Thursday, July 26, 2012

Time to get Organized: What's your excuse for clutter?

I was trying to do Time to get Organized on Tuesdays, but this week, there was no time to write on Tuesday, but there WAS time to get organized!  I have been having trouble organizing my things in my new house for various reasons, such as lack of time, lack of vision on what I want the room to be, fear of being too bold with color, not the right pieces of furniture, lack of time- you get the point.  I bought an awesome magazine by Better Homes and Gardens on getting organized back in June.  I was so inspired by the magazine, I went to the bookstore and bought a book on organizing.  I never thought I'd buy a book on organizing, after all, I don't need someone to teach me how to alphabetize or put things on shelves.

The book I ended up buying has really been life changing for me.  The book I decided to buy was authored by a man who hosted the TLC show Clean Sweep.  I was fearful that the book would be hokey, after all, once a show takes off, the person has their picture on anything to do with the show, whether or not the product is worthy.  The book I bought is called It's All Too Much by Peter Walsh.  If you are looking to get organized, or just actually looking to get rid of clutter- you should read this book!  This is my own opinion and no one made me read or buy this book.
The past three weeks, I haven't been around much because I was away visiting my family.  In that time, I did a lot of searching on the internet for photos I liked because I'm trying to start my own photography business- one thing I noticed in all the photos I liked, there was no clutter in the background, the environment looking serene and inviting- that's what I want my house to look like.  This pushed me further in my desire to make my house clutter free.

When I walked into my house after being away for three weeks, I immediately got stressed out at the piles that were everywhere.  I do a good job of organizing stuff into piles, but then I don't have time to deal with those things and put them where they need to be.  I saw a quote on a friend's facebook page and it really stuck with me:
Do you agree with this?  I find myself constantly rushing around trying to make the piles disappear before I have friends over.  I find myself having less friends over because of the piles- I do not want to live like this, I want the serene inviting house in the photos I see, the one that isn't stressful to walk into.  Reading this book has made me feel like I can get there, like I will one day walk into that house.  I am by no means a hoarder, but I do fall into the excuse category of "I don't have the time", but somehow I find the time to go buy something else that might make my life better or help me get more organized.

The first step Peter tells you to help get organized is envision your life how you want it to be and then look at how you want each room to be.  Next, you have to commit to not buying anything else until you have eliminated your clutter (especially organization devices).  I am officially commiting to not buying anything (besides food of course) else until my house is clutter free.

Think of this, instead of spending the time going to the store, looking at stuff, then driving home with the stuff, putting the stuff away, and taking care of the stuff, you could be using ALL THAT TIME tending to the stuff you do have that you probably don't even use.    Let me ask you: How much time do you spend cleaning, organizing, and taking care of the stuff you have- is it worth it?, would you rather be playing outside with your kids?  This is the biggest thing that hit home to me- I don't want to take care of stuff I might use or never use- I want to spend it with my family, cooking, and taking photos.

I'm leaving with you with Peter's list of top ten excuses why people won't get rid of stuff, think about it, which excuse are you using:
1) I might need it one day (you can buy it again or something better might come along, stop living in the future, and live in the present- GET RID OF IT!)

2) It's too important to let go (do you use it on a daily basis, do you only look at it occasionally, do you know which box it is in- take a photo, designate a small box for super important mementos- GET RID OF THE REST!)

3) It's worth a lot of money (only to the person that was foolish to pay that price to begin with or the specific person that knows the value- who you may never find to sell the item to, the value means nothing sitting in your house, collecting dust- try to sell it or GET RID OF IT!)

4) My house is too small (you have the space you have, do not buy something for a future house, even if it's a good deal- do you really need a bigger house for your non-living stuff- do you need to pay heating and cooling for those five couches?, move now or GET RID OF IT!)

5) I don't have the time (somehow find the time- get up 30 minutes before the kids, stay up 30 minutes after the kids, cut out unnecessary shopping, don't ponder over the stuff or walk down memory lane with it- GET RID OF IT!)

6) I don't know how I got like this (none of us do, just realize where you're at and find a way to get to where you want- GET RID OF IT!)

7) It's not a problem, my family just thinks it is (if it's affecting your relationships with your loved ones, it is a problem, do you value your stuff more than your relationships with your living loved ones?-would you rather have a conversation with your box of junk than an actual human being?- GET RID OF IT!)

8) It isn't mine (then give the owner a set amount of time to claim it, obviously if you've been holding onto it for them for this long, it is not important to them- GET RID OF IT!)

9) It's too overwhelming (yes it is, but little by little, you can conquer it.  set aside a small amount of time everyday or set aside a whole day for clean up- bring in a helper who has no attachment to your stuff that will help you plow through it, just GET RID OF IT!)

10) __________ (he assumes lists are better in ten, so what's your excuse that wasn't mentioned- either way, it's an excuse, so GET RID OF IT!)

Stay tuned next week for a before and after!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Simple Cream Scones with Brown Sugar Cinnamon Butter

Here's some news to some people:  My husband is the scone baker in our house.  When I left Japan in 2007 for several months to have my daughter, he took up scone baking as a hobby, and yes, he's good at it.  He has gotten his scone making down to a science, from freezing the butter, to grating it, and carefully cutting it into the dough.  However, since we've moved into our new house, he has not made them.

A few months ago, I found a recipe online for chocolate biscuits with brown sugar cinnamon butter.  It was a day when I was craving a homemade bakery type breakfast treat.  One of my sons just loved them and has been begging me to keep making them.  I didn't want to keep having chocolately breakfasts,  so I pulled out my trusty Cook's Illustrated Cookbook to find a recipe for plain scones that I could top with this butter.  The recipe is simple, tasty, and quick to prepare.  The scones come out light and cakey on the inside and have a slight crisp shell, reminiscent of a thin shortbread cookie.  

I recently made some homemade raspberry jam and strawberry too- they go perfectly on top of these scones for an easy on the go breakfast!  One day, I actually timed myself making them, from getting the ingredients out, to putting them in the oven- it was less than ten minutes!  

Simple Cream Scones:

Oven:  425'
2 cups all purpose flour
3 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
5 TBSP unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream

1) In bowl of food processor**, pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Cut the butter into 5 pieces, add them into the flour mixture, pulse until it has been incorporated and the mixture resembles coarse sand.

2) Add cream and pulse until the mixture just forms a ball.  Remove dough from food processor, using hands, form into a ball.  Place dough ball on lightly floured counter top, roll or pat into a 9" circle.  Cut into 8 wedges.

3) Place the scone wedges on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper, and bake 12-15 minutes (until tops are golden brown).

**If you don't have a food processor, you can do it in the kitchen aid with the paddle, or by hand and use a pastry blender or fork to cut the butter in.

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Butter:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 1/2 TBSP brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

1) When butter is soft enough to mash with a spoon, mix in brown sugar and cinnamon until well combined.  Serve immediately with hot scones or biscuits.  If serving later or to store, spread the butter in a line across a piece of plastic wrap,  roll up and form into a log.  Freeze, then cut into small circular pats of butter.