Saturday, January 31, 2009

Basement Purge and Craigslist Prep

My basement basically functions as a playroom. I will go weeks at a time without cleaning it because the only thing down there is the washing machine and toys. And if I don't have to look at it, I'm probably not going to clean it.

But it does really make me feel better when it's clean, so I headed down there with Quinn the other day to neaten up and make some decisions on what toys my kids have outgrown and can be sold on Craigslist.

I came up with a whole bunch of things to sell. Hopefully as I get paid for their departure, you will see them here. Otherwise you will see them as donations in the near future.

Quinn played with popcorn for an hour. Then for another hour he played with a toy I was going to sell, but can't anymore because he loved playing with it so much. So I took that toy, put it in a see-though container, as opposed to the solid one it had been in, and put it in a more accessible place. This is the toy, or rather, toys:

I'm kind of glad he played with it, because I think these are the perfect kinds of toys. But they don't get played with at my house anymore. I hope that will change with their new location.

Other than that, this is what I was able to get rid of. First, a pile of trash:

Some of those things are items. Most are just trash. I just thought it was impressive to have that much trash in a room that doesn't get much traffic. Honestly, a lot of the trash are pieces of toys that I just didn't want to deal with anymore.

This is what I am able to donate:

Interestingly, it's mostly hats and other head wear. (I went through the kids' costume box.)

I'm going to mark it down as 20 items. Forgive the fuzzy math.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

On Location: Decluttering at Friend L's

If you read Stimeyland, you've read about Friend L. L is amazing. She is one of my very best friends, has adorable children who play well with mine, and is also currently a stay at home mom. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to move in down the street and around the corner from her. I must have had some good karma saved up to stumble into such a situation.

After I cleaned out my craft cabinets the other day, she said that she needed help with her art supplies. I told her that I would bring my camera and do a post on her junk. She was not so into that idea. Because, and I'm just now learning this, not everyone in the world wants to show off their dirty cabinets to the entire world. Huh.

So yesterday when I was over at her house and she showed me her cabinet, I immediately started bossing her around about how her waffle iron needed to go there and her PixOs needed to go here, and before you know it she was agreeing to let me take photos of the finished products.

Allow me to present L:

Isn't she the cutest?

She's holding a breast milk storage bag that she found in her cabinet. Her youngest is three and a half years old. See? I'm not the only one with this crap in my cabinets.

She doesn't have as many craft supplies as I do, but they were a little scattered over the three shelves in her cabinet, and mixed in with cooking supplies. The main thing I did was suggest that she separate the two. The top shelf is now for cooking items, and the bottom two shelves are for crafts. See:

She moved some of her lesser used cooking supplies over to an incredibly awkward cabinet she has, where much of the space is practically inaccessible from the door.

There is as much space to the left of the door opening as there is visible above. And there is no easy access to it, so she had to make sure that the things there aren't things she uses regularly. My personal favorite thing about this cabinet is her chocolate chip container, on which she has written a note to let her son about chocolate chips. Based on the chip level, do you think he listens to her?

L did some other really good work in another awkward cabinet.

This one has a tiny door leading to a giant space. And those white things don't turn, as you'd expect them to. What L did was to think about how she uses her things and where they might fit well. She exchanged things according to size and function and really tried to think about how things worked in her kitchen.

The thing I found interesting about her is that she categorizes her cabinets differently than I do. When I am decluttering one cabinet, I rarely have to open another one, because I organize according to type. For instance, all my pots are in one place, all my small appliances are in one place, all my mixing bowls are in one place, and all my food is in one place.

I would never have chocolate chips and a muffin pan in the same cabinet. Never. And I would probably throw away my blender before I put it in a cabinet with my art supplies, but that's just me and my crazy linear thinking.

But what works for me doesn't necessarily work for the next person. L's system was very organic to how her kitchen worked. Once she got started, she definitely took the lead on the decluttering. She built up some momentum and got rid of a few things. (Her kids did retrieve some bowls from the trash though.) But mostly she organized, and I think it made her very happy.


More tidbits about L:

She is kind of my housecleaning guru. She gives me all kinds of tips on a regular basis for how to keep my house clean. I file those tips away in my head and continue to ignore the steadily deteriorating state of my home. (I started decluttering so I would have to clean less.)

