“I feel like a…like a…sh@$ shoveler. I can’t help it and I know I’m like a broken record whining and moaning about this every year at this time. But I do. Every year there’s this grand celebration about gifts and giving but once it’s over and everyone has moved on to the next “big thing” who has to take care of the clean-up? Go through the old stuff to make room for the new stuff? Figure out what to do with the old stuff? Dump? Goodwill? Craig’s List? Me, the sh@$ shoveler, that’s who. Where’s the giving in that?? I should have known that this would be part of my destiny. All those years of my parents handing me a bucket and a shovel and pointing to the dog pen while my father called out, ‘There she goes, our little Super Duper Pooper Scooper!'”
And on and on I went, lamenting to one of my dearest, dearest friends about the aftermath of the holidays. Same old song and dance. But I can’t help it. It’s how I feel every year. The prospect of a pile of new stuff coming into our house just doesn’t thrill me the way it might for other people. I tend to be cranky about it. I’ve been called Scrooge. I’ve even been told by my sweetie that I can be downright “scary” about the whole thing. And I know that any family member of mine who might be reading this right now is probably rolling his or her eyes…..”Here she goes again.”
But here’s the thing….nothing thrills me more than a small handful of freshly sharpened pencils. A medicine cabinet that is organized and labeled. Lego pieces that have been separated into individual bins – Small, Medium, Large, People…as opposed to dumped into one big bin or “Horrors!” strewn across the floor making it difficult for people to walk down the hallway without knocking over a prized creation. A toy closet with up-to-date toys as opposed to one filled with toddler toys no longer used or wanted. A bookshelf with just a few loved possessions on it. Less is more. Less is more. Bring more stuff in the house and now “we” (ie: me) have to find a new place for it. In closets that are already full.
As the years have gone by and time has become scarce due to the magnitude of responsibilities required for raising a family, I haven’t been able to indulge my OCD tendencies like I used to. Organizing and purging take a lot of time. But, opening a closet, a cupboard or just walking in our garage has become a hazard. And every passing day, I become grumpier and grumpier about the situation.
And then, the funniest thing happened. I hung up the phone after my “vent session” and paragraph one, above, kept replaying in my mind. Over and over and over. And what I heard was that I am, in fact, the “Super Duper Pooper Scooper.” So let’s get going. Less talking…more walking. Just like the dishes….can’t think about it. Just do it. And so, right at that very moment, I grabbed my labeler, wrote garbage on one bag and donate on another and ran up the stairs. I hauled everything out of my medicine cabinet and my toiletries drawer and dumped it on the floor. I wiped down the shelves. Dug out from another closet the organizing bin I’d purchased years ago for my drawer. Fired up the labeler. Categorized. Organized. Pitched. Purged. And not but an hour or two later, I stood back and admired my new sparkly clean and organized bathroom. I felt refreshed. I could breathe.
Right then and there, in that moment of blissful deep breathing, I decided that this had to continue. I had to make this a goal for 2011 – Clean out all closets, and dare I say it, the garage!! Lighten the load. And so, my dear friends, I have blocked out a regular time each week that I will be purging based on my prioritized list. Whatever gets done during that time is what gets done. I have been trying to talk my dear friend and neighbor into doing this with me. It could be like a race. As soon as the last ones are on the bus, we announce what we are organizing that day and then,….”On your mark get set go.” We would meet back up at lunch time to discuss our progress. A little competition is always good for getting things done.
Want to join me…us? Choose your day, afternoon, evening. Perhaps tell me what is first on your list to organize. A little accountability is always good. I will be posting at the bottom of my weekly posts, what I will be organizing that week and whether or not I finished the project from the week before. That’s my way of being accountable. Once winter is over….the spring cleaning may already be done.
In the meantime, as a way to lessen what actually comes into our home, I will continue to preach my time-honored mantras to my tribe:
Less is more.
Use up what you already have.
Don’t just buy to buy.
Take a moment to actually consider your purchases.
Purge what is no longer needed. (This does not mean throw it in the garage or an already full closet.)
Time is a gift.
Hopefully one day, on the way from one ear to another, what I’m staying will get stuck there in the middle.
And speaking of gifts, here is one for one of you…..
Seattle’s Best Coffee Curiosity Pack
The kind people at Seattle’s Best Coffee have sent me a Curiosity Pack – 5 blends, 1 box – to give to one of you. I think the idea is quite ingenious. It’s a way to try out a variety of blends, without having to purchase large quantities, in order to determine which type of coffee you like best. Mild, light, crisp…to bold, dark, intense. Should you be interested in receiving this little gift, leave me your name and email address in a comment below by the end of the day Friday, January 14th. I will draw a name from a hat and email the lucky person.
And while you’re leaving comments….does anyone have any tips for organizing my nemesis….LEGOS!!
White Bean and Kale Soup Peppered with Pancetta
Since I was so busy with my organizing frenzy, no plans were made for dinner that evening. No inspiration was to be found. However, preaching my own mantras to myself, especially, “Use up what you already have.”, I went to the cupboard and discovered I still had the ingredients for a soup I had planned to make the week before but never did. My family loves this soup and it incorporates one of those nutrient filled winter greens…kale. I’m sure if you wanted a vegetarian version, you could omit the pancetta and substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock. Wouldn’t be quite as richly flavored but would still be good, I’m sure. If you don’t have cannellini beans, you could substitute any other white bean that you like. Make sure you read through the recipe below before starting. Dried beans are added at a different time than canned beans.
1 lb dried cannellini beans OR 3 15-oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp olive oil
4 oz pancetta, diced
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
4 large carrots, peeled and diced
4 large celery sticks, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
pinch of red pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper
10 cups chicken stock
6 c loosely packed kale, chopped (I prefer lacinato kale.)
grated, parmesan cheese
If using dried beans, rinse and pick over the dried beans, removing any possible pebbles. Put them in a heat-proof bowl. Cover beans with 8 cups of boiling water and let them soak for 1 hour. When they are finished, drain them in a colander. Meanwhile, start the rest of your soup.
In a large soup pot, heat your olive oil. Add pancetta and brown, about 5 minutes. Add onions, carrots and celery. Saute until soft about 8 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute more. At this point you can remove from heat until your beans are ready.
Once dried beans have finished soaking, add them to the pot with your vegetables. Stir in the oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, a few cracks of black pepper and your chicken broth.
Bring the soup to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes. (30 minutes if you’re using canned beans.) Test for seasoning. Adding a bit more salt and pepper or red pepper flakes if needed.
Add your kale to the pot and if using canned beans, add them at this point as well. Simmer another 30 minutes until beans are soft.
Ladle into soup bowls. Top with grated parmesan cheese and enjoy.
Yield: One big pot full.
Super Duper Pooper Scooper Goal:
Jan 3-9 – medicine cabinet/toiletries drawer – done.
Jan 10-16 – dreaded shelves in game/toy closet
All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010