Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It all adds up.

I've noticed that when I get overwhelmed by my clutter, it helps to focus on something really small.  It can usually get cleaned (fairly) quickly, and serves as a helpful tangible example of a completed task.

What I forget sometimes is that those little things aren't just compromises -- just because they are small doesn't mean I'm cheating by not attacking the big picture.  Those small jobs all add up to BE the big picture.  And each and every one of those small tasks can actually make a big difference, too.

Here's an example.  I love pencils.  For some reason I seem to write more neatly with pencils -- and I also love that they can have images/ads/etc. on them that I like (vintage brands, cute logos, whatever).  The downside to pencils is that they need sharpening, though!  I tend to get lazy about this and put the dull ones back in the pencil holder and so the next time I come along I have to pick through to find the one (or two) that is actually sharp enough to use.

(can you guess where I'm going, here?)

So today I actually SHARPENED those darn things.  I know -- a 4- minute task that a even a child can do.  But for some reason I kept putting it off....but now I have a handful of sharpened pencils and a whole LOT of satisfaction.  Small task, big reward.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hands off.

I have heard on lots of organizing blogs and shows to only handle something once.  When you are decluttering, pick up an object and make a decision right then and there about what to do with it.  Don't put it back where you found it without finding a home, making a choice to get rid of it, etc.

I can be really, really good at this and really, really bad at this.  For instance, sometimes items just need to be returned to their homes.  Easy peasy.  Other times it's a fairly easy choice to let something go.  Or maybe I just need to clean out a drawer or something so that the item can be housed with like items.  No problem, right?

But THEN there are the sticky ones.  The "pretty" thing I bought that has no use (remember the brown and turquoise bin?  Yep.)?  The gift I'm not sure what do do with?  The item that needs to have something done to/with it before I'm finished with it?  You know where I'm going with this.  These are the ones I pick up and then frantically wish for the phone to ring so I have an excuse to put it back down again.

Here's an example.  I bought this adorable chalkboard from an etsy seller and it needs to be hung.  Problem is, I bought it without following my rule of knowing AHEAD of time where it will go/how it will be used.  So here it sits, completely unappreciated.  I need to find a place for this this week and get it on the wall/fridge/wherever so I can actually enjoy it.

I am not always a success at this particular strategy.  But I do think it's a good one!  And I also think it works best when I only do a few sticky items at a time.  I tend to make better choices and actually follow through.  I'll let you know how it goes.....

Friday, May 13, 2011

Farewell Friday: Another purse

On Fridays I say farewell to something that left my house during the week.  Here's today's Farewell Friday item....

Last week I got serious about purses. 

Ok, that sounds really dumb.  But I did!  I looked at every single one and tried to be honest about whether I've a) ever used it and b) if I ever would.  Some of them didn't make the cut -- and I got rid of a bunch.  The removal process continues!  I pulled out a couple more that are on their way out the door for the garage sale (it's this weekend, by the way).  I do find that once the clutter-removal ball gets rolling, it's easier to say goodbye to more things.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Clothes do not make the (wo)man.

I have been cleaning out my closet, one section at a time (it's fitted with dividers/shelves -- done by the previous owner and I admit they are very handy).  I am trying to be RUTHLESS -- which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't -- but am still very successful in my clear-out.  I admit it helps that my sister often likes to have my hand-me-downs -- it's much more fun to get rid of things when someone else is excited about getting new stuff!  So tonight I cleared out my hanging skirts/pants.  Not only did I find about 6 things with the tags still on (YIKES), I found things that were about 5 sizes too small, and things that were dusty (yes, you read that right) from hanging up so long undisturbed.  If that doesn't send a clutter message, nothing does!

I finally made a decision to get rid of anything that was two sizes or more too small.  Even though most of my clothes are black and classic-cut (meaning they don't really go out of style) I do think that if I lost that much weight I would want to celebrate with some NEW things.  I did allow myself to keep things that were one size down, as that (to me) is a more tangible goal.  I put them in a chest under my bed, though.....seeing clothes I can't fit into everyday is actually not a motivator for me.  Instead, it just makes me feel bad.  Who needs that angst every morning?  Eventually I will have a closet filled with only clothes I can fit into and like. 

I got rid of a bunch of shoes, too!
I feel really good about the big stack of pants, skirts and dresses that is headed to my sister's house, and am ok with the small stack of items that I put aside for a possibly-smaller me.  And I feel even better about seeing more empty space on the hanging rods and shelves, and being able to see what I have instead of frantically digging every morning!  I'm thinking that by the end of the Spring I should have the whole closet done.  I'll let you know!!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Can't see the trees for the forest.

I spent the entire day working on clutter yesterday (NOTE:  this is very different from cleaning -- vacuuming, dusting, etc. --- this was working on clutter items only).  I also took care of a lot of loose ends that have been dangling over my head for a while (read:  stressful!).  I went to bed feeling so productive and happy (yes, I am a dork).

Then this morning I woke up and the house looked awful!  No, a bunch of gremlins didn't trash the place overnight.  It didn't look like I'd done anything at all yesterday!  I guess all of that decluttering didn't actually make the house look different....on the outside, at least.  Some cabinets were clearer, some projects no longer on kitchen counters, things like that.  And, in some cases, I think I made more of a mess by pulling things out that had been packed away in the back of a box somewhere.

I will admit it was a little discouraging -- but I know I did some good work and I'll keep going at it.

Has this ever happened to you?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Keep on rolling.

