Friday, February 27, 2009

Donate Crayon Bits

When I cleaned out my crayon bins the other day, I ended up tossing lots of pieces of broken crayons. After a suggestion from Whirlwind, I searched out some other options of what to do with those crayon bits.

You can obviously recycle the crayon bits into new crayons. You can find all kinds of instructions all over the web on how to do this.

If you're more of a Let's Let Someone Else Take Care of This type of person, there are many recycling/donation programs out there. I've listed some on my Resources for Decluttering page under "crayons," or you can just Google "donate crayons" or "recycle crayons."

The National Crayon Recycling Program is an example of a national program. I found an Illinois program that melts your crayons into large crayons for special needs kids. And there are many more!

Let me know if you've used one of these programs or have any feedback on them. I'd love to hear what you think.

You can find many more suggestions about things to do with your crayons or other types of junk on our Resources for Decluttering page.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Printer Ink Recycling

Don't know what to do with your used ink cartridges? You can check my Resources for Decluttering page for some ideas, or you can read this post by Tech Savvy Mama.

I read it literally minutes after I had changed out my printer's cartridge and had made a note to go to Staples for more.

Although come to think of it, I don't think they gave me a coupon when I turned it in. Nor do I think they took any money off of my ink purchase. I'll have to check my receipt. But at least I don't think they chucked it in the garbage, as I would have.

Cut me some slack, people. Quinn was taking up most of my attention during this purchase.

Anyway, there are lots of ways to recycle ink, if you're not a moron like me. Look into 'em.

(This doesn't actually count as an item because it is a consumable.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It's My Junkiversary!

One year ago today I wrote my first post for The Junk Pyramid. Though I didn't actually start throwing things out until February 25, I figured I would take a moment today to celebrate what I've gotten rid of this year.

See? It's a pyramid made out of junk!

No, really. It is.

Those items are part of the work I did today. I'm getting rid of all my play food. I'm going to list it on Craigslist, and I don't mark Craigslist items as decluttered until I sell them or give up and donate them, so you'll see a big post about that in the hopefully not too far away future.

But over the weekend, I did manage to sell my play kitchen.

After I add that to my count, I have successfully decluttered 2, 868 items.

That's not too shabby.

That is almost three THOUSAND fewer items in my house. Now granted, some of those items are small, like a pen or an itty bitty toy. But some of them were huge, like a crib, or a dresser, or a play kitchen. And every one of those things I got rid of made my house more pleasant place to be. Not to mention, I have been able to donate many of those things, so hopefully they are bringing joy to someone else now.

I've also become more conscious of decisions I make to bring things into my home. Yes, I have purchased a lot of items in the past year, but I make better choices about them. I tend to think more about the things I buy, even if they just cost $1 or 50 cents, and whether they're going to end up on this website in three months. If my answer is yes, I don't buy it.


I've also freaked out every person who might buy a gift for me or my children. Sorry about that, friends.

What is amazing to me is how much work I still have to do. I do believe that I will have plenty of clutter in my home to make up another whole year of decluttering six a day.

Don't forget to check out my Resources for Decluttering page.

I'm always updating it (and by "always" I mean "every other week when I have five minutes of free time"), so keep checking back if you want to know where to get rid of something. If you want me to look into where to get rid of something or if you have suggestions on a resource I should add, let me know.

Also don't forget to write in if you have a Dear Stimey dilemma or if you have a great decluttering tip. I love to hear about your own success stories!

So Happy Junkiversary to me, and Happy Decluttering to you!!


* Thanks to my faithful reader *m* for coining the term "junkiversary."

** Anyone else find it ironic that on my junkiversary, I only managed to list one item that I got rid of? (Although in my defense, I did a good amount of decluttering in my basement today. It's just that I have to sell it before I can post it here.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Bedroom Detritus

Remember yesterday when I told you that I was showing you a photo of my last craft cabinet? Ha, ha, just kidding. Although technically this is Sam's craft cabinet:

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is what I use my kids' closet for. Very practical use of space, huh?

I was all excited by the crayon-wrapper cleanup I posted about yesterday, so I did the same thing for this area. This is most decidedly the "after" photo by the way. I was too humiliated to post a before photo.

These are some of things I pulled out of this closet (and from under the bed and under the dresser and behind the hamper...) to discard:

I amused myself by pretending that this little fireman was in charge.

He helped me get rid of all of this stuff:

Not all of this was from the closet. Much of it was from my guys' shelves which are supposed to only hold books and clothes. What you see here is perhaps the very definition of "detritus"—at least that second photo is.

The first photo also holds book jackets, some old coloring books, a clock that doesn't work, and some broken things. The dart board I got rid of because the tiny magnets started falling out of the darts and because Jack tends to put small pieces of metal in his mouth, I thought they might be a bad idea to keep around.

