Sunday, February 24, 2013

Facebook Time

Everyone with a computer, or a smart phone, knows how time can be frittered away on the Internet. Facebook is the number one offender when people are asked, "what is your biggest Internet time-suck?" This may be why, nearly every week, I see a link to an essay explaining why the writer is quitting Facebook. Various reasons are listed for ending this addictive habit, and deleting one's account is the Internet equivalent of quitting smoking cold-turkey.

In my quest to rid myself of unnecessary encumbrances, my participation on Facebook has naturally come under scrutiny. I've been less bothered by how much time it takes, mostly because I'm more of a lurker than a participant, than how much of my mental energy it extracts even when I'm not online.

I get annoyed by some things I see posted on Facebook. I almost never respond, primarily because I don't want to waste my time arguing with people who will never agree with me, but I think about them for hours or days afterwards. I have the arguments with the posters in my head, pointing out that their information is not factual or logical.

So I think about staying away from Facebook. Then I realize I'll also deprive myself of the good aspects, namely staying in touch with friends who were long-lost until this new technology appeared. As an introvert, I've never been good at keeping in touch when geography and changing life circumstances remove people from proximity. Facebook has made me regret my "out of sight, out of mind" tendencies, showing me that some friends from the past likely would still be friends, maybe even better friends now, and I welcome their re-entry into my life, even if it is only virtual.

Fortunately, I've discovered that Facebook can be streamlined. Maybe I don't want to go to the extreme of un-friending people who drain my mental energy, but I can hide them from my news feed. Likewise, I can change my settings to receive notifications of updates from selected friends and family members. Investing a few minutes to determine who gets removed from my news feed and who gets to the top of it has solved the problem of Facebook for me.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Even an avowed anti-hoarder has a need for some storage containers, especially in the kitchen if she cooks.

On January 4 of this year, I welcomed a new refrigerator into my kitchen. The primary purpose was to improve our energy efficiency as it replaced a 20-year-old model that didn't seal well and ran constantly. But the side effect was a clean-out of not only my refrigerated items, but cabinets and pantry as well. I couldn't let the new fridge make the rest of the kitchen look shabby!

As I removed food from the old refrigerator, I began thinking about ways to prevent some of the nastiness from infecting the newcomer. Aside from the perhaps inevitable issue of moldy mystery leftovers that tend to lodge in the deep corners of any icebox, the main problem seemed to be leakage. In nearly every bin, I scraped away bits of gunk that had somehow escaped from its packaging. I identified the primary culprit as torn plastic.

Inside the new refrigerator
Several years ago, my pantry suffered an outbreak of mealy worms and nearly every opened bag or box, and even some that had not been opened, had to be discarded. What to do to prevent future infestations? I started storing grain in the fridge, usually in the thin plastic bag in which it came home from the co-op's bulk bins. This worked to keep the bugs away, and the plastic bags didn't take up any extra space in the door bins, but they often ripped, spilling rice or quinoa or flour. Also, the item I needed was often at the bottom of the stack of bags.

For the new fridge, even though it is slightly smaller than the old, I decided to use glass jars for storing grains and highly-perishable flours. I can easily see what's inside and glass doesn't leak. An added benefit is reducing our exposure to possible toxins in plastic, although I'm not a purist about that and definitely don't aspire to the level of plastic elimination as this mom who wrote about her extreme detox regimen. Still, it's likely a good thing for our health and for the environment to reduce our use of plastics.

Kootsac bags
For the co-op bulk bins, I found some terrific lightweight, sturdy and reusable nylon bags from an Etsy shop in Canada. These keep even the finest ground flours intact. Once home, the contents are transferred to airtight glass jars or stainless steel bins and the bags are rinsed and dried for the next shopping trip (they air-dry very quickly).

Finally, I slightly reorganized my kitchen in hopes of improving efficiency. Mostly this meant moving the Vitamix off the counter where it prevents the cabinet door from opening to the top shelf of my cookbook case. This shelf is now the beverage area.

Coffee, tea, soda, smoothies

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Storage Wars

Nearly 27 years ago, when I graduated from college, I vowed to never own more than could fit into my sky blue VW bug. I had dreams of working as a traveling journalist, or foreign correspondent, and I knew remaining mobile and light of possessions would help in my globe-roaming future. Yet six months later, when I moved to Charlotte, N.C., for my first full-time job as a reporter for United Press International, my dad was already pulling a small U-haul with my belongings, although at least it was only an old sofa and a bed.

Today I doubt I could fit the contents of one of my closets in that old VW. The dreams of youth have been replaced with the pleasant realities of middle age, which in the United States of America at least, comes with a lot more stuff. Along with the husband and two children came home ownership and its furnishings. Also, I discovered I hate flying, which greatly eroded the previous appeal of globe-trotting.

I look around my house and see what is still in my opinion too much stuff, although I know it's quite light in comparison to my peers. I don't shop for recreation; I rarely enter a store for anything besides groceries. So I've avoided accumulating clutter of the knick-knack variety and only have those types of items as a result of gifts, mostly from my mother who is the Clutter Queen.

When I was visiting my parents during the Christmas holidays, I saw a television show about people who get into bidding wars over the contents of abandoned storage sheds. Apparently the appeal of this show, apart from the drama of the bickering, is to witness the variety and quantity of nonsense on which strangers have wasted their money accumulating. I glanced at my mother's possessions and could easily imagine them featured on that show. I renewed my vow to not go down that path, even though I'm reconciled to requiring at least a small truck for any future moves.

Books are not clutter
Returning home to Michigan, I turned a more critical eye to my own clutter, such that it is, and have been working to reduce it. I've been clearing closets of clothes I know I will never wear again and desk drawers of irrelevant papers. I will concede to being a hoarder of books and acknowledge that I will probably never mend my ways and will be perpetually short of sufficient book shelving. However, I did manage to removed a few items. Ok, to be honest, it was only user manuals for long-departed computers and a 20-year-old Fodor's guide for Mexico, but hey, that's something!

Next up: food storage.