It is SPRING here in NY!  So I ventured outside, with my ghostly indoor pallor, and checked out the car.  It's a MESS -- salt all over the floor mats, rocks from my (lovely -- I mean ICKY) gravel driveway filling every crevice, and random items all over the seats.  I pulled out my mini shop vac (love. this.) and some cleaning wipes (I know, not necessary but they make me like the job a little more) and got to work.  I vacuumed the whole car, wiped down every hard surface, and even cleaned the inside glass.  I got rid of:

-about 239478239847 paper napkins (don't worry, these will get used)
-a copy-paper box of items that belonged somewhere ELSE
-a beach towel that had been lounging around on the back seat (why?  what did it want from me?)

and I reorganized:

-put back together the tote of shopping bags and a quilt (I keep one in the car to protect/cover/pad things)
-collected a bag of items that were supposed to go to my office but I kept forgetting to take them inside with me
-put some winter items (like a snow scraper) back in the garage for the season

I rewarded myself with a little ladybug car freshener (not really necessary but awfully cute) and a big pat on the back.  My next-door neighbor asked how much I charge, so apparently Amy's Detailing Service is pretty good (when it's in business, that is)!

Forgot to take photos, but just picture a sparkling clean Jaguar and you've got the idea (let's just pretend I own a Jaguar, shall we?)....

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Farewell Monday and a Giveaway!

(I know, it's supposed to be Farewell Friday, but whatever...)

This weekend I hunkered down and got a lot of decluttering done.  It feels really, really good -- and my house is looking better for it, too.

One project was my closet.  I tried to be ruthless and get rid of some handbags that I just don't use.  Some (two) were actually UNUSED which kills me.  Impulse buying is a horrible thing!  I'm working on it -- and not having two pointing-finger-guilty-conscience handbags lying around will ease the pain a little.

That's where the giveaway comes in - maybe one of you could use a new bag!  I'd love to pass along one of these babies to one of you -- not only as a thank you for joining me on my clutter journey, but as a fun recycling venture!  Pictures are below -- if you're interested in having one, post here with the name of the bag!  I'll draw a random name on Friday, May 6 (12 noon EST) and will contact the winner for shipping information.  Please be sure your post includes your email somewhere, so I can contact you!  I will ship anywhere in the world.

(p.s. -- I live in a smoke-free home but not a pet-free one -- just an FYI.)

I like nights on the town, candlelight dinners, and Broadway shows.

 Hey, y'all -  I'm a casual gal, who likes bike rides, picnics and hiking. 

I may not be the real thing, but I still know how to have a good time. 

I love long walks in the park, romantic poetry, and a little jazz.

Have a good week!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Farewell Friday: Pant-astic.

On Fridays I say farewell to something that left my house during the week.  Here's today's Farewell Friday item....

I bought a few new pairs of Summer pants this week.  I decided that if new pants were coming in, old pants had to go -- and I stuck to my goal!  I tried on every pair of Summer pants (and organized the drawer, while I was at it) and got rid of several pairs.  The ones I got rid of either didn't fit or were simply pants that I didn't like.  They fit but didn't look good or make me feel good.  So out they go -- and they are in great condition (wish I hadn't spent the money) so they will make a thrift store shopper very happy!

Do pictures of pants become more interesting when you use cool filters?  Not really.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Letter go.

How long do you keep letters and cards?  I don't get nearly as many as I used to (thanks to e-mail -- not sure if this is a good or bad thing....or both) but I still get a fair amount, especially cards and handwritten thank you notes.

A loooooooong time ago I read in a Martha Stewart magazine (I wish I had kept the clipping, alas) that she recommends saving only truly special letters.  For example, if you have 24 birthday cards saved from your grandmother, maybe just keep the 5 that she actually wrote a special note in (and get rid of the others that just have a signature). Those 5 notes are a wonderful representation of her correspondence with you, and doesn't get buried in the pile of cards that don't have that same kind of meaning.

I used to save EVERY SINGLE LETTER I ever got.  Every one.  This sounds so corny, but good old Martha's advice really worked for me!  I realized that not only was such a huge collection of letters a hindrance to ever actually looking at them but it was also not a special collection in any way.  From then on I would open a letter/card/note and if it had something special about it I'd save it in my letter box.  The rest I'd enjoy for a week or so (longer for Christmas cards) and then they'd get tossed.

What do you do with your cards and letters?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Organizer bins are not always evil.

I am not a big fan of organizer bins (for myself, that is).  I have a tendency to put a million things in them, put them "away" and then they and their contents are never seen again.  Only a very special few have functioned well in my house.  Here's an example of a Bin Success Story.

Before, under my sink was a hot mess (I love it when Niecy Nash used to say that that on Clean House):

I ventured into this scary place and found:
  • 3 bottles of lotion with about 1 inch of lotion at the bottom
  • 2 aerosol cans of deodorant (only one works)
  • about 10 hair products that didn't work for me but apparently were worth saving for years on end in my bathroom cabinet
  • some expensive salon conditioner that I thought had been used up ages ago
I put the daily-use items in a bin, pulled a few hair products to give away, and put the lotions on my countertop so they will be used up this week.  The cabinet still isn't pretty, but is a lot more functional now:

I also put everything in an organizer bin that has a handle so I can slide it out in the morning when I'm getting ready.  No more fishing around looking for things in the dark depths.

We'll see if this bin makes the cut.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Farewell Friday: Postcards

 On Fridays I say farewell to something that left my house during the week.  Here's today's Farewell Friday item....

I love all things New York City.  Especially vintage New York City.  So when I ordered a tote bag (have you seen the Strand bookstore's tote bags?  Perfection.  Awesome-ness in the form of a bag.  I own waaaaaaaay too many) and got this book of postcards for free with my order, I was pretty enthused.

