Saturday, August 30, 2008


I finally found someone who can use the party hats I've been hoarding!

And I've decided that we no longer need straw cups or their associated little bowls. Or the doorknob childproofing device I found on the counter.

Total items: 15

Friday, August 29, 2008

Socks, Superbad, and Red Pants

Do you have those areas that you just never go through? Quinn's socks used to reside in such a place. We had a little bin full of socks ranging in size from 6-9 months to 4/5 years.

I finally went through it and got rid of every sock that was either excessively threadbare or for a child younger than three years of age. I found 8 1/2 pairs to get rid of.

After that I did a routine clean-out of the guys' summer clothes. I found one baby hat and nine shirts that Quinn will never ever wear, even though they are the cutest things ever. I mean, just look at some of those party-hearty Hawaiian-style shirts.

The Superbad shirt came with the DVD I gave Alex for Christmas. Why there was a semi-tiny shirt included with that movie I don't quite get. And how it wound its way into Sam's drawer, I also don't understand, but Sam proudly wore it enough times to stain it. But it seemed like a bad idea to dress him in it and then send him to places, or other locations with...people.

It also seemed like a bad idea to send it to school with Jack as an art smock. I am aware of the "cool-factor" of such a thing. I am also aware of the "bad parent-factor" of such a thing.

There are some red pants in that pile that all three of my children wore the hell out of. I am going to miss those red pants. They were awesome.

Farewell, red pants.

Total items: 20.5

Thursday, August 28, 2008

DWI: Decluttering While Infuriated

I often find that when decluttering, it is beneficial to go back over the same space more than once. Things that you decide are keepers the first time often don't make the cut the second time.

This has been true for me often when I go through clothes. I also find it to be the case when I'm cleaning my sons' room. Even though it's the same room with the same things in it, I can find items to throw out each time I clean.

Somehow if I'm irritated at my kids, or if their room is especially messy, I get rid of more than if I were calmer.

So here's the moral of the story: Declutter when you're mad.

Several days ago, I cleaned and reorganized my little dudes' room. The gross things I uncovered in there made me angry. Consequently, I got rid of more many more books that I would have had I not found petrified cheese and banana peels under their bed.

43 books to be exact. I used my guidelines for book decluttering with a couple of addendums: a) if it makes noise, it is not a book we need, and b) if it features Barney, it is not welcome in my home anymore.

I also got rid of one book of diagrams of Lego structures. And one toy not shown here. Plus, I put a bunch of things in the garage to see if they'll notice that they're gone. If they don't, I'll donate them soon.

Total items: 45

Monday, August 25, 2008

Pencil Clutter

I sucked up to Jack's teacher a little bit at his kindergarten open house today.

I gave her all ninety-four of the unsharpened pencils we've somehow accumulated.

(I probably sounded a little psycho too when, in the throes of kindergarten anxiety, I told her exactly how many pencils I was giving her. Oh well.)

I'm sure our supply will be replenished soon. In fact, I'm sure Jack will probably come home with some of the very pencils I just gave away. But for one glorious day, I don't have to wonder where to put them so they won't end up all over my house.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

At This Rate, the Garage Will Be Spotless by 2018

When I got home from my vacation, one of the items in my two weeks worth of mail was a notice from the Purple Heart people. The notice said that they would be in my neighborhood on the 20th and I could put stuff outside for them to pick up if I so desired.

Oh, I desire.

I had some stuff saved up from previous decluttering efforts, so I had things to donate, but by the time I remembered that I had to put bags outside, it was 11:30 p.m. and I was in no mood to put bags together.

Then I remembered two of the rules I go by here at the Pyramid:

1. If someone wants to pick something up, I have to donate something.

2. I can't just give them items I have ready. I have to cull at least six things out of my garage.

Do you know what garages are like at 11:30 at night? There are crickets. And one of them attacked me. It was horrible. I may have screamed.

I didn't come up with much, not wanting to get too deeply into cricket territory. This photo is not good, but that is because I took it in the middle of the night in a cluttered garage. I'll guide you through it.

There is a humidifier there that I don't need because, hello? I live in Maryland. And it's humid here. Plus, even when I lived in a dry place, I regularly forgot to fill it with water.

There are two baskets there. As soon as I had them out I got all excited thinking, "Well, these are perfectly good baskets. I bet I could find a use for these baskets. Maybe I should keep these." And then I mentally slapped myself. Hard.

Because these baskets have been in the garage for four years and I haven't used them. And I couldn't think of an immediate use for them. So I stuffed them in the bag as fast as I could so I couldn't talk myself out of donating them. Hopefully someone else will have a very good, pressing use for them.

I also found a coat hook, an old remote, a tiled cup (wha—?), partially used (four-year-old) nail polish remover, and some (four-year-old) face cleanser. I think I donated the cup and maybe the remote, but the rest of these things went in the trash.

Total items: 8

Not bad for a middle of the night garage hunt.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Farewell to Potty Training

I am thrilled to announce that I am able to get rid of some things I've been looking forward to getting rid of for months:

That's right. I don't have to change any more diapers ever. All three of my children are now 100% potty trained. (Knock on wood. Oh, dear Jesus, knock on wood.)