Here are a couple of fun things I watched her do:

1. She vacuumed out her cabinets. This was a new one even for her, but it proved to be a very efficient way to get rid of all the dry gunk that accumulates in cabinets and drawers.

2. She showed me what she does while she talks on the phone with me:

If you can't tell, she's cleaning crevices with a toothpick. Ewwwwww:

But then again, awesome. I've never cleaned anything with a toothpick in my life. 'Cause that's crazy. But then again, her house is waaaay cleaner than mine, so who am I to talk?


Great job, L! Thanks for letting me help!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bathroom Detritus

Author's Note: Please pretend not to notice that half of our light bulbs are burned out.

Our two bathrooms are kind of regularly a disaster, but inspired by trying to find a place to hide several toothbrushes, I decided to clean out the cabinets of one of them the other day. This is the cabinet where we keep all of our baby-care items because we have babies. (No. We don't.)

Author's note: Please pretend not to notice that I have a book in there called "Wherever You Go There You Are."

Here is the cabinet after I took out all the baby-care stuff for all our non-existent babies:

I know it still looks like there are baby-care items, such as baby wipes and baby wash and so on. Those aren't baby-care items. They're items.

I didn't feel ready to get rid of the child suppositories yet. I think that as soon as I throw them away, Quinn will immediately stop pooping. And I don't really want that.

Here's our other cabinet in the yellow bathroom.

There are stickers in there that are left over from when I was potty training Sam. Four years ago. There are also some little scenty things Sam made in preschool. Three years ago.

We don't use this cabinet very much.

Now it holds toothbrushes.

These are all the things I got rid of:

Most of it is trash, because who wants a used booger sucker? Or mostly empty bottles of nasal saline? But I was still able to donate a couple of things. (One thing.)

Total items: 11

Monday, January 26, 2009

More Cabinet Work

After all the work I've done in my kitchen in the last few days, I looked around and noticed the only two cabinets that I haven't decluttered since starting this whole thing nearly a year ago. It turns out that those two cabinets were fairly innocuous as far as junk goes.

This is all I found to get rid of in the first cabinet:

In case you can't tell, that's an old bag that I've been saving for at least a year and a half. Don't ask me why. The other thing is a wooden block that you screw an apple corer/peeler onto. The peeler it went with broke and we have a new one that doesn't need the block. Don't ask me whay we still have it. But now we don't.

The next cabinet kind of killed me. I found these plastic trays and a placemat that we don't use anymore. But look how cute they are. I love them, but we never use them anymore. It's entirely possible that I'll reclaim the bigger trays from my donation box before my next donation.

Aren't they cute? If I do save them—and every second I see this photo, I'm more inclined to—I'll take them off of my count.

Total items (for now): 8

Edited to add: Okay, I'm taking the trays back. I just can't get rid of them. And you seem to agree with me. Total items: -3

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Top of the Refrigerator

You know the type of spot: it's small and awkward, and somehow always crammed full of junk. The tiny space between the top of our refrigerator and the bottom of some cabinets is one of those spots for us. I don't know why we have so much stuff up there, but it collects junk that we don't know what to do with.

There's an awful lot up there that we don't need, including three flashlights. Yeah, we keep our scissors up there so Jack doesn't accidentally stab himself while he's trying to cut his eyelashes (true story), but most of the other things have better places to live.

There were several things we were able to get rid of. Most of them were bits of child proofing that we kept for some reason.

I redistributed the flashlights around the house after putting batteries in a couple of them, organized what was left up there (scissors), thought briefly about cleaning the goo off of the fridge, then took a photo and called it done.

Total items: 9

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tupperware Reprise

Way back when I started the Junk Pyramid, I purged and organized my Tupperware cabinet. Since then, the forces of entropy (a.k.a. my husband) have de-organized it, and it needed to be redone.

I'm sure you can imagine the before. This is the after:

I find that taking a second pass at an area a few weeks or months after your initial purge is helpful. You can take another look at the things in there and see if there are items you haven't used since the last purge. I also find that I'm more inclined to get rid of things the second time through.

