toss a coin? Phone a friend? Write about it? Make a list of pros and cons?

I use a range of these strategies but what I’ve finally come to appreciate the hard way, is that action outranks procrastination. That even if you make the wrong decision, that’s better than doing nothing at all. Procrastination is not my friend and yet…

Hey, I just went chasing up a quote to illuminate this post and this was the first quote I found and it was so about this tree. It must be a sign:

“Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.”

Robert H. Schuller

Perhaps, this tree should be renamed: “The Philosopher’s Tree”. Well, it’s certainly got me thinking and fired up a few brain cells. Dare I say, cleared out some “dead wood”?

Surely, there’s life in the old tree yet!

xx Rowena

Waffling About Perfection.

How long has it taken me to actually use my waffle machine for its intended purpose and actually make waffles?

I’m not telling. This is a blog, NOT a confessional!

While I’ve crushed, fried and crunchified boiled potatoes in the waffle iron before, I’ve NEVER ever made a waffle. Yet, tonight I finally walked the plank, jumped over the edge and straight into the raging waves only to find absolute calm…still waters!

The waffles worked. Were delicious! I succeeded!

So why have I put it off for so long?

Of course, you know why. You know the crazy reason why. I’ve been too scared. Scared I’d make a mistake and botch them up.

That’s right. I’ve been yet another a paralyzed perfectionist.

How about you? Are you also guilty as charged?

There’s nothing more annoying than a perfectionist who isn’t perfect…especially when it’s yourself!

Perfectionism is a sneaky, cunning beast. It doesn’t knock on your front door and announce its arrival. It doesn’t have flashing neon lights with ringing sirens either. Instead, it silently sneaks in through the back door and creeps up on you from behind and grabs you by the throat.

It also gets you busy. In the case of the waffles, it threw a bamboozling array of recipes at me, followed by a plethora of different waffle irons and that was before we’d even considered toppings. By this stage, there so  many rats going round and round in spinning wheels inside my head, for me to do anything.

Although it might be cliched, paralysis by analysis is real. Too many cogs spinning all at once and your exhausted, over-worked brain is blowing a gasket. Boom! Bang! Crash!

So, as I said, I made waffles for the first time tonight and they were great. Covered in creamy vanilla ice cream and maple syrup dripping off the fork…So yum!

Why on earth did I put it off for so long?

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The Lutheran Church in Wollongong put this recipe book together in the aftermath of WWII. Having members from a multitude of European countries, some being enemies at home, the idea of the cookbook was to bring people together and sharing recipes is a great way to start.

We didn’t have a waffle machine growing up at home. Even though I ended up using my grandmother’s recipe to make our waffles tonight, she’d never made them for me either. I found the recipe in a Church cookbook she’d edited back in the 1950s. Of course, all the measurements were in “ancient” and had to be translated. I also wondered whether I really did have to separate the eggs, or whether I should use a simpler recipe, which just throws the ingredients together? I chose the complicated path, hoping for fluffier waffles and I used my egg beater as well. It’s also ancient.

DSC_1991

As I was saying, we didn’t have a waffle machine growing up and I have to admit that making the waffles, was like magic. The batter looked just like pancake mix and I admit that as I spread it over the waffle iron, I doubted it could actually make a waffle and I had that child-like sense of wonder, when I opened up the machine, and found the sculptured waffles cooking inside.

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Abracadabra!…Waffles!

I’m proud of my waffles. Not just because they were good, but also because in tackling that challenge, I crossed a new frontier…just like an explorer crossing a mountain for the very first time. I did it. I actually extended my wings and allowed myself to leave my cage and truly soar.

While making waffles might only be a small step for woman and nowhere near actually landing on the moon, all these steps add up and could ultimately build a ladder. You never know.

So, in case you want to follow in my esteemed footsteps, here’s Grandma’s Waffle Recipe:

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My Grandmother’s Waffle Recipe taken from the “Around the World With Cooking” Cookbook.

Grandma’s Waffle Recipe

250g Plain Flour

Pinch salt

1 teas Baking Powder

1 generous cup of milk and a splash (270 mls)

2 eggs, separated.

50g melted butter.

