Tag Archives: decluttering

Midwest Musings: Settling In

Photo by Leslie Sloan, Ignite The Light Photography

Photo by Leslie Sloan, Ignite The Light Photography

If you’ve been following my recent posts, you’re aware that “Thoughts from the Treadmill” went on a bit of an unplanned hiatus since March 17. But I’m back now in the Iowa version of this blog, “Midwest Musings.”

I devoted a few blogs last year to my experience decluttering our home and getting it ready to put on the market. Our Fourth of July was spent cleaning out our garage for a garage sale the next week. What we didn’t sell went to various charitable organizations. Little did I realize as I left for Florida in early fall that we’d just completed Phase One of the process.

Phase Two began when we signed with a realtor and exposed our home to a stager. Even more items were removed, now large pieces of furniture. New items, like bathroom light fixtures, guest bedroom bed covers and decorative pillows appeared. To me, the house appeared extremely empty, so when we actually sold it this March, I was in for the surprise of my life when I discovered how much more still remained to go. No longer did we have a full summer to box up items and find places to sell them or give them away. Now we were working against time to get what was left moved to the new house.

There's a bit of a path around the various bags filled with goodies.

There’s a bit of a path around the various bags filled with goodies.

Phase Three wasn’t fun. While my husband dismantled electronics, my job was to clear his office. He swore he’d been cleaning it for weeks, which although was probably true, still meant more books to be boxed up and transported. The man had a small business library! Once I finally completed this task, I “graduated” to his workshop in the garage, shelf upon shelf of nuts and bolts in hundreds of varieties. Never again.

We have now entered Phase Four, settling into the new house. We recently returned from Florida facing the summer’s task, unboxing everything and finding a new home for it. Here I thought the boxing-up part took time. This is much more time-intensive, because we’re having to decide: a) to keep or not to keep and b) if we keep it, where does it go? The solution to much of these questions has been to install more shelves. Shelves are a wonderful means of storage, but beware, they also are enablers that allow you to hold onto items that should otherwise go elsewhere.

Like the game of pick-up sticks, we started with the easy-to-deal-with pieces, in my case, the boxes of items for my desk, which I so laboriously labeled last summer with the exact drawer they were to go back into.  But once those were disposed of, several more remained. I have one full box of used copy paper just waiting to have the other side printed with rough drafts of future manuscripts. But that’s nothing compared to the pile of notepads, notebooks, note paper, and various other tablets I’ve collected over the years. I tried, I really tried to get rid of them. And I did eliminate a few that were old and torn. But I kept thinking, “I might be able to use that someday.” Like shelves, beware this thought. It will have you hoarding in no time.

So that’s where we are at the moment. Progress has been made, but there’s MUCH more to do. Stay tuned for future reports.

Just one of many boxes of the books I can't part with yet.

Just one of many boxes of the books I can’t part with yet.

Oh, yes. The writing-relatedness of this post: all this sorting and putting away gets boring fast. I’ve found myself frequently seeking the solace of my current manuscript in progress. Already managed to finish the current revision. It’s just about ready for submission to my editor. Success!

Midwest Musings: Decluttering Part 3

CrimsonJulySale The Kindle version of my first novel, The Sleepover Clause, is on sale at Amazon all month.

Fireworks, Garage Sales and Inspiration

My first post on Decluttering mentioned several ways you could eliminate the clutter in your life. This was my week to follow through on three of them. Saturday was my first and maybe only garage sale ever, Method Number 1. A friend who is really into these things encouraged me to do this before just giving away everything I have cleared away from closets, drawers, shelves, you name it. But in order to carry off an event like this, you need a place to hold it, i.e., a garage. In my case, that meant cleaning it out before we could ever set up our wares. empty garage

We began last weekend, working our way along one side, throwing out numerous stored cardboard boxes, ignoring several partial sets of golf clubs, leaving behind thirty-plus clean peanut butter jars, and then turning our attention to the four rows of shelves my husband built on the other side. Actually, that was his job, because those shelves contained mostly gardening, auto and building supplies. I never thought I’d see the wall behind those shelves again, but by the end of the day, there it was. There are no words to describe the happiness I felt upon seeing it again. Plus, those shelves were the hit of the garage sale, because they offered a fairly unique way to show off our sale items.

trashWe filled our two trash barrels and also hauled away two trailer loads of items to a dumpster, Decluttering Method Number 2. At first, I was afraid it would be difficult to see all those items that at one time had been precious treasures go off, never to be seen by us again. I was wrong. It was a freeing feeling.

