Archive for the 'Decluttering' Category

Gonna have a yard sale

We’re not, but our church is. The purpose is to raise money for the mission team that’s going from our church to Niger this summer. I think the total needed is about $21,000, so we’ve all been encouraged to donate as much used-but-valuable stuff as possible to the yard sale. This is a great motivator for me, as we have a house and multiple out-buildings just full of stuff. With so much fodder, all I need to do is to schedule the and then discipline myself to start somewhere and go through stuff. I have about a month to accomplish this, and I have already ruthlessly culled my dresser. I think next will be my closet, then maybe Jo’s closet. . . I really just need Jessica to come stand over me and tell me which area to tackle and what to get rid of. My goal is to put at least three things in the yard sale pile every day, starting tomorrow. Anybody want to hold me accountable?  = )

The trash can is my friend

I’ve been listening to some podcasts by a woman who is a homeschooling mom of eight and who started, owns, and runs a full time business.  This lady has a lot on the ball and obviously knows some stuff I need to learn.  She is extremely practical and motivating, and after listening to Getting Rid of Clutter I, Getting Rid of Clutter II, and Getting Rid of Clutter III, I was motivated to get rid of some clutter in my life.

I took what seem like some teeny, tiny, baby steps.

One of the things P.J. says is, “If you don’t use it, get rid of it,” so I thought a lot about (but took no action on) going through the stuff in my kitchen and getting rid of what I don’t use, but yesterday I was more or less forced to address the Excessive Kitchen Utensil issue.  Let me explain.

In the past two months, we have had The. Most. Horrific. infiltration of fruit flies known to man.

I initially thought they were fungal gnats in houseplants, but no.  Fungal gnats move slowly and these guys are more like Speedy Gonzales.  In the summer, we usually have some bananas, peaches, and cantaloupe ripening in a basket on the counter, and they attract fruit flies, so we always keep a small glass of apple cider vinegar and with a few drops of Palmolive nearby.  The fruit flies are drawn to the vinegar and die drinking it.  That normally works pretty well, but these guys would have none of it.  Besides, they weren’t even hanging around the fruit basket beside the fridge very much; they seemed to be over around the sink.

So. .. my next step was to be very diligent in leaving NO food sitting out.  This is quite inconvenient, as it means no fruit can be left out to ripen, and every single dish, pan, glass, and utensil must be thoroughly washed the minute we’re done using it.  Then, in addition to attempting to cut off their food sources, we’ve kept manually swatting at and killing (an untold number of) the little guys, but somehow they still seem to reproduce like rabbits.

I then asked our friend at church who is an exterminator about it, and he said that the goal is to figure out where they are nesting, that they like drains, and that if we weren’t on a well, he’d recommend pouring some bleach down the drain.  We had become so desperate that I decided to heck with the well, and I have taken to pouring about a pint of bleach down the kitchen drain every night.

I even had Scott buy one of those bug bomb things.  I figured I’d set it off in the kitchen and blast ’em all to Kingdom Come, but then I read the procedure on the label, and it’s INTENSE.  You have to cover everything, turn off all appliances, be gone for hours, air the house for hours before re-entering it, etc., etc., etc., so I punted that idea.

But yesterday I found a can of Raid for Flying Insects under the kitchen sink, and it said it kills fruit flies.  Aha!!!  And I was going to be gone that morning for several hours.  So, with a murderous gleam in my eye, I moved all the stuff off the kitchen counter and into the living room, covered the toaster and Andrew’s coffee maker, and sprayed half a can of that stuff into every part of my kitchen, including the sink.  The air was heavy with Raid-ish mist and the floor was slippery with it when I left.

Four hours later, I returned to a dry kitchen, 15 dead fruit flies, and two dead lady bugs.  I was pleased and hopeful.

I wiped everything down and began to move the crocks of utensils and stuff back into the kitchen, and that’s when it occurred to me that I really didn’t use all of those items.  Hmmm. . .  In fact, I didn’t actually use most of them.  Maybe I could get rid of some of them!  So I pulled out the ones I use regularly and returned them to the counter and I put all the rest in a paper bag which I dated and set in the pantry.  Anything I don’t get out of the bag for a month is going to the thrift shop.  = )

And then I went to my desk to deal with some email stuff and saw that there were 50+ messages in my in-box.  Most of them were there because before I could delete them I’d need to do something, and I never seemed to make time to do those things.  Yesterday I did.  I spent more than one hour and less than two systematically taking action on ALL THOSE EMAILS, and now my in-box is down to nine items!!!

