Friday, February 29, 2008

It Only Took Three and a Half Years

When we moved into our house three and a half years ago, this is what we found in a corner of the basement:

In case you were wondering, that's 19 cans of paint and one thingy of paint thinner.

Yesterday, when I was cleaning out a section of my basement, I realized that something had to be done with these old, rusty paint cans that were never going to be used again.

A quick check on Google showed me where and when and how to drop it off.

Then it was just a matter of ordering Alex to cart all those half-full (half-empty?) paint cans to the car and Jack, Quinn, and I took 'em to the Shady Grove Solid Waste Transfer Station this morning after we dropped Sam at school.

Jack was completely excited to be taking a trip to the dump and insisted on helping me transfer the cans from the car to the hazardous materials table.

My decluttering for the day was accomplished by 9:15 a.m.

This one was really satisfying, folks.

Item count for today: 20

Thursday, February 28, 2008

My First Big Project

You may have noticed that I've been working on small projects. This is largely because they're much easier than the big projects. Plus, if I declutter a large space, then I have to find a place to take all the clutter.

Last night, Amvets called me to see if I have stuff I can donate to them on Monday. Usually I tell them: "Not this time, but call again next time you're in the neighborhood."

Last night, though, I said, "Yes. I can have stuff for you on Monday."

Perfect timing.

So with an outlet for my crap, I embarked on my first large project today.

Welcome to my basement. I wonder what's in these boxes and bins...

It turns out that most of these are full of old letters and school mementos that belong to both me and Alex. I'm not touching Alex's stuff, and I'm not ready to cull through my stuff yet, but I was still able to find a whole lot of stuff to get rid of.

One thing I found was this box full of old plastic Easter eggs. Some of them had never even been cracked open. Quinn had some fun going through them and finding year-old candy and stickers.

I didn't want to just throw these away, but we hide real eggs on Easter. I always think I'll use these, but I don't. So I contacted the woman who plans an Easter egg hunt for my MOMS Club every year and she's agreed to take them. Awesome. One more item gone.

Other things I got rid off?

* 12 coats, windbreakers, scarves, and glove sets that are going to Amvets.

* Two nets intended to go over playpens. A stroller cover for a stroller I no longer have. Also to Amvets.

* Easter egg grass and a weird bunny. Trash.

* Christmas cards from 2004. Recycling.

* Beads from a necklace a friend made me for Christmas in 2006. Quinn broke it shortly thereafter and she restrung it for me. Then Jack broke it and she refused (rightfully) to restring it again. Trash.

* The two arches from a Gymini mat I also no longer have. Sadly, trash.

* My empty wedding dress box. This counts as an item because even though it's just an empty box, it has been taking up a big chunk of space in my basement ever since I transferred the dress to another location. Recycling.

Final item count for today: 19

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cubby Ho!

Today I attacked a tiny cubby that resides in my kitchen just inside my side door. There is an under-cabinet area there that is made up of five such cubbies. Two are my property, three belong to Alex.

I'm not even going to go into how horrifying Alex's cubbies are.

One of mine was fine. The other, seen to the left, was full of stuff. Although I went through it and reorganized it into submission, I wasn't able to get rid of a ton of stuff.

The thing is that most of the items in that cubby were things I needed but didn't know what to do with, or that I hadn't gotten around to putting in their proper homes.

So I found homes for things (my kids' birth certificates and social security cards, for instance). And I put other things in their proper homes (little pictures I'd intended to hang up got hung up). And I remembered to give the dog her heartworm medicine because it is stashed there too.

It looks better now, huh?

The only things I got rid of were a couple of freebie calendar books, a cell phone headset that came with my phone (still in its original plastic), and a single lead test stick I got as a sample. (I'm going to try to fob that off on one of my friends.)

But I also got rid of an order form for a free pedometer from the Goldfish people. Because I don't need a pedometer, even if it is free. I don't think I would use it, and it would have just ended up cluttering something up. Probably the very cubby where the order form used to live.

I'm counting that as 5 things. (No one ever said they had to be substantial things to count.)


Even though I made progress, I was a little disappointed in my numbers, so I decided to head on over to the cat food shelf that is in my cookie sheet cupboard. (Weird, I know.)

There were 28 cans of cat food in there. And because my cats eat almost entirely dry food, 26 of them were expired. One of them had expired in January of 2006.

You have to work pretty hard to keep cans of food long enough for them to expire. Particularly if that food is not even intended for human consumption.

Here you see all the food I had to throw away and the two cans that my cats are going to eat today and tomorrow. Because those cans expire next month.

So, 26 cans + five items from above = 31 purged items today. (Maybe I should have chosen a loftier goal than 6 items a day.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Tupperware Cabinet

Today I tackled a cabinet that causes me all sorts of problems: the Tupperware cabinet. This is what it looked like before I started:

Clearly this cabinet needed some pruning. There were lids in there that hadn't had mates for months, if not years. And vice-versa.

I've tried to clean this out before and come across things like water bottles that make me think, "Oh, I forgot about that. I should keep it because now that I know about it, I'll use it." And then I would promptly re-forget about it.

