Thursday, December 23, 2010

More Time in the Secret Closet

I've gotten comments here before that suggest that it is impressive that I still have things to declutter. I call it less impressive and more embarrassing. See, the thing about clutter is that it is a constant fight against entropy to keep the clutter away. To prove this, I offer up the example of my secret closet, which is what I call the closet in which I keep gift wrapping supplies, gifts I plan to give to people, and assorted other crap.

I have decluttered that stupid closet more times than I can count.

Okay, that's a lie. I can count. It's three. Here you go:

1. Closet Clutter, Day One

2. How I Celebrated National Decluttering Day and The Spoils of the Closet

3. The Secret Closet Reprise

And now I'm about to offer up decluttering number four: The Secret Closet Re-reprise.

I got rid of all the things I usually do. I got rid of old receipts for gifts that I gave away a long time ago, I tossed old bits of crumpled wrapping paper and short lengths of ribbons that will never be useful for wrapping a gift. I took a bunch of old bags and art supplies and threw them into the far back of the closet. That is a project for another day.

But this is not a cleaning blog. (God forbid.) This is a decluttering blog. So let me tell you what I decluttered.

I found this magazine rack in there. It is full of old puzzle books that I bought in bulk at one point long ago. For many of these books I have done all the fun puzzles and left the rest for later. Guess what? Later's not coming.

Nineteen books recycled.

Probably the biggest change that I made in the closet was cleaning out the boxes I have in there. I used to keep a lot of boxes there in case I needed one to mail something. In some of the past declutterings of these closets, I've recycled some of these boxes. This go-round, I recycled* all of them, with the exception of three or four shoeboxes in case we need to make a diorama.

I didn't count the big boxes I got rid of, but there is substantially more space there now.

In the past, when I've been getting rid of boxes, I refused to even think of getting rid of the selection of small boxes and bags that I kept for little gifts. I haven't used any of those boxes and bags in probably four years.

 TWENTY-SEVEN small boxes recycled;
9 small bags (and another tote bag) donated.

What else did I find in there that I had been keeping for stupid reasons? Well, this box of half-used Valentines probably qualifies.

Because my kids are likely to remember they exist and then want to use them.

The secret closet is also a repository for leftovers from party favors and whatnot. I tend to buy party favors from Oriental Trading**, which is great because they are cheap and awesome, but I always end up with more than I need.

Some things I can use for other gifts or for add-ons to other gifts, but nearly everything in the closet currently has reached the end of its usefulness for the Stimey household.

Whistles and medals I'll keep; wristbands and tiny bags, I'll donate.

I was also going to give this little stack of notebooks to somebody who was at my house just a couple of days ago, but I forgot. Dammit.

I've been putting these toys in stockings, party goody bags, and whatever else I can think of for years. I'm tired of it.


It was actually completely astounding to me how many leftover party supplies I had in there.

I also found a few other assorted items to donate and organized my stash of things that I have on hand to give as gifts in cases of emergency. It was actually really good to go through all that stuff. I found some things that I didn't even remember that I had, including at least one that I hadn't given but that was still wrapped and I didn't know what was in it.

I also discovered that I will likely not need to purchase any gift tags in my lifetime.

All told, I eliminated 156 items from that closet, and that doesn't include large boxes and some insignificant-ish items I decided not to count.

I'll be sure to let you know the next time I declutter the closet.

* I should probably make clear that I didn't actually recycle the boxes, but I made Alex do it. He's such a good sport.

It's also not really my fault that every time I post a photo of Alex,
he's making a weird face in it. It's like I pull out my camera
and his face does that automatically.

** If you've never read my post about the Oriental Trading piƱata I got for Jack's birthday a couple of years ago, you should. It's one of my favorites.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Organization Begets Cleanliness

This is not so much a post about decluttering as a post about organization and me patting myself on the back for something I'm really proud of.

Namely, I created the perfect home for all our board games. We have a pretty good number of games and they've ended up strewn all over my kids' rooms. Because they didn't have a good home, sometimes boxes would get squooshed or pieces would fall out and get lost.

I decided that because Sam uses drawers in which to store his clothes, we would make the closet in his room our game closet. But first, we had to deal with how to arrange the room. His room is very small and has two doors, a giant shelf that covers one entire wall, a closet, and window. It is a challenge to find a place to put Sam's full bed without blocking a door, yet still leaving enough room for Sam to be able to sit or play on his floor.

The best option is to put the bed where it blocks part of the closet door, but then the closet was going to be unusable. Until, that is, Canape came over to my house and suggested that we take the door off and put a curtain there instead.

She blew my mind.


Then I made Alex build shelves. Inside that door, the closet stretches probably another foot to the left. There is so much space in there now. I love it.

Super voila!

My kids love it too. They have played more games in the past two days than in the past month. AND, after they play a game, they PUT IT AWAY. With ALL its pieces.