Plus, the first time, there were surely items that you had forgotten about. I'm sure that you told yourself that now that you'd remembered it, you would use it all the time. A second time through is the time to ask yourself if you have in fact used it.

One of my important rules of decluttering is that you can only use the "Now That I Know It's There, I'll Use It" rule once. If you forgot about it again after the first go-round, you should either get rid of it or move it to a more accessible place.

Most of the pieces in my Tupperware cabinet are things I use, but I was able to find some pieces that we have too many of or that are missing a lid or a bottom.

Total items: 8

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Well Worn Shirts

Those of you who read Stimeyland know that Quinn went through a period wherein he only wore a few shirts. The seven in the photo below were almost always acceptable to him.

When it started to get cold, I took Quinn with me to Target and bought every long-sleeved shirt he claimed that he would wear. Then I removed all the short-sleeved shirts he still wanted to wear. I kept them to see if he was getting more flexible about his clothing. And I'm sure I've jinxed myself by writing this, but I think he is.

I pulled out some of the larger and less stained shirts for him to wear next summer if they still fit, but these are the discards.

Good riddance!

Total items: 7

Monday, January 19, 2009

Too Adorable to Throw Away?

Quinn got this handmade invitation to a birthday party.

It is so cute that I don't want to get rid of it. But I know that keeping it is not a good solution. I could frame it and make it into art, but I don't have the wall space. It needs to be recycled.

I used to keep all kinds of greeting cards because I felt bad about recycling them. But unless they have sentimental value, they are just clutter. Now I keep them for a few days, look at them, show them to my kids, and try to squeeze full enjoyment out of them. Then I recycle them.

And I think that lets them serve their purpose without living in my house forever.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Exploding Bread Box

I need a little help with this area of my kitchen:

And its associated cabinet:

See, just to the right of that bread box is the counter where I do most of my cooking, chopping, measuring, and the like. It is also where I make lunches for my little dudes. It is a good spot to make lunches because the refrigerator is just a bit farther to the right, and everything I use for lunches is in one spot. Except to get knives to spread peanut butter, or a spoon to mix chocolate milk, I can stand in one spot and get everything I need.

Unfortunately, that has resulted in a cluttered little area. Clearly the bread situation at the time of the photo was at a high. We usually don't have hamburger buns, but I'm making sloppy joes this week. Also, for some reason, at the time of this photo, the bread box itself was practically empty. Way to put away the groceries, Alex!

I needed these spots to be easier to access, so I needed more room in the cabinet. There were things in the cabinet that need to be in a cabinet in the kitchen, but not necessarily in this cabinet. I moved our wine opening items from the top shelf of this cabinet to the top shelf of a different cabinet.

And I got rid of these:

I have a better first aid kit in the kitchen, so I don't need this. I found another toxic water bottle. (From Eddie Bauer, just like the last one.) And I found three stove knob child protective devices.

Interestingly, none of my kids had ever noticed the stove knobs until I put these covers on them. Suddenly there were devices! That needed to be opened! So now the kids played with the knobs, but they were devastatingly hard for me to open when I actually wanted to cook, so I left them on, but open much of the time. So the covers basically turned the stove knobs into kid-attracting danger zones.

That explains why they are no longer on the stove. Don't ask me why they were still in my cabinet.

So after I got rid of those items, and moved some other items to a new cabinet, I redistributed what was left. I gave our stack of towels their own shelf and put hamburger and hot dog buns on a shelf with some measuring cups.

The most important things stayed on the bottom shelf: peanut butter, honey, chocolate milk mix, straws, and Miralax for Quinn.

Hopefully this will make it easier for me to lazily stand in one place and create peanut butter and honey magic.

And hopefully the bread box area will continue to look like this:

Total items: 5

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Useful Clutter?

I didn't feel right getting rid of these CD/DVD spindles because I felt that there would come a day when I would need to give someone 50-100 DVDs all stacked up.

That day has not come.

Because almost every DVD I produce goes out in a DVD case, once they're off the spindle, the spindle is no longer of any use. I am finally going to acknowledge this.