But is a book of postcards the most useful thing?  Once you've flipped through it a couple of times you've kind of finished "reading" it.  You don't really want to rip some out and mail them (first, I usually send postcards from a place I'm actually AT, and second, I don't want to ruin the poor little book!) and so it sits in its virgin state, gathering dust.

I finally was able to pull off this particular piece of Velcro Clutter and it's going into my garage sale (held in May -- so it's not going to be in the house too long) bin.

Goodbye, postcards!  To know you was to love you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Git-r-done (pronounced git-ter-dun), for those of you who may not be familiar with weird-o American slang, is a funny way of saying "get it done" (why does explaining something funny suddenly make it sound dumb?).  Hmm.  Anyway.....tonight I FINALLY did a task that has honestly been gathering dust on my kitchen counter for at least 6 months.  Finally!  It's done!  Going to the post office tomorrow!  Git-r-done!  And it feels awesome.

I wish I hadn't been such a horrible procrastinator, but it is great to finally start crossing some really old items off of my list (this was so old it wasn't even ON any lists anymore).  Maybe this momentum will last, and I can git-more-dun (that doesn't work, does it?).

Off to slay the clutter dragons!

Monday, April 18, 2011

I heart Freecycle.

Have you heard of Freecycle? It's a network (organized by geographic area) that allows people to post items to give away (for free -- never for sale/profit) or to ask for items they need. I love using it -- sometimes those weirdo items that I know won't sell at my garage sale or get picked up at the thrift shop can find their way into just the right homes (and you know I'm nutso about having my things go to "good" homes). Besides -- it's free!

I've gotten rid of a lot of items via Freecycle. My favorite part are the "wants" which I read faithfully, hoping that one of my sacred clutter items could be loved by someone else. Once someone posted that he needed a specific kind of kitchen stool and he posted a photo. I had EXACTLY that stool in my closet where it had sat, untouched (except by dust) for 5 whole years. I know this because I put it there when I moved to this house and haven't used it since. I don't know why, but I couldn't bear to part with it but as soon as I knew someone needed it it went!

If you are having trouble getting rid of unusual/random/strangely specific items, try Freecycle! Be safe, though -- remember that it's a public forum and not everyone on there is a Boy Scout.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Farewell Friday: The Tin

On Fridays I say farewell to something that left my house during the week.  Here's today's Farewell Friday item....

I have this thing for tins.  Even tins that aren't pretty!  There's one in my kitchen that I LOVE (I mean I seriously smile whenever I look at it - I will write about it soon).  There are some recipe tins scattered throughout the house.  And some decorative ones that hold spare change in the living room.  they are awesome.

But sometimes a tin just has to go.  This one came with some makeup I recently bought:

And even though it's clean/useful/etc. I am letting it go!  Farewell, tin!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wrap it up.

I live in an old house which, strangely enough, has LOTS of closets (I know lots of old houses don't have nearly enough). 

This is great, because I have lots of storage space. 

This is bad, because I have lots of storage space. 

You get it. Anyway, in one of my closets I've got a bookshelf that holds wrapping paper/bows/gift tags/etc.  It is a scary place:

When I need to wrap a present I sometimes buy NEW PAPER because that closet it so hard to get to.  I know, this is not something to be proud of (and believe me, I'm not).  Today I whipped it into shape.

What do you think?

I found some awesome tissue paper that I didn't even remember buying, some great bows (foil -- very pretty) and some adorable gift bags that will be perfect at Christmastime.  And the best part?  That turquoise and brown felt bin FINALLY found a home.  And it's actually exactly the right thing!  Perfect size, the handle makes it easy to slide in and out, and it stores tissue paper without damaging it (and vice versa).  Ahh.  Feels good.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Going to a better place.

I have a lot of clutter that I simply must absolutely keep because they are of Vital Importance.  You know what I mean; I'm sure you have some of these items as well.  And then suddenly, when someone comes along who can use and enjoy these items, they fly out the door.  I guess I just need to be absolutely certain they have a good home until I can release them (remember the bear?).

This happened to me this weekend.  I upgraded a small TV/VCR combo to a TV/DVD combo.  The old one still works (a few quirks but lots of life in it) and I found a friend who wants to have it.  Awesome! 

A few months ago I was decluttering my TV cabinet and found a bunch of VHS tapes that I just couldn't bear to part with (because, you know, My Cousin Vinny is a classic that I was sure to pass on to future generations).  Now that I'm giving this TV/VCR to a friend, suddenly a bunch of these VHS tapes are eminently let-go-able!  I guess that knowing someone will watch these and actually enjoy them (I still have a VCR but never use it) makes it easier to let them go.  Even the ones that I was certain I'd NEVER EVER get rid of (again, you know the feeling, right?) were easy to add to the bag since I knew they were going to someone who not only wanted them but was looking forward to getting them.

I have a sneaking suspicion a few more tapes will join these later today, too.......

Friday, April 8, 2011

Farewell Friday: The Green Bag

Hear ye!  Hear ye!  I have officially designated Fridays to be "Farewell Fridays" so we can celebrate the clutter that has been banished from the land.  I realized that I don't always show you guys what I actually get rid of and that is one of my favorite parts of the clutter blogs I love to read!

Here's our first Farewell Friday item:

I bought this purse at a local discount store and LOVED IT ON SIGHT.  Apple green (the picture doesn't do it justice), patent "leather," awesome. Unfortunately, one can't really test drive a purse until you have it home/filled/carry it for a week.....and so I sadly learned that even though this is the Cutest Bag in the World it really is hard to use (something about the long zipper -- hard to get stuff in/out).  Off to eBay land it goes.

