Help! I have 5 weeks to get my house clean and organized.

susankaDecember 26, 2011

Hi, everyone. I have a life goal of having my house clean and organized with "a place for everything and everything in its place". I'm having major surgery (knee replacement) on January 31, and I am determined to meet this goal before I go in for surgery. It's only DH and myself, and I'm the messy one. I'm not a collector and don't have the "layered look" or anything close to it, but I want to do an intense spring cleaning (which I've never really done before). I feel overwhelmed, particularly with the kitchen. I've looked online but there are so many sites with organization tips I feel even more overwhelmed after I look at them. I have dark granite countertops and stainless steelappliances, both of which show every fingerprint and look messy the minute a surface is touched. I feel like I should take everything out of the pantry and cupboards and start from scratch, but I feel like it will take me forever to figure out what to do wth it?

I feel like I actually have enough room, but just don't have it organized right. For example, I have pullout shelves in the lower cabinets, but two of them are full of a maze of cookbooks and clipped-out recipes, etc., which I never look at because I can't find anything. I use the tall bank of shelves as a pantry; it's 12 inches deep. The corner cabinet is a maze of spices and oils. I have the spices on round bases, which I think helps, but I have a tendency to try to squeeze everything in spaces that are then too hard to find anything in.

I've included a couple of photos of my kitchen taken some time ago to give you an idea of my storage possibilities. It would be better if I had pix of the cabinets open, but I don't have any.

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Google Flylady and you will find the help that you need. I have been following her methods for several years and she is fantastic!

Good luck on your project and the surgery.


    Bookmark   December 26, 2011 at 11:33AM
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Thanks very much, nattspur. I did find Flylady, and like her site a lot. I want to do a 30-day blitz first though before I follow her BBS system, which I think will be just what I need. Or did I miss something? I found some ideas on the zones part of the page. DH is home today; I'll investigate her site more in the morning. In the meantime, any other suggestions? And thanks again.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2011 at 6:32PM
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A couple of resources:

Apartment Therapy occasionally does a "Kitchen Cure," which is a one-month cleaning/purging/reorganizing of your kitchen. It's geared for people who only have a couple of hours a week to work on their kitchens, so if you have more time, you could probably complete it in a week. I've put the link to the most recent one below. The Cure has ended, but you could still use the instructions to do it on your own.

The book, "Getting Organized," by Stephanie Winston, has been a huge help to me in figuring out where to put things, once I've decluttered and tossed the extra junk floating around. She has a system for identifying the most useful storage areas, where the things you use most often should go, and the least accessible/useful storage areas, where things you don't use much, like seasonable decorations and such should be stored. The book has good, step-by-step instructions on how to figure out your storage needs.

It does sound as if you need to re-evaluate your storage--cookbooks might do better on a countertop or in a bookcase than on a sliding shelf. Do you have pots and pans that could go on those sliding shelves?

You might also consider saving some smaller projects to keep you busy while you are recuperating from the surgery. Sorting out all those clipped-out recipes is something you could do while you are more or less immobile.

Here is a link that might be useful: AT Kitchen Cure

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 8:10AM
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camlan, thank you. The kitchen is my biggest (though not my only) organization problem. Kitchen Cure is perfect for the "blitz" I want to carry out, and then I think Flylady will help me keep myself on track. It sure helps that DH is so orderly (he's a pilot, I think they tend to be precise).

Thank you both.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 11:35AM
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susanka, by the look of your beautiful kitchen no one would know you need to organize a thing. It's beautiful.

Congratulations on the knee replacement decision. I had both mine done this year, L one May 24 and R one 9/27. You'll do great, just do the therapy as required. Off topic, are you a member of the Delphi Joint Replacement Forum? It's a wonderful place where people who have had or are going to have knee and hip replacements, talk and give each other encouragement, tips, etc. I think you'll really enjoy it.

It would be a good idea to keep some of your sorting things for when you are recouperating because believe me you will get pretty bored at times. Knee replacement is not something you jump up from in 6 weeks. You can get around, but are still very limited and will still require a lot of down time.

Before my first surgery I was a bit nervous so I made sure to have food in the house, things cleaned etc., so my husband didn't have to think about those things and just take care of me. By the time the second surgery rolled around he was a pro and taking care of me and everything else. Now I'm quite spoiled. LOL

I can't help you on getting organized because I have a problem with where to put things. I still don't have my pantry organized like I would like it nor my bedroom closet. I know you'll get a lot of help from others on this forum though.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 7:47PM
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@susanka, here are a few links to some blogs that I've found really inspiring. These ladies are super organized. Good luck!