From Monday to Wednesday night, I priced items for the sale, a slow-going process at first, because I didn’t like placing a value on things. It didn’t take long to realize that if I was ever going to get through everything by Saturday, I had to price according to what I thought customers might pay. From then on, it was mainly a matter of finding the right colored sticker to indicate the price.

On Wednesday night, my husband and I took in the Yankee Doodle Pops concert at the Iowa State Capitol, sort of an annual tradition. It was a glorious night. Loved the music and then the fireworks that followed. Always look forward to hearing the booms of the cannons at the end of “The 1812 Overture.” The only problem with this event is that some 20,000 other holiday-goers also attend. My husband dropped me off and tackled the prospect of parking the car himself. The concert was just starting. Suddenly, I was in a festive, holiday mood, putting pricing and garage clearing out my head. And then it happened. My brain relaxed and my muse returned. There I was, standing in the midst of this crowd of concert goers and all I could think of was how I was going to solve the plotting problem I’ve been writing about the last two posts.

As the strains of the orchestra’s musical road trip to America’s cities – I do remember “St. Louis Woman” and “New York, New York” – there I was, using the notebook feature of my iPhone to jot down how I was going to get my story unstuck. As a writer, I never know when inspiration will strike. What I do know is, when it hits, go with the flow and get it down in writing.

Photo by Leslie Sloan

Photo by Leslie Sloan

But the next day, when you were probably basking in the sun at the pool, burning hamburgers on the grill or getting reacquainted with family members at a picnic, my husband and I were back in the garage, now hitting the third stall. Strangely enough, we really enjoyed the togetherness time with the reward of a much cleaner garage at the end of the day, when we went to view more fireworks at our local park.

Friday, set-up day, was like attending a “Garage Sale 101” class, watching my friend and her sister efficiently put things together. Who would have thought you could place storage crates in the middle of the table and lean items against them to create a better display? Or use the bottom of an ordinary metal pan to show off refrigerator magnets?

garage saleGS Day finally arrived on Saturday. Maybe sometime I’ll devote an entire post to the shopping habits of garage sale devotees, such an interesting glimpse at human behavior. My point here is that it came and went and I survived. And we did pretty well, although clean-up lasted almost as long as the sale itself.

Now I’m ready for Decluttering Method Number 3, donating the items that weren’t sold to local charities and non-profit organizations. That phase is now starting. Books will go one place, household items to another. I’m still trying to figure out what to do with four tubs of fabric and unfinished sewing projects.

And then, and then…back to writing again! Can’t wait to try out the plot changes that came to me in the midst of fireworks, cleaning, and a garage sale. So glad I wrote them down, because it’s been one busy week!

9781440556463 The Sleepover ClauseAndHeCooksToo_7346_750

The Sleepover Clause

Amazon ebook, Amazon POD

Barnes and Noble




And He Cooks Too

The Wild Rose Press, TWRP POD

Amazon Kindle, Amazon POD

Barnes and Noble Nook


iBookstore POD


Midwest Musings: Revision Hell

CrimsonJulySaleBig news for The Sleepover Clause – the Kindle version will be on sale for the next month at $1.99 on Amazon.

Revision Hell

Perhaps that’s a bit overdramatic. Maybe more like Revision Torment with the chapter I’ve been going through. My post of June xx talked about decluttering and described the two steps I planned to take to declutter this manuscript. I also promised I’d update you with a progress report.

One of the changes in that plan involved starting from the beginning and inserting notes to myself with questions and suggestions. The plan was to begin each note with %% so that I could later do a find and readily find them. I also highlighted them in red.  Some changes were easy enough to make at that point, so they were incorporated as I progressed. Some are still there to be tackled when I have more time to think about them.

About the second day of this approach it dawned on me that I could just as easily insert “comments.” But there were times went it felt more appropriate to stick with the original insertion, so I’ve been doing both. Don’t what differentiates them from each other; I couldn’t tell you. It’s just an intuitive thing. Rather than stop and try to discern which made more sense, I just did whichever felt right at the moment.

I also mentioned that I was changing the plot slightly and reducing the points of views from four to two. This process is a bit like pulling a loose thread on a sweater; the “repair” may do more damage than just leaving it alone. So I found myself leaving more notes for these than dealing with them as they arose.