I am on a roll, albeit a very small one, and I am gathering momentum.

There was a fruit fly over the sink this morning.  = {

A baby step

We had a dinner meeting with our Roberts Vacation Rentals employees at Chick-fil-A this evening.  We were two men and four women, and we women realized through our discussion that we all struggle with having messy homes which are at least partially the result of having too much stuff.  We shared some funny stories, and I was highly motivated to come home and clean out (and throw out) at least something before I go to bed.

I decided to tackle the school shelf in the dining room, the shelf that was supposed to be a place for Andrew to keep his school books and supplies, the shelf where his homeschool stuff – some from more than a year ago – has been piled, the shelf I had intended to get cleared off before school started on August 19.

I am now happy to report that in 20 minutes I cleared that shelf and the one below it.  Now Andrew has a place to put his current school stuff, and the extra Bibles, game books, and score pad are also all easily accessible.

If I took a baby step like this every day, it would take me a mere 16 light years to declutter the whole the house!

Amazing what was under there

We decided, Scott and I, to take a few minutes last night and begin to tackle the playroom.  It is, as I have mentioned before, virtually crammed with stuff, most of which really ought to be thrown out.  We only had about 30 minutes, and I said that I thought we should just tackle one very small section, so we could start and finish in our allotted time and have success.  I believed that would give us momentum to go back in and attack it again some time before 2014.

We walked in, and Scott said, “I know what I want to work on.”  It’s always good to know what one wants and it communicate it clearly, but I was not ready to hear him say, “I want to do under the pool table.”

My first thought was that that couldn’t possibly be too bad, but when I actually bent down to look under there – which I never do – I was appalled.  The entire space, from one end to the other, from one side to the other, and from the floor up to the bottom of the pool table, was filled with junk!  Here are a few of the finer items located in said space:

1 creek shoe

my big red suitcase

a beat-up roller backpack full of softballs

a 3′ by 4′ piece of carpet

the padded-topped wooden block box

one slug (not dead, but shortly dispatched by My Hero)

two empty shoeboxes

a box of miscellaneous parts and tools from our (21-month ago) bathroom remodel

piece of plywood (approx. 2.5 feet square)

one black and purple flip-flop (too small for any flip-flop-wearing feet that live here)

four empty amazon boxes

a water gun

my carry-on suitcase

one book crate

a bag of stained towels from the Reunion Rendezvous

In a mere 23 minutes, we dealt with all of it.  Now, the only things under there are my two suitcases and the book crate.  I felt it was a worthy and successful investment of our time.  My very rough estimate is that the volume stored stuff in the playroom was about 1096 cubic feet.  By tackling the under-the-pool-table space, we knocked off about 72 of those cubic feet, leaving us a mere 1024 with which to contend.  Or, in other words, we have now officially completed 6.57% of the task.

I think I’ll forget the numbers and just concentrate on how nice the under-the-pool-table space looks.

Hauling it out!

Having decided that I am ready to get rid of unwanted and unneeded stuff in my life, I have tackled a number of decluttering projects lately.

For one thing, I have ditched nearly all the partial desserts from the fridge.  It is a sad fact that desserts get made in a certain size, and when there are only three of you, you simply don’t eat it all.  Then it sits.  And I feel guilty.  And I end up eating it because no one else does, but I am through with that!  I saved the last five bird’s nest cookies and five oreo balls for me, I confirmed that Scott will indeed eat the last piece of apple pie tonight, and I threw all the rest of it out!

This, on the heels of the great game attack.  It was family night a few nights ago, and it was my turn to choose what we’d play.  I’m really working hard to convert Andrew into an eager game-player, so I want to keep trying different games with him.  I chose dominoes.  We have two sets of dominoes:  a set of double nines that stores in a nifty snapping plastic case, and a set of double twelves that stores in a lovely blue tin.  For years, I have kept the double twelves in our office closet because I don’t want kids playing with them as toys and losing them.  I leave the double nines in the playroom, ’cause that’s a smaller set and less valuable.

I went into the playroom to get the double nines (thinking that the double twelves would be too frustrating for Andrew to add each turn), and what did I find but the plastic case almost totally full and a bunch more dominoes piled loose on a lower shelf.  Lovely.  Now, how on earth was I to figure out which ones were which?!?  I was royally displeased.  Clearly there was more than one set down there, and how could you play with a set and-a-third, or whatever?  Obviously, the two sets had gotten mixed together and then some portion of the whole mess had gotten lost.  Sigh.

