Another year, another Fine Arts Fair in the books. Every year it's an event that I stress over, this year it went relatively smoothly, partially because my children are older and responsible for more of their own things than they were, and because I was able to step back and prepare differently. After school on Friday I took the girls to the gluten free bakery for a loaf of white bread. I sent them into the grocery store with cash and a verbal list after negotiating with them about the items they wanted to purchase. I don't mind if they have chips and snack type foods on occasion, I'm a chronic snacker myself, and I hated it when my mom would lecture us kids about how destructive and horrible junk food was. It is, but you can create food issues in children by hyper monitoring their diet and since my kids can't have some of the things that the other kids are eating, I thought that bending my own rules for the weekend would be a judicious compromise.

My favorite part about the Fine Arts Fair is listening to my children perform, and hearing the individual choirs sing at the end. This year a smaller school did a Mary Poppins number that was so well done it sent shivers down my spine. My oldest did a duet with her best friend. Every year they perform together and the girls did a good job with a song that was popular back in 1967 called Happy Together. When the gentleman who was scoring the performances asked where they had found the song my daughter told him that her annoying mother makes them listen to the oldies and she had remembered that being played at some point in time. My youngest did a solo hymn that went very well. Her duet didn't go as smoothly since she has a stronger voice than her partner, and should have sang the first voice instead of the second, but the important thing is that she had a good time singing with her friend. My sister and niece came, my mom complained about the slowness of the sessions which my sister and I both thought was rude and inappropriate and something we would have been scolded for saying. 

Last Friday was warm so I took the girls shopping for summer bedding. The quilt I thought was full sized ended up being a twin sized while the bedding I bought for the twin sized bed fit the full sized bed, but the girls were happy with their new comforter so I brought it home and washed it for them. Saturday night my sister asked if the girls could stay over. Since my house was a flurry of seasonal bedding and none too clean, I said that they could. Sunday my sister and I had a nice chat. My niece and the girls had some ice cream bars, we went grocery shopping so the girls would have things for their lunches, and my oldest daughter finished doing her homework. Last week I bought a book called Blue And White For Your Home. I'm almost done with the text part, but implementing the strategies is going to take some time. A friend of mine is married to a man who has an eye for design and furnishing. He decorated their place and it's comforting, cozy, relaxed, and inviting without seeming staged.

When we asked him what he would do at our place he recommended we buy some magazines and start going through them to see what we both liked. This was a great strategy, except my view of magazines as a luxury item meant that I was unable to buy more than two. This is the kind of thing that annoys me about others so I'm working on overcoming this. Other books say the same thing, go through magazines and collect rooms that you like. Soon a pattern will emerge and you'll be able to more easily identify what kind of decorating style you prefer. It is much cheaper to buy a collection of the most expensive magazines than it is to buy paint, furniture, and flooring only to find that it doesn't create the harmonious interior you had hoped for so I'm going to make myself buy one magazine a week and overcome my anxiety about removing the pages. Magazines are like books to me in that I never want to tear the pages out, but here, I can see the wisdom behind the strategy. 

Over the weekend I found a very small, adjustable standing desk that I'm hoping will function the way I would like it to work. One thing I'm good at is spotting the potential in people and things. There's a checkout clerk at the grocery store I visit on Sundays. I really like her style so we were chatting as she rang up what we were buying. I can't remember how the conversation started, but she said she wanted to stand around talking to people while they got things done. Immediately I realized the value of this since so often I want someone who is with me when I'm sorting clothes or going through my kitchen trying to decide what to keep and what we can live without. I said she could try and see if there is a market for this kind of thing and when she shrugged, I suggested billing herself as a productivity coach. It's been my experience that having someone who is not emotionally invested in your posessions, but wants what it best for you, and is encouraging and supportive is an undervalued assset so I gave her my name and number and told her she could call to experiment with the concept. 

This past weekend I read more of the books I have going. Two of them are organizational and I've already read them, but I need to keep going back to them as I tackle different areas of my home. I have a nice collection of different strategies so if you or anyone else you know is interested in recommendations, you can let me know and I can share my favorites and why I keep going back to those titles. While I don't always agree with everything they say, I could not have gotten some of the systems we have in place to where they are now without them so I'm thankful that these books are in my life. More than reading material, I consider these authors friends of mine that I've never met and likely never will. They help me face things that I may not otherwise, and give me a path to follow so I'm less likely to make some of the same mistakes I have in the past. I'm beginning to see how my own behavior was sabotaging my efforts and now I'm more conscious of my style and how that can work with, or aggravate others.

At some point in time I may do a writeup on Tossers and Droppers which are categories that one book I own addresses. Tossers are people like me who embrace the opportunity to get rid of things while droppers are people who leave things where they happen to be or fall. I felt supremely vindicated while reading the tosser section until I read about the negative aspects of the tosser, and I felt worse when I came to the paragraph that stated that droppers are often the spouses and children of tossers who are living with a person who routinely picks up after them. There's no need for them to throw away their own wrappers, put their shoes away, or put dirty clothes down the laundry chute since the tosser is there for them. Sometimes tossers throw away things that have utility and value which has been a problem I've run into in the past so I'm learning to temper some of my habits while refusing to pick up after others which is a long, slow, painful, and uphill battle, but one I'm determined to keep figthing.

My take away of the weekend was an excerpt in the Blue And White For Your Home book on setting the table. The book states that people don't wear the same clothes every day and your table shouldn't either. As a minimalist the idea that people would voluntarily keep extra dishes on the table just so it could be displayed almost led me to discard the concept entirely, but I found a bright marigold table cloth and napkins and decided to see what would happen if I set the table as if we were going to be sitting down as a family to a nice meal. Last night we made steak and eggs for supper. We sat at the clutter free dining room table and worked on chewing our food properly while conversing with each other. I was shocked at what a difference this made in our mood. The girls grumbled, and we all caught ourselves taking bites that were too larger while hanging onto our forks, but this was a great experiment and I've reversed my previous narrow minded criticism on setting the table as if company was coming over. 

In the past I've fought clutter and insisted on more organization without realizing that a home should be gracious, inviting, and a solace to those who live there. While I doubt that I will ever feel comfortable with the amount of furniture some have, it works for them and we each have our own sense of style that reflects our personality. It was fun to play with different place settings and since I have the dishes anyways, I'm always searching for the perfect set, I'm going to start displaying them more often instead of leaving them tucked away for the next time I want to donate items to the thrift store or have a rummage sale. I will go through and pare down what we have since I am unwilling to store multiple sets of dishes, but I can see that having more than one set provides variety and I've noticed that while others still leave objects on the dining room table, I've been much better about putting things where they belong right away instead of treating my dining room table as a temporary holding spot for the things I think I'll need or want later.

I'm excited about several of my new initiatives and I'm sure I'll continue to make mistakes as I continue down my blue and white organizational path, but I'm armed with better information, and learning why the systems we have fail so we can create new and improved ones that facilitate function and efficiency in our home. Last week I bought two new garbage cans. They're smaller and more managable and they look a lot better than the old plastic ones we had been using. Things like that can make such a difference, but until I read up on cleaning and organizing the garage for increased productivity, I hadn't thought about where the garbage cans were, what size they were, or how inconvenient our bin for recyclables was. I'm putting more things out for our rummage sale and we won't make a ton of money, but we have time and things and I think this has been a good lesson for our family to be learning together. It's been a hard lesson for me, I can't stand the things just sitting out there, but it's been a good exercise in patience which was probably the greatest gift for me at this point in my life. 

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