Saturday, November 29, 2008

What to Do With Your Kid's School Paraphenalia

Let's be clear. I don't scrapbook. If I did, my scrapbooks would consist of empty books with a pile of photos and other stuff on top of them. I know this because I DO make books that contain school memorabilia for each of my kids.

These may sound like scrapbooks to you, but I don't make a whole lot of effort to make them attractive. Basically, if something comes home from school that I want to keep, or if I take a photo of something school related, I either glue or staple it into the book and call it done.

I do this largely because when I was growing up, my mom had a little book with two pages for each grade. On one side was a pocket in which you were supposed to put report cards and other items like that. On the other side, you put your class photo.

I loved this book as a child and wanted to create something similar. Hence the "school books" I put together for my kids.

Mostly this involves a box in my closet, into which I toss everything that needs to go into the book. Periodically I will sit down and sort it all out and put it all in the books.

On Thanksgiving I decided to sit down and work through my stack. Said stack dated back to January. You can see the stack in the foreground here, in the Office Depot box. The school books are in the back. I paste their school photo on the front each year.

I sorted the pile by child, with a different pile for artwork to go into my artwork boxes. Plus I made a pile for "things to deal with later" and put that back into the original box.

This is a photo of all the items after they were sorted. No really. It is.

Those green expanding files are where I keep selected art. I obviously don't keep everything, and there would be too much to paste into the school book, so I have a file for each kid.

Then I sat down and started with the smallest pile—Quinn's. I organized it into chronological order and started gluing and stapling. I put things like emails from the teacher, photos of class celebrations, certificates of achievement, and "special artwork" into the book.

Here's a sample page from Jack's book:

I didn't really get rid of anything, unless you count used up glue sticks, and I don't, but I did a lot of organizing. And when my kids are 18 and leaving for college, I can pull out these books, look at how cute they were, and be happy that I spent a couple of hours once or twice a year putting them together.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Making Room

Every year (and by that, I mean this year and last year), I try to get rid of some of our current toy clutter to make room for new and better items that we'll acquire over the holiday season.

I did some work in our playroom the other day, to make room for the Lego table I'm making Jack for Christmas. There were a lot of little items in that room that I was able to purge.

Above you see 48 cars, 2 bouncy balls, 3 pez dispensers, 1 plastic train (five years old!), 1 puzzle with a missing piece, 1 set of train signs, 4 little bags, 6 items of random detritus, and one stuffed fish.

I am also getting rid of this train, which has 23 out of 26 letters intact. I thought Quinn would adore this when I got it for him last year. He loved trains, but he was afraid of trains with faces. So I bought this for him, and he immediately forgot about his fear of trains with faces and started asking for obscure Thomas the Tank Engine characters. (Diesel 10, anyone?)

I'm hoping that it will find a good home.

Total items: 68


Also, winners of the National Decluttering Day challenge are everyone who decluttered who doesn't already have a tag. Congratulations, to *m* and De in DC! Email me your address at stimeyland at gmail dot com, and I'll send you your tag. Magpie, do you already have a tag? If not, email me your address too! Congrats!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Spoils of the Closet

Now that you know the story of my closet decluttering yesterday, it's time to show you what I was able to get rid of.

I didn't include things that were obviously just trash and recyclables. You can thank me later.

The things taking up the most space in my Secret Closet (and, yes, that is how my entire family refers to it) were these two waterproof sheets that used to live on Sam and Jack's beds, and seven kind of nasty pillows.


Next up is a fun batch of stuff that includes a wrapping paper organizer I tried to use before I figured out that a stand-up plastic container is the way to go. Also included are an old backpack, an old diaper bag, and some sort of stray strap.

There were lots of odds and ends from old art projects, such as a bag of cotton batting, some pieces of felt, professional acrylic gesso (I don't even know what this is), and a left-over wooden piece from when I made seldom-used beds for Sam and Jack's teddy bears.

There were also a number of plastic bags that used to house various books or toys and I felt that I should keep because they would undoubtedly be useful some day. And here they are, being useful today by upping my item count on The Junk Pyramid.

I'm such an idiot.

I'm also getting rid of a play-doh toy in the shape of a McDonald's. Someone gave that to Sam for his third birthday. I immediately hated it, but he loved it. When he lost interest in it, I moved it upstairs to the closet. I have no idea why I didn't just trash it then. Remember, I'm in recovery.

