Making Room

The other day, I was pretty annoyed with the family at large for not doing their share, or any share, really, of the housework. I’d spent the whole day working, and the whole lot of them were gone. Disappeared. Two of them cp-henry-play-blockshad an acceptable reason: they were at work! But the rest of them? Not so much. And they heard about it.  Later that evening, as we went about our Advent devotions, I suggested the song “People Look East”.  The older children got the message right away, but the younger ones were cheerfully oblivious.

Actually, I really like that song, don’t you?  It’s hopefully expectant.  We make time to prepare our hearts and our homes for the coming of our Lord, and why not?  I would tidy up the house for any other expected guest!  Maybe we shouldn’t go quite so far as Old Befana, who is so focused on cleaning that she misses the Lord entirely, but a little prudent cleaning, I think, will not go amiss.cp-tommy-play-living-room Our hearts are very much influenced by our environments. It’s a challenge to feel at peace when the home is cluttered and messy. It’s easier to be calm and recollected when one’s spaces are well-ordered and attractive.  At least, I think so.

It’s a constant battle for me to keep things neat, partly because I have a very large family, and partly because I have a bit of my father’s propensity to collect and save things.  I go through cycles of accumulating and purging, and my desk is almost always covered with books and papers and the detritus of my daily life.  If you want to know what’s going on with me, just glance at my desk! img_4945

This Advent, I’m looking for breathing room. I’m trying to work around the challenges and find space to be the me that doesn’t just spend her days taking care of an active family. There’s a me who loves to write, to photograph, to make art, useful and otherwise. There’s a me who makes home nice and enjoys it as a creative activity. There’s a me who reads and takes bubble baths, sometimes simultaneously. And there’s a me who has time to spend in quiet prayer with my Lord.  I’ve been missing this version of me.

Today, my desk is tidy and stocked with art supplies. My camera battery is charged. The main areas of the house are actually pretty neat.  There’s room to think and create and be.  And this is just where I want to be.  Today and always.


{p,h,f,r} The Tidy Desk Edition

phfr desk areaThis is my desk. We picked it up at a yard sale a few years ago for $60. It came out of a local government office building, and while it’s quite unattractive, it is extremely sturdy. I have plans of maybe someday painting it, but that will require emptying it and not using it for several days while primer and paint cure, and, well, it’s just not that high on my list of priorities, you know?  I got the chair at a yard sale, too.

It looks really neat right now, doesn’t it? Like maybe I cleaned it nicely just for this shoot? I sort of did. I had a couple of papers to put in my filing drawer, a bill to mail, and Evie left a board book on the corner, but that was it. My desk hasn’t needed more than a five minute tidy since mid-December, when I spent an entire morning on its last deep clean.

This is an achievement of unparalleled greatness for me! Until lately, it was just assumed that Jennie’s desk is a mess. It always is! I have so much going on, so many interests, so many things to manage, that there were always piles of papers and books covering every inch of the surface. What changed all that for me?

These two drawers:

drawers that make it happenI used to just toss stuff in them that I wasn’t using and didn’t know what to do with. Odd office supplies. Random papers. Craft projects in progress. And then, one day, I realized, “Half of my desk storage space is held hostage by things I don’t even need here!” So I tossed them or moved them. Every single thing. Now, the top drawer is my “money drawer”, where I stow bills, cash for the kids’ allowances, the checkbook, the credit card we use for internet purchases, and other monies that come in from our farm business. I also keep stamps and address labels here.

The second drawer houses my art supplies, since I decided to make creativity a focus for myself this year. There are sketch books and watercolor papers, paints and drawing pencils, and some note cards in the back for mailing to friends.

There is a third drawer on this side of this desk. I keep things like packing tape, the three hole punch, my label maker, and a small photo printer in it. On the right, there is a small drawer for tape, scissors, hole punches, and the like, and a larger filing drawer.

Making those drawers work for me has made all the difference in my desk top!

right hand desk phfrWell, I did come up with a few more organizational tweaks, too.  Instead of keeping my favorite writing implements stuffed in a drawer, I put them in mason jars and candle jars on this lazy susan.  I love the Sakura Micron pens, both for art and everyday writing, and there are colored pencils, sharpies and highlighters, too.  In between, I tuck a pad of sticky notes.

Behind that, I keep my planning and informational books – you know, internet passwords, addresses, and the like.  They are supported by a pot lid rack turned on its side!  It was only a couple of bucks at Walmart, but it makes it easy to drop the book I was using back in the appropriate slot.  The neighbors don’t fall over and block the space so that you need both hands to put it back.  Very helpful!  I also keep a jar of chocolates here.  I like to spoil my little guests.  (I really don’t eat them myself.  I may in the future, but this pregnancy, I just can’t stomach chocolate.)

My most used camera lenses are over here, too, for quick changes.

left hand desk phfrOn the left is the phone, a lamp, and some February flowers.  Usually, my camera sits here, too, for easy access, but I was using it. 🙂  I made the lamp out of fabric scraps!  I disassembled an old, ugly lampshade, added a few extra wire supports, and wrapped torn strips of fabric around it, tying on a new strip whenever the last one ran out.  It’s cute and cheery, I think.

phfr magazinesI got the idea out of one of these crazy expensive magazines that I think are so pretty.  I buy them sometimes during extended rainy seasons, or February, or other times of drear and melancholy.  Thanks to adult allowances, I don’t have to feel badly about this little pleasure.