What you see up there is my much-beloved changing table, a changing table pad and three covers, four you-can-do-it! potty training books, some dried out training wipes, two little potties (one for the bathroom, one for the car), and the Pull-Ups we no longer have to use since Quinn randomly decided he just didn't want to wear them at night anymore.

And I'm not ready to get rid of our Miralax yet, but since Quinn has pooped at least once a day—and often more than once a day—for nearly three weeks, I was able to pass some "helpers" onto a more needy pooper.

Total items for the day: 16


I've been trying to sell the changing table on Craigslist, but no bites so far. The rest of the items I'll give to friends or donate. Or, if I can't find anyone who needs the things, I might post them at Freepeats, a Freecycle-type child-centered forum.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

How to Decide What Books to Junk

Oh, I'm beaming. My advice has been solicited.

Thrift Store Mama asked, "Do you have any suggestions on how to decide which books to save and which to get rid of? "

This is a great question, and one I have actually been putting some thought into lately. Every time I'm in my basement I look at the bookshelves that line my wall and think that I really need to go through them.

But books are different than other clutter. They don't follow the same rules. They're not a one-time use type of item. They don't expire. You usually don't outgrow them. Even if you haven't ever used (i.e. read) the book, chances are good that at some point you will. And just because you haven't touched it in a year or you've forgotten about it does not mean it won't become valuable to you again at some point.

In my house, books fall into two categories: children's books and adult books. Let's start with children's books.

Children's books are the exception to the "you don't outgrow books" rule. There definitely will come a time when your child no longer wants to read My First Word Book. Of course there will be books with extreme sentimental value. Keep those.

But once a child has outgrown a book, it is still difficult for a packrat (i.e. me) to donate it. My thinking behind keeping children's books is that there are books I would like to keep to pass on to my kids someday, when they have kids. But there are questions you should ask yourself about these books you plan to save:

1. Is it in good shape? If it is not, chances aren't good that it will hold up for 20 or more years and then be useable by another generation.

2. Is it a classic? There are certain books—Goodnight Moon, Dr. Seuss, Curious George, Richard Scarry, or whatever book matters to you—that you'll want to keep. Some random book that your kids kinda liked? Probably not worth saving.

3. Is it really probable that you will use these books at some point in the future? Because if not, there are a lot of kids who are here now that could benefit from your used books.

I'm far less inclined to get rid of an adult book. Not only because I may want to re-read it, but because I remember going through my mom's bookshelves when I was a kid and finding cool reading material. I hope my children will do the same.

Here are the guidelines I follow:

1. If a book includes outdated information (atlases from the '80s, for instance), junk it.

2. If you didn't like a book, junk it.

3. If it's a mindless entertainment kind of read, you probably won't read it again, and you don't think it falls in the category of "cool reading material" for others to find later, junk it.

4. Books that you never read, that you don't intend to read, and are just sitting there forlornly on their shelves? Junk 'em.

5. I always give preference to hardcover books or trade paperbacks as opposed to mass markets. But that's purely aesthetic. The form of the book has little to do with its content.

My rule of thumb is that if you're not sure if you can part with it, keep it for a while. Maybe put it in a box in the garage and revisit that box a few weeks or months later. If you haven't missed it or you care less about it since it's been out of sight, get rid of it then. Chances are good that your decision will be easier the second time through.

Maybe it's my packrat tendencies, but I figure I can always give something away later, but it's harder to get it back.

What is your advice on how to decide which books to get rid of?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Used Workbooks, Dented Things & Other Obvious Junk

Why is it that whenever I clean my kids' room, I find all kinds of things to get rid of?

I spent the afternoon a couple days ago cleaning my whole house. The first things I found to get rid of were these obviously no longer useful items:

Alex melted my water bottle in the dishwasher. I'm still mad. Quinn got this little lunchbox as a reward for pooping in the potty. Not three hours later, someone stepped on it.

A big part of what I got rid of in this batch is that pile of workbooks. I have a hard time getting rid of them, but once they've been worked in once, twice, or three times, they're not super useful. Included in the photo is also of a stack of old children's magazines as well as a few books they've outgrown or outright wrecked. Also some other stuff. You have eyes, right?

I've also recently given away two shirts. To the same girl.

The yellow one was originally intended for Quinn because he only wears yellow shirts. But he's scared of this shirt. Lunatic. At least somebody likes it.

I gave the red shirt to the little girl because I was babysitting her and, while she was sitting in the same room as me, she ate the top of a pink marker stamp. I didn't see her eat it (she's sneaky, really; I'm a great babysitter) so I panicked when she started spitting out bright pink drool. For a split second I thought something was hemorrhaging.

Thank God she'd only, you know, gnawed off the top of a marker. (Maybe I'm not such a great babysitter after all.)

Anyway, I had to change her shirt. And (see above) Quinn only wears yellow shirts. So to apologize for nearly choking/poisoning their daughter, I let the little girl's parents keep the shirt.

Total items in this batch: 44