Sunday, December 13, 2009

We Need to Talk...


You're really great readers and we have such a wonderful time together, but I'm not sure I'm ready for such a big commitment at this time in my life. I think we need to take a break. You are going to make some other blogger very, very happy.

Okay, so really...

I am completely swamped these days and I haven't been able to do a lot of decluttering. I feel as if I've reached a good stopping point for a while.

I have ideas for so many new projects, but I'm not going to have time to do them thoroughly or write about them until Quinn goes to kindergarten at the end of August. So, keep me in your blog reader and I'll come back in a few months. I'll miss you.

And remember, it's not you, it's me.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Instruction Manual Drawer

I think that most houses have a depository for user guides, instruction manuals, and warranties. In my house it is a drawer. In some houses it is a binder. In still other houses, it is broken up into 25 different places around the house.

This is what mine looked like today before I decided to spend 15 minutes clearing it out:

I somewhat question the need for this sort of drawer at all these days, what with any user guide you may need being findable on the internet in about 0.06 seconds. In fact, I needed one of the user guides in this drawer a couple of weeks ago, but didn't remember that I had it, so I looked it up online and found my information without ever opening the drawer.

But I'm a packrat, so I can't quite rid myself of everything in the drawer. So instead I went through and got rid of all the manuals for things we don't have anymore. I also got rid of manuals for really stupid things that I really don't need the manual for.

For instance, THIS is something you might want to save the manual for:

THIS is not:

Also, I love that the hole punch instructions are specifically labeled "easy." Just in case you were worried.

I found a lot of things like Lego building instructions, which we will not be using again. I was able to get rid of a lot of paper. (Which I am not counting as an item, but it still feels great!)

And here is my drawer 15 minutes after I started:

I can close it without shuffling the papers around and everything. Very satisfying, I have to say.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Secret Closet Reprise

In my house I have a Secret Closet.

It's not as fun as it sounds. It is where I keep presents before they get put out. I also keep all my wrapping supplies, suitcases, boxes, off-season clothes, and various other things in there.

See? Except for the present thing, it's totally not as fun as it sounds. (Although my kids think it's exciting. I'm going to have to put a combination lock on the door before too long.)

I decluttered this closet a while ago and got rid of A LOT of stuff. But since then, it's gotten pretty messy again.

Because December is the busy time of year for my Secret Closet, I decided to go in there and clear it out to prepare for Christmas presents and wrapping that would be using the closet before too long.

I got rid of a big ol' bag of trash—snippets of wrapping paper, tags from gifts, old receipts, empty spools of ribbon and paper, and so much more.

I got rid of a good number of things that I am giving away.

All of the things in the next photo are going to my friend Heather, although she doesn't know it yet. Her daughter loves little notebooks, so she's getting 36 of them. I also had a few leftover stocking stuffers that Santa can't give to my kids two years in a row, so she's getting those too. She can keep them or throw them away.

Next up are nine peg board games. I bought a dozen from Oriental Trading one year and Santa gave one each to my kids. And they didn't play with them and I still had nine left. So I'm donating them.

Oh lord, the bunny straws. Quinn had a bunny-themed birthday party last year. I don't know how I still have 48 of these straws that I put in the guests' goody bags, but I'm donating them now. Good riddance.

I forgot to take a photo of the next batch, but it included several small toys and party favor leftovers, much like the batch in the next photo.

I think everything in this post may have come from Oriental Trading, now that I think about it. These Santa cups came from there. We have five of these, but I hate holiday-specific dishes because they somehow get left behind in the dishwasher every time we put away our decorations and then I have to go pull the boxes back out to put them away.

So Heather gets these too.

Now for the fun part: the organized closet!! I've put numbers on the photos in order to point out the important parts.

(1) I put all my receipts in that Cheerios box when I take the gift out of the bag to wrap it. I throw the receipts away about once a year. That way, I know that if I need a receipt to return something, I'll be able to find it.

(2) Somehow I've waaaaay overpurchased party favors. The stuff in this box will probably get me through both Jack and Quinn's birthday parties.

(3) This is where I keep my tape, pens, scissors, and gift tags. The things on that shelf and the one below are either gifts that haven't been wrapped yet, things I bought because they were cheap and I plan to use them as gifts in the future, or puzzles I've done that I'll be passing on to my sister or anyone else who likes puzzles.