Here's my next batch:

I tend to buy craft kits around Christmas time for my kids to do. Then I'm left with 22 extra craft kits. So I store them upstairs. I'm going to donate them. There are a couple little cloth bags that my kids and I decorated, a couple of old crafty things, and three (!) splat mats to put under my kids while they painted. Let me repeat: three.

Next up was this batch:

More baby monitor parts. How many of these did I have? Also in the electronics department are a pile of cords, an old remote control, and a clock.

I had still more crafts, although Sam saw me trying to get rid of the most annoying craft of all, a box of recycled packing peanuts, and wouldn't let me get rid of it. I may have an eagle eye for clutter, but he has an eagle eye for my furtive decluttering activities.

Also, because I found so many extra gift tags in my gift wrap organization yesterday, I got rid of these non-adhesive tags. Somebody else can tape these to presents.

The last thing I had to get rid of was a Ziploc bag full of magnets.

At some point a couple years ago, I took most of our magnets off of our fridge. It's amazing what a difference that can make in the way your kitchen looks.

At the time, I wasn't prepared to get rid of the magnets. And God knows why because there are very few interesting magnets up there. I ended up only keeping one magnet that I found:

And that's because he was my boss ten years ago and I'm still a little bit afraid of him. I couldn't possibly put him in the trash.

I sorted through all of this, to put some in the trash, some in the recycling bin, and a lot in my donation bin.

Total items for National Decluttering Day? 90

Not bad for a day's work.

Also, kudos to all of you for your excellent decluttering work yesterday. Keep at it today and leave me a comment on Friday's post to be in the running for your very own Stimeyland luggage tag!

How I Celebrated National Decluttering Day

After challenging all of you to declutter at least 10 items this weekend, it occurred to me that I had to do some work too or I would look like a big fat Jerky Jerkerson. Especially after your comments with your lists of items came rolling in. So I decided to tackle one of the "big projects" I keep claiming that I'm going to do.

Remember this? If you weren't around then, back in July I cleaned out half of a closet and promised to do the other half soon. Well, here it is only November, and I'm following up on my promise.

The only problem is that the closet had since reverted back to this:

In my defense, most of that is because three suitcases were thrown haphazardly in there, as well as some earlybird Christmas purchases. The shelves I cleaned in July were still clean.

I should explain the purpose of this closet. It is my Secret Closet, thus named because it is where I hide presents from my famiy. It is also (when clean) large enough to sit in to wrap presents. So, yes, I can claim to have my own gift wrapping room.

Once I organized the clutter that had just been thrown in the door, I decided to organize my gift wrap. I have a lot of gift wrap, mostly because it is so unorganized that I think I don't have enough and so I buy more.

Hmmm, I wonder why that is?

First, I took everything out of my gift wrap organizer. I cleaned up my ribbon and threw away any that was too sqooshed or unraveled to use. Then I stacked up my tissue paper and non-roll wrapping paper and put them in the organizer.

Next up were gift bags. I save mine to reuse (big surprise there, huh?), but I haven't been keeping good track of them. I sorted them by size, with the Christmas bags in a different stack, then I put all of them in an easy-to-access pocket of the organizer.

Because my ribbons, tags, scissors, tape, pens, and the box I keep receipts in until after the holidays were already organized on a shelf from last time, that was all I had to do to achieve gift wrapping access.

The closet is L-shaped, and past the gift wrap and around the corner was a big pile of old pillows and some waterproof sheets from my kids' beds. This is where I throw bags that I'm not sure I'm ready to part with. I also have a couple boxes of baby things I'm not ready to part with.

You know what? I am finally ready to part with a bunch of the bags, but not the baby items.

I pulled a lot of things out and then cleaned up the baby things, some bags, an inflatable bed, and a box of lids to plastic bins that aren't being used right now, but might be in the future. (I know, I know, I have a problem.)

This closet is also where I keep art supplies for myself and my children that I don't use a lot. These art supplies were in bins and in boxes and all over the floor. I put some in my piles to donate and throw away and then organized the rest—one bin for my stuff, one bin for my kids' stuff. Then I put it all in the corner and moved our suitcases next to them.

Compare this to the second photo above.

Now, for the big reveal. Take a look again at the first photo to see what was there when I opened my closet. Now look at this picture to see what I saw just before closing the door:

Nice, huh?

Do I still deserve to be among you on National Decluttering Day?

