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.