(4) This is another shelf of not-yet-assigned gifts.

(5) This is where I keep small boxes and little bags for wrapping.

(6) Those are my off-season clothes.

(7) More party favors and some piƱata candy. I hope that if your kids attend my kids' parties that your kids don't mind stale candy.

(8) Boxes to mail Christmas gifts. I keep "good" boxes when I get them. Then starting in November, I start stockpiling other boxes that look like they will be good sizes to mail gifts.

(9) Stuff my kids are going to get in their stockings. All of this came either from the piles in the Secret Closet or the dollar section at Target.

(10) My ribbon stash.

(11) Assorted plastic containers that I'm absolutely certain will come in handy at some point.

(12) My wrapping paper selection. I'm full up right now.

(13) I keep my gift bags and tissue paper in here.

(14) The less said about THAT part of the closet, the better.

My Secret Closet and I are ready now. Bring on Christmas shopping!

Total items: 145

Friday, November 13, 2009

Farewell to the Most Fun Toy Ever

Way, way back when Sam was a year old, we lived in Fairbanks, Alaska. And in the winter in Fairbanks, Alaska, there is not a whole lot of opportunity to let your kid run off some steam outside. So I bought him an inflatable ball pit and stocked it with balls so that he could jump around and play and be crazy in it.

It came with us when we moved to Maryland. Eventually it popped and we moved on to a Jumpolene and left the balls in it. Then it popped. So we got a new Jumpolene, and so forth...

Here is an example of one of our many Jumpolenes. See how the top chamber has deflated?

When I bought our most recent one, I decided that it was the last one. My kids and all their friends loved the ball pit, but they were such enthusiastic players that they kept breaking them. And it was all kinds of hard to find where the holes in the plastic were.

Plus I was tired of picking up 500 balls every week.

A couple of weeks ago, the ball pit breathed its last breath.

And Alex bagged up all the balls. (Thank you, Alex.) He might have sworn at me when I asked him to count the balls, but when he was done, he walked out of the basement and said "419."

Then we found three more later.

I am passing them all on to a friend from my moms' club.

Total items: 423

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Luggage Tag Straps Are No Use Without Luggage Tags

Way back when I bought my Stimeyland luggage tags, they came without the straps attached. So I painstakingly put something like 200 straps on the luggage tags. Weirdly, there were still dozens and dozens of straps left. I'm calling it 200.

Hey, by the way, is there a better name for them than "straps"? Because I put them on Freecycle as Luggage Tag Straps and I'm afraid that may have not been descriptive enough.

If no one claims these on Freecycle, I'm throwing them away.

Here is what they lucky ones who were selected to hold a luggage tag looked like:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Declutter Your Halloween Candy

I hate to create posts that are basically a link to other posts, but I'm going to do that because Cool Mom Picks has a great post up about donating your extra Halloween candy.

I would send mine off today, but I'm just not ready to part with it.

Edited to Add: Consumerist has another great tip of what to do with your pounds of candy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More Momentous Than it Looks

There are two cabinets in my house that every single time I open them, I have to unhinge the child locks on them. You may have noticed that my youngest child is four and a half. And also, all my kids are better at opening the locks than I am, due to their small, nimble fingers.

So I pried the locks off of the cabinets and threw them away.

And then I started thinking about all the little outlet covers that were still littered all over my house and so I went around and pried all of them out.

I like this next photo because if you look really closely, you can see the little rings around the outlet that have been covered for, literally, the past five years. This is a kitchen outlet near the stove, and evidently I haven't been cleaning the grease off of it. Oops.

These ten items represent the last of the child proofing that had been in my house. I'm now a totally child lock-free house. Yippee!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Clothing Purge

Through regular seasonal changing out of my kids' clothes and some purges from my and Alex's closets, we've managed to put together a pretty good haul of clothing to get rid of.

These are outgrown summer clothes (and an old backpack) that I purged over the summer.

Here's a big ol' pile of clothes that Alex got rid of. I added a bunch that didn't make it into the photo.

This is the most recent bunch, which I got rid of last week when I packed my kids' summer clothes away for the winter. These are clothes that my kids have outgrown or that one of them (*cough*Quinn*cough*) refuses to wear. I'm a little sad because a few of these are some of my favorites. I hope that someone else will get some good use out of them.