Directions

  1. Start preparing the batter about an hour before required.
  2. Take eggs out of the fridge 30 mins beforehand and at room temperature.
  3. Sift flour & salt into a basin. Make a well in the centre.
  4. Separate eggs and put the whites aside.
  5. Beat egg yolks and add hald the milk. Pour into the flour and mix into a smooth batter, gradually stirring in the rest of the milk.
  6. Beat mixture and allow to stand for an hour.
  7. 15 minutes before the mix is ready to cook, beat egg whites until stiff. Put aside.
  8. Once the hour is up, add the melted butter to the mixture and then stiffly beaten egg whites and baking powder.
  9. Spray waffle iron with oil or butter and have it hot to make the waffles.

Enjoy!

By the way, just to encourage you and humble myself a little further, when I went to reheat my cup of tea in the microwave, I found the melted butter for the waffle mix in there. That’s right. I’d left it out. This could explain why the waffles weren’t quite as crunchy as expected, but I’d instinctively added butter to the machine for the second batch.

Have you ever made waffles? How does your recipe compare to mine and do you have any tips and topping suggestions to share?

I look forward to hearing from you!

xx Rowena

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My Grandparents.

Back to the Proust Questionnaire.

No More Detours! Today, we’re back to the Proust Questionnaire.

Don’t you just love how you announce a grand new project on the blog to keep you accountable and then you fall flat on your face and you’re left to crawl out, waving a white flag surrendering to your public shame?

Yes, I know that when it comes to public confessions, this is small fry.

However, 25th August (almost a month ago), I made a very grand announcement on my blog that I was going to be doing the Proust Character Questionnaire and finally getting the Book Project up and running (yes, this definitely deserves a serious drum roll and the whole red carpet treatment.): https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/in-pursuit-of-character-the-proust-questionnaire/

Indeed, every day I was going to be addressing a question from the Proust Questionnaire which, given there are 31 questions, would mean that I should be well on the way to finishing the @#$% thing by now.

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Almost a month later, it is now the 18th September and Winter has even given way to Spring and in lieu of flowers, our duck population has exploded and we’re constantly stopping to let ducks and their clutch of precious ducklings cross the road.

This is my kind of detour.

This is my kind of detour.

Despite all this activity around me, all I’ve managed to get through is Question number 1: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Admittedly, this was rather a big question. The kind of question which really does warrant considerable thought, a few exploratory posts and even diving into The Pursuit of Happiness by no less than the Dalai Lama himself (in cahoots with an American psychiatrist)

However, while I know you’ve heard all these excuses before,  IT WASN’T MY FAULT!! Truly, it wasn’t!

Accompanying Miss while on the nebuliser. I personally find combination of preparing for the audition while being so sick and on the nebuliser almost comic. It's the first time I've been on the neb at home for 20 years. I have also playing chess with Mister while on the neb too.

Accompanying Miss while on the nebuliser. I personally find combination of preparing for the audition while being so sick and on the nebuliser almost comic. It’s the first time I’ve been on the neb at home for 20 years. I have also playing chess with Mister while on the neb too.

Despite having my flu jab, I still came down with a serious case of bronchitis/pneumonia which saw my lungs shake, rattle and roll for a good 2-3 weeks. I even ended up on the nebuliser, all while exploring this issue of happiness.  All I’ll say is thank goodness for the industrial strength antibiotics, freshly squeezed orange juice and my husband taking a week off work.Somehow, I was well enough to get Miss to her audition.

Miss outside the Brent Street Studios where the auditions were held.

Miss outside the Brent Street Studios where the auditions were held.

Next, we had my daughter’s grand audition for the Sydney leg of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s: The Sound of Music. Moving on from happiness to tackling my greatest fear had to wait until we’d conquered “Do a Deer” and the house was well and truly groaning and complaining about the The Sound of Music .

Captured by the Ginormous Koala demanding more gum leaves.

Captured by the Ginormous Koala demanding more gum leaves.

Then, there were all the follow up posts from “Audition Day”, including our trip up the Sydney Tower Eye, eating ice cream in Hyde Park, meeting Tim and his dog, Nugget, who sleep rough in Hyde Park across the road from prestigious department store, David Jones, which was having it’s grand annual Spring Flower Festival, including a sensational tribute to Chanel.

Of course, I couldn’t miss any of these “opportunities”.

So, after more detours than a maze, this brings me back to the Proust Questionnaire.

