Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Taking Decluttering Public - Group Clutter

It's no surprise that 1/4 of these 8 Habits of Organised People involve decluttering. And even though I've been far too quiet lately, the decluttering has continued...and it's grown!

With the goal of decluttering professionally, I have decluttered at my sister's house (hopefully more on this later.) I am also decluttering for an entire club.

As the new president of Explorers, I have a serious job on my hands. The previous long-serving and super hard working president is also a confirmed packrat, who doesn't think we should get rid of anything if we've spent money on it.

No prizes for guessing what the club storage cupboard looks like.

Along with the overstuffed shelves of activity resources, we have three library carts of books and games. Rather, we had about five carts' worth stacked onto three carts.

Making the Decluttering Case

In home decluttering, you will encounter resistance from those attached to the stuff. At an organisation level, it will be worse. You will hear all the usual enemy whispers, this time on behalf of the organisation.

We have a treasure trove of super cool stuff in the cupboard. Here is why the club agreed to declutter:


The storage cupboard was so full that things only fit tightly packed in a few ways. Only one person really knew where to find things and where to put them away again so we could slam the door closed at the end of the day. Nobody else was sure of navigating the cupboard, and nobody wanted to.

This is a dangerous state for a club to be in!

Wasted Time and Energy

Every activity day needed a major extra commitment simply to take out materials and put them away again. Often we would still be setting up and in a rushed mess as people arrived.

Because only one person knew the right way to pack up (but often other people had to put stuff away anyway), the storage cupboard needed regular reorganisations (at least once a year) where many people stayed for hours to take everything from the cupboard and put it all away again.

People aren't too keen about this. Constantly shifting and sorting stuff is not a rewarding volunteer job.


Overstuffed storage damages the stored material.

For example, on our library carts, we had books in every crevice. Books stacked on top of each row of books plus piles on top. It was too heavy for one person to move. There were so many games that they spilled off the sides.

And when we moved them in and out of the cupboard, stuff on the edges got crushed against everything in our way. Of course, we had to pile other boxes on top of the books and games carts to get the cupboard door closed.

Access and Utility

The usual clutter complaints also apply
  • People could hardly browse the library carts for fear of starting an avalanche. Small children certainly couldn't do it. There was always a mess to clean up simply from people trying to get things out.
  • We often rebought materials because we didn't know we already owned them - or suspected we might but couldn't find them in time.
Decluttering Process

We've had two decluttering marathons already - the library carts and the general cupboard shelves.


Our librarian defined a purpose for our library. This meant when we looked at a book or game, we could see it in the context of its use for our club, not just how cool it was.

We also took into account how easy it is for Aucklanders to get books from our public library.

The games and books now fit on their carts.


I didn't know what was on the shelves, but my purpose was at least to
  • remove any damaged or outdated material
  • reduce duplication
  • consider the value of all materials for the club's future
This is still a work in progress. We only got through about half the shelves, and we took out lots and lots of stuff.

What happened to the stuff?
After library clearout, before Open Day Sale
It's at my house. Good thing I'm an expert declutterer.

We sold some for about $400 at our annual Open Day, and a few large items sold on TradeMe. We are donating the rest.

Beneficiaries have been:

After Open Day Sale and after cupboard clearout

Today, after many donations.

Someday very soon, I will post a photo of a clear floor. If this had been an easy task, someone else would have done it long ago.

The lesson?

Groups need to be even more careful than individuals with their decisions about stuff. With shared responsibility comes avoided responsibility.

Has anyone else encountered group clutter in your organisation?

The punchline?
The cupboard is still full.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Vegan Astronaut Food, or Why braces are cool when you're old


It's cool to get braces when you're old, because:
  • Your peers congratulate you or sympathise - instead of calling you names and avoiding you
  • Your kids think your new hardware is interesting, or even sparkly (my 4 year-old girl)
  • You get to hear a thousand stories from people who've done it already.
I expected teeth too sore to chew hard or sticky foods, and to look strange.

