Tag Archives: cleaning

American Excess & Balance

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I’ve often contemplated this seeming disease that plagues us.  I love to organize and clean things and have since I was a kid.  Definitely a “Type A” here.  Just for fun, I enjoy watching YouTube videos on organizing or cleaning, and I’m amazed by the glutton of household items average people possess!

I will preface any further observations and opinions by saying – we have moved many times in our twenty year marriage, which forces evaluation of one’s “stuff”.  That said, after our recent move back to sunny Florida a year ago, it was incredible the stuff I’d deemed so valuable that we paid money to move it 1,000 miles.  Since our move and settling into our home, we have had Salvation Army come out twice with their big truck to haul away many boxes, Christmas train sets, set it and forget rotisserie oven, faux ficus trees, brick-a-brack, clothing, china, etc.  In addition to that, we’ve taken bag after bag to Goodwill almost weekly for the past year as we continue to sort through boxes.  Incredible the volume one collects over the years!

So, I’ve been forced to handle every item and evaluate.  I can only imagine the challenge for those who’ve lived in the same house for twenty plus years and how quickly things can get out of control.  Tastes in decor and furnishings change, fads come and go, the kids outgrow toys and clothes, hobbies move on, etc.  And if you have an issue with excessive shopping, especially as a means of therapy; well, then, all bets are off!

What is one to do when our “stuff” overwhelms us?

I think it’s easy to become completely overwhelmed if the chaos fills your entire home.  I would strongly suggest enlisting the help of a good friend or family member who can help you evaluate things and offer perspective.

When sorting through a room/box/dresser, I always ask myself three questions:

1.) Have I used it in the last year?

2.) Am I currently using it?

3.) Will I likely use it in the next year?

The task of letting things go can be so difficult.  Even a “Type A” like myself has found it hard putting some items in the donation box because it may have sentimental value or because it once cost a good bit of money.  The consequence of holding onto these items that we are no longer using and serve no purpose is that they seem to multiply and therefore occupy mental space as well.  They bog us down and we are hindered from letting our creative juices flow and general happiness from a tidy room.  They are “non-value added items”.  Now, I am not suggesting in any way, getting rid of all sentimental things or counting your household goods, etc.  But, I am offering a method to consider applying to our excess, which seems to be an epidemic.

I recently read a statistic that said 10% of Americans rent a storage unit outside their home!  Wow!  That’s staggering and in my humble opinion, a huge waste of money.  If we do not have room to house said item, then maybe we don’t need it.  I understand there are causes for short term leasing, such as military personnel, etc.  But, we’re talking long term here.  Why do we have so much stuff?

I often tell my kids that when I was their age, we didn’t have Walmart to run to for whatever item we thought we needed at that split second. There were grocery stores, hardware stores, department stores, etc.  And things were pretty expensive so we did not often get new things outside of Christmas, birthdays and the beginning of a new school year.  This must be a foreign concept to them as now we even have the all-too-tempting Amazon and internet shopping in general.

The stuff is so entirely accessible.  Add to that the “in your face” marketing that envelopes our society and there seems to be no escape!

On the flip side of consumerism, we have this new trend of minimalism.  Interesting.  While I think there are merits to this idea, I personally do not think it is for me.  But, I do wholeheartedly agree with keeping our “stuff” to a minimum but in a more balanced way.  For instance, I don’t feel like our family needs seven bottles of shampoo and conditioner, nor do I feel the need to count our toiletries.  I don’t believe we need three sets of everyday dishes, nor do I feel like we should count our plates and bowls.  To every area of life, there should be balance.  So how do we achieve this balance with our stuff?

I would say that we have to nip it in the bud.  Deeply evaluate items before we purchase them.  Do I really need this?  Do I already have something that could work just as well? Do I need “another” one?  Will it add value to my life?

It seems that once an item enters our homes, it takes up permanent residence and eventually reaches the point of excess.  I like the “one in – one out” idea.  If you purchase one item.  You put one in the donation box.  Simple idea but effective.

And now to address our current glut of stuff…

I love the old adage – “How do we eat an elephant?”

One bite at a time, right?

That is my suggestion in this regard as well.  Forget that the entire house may look like a tornado came through last night.  Forget that it’s been years since you’ve done anything with the basement or storage room.  Forget the cobwebs, the dust bunnies, the space invaders that have taken over your house!  Forget them all.