Total items: 3

Friday, January 16, 2009

Photo Albums

Much of what I do here at The Junk Pyramid is part of an effort to, if not get rid of things entirely, then at least to get them behind doors and out of sight. My latest project had me doing the exact opposite.

See, I have this weird little room/stairway landing/space that served as Quinn's room for a year that has a great feature—this fabulous room-length cedar chest:

It is a wonderful place to store things like extra towels, extra sheets and comforters, and pillows. Unfortunately I also use it to store my board games and my photo albums. I'll deal with the games another time.

My photo albums, for obvious reasons, are difficult to access.

Because they are so difficult to access, I never look at them. Occasionally I will be looking for a particular photo or a photo from a particular era, and I have to drag out all the albums on top and dig through the ones underneath.

It's a poorly designed system.

I decided that my decluttering efforts aren't just about getting rid of things, but making my house more livable. One way to make my house more livable is to put things I love where I can get them. And I love my photographs.

Can you tell?

I'm only 35 by the way. Can you imagine how many there will be when I'm 75? Unless I'm killed in a freak accident where a pile of photo albums falls on me.

I may need a new bookshelf.

Oh, and did you see Sam's beautiful artwork on the wall behind the shelf? Pretty, huh?

Obviously I didn't get rid of any photo albums. Except for this one, that reqires you use photo corners to put the pictures in. Chances of me doing that are slim to none.

Total items: one photo album and one package of photo corners

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Plastic Cups and Extra Dishes

The other day Alex started freaking out and demanded that these cups leave our house immediately. We have used them as giant water cups in the past, but haven't done so for a while.

I could barely delay him long enough to take a photo.

(It's a little embarrassing that I take all these photos, huh? Oh well.)

Inspired by the extra space in the cabinet, I looked around for some other dishes we don't use or that are mismatched. I found these:

Total items: 19

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Children's Art Supplies

I think I may have decluttered these areas last year, but it needed to happen again.

I have two cabinets where I keep art supplies for my kids to use. I forgot to take a before photo of one of the cabinets, but here is the before photo of the other one. I couldn't open the cabinet door all the way to take the photo because the door was holding the stuff in.

Doesn't it totally look like it would be easy to find things in there? Most of what I did in this cabinet was consolidate and organize, although I did manage to get rid of some stuff.

Guess which item I'm most excited about getting rid of?

It's those horrible Magic Noodles. I tried to get rid of them a while back, but Sam caught me and made me put them back. This time I did it while he was at school. I don't feel even a little bit bad about it either. I hate them that much. The other stuff is sort of run of the mill.

I got more stuff out of the cabinet I forgot to take the before photo of. Although in this picture there is also a stack of coloring pages I kept in a drawer. I don't think my kids even knew they were there. At some point, keeping them just got ridiculous. I mean, really, if Jack's teachers can't get him to color his school work, why should I torture him with recreational coloring at home?

Most of the things in that pile were dried out art supplies, or bits of craft projects, or some leftover craft projects that we had extras of after my kids did them. I'm able to donate a few things, but most of it ended up in the recycling or trash bin.

I did do something really, really smart though. Sam badly wanted the bead set that came in the box pictured below a couple of years ago, so I gave it to him for Christmas. Of course, the beads in that box took up a tiny amount of space, but the box took up a giant amount of space. And somehow, it took me two years to figure out that I should put the beads in a different container. That's what the yellow box is.

And that box is still waaaaaaaay too big for the beads.

My helper and I did stop to make a necklace though.

Now I give you the after photo:

After consolidating and reorganizing, I even had extra bins and boxes to use another time in another place.

And even if you didn't see the before, I think you'll appreciate my after photo of the other cabinet:

There's a big difference there, people.

Total items: 65 (ish)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Are You Still There?

I made a rookie mistake over and over again during the course of the past two or so weeks. I didn't have the time or inclination to do any big projects, so I waited until I did. And then, with every day that passed, I felt more pressure to produce something good. So I didn't do anything.

Except create lists of big projects to declutter.

I finally did get my act together and The Junk Pyramid will be back in force tomorrow with a great project that has been screaming to be done for weeks.

The moral of the story: It doesn't matter if you're tackling a big project or a little one. Decluttering is a series of steps that add up. The small steps are just as important as the big ones.