I tried to dig in the shelves to find the other dominoes, but no luck.  I know when I am approaching (and careening wildly past) my grace limit, so I asked Scott to help me look.  Not smart with his back, but he did get down there and dig around and remove a heckuva lot of games and confirm that there were no more dominoes to be had.  I also checked our office closet, where there were also no more dominoes to be had.

With some ten or fifteen games out and strewn all over the playroom floor, Scott suggested I choose something besides dominoes.  Family members may understand how difficult this would be for me, but I gamely (don’t you love that pun?) opted for Rummikub, and we actually had a great time playing.  Andrew stayed with it and had a good attitude, and he clearly has that Roberts sense of logic and advance planning.  = )

But the games were still all over the playroom floor.

So. . . the next night, while the guys were at a Super Bowl party, I (drum roll, please) managed with effort to get the heater lit in there, gave it a while to warm up, and then went in to attack the games.  A girl and I had gone through them not too terribly long ago, and had gotten rid of a lot of games that we never play.  I think it was Jessica.  This time, I went through ALL the games.  I threw out ALL the mixed-up dominoes as well as the Twister game with broken and unusable spinner.  I organized pieces of games.  I consolidated all the Apples to Apples cards in ONE box AND got them all face up.  Etc., Etc.. Etc.

Now the games are beautiful and they are ALL visible from the front.  No more digging to find what we want – in theory.

Then I came up to the office and began tackling the file cabinet.  This is both a major headache and an emotionally charged project.

There are three drawers, and each is deep and wide.  The bottom drawer is ministry paperwork stuff, which, for the most part, I am not authorized to do anything about.  The top drawer is stuff that could possibly be useful – owner’s manuals, maps and brochures about neat places to see, cards and letters I’ve saved.  Well, SOME of what’s in the top drawer could possibly be useful.

The middle drawer is mostly a bunch of school stuff; papers and notebooks and workbooks that the kids did, plus a lot of “resource” stuff.  I was really into cheap and creative learning tools, so I saved things like anything that had a picture with a scripture verse on it that could be hung at a little person’s eye level; facts and quizzes on the backs of cereal boxes; greeting cards that had good artwork; articles about character qualities; pictures of people in all kinds of different cultures; missionary stories – and so forth.

I spent an hour or so sifting and ditching.  I did confirm with the kids (big three) that none of them wants any of their schoolwork stuff saved, so I threw out everything except a few odd pieces that especially made me smile.  There was a post-it note on one of Katie’s algebra notebooks (age 13) that said something like, “I don’t care what you do with this, but don’t let me see it again for a loooong time.”  I emailed her the text of the note and threw out the notebook.

Tomorrow, I’m doing a major Wal-Mart run, and I’m going to look for a set of double twelve dominoes.  I’m not sure where I’ll keep them; maybe in all the empty space in the middle file drawer!

Storing the light bulbs

They’re in the dishwasher now.

Please don’t tell my husband that.  It’s one of those cases in which what he doesn’t know truly won’t bother him.  He’s highly unlikely to either read this blog or open the dishwasher, so I am pretty sure that my secret is safe, as long as our readers don’t curiously go opening the dishwasher to see if I’m telling the truth.  I know that those of your who live here WILL indeed do that, but I would ask that you only do it when Dad is not on the property.  = )

Readers who don’t live in our house may wonder about my sanity, so allow me to explain.

Some six (?) years ago, when our hard water destroyed our second replacement dishwasher, there was some difference of opinion as to how we should proceed.  Options considered at the time included:

1.  Buying another dishwasher (which would work well for three or four months and then, as the water pressure steadily decline, would leave the dishes dirtier and dirtier, eventually requiring full hand-washing thereof)

2.  Buying another dishwasher and installing a water softener (which would alter the taste of our rock-hard water)

3.  Doing the dishes the old-fashioned way, with or without

4.  Replacing the dishwasher with some type of cabinetry or other storage

5.  Using paper plates exclusively

I vetoed #1, the kids and I vetoed #2, Scott vetoed #3, and #5 was not cost-effective, so we have since been left with #3, without.

Meanwhile, there have been the issues of beach towels and light bulbs.  Our ninety-nine year-old home has very little storage space.  Oh, yes, there are plenty of cabinets in the kitchen, and there are a couple of high ones over the washer and dryer in the laundry room, but beyond that, we are clearly closet-deficient.  There’s no hall closet, no coat closet, no guest closet, no linen closet, and in fact no closet at all on the first floor, with the exception of Jessica’s miniscule bedroom one.