This new revision process went pretty well until I got about a third into the book, about the same point I reached with the previous read-through when I stopped and altered my revision methods. Here’s what I found myself doing when I reached this point:

a)      Spending an inordinate amount of time line editing. Doing things like deleting unnecessary tags, changing proper nouns to pronouns and vice versa, rearranging words, etc. There’s nothing wrong with this element of revision but not when I mistakenly let myself think that’s all the revision required.

b)      Staring at the same paragraph forever, knowing something’s wrong with it but unable to figure out what.

c)      Discovering long passages of telling versus showing. Nothing wrong with narrative, but is it shortcutting action or dialogue?

d)     Debating if I even need this chapter.

Photo by Leslie Sloan

Photo by Leslie Sloan

If a writer friend were to describe these symptoms to me, I’d probably tell them to take a break, go do something fun that frees their brain or switch to another project temporarily. I took my own advice with the first two suggestions and sort of tried the third. It may be that other personal matters are blocking my concentration. We almost lost my ninety-year-old mother last weekend to pneumonia. She’s much better now, but that’s why there was no blog post last week. Now that she’s on the mend, I’ve returned to decluttering my home. A garage sale is less than a week away. Until that event takes place, my energies, both physical and mental, are focused there.

Just prior to writing this post, another idea occurred to me. Change my approach. A simple idea, but it seems to be having some positive results. I usually do most of my composing and revising on-screen, but occasionally my brain needs a different medium in which to receive the copy.  So I printed off the chapter in question.

I also moved away from my  office and set up temporary shop on the kitchen table. And I turned off the ever-present background noise of the television. Since high school, I’ve been studying with the television on. This process got me through college, my master’s degree and several years of writing, but every so often the auditory part of the brain needs a rest. That seems to be what I need right now.

Finally, I’ve made a commitment not to line edit as I read through the chapter in question. Instead, my focus is to take in its full totality – how it advances the story, whether this is the appropriate place to reveal such information, how it flows, and how it connects the previous chapter with the next chapter.

This is no aha moment discovery. Most writers are familiar with this line of thinking, the trick is knowing when to employ it. Sometimes you have to micromanage each line of copy, but sometimes, as I believe is the case for me now, you have to step back and absorb the organic whole.

Once again, stay tuned. I’ll report back in a future post.

AndHeCooksToo_7346_7509781440556463 The Sleepover Clause

Midwest Musings: Decluttering, Part 2

I am going to be interviewed on the radio this coming Thursday, June 13! Hear me on the Author’s Corner, with host Elaine Raco Chase at www.trianglevarietyradio.com, click on blog talk at 7:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time. It will be rebroadcast on Saturday night, June 15. Podcasts will be available after the show. I will be giving away a copy of either The Sleepover Clause or And He Cooks Too. Tune in to find out how you might win it.

Photo by Leslie Sloan

Photo by Leslie Sloan

I am also currently participating in the “A Year of Love Blog Hop” with several other Crimson Romance authors as we celebrate CR’s first year anniversary. Click on the Blog Hop tab above for more details about how, by participating, you have the chance to win a $50 gift card to Amazon or Barnes and Noble, as well as read excerpts from each of our books and an original round robin story created by some of our authors.

Decluttering – Part 2

Once you start to gather things you no longer need, you have to decide how to dispose of them. In this household, simply trashing them via a dumpster, isn’t an option. At least not the first, second or third choice, unless something is in really bad shape. In order to continue the decluttering process, we’ve had to deal with the dispensing issue. books

The first decision was to have a garage sale. This was no small determination, because I don’t like to do these. Garage/yard/estate sales involve a lot of backbreaking work just pricing items and hauling them out to be displayed. Worse, though, are the comments of shoppers. This was my personal “stuff.”  How can potential buyers be so uncaring and cavalier in their assessments whether or not to buy? But I have a very helpful friend, who has offered to help me set up. Based on that, I gave in. GS Day is still three weeks out.

The next stage of GS planning involves figuring out where to put all these goodies while we’re getting ready. My husband cleared a space for them in one of the garage stalls. But it is almost full, and we’re nowhere close to having everything there. I have this awful feeling that I’ll soon be parking my car outside, using that space for overflow.

As I’ve come to accept the idea of a garage sale, I’ve also moved on to other means of disposal for things I think might bring a larger return elsewhere: a used bookstore, a resale store for women’s clothing, a group that collects clothing donated for women entering the job market who can’t afford a work wardrobe, and charitable organizations that resell donations. So I set out to explore the first two options.

