Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city.

New Year’s Resolutions and getting organized



Come New Year’s, I always ask people what their resolutions are. (It’s more than just being polite because I want to tell them one of mine.) Most people say “None, resolutions are only made to be broken,” but I disagree; that’s all-or-nothing thinking. But some people surprise me with something ambitious or unusual that they want to do. Last year, I did some resolutions and goal work with a friend, and she accomplished more than she thought she would. This graphic (left) was what she found very helpful, but I prefer the version above, if you have the explanation from 13 Rules for Realizing Your Creative Vision.

So within the week limit for “banish procrastination or else throw it away,” I finished my planning for the next four months. I can’t plan longer than that, because planning is deadly. So much falls by the wayside when you spend time pondering or choosing which action – just Get Started or stick it on the calendar! You’ll figure it out!

The things that affect anything homestead-related are:

  1. becoming a wildlife rehabber: take a course
  2. finish my quilt (border, bagging, binding in slow progress)
  3. rip up the asphalt driveway: install two cobble and field-stone wheel paths, moss, grass, native species, and narrow water barrel
  4. provide homes for solitary bees; see if there is any way I can keep honey bees (I don’t have a flat roof, so this has so far been tricky)
  5. the front fence that’s outstanding from last year – the stuff is ready to go so yes! It’ll happen!
  6. plant a tree every year: a fruit tree, or swap an ornamental for a fruit tree
  7. carbon neutral: own a hybrid car; go solar
  8. turn the house into a real BnB or business; or put down a deposit of some kind to buy a farm or other dwelling in the country. (Or else sell it to the right people who will not mess with nature, as most city people do, not knowing any better. Which is why I do this blog.)
  9. go to the shooting range and handle something bigger than an air gun
  10. increase my blog readership by 10 X or more

What are your resolutions? Put them in the comments below.


In preparation for New Year’s, I follow the old Scottish tradition of cleaning out the house (also: Hogmanay!). This did not follow my usual decluttering formula of starting in a room and working clockwise through it, which I first found in The Procrastinator’s Handbook by Rita Emmett. Instead, it was more like this article I found helpful to reframe my habit of doing housework instead of going straight to my desk work. Tl; dr version: “Cleaning a closet is nearly a silver bullet when it comes to jump starting one’s productivity.” I had out-of-town guests coming for a party, so the house had to be orderly and clean. I didn’t want anything stagnant rolling over into 2013.

One such issue in getting organized is known as the Endowment Effect. Having something in your possession makes it seem more valuable than if you didn’t have it but wanted to buy it. That is, right now, it seems to be worth $10, but at a garage sale you’d pay no more than $4. If it’s worth something, has a use, and/or would be wasteful to throw out, it becomes hard to just get rid of it.

Since I learned about these biases, it’s easier to get rid of things. Do I keep it? Unless I love it, can realistically plan using it, or put it in an unobtrusive place for when it will be called upon, the answer is No. I can easily sell them cheap (my old books for sale on Amazon), give them away in a targeted way, or return them to the materials stream (recycling).

Aimee Mann (the video’s since been taken down) told an anecdote prior to playing “Labrador” on a set in August 13, 2011: she told the crowd she had bags within bags and boxes within boxes. A friend visited her and said “whether it’s in your house or in the landfill, it’s still just trash!” and then she laughed and thanked the audience for her therapy session… it was comic. Keep just a few bags and boxes on hand for those packing/giving-away emergencies. If you have more a shelf’s worth, take the rest to a store that can use them immediately, or put them out on the kerb for recycling.

There’s no use in cluttering anything up. A basic life skill is keeping your space organized as the day passes, by knowing where the best place is to keep something, and routinely putting it back when you’re done. Try to review the usefulness of your things in an unbiased way. This helps you rid your attachment to a lot of stuff.

Don’t short-shirk beauty and love, though. That kind of bias is good for  you. It can transform a utilitarian apartment or workspace into a “home.”


While I was getting stuff out of here, someone put a Christmas tree across the street into a snow bank over the weekend. I planned on getting it when I put out the garbage on Monday morning. And then I got distracted and the truck came by before I got it.

But why would I want someone’s old Christmas tree? Because they stay green over the winter, and they are delightful habitat for my birds. Here’s what I mean; this tree is by the McLennan Library at McGill, where someone casts seed for the pigeons and sparrows. Look among the branches:

 


Also published on Medium.

2 Comments

  1. How’s the homestead, Jane? If you’re looking to keep honeybees, all you need is a wooden box, open on one side, fixed to a sunny fence or wall. Fill it with blocks of wood or small logs in which you have drilled small holes. Solitary bees can actually use these as nesting sites. The box does not need to be deeper than 8ins, but must have an overhang at the top to keep rain off. You’re free to do what you will with the box. You can make it as big as you want or as small as you want. As for the roof, I had it at an incline to deflect rain.

    Rolf Matchen

  2. Thank you very much for your advice, Rolf! I am embarrassed I did not notice it sooner in my Blogger interface (I didn't get a triggering email 😕 so I will look into that.

    Also your comment is very timely as my paroxysms of gardening are winding down and the seedlings have almost all made it into the ground and everything cleaned up. This means new installations, such as your recommendation, are welcome. I will soon be posting with new photos of the garden and reports on visitors. And a bee box.

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