(At this point I would like to take a moment to apologize to my friend C in MT, for whose son I bought this same dartboard for Christmas. If he doesn't eat magnets, the dartboard probably won't kill him. But, you know, be aware. Jeez. I'm so sorry.)

I also managed to get rid of a waterproof crib sheet.

Total items: I'm going to call this 30.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

You Know the Annoying Crayon Wrapper Clutter?

You know what I'm talking about. Your kids have a crayon box or a bucket or a drawer where they keep all of their crayons and half of it is filled with tiny bits of crayon wrapper paper and broken tips of crayons.

Do you hate that as much as I do?

I took a stand against that the other day.

But before I discuss that, I'm going to show you my last craft cabinet. I know, I have way too many craft cabinets. But this one is important. It is where my kids go to get paper and writing instruments for drawing. I like this system because—and this is important—I don't have to get up to get them paper or a writing implement.

The drawers are removable so they can bring the whole bin of crayons to the table and then easily put it back. From top to bottom, the drawers contain: (1) markers, (2) erasers, kid scissors, pencil sharpeners, pens and pencils, (3) crayons, (4) stickers and tattoos, (5) white paper, including scratch paper that has been used on one side already, and (6) colored paper and loose construction paper.

It's a good system, huh?

I decided to clean it up a couple of weeks ago when I saw that Quinn had dumped the marker drawer on the floor and most of what was spread all over the floor were lidless markers and markerless lids.

This isn't even all of them.

Then I decided to clean the whole set of drawers. This gives you an idea of what I was dealing with.

To be honest, my item count here is a guesstimate. I did this a long time ago and wrote "37" on a piece of paper. I do know that I didn't count every individual item. I know that I didn't even try to quantify all the little scraps of paper I threw out:

At the same time that I took these photos, I took a photo of the bleeding paper cut I got while doing this project. I was going to post it and make a joke about blood, sweat, and tears.

I've decided to spare you that photo. (And the joke.)

Total items: I'm going to go with Past Stimey's estimate and say 37.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Weeding Through Children's Books

Since I first gave birth to Sam, and probably even before, I've been collecting children's books. My theory was, "It's always okay to get more books, right?" It never seemed like it would be a bad idea to buy my kids books.

But seven years later, it's a bad thing. I don't just buy books willy-nilly anymore because we have so damn many that most of them go unread. When the probability that my kids will happen upon and read any given book is so close to zero, it is time to thin the ranks.

Seriously, if there are 35 books shoved into a shelf, they are never going to find and love one in particular.

I recently went through my kids' bookshelves and weeded out books that are too young for them, that they were never really interested in, that are damaged, or that just don't make the cut for whatever reason.

I took 105 books out of their shelves and they have yet to notice.

I repeat: We have so many books that I removed one hundred and five books from their shelves and they cannot tell the difference.

Here is the box of books:

That's a big box of books.

Some of the books are in bags because I'm going to attempt to sell some of them in lots on Craigslist. The rest will just be donated either to my local library or to Purple Heart.

Total items: 105 (!)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dear Stimey—Navi

I may not be prompt about getting around to answering my Dear Stimey questions, but I am thorough. Sorry for taking so long on this, Navi.
Dear Stimey,

I have lots of junk and I know how to organize it/get rid of it, but I've no idea how to find the time to do so. I work full time, have 3 kids, one of whom is autie, and I swear my days off are full of appointments, so things tend to get stuffed out of the way, which means a mess is made if kids explore or if I'm looking for something. I have this bad habit of hiding in the bathroom when I get home.

Oh, and I should also mention that the last time I bought a bunch of locking boxes to keep said kids out of stuff (my autie likes spices and likes to spread them everywhere for example), well 90% of the locking boxes didn't get locked back up and 90% of the stuff didn't end up back in them, because certain members of my family don't realize spending an extra minute or two saves a half hour of cleaning/finding....

I've been asked this first question before, how I find time to declutter when I have so much else to do. And, trust me, Navi and I are in much the same position except I don't work full time. I will answer that question thusly: You find time if it is your priority.

Last February, when I started this blog, I decluttered every single day (with a few exceptions). I always had a list of places to declutter and I made an active effort every day to do so. As the months have worn on, you may have noticed that I no longer declutter every day. Much of that is because I don't have to because I've gotten rid of so much that my situation is less dire. As a result, it is a lower priority and I do less of it.

I'm also going through a busy patch right now, so I don't have as much time to declutter and write about it. As a consequence, I will declutter something without telling you about it. (I know! If a toy gets decluttered without being blogged about, was it really decluttered?) I find it can be easier sometimes to just do a quick sweep of an area without worrying about counting or quantifying or congratulating myself. If you're standing in the kitchen and have three minutes, open a cabinet and see if something can go.

And always, always have an easily accessible box into which you can put your donations. Not having somewhere to put things you're getting rid of is a big psychological barrier. And remember, you can check my resources page to see how to get rid of certain things.

