decluttering: window sills

Tsh Oxenreider, the lady behind the website Simple Mom, has written a book called Organized Simplicity which I blogged about a few days ago.  The last half of the book details a total house declutter over a period of ten days.  However, Tsh also acknowledges that not everyone has the time to devote ten full days to decluttering your house, and I am one of those people.

There is a quote at the end of the book from writer Elisabeth Elliot which I love: “When you don’t know what to do next, just do the thing in front of you”

And in the spirit of doing what is in front of you, this is what I look at every time I do the dishes.

And this is the window beside my desk in the kitchen.

Note the CD’s on the windowsill.  Our stereo is on the other side of the house.  Definitely not functional.  So even though we were packing to go away for the weekend, I seized the day and decluttered away.  And here are the results for the sink window:

I put the paintbrushes in a clear Mason jar, “replanted” the green onions (more on that later), and moved the scrubby stuff to above the left hand sink.  Got rid of the elderly bunny grass (an old class project of Benno’s), ditched the coasters that I never use, and moved the Christmas Cactus over here:

My apologies for the dark photo – I was just using my iPhone and I’ve not starting using Instagram yet, which I plan on doing.  Not much of a change here, but I did move the CDs over to our stereo in the living room and put the cactus in a MUCH prettier pot that we had sitting in our garage.

I know it is an improvement because Darren remarked on how much nicer it is to look out the kitchen window. Now I look out of that window and sigh with delight instead of cringing.

One step at a time, one step at a time…


Documentary: Century of the Self

As you may have guessed, I like documentaries.  So, I’ll be posting some of my favorites.

Today, Adam Curtis’ Century of the Self.  This four part series first aired on the BBC in March/April of 2002 and looks at the influence of Sigmund Freud on advertising. Fascinating stuff here.  Makes you think about what we are told is “essential” for our lives, why we are told to want things, and whether or not we actually need as much as we would like to consume.

Part 1: Happiness Machines


Part 2: The Engineering of Consent


Part 3: There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads, He Must Be Destroyed


Part 4: Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering


We live in the suburbs.  Every morning when Darren has to go into work, he hops on a bus, then the Skytrain, then walks to his office in downtown Vancouver.  It’s quite a trek, but it (thankfully) allows us to live as a single-car family.

On days that he works from home, Darren is a nomad, wandering between our bedroom, the dining room, and my desk.  This is generally fine, except that when he brings papers home to work on, they tend to nest in odd places and then multiply, leaving their young scattered around the house in irritating piles.

I would love to put a desk in our bedroom.  But what kind?  I found a couple of lovely desks on Craigslist (in particular one that looked a lot like this), but eventually came to the conclusion that a full desk would make the room look really crowded, especially as we already have two bureaus in the room already.  The alternative was a slim table/desk, kind of like this:

Ikea is my general go-to, and the MICKE desk fits the bill in so may ways; under $100 (yay!), cord storage, clean lines, and a little bit of storage.  Now we just have to see if Darren fits properly.  It’s tough being tall.

But wait, there’s more.  I was snooping around on Ikeahacker again, and I found this lovely DIY gem from Jonathan Lo at Happy Mundane:

Walnut contact paper.  Good, no?  And we just happen to have walnut bedroom furniture and white bookcases.  I may just have to give this a try, but first I have to convince Darren about the desk…

Genius from Ikeahacker

This is from IkeaHacker and when I saw these my jaw literally dropped. Here is the description:

“We wanted to create a fun sitting area for employees of our advertising agency to brainstorm creative ideas for clients. We took standard Karlstad furniture, bought some metal U-channel, plastic coated cable and suspended them 8″ from the floor.”

I’m not sure how these would hold up in a house with children, but they look SO FUN! Functional? Possibly, I’d have to give them a shot in person. Beautiful? Delightfully so.

(Ok, I’ve given this some thought. This is a really good idea. These chairs are in a public space, which allows people to play with them and enjoy their uniqueness and movement. However, because of their location it is not likely that people will, say, have jousting tournaments with the chairs. In addition, these chairs convey a sense of innovation, playfulness and quirkiness that is a great selling point for the advertising agency itself. Just think, if this place is creative enough to dream up these chairs, just imagine what they could do for your business!)

Valentines Day: The Scarlet Pimpernel

Demme, is it Valentines Day already?

