Saturday, October 15, 2016

Indian Summer

Well, I thought I'd take a break from the organizing posts to share some photos from my recent bike rides. We're enjoying a fabulously beautiful "Indian Summer" here in the Mile High City, and I have to say that I'm feeling totally spoiled.

Usually by this time of year we've already had at least one snowstorm, but this year it's just been absolutely gorgeous. I mean, it's really hard to complain about temps in the mid-80's in mid-October (that's around 29C for those who don't speak Fahrenheit.)

Anyhow, here are some photos from recent bike trips:

This is Bear Creek - it's one of the creeks that comes in from the mountains and feeds the South Platte River. This photo was shot about a month ago in a little park just west of the town of Morrison, at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

This next photo is Chatfield Reservoir. It's one of three flood control reservoirs built to protect the city of Denver. It's built at the confluence of the South Platte and Plum Creek. This picture was taken a few weeks ago before the leaves started to turn.

Another photo of Chatfield - actually taken at the same spot looking the other direction. There's been a lot of erosion lately because we've had several major flood events in recent years, so at the left side of this photo you can see where the bike path just disappears into nothing. I love how the erosion exposed the roots of that tree too.

OK, this photo is back at Morrison Park along Bear Creek - shot yesterday, It was a picture perfect day for a bike ride!

This picture isn't perfectly in focus, but it's better than most of my attempts to capture an image of the "meepers" as I call the prairie dogs. Can you see the little guy peeking out from his hole in the center near the top of the picture? There are colonies all along the greenbelt - this picture was taken up north of the city where Clear Creek (which runs through Golden, CO) enters the South Platte. Don't know what those yellow flowers are, but apparently they don't taste good because the prairie dogs seem to leave them alone.

OK, now we're back along the Bear Creek trail again. This picture is shot from near the top of the Bear Creek Dam looking down over the Metro area. This photo was taken yesterday - what an amazing day!

Now we're a few miles further west - just outside of the town of Morrison, up above the park where the creek runs. This is just a generic view of the foothills taken a few weeks ago.

Another shot taken up above Morrison, only facing the other direction. You can see the iconic Red Rocks park (and amphitheater) in the background, with some beautiful rabbitbrush in full bloom in the foreground.

And finally, about a mile from home, as I'm racing to get back before dark! There have been some wonderful sunsets this fall.

I really do feel spoiled with this beautiful weather, but I'm hoping we get some moisture soon because the fire danger is getting to be extreme.

So what's the weather been like in your neck of the woods? Sending good thoughts to all of my friends in the southeast and northwest - I'm hoping you've all weathered the recent storms without incident.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Chaos Control Part 3: Grouping Like with Like

I'm not good at putting things away.

This is another one of those tendencies that I've spent a lot of time beating myself up over. I mean, it seems so simple, doesn't it? "A place for everything, and everything in its place."

The problem is that I'm really an out of sight, out of mind person. And once I put something "away" it's like it simply vanishes. Honestly, I often feel like putting it away is the equivalent of throwing it away, because once it's out of my visual field, the chances of me ever finding it again are quite slim.

Seriously, one time I was putting on my jacket, and since this task required two hands, I momentarily stuck my keys in my mouth. But as soon as the keys were no longer visible to me, I couldn't find them. CatMan nearly died laughing as I was standing there exclaiming through a mouthful of keys that I'd lost my keys and couldn't find them!

CatMan teases me incessantly about my disorganization. He's suggested (only partially in jest) that what I need is a database telling me where all my stuff is. OY!

Enter the carpet beetles.

Dealing with this situation has meant that I literally had to go through every single thing that I owned. I purged a great deal, and for the rest I had to find storage solutions that would not leave things vulnerable to infestations. For things that are attractive to beetles (natural fibers including cardboard, and any sort of fabric) this meant sealed air tight containers. Everything else required containers with lids, that aren't made of cardboard. All of that translated into plastic bins... a LOT of plastic bins.

Initially, I just took everything that had been in boxes or baskets, cleaned it out and put it into plastic bins with lids. And while being able to see the contents of the bin through the clear plastic was a definite improvement, it didn't do much for the chaos of my system-less storage system.

This became very evident one day when my rear bike light fell off and broke. The light still functioned, but the plastic clip that holds it to the bike was broken. I was really bummed because this was an expensive light, so rather than pony up $30 to replace it, I decided to try to glue the broken piece back on.

Thus began "Glue-Quest 2016."

Now, I was sure that I owned a lot of different varieties of glue, and I wanted to choose the best one for this particular application, so I wanted to see all of the different glues that I had to choose from.

Oh. My. God. 

I'm not kidding here... it took me the better part of an afternoon to search through the house gathering all of my tubes of glue. There was one in the kitchen junk drawer, a few in the hall closet junk box, 2 or three in various desk drawers, half a dozen in various bins, drawers, and tool boxes in the shop, a few with the sewing/crafts stuff, a few more out in the garage, and even a few in the bathroom!

Now, in my defense... all of those locations made sense in a twisted, crazy sort of way. The glue I bought to repair some shoes was stored in the closet near the shoes. The glue I bought for a craft project was in the bin with the craft stuff. The glue I bought to fix a hose was out in the garage where the hoses are kept. The epoxy I bought for a plumbing project was with the plumbing stuff. The super glue that I bought to glue on a fake fingernail over the one I tore was in the bathroom with the fake fingernail stuff. Etc., etc., etc.