Each of the boys does have a small closet in his bedroom, our master bedroom has a small walk-through closet – actually a tiny hallway – with a hanging bar (Scott’s clothes) and shelf;  when our bathroom was re-done, we had three more shelves and another hanging bar (my clothes) added.  As mentioned in a recent post, our office also has a small closet which would be considered coat-closet size in a more modern house.  And that’s it.

Now, since beach towels should really be stored on the first floor where they are used, they have for years lived in the cabinet above the dryer.  With six people in the house, I feel a compulsion to have at least six beach towels available at all times.  Yes, even in the winter.  Beach towels are our go-to for things like minor floods across the kitchen floor, people puking in odd places, sopping up auto upholstery when windows have been left open in rain, etc.

Then there’s the matter of light bulbs.  I cannot stand to store things in ways in which they are not readily visible, so I like to be able to look at my light bulb stash and tell at a glance how many I have of which kind.  And in this old house, one must stock a lot of kinds.  There are, of course, your standard 40, 60, and 100-watt versions.  None of those denominations can be eliminated, because the ceiling fans in the attic take nothing higher than 40s, living room lamps are happiest with 60s (or even 75s, to make matters even more complicated), and the cellar HAS to have 100s to make it light enough to see down there.

Then there are the specialty bulbs – including, but not limited to candelabra-based candle-tip 25s for the dining room chandelier and solid white standard-based candle-looking 40s for the office fixture.  Not to mention those funky totally round ones around our bathroom mirror.

The cabinet above the dryer has a low shelf and a high (read: completely unreachable by Patty, who could keep a stool nearby, but WHERE?) shelf.  On the left side of the low shelf, we have traditionally stacked the beach towels, and in the remaining seven-inch wide space on the right side of that shelf, Yours Truly has tried in vain to keep the myriad of light bulbs organized.  On that matter, she has obviously miserably.

When you yank out the beach towels to go swimming (or for other more pressing purposes), one or more light bulb packages is prone to fall.  They cannot then be put back up, because I cannot reach to stack them properly (the dryer being in the way and my height and arm length both being somewhat sub-standard), and the only other current occupant of the house who would care to do so spends an awful lot of hours driving to and from Springfield these days.

When you need a light bulb, it is impossible to find what you need in the stash on the right side of that shelf.  Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that we even own what you need.  If you then go to the store to purchase what you need, you will find that incandescent bulbs have been deemed evil and are no longer available.  If you happen to locate some obscure store that still (against U.S. governmental recommendations – or is it regulations?) sells incandescent bulbs, you will be motivated to stock up enough of said to last into the next decade, because you HATE those compact fluorescent bulbs that are now being shoved into our households.  When you do bring home your bags and bags of lovely old-fashioned, inefficient incandescent bulbs, you will have no closet in which to store them, and this will cause frustration.

A few weeks ago, two packs of light bulbs fell out of the cabinet and landed on the dryer.  The dryer already support a large plastic container of laundry soap (which can’t sit on the floor because then there would be no room for the laundry baskets or the feet of the people who walk in there to do laundry) and a box of dryer sheets (which can’t live in the cabinet above the washer because it’s full of other stuff that can’t be stored in closets, because they don’t exist).

These two packs of light bulbs were moved back and forth and back and forth and back and forth over the top of the dryer every time some one needed to clean the lint screen – FOR OVER A MONTH!  No one thought to put them away in the cabinet, and I didn’t want to even LOOK in that cabinet, because I knew it was impossible to organize the light bulbs.

Furthermore, our beach towels have become very frayed and very faded through the years, and in recent weeks, Wal-Mart had nice ones on sale for a mere $3 each.  I bought about seven.  And folded them neatly.  And put them on the left side of the shelf in the cabinet above the dryer.  Which forced me to look at the light bulbs. . .

And so, today, in a veritable fit of decluttering and reorganizing, I took down all the light bulbs and neatly arranged them in the dishwasher.  The “normal” bulbs are on the top rack, with the specialty ones on the lower rack.  I can see all the light bulbs, and I know exactly what we have!  With those extra seven inches, the beach towels now fit easily on their shelf.  (In the spirit of leftovers that will never be eaten but which must be saved until the spoil, the old dead beach towels will be moved into the playroom – although I don’t think full disclosure on that matter is really essential, either.)

