Yard sale countdown

I broke the news to the husband last night.

“I need your help Friday morning.”

“To do what?”

“Set up for our yard sale.”

“Our what?”

He’s made his position on yard sales very clear throughout our more than three decades of marriage.  He has stated on numerous occasions that he wasn’t going to be part of any yard sale, but I figured he could help me move the stuff from the house to the yard. He reluctantly has agreed because he really wants the stuff out of the house.

As I wrote in a post in May, I seriously lack *finesse in the yard/garage sale business. I also asked if any readers had tips, but the responses I received revealed that my readers are not overly savvy in this department either. So I’m going to use the article from Organized Home I noted in the previous post as a road map.

I’ve printed out the site’s handy Yard Sale Check List. First stop is an office supply store to purchase pre-printed yard sale price stickers; a great tip from the article. They’re printed in amounts from 10 cents to $10 and should be a real a time-saver. Who knew?

I’m ready to get this sale organized – wish me luck!

My yard sale *finesse level:  Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert

What’s your yard sale finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

“Where did the day go” syndrome

Early to bed and early to rise may make you healthy, wealthy and wise, but it won’t necessarily make you organized. I head to bed at 8:30 p.m. and have a 5 a.m. wake up call, which most people would consider early. The simple truth is I can be distracted and procrastinate regardless of the hour. The days I’m most organized and productive occur when I follow a set schedule. Deviation from the schedule results in what I like to call “where did the day go” syndrome.

I’m not scheduled down to the minute, but I do set the following general agenda:

  • Nourishing my inner-self
    Some people call it meditation, others call it quiet time or devotions. For me it’s personal time with my God, which helps me focus on what is truly important and sets the tone for my day.
  • Exercise
    Whether it be the treadmill or Yoga and Zumba on the Wii, I feel better when I get in at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.
  • Personal care
    I try to make myself presentable for the day as if I were commuting to a place of employment. Even though I’m creating from home, I feel more professional and polished when I’ve fixed my hair, put on make-up and dressed.
    My goal is to have all this accomplished by 8:30 a.m. Some days I meet that goal, other days, well…
  • Writing
    This is my profession and my talent. I continue to write even though I’m no longer doing it to earn a paycheck. Writing keeps me creative and gives purpose to my days. My goal is to have by blog written and posted before noon.

The rest of my day is devoted to the everyday tasks such as paying bills, grocery shopping, cleaning, etc. The fact is, if I fail to follow my schedule, I can get to the end of the day and be scrambling to get even the least amount accomplished. I’m admittedly a disorganized procrastinator by nature. However, that doesn’t mean I have to live a disorganized life. I just need a little structure to help me stay on task and be productive.

My organization *finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert      

What’s your organization finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Vacation souvenirs – a love/hate relationship

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I LOVE to travel. I love exploring new places, spending time with friends and family who live far away, and just plain getting away from the ordinary day-to-day stuff. I like remembering the places we’ve been with souvenirs, but as much as I love souvenirs, I also hate them.

My first recollection of purchasing souvenirs was when we went on a family vacation to Yellowstone National Park (one of my favorite places on earth!). I was 8 years old and with the help of my mother, picked up a jewelry box, coin purse and pennant all emblazoned with the image of Old Faithful. That vacation started a long tradition of purchasing souvenirs that now clutter my house. And it’s not just souvenirs I’ve purchased, but souvenirs my parents and grandparents brought back from their travels.

When I finally realized this needed to stop, I migrated to purchasing and requesting T-shirts. This is a better solution than storing or dusting less practical souvenirs, but they eventually wear out so the entire purpose of a souvenir is lost.

The perfect solution appeared as I was perusing the gift shop at Mt. Rushmore and came across a Christmas ornament depicting the famous monument. It hit me that Christmas ornaments are the perfect souvenir! You take them out once a year, relive fond memories as you place them on the tree and then store them away neatly with the other ornaments a few weeks later. Perfect!

Since that epiphany, I’ve purchased ornaments on our trips to Disneyland, Seattle, Seaside, the Oregon Caves, the Grand Canyon and most recently Cape Disappointment. They don’t take up much space in the suitcase, which is a plus, and they don’t clutter my house. They are the perfect souvenir and sparkling reminders of the fun places we’ve enjoyed visiting.

My souvenir *finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert             

What’s your souvenir finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)



Understanding expectations

The husband is not a great organizer when he has a limited budget. He just seems to lack the vision to see imaginative ways to create the desired effect without greatly affecting our financial bottom line. This is true regardless of whether he’s organizing his garage, or planning a celebration. It’s just not his forte.

It took me a while to realize he was not being thoughtless when he’d plan something lame and he was not being imprudent when he spent an extreme amount of money trying to make an occasion extra special. He was simply trying his best. Unfortunately, I didn’t hide my feelings very well, which caused him to have greater anxiety when planning the next occasion.