What did you say farewell to this week?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Got five minutes to kill? Clean the toilet.

Once I was talking to my dad and told him I had 5 minutes until a friend picked me up and didn't know what to do with myself.  He said, "if you ever have 5 minutes to kill, go clean the toilet.  You'll never be sorry."  There are two ironic things about this story.  First, my dad doesn't clean the toilets in his house (my folks have an arrangement where he does "outside" and she does "inside").  I don't know that he has ever cleaned a toilet, actually.  The second irony is that apparently once in my life I truly DIDN'T know what to do with an extra five minutes.  Crazy.

Anyhow, the point of all of this -- and the reason why I remember his advice, after all of these years -- is this:  when you have a minute to spare, doing a small/concrete/completable task will ALWAYS be a smart idea.  You could waste that time or you could do something useful that you will be glad for later (who's sorry that their toilet is clean?  No one!).  Some tasks don't take long at all -- but if you have 10 of those tasks to do, that time can add up.  Scattering them throughout the day/week/whatever can really lower the stress level and the perceived amount of time it takes to get these things done.  5 minutes here and there?  Do-able.  3 hour block of cleaning on a Saturday afternoon?  Not nearly as fun.

Another point to make here - sometimes that 5-minute task can actually be something FUN!  If you are really stressed, anxious, etc. -- taking 5 minutes to flip through a magazine, or sit in a comfy chair and look out the window, or take a few minutes to play with a pet -- those activities are valuable too.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The kindness of strangers.

I promise that my other posts will be about clutter, but I had to write this one to thank you (my readers!  how wonderful to know I have readers!) for sharing my clutter journey with me.  When I started this blog one month ago I hoped to create a place to share what I was doing and what I struggled with.  I hoped that some folks would eventually find me some day -- and maybe share their own stories, successes and challenges too.  I had no idea that from the very beginning I'd meet some wonderful people who not only read my blog but shared their thoughts in the comments, and that some kind fellow bloggers would even link to my site!  I was, and am, bowled over by the warm welcome you've all given me.  I've read blogs for years but didn't know, until I actually tried to write one myself, how much the reader visits, comments and links could mean.  What a heartwarming experience this has been! 

I am so very grateful to you all -- you who were "strangers" before and who are now people I can count as my online friends.  You've given me a real gift -- thank you. 


(ok, back to our regularly-scheduled programming)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Break it down.

I have been writing lately about being overwhelmed and you guys have had some great suggestions.  Jessiejack wrote:

Sometimes when I get overwhelmed, I do what I call a QFC (QuickFire Challenge ala top chef) I write down the next immediate 5 things to do. That could be small or big things - like take out the trash, make that phone call or pay the bills. It has to be doable and concrete. For some reason, I calm down and focus better. If I'm feeling frisky I may even put a timer on!:)

I love that idea!  I tried it today and can tell you it worked. And the other thing she didn't mention is that it energized me to keep going -- and do 5 more!  I think sometimes if we are faced with a giant mess (or even a regular mess) it can look so huge and insurmountable that there doesn't seem like a way to get it taken care of.  Choosing five do-able things -- that you know you can complete immediately and with success, is an awesome way to begin to tackle the beast.

The other thing I love about JessieJack's strategy is that since they are quick and complete-able (yes, I made that word up) tasks, you will really start seeing a difference quickly.

Thanks for the awesome advice, JessieJack!   And thanks to ALL of you - you all have shared some fabulous comments -- thank you so much!  You rock.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I'm losing it.

Literally, that is.  I have reached a very bad place where I am starting to lose things!  This week (is it a full moon or something?) has been a strangely unproductive, stressful, and holy-cow-I'm-so-behind kind of week.  The cherry on that anxiousness sundae was that now I'm losing things!  My dad's birthday is this week and I lost his present!  I had a letter for a friend to mail -- lost it!  Had some shoes to return -- lost the receipt!  Lost it all.  One thing I don't typically do is lose things -- never have, don't know why.  But that lucky streak ended this week!  Of course, it wasn't life-ending or anything but did add to the stress level around here.

Those of you who have been reading my little blog can probably guess where the lost items were.......yes!  The Room of Doom.  I've been so busy that I keep tossing stuff in there to try and keep the rest of the house manageable.  Sounds great in theory but apparently that tactic has its flaws as well!

The moral of the story?  There isn't one.  But it does remind me that as I continue this de-cluttering journey there may be a day where I have LESS stuff for things to get lost in.  This journey, however slow and sometimes frustrating, is WORTH it.  I know it is!  And someday I'll see the benefits much more clearly.

Thanks for walking the path with me, guys!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday Funnies.

I don't get to read the Sunday comic strips any more but this great image from a post on Jeri Dansky's awsesome blog, Jeri's Organizing & Decluttering News, gave me a chuckle.

image from Jeri's Organizing & Decluttering News

So cool, Jeri!  Sign me up!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Goodbye seems to be the hardest word.

You know those items of clutter that you don't use, don't need, aren't sell-able, and aren't worth anything? The ones that you cling to for some WEIRD reason that even you don't understand (yes, it always comes back to velcro clutter)?

Here's one of mine:

I have a few bears. Some are special (my teddy bear from childhood, a recent gift from a friend, the one that's great for hugging, etc.). Some are not (the ones that came with bouquets of flowers, the Beanie Baby that was a gift, the Commemorative Christmas Bear from So and So's Department Store). But they are still loveable and I just can't get rid of them until I know they have good homes.