So now, if you need a light bulb, you will know where to look.

Top shelf

My determined purpose today was to completely clean out the top shelf of the office closet.

Nearly three years ago, for my birthday, Scott helped me clean out that whole closet, and for a few weeks it did truly look lovely.  However, for the past two and-a-half years, it has pretty consistently been a disaster area.  This causes two problems.  Since it’s so packed full of junk and there’s no where to put anything, (A) I can rarely find what I’m looking for in there, (B) I tend to just toss whatever wherever, and (C) just looking at the closet is so overwhelming (and there’s no door on that closet) that I tend to avoid even trying to do anything about it.

But today was my off day – the first scheduled one in over two years!!! – and although I did have to go to the bank and grocery first thing, and I will have to take Andrew to gymnastics in an hour, I have been highly productive in the office closet in the meantime.  At least with the top shelf.

First, I took EVERYTHING off the shelf.  That involved a lot of stuff, so there were boxes, containers, and loose items all over my desk, the school desk, and the office floor.

Next, I did the most emotionally difficult part.  I threw out our mildewed wedding album, without thumbing through it.  Someone clap for me, please.  That album had been ruined years ago by being left in the humid shop building, but my parents most graciously arranged to have a second, smaller album made.  That one is on display in our climate-controlled living room.

Along the same lines and of comparable difficulty was the tackling of two very large photo albums with pictures from before we were married until just before Katie was born.  These albums had probably done time in the shop near the wedding album, and they also had extensive mildew damage.  The sad part was realizing all the time I had taken to put those pages together.  They were the old-fashioned kind of albums where you peel back the plastic, lay the pictures on the cardboard-ish page, and lay the plastic back down on top.

In one album, all the pictures on the bottom half of every page were ruined, so I sat at the dining room table, methodically peeling back each plastic and taking out any pictures that were still good.  In the second album, all the pictures on the top half of every page were ruined, so I repeated the process for that one.  This resulted in a stack of photos that just fit into a one-quart zip-loc bag.  Very satisfying.  They are in very rough chronological order, and if I ever get bored, I will buy a scrapbook and put them in it.

Actually, I have a question for those who are wiser than me about photos; specifically the displaying and/or scanning thereof.

Once I finished the two albums and had someone else carry their remains out to the trash can (that would have made me cry), I took my zip-loc of old pictures back up to the office and faced the two shoe boxes of loose pictures and negatives (well, some of them were in envelopes) that had never yet made it into albums.  Actually, some of them had, and that’s the issue.  You see, about a year-and-a-half ago, Jessica graduated from high school, and someone(s) took a bunch of pictures out of albums and out of frames and scanned them into some computer, so they could be used in a music video.  Then a year ago, the process was repeated for another music video for my surprise 50th birthday party.

As best I can tell, none of those pictures were ever returned to their homes – (sigh) – so they have joined the tanks of loose, unlabeled pictures in the two shoeboxes.  Now, I am at least somewhat motivated to put these guys into scrapbooks, even though they won’t be in dated order, just so that I can write something beside them to indicate who/when/where while I can still remember!  But if I do that, and if some other kid graduates, or gets married, or whatever, and somebody wants to use the pics in the scrapbook in a music video, how can they be taken out to scan?  And will they ever be put back?  And if so, how will whoever know where and how to put them back?

If you have wisdom on this matter, please do tell!

The picture process took several hours, and then I had to sort a lot of stuff and decide what to do with it.  A lot of it – notably all that junk that we save to re-gift or use as white elephant gifts at Christmas – was thrifted.  SURELY by Christmas we’ll have new junk to white elephant, and as far as true gifts, we’re not a real gifty family.  If there’s someone we really want to give a gift to, we’ll either buy it or make it especially for him or her.

I have placed color-coded, numbered labels on all the top shelf boxes.  There are two boxes of pictures, one box of “Barnabas” (encouraging) stuff, four boxes of craft supplies (seems a little excessive for the least crafty mom west of the Mississippi) and a box of crayons, one box of old letters, one box of souvenirs, one monster box of my postcard collection, a big box of extra electronics, a box of Mission China banquet supplies, a spindle of Mission China CDs (or are they DVDs?), and a box of new Christmas cards that I didn’t realize I had.  = )

I feel successful.  There are three lower shelves yet to approach (although they are all only a third as long as the top shelf) plus all the junk on the floor, but I have made a start, and a start generates momentum.  Whee!