I've linked you to specific pantry entries but you can look through their whole blog for inspiration in many areas. Some of them (like Iheart) have lots more kitchen inspiration.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 8:16PM
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HIWTHI, those weren't spur-of-the-moment photos, and all the doors are closed; not hard to look good in that situation! Thank you very much for your knee replacement suggestions. This is actually my second one; I had my other knee replaced a year and a half ago, so I pretty much know the drill (I've forgotten how much it hurts I'm sure, that helps in being willing to do it again). I didn't go to any forums before my last one, and wasn't familiar with Delphi, but I'd like all the help I can get, so I plan to set aside some time to look at Delphi. I did very well with my first surgery except that my legs came out different lengths so now I have a very pronounced limp that I didn't have before. This almost never happens with knee replacement, I was told. I'm hoping the second surgery will fix that.

Back on the topic of organizing everything in my house, I'm going to the blogs you suggested, livebetter, as soon as I finish this post. Then I'd better get started. Here in Colorado it's 8:38 and I've gotten nothing done so far.

Thank you all very much for your help. I plan to get this done. And maybe I'll be able to post some photos with my cabinet doors open at some point!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 10:40AM
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I read a tip once on recipes. Get a notebook From the magazine or newspaper you are reading, tear out recipes you think you want to try. Using Post-It Note type glue, glue the recipes into the notebook. As you cook each recipe, pitch it if you don't like it, or move it to a separate "Like It" notebook. This could be a project to do while recovering from surgery.

I keep my favorite recipes on my computer. When I get ready to cook, I print out the recipe. It doesn't matter if it gets splattered while cooking. I pitch it when I finish.

Here is a link that might be useful: Post It Note glue

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 8:20PM
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bbstx, thanks for the ideas. We need to buy a new printer, will probably get one with a scanner. I think I should begin keeping them all on my laptop and stop fooling with paper.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 9:52PM
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bbstx, thanks for the ideas. We need to buy a new printer, will probably get one with a scanner. I think I should begin keeping them all on my laptop and stop fooling with paper.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 10:03PM
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I think the idea of a recipe binder is good. Some recipes are ones I already have either clipped or printed or hand written. I like this idea from Bowl Full of Lemons. It's on my "do to list" for 2012 (along with a Home Management Binder).

I already organized my take out menus in a nice expandable folder.

If you Google "recipe binder" their are other resources as well.

@susanka, how did today go? What did you accomplish?

Here is a link that might be useful: recipe binder

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 10:05PM
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livebetter, hi! I got the foyer done (it's very small)with its coat closet, got the Christmas decorations down and put away, and got one section of the pantry cleaned out, throwing away some antique pasta and miscellaneous stuff. Everything's on the island sorted out, and I'm finding I have so much room. Moved some multiples down to the long-term storage area. Got pretty tired, my knee hurts, but I am cleaning every surface (so far)! Thanks for asking. I won't bore you all with a daily rundown, but I feel good about what I accomplished yesterday.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 7:14AM
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My SO had a knee replacement this spring, and my advice on your 5-week plan is DON'T DO IT! There are better uses for your time:

1 - Make sure you have grab bars in the bath so you can use the toilet and have a bath bench or some way of bathing while the incision heals.

Make sure the tub or shower is truly non-skid.
Make sure you can rinse off - install a hand-held shower.

2 - Make sure you have things you will need during your recovery at a convenient level so you don't have to kneel to get them. This includes meals, grooming and clothing.

3 - Make sure you are de-cluttered enough so you can maneuver a walker or crutches around the places you will need to go. Clear out the excess furniture, stash the rugs and get the small stuff off the floor.

Plan on staying on one floor, preferable the ground floor.

4 - Make sure you have at least two comfortable places (one to sit and one to lie down) with your leg ELEVATED for hours at a time.

5 - Make sure you have room in the freezer or a cooler for 40 pounds of ice and have it there when you come home. Icing is absolutely necessary, and your ice maker can't keep up with the quantity required.

6 - Make sure you have a suitable place for in-home physical therapy - move things until you the therapist has room for moving around a firm bed and extending your leg, etc.

7 - Make sure you can get into and out of your vehicle safely - clear clutter, lay down non-skid mats or whatever your house may need.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 1:26PM
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I admire you for wanting to get this done BEFORE your knee surgery, since I know what it's like to be handicapped. I don't have any blog suggestions, but can see a couple of things you could do immediately to change making looking for things easier for you.