Stay tuned, because tomorrow I'm going to show you what I got rid of. I promise, it's dramatic.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I Challenge You

Hey, everyone, Kijiji, a website featuring free, local classified ads, has arbitrarily named this Saturday, November 22 National Declutter Day.

If you click on that link above, you can enter a contest to win a home visit from decluttering expert Tava Smiley, host of the TLC show Clean Sweep.

There is also a packrat quiz on the site. I took the quiz and my result was that I am a "Hopeful Hanger-On," meaning that I keep things around because I'm convinced they'll come in handy in the future.

I have to admit that they nailed me. I'm getting better, and this blog has been a big part of that, but hopeful hanging on is exactly what got me into trouble in the first place.

I'd also like to challenge you to take advantage of National Declutter Day, no matter how arbitrary it may be. I challenge you to look around your house on Saturday and get rid of at least ten items.

Come back after you declutter, and tell me what you got rid of. Sometime on Monday I'll look through all your responses and pick the best one. Or if there are a bunch I really like, I'll make my kids pick a winner out of a hat.

The winner (continental U.S. only please) will receive a super-awesome Stimeyland luggage tag. Because there's no better way to celebrate decluttering than recluttering! If you want to enter, remember to leave your email address.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Eagle Eye for Clutter

I babysat two small children today. They were from two different families, but in the true spirit of multitasking, I scheduled them on the same day to kill babysit two birds with one stone.

Or something.

Anyway, one of them was four. The other was two. And Quinn is three.

So I didn't have time to do much besides watch them and play with them. But while they were at my house, I did keep my eye out for obvious junk. And, surprise, surprise! I found some.

Per usual, I found some shoes.

I also found a stray swim diaper and some diaper rash cream in my basement. I'll probably be running across little stashes of diaper-related things for years to come.

I found a camera that Sam used to love, but which is now broken. I also found a game that plays poker or blackjack or something.

There is a sweater that Jack used to wear but that Quinn will staunchly refuse to wear.

There is also a box that used to house little fuzzy animals. We still have the animals and love them, but the box is useless now that we don't keep the animals in it.

Then there is a teensy book jacket for a teensy book whose whereabouts are unknown. Rule of thumb: if you don't have the eeny-weeny book, you don't need the eeny-weeny book jacket.

And there is a box for a pitch pipe that was long ago requisitioned for our musical instruments box.

Total items for today: 10

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bye, Bye Baby Furniture

Now that the children who used this crib are seven and three, respectively...'s time to pass it on to someone else.

Goodbye, faithful crib. You've been loved.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I Sure Have A Lot of Obsolete Media

Today I set my sights on a dresser that houses old VHS tapes, old video games, and some clothes. I wasn't prepared to deal with the games or clothes, so I started with the tapes.

Because we don't own a VCR anymore.

And if I want to watch one of those movies, I'll put it on my Netflix queue.

The only problem was that I couldn't get the drawer open. There was absolutely no obstruction that I could see or feel. I couldn't figure out what magic was giving me only three inches from which to pull out tapes.

Finally, like 15 minutes later (I'm nothing if not quick), I noticed that one of the boards on the bottom of the drawer was about a quarter of an inch lower than the other board. After some experimentation and a close call where I almost got my arm caught in the drawer under the one I was trying to open, I finally got it open to reveal this:

These are the videos I wasn't able to get rid of a couple of years ago, when I weeded out most of my extensive collection.

This first stack was easy. No VCR means no need for blank video tapes.

I donated the blank ones and threw away the used ones.

I happened to be on the phone with a friend of mine who does have a VCR at her beach house. Somehow she talked me into giving her these 35 tapes:

I think she was bummed out when I actually showed up at her house with three bags of tapes.

This is what I was left with. A couple I didn't think my friend wanted. A couple had sentimental value. And a couple were tapes of my various drama endeavors from elementary school and junior high.

Total items: 46

Giveaways: Why NOT to Enter

Lately I've gotten a little addicted to blog giveaways. They're fantastic because even if a lot of people enter, you still have a 1 in 300 chance of winning instead of a 1 in 6.7 million chance. (Unless it's Dooce doing the giveaway, and then it's closer to the 6.7 million.) Sometimes you have as much as a 1 in 10 ten chance of winning.

Since I started entering these giveaways, I've won my fair share of cool stuff. Oddly, most of it is art. (You should see the wall clutter in my kids' playroom.)

High on the possibility of winning, I spent a few weeks entering every giveaway contest I came across. Not every contest promised something I needed, but FREE! and FREE! and did I mention FREE?!