I do agree, however, that sometimes there is just not enough time, even if you really, really want to declutter your home. That is why I decided to declutter only six items a day. It may be difficult to clean out a whole closet, and you won't want to do it on a Thursday night after you get home from work, but you CAN open that closet door and find six things you want to get rid of.

Choose one area that bothers you a lot. Make that your project for the next two weeks. Every day, remove six things from that area and put it in the trash or a donation box or wherever. At the end of the two weeks, set aside an hour to organize. If you find that you still have more decluttering to do, keep that area as your project for the next two weeks. When you're happy with that area, move on to the next one.

With decluttering, slow and steady wins the race.

And when you're hiding in the bathroom, work on the cabinets in there.

Your second question is tougher. I can't tell you how many times I've organized an area only to have members of my family wreck it almost immediately. My Tupperware cabinet is a particular source of trauma for me. I would say to try to make it as easy as possible for the members of your family to put things away where you want them. Maybe labelling shelves would help. Maybe putting the key to the spice box in a hidden but more easily accessible place would help.

Also, don't force them to make too many adjustments all at once. For instance, if I tell Alex that keeping the Tupperware cabinet organized is really important to me and ask him to work with me, then he might be willing to play along. If I ask him to keep every cupboard in the kitchen organized the way I want it, then he might get overwhelmed and not do anything. Let them take some time to get used to doing it your way and once it's a habit, move on to the next thing.

Navi, let me know if any of these tips are helpful or not.

Readers, you're very smart and resourceful. Do you have tips for Navi?

Monday, February 16, 2009

So Long, Dresser!

I tried to sell this thing on Craigslist for a really long time.

Then I found a friend who needed a dresser and now it's no longer taking up space in my garage.

It was a little embarrassing when she found mold on the back of it, but it was a teeny, teeny spot.

Evidently my garage gets humid in the summer.

Total items: 1

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

You Know It's Time to Throw It Out...

...when you put your arm into your sweater and instead of your hand emerging from the hand hole, it comes out of the unraveling elbow portion. When even Stimey is too embarrassed to wear a sweater in public, it needs to go in the trash.

Goodbye, faithful sweater.
You've served me well.

...when it's been stuck in the corner under furniture for so long that it's acquired an entire cat's worth of fur.

Goodbye, pair of gloves.
And an extra.

...whenever you're folding your childrens' clothing. Check to see if there are any pieces that are too small, too stained, or too never-worn to keep.

Goodbye, ten pieces of small clothing.
You shan't be missed.

Total items: 13

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Guess Who Doesn't Have Tiny Kids Anymore?

I'm a little horrified by how dirty this is in the photo. I'm passing it on to a friend and told her it would need to be washed, but I had no idea it needs this much washing. I'm slightly (and by "slightly" I mean "hugely") embarrassed now.

But even dirty items count as items.

In other news, Quinn is delighted with his big boy booster seat.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Paperwork, Paperwork, and more Paperwork

As a parent of an autistic child, I have a lot of paper. I have stacks and stacks of reports, IEPs, evaluations, and notes. Keeping track of these papers is an organizational challenge, and one that many people face in one form or another. Be it medical issues, educational issues, or even work files, it can be difficult to know how to create an accessible, but compact system. This is what works for me.

For a while my stacks and stacks of paper were just that: stacks. Then I found a place to put them. I stored them in one of those ottomans that open up and have storage inside. I called it my Autism Ottoman.

Then I realized that not only do I need to have all the information, I need to have it somewhere that I can access it easily. This is the solution that I have come up with:

What you see here is two and a half years worth of records, research, and paperwork. This has not only made it easy for me to reference things that I need to find, but is also helpful at IEP meetings when I need to find information from a specific evaluation and find it fast in order to make a point.

I have four folders (and about a zillion notebook dividers): One folder holds all reports, evaluations, and IEPs. This is my most important folder, and the one I take with me to all my meetings. Everything is chronological, and each item gets its own labeled divider so I can find it quickly. With this folder in hand, I can find a document to support everything I want to say at an IEP meeting.

Another folder holds information from private therapies. I keep my insurance information in this folder, as well as invoices and receipts from Jack's therapy sessions. Basically anyone I pay to work with me concerning Jack gets a spot in this folder.

The third folder holds research on general autism information, from kinds of therapies and treatments to lists of books I want to read. I also keep notes about people I meet, as well as recommendations that those people give me.

The last folder and the notebook are my communications notebooks. In them, I keep copies of all the communication I have with the school about Jack. I make copies of each page of the communication notebook that comes home each day, as well as emails his teachers and the principal send to me. Whenever someone calls about Jack, I get out my notebook and write down who called, when they called, and I take notes on the conversation.

It is so important to keep your own copies of these records. And it is so important to keep them organized. Otherwise it can be close to impossible to find something when you need it. Initially it will take some time to organize it, and you do have to make sure to occasionally maintain the folders, but I think it saves a lot of time and stress in the long run.