Zoning your kitchen is the best way to approach organizing it. If you can split up your dry cooking spices to go into a drawer, that would free up some SPICE space for the spices you use for baking. (I can only tell you how this relates to my kitchen and why I put it there, but you might be able to start thinking about your kitchen differently.) The goal for me is to be able to see everything at a glance. I've used round turntables in the past, but find things get lost behind other things and realized there had to be a better way of arranging things so I could really see them. I put my cooking spices in a drawer at the end of my island, since it's near the range and where I prep my food. The baking spices are in my ''baking center'', which is near the oven/stand-mixer, and all my flours & sugars are in a drawer under the oven (in bins I can open with one hand and scoop with the other.) I also keep things like chocolate chips, baking powder/soda, cinnamon, cocoa powder, etc. there instead of the regular pantry, since this is where I actually use them.

I prefer to put cookbooks in my dining room, where I can pull them out and lay them on the table to look through so they don't take up kitchen space. Your 12 inch deep pantry shelves are the perfect depth for cookbooks however; if you need to have them in the kitchen you could see them all at one glance. I also like 12 inch depth cabinets for things like small appliances that don't live on my counter like a crock pot, electric skillet, blender, citrus juicer, etc. They don't get buried that way and you can find it all at a glance.

Next to the fridge is my breakfast bar. Fresh fruit goes on a vertical 3-tier stand on top of the counter next to the toaster, utensils in a drawer below, bowls and breakfast plates under those, and the bottom drawer holds cereal. This way I can stand in one place and make toast, pour cereal, fix fruit and get what I need out of the fridge/freezer without having to move across the kitchen. With your knee hurting the way it does, I've found this is an ideal way to manage space so it's all right where you need it to be. Less moving around means you're more efficient in your movements, which would make working in your kitchen much easier for you.

Your kitchen is very pretty! Good luck with your project and what you've accomplished so far.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 1:54PM
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Susanka, I hope the surgery goes well. Since you've done it before, perhaps you are ready with the things that lazygardens suggested. I will add one more to the list; get out and do what you enjoy now so that you will have the good memories and motivation for your physical therapy!

I agree with Clair that your kitchen is lovely. I also keep some spices in drawers. I don't know how many drawers you have in your kitchen, but mine is arranged like hers. We try to keep everything stored close to where it will be used. Dishes and glasses go in the cupboard over the dishwasher. Flour and spices, etc. go under the counter where we mix bread dough. Pots and pans are in the drawer under the stove and in the cupboard next to the stove.

Please don't overdo it. Since your husband will be cooking for you while you are recovering, maybe you don't want to move everything now. You don't want him getting frustrated when stuff is not where he is accustomed to finding it!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 9:40PM
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You've received excellent advice here, and congratulations on what you have accomplished so far :-) When DH had his knee replaced, I was constantly running to the store for ice. His PT gave me this recipe and it made my life so much easier!! Just make sure you have plenty of rubbing alcohol and 1 gallon baggies.

Put 1 pint of rubbing alcohol and 3 pints of water in a 1-gallon, heavy-duty, plastic freezer bag. Seal the bag, and then seal it in a second bag. Mark it "Cold pack: Do not eat," and place it in the freezer. Make up 3 or 4 so you always have one ready to go. It will be slushy and can be re-frozen several times. You will know when it isn't taking any more - won't be so slushy. Just pitch it and grab a newer one.


3 or 4 bags of frozen green peas and keep those in the freezer--label them "not for eating" if you have others in your family who might be doing some cooking.
Use the bags of peas (you can wrap in a cloth, if you like) for an ice pack. When one thaws, put it back in the freezer, and grab another.

I honestly don't remember, but I think I also needed Ice for the passive motion machine. If you have that, then you will need abundant ice. Different from the ice packs, but you will need those too.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 5:31AM
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Just sway a magic wind and all will be done.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 6:16AM
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livebetter, I forgot to say thanks for those links. Each one had something I could use. I like the idea of a clipboard on the door for a grocery list, and I already have an unused clipboard. I'm not buying all the containers they recommend (yet, anyway); too expensive at this point.

lazygardens, thank you for all your help with the post-TKA process. It was good to review what I need to do; I had forgotten some things.

clairedeluna and colorcrazy, thanks for saying my kitchen is nice. I enjoy it. I am doing zones now that I'm re-organizing everything. And, colorcrazy, DH's idea of cooking is to make a ham sandwich. If I had to rely on him I'd be a shadow of my former self in short order (hmmm, maybe not a bad thing!) What I did last time was to make a lot of meals ahead and freeze them, and also bought things like giant lasagnas already frozen. wanttoretire, thanks for your coldpack description. I like the peas method.