I have recently come to my senses. Because something free that you don't need is still something you don't need. So now I only enter giveaway contests if the giveaway is something that I have a concrete use for. (Sometimes that concrete use is as a gift.)

This theory can be extended to freebies that are tossed into kids' meals, shopping bags, free samples, or anything else. If you're not going to use that free sample of face cream, turn it down. If your kid is going to quickly tire of the plastic car that comes with his Happy Meal, order a la carte instead, or pass the toy back through the window.

I'm going to further extend this theory to good deals on coupons. I know people who have discount buying down to an art. If you do this sort of thing, just make sure that the things you do get are things you will use, otherwise you're still wasting money—just less money. Or do like one blogger I read, and donate your cheapie extras to a food bank.

Because the easiest was to declutter is to not have to declutter. If you don't bring it into your house, you don't have to worry about getting it out of your house.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More DVD Clutter

I fully intend to get back to some big projects soon, but I've been going though a period of lethargy, travel, and colds and flu. So for now, all I have for you is a stack of DVDs.

It's funny, and a little sad, that second and third children grow up so much faster than firsts. When Sam was three and a half, he was watching the Wiggles all the time. Now that Quinn is three and a half, he watches The Clone Wars.

Farewell, Greg, Anthony, Jeff, and my favorite: Murray.

Farewell, also to several other DVDs that my kids never watch.

I also got rid of a much loved pair of sweatpants that are simply unwearable now. I had some DVD cases that didn't have matching DVDs. I keep and re-use the cases, but recycle all the packaging. I will count the spare packaging in the following photo and the one above as one item.

Oh, and lest I forget, I'm also getting rid of a cold pack intended to be used on injuries. I've never used it (because I have other, better options), so I'm donating it.

Total items: 16

Monday, November 3, 2008

I Refuse to RE-Clutter!

When we Alex painted our TV room, we he changed the outlet covers, ceiling lamps, and door knobs.

Pre-Pyramid Stimey would have kept the old doorknobs under the assumption that even though we Alex took them down because he we didn't like them, they would come in handy some day.

Current Stimey knows that is untrue. Current Stimey is putting them in her donation box. Current Stimey has three fewer baggies full of old hardware than she did before.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Throw Away Your Mystery Keys!

Today I was thinking about what to declutter next when I had an aha moment:

My key box!!

There are keys in there that came with our house and that we have never used. Now, as far as I can tell, I have the keys to every lock in the place, so I don't have to worry that these keys might come in handy later. In fact, we have changed some of the locks, so these keys might not have a match at all anymore.

I was able to remove 17 keys.

Tomorrow I'm going to take them far away from my house and its locks and throw them away.

My Beautiful New TV Room

I have not been decluttering lately. I hope to change that in the next couple of months. One of the reasons I haven't decluttered in the last week or so was that I was out of town. Another reason is because I am lazy. But the biggest reason is because Alex was engaged in a big home improvement project and everything has been in such disarray that I haven't been able to think about organization.

But it was worth it.

We have a room that we use as a TV room/office/computer room. Over the past couple of weeks Alex painted it red. Red Jalapeño, to be exact. If you want to have heart palpitations at a paint store, order yourself some Red Jalapeño paint.

It took us two tries to get ours. Alex chickened out at the last second on our first attempt, and we came home with a perfectly cromulent brown paint, but one that was just not right for our room. He'd already started painting when we realized that we needed the room to be red.

I'm so glad we made that decision. The room is all beautiful and cozy now. The following photos show the room from its entry hallway and then proceeding counter-clockwise around the room. (Don't worry. I'm getting to the decluttering. Eventually.)

Isn't it pretty?

And red?

In fact, after Alex had painted the first coat, Sam walked in and said, "It's like the inside of a volcano."

So yeah, it's pretty red. But it's soooooo cozy.

And when we brought everything back into the room and reorganized, I got rid of a few things:

What you see there are three black pillows that rarely got used, and just ended up on the floor all the time. You also see a pair of slippers that were awesome ten months ago, but that are now kind of gross and dirty. There's also a mostly used notebook that has apparently been living under my desk for the past three years. I'm also donating some little thingy that has something to do with an Xbox. My neighbor won it, but doesn't have an Xbox, so she gave it to us. And I don't know what it does, so I'm hoping it will end up with someone who does.

All of which is a long way to say that I'm getting rid of 6 items.