But quite obviously, my "project based" storage system had some real limitations.

When I finally gathered all of the glue, here's what I was left with.

What a revelation! All of the glue in one place so I can actually find it!

Now, this is another one of those things that's probably totally obvious to those of you for whom organization comes naturally, but for me this is a completely revolutionary way of thinking.

So, I've been slowly working my way through my stuff, collecting "like objects" and putting them together.

I now have a bin for tape:

One for electrical stuff:

One for batteries:

You get the idea.

And in areas where I've got lots of stuff, I sub-divided my categories. So here are two bins of bike stuff: one for maintenance & cleaning, the other for tires and tubes:

I even put all the stuff I need on ride day together in one location:

And taking it one step further, I put the little things that I carry in my pocket for a bike ride (sunscreen, chapstick, extra gatorade powder, hankie) all together in one easy to grab plastic bag - no more forgetting the extra sunscreen! Woo Hoo!

Honestly, I have a ways to go before I get everything organized this way, but this is really having an enormous impact on the chaos factor around here.

Now, I still think that things used every day should be kept in the area where they are used. It doesn't make sense to have to go trudging down to a bin in the basement every time I need a pencil or something like that.

I think the trick is deciding which things should be considered "frequent use" and which things should be stored with their brethren. But at least now I've got a mental framework to work with, and I'm starting to think that organization might actually be possible in this lifetime.

So what's your system for storing things? I'd love to hear what does and doesn't work for you.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Chaos Control Part 2: Garbage

OK, as I'm thinking about this post, I'm starting to feel like I'm about to reveal the true depth of my laziness.

Or maybe the fact that I attribute all of my organizational "issues" to laziness is part and parcel of my problem. Well, either way, I am what I am, and after nearly 50 years of trying to force myself to adopt behaviors that I obviously don't seem to have an affinity for, I am officially giving up and going another direction.

My new motto: If you can't make yourself go to the garbage can, make the garbage can come to you... or something like that.

So here's the deal, I've had a lifelong issue with throwing things away. Now, I'm not referring to the emotional difficulty of deciding to part with this object or that, I'm talking about having difficulty getting the garbage off of whatever surface it's currently occupying and into a trash receptacle.

And since no amount of beating myself up over this tendency has ever seemed to help, I finally decided to just give in any buy more trash cans.

So, before I had garbage cans in the kitchen, bathroom & office, but recycling was just in the kitchen. Now I have garbage & recycling bins in the kitchen, bathroom, office & laundry room, and extra garbage cans in the shop and garage.

It's really rather amazing the difference this has made. No more little piles of garbage and recycling at the bottom of the stairs waiting to be hauled upstairs to the trash can. No more toilet paper tubes hanging out on the back of the commode waiting to be transported to the recycling bin. No more piles of paper on the desk waiting to be dragged to the recycling bin in the kitchen. Not sure why it took me so long to figure this one out, it really seems obvious now.

Following the same line of thinking, I decided that having a box for everything that was waiting to be shredded was just begging for trouble, and bought a dedicated shredder/trash can contraption so that anything that needs shredded gets shredded immediately.

So here's my new office "trash station"

I've also discovered that my new kitchen garbage/recycling can is pure gold.

My old kitchen "trash station" had two small cans side by side - which was problematic both because they didn't really fit into the space provided, and because they had flat lids - so I ended up piling stuff there when things got crazy and I ran out of counter space, which was just a recipe for disaster. This new can has a step out garbage section - which is wonderful because it's hands free, and the recycling compartment on top has a slightly bowed lid, so it's not conducive to having things piled on top. Yay!

OK - so this brings me to the other half of my garbage "issue" - getting the stuff out of the house to the bins in the alley.

So, garbage pickup here is once a week, and even though I seldom have more than a bag of pure garbage, there are things - kitty litter, raw meat packaging, compost, and vacuum bags (aka: breeding grounds for carpet beetles) which really need to be taken outside sooner rather than later.

Now, it's not like it's a tremendously long walk out to the alley, but it does require putting on shoes, and if the weather is bad you have to bundle up or put on rain gear, and if it's dark outside it's just a pain in the rear. Plus, since I put locks on my gates (which I am generally loving, BTW) you have to have keys to get out out to the alley, and it's just one more impediment to making it happen.

So, I finally decided to stop fighting with myself and just bought some small outdoor trash cans for the back porch.

The black one is for garbage, and the small metal can is for compost. This is another thing that made an astonishingly big difference. I'm not sure I fully appreciated the "ripple effect" that not wanting to haul things out to the alley was causing. I avoided cleaning the litter boxes because it meant a trip to the alley. I avoided vacuuming because it meant a trip to the alley, etc, etc.

So far I haven't felt the need for a recycling bin on the back porch. With all my new indoor recycling bins, there's plenty of room, and since recycling doesn't smell bad, there's really no urgency in getting that sort of thing out of the house. Time will tell on that one.

So there you have it! The garbage has been officially tamed!

So tell me, am I the only person on the planet who has struggled with these issues? What are your techniques for dealing with the garbage?