{note: this issue holds me up a lot: needing things to go to "good" homes -- not sure what qualifies a home to be "good" but I waste a lot of time on it}

As usual, I come up with lots of bizarro reasons why I need to keep these things and usually they sit and gather dust for a scary amount of time. But I need to let them go! They aren't getting used by me and the longer they sit here the less useful they may be to other folks.  Stuffed animals are particularly hard for me -- not only do they have that sentimental attachment (some times) -- but I know a lot of places can't or won't take them so their future is pretty grim (the bears, not the thrift stores!).

How do you talk yourself out of this place? I'm still working on it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Calgon, take me away.....

Today was one of those days.  Nothing bad happened, really, but I just feel overwhelmed.  The house is a mess (remember those spaces I showed you that I'd tidied up?  well.......not so tidy today) and my to-do list has about 34 sub-lists.  I feel so snowed in and yet do you know what I just did?  Watched two shows on my DVR.  Yeah, that was certainly NOT the solution.

Do you ever get in that place?  Where there is so much to do that you just sort of pull your head in like a turtle and rest inside of your shell for a while?  I would think that's not the wisest plan of attack but the weird part is now I feel sort of energized to get a few things done.  Maybe 2 hours of CSI: NY was my version of a power nap?

I have no idea, but I'm going to run with it.

 (here's my resident Expert Power Napper)

How do you motivate yourself when you are starting to lose the battle against the clutter?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Today's mess, courtesy of Amy.

Greetings!  Today I bring you "Horrible Mess on Top of a Bookshelf," a true work of art currently on display in the Room of Doom.  It's a dumping spot for things I don't know what to do with, which makes it especially hard to clean (not a lot of trash there).  Well, let's get started.  Here's the before:

And after a little work we have this:

To be honest,this is now a tidy spot but I'm still not happy with it.  Typically my books are organized (by type of book - i.e. poetry - or type of author - i.e. Beat writer - etc.) and these are just a hodge-podge that somehow ended up here.  But I am trying to stick with my guideline that you don't start a new project in the middle of your current one so I simply tidied up the shelf.   Next time I will think about reviewing (and maybe rehousing) some of the books.

On to the next mess.....

Monday, March 28, 2011

Making the most of a mess.

This weekend I was able to have some free electrical work done on my house (you can't beat that price).  Naturally, when you have lovely plaster walls (sarcasm alert) they crumble and make a gigantic mess when they're worked on.  The good part of all of this is that it got me to clean areas that normally don't make to the regular housecleaning rota. 

For example, I have a wire shelf next to my kitchen that holds cookbooks, the cat eating area, and  some decorative items. I normally wipe up the cat area every so often but the shelves never get dusted!  I don't know why!  I never even think of them (probably because I don't cook so the books never get touched).  When I had to move the shelf to get to an outlet I wiped down the WHOLE area - fridge and all -- and vacuumed up the dust bunnies, and even wiped down the scroll-y wire on the shelf.  I also took the opportunity to cull through the cookbooks and kept only what fit on the shelf (previously they were overflowing).  I wish I had taken a before shot, but here's the after:

Big improvement (trust me)!  This sounds sort of nerdy, but I also love knowing how clean it is!  It feels good that an entire corner of my kitchen is truly sparkling clean and clutter free.

Now I need to go vacuum up the plaster dust in the living room...wonder what I can de-clutter in there, while I'm at it?

Friday, March 25, 2011

There's no place like home.

Look around you and find one piece of clutter. Can you tell me why it's "clutter"?  For me, 80% (yes, I am making up this number.  Let's just say "a lot") of the time an item is considered clutter because it has no home.  In my house, things that have homes get put away.  Purse?  Bench by the door.  Current issues of magazines?  On the desk.  Clean dishtowels?  In the bottom drawer.

I've found that if something has a designated and easy-to-get-to home (this second part is crucial -- if the "home" is hard to get to I often won't put the item away consistently) I am really, really good at putting it away (pats self on back).  But if it doesn't -- and this happens most with things that I bought or acquired without thinking about what they'd be used for or what they'd replace -- they end up with a "Hi!  I'm Clutter!" name badge.  That air freshener refill that doesn't fit any air freshener that I own?  Sitting on a bookshelf, smiling an evil grin.  Oversized photo album that doesn't fit on any shelf in my house?  Gathering dust on a stack of magazines in the Room of Doom. 

My goal today:  find a home for 10 items of clutter in my house.  This ultimately means making some decisions -- possibly letting go of things that don't "fit" in my life or cutting some sentimental attachments.  Their real home may really be someone else's home! 

What are you working on today?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gimme a break.

One thing I'm trying to learn (out of the 29384729387 things I am working on) is that it is COMPLETELY, and TOTALLY ok to take a break.  Yesterday I wrote about how I'm trying really hard to be in the moment -- to really devote my attention 100% to whatever it is I'm doing.  I think that remembering to take a break (and allowing yourself to REALLY relax) goes hand in hand with this idea. 

Often I feel guilty when I am doing something fun at home -- I see the clutter around me, or the unfolded laundry, or the dust bunny nearby and instead of fully enjoying my book/movie/game/craft a little voice tells me I shouldn't be relaxing when there is so much to do. 

I don't mean that from now on I will relax 24 hours a day while the dust bunnies start their own colony in my living room, but it does mean that I want to try and remind myself that cleaning/decluttering/organizing does not need to happen every second of every day.  Things don't need to be perfect.  This is a journey, not a project with a deadline. 

I want to find, and take, those moments of fun and relaxation and really enjoy them -- and be confident that the work I'll do later will be and IS enough.

My cat has this strategy down pat. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Carpe diem. Or at least the moment.

