Archive for the ‘Organize’ Category

15 minutes to Zen

Wow, I got a great, unexpected response to my last post, Simple Pleasures, where I talked about my desire to live a less cluttered, more purposeful life.  Most of you did not post, but many of you emailed me or convo’d me through to talk to me about having the same desire.

I thought since there are so many of us of the same mind, I’d share something else from the book “Sink Reflections” that was an epiphany for me (and I’m not exaggerating!)

I was brought up – intentionally or not – to believe that if you are going to do something, you should do it right.  It’s not a bad standard, unless you make “right” to mean “perfect.”  I’m certain this was my own interpretation of the saying and not something my parents told me; I rarely remember them being exacting about my performance, and usually only when it was sub-par.

So as a newly married housewife, I found that doing it “right” meant making everything look perfect – not too hard when it’s just you and hubby in a 720 square foot house!  Child #1 came along and it was slightly more difficult, and then #2, and then #3 and perfect was just a ghost of a dream.  When vacuuming “right” means that every single thing is picked up off the floor and the furniture is moved…well, let’s just say I haven’t seen the entire floor in probably a year, even though I’m constantly picking up toys and clothes and mopping up spilled milk.

My solution (thanks to the FLYlady)?  “You can do anything in 15 minutes.” 

She doesn’t mean it literally, but think of it this way: you got into the mess you are in bit by bit.  You can get out that way, too.  I spend about 15 minutes with my daily keep-up tasks: running the dishwasher, switching over one load of laundry, picking up stuff that has accumulated in places that were clean, sweeping the floor.  I also wipe down the sink with a washcloth and swipe the toilet seat and back down with a bit of toilet paper (I’m working on something reusable for this!)

Some of those I can do while I wait for something else.  I can load the dishwasher in the time it takes for my coffee to brew.  I can throw in a load of laundry or switch it over while I’m browning meat for dinner.

Then I spend 15 minutes doing other chores – once a week I dust, or change sheets, or wipe down the appliances.

Finally, if I have the time, I try to take 15 minutes to declutter: a couple times a week I work on decluttering an area or cleaning up a

30 to 45 minutes a day, and my friends and husband have noticed a difference.  I feel more at rest.  And I’ve learned that vacuuming up only what I can see is good enough – that’s where most of the junk is anyway!

This was a pile of boxes twice as big - now it's easy to find what I need for WeeEssentials and Dyeing To Spin!


And what was the epiphany?  That I can clean my house daily in half an hour!  It’s not perfect, or anywhere close, but I don’t expect it to be anymore.  It’s clean, fairly picked up, and I’m keeping up.  And as I get rid of the things I don’t use or don’t love, I’m finding I get more and more cleaning done – some days I get done early now!  Pretty cool, huh?


A New Year’s Resolution

Happy New Year!
I normally don’t make resolutions on New Years –  I figure if I’m going to make a change, I might as well start right away, whether it’s the beginning of the year or the middle.  But this year, a few things have been nagging me, and I plan on paying attention to them!

So my New Year’s Resolutions:

1. Find out how this county recycles.  My husband is a reluctant recycler, to say the least.  When he signed up for garbage service when he moved in, he asked about recycling.  But we live in the county outside city limits, so there is no curbside pickup.  For my husband, that was the end of that.  I’ve let it go for a while, but I feel like I need to get back on track.

2. For the past month since I moved into the new house, I’ve been slow to unpack and declutter.  We moved from a 2100 square foot house with ample storage spaces (and a basement) to an 1800 square foot house with 2 small closets, a kitchen laid out more for looks than functionality, and an unfinished upstair.  I don’t want to store a bunch of junk upstairs (especially since it will become three more bedrooms and a bath soon) so as I unpack I’ve had to really think about what I want to keep.  Hello, Freecycle!

Those are my current goals.  I don’t want to get them done by the end of 2010.  I’d like to complete them as quickly as possible! 🙂

What are some of your New Year’s Goals?

Simplicity at Home, Part 2 – Where does this stuff go?