Here’s the list of questions again as it appeared at The Writing Practice: http://thewritepractice.com/proust-questionnaire/

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
What is your greatest fear?
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Which living person do you most admire?
What is your greatest extravagance?
What is your current state of mind?
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
On what occasion do you lie?
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Which living person do you most despise?
What is the quality you most like in a man?
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
When and where were you happiest?
Which talent would you most like to have?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
Where would you most like to live?
What is your most treasured possession?
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
What is your favorite occupation?
What is your most marked characteristic?
What do you most value in your friends?
Who are your favorite writers?
Who is your hero of fiction?
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Who are your heroes in real life?
What are your favorite names?
What is it that you most dislike?
What is your greatest regret?
How would you like to die?
What is your motto?

Exploring Question 1:

The DNA of Happiness: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/29/the-dna-of-happiness/

What is your idea of perfect happiness? https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/30/what-is-your-idea-of-perfect-happiness-the-proust-questionnaire/

End Detour.

End Detour.

Stay tuned…We are now finally progressing to Question 2:

What is your greatest fear?

Have you ever done the Proust Questionnaire? How about you come and join me on this intriguing journey!

xx Rowena

Sunday…A Procrastinator’s Paradise!

If Monday is a day of miraculous change, then Sunday must be the last hurrah…a day of pure, evil self-indulgence and utter procrastination. After all, even if our bad habits have swallowed us up like quick sand, somehow come Monday morning we are supposed to be a new creation, cleansed from all our previous sins…a clean slate. Out with the old and in with the new, even our very DNA changes as fat comes thin, lazy becomes industrious and that book project is miraculously finished.

At least, it will be!

Of course, it all starts off with a bang Monday morning and we’re off and running.

So, with Sunday being our last day of freedom, does that give us some kind of all-day indulgence pass allowing us to have that final, last big fling? To blob out, eat as much chocolate as we can possibly stuff in our gob, carpe vice or simply bask in some procrastinator’s paradise?

This is my idea of a perfect Sunday!

This is my idea of a perfect Sunday!

Humph, I’d like to think so but I’m not so sure. Something tells me that if I want tomorrow to go off without a hitch, at least some of the hard work, needs to begin today…especially cleaning up my desk.

However, being Sunday, I’ll turn procrastination into an art form.

That means writing about tomorrow. In other words, Monday.

Mondays are weird. While Sundays are ripe with opportunity and our best intentions including the planning and detailed required to pull our best intentions off (i.e time tables, schedules, lists etc etc etc!!!) Monday becomes something of a “catastrophe”!

Instead of being fueled by Sunday’s zealous enthusiasm, when my alarm goes off Monday morning, I have something akin to a killer hangover. Completely immobile, I keep pressing the snooze button, praying that the kids have dressed and fed themselves and won’t put up a fight. Who am I kidding? Hearing the usual screams, I stagger out into the kitchen feeling like the Grim Reaper possessed me during the night and all that’s left is a ghostly shell.

Every cell in my body aches and I don’t know whether hangover cures work for Mondayitis but anything is worth a shot. Having just enough strength to power up the blender, I throw in the mandatory raw eggs, steak and spinach and even a few nails for added strength and while that’s whirling around I down a glass of Berocca. I’m hoping all that “B-B bounce” will somehow catapult us out the door.

No such luck! The kids aren’t moving. The boot up the backside, cattle prod and even putting Minecraft into time out for eternity aren’t working. Desperate times mean desperate meaures, so I threaten to drop them at the Juvenile Justice Centre just up the hill. Juvenile Justice is not very far from the local pound either. So, if the dog keeps barking at 5.30AM (thank you very much, Lady!), I can drop her off on the way.

Peace and quiet but, of course, I jest!

My goodness! I’m sure all of this strife wasn’t part of the new script?

After all, isn’t this a repeat from last week’s episode?

This Monday was supposed to be different!

“Cut! Didn’t you read the script?”

We definitely need to cut and find a new script every single Monday morning.

We definitely need to cut and find a new script every single Monday morning.

Apparently not!

You see, the trouble is that even though this particular Monday morning might be new, the cast of characters and the set are still the same. This being the case, why would I, or indeed any of us, expect this Monday to be any different from any other Monday and have things miraculously work like clockwork?