I think about clutter a LOT.  When I walk in the door of my house.  When I sort my mail at the kitchen counter.  When I am cleaning up after a meal.  When I'm working on my computer.  When I'm watching a movie.  ALL OF THE TIME, it seems!  Sometimes I'll be reading a blog, or watching a movie online and instead of purely enjoying what I'm doing half of my brain says, "see that bag over there?  What's in it?  You should put that away."  And then 10 seconds later I pause the movie, and go check out the bag.  I have trouble staying on task -- even when it's something I enjoy.

I want to try harder to be in the moment -- not matter if it's something big and special like spending time with my family or something as small and ordinary as watching a movie on my computer.  I don't want to constantly be distracted by what I should be doing -- or what I'll do next -- or what I'll do later tonight.  I want to truly be IN the moment.  And that goes both ways:  I also want to focus 100% when I am devoting time to clearing out clutter, or other "chores" that I don't necessarily enjoy so much.  I think I will benefit more from every experience -- the fun and the not so fun -- if I can really seize those moments and give them my all.

How do you stay focused?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The shopping syndrome.

I admit it: I love to shop. This behavior is so unhealthy for so many reasons (I don't need to list them here) and I've been working hard at curbing it. However, it still happens (baby steps!) and I have developed some shopping "rules" to keep me in line when I do find myself in a store. One of them is if I can't think of where it would go in my house, what specific activity it would be used for, or what item it would replace, I can't buy it. This simple rule has actually helped me a lot -- and I have a good friend who often shops with me and we make each other follow it (most of the time).

There are days when I don't listen to my own wisdom, though, and come home with things like this:

I heart this. The colors, the design, the material (I love felt), even the price (cheap). But does it have a function? Nope. It's too nice to be a trashcan. It's too soft to store things (they bend it out of shape). It's just not useful (to me). But I love it! And I went against everything I knew I should do and bought it anyway. Now it's been at my house too long to return and has sat in a pile of stuff being nothing but a nuisance. When I think about giving it away or selling it I just can't do it.

What do I do now? Have you guys fallen into this trap?

Monday, March 21, 2011


I had some flooding in my basement last weekend (yes, the same weekend I had company -- thanks a LOT, Mother Nature!).  For a week it was a stinky, dirty, damp mess.  I couldn't do laundry, I couldn't walk on my treadmill (not so sad about that) :) and the wet smell crept up the stairs into the kitchen.  Yet I couldn't seem to get myself motivated to work on it.  WHY?

I have watched more than my fair share of the hoarding shows on TV.  One of the comments I hear a lot is "I'm a perfectionist" -- and this statement is often uttered (thanks to the producers, I'm sure) in front of a startling pile of junk, a moldy bathroom, or a sink filled with frightening piles of dishes.  At first I found it ironically funny:  what "perfectionist" can put up with filth like that?

It just clicked with me:  the perfectionist may have trouble addressing such big problems because they know they can (or may) never actually get them to be "perfect."  So to do nothing is the only way to avoid failure at perfection.  I'm not psychologist -- this is just my take on things.

So back to Mildew Central at my house.  How does perfectionism come into play here?  Well, I think it's because I DO (and not in a good way) have perfectionist tendencies.  I don't mean that I am perfect -- far, far from it.  I mean that I like things to be perfect.  Perfectly clean, perfectly organized, perfectly, crazy-making perfect.  I think that perfectionist tendency in me was just avoiding the scary basement mess because I KNEW I could never get it to look perfect.  Some of the rugs were stained or just plain ruined.  The cement floor, already a mess, was even worse.  Water had crept into places I probably didn't even know about and that bothered me, too.  So to just ignore the whole things was my way of avoiding failure -- my fear of not being able to make it right.

So how did I overcome this particular obstacle?  I called for help.  And luckily for me the best cleaner I know of is my mom :) and she was more than happy to spend an entire evening mopping, bagging wet stuff, laundering rugs, etc. etc.  Her positive and knowledgeable enthusiasm was what I needed to get going and address the problem.

Is my basement perfect?  No.  Do I feel better -- and am I trying to learn from this to help myself deal with future problems?  A big, resounding YES!  It's ok to NOT be perfect.  Someday I'll get that.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Looking for love in all the wrong places.

It's funny. Usually I have a million and one reasons why I should keep something (just call me Queen of Validation). It's useful! There's still some left! It's worth something! I spent a lot on it! My aunt/mother/grandfather/best friend from 2nd grade gave it to me!

You've heard all of the excuses.

But the funny part is that I can come up with even MORE reasons when I don't actually want something but think I should keep it.

Exhibit A:

My grandmother recently moved into an assisted living facility and had to pare down most of her possessions. A lot of these items trickled down to family members, including me. One of the items my father really wanted me to have is this commemorative candle. I think Princess Diana was a wonderful person and I am certain a lot of people own and love this candle that honors her. However, I don't need this to remember her. I don't know if my grandmother felt she she did, either. I have no idea where she got it. I don't burn candles (flame + fluffy cat tail = bad smell and frantic craziness) in the house and don't really like crystal/glassware.

Here are the reasons I keep telling myself why I should keep this:
  • it's from a family member
  • it's possibly worth something
  • my dad wants me to have it
  • my dad may notice someday that I don't have it
  • I should want it because it was my grandmother's possession
Here's the other side of this argument (I can do this all day):
  • I don't really like it
  • I have other things that are special that were my grandmother's and that I do love and enjoy
  • my dad would not be crushed forever if he knew I didn't want it
I know the answer to this argument. But it will still be hard when I give this back or rehouse it.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this.....

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What really matters.