A few days ago, I talked about a simple way to start conquering clutter in your home.  I have it easy – I just have to pack up my whole house, separating the things I want to keep from the things I don’t want any longer!  Most of you, I wager, don’t have it so easy.  (LOL.)

Today I wanted to cover what to do with that stuff.

Okay, let’s say you’ve already had a garage sale, so a lot of the good, usable stuff is gone.  Some of the items (like used printer cartridges and old sneakers) are probably best left out of the sale, but you hate to throw them away.  What do you do?  Where does this stuff go?

Well obviously, the next bet might be freecycle.  In any given city, it’s likely you will find a new owner for your cracked aquarium, your well-worn (and moth-eaten) wool coat, and your legless coffee table.  But if you have no takers, here are some other options:

Ink Jet Printer Cartridges: Many office supply stores will accept used printer cartridges for refill.  If you don’t want to refill them, get a credit toward purchases at their store, instead!  I have been told that both Staples and Office Depot will give you a $3 store credit for each cartridge you relinquish – up to 10 a month.  That’s $30 in your pocket to use for school supplies, office supplies, and other household necessaries!  I’m about to try this – I have well over 20 cartridges saved up – so I’ll let you know how it goes.

Unusable Clothing: Drop them off at your local Salvation Army anyway.  They recycle clothing that is too torn, stained, or otherwise unwearable into other products.

Magazines and Books: You can always trade them at for other books, but if you don’t want to wait, give them to your local library for their fundraising book-sale.  Or you can offer them to your local nursing home – residents are always grateful for new reading materials.  Family friendly magazines can be dropped off at your local elementary school office (with permission, of course) for teachers to grab for art projects.

Egg Cartons, Baby Food Jars, Shoeboxes and other clean “trash”: Again, teachers love this stuff.  Especially elementary school teachers.  These items, and many others, are great supplies for wonderful art projects but aren’t always easy to find.  I once taught elementary school myself – these kinds of items are worth their weight in gold!

Personal Care Products (Including partially used ones): I put some personal care products up on Freecycle, many lotions and shampoos were partly used, but didn’t work for me.  I had someone pick them up for their own personal use, but I also had someone who was an employee of a local nursing home who was interested in them for the residents there.  She said it wasn’t technically allowed (at least not the used items,) but often the residents would run out of what they needed.  Ask around a bit, and you may find someone willing to take them – a nursing home, a women’s shelter, or the family down the street with lots of kids!

Any other suggestions for creative locations to give things away?

Simplicity at Home, Part 1

One of the most challenging aspects of moving is packing up – you start to wonder how you’ve managed to collect so much stuff in such a short period of time!  As I’ve been packing up our boxes, I’ve been ruthless in getting rid of things I didn’t know I had, things I never use but always thought I’d need one day, and things that I don’t care for anymore.  I do this in reaction to our last move – we had a large moving van, but had to rent a trailer to go behind it, too, just to get everything in!

I don’t want to do that again.  I hate the idea that we are carting around items we don’t use, and I’d like to simplify!

I’m sure you have closets, cupboards, and basements full of stuff you no longer use.  It can be frustrating to look at the piles – where do you start?  What do you do with all the things you no longer want?

Today I want to explain my techniques for sorting out the clutter, and tomorrow I’ll tell you what you can do with that stuff!  Obviously, most of you are not moving and can’t just separate the “keep” and the “pack” as I’m doing (which makes it less overwhelming.)  But you can clean out one closet, or one shelf today.

Candice’s Super Easy Effective Decluttering

(Okay, this is  a pretty common technique – I can’t take credit for it.)  You’ll need to set aside at least a couple hours to do each area. If you don’t set aside enough time, you’ll end up with a bigger mess than before, and that’s very frustrating!

1. Choose a location – a closet, a corner, or a dresser, for instance.  I’m going to use a closet for my example.

2. Take everything out of the closet.  This will create a huge mess, but it will work best if you can separate types of items – put clothing in one pile, shoes in another, etc.  Now, if your closet is disorganized and everything is mixed in to start with, don’t worry about making piles.  The point is not to make decluttering take more time than necessary, and sorting things out isn’t as important as just getting on with it.

