Archive for the 'Decluttering' Category


I really need to get in the habit of taking “before” pictures.

Decluttering my life is very fulfilling and brings me a lot of pleasure. Actually, I’ve been “kinda sorta” working on it off and on for many years, but it’s become a primary, regular focus in the past eighteen months or so. Decluttering applies to all kinds of stuff: digital stuff (scrolling through files), emotional stuff (working through feelings), and physical stuff (sorting through piles, boxes, drawers, shelves… and smokehouses).

I tend to take pictures of a space after it’s been decluttered because I’m so proud of having finished the task and I’m so pleased with the fresh, new look. But whenever I take those “after” pictures, I always regret that I didn’t think (or was too ashamed) to take a “before” picture, so that there’s no documentation to show the comparison.

In this instance, I once again forgot to take pictures of the smokehouse before Scott and I tackled it, but those of you who have seen it may remember – or can imagine – how embarrassingly messy and dirty and piled-up it was.

Well, here’s how it looks now. This first picture is looking straight in through the door toward the backyard side and far right corner. I tied all the tomato stakes in same-size bundles, and we threw out several tubs of junk. I think the Chuck Pennel sign adds a colorful and sentimental touch.

Turning 90 degrees to the right, this one faces the Coffee Road side and corner nearest the laundry room door. We moved the shelf from where it had been (straight ahead when you walked in) to this corner, where the two beat-up, super-heavy file cabinets full of birds’ nests and other grahdoo had been. Scott insisted on keeping the slightly shredded kickball bases and all the scraps of wood. I agreed as long as the wood was neatly stacked (it is), and the other items were totally contained on the shelves (they are.)

Another 90 degree turn to the right has me facing the house side, where we hung our sleds. We ditched a number of the plastic ones because they were cracked or defective in some way. I was also going to ditch the wooden sled with metal runners because the runners are bent so that I’m thinking you can’t sled on it, but Scott said, “Oh, but isn’t it a heritage item?!?” And yes, of course it is. It’s the sled we had on Kingoak Drive when I was a kid. We moved it to NLR where it almost never snows – although we did usually get a nice ice storm the second week of January – and it came with me to Missouri. We Robertses used it for years to sled down Smart Lane before Mr. Zahner had it paved. The sled still says “VARNER” on the bottom in my dad’s handwriting, and Scott’s right: it is precious enough to merit a place in the smokehouse, even though it may not be functional. Although now that I think about it, there may be a way to straighten out those runners… hmm… It’s hanging up behind the red and green sleds.

One more turn to the right leaves us facing my gardening shelf, which I cleared off, throwing out a truly crazy number of pots, saucers, and useless items, and retaining only the essential products and tools I actually use. The orange bucket and green tub were cleaned and relocated to the playroom, and the pots to the left of the orange bucket were neatly re-stacked after this picture was taken. We swept up a Pigpen-sized cloud/pile of dirt, and then, since it is, after all, the smokehouse, we shoved as much of that pile as possible down into the large cracks between the uneven sheets of plywood flooring. What we couldn’t shove down we scooped up into a tub of junk that went out to the street where Raintree Disposal gladly hauled it off.

I am very satisfied with the results. Now I can go into the smokehouse with pleasure instead of dread. Over time, I’m expecting the same to become true of the rest of my life.  = )


Overly ambitious

Given our innate differences in personality (introvert/extrovert), our differences in what we consider fun, fulfilling, or energizing (“why do something with people that your could do by yourself?” vs. “why do something alone if you could do it with someone else?”), my current physical limitations (minor knee issue, major foot issues), and my ever-increasing “loss fatigue” (weariness with and resentment about nearly always losing to Scott – even at pure luck games!!!), we have been challenged lately to come up with things that we enjoy doing together. But we have realized that we both very much like to declutter. = )

We’ve successfully tackled the kitchen junk drawer and one or two other small areas, but I think we bit off more than we could chew with our choice the other day to “set a timer for 30 minutes and clean off the high shelf in the shop building.” Now really, what WERE we thinking?

For one thing, the shop is full of all kinds of things about which we disagree. More accurately, there are many items in the shop that we agree we don’t need to keep, but in most cases, I want to throw it out and Scott wants to give it to someone who could use it.

For another thing, even getting to the high shelf is a bit of a logistical challenge. I didn’t think to take any before pictures, but here’s the shop interior as we left it 30 or 40 minutes later.

While Scott navigated around the bike, stood on the end table, and pulled himself up onto the armoire, I fulfilled rather useless tasks like driving the Durango up to the shop and then walking back and forth to the house to get a broom and dustpan, enabling My Hero to handle all the climbing and heavy lifting. He’s a gentleman, for sure.

I could see the blue baby bath and a bed rail, and I knew the Christmas stuff was up there (~4 boxes), but the number of additional boxes he hauled down was truly impressive. Even more impressive was the fact that most of those boxes had numbers on them.  I had labeled those boxes with Sharpie marker numbers when we packed them in Little Rock 23 years ago, and I had listed in a small red notebook the main contents of each numbered box. As Scott heaved them down, weaved around the piles of furniture, stumbled over the rolled-up carpet, and hoisted them into the back of the Durango, he panted, “Some of these boxes we haven’t looked at since we moved! “My college textbooks; why on earth do I have these?”

“You don’t even like to read.”

“I never read them in school.”

[Note that my husband completed his bachelor’s degree in pure mathematics at one of the most academically rigorous schools in the state in three years without reading any books. I’m telling you, the guy is really, really smart. A scholar and a gentleman.]

“And if you didn’t read them then, you’ll surely never read them now! Even if you did want to read something, you wouldn’t pick up a 35-year-old college textbook. Throw them out!!!”

And so it went.





But there were also a number of boxes of sentimental things, and on those I decided that I (or maybe even “we”) would need to go through those boxes, reminisce, cry, save a FEW especially meaningful items, take pictures of some – or a lot – of the others, and then either throw them out (my preference) or give them to someone who can use them (Scott’s preference).

In the meantime, our excessive ambition means I won’t have to worry about losing at pool any time soon.

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!