“It’s just Another Manic Monday”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAZgLcK5LzI

A detour on the way to school on my birthday a few weeks ago.

A detour on the way to school on my birthday a few weeks ago.

Unfortunately, real life isn’t a motivational book turned real just in the same way that fairy tales are exactly that…fairy tales. We know fairies are pure fantasy, imagination and wishful thinking. We’d never expect them to come to life. Yet, for some reason we expect the kids to empty the dishwasher unprompted, the chocoholic to become sugar-free, the Minecraft addict to read a book and the house to clean itself just because it’s Monday morning.

Hello!!

Welcome to the real world!

The instant fix just isn’t going to happen.

There is no magic wand. Just persistence, being consistent, putting in the hard yards while having the faith that you can get there.

It apparently takes 6 weeks to break or forge a habit.

That might not be very long if you’re the sort of person who thrives on routine and methodical order but being creative, impulsive and haphazard, six weeks is an eternity.

This means that for any of this to change, I’ll need to be extremely determined.

Not only that.

I’ll need to draw up something of a road map of how I’m going to get there and stick to it. No detours!

So, starting from tomorrow, I will be setting myself a daily schedule. Living by the clock, the “panster” is going to have to become a “planner” or I am never going to get my books written. Finished. Something I know could really work will never happen and while the blog is going well, I’ll just end up being a “wanna be”.

Writing in my journal at Perisher in 2012 while the rest of the family was skiing.

Writing in my journal at Perisher in 2012 while the rest of the family was skiing.

I have never been a wanna be. I’ve mostly gone and done it but I’ve taken too many blows over the last couple of years. I needed a breather. I need to rethink the direction of the book after life events radically changed the plot and sabotaged the entire philosophical thread.

But…

That was a year ago. I’ve had time to rethink. Re-evaluate and create a different, probably more authentic and realistic way of looking at how we handle life’s setbacks. That it isn’t always just onward and upward. That indeed, just when we taste success, the whole mountain can come crumbling down and we’re seemingly back at the start again, buried in a snow and rubble but we still need to pick ourselves up and start over and that is my specialty.

Now, it’s time to become my own coach and motivator. Encourage myself to keep going in the same way that I encourage others and tell them that they “can do it”. That I am good enough.

Also, that I can somehow juggle all the stuff with the family, house etc and get this book done. That there will always be pressing priorities but they can be juggled and pushed aside to pursue what I know is my personal quest. I need to get that book out the door and I need to do it now

    .

    I need to do that or I know that I am but a bonsai of who I was always meant to be. That this isn’t about dreams or visions but who I am almost as a physical being. Not only writing but being read and getting my journey into a published format is as much a part of each and every cell in my body as my DNA and yet, I freeze.

    Paralysis through analysis?

    If I just start writing, or indeed, gather up all the writing I’ve already done and compile it, will it all suddenly come together and somehow knit together like a scarf? Become something of a tapestry?

    I have to believe that it will.

    That I can do this.

    I know this isn’t going to be easy but I’m NOT going to analyze things anymore. That would only cause further procrastination.

    I need to become who and what I was always intended to be.

    Not only a writer but also an author.

    A person with that cherished book in their hand with their name on the front page on the cover and and the spine.

    No longer a “gunna do” but a “Done it”.

    For this reason, tomorrow can’t wait.

    Tomorrow begins today…even if it is a Sunday!

    How do you manage procrastination and crippling self-doubt on the writing front? What has got you through?

    xx Rowena

    PS: I let Bilbo have the last word…”I am NOT procrastinating!”

    Bilbo with his ball. Actually, that's another dog's ball. Humph! Just call him obsessed!

    Bilbo with his ball. Actually, that’s another dog’s ball. Humph! Just call him obsessed!

Click Go the Shears, Dog!

“Click goes his shears; click, click, click.

Wide are the blows, and his hand is moving quick,

The ringer looks round, for he lost it by a blow,

And he curses that old shearer with the bare belled ewe.”

Click Go the Shears:  The tune is an adaptation of the American Civil War song “Ring the Bell, Watchman” by Henry Clay Work and the first verse follows closely, in parody, Work’s lyrics as well.

Tom Roberts: "Shearing the Rams" 1890.

