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Monthly Archives: March 2015

In Bonnie’s Words: My Kitchen Story

leek-640530_1280Not long before we divorced, my husband and I remodeled our kitchen and it became a dream place to be.  I bought every gadget and new dishes.  The colors all matched.  The countertop was pristine, and it was mine.  Guests would come over and offer to help.  “No, that’s OK,” I would say as the captain of my own ship.  Every two weeks, the cleaning lady and I would scrub and polish.  I was in heaven!

Fast forward three years and I am alone in my home.  I didn’t want to leave my newly remodeled home and decided to get a roommate.  Then one day, my roommate decided to make a large pot of homemade soup.  She bought lots of stuff, chopped, sliced, quartered, and generally made a mess.  IN MY KITCHEN.

I was horrified!  I sat on the stool across the counter from her.  My teeth clenched as she used my costly Henkel knives.  Waste accumulated in the sink.  She spilled a thing or two.  She stirred the soup and left the spoon dripping on the counter.  I couldn’t stand it.  I bit my tongue, clenched my jaw, and wrung my hands.  After all, this was a shared living situation, and she had full kitchen privileges.  This was my stuff and she was misusing it.  She moved the canisters out of the way so she could work.  I poured a glass of wine and watched.  I don’t quite remember, but maybe I commented a time or two.

Eventually, the soup was done, the trash was taken out, the counter was cleaned, the disposal was run, and the knives were back in place.  I survived.  She survived my deeply suppressed wrath.

I have a big house and have filled it with roommates over the past eight years.  One roommate had raised six children and took over the kitchen almost every evening.  She cooked.  I sat on the stool and she would take out a plate, fill it, and pass it over, “Here’s your dinner.”  Another roommate had a bad habit of breaking things.  She always replaced the item but sometimes it didn’t quite match.  Another roommate fried a lot of her food, and the grease got on the cabinets and stove hood.  I started buying cheap stuff, and accumulating those plastic contained that stuff comes in.

A few of the dishes have been broken.  There are some chips here and there.  The knives need sharpening.  The pots and pans are well used.  The cleaning lady still scrubs the kitchen every two weeks.  It’s still pretty, but it is just stuff.

Will I remember this stuff?  No.  I will remember the times we got together and did a group dinner, everybody working on something to contribute to the meal and taking turns at the stove.  I will remember how often someone offered me a slice or a serving.  There are the great cookies that someone made for Christmas and the birthday parties.  I will remember the new foods that someone cooked that I had never tried before and the conversations and laughter over dinner.  I will remember how quickly a group of women can clean up after a dinner party!

Now, I look at my wonderful stuff in the kitchen, and realized that it doesn’t matter if all the silverware doesn’t match.  I will remember the friends who came over and shared a meal with us. I continue to enjoy the stuff and I’m glad to have it, but it is not the stuff that matters any more.  It’s a nice way to approach life.

10 Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Memory-Cluttered Home

Spring CleaningSpring is here and with the longer days and warmer weather come the annual itch to sweep out the little-seen corners and clear out the overstuffed coat closet. For those of us who’ve been in a home for a long time, however, our things can become laden with memories and that weight can make them much harder to get rid of than dust bunnies.

“If you have spent years in a house, you become the keeper of things and define yourself as the keeper of memories,” said professional organizer Janet Schiesl, who has been helping people get organized since 2005 with her company Basic Organization. “It’s a struggle because you’ve held on to an item to honor someone and you hoped to pass it on so the next in line could honor you.”

The reality is that the younger generations are less interested in antiques and hand-me-downs and more interested in living in smaller homes with fewer items.   As we age-in-place and we start thinking about the next phase of life, it’s useful to start thinking about downsizing.

Since many of us are thinking about shared living, we need to make space for the new roommate.  The really interesting part is that as you freshen up your home and clear out the unneeded items, it feels like a load has been lifted and you have a fresh start!