As our 30th anniversary approached, I decided enough of the unrealistic expectations. I was secure in his love for me and didn’t need him to turn himself inside out trying to do something spectacular. After all, this was his anniversary, too! I informed him that I was going to do all the planning and organizing, and to make it special for me, I was keeping our destination a secret. He just needed to drive our MDX and follow the instructions of the nice GPS lady. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him that relieved.

As we got closer to our destination, he correctly guessed we were staying in Seattle. As I’d planned, the hotel allowed us to check in early so we could make our brunch reservation at the Space Needle. We were fortunate to have great weather, so the view was amazing. Another highlight was a carriage ride through the park. We both had such a great time that I decided I should make all the plans and keep them secret every year. He didn’t object.

After our 32nd anniversary trip, the husband said, “I’d like to try organizing the trip next year.” He explained that he had a better understanding of my expectations, and wanted to surprise me for a change. I was a little shocked and a little fearful. However, as our anniversary approaches, it’s fun to watch him be excited about doing something special for me, and that’s the best anniversary gift of all.

Just say no to baggage fees

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m unorganized by nature. Knowing this, I really work at being organized. I am, however, very frugal by nature, so it has become very easy to be extremely organized when packing for a trip involving airline travel. I do NOT want to pay the baggage fees, if at all possible.

A few weeks back I wrote about my struggle using a duffle bag as a carryon, and the need to invest in a good piece of luggage (www.femme-de-finesse.com/bags_got_to_go/). The carryon I purchased is great and holds a LOT! My *finesse travel rule is to pack everything I NEED first, then add the other items in order of importance. I was able to easily pack for my four day trip to Alaska with room to spare. I was even able to pack my hair dryer and bring home souvenirs!

A word of caution regarding the size of carryon luggage. During a layover, I watched one airline repeatedly tell passenger after passenger that their carryon didn’t fit their specifications. Before investing in a carryon, check the specifications of the airline you use most frequently. And understand that while your luggage may meet those specifications, those measurements may not include the outside pockets bulging, or the zippered expansions.

Most airlines allow one carryon plus a personal item such as a purse or computer case. I purchased a computer case that can double as a purse at Ross for about $20 (OK, it’s a large purse, but I’ve seen ladies carry larger). I purchased this particular one because of a good-sized zippered pocket on the outside, which could hold my boarding pass and identification. It also has several slots inside to hold my credit cards and a zippered pocket to hold travel receipts, lip balm, comb, etc. The padded side holds my laptop easily and safely, while the other side is larger enough to hold the plastic bag of liquids I need to show TSA agents, as well as any snacks I might want to take on the flight.

On my trip home, I arrived at the airport one hour before boarding. Not recommended, but Fairbanks is a pretty small airport, so I figured I would make my flight easily. As I approached the TSA agent in the security area, they were calling for those on my flight to move forward in line so they could make the flight. Maybe I cut it a little too close, but because I was organized, I was able to breeze through security and sit for a few moments before boarding. Now that’s what I call *finesse!

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Travel planning with Finesse

It’s that time of year when we think about vacations. Because we own timeshares (which work very well for us, by the way!), we tend to plan at least a year in advance. However, there are always those fine details to be worked out as the vacation gets closer.

We spend a great deal of time in Central Oregon at Eagle Crest Resort and have seen and done a lot of the different touristy things, so we’re going to dig a little deeper and maybe get a little more adventurous this summer. I don’t see us climbing Smith Rock, but we are planning to head south one day and explore Crater Lake National Park. I’m a native Oregonian and the husband has lived here since he was two-weeks old, but neither of us has ever been to Crater Lake.

A quick glance at the website seems to indicate that all photography requires a permit – even if it’s just a pose of the family in front of the lake. This might require a little more research, but that’s all part of travel planning. The website also mentions boat tours, which sounds like fun, but there wasn’t a link with information on the cost, times, or length of the excursions. Also missing is the amount of time it takes to drive around the lake.

I’m not easily deterred, so I “googled” again and found the Crater Lake Lodges Xanterra Parks and Resorts site offered much more information.  Only a certain number of reservations are accepted for the nearly 2 hour tours, saving the remaining spots for first come, first served purchases on the day of the tour. These sell out quickly, so if we aren’t able to snag a reservation, we should plan on arriving early. It’s also not just a short little hop to the boat ramp. We’ll need to hike a little more than a mile on a trail that drops approximately 700-feet. It’s not the drop that concerns me as much as the ascent on the hike out, which is equivalent to climbing more than 70-flights of stairs! The same website also lists the menus of the cafes around the lake. Given their offerings, I think we’ll pack a picnic.

I’ve learned to keep digging. E-mail or make a phone call if necessary to get accurate information. Keep surprises at a minimum. Avoid disappointment with a little planning *finesse and maximize the fun!

My travel planning finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert    

What’s your travel planning finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Looking for yard/garage sale tips

 I’ve made quite a bit of progress decluttering my home (and trying to help my mother do the same). Some items have already been donated to thrift stores, but since we have some furniture and other large scale items, I thought I’d try unloading them via a yard sale. (It has to be a yard sale, ‘cause the husband won’t let strangers near his garage!)