A used bookstore is anathema for a published writer. (Had to look up the meaning of “anathema,” but I used it correctly.) because it represents the next-to-last step in the publications cycle, the final step being either giving them away or trashing them.  After all the time and effort, not to count the creative juices that go into birthing our darlings, then the high of publication, this stage is not so fun.  As if that isn’t difficult enough to accept, as the consumer, it’s even worse seeing the books you’ve purchased with such care over the years yield a pittance from those who buy them back from you. I took in four boxes of hardbound books only to receive $24.


Clothing waiting to be inventoried and dropped off

But the day wasn’t over yet. It got worse. Instead of a consignment store for a few chosen items of clothing with very little wear or none, I took my things to a resale store that bought them outright. “Stick them in the box, fill out our form and come back in fifteen minutes,” they said. Which I did, using my interim time to find some coffee. When I returned, I was handed back everything I’d given them and told they weren’t able to buy any of it back from me because it was “too mature” and “too professional.” (In other words, they were looking for styles that would attract a teenager with disposable income to spend.) Besides no money from the deal, insults as well! The girl at the counter was only following the company line, so I attempted to leave the store without running, showing my embarrassment.

Decluttering is a very personal process. It involves much more than hard work and emotionally detaching yourself from the stuff you’ve gathered over the years, your memories. It also brings you face-to-face with value.  A dress originally priced at $148 (still had the price tag attached), reduced to $59 when you bought it, isn’t even worth a dollar to a reseller today. So it’s headed to the women’s professional wardrobe group as a giveaway on my part with the hope that somewhere out there some woman is going to fall in love with it, as I did a while back, and wear it to her new job with a confidence she’s never known. I have to believe value begets value…eventually.

AndHeCooksToo_7346_7509781440556463 The Sleepover Clause

Midwest Musings: Decluttering


Part of today’s efforts

Before I discuss this week’s topic, I first wanted to alert you to a special event several of the authors with Crimson Romance will be holding starting June 4. This month marks the publication of CR’s first ebooks one year ago. At that point, I’d known for two weeks that they wanted to publish The Sleepover Clause. It was released on September 3, 2012. So I see myself as one of CR’s initial authors, and in that spirit, I will be participating in my first blog hop, “A Year of Love,” to celebrate our first year. For more details, click on the “Blog Hop” tab above on this website.

Okay, now for “decluttering.” We’re currently going through this process in our household. Dare I call it a “process”? Probably a misnomer in our case, as about the only systematic thing about it is, “find something, decide whether to keep it, pitch it, give it away or put it in garage sale.” Although it may have started with the noble intention of going room-by-room, that’s not really happening. Well, it is, sorta. Guess it’s just taking a long time to move from one room to the next. So far, I’ve made it through the kitchen and dining room, but there’s much more house to go. And sometimes it’s just easier to locate some “low hanging fruit ” in whatever room and do something with it immediately.

Enough complaining about this type of housecleaning. It’s coming along, just much slower than I’d like. But it has also got me thinking about how I can “declutter” my writing life. That point was really driven home to me today when I spent over an hour searching for a document on several different flashdrives to no avail. I see myself as a very organized person in some respects. File management isn’t one them. Several months ago, in an effort to get on top of things, I developed a master list of all the current documents, files and folders on each flashdrive. Worked pretty slick for awhile, but the trick is to continue maintaining such list, i.e., updating it regularly. At that I’ve failed miserably. the only saving grace is that I tend to  stick with one flashdrive for a while before switching to another. So most recent documents are on the same one, just not the one I wanted today.

Now that the second edits of the latest book, Driven to Matrimony, are off to the copy editor, this is the perfect time to renew my good intentions at file management and get on top of things. But it’s so much more fun to keep writing, both creating a new manuscript and revising others. Even marketing and promotion seem more appealing than file management. But it’s time. I can’ t afford to spend many more hours tracking down documents I’m sure I’ve written, or worse yet, being forced to recreate them, when I can’t find them. Am I the only one who experiences this? I hope not, not that I’d wish it on anyone else, but maybe we could form our own support system for sloppy file organization.

Any suggestions? (Besides “bite the bullet and do it.)  Any other ideas for someone who’d rather spend her time writing?


AndHeCooksToo_7346_7509781440556463 The Sleepover Clause

Photo by Leslie Sloan

Photo by Leslie Sloan