Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places



Declutter Challenge Accepted

While flicking through Facebook the other day, I came across a blog that was inviting its readers to do a 30-day Declutter, by sending out a prompt a day.

It immediately appealed to me for various reasons — unlike FlyLady, this challenge is finite and focused, and there is a possible prize at the end. ($150 vouchers from Howard’s Storage World, anyone?) I’d tried doing FlyLady a few times, but ended up annoyed either by their emails or website — which are both ironically cluttered and disorganised. The more I wander through An Organised Life, however, the more I fall in love.

I feel like I’ve been continually decluttering, especially since 2013 when we were

  • packing to live in Singapore for half a year, and then
  • packing my mother’s house in Singapore, and then
  • unpacking when we got back from Singapore, and then
  • unpacking boxes that we had shipped from my mother’s house, and then
  • decluttering and packing boxes in anticipation of Atticus and an eventual house move.


What I’ve been confronted with over and over in these last 2 years is my sentimentality. I had marvelled, while packing my mother’s house, at what she had opted to keep in her tiny flat. What most people would pass over as junk, I had immediately recognised as remnants and relics of my childhood and her life. And since her death, I have been finding it especially difficult to declutter because, like her, I simply can’t bear to let go of the silliest things.

Like 20-year-old eyeshadow and perfume. Like showercaps. Like bindis that no longer stick to anything.

Like shoes that hurt. Like blouses that have shrunk since I had Atticus (ahem!).

Like notebooks filled with everyday lists and scribbles. Like old contact lenses.

Like badly chipped jars. Like clothes that no longer fit either Arddun or Atticus. Like costume jewellery that’s broken beyond repair. Like lotion for stretch marks that don’t actually work because, hello? I’m a grown woman, not a bloomin’ rubberband.

And so I find I have to revisit my piles of clutter periodically, if only to summon the fortitude to let. it. go.

Since I came into this challenge late, I needed to catch up on 10 days’ worth of prompts. This, on top of my usual housework and that small matter of keeping Atticus alive and well. But thanks to the last 2 years of that constant cycle of gathering and dispensing, I managed to do the following today.

Box of shoes
Shoes! Mine and Arddun’s. A surprisingly small box, but then again my summer shoes are lost in storage somewhere.
Floor with old cosmetics strewn
Toiletries, a surprisingly difficult one for me to tackle. I had consolidated my travel-sized toiletries a few months ago, but the make-up drawers were hard work for me because they come with memories of choir days, and dates in my twenties, and shopping trips with girlfriends, and just that promise of a magical evening out dressed to the nines. Never mind that some of them are about 20 years old, and I don’t dare smear any on my face.
Cups and crockery on kitchen table
Coffee Cups & Crockery… very low yield, as I most of our crockery are hand-me-downs and therefore sentimental. In fact, I was rather reluctant to part with these except they’re quite badly chipped all over, and I never use these cups because they’re quite useless thermoses.
Candles and platter
Vases, candles and platters. I use all our vases because we only have three, so none to throw out. Heaps of candles but again, many are sentimental so these were all I was willing to give away.
Cookbooks on kitchen benchtop
Cookbooks! I’d already done a cull before, but then duly went out and fell in love with a few more volumes. These were the only ones that made the cut this time around.
Boxes of children's clothes
Children’s clothes. Two boxes worth, the bottom being Atticus’s and the top being Arddun’s. To be honest, I’d been accumulating Atticus’s for 4 months now, so it’s not like I threw everything together today although I did fill it up enough to close the box today. As for Arddun’s, I regularly go through her clothes because she grows so quickly, and now that we know we won’t be keeping most pieces for Atticus, it’s made decluttering a whole lot faster.

I haven’t tackled bags yet (Day 4), or knick-knacks and ornaments (Day 5), or toys (Day 6), mostly because there’s nothing to be done there. Most of my bags are in storage, as are the family’s knick-knacks and ornaments (mostly from my mother’s house). I had also just sorted through Arddun’s toys the week before, so I’m counting that as a done deal.

Sorry this is a boring one for you. It’s mostly a means for me to pat myself on the back. I’ve never enjoyed housework and Tony is amazingly consistent with the bits he does (all our laundry, some dishwashing, the garden, the garbage, the garage.) But when it comes to sorting and sifting, it seems to be my one constant project. And I, for one, am grateful Atticus napped for 4 hours today.

Daddy’s little laundry lady

It’s almost automatic that we document the big occasions – weddings, funerals, birthdays, Christmases… But part of the reason I started this blog was to chronicle the Everyday. The little things we can often take for granted because they’re mundane and aren’t even newsworthy enough for a Facebook post. The little things that add up, because they’re too easy to forget.