Yesterday the doc said I have a foot problem that may delay the surgery; I sure hope not. I usually have lots of energy though, and think I can handle the organization stuff and still have time for enjoyment. My workload is much less than it was a month ago (I'm a nonprofit prez), and I'm feeling like I have lots of free time. We'll see!

barbarajon, I can't resist telling you I actually have a magic wand. I took a picture of it, and will add it to this post later. A friend gave it to me probably 30 years ago when he was moving and had to get rid of stuff. Like me, it's somewhat the worse for wear, but still retains a little glow, so I love having it around. I keep it in my office where it makes me smile every time I see it.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 2:28PM
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@susanka, glad they were helpful. I find those ladies so inspirational myself.

Use what you have. If you can't buy new, you can "shop" your house and use what you have.

The nice thing with some of the blogs (like Iheart) is she often reuses containers she already has (therefore repurposing them).

No organization is ever really complete. We are always tweaking it as our circumstances change.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 8:58PM
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susan, wanted to mention to you that I was also lopsided after the first knee because you have to realize you have the new knee now taking up the space it shouldm replacing the worn out knee you have on the other leg, i.e., there is no more cushion on the bad knee, but plenty now on the new one. As soon as I got my second one done my balance was back to normal. Hope you have the same result.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2011 at 7:39PM
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Me too, HIWTHI. I have found it pretty tough; my balance and walking are really lopsided and bad.

But I worked on my kitchen cabinets yesterday, am making good progress! What a mess though with everything out on the counters and island.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 8:45AM
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barbarajon, I see now you said "magic wind" and not "magic wand". However, since I really do have one and now I took a picture of it, I'm going to post it anyway.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 3:45PM
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"What a mess though with everything out on the counters and island"

It always looks worse before it gets better :)

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 11:39PM
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livebetter and all, indeed! I washed all the cabinets at the top and on the inside, sorted out everything by zones just as advised, got rid of antique spices and things I haven't used in five years, and have replaced all the contents. Tomorrow I'll start on the drawers, and wash the doors and frames, and I'm done with a major part of the kitchen!Here's a "before" photo; at this point I had only hauled about about a third of what was in the cabinets, so it looked much worse an hour later.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 2:38AM
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Susanka - If you have photos and recipes to sort, box them up for amusement after the surgery. You can do it while your leg is iced and elevated. I had the SO cleaning out his files and scanning photos while he was chair-bound.

wanttoretire - Your DIY cold pack won't work with the icing pump (typical one at ) that is usually prescribed for the immediate post-surgery period. That uses 3-5 pounds of cube ice per refill.

Also, the problem of holding a gallon bag in place for effective coolingand the inevitable leaking and the risk of frostbite (that mix gets slushy at below normal freezing temps which your therapist should have explained) makes the baggie method sub-optimal when you need icing for hours at a time. The more you ice the less you swell and the less you hurt. the SO was using the ice-water pump almost every waking hour the first week.

A few packs of frozen peas - get serious. We were using 20+ pounds of ice a day for the first few days to keep that ice water pump machine fed. I tossed it in a large picnic cooler.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 7:45PM
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DH had a cooling machine (my mistake re: passive motion - it's been 17 yrs) at home for a short while, in bed, which of course needs abundant ice.

The idea of the alcohol/water mix IS to be slushy (and pliable), and was used out of bed and after PT, as I recall. Having several to rotate and re-freeze makes them readily available as needed.

And yes, frozen bags of peas or corn make acceptable form-fitting icepacks.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 7:13AM
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Have I ever got recipes to sort! I'm also working on learning to cook more healthfully.

Wow, takes a lot of time to clean this kitchen, every single inch of surface. Doesn't help that my 2- and 4-year-old nephews are visiting!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 1:12PM
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Give those kids a squirt bottle and a rag, and tell them you wonder if they'll fit inside those cabinets, because they're littler and bendier than you.

They'll have a ball! And be really proud as well.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 1:37PM
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They are indeed littler and bendier, but unfortunately they've just left for the day; it's why I had time to look at the computer. Great idea for the next time, though.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 4:37PM
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most kids that age LOVE the chance to play with the squirt bottles. And they love feeling important by being helpful and doing stuff that "only grownups" do. I totally "snow" them by saying, "I really need some help, and I think you are exactly the person to do it. Do you think you are old enough that you could . . . ?"

    Bookmark   January 5, 2012 at 3:42PM
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i had to get my house ready for a famiy christmas this year and took a notebook and made a list of things I had to do and put some on each day for 25 days from Dec 1 thru Dec 25 ..and tried to do everything I had on each day, if I didn't get it done, I moved it to a remaining day and I got nearly everything done on time..