Today is a new day, my friend!

Writing things down has always proven effective for me when tackling tasks, especially undesirable tasks.  Make a list.

I would start your war plan with the rooms your family utilizes the most frequently.  This would be the kitchen, the family room, the living room, etc.

Outline the major tasks that require attention in each room.  Checking tasks off a list yields tremendous satisfaction and is very rewarding.  It propels us naturally to the next item.

Enlist the help of all the troops!  Even the smallest of soldiers can lend a hand.

One of the most common reasons for accumulation of things is that they do not have a home … OR … the soldiers did not take the extra steps necessary to take said item to its trusty home.

“A place for everything and everything in its place.”

Taking a room by room approach will inspire you to continue your war path to the other affected areas.  It doesn’t matter how long this takes.  The point is that progress is being made.

“Begun is half done.”

I think the greatest purging/organizing/cleaning tool is your attitude, frankly.

“Attitude determines altitude.”

If you have a sloppy, couldn’t care less attitude, then your home will reflect that.  If you are disciplined and focused, your home will reflect that also.

“Input yields output.”

Put on some happy music.  Whatever that is to you.  Sometimes I prefer classical, sometimes contemporary Christian music, sometimes easy listening.  Depends on my mood, I guess.  Whatever will inspire you and bring happy feelings, put it on.  Music has an amazing ability to carry us away from our present tasks (mundane as they may be) and take us to a joyful place in our soul.

Give yourself a pat on the back during each step of your progress.  You deserve it.  As long as your feet keep moving in a positive direction, you are one step closer to the environment that you desire.

Just think of the joy you could bring to someone less fortunate as you place unwanted items in the donation box.  And, next time you feel the urge to place that Amazon order or hit the mall, ask yourself, “Do I really need this?”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a war plan to develop regarding the glut in our garage.

 

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Buried Treasure

We’ve been looking for a few things since we returned from our big trip visiting our older son almost three weeks ago (and recovering from our accident).  I knew we’d eventually find them, but today was a true red letter day as I found all three!  Yay!

Because I’m so ridiculously Type A, I write out a “To do” list every day generally.  Well, post-accident I get tired really easily and am combating pain, so I have to take it easy (which is so hard!); and most days I feel like I’m merely chasing my tail as my to-do list spills over to the following day.  But, today I accomplished one task anyway!  I organized our master closet.  It wasn’t horrible; it just felt that way.  Out of control.  In the process of corraling the dirty laundry, winter clothes, shoes, etc., I found the three items we’d been searching for!  A postcard from our trip that we bought for our neighbor; my husband’s dearly loved flip flops; and my elbow brace.

When you find something that’s been missing for a while, somehow it validates one’s mental capabilities.  It does for me anyway.  It reaffirms the truth I cling to:  I am not going bonkers!  Trying to keep up with everyone’s “stuff” can be a mother’s greatest challenge and particularly when you’re busy!  You know, the unspoken assumption is that mothers know where everything is in a household at any given point in time.  I’m not sure how we got burdened with such a thing, but it’s true.  Whenever anyone is missing something, they turn to me for answers. (Whhhyyy?)  🙂

After sifting and sorting through our closet, I began to fill a bag of donations for the Salvation Army once more.  We’re always purging it seems, so it’s pretty amazing that we still have more to part with.  It really should be the standing rule that if I buy three new shirts, I part with three.  Things have a way of sneaking into our house and somehow it’s easier to bring things in than carry them out!  Why is that?  We like to amass stuff, but we’re far more hesitant to part with it.  The thing is holding onto things that are unnecessary only leads to more clutter and disorganization.

Another area I will be conquering soon is boxing up last school year’s books and papers.  As a longtime homeschooler, we can quickly clutter up a space with all of our textbooks, teaching aids, educational DVD’s, notebooks, pencils, highlighters, etc.  I have to remind my Type A self that educational clutter (within reason) is OKAY and is a sign of good things happening around here!!  Haha!  As my kids are getting older, I bear in mind that it won’t be this way too much longer, so enjoy the ride!  😉  That said, we do have a designated area for school stuff, even though they may not always land there.