I didn't expect cheeks so scraped by the braces that it hurts to suck down soft food. Or smile. Or talk. Apparently, it should get better any day now.

Anyway, I can't chew.  So I here's my chance to experiment with vegan astronaut food! The old-fashioned kind sucked out of a foil baggie, not the new gourmet style going to Mars

So What Can I Eat?

Here's what braces-wearers can't eat.  As a vegan, I won't be chewing meat off the bone any time soon. And while I enjoy chewy candies, it doesn't cramp my style much to avoid them.

But I can't eat a crunchy juicy apple or carrot! Right now I can't even bite a soft banana, because that knocks off the wax that stops the braces from shredding my cheeks into streaming ulcers.

My vegan astronaut diet so far astronaut_porridge.jpg

  • Porridge - I processed my whole-grain oats into fine oatmeal because I can't chew.
  • Apple/berry puree - another lucky bulk purchase because my subconscious was planning better than I was.
  • Soy yoghurt
  • Banana++ smoothies
  • Refried beans and mashed potatoes - lucky I made those potatoes!
So far, pretty OK?

Well, last night we had Chinese food to celebrate my son's cross-country run. Rather, they had Chinese food. I had pumpkin and potato soup (thanks Mom!), kumara, and mashed potatoes blended with cooked broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, and cabbage. 


(The olive is food styling - but I did manage to gum it down)

I have a whole lot of this. I think I'll thin it as soup next time, for an exciting taste sensation.

And one night I blended tomato, lettuce, and carrot into mashed potatoes and refried beans for a complete nutritious astronaut meal.


The top reason braces are cool when you're old

  1. Alcohol is liquid - and legal!

Presenting... the braces!

I can't even bite my back teeth together yet, so I'm in this for the long haul. 

I wonder what blended leftover Chinese food tastes like?

Please post your favourite vegan astronaut recipes.

Final Groan

This is my 222nd post @minimum - shame it couldn't have been #230 :-)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dr McDougall's Starch Solution - What's in it for you?


Dr McDougall's gift is that diet no longer seems controversial. You can picture ol' Doc McDougall offering you a bucket of chicken wings, saying, "Do you feel lucky?"

Well? Do you? 

If you haven't already discovered Dr McDougall, The Starch Solution is this dietary medical pioneer's most complete and compelling work yet. Dr McDougall has the medical training plus decades of comprehensive references and real-life successes to make other food choices seem just a little dangerous.

If you're already a McDougaller, look no further to find out what his latest book has for you.
In Lani Muelrath's recent Teleclass with Dr McDougall, he said this might be his last book. "If you haven't got it by now..."

Getting It

A new book? What to do? I'm in deep decluttering mode, and I already have his 12 Days to Dynamic Health and A Challenging Second Opinion.

So I performed a public service and requested that our city library order The Starch Solution for Auckland, New Zealand. As an extra bonus, I got to be the first to read it.

As another public service for all you McDougall converts wondering what's in it for you - here's:

