Thursday, November 18, 2010

Getting Rid of My Therapy Bag OR Cleaning Up Handheld Video Game Clutter

I had to put that second title up there, because that thing about the therapy bag is misleading. I had a bag that I used to refer to as my therapy bag, not because it had anything therapeutic in it, but because I would take it with me when we took Jack to speech or occupational therapy. In it, was my stash of handheld video games and accessories.

I have an embarrassing number of handheld video games that I have acquired through my review activities, and let me tell you, they have made life in waiting rooms far more tolerable. I would take the bag with the game systems, the games, and extra batteries so my kids could rummage through and find what they wanted each day.

I haven't used the bag recently because my kids are far more into their Nintendo DSi systems, which are smaller (can go in my own bag), are rechargeable (no batteries to haul around), and have tiny games (see: can go in my own bag).
Then, even more recently, I've stopped carrying around any video games because I think they're getting too reliant on them and I believe that they have to learn to conduct themselves with dignity in a waiting room even if they don't have something to distract them. Plus, they're older and easier to keep in control AND they have homework a lot of the time, which keeps them busy in waiting rooms (which the poor guys deal with at least three times a week).

All of this is to say that it was time for me to take a look at what was inside that therapy bag. I was pretty lax about the bag and didn't worry about extra clutter, but now that I was making the decision to repurpose the bag itself and relocate its contents, what was inside it suddenly made a difference.

What I did was to take the game systems and put them in the box in my kitchen that holds lunchboxes and reusable cups. That way we know where they are, they're not somewhere my kids can sneak away and play them without permission, and they're easy to grab on the way out of the house if we decide to take them somewhere.

The games themselves can be a little tough to deal with because (a) they're small and easy to lose, and (b) should you carry extras with you in case your child changes his mind about what he wants to play?

This is why I used to carry a therapy bag—so I had everything, just in case.

I solved this problem for the DS games by repurposing this little container I found. I think it originally held M&Ms. Weird, I know.

But, more perfect, it could not be!

I put the rest of the games and the recharging cord in a plastic container and put it with the game systems.

This left me with a fair amount of detritus in the therapy bag. Some was just assorted trash of the kind that ends up in bags that get carted around. I found a little box of crayons, scissors, and glue that I carried around so Sam could do his homework when he was in kindergarten. And I found stuff I could get rid of.

DS video game boxes are useless. They're 900 times larger than the game itself, so you don't want to drag them around, plus, unlike DVD or CD cases, they can't be reused for something else. Gone. I also found a little velvet bag that used to hold a gift card. I kept it because a little velvet bag has to be good for something, right? It turns out that, no, it's not. Gone. Plus, there is a walkie talkie that doesn't have a mate. Gone.

Oh! Also, I gave away our Hannah Montana Didj game to a friend of ours, because she will get a lot more use out of it than my children will.

Total items: 7

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Spice Purge

I was listening to the radio the other day and there was a guest on the Kojo Nnamdi Show talking about spices. She said that you should get rid of your spices if they don't have an aroma anymore because that means they are dead and no longer flavorful.

I was excited because I have A LOT of spices, many of which I have had for a long time. I was envisioning getting rid of many little jars and possible consolidating my four spice racks into two. Surely I don't use that many spices, right?

I spent a substantial amount of time one day not too long ago smelling all my spices. One odor-induced splitting headache later, I still had most of my spices in front of me. I did decide that, even if they still smelled, a few of them were too old to keep, so I got rid of those. But most of them I kept.

I did organize them though.

Salts, peppers, and toothpicks.

Near: Herbs. Far: Garlic/onion powders, plus spices in short jars.

 The rest of my spices. And a guest gerbil.

Not quite what I was hoping for in terms of volume, but I'm okay with it for now.

Here's what I ended up getting rid of:

Eleven spices.

The cool thing about this decluttering project is that it let me use Freecycle again, which I find fascinating every single time I do. Remember the time I gave away syringes on Freecycle?

I posted that I had six glass spice jars to give away and within an hour, I had two people offering to come pick them up. They were gone by the time I went to bed. One (wo)man's trash...