Tom Roberts: “Shearing the Rams” 1890. Bilbo is almost as woolly as a sheep.

Bilbo, our very woolly, mature-aged Border Collie,  is about to get shorn like a sheep and it’s going to be a real test of endurance not just for the dog groomer but also for Geoff who will be standing in the dog float with him. Bilbo became quite disturbed when I unceremoniously bathed him a few weeks ago with the garden hose out in the back. We’re Australian and both humans and dogs are tough and it’s not often that they receive the royal salon treatment. However, when it comes to the hose and the vacuum cleaner, Bilbo is a pussy cat. Actually, he’s more of a chicken!

Instead of going to the dog salon, the salon is coming to us.

Instead of going to the dog salon, the salon is coming to us.

That’s right. All his glamorous fur is coming off. Not so long ago, Bilbo’s beautiful black & white fluffy coat would have been the envy of many a Hollywood starlet. That was until he stood out in the rain once too often while his winter coat was shedding and it fused into a wadded clump. Brushing, brushing and more brushing and even strategic snips, did little to improve the situation…especially as he was staging a stubbornly  determined campaign of full-scale avoidance, fleeing whenever  we approached his rump with the brush. It reminded me of the classic children’s book: Harry the Dirty Dog written by Gene Zion and illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham. Harry dug a hole and buried his scrubbing brush and ran away. Bilbo has come very close to doing just that.

Bilbo out on the kayak with Geoff.

Bilbo out on the kayak with Geoff.

I know I’ve shared about Bilbo’s intrepid adventures in previous posts. He’s gone sailing, kayaked and looking at the publicity shots, you’d have to say he is quite the intrepid adventurer.

However, contrary to popular belief, the camera lies. Indeed, it can tell the biggest, most seemingly believable, porky pies because, as we’ve been told, the camera never lies!! It sees what it sees. However, it makes the moment seem eternal and can give a fleeting moment a sense of eternity when it was perhaps a moment in time…and an exceptional moment at that!

Despite his bold, audacious and almost ferocious warnings to the postman, Bilbo is bark and all fright. Unlike Lady who greets anybody and everybody at the front door with enthusiastic tail wagging and thump thump thump at accelerating speeds, Bilbo avoids strangers. He generally doesn’t like being patted until he’s really warmed up to people, even those he sees regularly…except for my mother AKA “Ham-Ma”  who has been feeding him ham scraps even since he was a pup.He doesn’t even bark when her car pulls up. Like most dogs, even Bilbo’s love and trust is easily bought.

Perhaps, if I’d offered him food treats every time I tried to brush his rump, his fur might not have ended up in the knotted mess it’s in. Bilbo is the ultimate avoider and doesn’t understand anything about a stitch in time.

Hence, the clip.

I did try to attend to Bilbo’s woes myself and apart from nightly brushing and judicious use of the scissors, I also  gave the mutt a bath. Bilbo has only had a bath once before and to be quite   honest, he hasn’t needed a bath before either. He usually maintains his coat well himself with minimal intervention and never smells.

The beast looks relatively calm here but the hose is off.

The bath. Here the beast looks relatively calm  but the hose is off. He was wild…absolutely wild!!

That’s all changed and he currently stinks…I mean really sticks and his fur is greasy, matting and he seems to have a flea allergy. We’re getting the coat off and then expect to take him to the vet. Get him sorted.

Any moment now, the dog groomer is going to pull up and I am feeling quite nervous. I really don’t know how this is going to pan out. He went ballistic at the hose last week biting the water and lunging at me with his claws out. He gave mister quite a fright and left scratches in my legs. He can get quite skittish in some situations.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
– Nelson Mandela

Yet, Bilbo is not afraid. He’s asleep on the floor, oblivious to his impending ordeal. Instead, it’s me feeling the fear and trying to be brave.

Oh dear…they’ve just pulled up. Wish us luck. We’re going to need it!!

How do you have any tales to tell about your dog and baths and trips to the salon?

Meanwhile, have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Slaying the Dreaded Pantry Beast

Although you might think I’m paranoid, for quite some time now a wild beast or monster has taken up residence in our kitchen pantry. The doors won’t shut and last week, a glass jar suddenly fell on my foot. The monster’s getting angry and quite frankly, I fear for my life!!