I'm guessing 40 items or so.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Fridge and Visual Clutter

One of the things that can make a room—in this case, the kitchen—look cluttered is a whole lot of tiny things on the walls. Or, alternately, on the fridge:

All of that was right there at eye level in a place that I walk by dozens of times a day, and very little of it actually gets used. So I purged.

Unless a magnet had strong sentimental value or important information, I got rid of it. I replaced the large, mismatched flat magnets with cute, matching round magnets.*

I also consolidated what I left on the fridge in one area, so as to leave large expanses of empty space to diminish visual clutter.

I got rid of ten magnets and a list of house rules that has been entirely ignored by my family. Even though I made them all sign it. They did find time to graffiti on it, however.

Total items discarded: 11

* I got these magnets as a freebie at an Office Max fundraiser for teachers I attended at Janine's house. Also, if you know a teacher who could use an Office Max gift card to buy school supplies with, go by and enter Janine's contest by nominating him or her.

I did bring in 17,000 rubber bands too, in the form of three rubber band balls that I dropped in the street right outside Janine's house and had to chase down the sidewalk, but I'm not subtracting them from the count.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Playroom, Part One Million and Six

I know I just posted about the deep cleaning of the playroom I did over the summer, but I want to show you why you can't just make one sweep through a room and assume that you're done decluttering.

I got rid of a good number of toys and detritus last time I went through the room, but less than two months later, look at all the stuff I managed to pull out of there:

I took this photo on my kitchen counter.
The black crock with the whisk is not being decluttered.

I'm calling this 17 items, most of which had to be thrown away, unfortunately.

But I was left with a playroom pretty much stripped of anything extraneous.

Dammit. There's a can of paint up there on the top of the shelf. That definitely counts as clutter that needs to be gotten rid of. Also, this room used to be Quinn's, hence his name on the door. I haven't yet remembered to move his letters to Team Stimey Jr.'s door.

The next photo is of Lego Land. Jack pretty much lives in that corner.

And, yes, I am aware that overly decorated walls can contribute to a feeling of clutter, but I think it works in this room.

Plus I have a lot of cute art and nowhere else to put it.

The above photo is obviously the train table, at which my children rarely play anymore. That 5'x3'x2' area probably represents a thousand dollars worth of train paraphernalia collected over the past eight years. Anyone wanna give me a thousand dollars for some trains?

Total items discarded: 17
Total rooms completely awesomely clean: 1

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Couple of Randoms...

I was going through my Junk Pyramid photo file and found a couple of things that I got rid of this summer.

The first is a puzzle. I bought an 8-pack of puzzles this summer for my kids and I to do together. And, yes, there were eight puzzles in the box, but only seven of them were unique. Unfortunately, the eighth puzzle was a duplicate of the Jack Sparrow puzzle we'd done first. So that is getting donated.

For our second item, we have a booster seat. About a year ago a neighbor asked if we had a need for a booster seat they were giving away and I said, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" because who doesn't have a need for an extra booster seat?

It turns out that I don't.

It sat in my garage for months until a friend of mine called in a panic to tell me that she couldn't come over to play and deliver her gerbils for pet sitting because her husband had driven off with her daughter's booster seat. Plus, he was going to have to come home early anyway to give her the seat because she had an appointment she couldn't miss.

Happily, I finally found a use for that extra booster seat. I drove it over to her house and traded it for a terrarium of gerbils, and told her that under no circumstances would I be accepting it back.

Total items: 2


Update to my ink recycling post: There were several of you (or two, but still) who opined that my used ink cartridges should count as items. Therefore, I will count the six ink cartridges I recycled the other day, and the one that I took in on Friday. Hooray! Seven more items on the count!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jeez. How Many Shoes Do My Kids Have?

I was going through my backlog of photos of decluttering I did over the summer and found some more shoes.

I have no idea how my kids have this many shoes. I don't have that many shoes.

I also decluttered my snack cabinet at the same time that I threw out those shoes. I don't have a before photo, but I love my after photo.

I just got rid of some undesired and/or expired food from that cabinet. Also, one piece of a plastic container.

