Sunday, May 31, 2009

Live Your Dreams:Get Rid of the Clutter in Your Life

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."

You can live your dream. One powerful way to make your dream a reality is to get rid of the clutter in your life. At first, this seems a daunting task, but once you get into the swing of it, you’ll find that eliminating the clutter around you frees your mind, your space and your energy. It can even save you money.

Sometimes it seems as though we spend all our time and energy getting ready to live, but we is a present state, not the future and not the past. We tend to overlook the moment of now. We're constantly rearranging our belongings to fit our current situation, dragging along things from previous lifestyles. We spend precious time and space on "things" that no longer have meaning to us. Basements, garages, drawers, closets and mini storages are filled with clutter, stuff we'll probably never need or use again. Is that accumulation of stuff valuable enough to put up with the clutter, and even expense, of hanging on to it?

Several years ago my husband and I purchased a 40-foot sailboat and realized our dream of sailing throughout the South Pacific. When we returned from our fourteen-month cruise, we sold the boat. Some of our friends were aghast. "How can you bear to sell that boat?" Because we no longer needed it.

Marinas are full of boats that never go anywhere, year after year. Because the boats at one time were important, people can't bear to part with them and as a result they use precious time and pay expensive marina fees and upkeep on something that's become a burden. We did what we set out to do and it was time to go on to other pursuits.

With some of the money from the sale of the boat, we bought a camper and for the last several years have thoroughly enjoyed overland travel. Over time we’ve upgraded our camper, getting a larger one to accommodate our needs. As long as we're using the camper, we'll maintain it, pay the license fee, and enjoy it.

It has been our experience that after the fervor of thoroughly enjoying an interest, such as scuba diving, which we did for several years, we move on to other activities and rarely return to that particular hobby.

The idea that we'll get back to that scuba gear or that old ham radio equipment encourages us to hang on to this stuff. But the reality is that if we should want to return to that particular hobby, we're going to find our equipment archaic. With technology as it is today, yesterday's state-of-the-art is almost antique now. When I see scuba divers enter the water today, I marvel at the difference between the equipment they carry and what we used a few years ago.

Here are a few tips on freeing your life of clutter:

-- Learn to let go. Give magazines you’ve already read to schools or convalescence centers. Give all but your really special books to book drives that collect them for a cause. Give clothes to thrift shops or to shelters. Dig deep–you’ll be surprised when you discover you don’t even miss those things.

-- Start with one room and clear out all the stuff you don’t need. Make five piles:
1) Throw away
2) Give away
3) Sell
4) May need to keep
5) Need to keep

Ask yourself these questions as you sort through these items: Do I still need this? How long as it been since I used it last? As you toughen up, you’ll find more and more items fit in the first three piles. Go from room to room–you’ll be amazed at the wonderful sense of freedom this will give you.

-- Selling items can be rewarding in more ways than building your income. Don’t use the money to buy more "stuff" unless it’s something that will add significantly to your life. Tuck the money away to help make your dreams come true. Sell items through:
1) Garage sales – either your own or jointly with neighbors or community groups
2) Place ads in the local paper or a classified ads paper
3) On-line through a website such as Craig’s List

-- Curtail your spending. Sooner than you think, the items you feel you must have today are tomorrow’s clutter. Before you buy, give yourself at least a one day "cooling off period." More often than not, you’ll reconsider making that purchase.

Clutter, the accumulation of old stuff, holds us back. It dictates where we live, what we do with our time. It gobbles up our money in storage fees, or even in housing requirements--we could live in smaller, compact homes if we didn't have so much stuff. Or, we could enjoy the luxury of larger more spacious feeling without a lot of clutter. Just imagine--without all that clutter, you could park your car in the garage! What a concept.

Cut through the clutter of your life. It takes a little determination, but the rewards are great. You'll find it tremendously freeing. With a critical eye, check your home, look around your storage areas, and see what can be eliminated. The newly created space, the freedom from clutter, will be its own treasure.

Now that you have less clutter in your lives, can’t you see your way more clearly to realizing your dream?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Heidi Thomas: Growing Up in Rural Montana

Jordan Dormitory alumni: Heidi’s Dad, class of 1942; Heidi, class of 1968

It is my pleasure to have Heidi Thomas as my guest during her blog tour. Heidi’s coming-of-age novel, Cowgirl Dreams, a story about her grandmother, has met with wide acclaim. At one time she mentioned to me that during her high school years she lived in a dorm during the school week, since their family ranch was too far from school for a daily commute. I find this fascinating and have asked her to tell us more about that part of her background.

What do you do when you live 150 miles from the nearest Wal-Mart (or K-Mart, etc.)?

Actually, when I was growing up on a ranch in eastern Montana during the 1950s and ‘60s, there weren’t any of those ’Marts, so I didn’t know what I was missing! The nearest town of any size was Jordan, population about 200.

You might say that I lived a life that was rather similar to that of my grandmother’s in many ways. So, in that respect I feel like I could identify with how she grew up.

We did live a mile and a half from a little country grocery store and Post Office at Sand Springs, so we could go there for groceries. But many people lived 30 to 50 miles farther from the main highway and they would take their big cattle or grain trucks in to a larger city in the fall to stock up for the winter. If it was a long winter with a lot of snow, we might not see them for four or five months!

So, because there was no bus service, when I attended high school, I stayed in a dormitory during the week and came home on weekends. About 60 out of the 150 students in high school, lived in the dorm, a two-story building across the street from the school.