The moral of this story is that if there is an easy, clearly marked home for things, it is far more likely that they are going to be put away and taken care of.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Now I Have to Declutter Stuff I Didn't Want in the First Place

I do a lot of shopping with Amazon and they do a great job. Occasionally, however, they fuck up. For instance, one day last week I came home to find a giant box from them. Thinking I knew what was inside it (a gift for a family member), I opened the box and pulled out...a tire?

Seeing as how I don't own an adult-size bike, it seems highly unlikely that I would have ordered an adult-size bike tire. After a little investigating (read: "actually looking at the packing slip"), I noticed that a packing slip for an item (that came in a different box) was taped to the packing slip for some woman named Virginia, who lives in Kentucky.

After a big sigh, because I knew that I had to contact Amazon because I wanted Virginia to get her bike tire, I emailed them to tell them. They almost immediately sent back an email telling me thanks, that I wasn't charged for the tire, and that if I mailed the tire back to them, they would reimburse me for my shipping costs.

Doesn't that sound like all kinds of fun?

Of course, I wrote back:

Here's the thing. I'm not super excited about dragging that giant box to the post office in the middle of December and spending the money to return and then waiting for reimbursement. Especially because it's a bigger-than-standard box. Is there a way for you to arrange a pick up from my porch?
Much as I expected, they wrote back again almost immediately to tell me that I don't actually have to return the tire (mental note: ALWAYS be the squeaky wheel), and that I can dispose of it at my leisure.

So, here's the thing: Does anyone local need a bike tire? You would need to pick it up because I think I mentioned that I don't plan on taking it to the post office. Here is a photo of the tag in case you need more specifics:

If no one wants it, I'll Freecycle it.

Total items: One.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Spare Key

I know you have them. I have them too. Everybody has a plethora of orphan keys stashed in various places around their houses. These are one of the hardest things to get rid of.

See, if you don't know what lock a key belongs to, chances are you don't need the key. But IF there comes a time when you realize that you need that key? You really need that key. Or you need a hundred bucks to give to a locksmith.

It takes guts to throw away spare keys. Even (especially?) if they're weird little ones.

This key has lived in a bowl on my desk for years. I'm nutting up and throwing it away.

Yay, me.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Old Snacks

Over the past couple of weeks, I cleaned and organized my TV room. I made a lot of improvements to the space in that room without necessarily getting rid of a lot of stuff. When I cleaned out my snack cabinet the other day, I did exactly the opposite: I threw out a lot of stuff, but didn't make a big change in the way the cabinet looked.

My snack cabinet (sort of self-explanatory, really) is where my kids know to look when they want a quick snack. I keep goldfish crackers, pretzels, and the like there. I actually need to revisit whether that is a good use for the cabinet, as the things I keep there could probably be consolidated with other foods and live elsewhere, thus freeing up a whole cabinet worth of space.

Regardless, this is the cabinet when I started:

It's not bad, but it was time for me to look at how long some of that food had been in there. This is something I recommend you do regularly for all of your cabinets.

In my case, I found a few things that were distressing.

The happy goldfish wasn't distressing, but the pretzels that I can't remember putting in there are. I kept the goldfish and threw away the pretzels. We don't use the goldfish very often but they are so darn cute. I'm just not ready to discard them.

I also found a bunch of cookies.

 I'm a little embarrassed to tell you that I bought those cookies at Ikea two Christmases ago. Here's the thing. I thought they were butter cookies with jam on top. Turns out they were vanilla sandwich cookies with jam on top. They were substantially less delicious than I'd hoped. I gave some away with Christmas gifts that year and ate a few, but I just couldn't get past my disappointment.

When I can't eat a bunch of cookies, you know they're not very good.

I also found a veritable treasure trove of raisins. My kids don't eat them very often, although they will occasionally go a a raisin jag, causing me to buy a bunch of them, only to watch them turn into tiny little shriveled rocks.

There was also a goldfish container with no top, which I got rid of, and a bag of rock hard gummy bears. Delish!

Here is my finished product:

It's not a whole lot more decluttered, but it is definitely an improvement on the edible foods front. Also, do you see what I mean about the wasted space? I need to do some thinking about eliminating the snack cabinet completely.

Total items: 11

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Great TV Room Declutter: The Video Game Edition

My family and I are gamers. We love video games and over the years have collected many, many, many of them. A long time ago, I moved all of our game discs into a CD folder so we don't have a billion cases hanging around in the TV room. Actually getting rid of those cases is another story in another room, and one I hope to get to before too long, but for now, the discs are contained in a small space.

I do, however, keep all of the instructions to the games.

They were all in a stack next to my TV when I was cleaning out the room. When I was dusting a thick layer of dust off of them, it occurred to me that I hadn't picked any of them up for months. I asked Alex what he would do if he had a question about a video game we had. Would he seek out the manual or just go online to find an answer?

He said he'd go to the internet, and frankly, I would too.

It seemed a little wrong to recycle all of these, but considering we don't resell our video games, we really don't need them. Now, I agree that keeping the instructions for a new game is okay for a while, but once you get the hang of it, they're not all that necessary.