I’ve held one or two yard sales and helped with a few others, but I lack *finesse in this department. Knowing that I don’t want to put in a lot of effort for little return, I began searching the web for tips. I came across the following article, which covers a lot of ground and provides useful information.

OrganizedHome.Com: Clean House, Cut Clutter and Get Organized at Home!

Please feel free to share your yard/garage sale finesse!

My yard/garage sale finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert

What’s your yard/garage sale finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

The old bag’s got to go

Last week I flew to Phoenix to attend the ordination of my son, who is a minister. For various reasons, this was a “fly in on Monday – fly out on Wednesday” trip. No need to check luggage, as a carry-on should hold everything needed for two days and nights. I discovered that whether a carry-on is sufficient for that purpose really depends on the bag.

I’m a fairly adept at packing, but everything I wanted to take simply would not fit into the duffle bag I was using. I changed strategy and began placing some of my items in my husband’s bag. He was flying in a day behind me, so required fewer items and is generally a jeans and T-shirt kind of guy. Even placing some items in his duffle bag didn’t fix my space problem. My mother was traveling with me, so I asked if she had extra room. A few items shifted to her suitcase still left my bag bulging. I decided I could take one less pair of sandals, and exchange the blouse I was wearing over my tank top for the packed jean jacket. The bag was no longer bulging, but heavy.

As I watched people zip through the concourse pulling their carry-on luggage behind them, I kept telling myself that lugging the bag was building arm muscles. Time to switch arms for an equal work out! I did NOT look like I was traveling with *finesse!

I have at least two more trips planned this year, so I began researching carry-on luggage when I returned home. I decided on the highly-rated 21-inchDelsey Helium Fusion Lite 2.0, which I just purchased on sale for $67.98 through Luggageonline.com. Multiple reviews on numerous sites state it is light-weight, durable and holds a LOT, which is exactly what I need. Oh, and it comes in bright blue!

Next trip I’ll be zipping through the airport with ample room in my carry-on and looking like the epitome of finesse!

My travel finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert      

What’s your travel finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Buried in boxes of photos

I had good intentions and followed through pretty well during the first few years of marriage. Shortly after getting our photos developed, I’d place them neatly on the adhesive pages of photo albums with clever captions below. When we started having kids I envisioned photo albums for each child, creatively capturing each milestone from first steps to graduation.

Something went very wrong between the visions and reality and we now have boxes of photos. The ones that did make it into those old adhesive photo albums have been removed, but some are very badly damaged. I invested in several photo-safe boxes and began organizing the photos by date. I’m glad they are safe from further deterioration, but this still doesn’t seem to be the best option for preserving memories long term. Honestly, it’s all a little overwhelming.

I used a new approach with the pictures of my son and daughter-in-law’s wedding. I used an online photo book service and was very pleased with the result. I have to say, the layout options were a little less intuitive than I would have liked, but workable if you have some photo editing knowledge. The same company offers scanning of photos, but I’m not comfortable sending irreplaceable memories through the mail.

Organizing digital photos can be equally frustrating. We recently updated our computer’s operating system and can’t get our photos to transfer. If they aren’t safe on the hard drive, then they have to be stored elsewhere.  Print them? Burn a CD?

A simple internet search yields a lot of results for how to organize photos, but I’d like to know what works for you. Have you found a great solution?

My photo organization finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert

What’s your photo organization finesse level?

A “collector” chooses organization

I recently wrote about trying to help my mother begin the overwhelming task of becoming organized. I readily admit to not being organized by nature (wonder where I get that?), but I have picked up some skills that help me achieve an efficient, calm, organized lifestyle. I thought if mom took an organizational class, her eyes would be opened to a whole new world where there’s “a place for everything and everything is in its place.” Oh, if it had only been that easy.

Mom’s a “fly by the seat of your pants” kind of gal. She’s always ready for fun and has the ability to make people feel comfortable. If someone needs her, she drops everything and is there for them. It’s easy to see why she has a LOT of friends. And her friends give her gifts, which she proudly displays. As I mentioned in the previous post, her collection of stuff flows throughout her lovely 3-bedroom, 2-bath home in a seemingly endless display of visual clutter.

Evil Clutter Fairy: "Three weeks after throwing something away you'll need it again."

We attended the organizational class in the summer and she resisted all requests to begin the process of elimination – until a week before Christmas. Mom wanted to host Christmas dinner at her house and understands I have a hard time relaxing while surrounded by clutter. I was fine with her hosting, and she reluctantly accepted my offer to help her get her kitchen and family room organized and festive.

I won’t say it wasn’t challenging, and at times it was even painful, but the process was started. We continued to go through her home one day a week through Feb. We’ve made a lot of progress, but we’ve got a long way to go. I’ll keep you updated!

My organization finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert

What’s your organization finesse level?

If you need some coaching, contact connie@anewbeginningorganizing.com – www.anewbeginningorganizing.com