Total items: 11

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Collateral Decluttering

The other day when I was cleaning out my wicker tote bag chest, I came across a few other things in the vicinity that I decided to declutter while I was at it. It's kind of like collateral damage, only in a good way.

Quinn has been wearing a gray sweatshirt for what feels like years. I finally got rid of it. A couple of weeks ago, I also got rid of his most beloved NASA fleece sweatshirt that he has been wearing for many years, so I will count that too. That one I gave to a friend.

I was very happy to be able to convince Quinn that a new, larger sweatshirt might be just the thing for him. It's bright blue and he loves it. Although today he wore Jack's camo sweatshirt because he was wearing camo pants and he spent a big chunk of the morning trying to convince us all that he was invisible because of it, which is the exact same thing Sarah's kid did a couple of weeks ago. I am highly amused by the insanity of small children.

I also found these three pairs of shoes that Quinn grew out of.

Total items: 5

Friday, November 12, 2010

When Useful Things Turn Clutter: Tote Bags

Remember a few years ago when everyone started using reusable bags instead of plastic bags? Awesome, right? No more paper or plastic, thank you very much, I have my own! My family has collected a huge number of reusable bags and totes in the past couple of years. We even use reusable produce bags that I bought for Alex after Swistle bought some for her husband.

I do lots of things that other people do first.

Anywho. In those past few years, I have attended many events at which items are handed out. At such events, it is typical that things are handed out in a reusable tote bag with a brand name on the outside, because who wants to be the asshole giving away swag in a plastic grocery sack? No one, that's who.

Consequently, I have dozens of tote bags in a variety of sizes and designs. In the past I have been loathe to get rid of them, because of this axiom: Tote bags are USEFUL. It's true. They are.

But here's the thing. No one will EVER have a use for this many bags:


That photo doesn't include the bags we use for grocery shopping either.

My tote bags were living in a wicker chest in my dining room and their bulk was making it so I couldn't use the chest for anything else. The other day I went through and took out the weird shaped bags, the ones I don't and will probably never use, and the brands I hate (Staples, I'm talking to you).

I kept a good number of bags, because, hello? Tote bags are USEFUL. But I got rid of 16 of them.

It's hard to look at all the wasted USEFULNESS.

I probably kept too many, but I wasn't ready to get rid of bags I like yet. Regardless, I was able to consolidate them into half of the chest, with sports equipment on the other side, with room for our outside garbage bags as well!

Looks pretty good, huh?

While I still do have too many, I do believe that there is value in having different sizes of tote bags made out of different materials, because there are a variety of things in this world to carry and one bag does not fit all.

Total items: 16

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

That Time of Year Again & A Pledge

Twice a year I switch out my kids' clothes so they don't head off to school in shorts in November. I finally got around to taking those shorts out of their drawers yesterday, and just in time too, because it's really cold today. Of course, Sam dug some shorts out of the dirty clothes hamper. I can't forget to grab those clothes too.

I am always surprised by how many clothes my kids have—and by how much they grow in just a few months. There were many 4T pieces of clothing in the winter box that my kids will never be able to squeeze into again.

It was just hard to get rid of some of them. There was a lot of beloved clothing in this batch.

There were also these:

Those are the bottom half of pants that can be changed into shorts. Once those leg bits were zipped off the first time, I don't think they were ever put back on. Hard as I looked, I couldn't find the pants they went with. I finally threw them away.

It's always interesting to me to see which one of my kids ends up with the most clothes in his drawer after I readjust ownership for size and who will agree to wear what. Jack wins this season, with more shirts and pants than anyone else.

I have exactly 50 pieces of clothing that I am donating. Fifty. That's a lot of clothes. It's a little shocking actually.

I don't want to be able to donate this many clothes next time. I am here to pledge, right now, that I will not purchase any more clothes for my kids this winter. They have plenty. All of them have plenty.

I am also here to say, right now, that, Mom, you are not allowed to buy clothes for my kids for Christmas either. They have so much. I'm sorry.

Total items: 50 articles of clothing + 1 set of leg holes.