plannersI use a two part planning system nowadays to keep my family, my home, my farm, my homeschool, and myself running efficiently.  A weekly planning calendar helps me manage appointments, older children’s work and college schedules, calf due dates,  and usage of our single vehicle.  It wouldn’t do to have it needed in two places at once.  I also sometimes write notes about my day.  Those are my happiest spreads, but I don’t do it as regularly as I ought.  The meat and potatoes of my planning is a bullet journal.  I tell you, this thing has revolutionized my life!  I can make lists and notes to my hearts content, and it is all easily accessible in a single volume.  I actually use two per year, I make so many lists.  I love lists.  It can be endlessly tweaked to suit your needs, which is the real beauty of it.  I wrote a planning post a while back, which is still relevant, except, sadly, for the Catholic planner.  I really haven’t been able to incorporate that, so I don’t think I’ll buy another.

real computer phftI don’t want you to go away feeling like everything is too good to be true over here at my desk, so this is my computer.  It’s a laptop.  There is an external hard drive attached, because the native one regularly goes haywire.  I’d hate to lose any of my stuff, so all important files, photos, and backups are stored on the external drive, and I make it a point to drag things over there at least once a month.  The keyboard quit working some time ago – not the whole thing, mind you, just the space bar, b, n, m, and right hand shift keys – so I got a wireless keyboard, and once I needed a wireless keyboard, I needed a wireless mouse, too.  Also, because it regularly freezes up and won’t shut down unless the battery is removed, the battery is now permanently removed.  So my laptop, basically, is a glorified monitor.  It doesn’t move anymore.  I miss that mobility, but I’m hoping it’ll limp along for another year or two, because I’m not looking forward to the expense of replacing it.

Visit Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {p,h,f,r}.  I really liked Deirdre’s desk tour the other day, and I loved her idea for having a written down plan before visiting the internet.  So much distraction out here!  But so much goodness, too.

Lots of love!

{p, h, f, r} Getting Ready for School (well, homeschool)

We don’t normally take a full summer break around here. The lack of routine generally drives us (me) crazy, so, while we have a lighter, more self-directed learning experience, we still choose to school year round. This year was probably the first year in a long time that we took the whole summer off, and we are all ready for it to end. So, back to school on Monday, ready or not!

First, you should be thankful there are no before pictures of this space.  It was a mess!  This room is in a separate building on the grounds, known to us as The Garage, but it’s really a nicer building than that.  Also, I like referring to our little piece of earth as The Grounds.  🙂


(click any image to enlarge)

Most of the furniture has been rearranged, most everything has been cleaned, the floor has been vacuumed, whatever doesn’t belong has been put away (if I expect to use it again) given away (if I think somebody else can use it) or thrown away (if it was just junk taking up space in my life).

To the left, we have two large bookshelves, approximately eight feet tall, well loaded with books, but with plenty of room for more. I was watching a video tour of someone’s library the other day, and he said you should always have unread books in your library. If you’ve read them all, you aren’t buying them fast enough. Unread books are potential, an admission that you don’t know everything, that you still, always, have more to learn. Somebody asked me once, gazing upon our living room bookshelves, if I’d read all of the books. “Well,” I said, “one of us has read most of them, but none of us has read all of them.” Not all volumes are chosen for all people. We have different interests, different goals, and our home library is built to encourage each individual’s passions, but also to suggest new paths on which to journey. Creating this for myself and the children is my passion.

But I digress.

To the right, you can see most of the desks lined up against the wall. I picked these up last year at an office furniture redistributing place just outside of Louisville. They came out of a boarding school, and he’d had them for so long, and they were in such bad shape, that he didn’t think he’d ever sell them.  Then I came along and wanted six.  Can you believe we snagged these for just ten dollars each?  For ten dollars, they are in excellent condition.  I wanted to paint them white, but the children liked them as is – natural wood.  Actually, I think they were just anxious to begin using them as soon as possible.  Who wants to wait for paint to dry?

Previously, they had been lined up in such a way as to form little private cubbies, but some of the children had too much privacy and made unwise decisions. Now, everyone can be seen.

At the front of the room, I placed an old kitchen table that used to be between the bookshelves. I have an idea to set up the microscopes up there for easy access. Also, I’ll need to curtain the windows, since the sun shines directly through that front one in the winter.  The door, found at a yard sale, leads to the garage side, where the tractor and the husband hang out.  (I love doors, and this is the only place I’ve ever been where they regularly turn up for sale at yard sales and thrift stores.)


History Books, Sorted Mostly Chronologically

So I’ve been trying this week to get all of our books organized.  I pulled out two big boxes of stuff that just doesn’t work for us and I’m going to give it all away in one big lot.  There are a lot of really good materials in there, some generic, some Catholic, and somebody will be thrilled to get it all, I know.  I could probably weed out some more, but I just love so many of these books so much.

In the meanwhile, I’ve got the books sorted: older kids to the right, younger to the left.  After that, I’m organizing them by topic, with a goal of having the history section more or less chronological. History was the last thing we were using from MODG, and there was a lot we didn’t like, especially the heavy reliance on juvenile fiction even through the high school years. Also, the children never really studied American history in any depth, and since we are Americans, I think it’s important.

However, I also see the benefits of studying the history and literature of the ancients. Can we do both? History is their favorite subject anyway! I’m trying this program from Roman Roads Media this year, with my eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders. I think it will be great.


Photo Aug 06, 9 26 46 AM

I don’t really have a funny. Except that I’ve been working out here mostly alone, and the children keep popping in, looking around longingly, and asking, “How many more days till school, Mama?” We can’t wait!


blank planners

The learning environment may be coming together nicely, but the lesson planners? Blank, blank, blankety, blank. I’ve got nothing written down. It’s all in my head. But I’ve got three days to lay it all out, and that’s plenty of time, isn’t it?

Thanks for stopping in!  Go visit Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {p,h,f,r}!