Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Living Life Fearlessly

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Just re-reading some old blog posts and thought I’d remind myself of thoughts I shared.

TJ Talks

” I smiled when I saw the photo, thinking about you living life fearlessly (as you have written about) and taking risks, doing things that put you in harms way. Living life with the possibility of being hurt. These ripped jeans are testimony to me of that. I’m glad that you weren’t seriously injured, but I rejoice with you that you are able to do all the things you want to do and not give into a paralyzing fear that would keep you from them.”

This was written in the comment section of a photo I posted on facebook. A photo of my favorite jeans with a large rip in them just above the knee that was scraped when I slipped and fell while walking down a slightly declining wet ramp to board a mock pirate ship in Hakone Japan. Her first comment was “This is so awesome on so many…

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Organize Your Closet One Step At A Time: Step 3 Sort Clothes Into Categories

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#3. Sort Clothes Into Categories

Note: If your clothes are packed in so tight that you cannot easily move things around, then take several pieces out and lay them on the bed (if you have large items like coats or jackets that is an easy category to start placing on the bed and it will quickly give you room to maneuver in the closet). Also remove any ties or belts you might have hanging in the closet.

Note #2: If you are easily distracted or overwhelmed get a kitchen timer or use your smart phone to set the timer for 10-20 minutes work periods.

A. Start with the spot you see first when you open the closet on one end or the other. Move all pants into that first section, then all skirts, then all shirts/tops, then sweaters/jackets, then robes, then dresses (make sure to place dresses in the longest section of the closet.)  At this point you have not made any decisions about what to keep, what to store or what to give away….just arrange by type so you can see how many of each type you have. You can probably do this in 20-30 minutes, set a timer if that helps.

B. Now go back through each section and arrange by color and type. In each section I go light to dark in the summer and dark to light in the winter (but that’s just me, you can keep it the same year round if you prefer). I also go from less to more; like sleeveless to turtleneck. Since we are going into the winter my first section on the left of my square walk-in closet has solid black spaghetti strap and tank tops (for layering), then t-shirts, button-ups, long sleeved tanks and turtlenecks.  Followed by print tops that are predominately black. Next I placed all the brown shirts, then green, then blue, then violet, pink, red, orange, yellow and white. In the back of the closet I have coats and dresses. On the right side starting in the back,  I have jackets, skirts and pants. I have pants toward the front because I wear them most and they are arranged by color/type (all light colored pants, then jeans, then dark colors ending with black). This step might take a little longer but the key is to move quickly, again not making any major decisions.

C. Go back through one section at a time and remove ‘out of season’ clothing first* (I only do this twice a year, mid-Autumn and early-Spring). I know this is hard in places with milder climates but there are usually some clear cut Winter or Summer extremes (I never keep turtlenecks, corduroy pants or thick flannel in my closet in the summer and I never miss thin skirts and shirts in light colors (white linen, etc) in the winter. I fold the clothes up neatly and place in one or more of the cardboard or plastic boxes or move to the spare bedroom closet if there is room. Never put anything in storage if there is any doubt if it’s clean (you might need to do a few loads of laundry or take items to the Dry Cleaners before completing this step. You don’t want to find moth holes at the beginning of the next season or set in stains. If you have a lot of wool garments you will need to add moth repellent of some kind. (I’ve used whole cloves, moth balls and cedar blocks, there is more info online.)

*Note: As you remove last season’s clothing begin to ask yourself some questions:

1. Does it fit? or has it recently fit? (If it’s been more than 5 years and you are not in the process of already loosing (or gaining) so that they will likely fit by next year, then it’s time to find a new home.)

2. Does it flatter my figure? Is it comfortable? Do I love/hate it? Did I put it on and take it off instead of wearing it out last season? Is it severely outdated? Is there someone that might be thrilled to wear this? (If you have a friend or relative who might enjoy the clothes, tell her what you are doing but ask her to come at the end of the day to go through the plastic bags for charity at HER HOUSE not yours (or better yet, you drop the bags for her to go through)…she can drop off what she doesn’t take at the charity drop off spot. You want to get those bags out of your house before you have a chance to go pull something out to keep.