The kids have unpacked their suitcases and their rooms are actually tidy (as of this writing anyway!).  Haha.  They are teenagers, afterall.  My daughter showed me how she’d organized her dresser drawers so nicely the other day and I thought someone else’s daughter was speaking to me, for sure!  My daughter?  Wow.  She must be growing up!  😉  She did a super fantastic job and is learning how nice proper organization is.  She can actually find things now instead of digging through piles of clothes on the floor!  And, as for my son… Well, a little parental bribery works like a charm!  If he wants time on his tablet, he has to take care of his chores and clean his room.  Once it’s been inspected, he can have the tablet.  It’s a wonderful motivator!  And he even takes care of most of his laundry himself.  My daughter has been doing her own laundry for several years now, which is very helpful.  I think I’m working myself right out of a job … But, that’s the whole point, isn’t it?  😉

And, so, here’s to optimal organization on an ongoing basis!  Have a blessed day!  🙂

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Updating Home Files/Sorting Paperwork

Filing is not anywhere near the top of my list of fun things to do.  Frankly, I’d been putting it off for a while.  But because it was lingering on my master list of things to do, I wanted to tackle this unglamorous task.  So, I jumped right in…

I recently removed all utility bills and some other paperwork over a year old from my files.  I just don’t have room to store too much, nor do I need to.  So I shredded the old files and was able to easily file the stack I’d been accumulating.  I had to update a couple file folders with fresh labels as we’ve changed car insurance and trash companies.  With all the paperwork in the proper file folders, I can quickly lay my hands on a recent bill or policy information.  Proper organization will save you loads of time!

I also wound up with a handful of cards from various occasions that I will store in a “Memory box”.  I sorted through birthday cards I received and only kept the special ones.  There was also a handwritten note on a 3×5 card from my oldest that he sent along with some pictures last fall.  I should frame that actually.  He’s a man of few words.  😉  One day these cards and notes will be neat to look back on.

As I was sorting through this pile of paperwork, I came across several letters dated 1964 and 1965 (before my birth) that my maternal Grandmother had written to my mother.  The stamp was of George Washington and was only five cents!  She spoke of missing my two siblings that had visited recently and how she and my Grandfather (who I never met) felt “lost” without the children around.  They really enjoyed them apparently, which is sweet to think about.  They lived almost four hours apart, so visits weren’t that often, I suppose.  My Grandmother talked about them putting in a garden, Grandfather milking the cow and visiting relatives and friends.  She even called the mail carrier by name.  She said, “Well, I better get this letter in the mail as it’s just about time for Harry to come.”  They lived in a rural area and times were much slower then.  Hard to imagine.

I’ll write more about my maternal Grandmother in another post.  She was a special, special lady indeed.

So, my filing journey took all sorts of twists and turns.  It made me miss my Grandmother, my mother and my great aunt dearly.  But, it also made me thankful for these little treasures that I can cherish to remind me of the sweet souls they are, until we meet again.  I placed those letters in a plastic sheet protector and will file in my genealogy binder.

I was able to whittle away at several stacks of paperwork and it feels good knowing that everything is in its proper place.  Loose paperwork can very quickly get out of hand and that’s why it’s wise to have a holding place until you can get around to filing.  If you file it right away, even better!  I like to use these wooden in/out trays we bought (along with some furniture) from an attorney’s office that was relocating several years ago.  We have three of them, two deep and one shallow.  My husband uses one of the deep ones for his work related papers, and I use the other deep one as my filing “holding” place.  It is easily stored on a shelf in the office closet and out of sight.

One of the best tips I read some time ago was to open your mail near the trash can.  I toss envelopes and unnecessary junk mail, etc., holding onto only the important pieces of mail.  I schedule our bills to be paid right away online and we’re never late.  It’s taken care of and I don’t have to think about it anymore.  It’s so important to find a system to corral the chaos of your papers that works for you.  We’re all unique individuals and have various preferences.  Find something that works for you.  That said, an indication that your “system” is not working is having to move piles and piles of paperwork in order to eat at the dining room table!  Might want to revisit that.

I’m amazed at how quickly things accumulate.  In my cleaning up the office, I also came across a handful of note pads that my Dad had passed on to me.  He gets goo gobs from charities and likes to spread the wealth.  I moved those to the kitchen junk drawer where we always need something to write on.