This cabinet has not really been usable for a while because it's difficult to find the right container. And then forget about finding the lid as well. So there were three or four Tupperwares in the front that got used, and then thirty more in the back that made it hard to stuff the ones we used back in.

I got rid of 18 plastic containers and a plethora of lids. Those water bottles I spoke of above? Gone. A chip bag clip that never gets used? Also gone. Two random pieces of a popsicle-making set that kept surviving? Gone, baby, gone.

These all ended up in my recycling bin, but I actually don't think that my county recycles plastic like this, so it will probably end up in the trash. (I think I would be hard-pressed to pawn old, stained Tupperware off on one of my friends.)

Above, you see what I am counting as 21 items. (I'm counting all the lids as 1 item.)

And below? The fruits of my labor:

I'm loving this. Two cabinets down, a zillion to go.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A Good Start

Today was day one of decluttering.

I wanted to start somewhere easy but where I could make a big difference in a short amount of time. I decided on my half of the medicine cabinet.

It only took me about five minutes to remove all of this stuff:

Most of those things are old hair and skin products that I either didn't like or that I never used even once. But like a good packrat I had convinced myself that I would eventually use them, so I crammed them into my tiny bathroom cabinet.

I found a large selection of hairbands that had each been worn about once. I'm going to count those together as one item.

That red prescription bottle? That is prescription strength ibuprofen that I got after I gave birth to Quinn. It expired nearly two years ago.

I forgot to take a before picture, but after I cleaned the shelves and organized the remaining items, this is what my medicine cabinet looks like now:

Altogether I'm counting this batch (all of which went into the trash) as 9 items.


The cherry on top of my day was my afternoon playdate with my friend J. Besides being a wonderful way to spend a couple hours, I managed to pawn one of my toys off onto J:


So my grand total for the day? Ten items down.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


What the hell is The Junk Pyramid?
Although I do envision my house as a big pile of my junk with a pointy roof on top, The Junk Pyramid is not a graphical representation of my packratting problem.

It is a metaphorical way for me to say that just as a person needs a certain number of servings of nutrients each day (e.g., 3 servings of meats and beans, 8 servings of ice cream), that same person may need 6 servings of decluttering each day.

That is, in order to keep my sanity, to prevent my house from buckling under the strain of my possessions, and to ensure my future ability to walk a straight line without kicking crap out of the way, I will be removing six items from my house each day.

Okay. No, wait. What?
Every day I will cull six items from my living space. I will earmark them for yard sales, donations, or the trash can.

Will you really get rid of six things every day?
Some days I may get rid of 12 and then none the next day. If I get rid of 6 things a day for a year, I will have removed 2,190 things from my house. Check back next March to see if that happened.

How long do you plan to do this?
As long as there is crap in my house. Or until I lose interest, whichever comes first.

So, how bad is your house?
It's probably average to slightly above average cluttered. We can make it look clean, but it gets, ahem, untidy again quickly. I'm hoping that by removing some of the extraneous junk, it will stay clean longer. I also used to buy toys and books to fill time and make myself happy. I'm thinking throwing them out might make me even happier.

What does your family think about this?
The kids haven't been told. Nor will they be. Some things I will sneak out under cover of darkness. For some things I will talk to them about what we need and do not need.

Alex, in a great testament to his confidence in me, said, "I think it's a great idea as long as we don't just buy more stuff to replace it." Thanks for the vote of confidence, jackass.

Well then, are you going to stop buying things?
No. I will purchase things I need. I've been trying for a while now to not buy things that are not necessary to my life. And I no longer buy toys just because I'm bored. (Now I buy liquor.)

What's your goal with this?
My goal is this: I want to have a house full of only the things my family actively wants, uses, and needs. If we don't care about it, use it, or need it to live, it has no business being here.

Resources for Decluttering

I'm always updating this page, so let me know if you think of something that should be on here. And check back again if it's not there now. Also, let me know if you see an error. Some of these links are local to the DC metro area (signified by "(DC)"). But even if the resource isn't close enough to you to use, maybe it'll give you an idea for someplace in your area.


Value Village (DC)
NAMI (doesn't accept toys)
Salvation Army

National Children's Center
Purple Heart
Vietnam Veteran's of America (Schedule a pickup)


PaperBack Swap
Friends of the Library (DC)

Habitat for Humanity donation centers

Automotive Trades Foundation (DC)

Cartridge Fundraising
Cash for Critters
Cell Phones for Soldiers
Shelter Alliance
Secure the Call Foundation
RIP Mobile

The Crayon Can
Crayon Recycling Program
SCARCE Super Crayons

foodbanks/food pantries
Crossways Community Center (DC)
Value Village (DC)

Brother Collection Program
Cartridge Fundraising
HP Cartridge Return Program
Laser Save

Sharps Compliance Incorporated

Nike's Reuse a Shoe

Interfaith Clothing Center (DC)
S.A.F.E. (Stuffed Animals For Emergencies)

Brother Collection Program
Laser Save

Donate them to your local library

Brides Against Breast Cancer
The Brides' Project