Anything that you can quickly decide to give to charity, put in the large plastic trash bag (use marker to label – Good Will, Salvation Army, etc. or just Give Away). As each bag is filled, move to the front door and the first time you walk past the bags to the car, put them in the trunk with a sticky note on the dash to drop them at the charity drop off place).

If you are undecided about an item you can put it in your ‘out of season’ box and decide next season or label one box “undecided” and see if you can live without it next year. If you need to be strict with yourself (and you are ready for that), then give it away. You probably won’t miss it if it’s outdated, doesn’t fit, isn’t comfortable or is no longer your style.

If you find garments that you love but they need repairing you can either put them in your ‘to be repaired by me’ basket in your sewing room (does anyone do that anymore?!), place by your purse to be dropped off at the Tailor (or Dry Cleaners that do repairs) or put in the charity bag and “Let it go!”

Anything that is severely damaged (torn or stained) throw in the trash can.

What you should have left hanging in your closet is the current season’s clothes arranged by type and color. Place the out of season boxes under the bed, top or bottom of the closet or spare bedroom closet. Worst case you can move them to the garage if there is no room in the house but I don’t recommend that.

You are over your first big hurdle, now take a break and celebrate!

Organize Your Closet One Step At A Time: Step 2 Collect Supplies

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#2. Collect Supplies

A. 3-6 medium size cardboard or plastic boxes that will fit on a shelf in your closet or on the floor under shorter pieces of clothing or under a bed for storing your out of season clothes (unless you have an empty closet in another room that you can move them to).

B. Permanent Marker for labeling boxes, stickers or 3×5 cards if using plastic boxes.

C. Large plastic trash bags (clean) for taking clothes to charity.

D. Paper bags that stand on their own or plastic lined trash can for trashed items that cannot be passed on to someone else.

E. Clean laundry basket(s) or box(es) for sorting or moving clothing and other items to other rooms.

Organize Your Closet One Step At A Time: Step 1 Empty Hangers

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1. Hangers

A. Remove all empty hangers putting all wire hangers and all broken/bent/weak hangers in a paper bag to be thrown away as you touch them (keep bag nearby and touch each hanger only once).

B. Place good empty hangers on your bed, dresser or empty box. (You should now have a tiny bit of room in your closet to maneuver a bit.

Notes: If you only own wire hangers go out and buy as many plastic hangers as you can afford. Not the flimsiest version but they don’t have to be very expensive. It’s nice to have a variety of styles. The smooth ones with a large opening and some with notches to keep spaghetti straps from slipping off.  I also like to use about 10 of the felt covered non-slip type for things that tend to slip off (they used to sell them at Costco) I do not like to use them for everything though, it’s too hard to remove garments.

If you don’t have any empty hangers you can start with Step 2 but will need a nearby bed to have space for sorting, so don’t start close to bedtime or you will be moving a pile of clothes to get into bed.