Here’s another thought.  Look around and realize that you have everything you need and you simply don’t need to buy more stuff.  Replace broken items, but don’t buy new.  Replace clothing that is old, but don’t add stuff.  Replace a worn out or broken piece of furniture, but don’t keep the old item.  Give it away to someone who will repurpose it.

Here are some ways you can use this year’s spring-cleaning momentum to get yourself ready for your new roommate:

1.  Identify a method of donating your unused items.  If you have a Freecycle group nearby, join it.  This is an easy way to give something away and know that someone else will continue to get use out the item.  Also think about Salvation Army, Goodwill, church groups, and certainly think about a yard sale!  Yard sales are great…especially when you can donate your items to someone else’s sale.  It makes it a lot easier to say goodbye to a favorite item if you know someone else will enjoy it.  Have a spot where you collect “give away” items, and then give them away.  It’s much easier to give away than to throw away. Our founder, Bonnie Moore, still goes through her house and garage annually looking for “goodbye” items…she loves to tell the story about how she finally gave away all of her camping gear to a Girl Scout Troop.

2.  Question whether an item will support the future you. Schiesl asks mature clients to envision their future: Would they like to spend more time enjoying life rather than taking care of stuff? Then she asks how a particular item will support that idyllic future. “It’s easier to let go of if you realize it’s not going to support you in the future than getting caught in the memories from the past.”

3. Focus on quality over quantity. “You can keep things near and dear to you, but just keep the best of them,” advises Schiesl. Use the pristine guest towels and get rid of old toweling. Old towels can be donated to an animal shelter.  Keep the most comfortable pair of black dress shoes and donate the other three pairs. Choose your son’s baseball trophy that means the most to you and take a picture of the rest of them and preserve them in a scrapbook. Do you have a favorite collection?  Are these dust catchers?  Could you choose to display two or three, and pack the others away so that you can rotate them annually?

4. Talk with your kids now. If you’re holding onto an item for a child, call them now to ask if they want it. Perhaps they can take it off your hands. Perhaps they do want it, but don’t have room for it yet. And perhaps you’ll discover they’re not interested in it. No longer being a caretaker for an item lessens your attachment to it and allows you to discard it.

5. Embrace technology.  Take pictures of those items that no longer serve a purpose but whose memories you’d like to keep. Your grandmother’s hutch can live on in a scrapbook or a digital photo frame. There may be a learning curve, but much of today’s paper clutter can be eliminated with the use of e-readers, online subscriptions and electronic file storage.  Old magazines, books you’ve already read, newspapers you never got around to reading, copies of something that was once important…all of these things can go now.

6. Schedule your organizing time. Schiesl warns that people woefully underestimate how long it will take to organize an area. Once you decide to start a Golden Girls Home, get that spare bedroom cleaned out, and keep going through the other rooms.  Consider scheduling one room each month.  Go through that room with a fine-toothed comb and get it organized.  Schedule the next room for next month, and keep going.  Do this every year and keep looking for items that someone else can use, bottles that are almost empty, duplicates, expired items, broken items…you know what we are talking about!

7. Allow yourself a “maybe” pile. This is the technique Schiesl recommends when you get down to the nitty gritty:
— Go through a closet or drawer as quickly as you can sorting everything into three piles – “Keep,” “Get rid of“ and “Maybe.” The “maybe” pile gives you permission to not have to make a decision about every item.
— Put the “keep” items away, throw out the “get rid of” items and put the “maybes” in a box.
— Mark the “maybe” box with the date and a deadline, say two months out.
— Review all of the gadgets…remember how often it has been used, then either keep it and put it away properly, or toss it.
— Everything still in the box after two months, items not useful to your future, can now be peacefully discarded.

8. Create a home for items. In shared-living situations, much of the stress of “I can’t find…” is eliminated when items are given a home – such as a basket for remotes and a drawer for keys – and everyone knows where that item “lives.” You can also create an area for “homeless” items or items that belong in someone’s room. A basket near the stairs can be a good spot to set items that need to be put away upstairs.