Boys lived on the first floor and girls on the second and we had a no-nonsense dorm matron who made sure we adhered to the rules. After school hours, we were required to sign out and in, we each had chores assigned for a month at a time, we had to be present for meals, and we had a 9 p.m. curfew. The exception to that was the one or two nights a movie showed at the local theater. If the movie ran longer than 9 p.m., we were excused.

Because of the “baby-boomer” generation, the dorm was filled to capacity during the four years I lived there. Most rooms housed three (some had four) girls. Can you imagine that many teenagers sharing one tiny closet? We tried to pack clothes for a week at a time, but it was still a little on the crowded side. We shared a communal bathroom, with one shower stall.

Dorm life was something I had in common with my dad, who lived there during his senior year in 1942. He told me out of 109 students in high school, only three had their own cars, so more students stayed through the weekends during the winter.

My parents often took me to school on Monday mornings and picked me up Friday afternoons, or I sometimes rode with neighbors. I did have my own car when I was a senior.
Extra-curricular activities were few in those days. Some kids “cruised the drag” (Main street was about two blocks long), some boys were involved in basketball (no girls team and no football team). I was involved in chorus, band and the school newspaper.

I returned about 20 years later to do an article about the dorm for Montana Magazine. By that time, residents had dwindled to fewer than 20, because of a decline in the general student population as well as added daily bus service to the outlying areas.

In many ways, the landmark founded in 1936 had not changed much. The rooms were spartan by most teen standards. The bunk beds of the ‘60s were dismantled into single beds and some of the rooms were empty. But each still reflected the personality of its occupant.

The Jordan dorm was the last public high school dormitory in the United States when it closed in the mid-1980s.

Thank you, Mary, for hosting me today, and thanks to all of you for joining me on this blog stop. Come back tomorrow for an interview on Teens Read Too and an article on “Connections” on the Women Writing the West blog

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Photo by Randy Fueuriet, Mission Ridge, CO

Each year, wildfires in our country take a terrible toll. With summer coming on, it’s time for homeowners to think about the possibility of wildfire and what we can do to protect our property.

How wildfire safe is your home? Be it a house in the forest, a neighborhood in a woodsy setting, or a home surrounded by wide-open spaces, consider the possibility of wildfire. Are you at the mercy of a careless camper, a stray Fourth of July bottle rocket, a bolt of lightning or even an out-of-control “prescribed burn?”

Firefighters, Departments of Forestry and other fire plan coordinators recognize the need for prevention in ways more complicated than Smokey Bear’s message to be careful with matches, though that rule certainly still applies. In today’s world of high-grade logging, wooded housing areas, and trendy homes built contrary to sound fire prevention standards, homeowners need to understand the risks.

Wildfires present a major threat where wildland and urban areas interface. These fires can be unpredictable and no region is immune to them. Each year, entire towns and hundreds of homes are at risk from wildfire. So what can you do? Plenty. Firewise construction and materials can make a difference and so can wildfire preventive landscaping methods:

● Provide a safe environment for firefighters by providing a clear access and a safe exit. If your home poses too much risk for firefighters, prudence dictates they don’t try to save your house but rather move on to one that can be saved in the limited time available to them.

● Replace your shake roof with non-combustible materials.

● Double-pane windows offer better fire protection than single pane. Also, smaller panes hold up better than large panes. Tempered glass is the better choice over plate glass.

● Vents--around the attic, under the eave soffits, under floors--are a way hot embers can enter your home. Covering vents with wire mesh screen no larger than one-eighth inch helps prevent sparks from entering your home.

● Wooden fences can act as a fuse leading right to your house. Attach the wooden fence to a cement pillar, a section of wire fence or a gate, to act as a firestop.

● Don’t keep flammable materials near your home. Remove anything that can easily burn–firewood, dense or dry vegetation, tall grass, lumber scraps–to a distance at least 30 feet away.
● Thoroughly water all vegetation within 60 feet of your home and outbuildings during dry periods.

● Follow your area’s burning regulations. Restrict a fire to within four feet in diameter, have a shovel, a charged hose, and a person capable of extinguishing a fire present at all times. Extinguish the fire before leaving it.

Don’t be one of this season’s statistics. Act now, and throughout the fire season, to protect your home from wildfire.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Review: DIARY OF MURDER By Jean Henry Mead

Distraught over her sister Georgi’s mysterious death, Dana Logan and friend Sarah drive an RV through a snowstorm to her sister’s home in Wyoming. Dana dismisses the theory that her sister committed suicide–Georgi loved life too much to even consider taking her own.

Arriving at her sister’s home, Dana and Sarah have immediate reservations about Rob, the “grieving” widower. A cremation is scheduled too quickly and a housekeeper is already boxing up her sister’s belongings. It’s only been two days since Georgi died and these actions make it appear there is reason to cover up evidence. Dana finds her sister’s diary and a winding, treacherous story begins to unfold.

Although Dana and Sarah have played amateur detectives before, this case taxes even their creative and persistent skills. Dana’s talented daughter soon joins them and together the three take on what becomes a dangerous investigation.

Mead does a masterful job in taking her readers down dark treacherous paths of betrayal, deceit and greed. Many people are involved in this suspense thriller--there’s much more to the story than the death of Dana’s sister. Many characters take part in the story, yet Mead keeps them sorted out, making Diary of Murder a riveting, satisfying read.