The key to maintaining order in any room is to have a set location to store things and regularly putting things away.  Here’s to happy home organization!

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Sock Drawer Overhaul

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I was putting away laundry today and decided to dump all the socks out of our drawers and organize.  I keep the athletic socks in one drawer and casual, trouser socks in another for both my husband and I, so a total of four drawers.  Clearly we have too many socks!  And I purged these drawers not all that long ago… As I was matching the socks up, I had this brilliant idea.  No, I’m quite sure it came from God!  But, here it is, folks:

For a $0 investment Sock Organizer:

  • Cut a cereal box in half vertically & tape ends so it forms a tray, of sorts.
  • Depending on the size of your drawer, you may have to modify the length of the box.  Fortunately, mine fit perfectly.
  • I went around the middle of the “tray” once with tape for extra reinforcement.
  • If you wanted to really get creative, you could cover the “tray” with decorative contact paper.
  • Smile! You just saved yourself about $20!  That’s $20 per drawer.  I revamped 4 drawers, which would be $80!  That would be insane to spend that much and my dresser drawers are odd sized, so there would be no guarantee of the fit.

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These are my casual, trouser socks.  One benefit of storing my socks this way: The dark green socks that I sometimes confuse with black are stored in the front, far away from the black socks, never to be confused again!  Anyone else ever do that?  I’m not color blind.  It tends to be dark in our bedroom.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!  😉

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These are my husband’s work socks.  He can easily grab a pair this way.

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See how our drawer is angled a bit.  My homemade organizer fit just fine, thankfully!  They even have bamboo drawer organizers out there.  I’m sorry, but no one else is going to see my sock drawer but me.  I am just not that high maintenance!  Bigger fish to fry here.  I’m all about finding creative solutions to avoid spending money needlessly.  Spend it where it counts!

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Yes, I had too many socks!  I still have about 20 pairs of athletic socks and 24 pairs of casual socks!  Is that not crazy?!  I can’t say I’ve ever counted my socks before, but as I loaded them into the trays I did and was amazed!  I can only wear one pair at a time after all, and I do laundry at least once a week, so parting with the above seems only reasonable.

* I also overhauled my “unmentionables” drawer, turning them all vertically and into two rows.  I have seen this done and wasn’t sure I would care for it.  Yes, I’m a creature of habit.  So, I thought that I would turn them all vertically and see how I liked it.  If I didn’t, then I would just stack them like I usually do.  I absolutely love the new system!  I can tell at a glance where a particular color/style is and it’s just easier than rifling through a stack.  Try it!  You might like it too.

So … What do you all think about my sock drawer overhaul??  Does it sound like something that may work for you?

The price is right!  🙂

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Sewing/Craft Room Thrifty Organization

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Today I decided to sort through some books in my sewing/craft room and tidy up the bookshelves some.  My fabric and craft supplies were already in bins, baskets and boxes, but I fine tuned it a bit.  I wanted to post a picture to illustrate how I used three cardboard boxes on the bookshelves as a thrifty container for my fabric.  Can you pick them out?

Each one is covered with a different material ironically.  (Hadn’t thought of that until just now.)  The red box is covered in fabric with a polka dot ribbon around the top.  The black and white print is contact paper I purchased at the Dollar Tree a while back, and the box directly under that is actually covered with scrapbook paper.  Most of the smaller baskets were purchased at a thrift store last year.  And the three clear Sterilite bins were purchased from Walmart a while back.  All in all, the cost for organizing my fabric and crafts was fairly minimal.  I’m 100% for re-purposing boxes or other containers.  Why pay so much for plastic bins if you don’t have to?

I purchased ten pint size Mason jars (that I just love!) at the thrift store last year as well for $3.43.  Not too shabby.  If you’ll notice in the above picture, I use them to hold a variety of supplies: Sharpies, pencils, scissors, stick glue, twine, etc.  And, I just love the novelty of Mason jars, so they make me happy just seeing them on the shelves.  🙂

My younger two children are 14 (soon to be 15) and 16 years old.  As I was sorting books today, it was amazing there were so many they’ve outgrown.  Many were already packed away, but a few stragglers remained, like: a paper airplane how-to book and a couple Klutz travel book/craft kits.  It reminded me that you blink and the kids have graduated to another phase!  I filled a bag to give to a new friend of ours with younger children.  She’ll appreciate that.