9. Bring something in, take something out. After downsizing, try this… discard an old item every time you bring a new item home.  You will never struggle with de-cluttering again! Schiesl said a beautiful set of hangers will keep you honest in your closet. If you only buy a blouse when you’re prepared to discard one and never allow wire hangers, your closet will never be stuffed by more clothes than you need.

10. Work with a professional or call a friend over. Deciding what to keep and get rid of with an objective outsider can help lessen your emotional attachment to stuff, Schiesl said. A friend will ask you how often you have worn something, and she will be able to toss it when you can’t.  A professional organizer can help you focus on your future goals instead of past memories and can help you stay on task until the job is complete. Professionals also can call in companies for jobs like junk removal, moving and shredding, if necessary. Schiesl recommends checking the National Association of Professional Organizers for organizers in your area, and then meeting with the person before hiring to insure you are comfortable and feel heard.

Golden Girls Shared Living on the Rise

Bonnie Moore (left) and Victoria Clarkson

Bonnie Moore (left) and Victoria Clarkson

If you’re like me, you weren’t surprised to read about the recent Age Wave/Merrill Lynch study finding that two-thirds of retirees now say they are living in “the best home of their life.”

I too am living in my dream home, but with a different cast of characters than I could have ever imagined. When a divorce left me living alone in newly remodeled 5-bedroom home in 2008, I searched for and found four roommates to fill the bedrooms.

Now more than eight years later, my roommates have become an important part of my life. In addition to contributing rent that makes my mortgage affordable, we throw parties together, get to know one another’s friends, and help each other out.

Golden Girls Living on the Rise

I call it the Golden Girls (or Golden Guys) Lifestyle and it is shared housing for mature adults. In 2000, there were 820,000 households where single people ages 46 to 64 shared housing with non-relatives, according to Bowling Green State University’s Center for Family and Demographic Research. By 2013, that number had risen to 1,090,000.

That’s right—roommates aren’t just for college students anymore! The shared living movement is being embraced across the country as an exciting aging-in-place option for baby boomers.

People are looking for answers because housing cost are too high both for retirees and those of us who are still working. People are lonely when kids grow up and their spouse is no longer around. Many struggle financially. Shared living is a great solution.

Finding the Right Roommate

“Finding the right person” is at the top of the list when you decide to embark on this adventure. But, who is right for you? How do you know? Start with, “Who am I, and what is important to me?” When you know these answers, you know who you are looking for!

Start by considering these common deal-breakers. Does she/he smoke? Is it OK with you if the person is an outside smoker? Will she/he bring a pet? Sometimes pets don’t like to move, and they let you know. Bringing in a new pet is a “two-fer!”

Are there cultural or lifestyle differences that will become too difficult? I encourage diversity, but sometimes you can live next door to someone but not in the same house. For instance, are there significant differences in religious practices, eating habits, hobbies, political interests, working hours, and a bunch of other things that are important for a comfortable living situation? You have to decide what works for you, and then talk about it.

Other Shared Living Considerations

Age Differences. Look for a roommate that is within ten years of your age, and don’t go beyond twenty years on either side. With too much of a difference, you will notice the age nuances and it will frustrate you!

Cleanliness factors. Most women are accustomed to housework and will keep a place in good shape. Some women, however, really need things to be back in their places immediately, every spot wiped off the counter, and the floor swept daily. If this is you, find someone like you. If this is not you, same advice.

Can you get along with his/her personality? Are you fairly assertive and outgoing? Are you quiet and bookish? How would you assess the personality of a potential roommate? Can you sense an “angry” factor beneath the surface? How would you assess the “honesty factor”?