I suppose you could make the argument that the Scarlet Pimpernel is an icon of both function and beauty.  Rescuing aristocrats from Revolutionary France?  Check.  Leading English society in manners and fashion? Check.  Oddsfish, m’deah, I think we have our romantic hero for the day!

Oh, and the book is available for free on Kindle if anyone is interested.  Or you could just read the book.  Either way, well worth a read.

small things: the crossing guard

Every morning I get up, get the kids ready, and drive my son to school.  Some days we are on time, a lot of the time we are just-that-bit-too-late-dangit.

Every morning I drive past one of the local schools, and every morning the crossing guard is there, helping kids and their parents cross the street safely.  And every morning she has a smile on her face, waving to the people in the cars as they pass by.

I used to just pretend not to notice her, mostly because I was embarrassed for being late all the time.  Then I figured that wasn’t fair for her, so I started waving back and making eye contact.  Although you may not guess it, sometimes it is difficult for me to reach out to strangers.  I feel tentative and unsure – I really want people to like me and I am disappointed when they don’t.  Smiling at a complete stranger on the street was a stretch for me, but I am so glad that I did.

Now, every morning, this crossing guard smiles at me and I smile back.  And the mornings when I am most grateful for her smiles are the mornings when I am running late, frustrated with the kids, and generally unkempt.  Because I know that she will be there to wave me on my way, regardless of my own personal circumstances.

So Madame Crossing Guard, thank you.  Please keep up the exceptional work.

If you want something done…

…you know how this one ends.

I like to be organized.  Before I had kids you could ask me where any item was in my house and, 99 times out of 100, I could find it.  Three kids later, I am down to about 80 times out of 100, which isn’t bad, but it still bugs me.  My accuracy gets even worse when it comes to remembering dates and events.

Enter the calendar.   We started off with the Fridge Calendar.  The best part of this calendar was that it had a lot of writing space.  The downside was that it also came with a bunch of stickers, a desk calendar, and a chore chart that never got used.  I tried to fit them into my routine, but it just didn’t work.

I then moved to a free monthly calendar.  This was functional, except that it had very limited space, and as I use our calendar for meal planning, work scheduling, and family scheduling, things got really crowded really quickly.

The next logical move was a bi-weekly calendar, but try as I might, I couldn’t find a good, free, online template.  So I just made one.  As I mentioned, graphic design is part of my job.  I had been thinking about putting together a calendar for a while and one Saturday I just did it.  And here it is for your enjoyment and personal use: bi weekly calendar template

And this is what it looks like in action on our fridge.


My apologies for the fuzzy photo, but I guess it does preserve our privacy somewhat.  But notice that I pulled out my sharpies to write in the dates.  Any project that involves the use of colour-coded Sharpies is a worthy use of time.  I have a year’s worth of calendar pages printed out and ready to go.  More on that and the paper on the right hand side of the photo later…

And organized Jen is a happy Jen.


It is 5:45 on Friday evening.  The kids are playing quietly.  Darren is just finishing up his work.  The house is a mess.  It is almost silent at our house. And oddly enough, even though I am writing this blog post, I am so aware of my surroundings, I feel so connected to who I am and where I am at this point in time.  I’m so thankful for my kids, for my husband, for my family.  I am so grateful.

Tonight we will do a quick clean of the house (pick up all the toys, etc), make dinner and sit down as a family and watch “Despicable Me,” which has been highly recommended to us by a number of people.  It’s Friday, so we are going meatless and doing bean burgers, a family favorite.

I’m just sitting here, letting all this quietness drift over me, soaking it in.  Feels good.

Interview: Rob Janoff, designer of the Apple logo

A little bit about me first.  I am a burgeoning designer, completely self taught.  I have my BA (Honours) and MA in history, so coming into visual design was a pleasant departure from my norm.  (My MA thesis was on the history of history in Canada.  If you like, you can read it here.  And if you do read it, please let me know what you think, I’d love to hear your comments)  I’ve always had an eye for what works and what doesn’t, so taking up design has been a good fit for me.

Because I don’t really have any formal training in design, I think it is helpful to read about successful designers and what makes them tick.  So, here he is, Rob Janoff, designer of the Apple logo, one of the most iconic (and successful) logos of the past fifty years.

I think its nice that he rates innate ability over formal training.  But I certainly have a vested interest, don’t I?