All told, I got rid of 35 instruction booklets.

I was also able to get rid of my Netflix streaming disc for my Wii because you don't need the disc anymore to watch Netflix movies through the Wii. (Disclosure: I am a Nintendo Brand Enthusiast, although I pay for Netflix myself, blah-de-blah-de-blah.)

We also had a PS2 from back in the day. Probably about a year ago it stopped working. Judging by the layer of dust on the controllers there, it didn't get used a lot even when it did work. The PS2 is going to the electronics graveyard at the dump and the controllers are going to the donation bin.

Next, I just have to dig out all of my PS2 discs and get rid of them as well.

Total items: 40

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Great TV Room Declutter: The Neighborhood of the Desk Edition

After I cleaned out the closet in my TV room, I moved on to cleaning off my desk and the containers around the desk. I started with rearranging a bunch of things on my desk to make it easier to keep clean. I didn't get rid of very much on my desk, but I did streamline it a little.

It looks pretty, huh?

The things that did require decluttering, however, were the various containers on the floor near the desk. 

For instance, I had a bag of swag that I hadn't gone through after BlogHer. It was sitting in a bag right next to my desk. The reason that stuff was sitting in a bag next to my desk is because they were things I just didn't know what to do with and I kept putting off going through the bag. Finally I decided that if I didn't go through it, I should just put the whole bag in my donation area.

I went through the bag, found the things I wanted to keep and put them away. Then I gave some of the items to my mother in law, who happened to be visiting, and put the rest in my donation bin. Voila! Easy peasy. Twenty items and the bag they were held in—gone!

I was feeling pretty proud of myself until I saw a magazine file that I had stashed on the floor behind my desk and forgotten about. Hmmm.

The first thing I noticed was a packet of tickets for a babysitting co-op I hadn't belonged to for more than a year. I found a couple of other folders full of archaic things. Like a folder with fliers for things to do in my town. I put that folder together when I moved into this house.

Six years ago.

Clearly that folder has not been a great deal of help to me, seeing as how I forgot that it existed.

I also found my dog's frequent grooming card, which shows that she was last groomed in...2003. So it's not quite up to date then.

We are going to earn that free grooming any day now!

I also found this:

I know. You're confused. Here's what that is. I like to read books, but for the past several years, I have not had as much of a chance to read as I would like. During that time I would read a book review for a book I wanted to read and I would rip it out and put it in this folder so that when the day came when I had time to read all the books I wanted, I wouldn't be stuck without knowing what to read.

Very clearly, this needs to go. It was a little hard to let go of it because each piece of paper there represents a book I want to read—information or words I want to absorb. But seriously, I can't keep all those pieces of paper. I could put all the titles in a document and just keep the document, but c'mon. It pained me, but I recycled all of it.

Honestly, people, it's steps like this that are going to keep me off of season 15 of Hoarders once my kids go off to college.

Of everything in that magazine file, the only thing I kept were assembly instructions for my treadmill, and I put those in my instructions and warranties drawer.

Not bad.

I'm calling this four items, but that little file represents a lot more than four items. It represents the essence of the Junk Pyramid and my decluttering efforts.

Up next: My video game area.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Great TV Room Declutter: Closet Edition

I spent Thanksgiving weekend cleaning, organizing, and decluttering my TV room. My family spends a lot of time in there and my computer desk and videography closet is in there, along with our DVDs and video games, so there is naturally a large amount of clutter present.

I managed to declutter the whole room except for the desk and small table drawers. There are 12 of those. I'll deal with them later. (Sigh.)

I started in the TV room by working on my closet in the corner where I keep my videography equipment and supplies, as well as other assorted things. The interesting thing about the closet is that I didn't actually get rid of very much. In this case, it was a simple matter of reorganization that made a huge difference.

I don't know if you can tell because it's really awkward to photograph that closet, but there's quite a difference in there. That shelf on the left actually has a nearly empty cubby now, which is quite different from what was going on in there before.


Here is everything I discarded from the closet.

5 items.

Those DVD spindles seem like they would be so useful, so I have a hard time getting rid of them, but I really only need one extra and I have one of those in my desk. I also found a remote that is affiliated with a DVD player than no longer exists.

If you're a long-time reader of Stimeyland, you might recognize the photo from my old blog cards (in the plastic bag), which used to be the header over there. The other side of those cards has information for this fabulous blog. Ah, remember a time when I only had two blogs?

The other improvement I made in the closet area was to shift around an old computer that used to be on the floor in the corner. It rarely gets used, so it doesn't have to be accessible, but it does have to live in a way that doesn't prohibit its use, because it does get pulled out occasionally.

My solution was to pull out the little caddy that my printer lives on and shove the computer behind it. The flat monitor lives next to the caddy now. A special bonus feature is that now there is room to open the closet door ALL THE WAY! Imagine that.

There is also a spot for small children to hide.

I am so much happier with my closet/corner area now. It's so much neater, AND it's easier to reach my printer. Win win.

Next up: My desk.