Interviewing a potential roommate is a lot like a job interview. He/she will tell you what you want to hear. It is your job to listen below the surface and hear danger signals. Trust your intuition. Selecting a good roommate takes patience, but it can be done. You also learn a great deal about yourself and you learn to develop assertiveness!

Where to Start

Once you identify the factors that are important to you, start advertising and talking to your friends. Print up a flyer and pass it out at your church or community groups. Develop a listing for some of the major roommate sites, including Golden Girls Network, and keep talking about it! Don’t be afraid to interview a number of people before making a decision.

Most of all, start developing your written house agreements and a written lease. Even if you decide to rent on a month-to-month basis, you need it in writing. Don’t take anything for granted…get those details down in writing. Be positive and forthright, and decide what is important to you.

*This article first appeared on changingaging.org
See the original article by clicking here.

How to Get Your Home Housemate Ready

How to Get Your Home Housemate ReadyYour soon-to-be Golden Girls Home may already be the most inviting place in the world for your future housemates. However, many of our homes need a little work. Walk outside, turn around, and walk in again, pretending that this is the first time you have ever walked through the door. What would you do to make it a more inviting home for you?

First Impressions:

– Sweep the walkway free of leaves
– Make sure the entry is reasonably free of clutter.
– Check to ensure stair railings are securely fastened.
– Consider – Does your home have inviting lighting and cheerful decorations?
– Make sure the home smells good. No pet or dirty carpet odors!
– Change the front door lock if you have had housemates in the past.

The Bedroom: A housemate will need a room large enough for a full- to queen-size bed, at least one nightstand, a dresser, a desk, and a small table or TV stand. They will need a medium-to-large closet to hold not only their clothing and shoes, but also personal keepsakes.

– Consider clearing out a room and renting it unfurnished.
– If you are renting the room furnished, put a neutral bedspread on the bed with attractive pillows. Otherwise, have minimal decorations.
– Bring in professionals to shampoo the carpet
– Give the walls a fresh, neutral-colored coat of paint.
– Check the windows. Are the curtains or shades attractive and functional? Are the screens in good condition?
– Provide and air-conditioning unit and/or space heater. Everyone likes temperatures slightly different.
– Fill nail holes from previously hung pictures or art, and consider allowing your housemate to hand pictures.
– If you have two smaller rooms with small closets, consider renting them both together to allow your housemate to use one as a sitting room and the other as a bedroom.

The Bathroom: A private bath is a big plus when looking for a housemate. If it is necessary for the bathroom to be shared, make sure the morning schedules are compatible.

– Clean the bathroom and make sure it smells good.
– Ensure you have adequate towel bars and bathroom hooks.
– Water pressure is important! Improve it if necessary.
– Provide a place to store toiletries, tissues, and towels.
– Furnish a shower curtain, rug, waste basket, plunger, and toilet bowl scrubber.

The Kitchen:

– Make sure your kitchen is clean and the counters are clutter free.
– Provide two or three shelves in an easy-to-reach cabinet to store just the housemate’s goods.
– Provide one shelf in the refrigerator and freezer for your housemate’s exclusive use.
– Decide if you’re willing to share your dishes, utensils, bowls, gadgets, storage containers, and other kitchen If not, is there room for your housemate’s kitchen supplies?
– Pack away or store on top shelves any special dishes, expensive appliances, or anything that you don’t want used on a regular basis.

The Rest:

– If you have valuables in your home — expensive rugs, artwork, jewelry, heirlooms, treasured antique furniture, or something very special to you –either pack these things away, put them in a safe place, or put them in your private bedroom. It is a rule of the universe that your favorite thing always gets broken or soiled first!
– Provide cable TV service and an internet connection.
– Make sure there is a spot – in the driveway or on the street – for your housemate to park a car.

Take notice of these details in your home and you will be sure to provide a welcoming residence to a lucky Golden Girl or Guy!

Excerpt from “The Golden Girls Network Workbook” by Bonnie Moore. For more info or your own copy click here.