I can probably thank all that iced tea I drank, (and it’s only half caff) but I also cut out a baby quilt and batting while I was upstairs this afternoon.  🙂  So, it’s all pinned and ready to be sewn.  Productive day indeed.

It is my hope that this post may spark some ideas if you have a craft or hobby.  Rethink that cardboard box or Folgers coffee container the next time you’re ready to toss it.  It just may be what you need to corral your supplies.  Incidentally, coffee containers can be very useful to hold nails, bolts, etc.  My daughter just purchased 250 plastic snaps and my first thought after admiring the pastel colors was…Where are we going to store all these little bits?  Fortunately, I had a Tupperware craft container on hand and gave that to her.  Anyone remember those little blue oblong plastic boxes with the tray insert?  They’re perfect for tiny things.  I got that at the thrift store too several years ago for $1.50.

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Clothing and shoe closet hangers can be especially useful for storing fabric, yarn and just about anything.  I can see the fabric and batting I have at a glance, so it’s pretty handy.  We’ve had these hangers for almost a decade and they weren’t being used, so I snagged them for my craft closet.  Zero extra cost to me.  Take a look around your home.  Chances are you have a box, basket or bin on hand that you could use in another area.  If not, check out the thrift or dollar stores nearby.  A dollar here and a dollar there add up over time!  Here’s to thrifty household organization!

*Bonus:  One of the awesome perks of cleaning out closets is that you may just find something you’ve been searching for!  Today I solved a mystery that has perplexed me since before last Thanksgiving!  I found the lighted garland and garland ties nestled so very nicely inside a Target bag at the back of a shelf in the closet.  I searched high and low for them last year and gave up for the moment.  So, friends, a four month old mystery has been solved!  Whew, now I can sleep at night!  Maybe you’ll find something that’s been missing too!  🙂

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15 Tips To Declutter

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I always say that if the house is clean, it means no one is coming over.  And if the house is messy, we’re definitely having company!  🙂  Haha!

How do we avoid the panic stricken frenzy when friends or family call to say they’re on their way?  My personal favorite is when a neighbor shows up at the front door and the house is a disaster.  Thankfully, that doesn’t happen too often.

Here are some ideas to get you motivated toward decluttering:

  1. Put on your favorite music & set the timer for 15-30 minutes (or however long you like) to tackle a problem area.  Somehow knowing you have parameters to work within make it more mentally tolerable.
  2. Select a room or area to tackle each week and focus on making it a peaceful, pleasant space.
  3. Invite friends over for dinner & clean like crazy.
  4. Make a list of tasks to be done as you go through each problem room/area.  Note large items to be donated or sold.
  5. Get a kitchen trash bag and fill it with donations for your favorite charity as you go through the house.  Sort dresser drawers, kitchen cabinets, books, DVD’s, etc.  Whatever is not necessary, useful and loved…needs to go.
  6. Ask yourself, “What if I no longer owned this?  Would I miss it?  What would be a better use of this space to make it more functional?”
  7. Challenge yourself to view your home as an outsider, critiquing your setup.
  8. Do you have duplicates?  Do you really need five staplers and four pizza rollers?
  9. Establish a set place for bills and important papers to avoid archive avalanches on the dining room table or counter.
  10. If you must save magazines, corral them in nifty holders.  If you want to be frugal, cut out a cereal box & cover with decorative contact paper to create your own magazine holder.  🙂
  11. Baskets are a great way to keep like things together.
  12. Make up a bag to give to a friend who may need the “extras” you have.
  13. Grab another kitchen trash bag & go from room to room, collecting all garbage, snagging fast food cups or snack wrappers that may not have made it to the trash can yet, etc.  Somehow removing the first layer, gives motivation to address other cleaning/organizing issues.
  14. If you are completely overwhelmed, enlist the help of a friend or family member.  Moral support goes a long way.
  15. Start.  Start somewhere.  Even if it’s a kitchen junk drawer.  One success begets another.  Before you know it, you are on your way to accomplishing your goal of a clean house!

~ Happy organizing!