    Bookmark   January 5, 2012 at 3:46PM
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That sounds really good, ronbre, if I could be a realistic person. My problem is being naive about how long stuff is going to take me. I'm still on the kitchen!

talleysue, I did have them out in the yard throwing snow at the evergreens, which are on berms and the snow melted faster there, so they were going to need water. But I'll be smarter next time!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2012 at 6:01PM
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susan, congrat's on your progress. You're doing a great job.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 8:59PM
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Susan, if you're in the south metro Denver area and you need some help or meals after your surgery, you can call Love INC in Littleton. I've made meals for families and singles going through surgeries, chronic illness, and family emergencies. It's completely free (a non-profit).

I wish you all the best for both a successful surgery and completing the organizational tasks!

Here is a link that might be useful: LoveINC of Littleton

    Bookmark   January 8, 2012 at 2:19AM
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HIWTHI, life intervened of course and I'm still on the kitchen. But I am rethinking storage in the other rooms as I scrub up the kitchen floor.

flowers, I'm in Southern Colorado; having the surgery in Colorado Springs. We've actually made the decision that I'll stay in a rehab place for a few days. PT is amazing there. And thank you very much for your good wishes. I'm confident I'll do fine. I typically recover quickly; I'm pretty tough. Sounds likeLoveINC does a great job. I'm the prez of a tiny nonprofit myself, so I know what it takes to get things done.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2012 at 8:47AM
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susanka - how long till the surgery?

What is on the list to organize besides the kitchen?

How much left to do on the kitchen project?

I'm chuckling at the hard time I was getting on my seem to be doing about 25% of my todo list in 5 weeks....I am giving myself an entire year....


    Bookmark   January 8, 2012 at 6:03PM
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t-bird, surgery is 1/31. On the list: Everything! (But we've painted most of what has to be painted, so my job, unlike yours, is just getting rid of stuff and cleaning every surface, like an old-fashioned spring cleaning.) We're empty-nesters so there are no kids' rooms to clean or kids to give attention and time to. Kitchen is about 90% done, foyer (only a little coat closet and some tile and the front door) is done. Workout room was just painted and is finished except for the closet, which is full of old political-campaign paraphernalia I need to box up or get rid of, and I don't really care much if I get to that or not. Downstairs too is my office, which is a sea of papers, and a TV room and guest bath. Upstairs I have the LR, dining area, and MB, along with 1 1/2 baths. So I may be able to get all of this done. I move very slowly because of my knee, so it takes a while. I'm not going to stress about it; whatever I get done will be better than what it was before I started. Storage area in basement and garage will probably wait until later.

I'll join you in a 2012 cleanup project. Mine will be to finish up whatever I haven't done, if anything, before I go to the hospital, and then to keep things in order. I'm the messy one and DH is very neat.

Good luck to both of us, t-bird. And may we enjoy the process!

    Bookmark   January 8, 2012 at 6:49PM
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well good luck susanka! Best wishes for the surgery outcome too...

I also think your kitchen looked great to begin with, and if mine looked that way - I wouldn't care what lurked beyond the doors! Well I'd care, but it certainly wouldn't be a huge priority.

It's great to have everything greet you nicely when opening doors and drawers, but the most important is the front door open, imho. Frequently I check the view from the front door to prioritize what I work on. Or the door to the room - what hits me. Or I go out into the front and casually walk past my house and glance into whatever windows are in view. I like those views to be nice......then I'll worry about functionality.....


    Bookmark   January 9, 2012 at 8:33AM
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Oh, I've been a great little "stuff-it-in-the-cupboard" cleaner so rooms look good, but I don't like wasting time looking for things I didn't put away, and my kitchen is perennially greasy, seems to me. I'm sort of a minimalist when it comes to decorating, so I don't have many things sitting around in most rooms, but my office is in a shocking mess and I just don't want to know there's all that stuff in various closets waiting to be thrown out or put away. So I'm going for a clean slate everywhere! My goal is to know my house is clean and orderly and I can have a simple daily routine that I don't have to think much about to keep it that way so I can be free to do other things that I find actually interesting.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2012 at 10:04AM
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Know what you mean....

going through the parlor cupboards today....just threw out a school september lunch list from 2007.....

    Bookmark   January 9, 2012 at 12:59PM
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Now I have 20 weeks to get my house clean and organized: My knee replacement was canceled because I have to have two minor toe surgeries which must be done first, I'm told. I took a couple of days partly off for doc appointments and to absorb this news, but now I'm back on track. I'll let you all know when I've got my whole house finished, and thanks again for all your help.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 10:00AM
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what a bummer susanka! Well - at least you've got plenty of time to do a thorough and complete job - and great jump start into the process!

    Bookmark   January 12, 2012 at 8:09AM
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