Moreover, I’m pretty sure this isn’t some cute, fluffy harmless monster of the cookie monster variety. Rather, it’s dark, sinister and very, very mean! The sort of monster that keeps you tossing and turning at night…all night!

I think there could even be drop bears inside. You see, the glass jar isn’t the only thing that’s fallen out of there and I often hear the sound of falling cans or jars. I’d always thought that drop bears lived deep in the Australian bush but I’d swear there’s an entire tribe of them living in my pantry and they’re all having a party….Boom! Crash! Bang!

There’s a lot of activity going on behind those almost closed doors!

Well, I’m no Shrinking Violet so I’ve decided to reclaim my pantry and get rid of that monster and its friends once and for all. Unlike David Attenborough who would quietly study the monster in its native habitat, I’m going to kill it. Exterminate! This is a time for decisive action!

It’s my pantry and I want it back! It’s mine! Mine! All mine!

Well, although it’s generally a good idea to prepare for battle and at least do a few push ups, I actually slept through most of last week. I’ve barely been able to get out of bed and actually enlisted help getting the kids to and from school. I came to an absolute grinding stop due to some kind of stomach bug or extreme stress. Either way, my stomach ached. I couldn’t really eat and then I ran out of ergs. I was like a ghost wafting through the house.

Not exactly the time to tackle pantry monsters perhaps but I needed to clear my head. I have way too many things on my to do list and they’re all swimming round inside my head. I need to clear my head…or have I mentioned that already?!!

I’ll say it again. I need to clear my head.

Anyway, I was feeling recharged today and was ready to slay the beast once and for all. It was going to die. Meet its maker. Moreover, it was going to happen today too! No more “tomorrows”!!

The monster inside my pantry is the familiar “clutterbeast”.  Perhaps, you know it well. It doesn’t just settle with one of something but always goes for multiples. For example,  I found three separate bags of polenta stashed in different parts of my pantry. There were also two packets of sponge finger biscuits. You see, I’ve been intending to make a decadent family dessert called Chocolate In-Betweens but haven’t quite gotten around to it yet. We also won the school’s Christmas hamper and there are a few delicacies left from that as well. It’s quite an assortment really and everything tells a story.

As chaotic as it sounds, my pantry hasn’t been total anarchy. Rather than a place for everything and everything in its place, there are general areas or shelves dedicated to particular categories. All, or at least most, of the breakfast cereals are together for example. I have got something right!

It’s just that over time, things get shoved in gaps and any breathing space at all fills up and the whole place begins to suffocate (for some strange reason Cluttermonsters defy science and can still breathe in these difficult conditions and moths continue to breed as well).

Traditionally, I am not an ordered or structured type but I’ve come to appreciate that being able to find things quickly can save me a lot of time and stress.

I also hate waste with a passion…particularly food waste. We have a worm farm and I’ve also made a commitment not to use plastic packaging for the kids’ school lunches anymore. They do have plastic containers but that’s it. So while I could be doing more to save the planet, I am trying.

Throwing out unused food stuffs from the pantry, wastes both food and packaging. These are my two pet hates so it’s really something I want to avoid. Having a more organised pantry where I can see what’s actually there, will hopefully prevent such waste in future.

So my reasons for cleaning the pantry were as follows:

  • Being more efficient. I want to find things straight away.
  • Clearing my head. Get another task off my to-do list.
  • Saving my feet from future glass jar attacks
  • Keeping a better inventory of what’s in my pantry
  • Preventing waste
  • Saving money
  • Having a happier family life. Peoples have been grumbling about the drop bears in particular.

I’m certainly not cleaning my pantry to win some Housewife of the Year Award! I absolutely detest the term “housewife”. Moreover, if I was a domestic goddess of any variety, my pantry wouldn’t be in such a mess. I’m just your garden variety dreamer. That’s all.

Anyway, I probably could have looked up a zillion web sites and blogs to find out how to clean out my pantry without reinventing the wheel. However, I just wanted to get on with it. I’d put it off for long enough!

So here’s a dreamer’s guide to sorting out your pantry, which I believe could be used to sort out just about any kind of mess in your life. It is surprisingly methodical and structured, probably because I find it so difficult to organise stuff.  However, I’m starting to suspect this is somehow related to my lousy sense of direction and difficulties parking my car and isn’t some dreadful character flaw after all!