12 Days to Dynamic Health vs Starch Solution
12 Days Starch Solution
History History
McDougall's personal medical history, with illness leading him to medical study.
When he finds he cannot make his patients better, he moves toward on dietary therapies instead of conventional drugs, and starts St Helena live-in program.
Same history with a few added extras.
The fascinating story of the years in between: why McDougall left St Helena and successfully struck out on his own.
McDougall comes out as a political activist.
Food Overview Food Overview
Nutritional building blocks and dispelling food myths - comprehensive. Starches and why we should eat them - includes reader testimonial for this simpler approach.
Poisons in animal foods
Food FAQ chapters: Protein, Calcium, Omegas (Fish)
Dietary Guidelines and Politics Dietary Guidelines and Politics
No specific section History of the USDA and what has influenced the guidelines.
Environmental concerns Environmental concerns
None "We are eating the planet to death" chapter - summary of latest consensus of livestock impact on the environment
Success Stories Success Stories
Sam and Sally Waterman - in depth look at their 12 days of success. Very personal and moving.  About 10 inspirational Star McDougaller stories - longterm achievements
Vegans/Vegetarians  Vegans/Vegetarians
McDougall eats some meat every year to avoid the negative vegetarian label. References to environmental impact of veg*nism
Fat Vegan chapter - junk food veganism, dangers of isolated soy proteins in replacement meats/milks, recommendations for healthy veganism.
Supplements Supplements
Recommends B12 to prevent rare cases of dietary deficiency Chapter discussing latest research on risks of general supplementation - still recommends B12
Sugar and Salt Sugar and Salt
 Limits quantities Chapter on history of these and current role as dietary scapegoats. Still limits quantities.
The Plan The Plan
12 Days of Sam and Sally's progress - meal plan. Tips on social and kitchen preparation, shopping, dining out. Approved brands list 7 Days - meal plan. Tips on social and kitchen preparation, shopping, dining out.
Maximum Weight Loss Maximum Weight Loss
None Summary page
Recipes Recipes
Lots of favourites - Healthy and richer listed separately Lots of favourites
Medical Reference Medical Reference
Mini Challenging Second Opinion guide None
References section References section
Fully referenced by disease Fully referenced by chapter


After reading this great new book, my only complaint is the same one I have about Dr T Colin Campbell.

Both unquestioned dietary giants have embraced the environmental cause but seem to fear entering the ethical arena, perhaps not wanting to be associated with weirdos who actually care about animals. Dr McDougall continues to distance himself from vegans and vegetarians, compared to the thorough research he invests in diet and now the environmental issues of industrial farming.

His environmental chapter is called "We are eating the planet to death." Kudos to you, doctor, for telling it like it is. How about a chapter called "We are torturing billions of animals every day"? That is another undeniable result of industrial farming.  

All the book's statements of gentle respect for vegans' sacrifices doesn't cut it. The ethical argument adds that crucial third leg of stability to the plant-based way of life. Readers deserve to hear it.

The Winner?

If you ask me which book to give to a friend you want to help, I'd say "whichever one you've got." The 12-Day book is still relevant, decades after publication.

But The Starch Solution is the book of today - it has more: more information from new research, more modern cover design, and more polish from those extra decades of Dr McDougall's writing and presentation experience. 

Get it for your local library (and your own)!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

If Education Were the Answer - 5 things that would already be true


Heard this before?
We don't need to pass laws to make things better; we just need more education. If people knew better, they would do better.
I'm a writer. I'm all for information sharing. But telling the truth isn't enough.  If it were, we'd all already:
  1. Eat more whole grains than refined grains
  2. Eat 5+ fruits and vegetables every day
  3. Exercise every day
  4. Use public transport
  5. Respect everyone, regardless of race, gender, religion, orientation, etc.
I'm accepting other entries for a list of 10, please submit in the comments section.

Education is the:
  • talk in "Walk your talk"
  • say in "Do as I say, not as I do"
  • words in "Actions speak louder than words."
Inspirational educational messages can't beat real world experience.

There you see what is really valued. Money wins over health, environment, and peace. Most people will soon recover from any new lesson and go back to doing exactly what everyone else around them is doing - a much stronger educational lesson.
While the government and large corporations work together to maximise profits, educational truths are dangerous and unacceptable counter-culture.

Not convinced? Here's a prime example: the USDA and Maybe Meatless Monday.

Until society takes strong cooperative action to make the better choice the easier choice (instead of folding under pressure), the talk about what's good for us will remain...just talk.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

4 seasons in one day...

It's the start of August - deep in our antipodean winter.

Could someone please break it to this dude?

Amazing what you can do when you don't know it's impossible...

And what can I say to these beauties?
 Thank you for brightening up winter!