Closet Organization Tips

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  1. PREPARE: Have large trash bags ready for charity and trash, boxes or plastic containers for off season or undecided items, label boxes. Also have a spiral notebook for making a list of what is needed to complete the job.
  2. BEGIN: Take everything out of the closet (you can sort quickly as you go for obvious discarded items like stained worn out t shirts or maternity clothes, but do not take the time to decide difficult items, move quickly). 
  3. DIVIDE: Divide clothes and shoes into seasons (I use 2 categories: warm weather or cool weather)
  4. CLEAN: Clean closet well: dust, vacuum, wipe down shelves, But move quickly.
  5. CATEGORIZE: Go through the clothes in current season first, hang back in the closet – arranged by type then color (pants from white to black, shirts from sleeveless to turtleneck by color, etc), discarding obvious items for trash or charity into
  6. QUESTION: One category at a time, now go through and ask the hard questions: does it fit, do I love it, does it serve a purpose, does it go with other items (shoes, tops, etc), is it age appropriate, do I go places that allow me to wear this outfit? Still work as quickly as you can, placing undecided items on the bed, leaving only what you LOVE or use very often out of necessity in your closet.
  7.  CHOOSE: After you have gone through each category, pulling out undecided items, see if there are obvious needs (like ‘I love this skirt but I never wear it because I don’t have a top or shoes that match’. Start making a list of what you need to complete those outfits. If you have room, place those misfit items at the back or side of the closet, out of the main view. At this stage I literally try clothes on to make sure they do in fact fit and enhance my appearance. (If I’m planning to loose weight, I choose a few very favorite pieces that are smaller and place them in a box or spare bedroom closet for one year, if I don’t loose the weight, I get rid of it, if I do, I pull those items out and place some of the larger ones in the spare closet 🙂
  8. LIST: Now look at what you have left and go back to the pile of undecided items on the bed, fine tune the selection only keeping what currently fits, is loved and/or is really necessary (for instance, if you don’t love your black blazer but you have to wear it to work tomorrow…keep it until you can replace it, add those items to your notebook list). Also add the list containers or tools needed to keep your closet organized (plastic boxes for folded sweaters, hooks or hangers for belts, etc).
  9. STORE: Now start the whole process with your off-season, if you have space place those clothes in a spare bedroom closet, by category, by color. If not, box them up and label them well (winter pants and sweaters, summer sandals, etc).
  10. GIVE: Place bags and boxes of clothes for charity in your car and take to Goodwill or Salvation Army the next time you can leave the house during their open hours. I keep them there in the trunk so that it’s harder to go back through them after I’ve decided to let them go.
  11. SHOP: Start the process of replacing the items you’ve discarded if they are really necessary. I like to live with less for a while and enjoy how freeing it feels to have fewer choices and less clutter before I start shopping. But for others the reward of getting to shop afterwards might help with motivation.

Distinguishing Good From Evil

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Hebrews 5:14 (NIV)

14 “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

Current political debate seems to hinge on how one defines what is good and what is evil. I hate politics. I hate arguing. I understand the need for debate but I seldom see it handled well. I watch in awe when I visit friends where the family members move in and out of discussions with disagreements and the relationships and emotional health of all seems to be just as strong as before. I’m sure my anxiety around this subject is related to how disagreements were handled in my family growing up. I wanted  to handle conflict differently in my home. Model for our children a healthier way of discussing controversial subjects. We failed. Any attempts to discuss highly controversial subjects with our adult children seems to end in a few harsh statements or accusations and then complete avoidance of the subject for years…maybe forever.

More and more I have become silent when controversial subjects come up. I want to avoid the whole subject. I dread election years and simply hold my breath until they are over. But lately it seems there is always something stirring up controversy in such a way that I’m forced to admit an opinion. Or at least wrestle with the questions myself and try to come to some stance on the subject.

This morning I read the Book of Hebrews in one sitting. I like to do that from time to time so that I keep each verse in context and get the overall message. I’m always amazed how different verses catch my attention at different times in my life based on what I’ve been experiencing and thinking about. Today it was this verse.

I find I’m always internally asking ‘What is good or bad about any given situation.’ I don’t conscientiously want to be asking that question but I cannot seem to help myself. Sometimes in the shape of  ‘What is beautiful and what is ugly?’ Whether it be inside myself or in the environment around me. ‘What to feed and what to kill?’

Read the rest of this entry

Living Life Fearlessly

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” I smiled when I saw the photo, thinking about you living life fearlessly (as you have written about) and taking risks, doing things that put you in harms way. Living life with the possibility of being hurt. These ripped jeans are testimony to me of that. I’m glad that you weren’t seriously injured, but I rejoice with you that you are able to do all the things you want to do and not give into a paralyzing fear that would keep you from them.”