This is what I did:

1)      Emptied the pantry.

I took everything  out. That means everything. This process is not for the faint-hearted. You need to see this space with fresh eyes and not simply put everything back where it came from. Be extremely critical!

2)      Stacked everything on the kitchen table.

You will obviously need a clear, flat surface.  At this point, I felt completely overwhelmed. There was just a huge, amorphous blob…a veritable haystack… packets, jars, cans, bottles and quite a few moths flapping around. The monster had now materialised and boy was I scared!!

3)      Wiped down pantry shelves.

4)      Threw out things that were out-of-date.

This sort of felt good because I was getting rid of stuff and creating space but at the same time, I felt guilty about the waste. I threw out two bin bags worth of stuff. That was a lot of needless waste! That waste also cost money.

5)      Merged things together.

I topped up containers and generally added like with like.

My labeling machine

My labeling machine

6)      Labelled everything.

I used my Dymo labelling machine to do the labelling. This may seem a bit anal but I am so naturally disorganised that I need to be super-organised (if that makes any sense). Some of the containers had been labelled on a previous cleanup.

My Pantry Mind Map

My Pantry Mind Map

7)      Made categories.

Everything needs to be grouped or classified before being put back in the cupboard. By putting like with like, it makes it easier to find things.  At this point, I drew up a quick mind map to get some kind of structure in place. Again, this may seem a bit over the top but with that great big blob on my kitchen table, I needed to impose some external order. It was my way of trying to establish some boundaries and control…and subdue the beast!

8)      A place for everything and everything in its place.

This was easier said than done. How do you find a place for everything and as all of us know, there’s always a handful of homeless stuff left over after every big clean up. Where does it all go? How do you work out where to put everything? I’m still working on this one. Most of this superfluous clutter usually sneaks its way back in there somehow.

A common rule of thumb with these declutter projects is to put the things you use most at the front where you can access them easily. That might work in some households. However, in my last stop-gap pantry clean-up, I put all my chocolate in one plastic container and I had my Tim Tams and other chocolate biscuits in another. I labelled the containers and stuck them at the top of the pantry. Before I knew it, the kids had spotted my stash and it was gone. It had all been a sitting duck just like the US fleet in Pearl Harbor.

I have put all the sweet contraband type stuff on the top shelf, which while it’s not out of reach of the kids, they’ll at least have to work harder to get it down. If I’m really lucky, they might also realise that the stuff on the top shelf isn’t for kids but somehow I doubt it!

DSC_6946

Next I drew up a little diagram of the cupboard and wrote on the things that were easy to place first and slowly tackled the rest. Breaking down the space into more manageable blocks helped me feel less overwhelmed and that I could tackle the pantry one step at a time.

9)      Give away food I won’t use.

I accidently bought a huge jar of olives with pips and I’m going to drop them down to a local food charity. I won’t need to feel guilty anymore. I’ll be generous instead.

10)   Use what’s in the pantry.

It looks like we’ll be eating a lot of polenta!

11)   Buy what we need in future.

Don’t be lured in by specials and supposed savings in future like buying two for less when we’ll only use one anyway. Maintain a shopping list.

My storage tubs.

My storage tubs.

Rowena’s top pantry storage tip:

I have some medium-sized lidded crates where I store like things such as packets of biscuits, dried fruit and baking “bits” (bicarb, patty papers etc). These all stack up almost neatly on each other. They manage all those really annoying bits and pieces and make it so much easier to find things.

The finished product. It isn't perfect but at least the doors finally shut!

The finished product. It isn’t perfect but at least the doors finally shut!

Well done Ro! I’d say that it probably took me almost five hours to clean out the pantry. I threw out two garbage bags worth of food and I’ll be taking that jar of olives down to our local food charity. I found quite a lot of what I would call “exotica” in the pantry. Ingredients I’d bought to make some kind of fancy or different meal which I’d never made. That felt a bit disappointing because there have been so many nights when I haven’t known what to cook and we’ve had the same old same old when we could have been eating polenta (all three bags of it) instead.

But now there are no more excuses. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday…we’ll all be having polenta! Ha!

Do you have any funny pantry or clutter stories? I’d love to read them!

xx Rowena