Sometimes I get so caught up in thinking about clutter and my never-ending quest to conquer it....and I start to lose sight of what really matters. I let my possessions control me -- I know some of you can relate to this. For example, I'll be working through a pile of clutter and suddenly every item has unequaled worth, overwhelming sentimental value, or amazing utility. I get a little nutty.

Those are the times when I need to step back and think about what really, really matters. Is it the souvenir candy dish that once belonged to my grandmother? The 10 bottles of hand lotion that crowd my hall cupboard? The t-shirt celebrating a college event? NO. It's the people I love -- the friends and family that have made me who I am and help me be a better person every day. It's the job I'm fortunate to have. The roof over my head. The food that fills my refrigerator. These things matter -- those little clutter-y extras that I obsess about for HOURS at a time are NOT who make me who I am. They probably detract from who I am sometimes, sadly.

This rings especially true with me right now, as so many people and their families are struggling to overcome the tragedies that happened in Japan. 

So, I leave you with a picture of one of the many gifts in my world that does matter -- and a promise that I'll try to remember this the next time I'm haggling with myself over a half-used notebook.

What matters in your world?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The story of a box.

Meet my box.

She's lovely, right? Little ribbon design, "jewel" decoration, shiny bronze paper covering it? The inside has a mirror and two ribbon "hinges" on each side. The box came to me as part of a makeup kit I ordered online and I have NEVER USED IT. The makeup has been used up or given away but the box remains. Even the plastic protective cover on the mirror is still there.

But here it sits, in my Room of Doom. Why???? Because it might be useful some day. I hear people saying this exact phrase on those hoarding TV shows all time time and yet those words come out of my mouth, too. When is that some day going to be? 2045? It hasn't happened yet. But each and every time I try to get rid of this piece of velcro clutter it clings even tighter. I come up with MORE reasons why I need to keep it! Or, I find that suddenly my attention is needed elsewhere (anywhere but here) and the box goes back on a pile for another month. Sad, but true.

I do honestly believe this box is useful. But how long will it sit here until it becomes useful to me? I am afraid to think about how long I can hold out.

Do you guys have demons like these? If you are clutter-y folk like me, you will get it. Someone who's found this blog and doesn't "get" clutter will think I am just plum crazy. And they may be right.

ps -- does anyone need a box? :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Clutterlove: The Sick Quilt

Because I admire Duchess Declutter's "object of my affection" posts (weekly she shares an item that is the opposite of clutter: something that she loves and makes her world better) I want to also share a few things that make my house a happy place for me.

Here's today's clutterlove:

I love quilts. I can't and don't make them, or even collect them, but I love the ones I have. These two are sitting on top of a cedar chest in my bedroom. They were both made by a long-passed family member and have been shared through generations. I am their current owner and they continue to bring comfort and happiness to my world. The top one is backed with flowered yellow flannel (why are all quilts not backed with flannel? It's perfection) and when I was little this is the quilt that I languished underneath whenever I was sick at home. It wasn't used for any other purpose -- don't know why -- and so I always called it the "sick quilt." It is made of tiny squares of scrap material -- looks to be mostly from clothing and curtains -- and not only is it a joy to cuddle with, it's a wonderful memory of the folks who came before me.

I absolutely love it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Arrivals and departures.

I know my bad shopping habits won't be cured in a day. But I do have some shopping "rules" that help (usually) keep my shopping in check. One of these rules is that if I buy something, something else must leave the house (usually because the new item is replacing it, but not always). Bought new shoes? Then I have to get rid of an old pair. New makeup bag? Then I have to, um, well, let's talk about this later....

Anyhow. Here's today's semi-success story. I was in a 5th Avenue Boutique today (ok, it was Rite-Aid, so sue me) and saw some cups. They called to me! I DO NOT NEED CUPS, I said. Still, they called. I was almost to the register and finally turned back, grabbed, them, and ran (after paying, of course). This shopping method goes against all smart-buying-systems I know of. But still, it happens. So when I got home I thought, well, let's make good out of this impulse purchase -- some cups have to go!

I made some tough decisions:

Here's why this is a semi-success story. I bought TWO cups, got rid of THREE (success!). I bought two cups (FAIL! I have 2938472938 cups already!). Of course, if you ask me I'll give you 34 reasons why these new cups are superior to the old (which is insane: do they all hold liquid? Check. Isn't that all one needs?). But let's put this in the "keep trying" category and hope that next time I can resist the call of the impulse purchase.

You guys know the feeling, right?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Shredder.

Just call me The Shredder. Actually, don't -- because I HATE shredding. I just did a bag's worth and now (to be perfectly honest) I will probably put off the rest of the shredding for a few months again.

I don't know why I hate it so much. The tedium? The noise? The fact that I keep my shredder in a plastic bag in the icky basement and so whenever I use it it's a big huge gigantic deal (hmm -- I'm guessing it's the last one)?

I just learned that credit card statements can be shredded about a year -- or less -- after you get them (I have been keeping them for YEARS. Decades!). I should switch to paperless but, to be honest, I'm afraid I'll forget to pay them if they don't physically arrive in my mailbox and sit on my counter top for a few days. Everything else is electronic for me these days; credit cards.....not yet.

I have pay stubs from the 90's. Phone bills from numbers that I no longer have. Post Office receipts from packages mailed 10 years ago. What scares me the most is that I think I have MOVED some of these pounds of paper from house to house....state to state! Gack. Time to shred.

I think I might be brave and shred some more stuff while the shredder is out and ready for service. Then I'll go retrieve my scaredy-cat from where she's hiding under the bed.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Who do you clean for?