Like doing the laundry. Like how Tony does all of our laundry, always. He has, since the very beginning of our marriage and it’s only ramped up more now that we have Arddun’s laundry in the mix.

And like how Arddun loves to help. She chooses peg colours and tries to match them with the clothes that get hung. And in this instance, it’s time to take the washing in and do some sorting and folding.

Arddun takes down washing with Tony
Daddy’s home! Time to take down the washing before the sun sets


Tony pulls washing line down for Arddun to reach
Pulling the washing line down for Arddun to reach
Arddun places pegs in basket
The pegs go in here…
Arddun takes down a peg
Taking down another peg
Arddun close up near washing line
A self-satisfied smile
Arddun consulting Tony about clothes
“Where does this go, Daddy?”
Arddun folding dress
First we fold…
Arddun placing dress in her pile of clothes
… then we stack in the right clothes pile.
Arddun contemplating washing from basket
Think this is one of mine…
Arddun daydreaming beside washing basket
What’s next…?
Arddun sorting through my camisole
Think this one is too small for Mummy…
Arddun holding clothes and saying cheese
I’m getting good at this!


A photo an hour – 10:22am

De-cluttering the house: The neverending saga.






It took me a full 2 hours before I dared to take a peek at the courtyard.

And then my heart sank.

Dug up dirt in courtyard
Evidence of late night excavation from dastardly intruder

This implies several things, of course.

  1. My troubles are not over.
  2. I might have trapped the wrong cat.
  3. The same cat has already been released and had wrecked furry vengeance in the wee (heh heh, geddit?) hours of this morning.
  4. I have to drive ANOTHER (50 x 2)km and do this ALL OVER AGAIN!

Today, I’m going to Magnet Mart to talk to a person about some serious repellents. Hopefully, they do not suggest I get a dog. Arddun will be ecstatic, but I will want to punch somebody.

UPDATE: Just checked with the RSPCA. Cat was retrieved yesterday afternoon and therefore probably released last night to say hello to our hedges. I’ve just booked a cage. We’ll do this all over again next week.

Justify my love

Now that almost everyone is back at WORK-work (as opposed to stay-at-home-with-baby-full-time work), I’ve likewise switched gears. Or at least my conscience has. The honeymoon period is definitely over, and my child is not a newborn. She’s not even really a baby. And so it feels like a very lame excuse to play the New Mommy card when I try to explain (to myself) why I’m not doing more.

I’ve had a chat to other mothers, and it’s a small relief to find I’m not alone. Somehow, staying at home in this day and age feels too much like a luxury, and so we guiltily cram as many chores as we can into precious little time. The 45 minutes Arddun plays by herself in the cot is spent washing dishes, cleaning her eating station, tidying the kitchen, putting a load of laundry on, emptying the dishwasher, wiping down the stove. An additional fifteen minutes is spent distracting her with TV while I run to the bathroom and try to have a quick shower. (This does not work, by the way. I can hear her complaints when I turn off the taps and I know that she’s been yelling for a time like a caged baby baboon while Playschool is blaring in the background.)

And yet, while I’m towelling off and grimacing about her wails, I’m also wiping down the bathroom sink, bench top and bathtub.

Because we women multi-task. We do not compartmentalise, we connect. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a weekday or a weekend. I find myself cleaning up as I go along, and constantly daunted that I can never get enough done. And when we’re finally back to the job of caring for the child, we read to them, we sing to them, we play hide-and-seek, we cook Jamie Oliveresque baby meals. We take them to the doctor’s, the library, the mall, the playground, the park, the supermarket, other mother’s houses. We take them to baby swimming classes and Gymbaroo classes and Giggle & Wiggle at the local library – even though the librarians cannot sing. All the while kicking ourselves for not stimulating them enough, and secretly wondering if a childcare environment wouldn’t be a better alternative for socialisation and quality early childhood education.

At least, that’s my perversity.

In great contrast, our men – when left in the sole charge of the offspring – are perfectly capable of letting the kid crawl around the house on its own while they enrich their souls and minds on the Xbox. They have absolutely no qualms about doing something they REALLY enjoy while “watching the kid”. Because it’s a weekend. And they’ve worked all week.

And Tony still does the laundry. And he still does his ironing. And he still takes out the garbage, and does the gardening. It’s not like he doesn’t help out – he does. Heaps. But it’s just… different. He has a list. He ticks the items off. He reaches the end of the list. He sits down, and he plays Battlefield 3.

I have a list. It grows by 5 items for every 2 that I tick off. And while I’m ticking the items off, I worry that I’m not making the most of my time with Arddun.