This was written in the comment section of a photo I posted on facebook. A photo of my favorite jeans with a large rip in them just above the knee that was scraped when I slipped and fell while walking down a slightly declining wet ramp to board a mock pirate ship in Hakone Japan. Her first comment was “This is so awesome on so many levels.”

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I was confused since it wasn’t awesome to look like a dork in front of so many people. I was actually more sad about the jeans first, then worried I’d be in pain for months to come (serious knee injury or just old lady back-out needing a chiropractor). It is that sort of fear that can lead to older people living a smaller and smaller life. Forgoing opportunities to see the world and connect with others along the way.

I’ve seen people do that, more women than men it seems. I don’t want to be that kind of woman. People who have known me for a long time think this adventure fits my personality. Some have always seen me as more brave than I am. Many think that because I’ve never met a stranger, talk easily and seem to make friends quickly that this has not been a very difficult transition.

Maybe it’s true that I was ‘born this way’, adventurous & brave. But the natural trajectory of (my)  life  since birth has been to pull into myself with each painful consequence of trying to live freely. The risks taken to live out my dreams were met by failure, disappointment and at times, excruciating pain, just like everyone else. I’ve been spared some trauma that others have had to face and I share in shameful secrets many will never admit to themselves, let alone talk about.

It has felt like war to keep pushing through the fear that would immobilize me. As I say this, I want to erase this whole post. The courage required to live my life pales in comparison to what so many women (and men) must deal with every day. This is clearly a “First World Problem”. But I’ll leave the post. It is real and we all must start where we are. Maybe I’ll be given the gift of more profound suffering.

I’m grateful to the people God has used to expose my fear that prompted the ugliest of un-loving interactions with others. I’m grateful for God’s kindness in giving me tastes of His goodness that calls me to trust Him and move into a world with many dangers, but none that can separate me from His love and His purposes. I want to look into the future with a smile, knowing that He will be with me no matter what dark valley I walk through and often times have a child or two of His to reach out and touch me at just the right time.

Beauty Abounds

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My favorite time to sit and look out my window is as the sun is setting behind me. I don’t really get to see the sun set, but I see it’s affects as the angle changes. The bridge over the Bay here in Yokohama is white and it seems most of the larger boats (ships?) in the water are also white. So as the sun drops on the horizon behind me to the right, the white of these surfaces shines brightly but there is still enough light in the sky for the water to be a vivid blue. The other day I realized that on most days my floor to ceiling sliding glass door corner view is filled with my two favorite colors: blue and white.

I’ve tried to capture this beauty with a camera. Maybe a better camera or a better photographer can accomplish that. But I am always disappointed. I share my attempts on instagram or facebook and I always want to add ‘But it’s much better in person!’ And isn’t that true of most scenes. Our eyes are amazing. What we can see…even with imperfect vision is better than what we can re-create.

Another random thought as I look out at this amazing view is the old adage ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ Not too many years back this scene would have depressed me. Oh I might have been able to ‘appreciate’ it when all lit up at night but my first few visits to big cities stirred some sort of deep fear or despair.

I’m sure I was influenced by how my mother and father both hated large cities; crowds, traffic, noise and life in the concrete jungle instead of the countryside or at least suburbia. I think I adopted the idea that living in small spaces with views of other buildings instead of rolling hills or farm land, was depressing. But after living here in Yokohama for just four months it’s been interesting to see how many people live the city life as if it’s just normal. In fact better than normal, preferred.

It’s very much a walking life. Yes there are crowded trains and stations, rushing from buses and taxi but there is something very good about walking in between those modes of transportation. Appreciating the changing seasons in parks and landscaped shopping centers.

A few years ago I heard a song that became a sort of anthem for me. ‘Add To The Beauty’ by Sara Groves. And I realized that in order for me to ADD to the beauty I must first notice the existing beauty around me. So here I am, in an overcrowded, concrete jungle, looking for beauty and finding it all around me.