 

 

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Purging is Therapy for the Soul

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I am a happy camper today!  We visited a new friend, who is expecting her sixth child in a few weeks, and gave several bags of clothes and miscellaneous household items to her.  We had such a nice visit over a cup of hot mint tea.  Perfect remedy for a cold, rainy day! For the first part of our visit, her kids were watching a movie.  Then, one by one, they each came out and I got to meet them.  Precious.  I asked my new friend if they would like a keyboard we have, along with the stand and bench; so she said they would.  I’ll drop that off to her next week.  I’m just so happy to give it to someone who I know can get a lot of use out of it.  It’s been collecting dust in my sewing room, so I’m excited about clearing some space!

Speaking of things taking up space…My husband loves to play theme park games, and over the years, we’ve brought home an assortment of large (super size!) stuffed animals.  He plays those impossible games like basketball and tossing the ring over the milk jugs… and he actually WINS!  He is very methodical about it and has a steady hand.  Some people have all the talent! Anyway, I digress…

Most recently, we had two mondo tigers, who really needed to find a good home.  Last fall, I gave one to another friend, who happens to also have six kids.  (Do you see a trend here?  haha … Those homeschooling families!)  Anyway, her little five year old just loved that tiger!  That made my heart happy to see because it was just sitting in a closet.  Well, the tiger’s brother was up for adoption last month, and I offered it to the same friend for her three year old daughter.  I was so glad she accepted because it freed up some mental space for me!  (Now, selling the “adoption” to my husband was a different story altogether…)  We’d had those tigers for at least seven years; it was time for them to move on!  Sometimes ya just got to let go! (pardon my vernacular)

Recently, our church asked for sheets for a local homeless shelter; and we came up with two kitchen trash bags full!  I used to shop quite a bit at thrift stores and had stocked up on a bunch.  We still have plenty, though.  I was just glad to get rid of those extras!

I’m anxious for spring so we can regain control of our garage!  It’s been so brutally cold that we zip in and out, and that’s it.  No dilly dallying!  Last year we made great headway in the garage.  We sold a foosball table and donated an extra riding lawn mower, so that freed up a lot of space.

I recently sorted through all the toiletry items stored under the bathroom sink.  How quickly things accumulate!  I didn’t think it’d been that long since I last went through everything.  Life gets busy and you blink, and it’s been six months or more.  Anyway, I set a few things aside to put in the bag for my new friend today.  (some hand sanitizer, lotion, shampoo, etc.)  I had a bunch of Paul Mitchell shampoo and conditioner (travel size) bottles from last summer, so I put those in the bag too.  I figured even if she didn’t want them, one of her daughters would think they’re neat.

Why do we hold onto so many things?  I try to be so frugal in a variety of ways, but sometimes it’s just time to let it go!  I guess I’m in a real “deep clean/purge” mood lately.  It just makes me happy to know someone else can use whatever it is that’s just sitting around taking up space in my house.  It might as well be put to good use.  Otherwise, what’s the point?

When I was younger, I think we were more in the “amassing stuff” stage.  We need stuff.  We need lots of stuff.  The more stuff we have the better.

Now, we’re in our 40’s and I’m thinking we need far less stuff than we previously thought.  Less = more.  My motto for 2014 is: Simplify.

I need less to think about.  Less to maintain.  Less, please.

I’d like to focus on what’s important: God, my family, church, etc. … and less junk.  Fewer distractions.  More happiness.

For me, less to maintain means more time I can devote to quilting!  🙂

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For you, it might be tinkering in the garage, reading, fishing or cooking.  You fill in the blank.

Next week, I plan on making yet another drop off at the Salvation Army while I’m out taking my Dad to the cardiologist.  I think of it every time I take him to the Dr… ‘I should’ve brought the donation bags’.  It’s on the same street as his Dr.  No need to make an extra trip and waste gas.  *Makes mental note to put donation bag in SUV.*

Some people suggest making a “Half way home” for items you’re not sure you should part with.  Give it six months or even a year and if you haven’t missed it, go ahead and give it away.  I thought that was interesting.  I don’t feel like I need to do that personally, but it might work for some.

Giving really does make the heart happy!

Most of us have too much “stuff”.  Why not find a good home for things that have overstayed their visit?  🙂

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