I am expecting company this weekend and have spent the week (yes, the entire week) cleaning like crazy. I have several lists (I get a little nutty with the lists) that I keep referring to, adding to, crossing items off of, etc. etc. This headless-chicken routine is something I do EVERY TIME I have guests. It's not that my house isn't pretty clean on its own, but that I have a weird idea that it must be white-glove clean for guests.

A few weeks ago, Barb at Cleaning up the Clutter wrote about "What Houseguests Secretly Think of Your Housekeeping Skills" and this post has been in my head all week. She is So. Right. On. Why does my house need to be sanitized for guests, when the rest of the time the "regular" clean is good enough for me? Will they notice that I lint-rollered the curtains (no, not joking)? Will they care that I polished the silver (my mom will; no one else)? Will they mind if I don't dust behind the television? Of course they won't -- and yet I find myself doing these things in a frantic rush before they arrive.

Ultimately, I want to think about priorities. What's more important: that some people that I love are all gathered together to share and have a good time, or that all of the glasses in the cupboard are facing the right way (don't worry, I don't do that....yet)? The answer is obvious and I know someday I'll get to a place where I can practice what I preach.

I'm getting there.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I'm no minimalist.

My de-clutter journey is a little different than for some -- I actually LIKE a bit of clutter. To me, having the things I love around me is comforting and warm. I have items that remind me of people I love, places I've been, or that I just like. I arrange them in a manner that pleases me and am totally ok with the dusting requirement that comes with this choice.

However, there is a point where an area no longer feels cozy -- it just feels cluttered and overwhelming. I'm not sure what the tipping point is, but it definitely exists. Here's an example of my version of "good" clutter:

This is a shelf near my kitchen sink -- filled with some items that hold sentimental value and others that are just pretty, inexpensive things from garage sales or ebay. To some people this might ALL qualify as clutter -- to me it's something pretty to look at while I wash dishes.

And then there's the "bad" clutter, which makes me tense, anxious, stressed, you name it. This clutter is a visual reminder of things I haven't /should have/need to do and that I am not doing. A visual reminder that I'm behind, or late, or just plain lazy. I HATE this kind of clutter yet I will admit it persists in various spots around the house. These are the areas I am working so hard to clear out.

Minimalist? No way. When I'm "done" cluttering (is there such a thing?) my house will still be full of stuff. Maybe too much for a lot of people -- but perfect for me.

What's your clutter comfort level?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

So not Julia Child.

I have a small side counter in my kitchen that is a PRIME dumping ground. One reason is that I don't cook much so that counter is rarely used for kitchen-y things. The other reason is that it's not in the main action area of the kitchen so the things there are out of the way and safe from spaghetti splatters -- so I can put items there and be lazy about them.

The problem with this is that if I have stuff I need to do something with (pay, decide, return, mail, read, etc.) it goes THERE. And sometimes it STAYS there.

After a busy week this spot can get pretty bad. Well, the good times are over, junk! Today you're getting cleaned up!



Here's what happened:
  • Cool Whip container put in bag in car to return to friend
  • makeup bag brought upstairs, put with the million other bags I need to weed through (remember my tip -- even if the final storage place needs work, don't mess with it until your primary mission has been accomplished)
  • Decorative candle put in bag in car to rehouse
  • Guitar book packaged up to be mailed; put in car so it's ready
  • Stinky used book put in freezer until I can think of something better (this sometimes works but not always)
Where are your trouble spots? How do you keep them under control?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Beware the siren song of the "organizer" bin.

Today I picked something small to declutter: this innocuous-looking bin in my desk. It holds office supplies and since my desk has no drawers it acts as one.

Because I usually pick what I need from the top of the bin, I had no idea what was actually lurking deep down inside:

To me there are two kinds of "bad" clutter: the kind that sits out in open spaces and openly mocks you, and the kind that hides (and multiplies) in boxes, bins, drawers, and other closed spaces. These closed spaces simply invite clutter, since they hide it so well. Open or closed, they are both evil in their own way.

This bin had so much stuff in it that I usually had to flatten out the top with my hand or it wouldn't slide back under the desk (and this fact I blithely ignored due to chronic laziness). Well, the drawer has had a makeover:

It's less than half full now and yet holds more than enough supplies for my home office (where serious work gets done that involves kitty-cat binder clips). Here's what got booted:
  • 2 cat pins (no clue, don't ask)
  • 3 dried-up rubber bands and 2 dried-up erasers
  • about 25 binder clips and at least 50 paper clips
  • 3 pencil sharpeners (isn't one enough? you tell me)
  • one of those weighted paper holders for typing (yes, I used this ALL THE TIME. Ok, maybe not)
I am now 12 cents richer and found an adorable pair of small scissors that will be perfect for journaling.

...anybody need a binder clip?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Velcro clutter.

I have lots of things that have been designated "out the door" (thank you, Peter Walsh) yet they are STILL HERE in my house. Why? They are my Velcro clutter -- attached by some mysterious yet uber-powerful force.

Sometimes it's pure laziness: I don't want to make the trip to the thrift shop.

Sometimes it's because I'm not really ready to let it go: even though they are destined for other homes they are still here! See? Still here! I still have them and can look at them and be near them (just kidding but sometimes clutter craziness can get like that).

Sometimes it's indecision: Do I really want this? Should I let it go? Does she or doesn't she? (sorry, got carried away)

Usually it's a mixture of all three and I think that makes for the strongest Velcro of all.

Here's a before/after set of a clutter pile that has been in the doorway of the Room of Doom (my horrible spare room) for about 2 weeks now.



It took a while to pull that Velcro apart but I did it. Well, most of it (my brown/turquoise nemesis is still sitting nearby laughing at me).

For now.