I really get it now. I really understand what they’ve been saying, when they say that motherhood is a full-time job. It is. It never stops. It is unrelenting, and there are no weekends because there are no imaginary lines. And I’ll tell you why there are no imaginary lines. It’s because Mothers are Women. And Women mostly don’t know when – or how – to switch off.

I was reading Kate’s blog post yesterday, and how she’s loving the age of 2 because suddenly, it’s not that full on. The tykes, they’re more independent then. They can communicate a little clearer, they can play independently for longer. And I love my little girl. But she’s not a big napper, so she’s awake a lot of the time and always getting into scrapes and gosh I’m tired. My house was a mess when I was a white collar worker, because I was hardly at home. And now it’s a mess when I’m a SAHM, because we’re always at home.

And I feel like I accomplish precious little. Always.

Will the voices in my head please pop a Valium and drop off?

TTT – Walking, Hunting, Ironing

1. Rounding the wagon

Ever since Arddun’s 20+ paces, it’s like she’s made a mental breakthrough with the whole OTHER use for legs, other than crawling. I won’t go so far as to say that she’s walking now, because she isn’t. She makes the occasional sneaky run for it from one chair to another when she thinks no one’s paying attention. And then she spends the rest of the time crawling.

Still… she’s standing a lot more now, and she’s figured out how absolutely fun it is to push her toy wagon around. Best part? After months of leaving a trail of destruction in her crawling wake, she now pushes her little wooden wagon around the house, picks random things up, and places them in her wagon. It’s like housekeeping, only 76cm high and unable to reverse properly without bashing furniture, skirting boards, and toes.

2. Finding the bargain

Cooking with mummyOh the Baby & Kids Market, oh how I adore thee. Thou melting pot of cheap books, clothes and toys, thou labyrinth of pre-loved goods and good-as-new designer baby clothes… Except this year, they were situated next to Erotica Lifestyles Expo 2012, which meant parking got doubly hard because the Erotica crowd preferred to park near the market and feign interest in bargain hunting, before doing the surreptitious walk of shame to the expo for the last 20 paces or so.

Whatever. I spent waaay too much money there, but came home with pretty awesome stash including a brand new mobile flat-pack high chair which I can clip to our kitchen bench, so Arddun can finally see how a traditional Nonya babi ponteh gets cooked Mommy Style.

3. Tackling the ironing

I loathe, loathe ironing. And now that I’m not working, I’m even less motivated to run a chunk of heated metal across clothes for hours on end. But this last week, Arddun’s discovered how FUN it is to help herself to my to-be-ironed pile of clothes by pulling a stack of them off my laundry basket to the floor, and then diving into them like a pile of autumn leaves, before making off with one or two articles in her wagon or on her determined little head.

And so I tackled the ironing this week. Got about 35 pieces done and am feeling mighty smug. There’s still a stack of un-ironed clothes stashed in the laundry basket, but at least they are out of sight and therefore, out of baby-diving range. I know you’re probably appalled that I even have that many clothes un-ironed, but I’m still mighty proud of myself. So there.

TTT – Stay-at-home pleasures

1. Steam mop

Oh you crazy household device – where have you been all my life?! Singapore’s not big on steam moppery, and we had been persuaded – early in our marraige – by a chatty man in Godfreys Belconnen to sink Too Much Money into a heavy hoover wet vacuum. But then I read a post on Facebook about someone else’s steam mop purchase. And so I marched into Harvey Norman and got one. And it takes a fraction of the time to mop my floor, and even less water, and… and… I sound like a Stay At Home Mum. Which makes the next item even more of a nail in that coffin.

2. Grey’s Anatomy

I have NEVER watched Grey’s Anatomy, but I thought I’d try and lo, I am hooked and watching it after dinner and wanting to rent all 8 seasons AT ONCE. Because nothing salves migraine, strep throat and the sniffles like a medical soap opera.

3. Fellow SAHM

I’m actually nervous about my maternity leave extension, as much as I’m thankful for it. A large part of me wonders if it’ll hold the same level of joy once everyone goes back to work like responsible corporate mothers, and my handout from the government ala paid parental leave dries up for good. Which is why it’s heartening to know that other friends are planning to do the same, because at least I don’t feel so oddly decadent and like I’m shirking my social responsibility and wasting my corporate juices. Or whatever.

So glad to have Sarah, Bailey and Charlotte for company, going forward. Here’s a photo from our visit today. Looks like there’ll be many more to come.

Arddun and Charlotte
Arddun (on right), checking out Charlotte’s very cool 1980s leg warmers.

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