So that means 3 items, including the shoes. Now, three items isn't a lot, but look at that snack cabinet. Having a cabinet like that makes a huge difference in how I relate to my snacks. I feel like my life is so much easier with a neat snack cabinet.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More Adventures in Ink Recycling

I was headed to Staples today to buy some printer ink, so I gathered up all my used up ink cartridges that have been taking up space on my desk to take them in to recycle them.

Look! I got rid of exactly six items today!* Although I wish I'd remembered to take the cartridge that had just run out of ink in my printer that necessitated the whole trip in the first place.

Last time I recycled ink, I was unclear about the way you get money back. It turns out that you don't get money immediately, but that it goes on your Staples card and you get it at the end of the month or year or whenever it is that they (claim to) send you money.

Either way, it's better than throwing old cartridges in the trash.

* Dammit. I just noticed that on my last post about ink, I said that these don't count as items because they are consumables. Stupid Past Stimey. I hate her.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pulling a Stimey

Ever since I started this whole Junk Pyramid enterprise I have been the queen of foisting things onto my friends. If you're in my house and you mention you like something, chances are pretty good that you will walk out of there holding it.

Thrift Store Mama (I'm pretty sure it was her) coined the term "pulling a Stimey" at some point, the definition being that you force visitors to your home to take your clutter home with them.

I have to say that it is a very effective way of decluttering.

A couple of years ago I was at a kids' birthday party and one of the moms told the host mom that she liked the CD that was playing. "Take it," the host mom replied, "you can have it." She later told me that her philosophy is that if someone likes something more than you do, they should have it.

I like that. And I KNOW that there is someone out there who likes this CD more than I do:

Back in May we Pulled a Stimey with one of these horrible CDs, but somehow another one snuck into our house. So the other day when Jack's friend was over, I asked her if she'd like to take it home with her. (Hint: Pulling a Stimey goes even better if there is no other parent around.) Of course she did. And she happened to want the little Happy Meal toy I was getting rid of too.

I Pulled a Stimey not long after BlogHer as well. I was babysitting for a friend of mine and while she was gone, I put together her own little swag bag:

I also gave her some Stimeyland pens and put the whole thing in a resuable bag that I came home from BlogHer with. (Hint: Putting items in a bag is an effective way to give your friends more than they want to take because they don't see everything until they get home and it is too late.)

One of the best things about Pulling Stimeys is going to other people's homes and seeing our old stuff there being loved and played with. Definitely a great way to recycle.

Monday, September 21, 2009

And Now For the Bedroom Deep Clean

After tackling the playroom and the basement, I deep-cleaned my kids' room at the beginning of this month. I do this on a regular basis, but this time I was ruthless. If it hadn't been played with for a while, consistently makes a mess, or just flat out bothers me, I got rid of pretty much everything that wasn't a book or an article of clean, fitting, wearable clothing.

What you see here are some of those books and toys that didn't make the cut. Like those already filled in activity books in the front right. Why on earth would I keep those? I'm a moron.

Then I found some pads of paper and activity books that my kids never, ever look at. I'm donating them in hopes that someone else will want to use them. In the back are a bunch of dry erase books and sheets for teaching letters. Now that I think about it, I might donate this stuff to my preschool if they want it.

Next up is a belt that is too little for my kids. I also got rid of a ton of unmatched socks and stained white t-shirts. Plus some Spongebob underpants that Quinn finds too scary to wear.

The pajama shelf was next. My kids often don't wear pajamas, so one or two pairs apiece is plenty for them. What you see here is six sets of PJs and four pajama pants that are too small or that my kids refuse to wear anymore. You also see a stuffed Christmas tree I bought in 2002 and am sick to death of.

Next up are t-shirts that all my kids have grown out of. Also some shirts that I ironed designs on myself but that were mysteriously ruined by one trip through someone else's washing machine over the summer.

This last photo is of some stuffed animals that get in the way a lot and some Build-A-Bear accessories that are usually shoved into the back of a shelf. You'll also see a LOT of tiny notebooks. I tend to get these for birthday party goody bags and Christmas stockings. But my kids will never be able to work their way through our tiny notebook backlog, so hopefully whoever they get donated to will be able to find a use for them.

And there you have it. Not bad for a couple hours worth of work, eh? After looking at the photos, I count roughly 83 items.