3.  While everything is out of the closet, take a damp rag and wipe shelves, baskets, drawers, and the top of the hanging bar.  Check for cobwebs in the corners – if they are there, get them out!  Vacuum or sweep the floor.

4.  Now start putting things back in.  This is your chance to be as ruthless as you want – do you really need 4 black raglan sweaters?  Do you ever wear that stretchy magic shirt from 2001? (Apparently these are back in style!)

Magic Shirt courtesy of

Magic Shirt courtesy of

Check the items you want to keep for missing buttons, for tears, and stains.  Put the items you want to keep back in the closet, but if they need mending or cleaning, put them in a separate pile.  You will also have two more piles:  donate/sell and throw.

Since we are trying to be green, hopefully your “throw” pile will be very small.  Or maybe you can title it “recycling.” The only things I could think of that might go in this pile are new shoe stuffings, shoe boxes, worn out hangers, etc.  Maybe you can think of other things?

Keep in mind that many places that accept donations – the Salvation Army, for example – will accept unwearable clothing.  If it’s not suitable for wear, they will recycle the fabrics into new products.  So worn out or stained clothing need not go in the trash!

Go through the entire contents of your closet, sorting into your two piles and the closet, until everything is put in one of the three places.  I’m of the mindset that if you can’t fit all your clothes in your closet, then you have too many! (And I’ve had some small closets!)

4.  Your closet is now much more organized!  Immediately throw or recycle the contents of the “Throw” box.  If you are planning a garage sale, your next task is to go ahead and price your “sell” items.  If you are like me, and just want to be done with it, drop your box of “donate” items off shortly after you finish cleaning.

You’re done!  See?  That wasn’t too hard, and now other people can enjoy the items that were languishing in your hidden cupboards and closets.  And you don’t have to worry about them anymore!

Tomorrow we’ll look at different options for donation – you’ll find you can donate almost anything if you know where to give it!

How Much Stuff are you Hiding?

Moving is always enlightening for me – as you start to pack up and sort through the accumulation of belongings, you suddenly realize how much stuff you have.  Yesterday I discovered that my husband had been putting my knitting supplies, extra yarn and such into the cedar chest in our entryway to get the house picked up!  Since it was empty when he started, I never thought to look in there, and a lot of the yarns were “stash” yarns – meaning I bought them with no specific project in mind, or they were for projects I haven’t had a chance to start.  So I didn’t miss them.

Beyond the annoyance of discovering B’s been hiding my yarns, it occurred to me that I have about 25% more yarn than I thought I did.  I’ve probably bought more yarn thinking I had the space for it!

At the same time, I’ve been grabbing consumables – toiletries, paper plates and cups given to us when we moved in two years ago, and crayons – and putting them all in one spot as I find them.  I’m amazed at how many shampoos and bar soaps we have.  We have two almost-full packs of disposable cups and about five packs of disposable cutlery!

Going to the food shelf!

Going to the food shelf!

What a waste on our part!  At least, a waste of money!  But I’ll still use the yarn. 🙂  The consumables – well, we won’t be buying anything for a while, and some of the toiletries – disposable pantyliners I got for free and body washes I was gifted that I’ll never use – will be donated to a local food pantry.

We’re getting ready to have a garage sale this weekend with a couple other families, so it will be an opportune time to pass some of our excess household items and clothing on to other people who might actually use them.

But why do we have so much?  Why is it that we can’t be organized enough to keep things in one place and to know what we have?  I blame it partly on a society in which there is so much to have and to do that we move on to the next thing before we finish  the first.

If you are a crafter, you know exactly what I am talking about when I mention “stash.”  I’ve bought tens of cross stitch kits in the past 20 years, and I’ve probably resold or donated 90% of them because I didn’t like them anymore or because I was realistic that I’d never use them!  In the same way, I’ve bought skeins and skeins of yarn (mostly on clearance) only to turn around a couple years later and donate them to a charitable organization.  Donating them is the only thing that makes me feel better about wasting them!

I think another problem is that we have been conditioned to put everything away in drawers and closets – we no longer can just look at a shelf or a wall or a basket and see what we have.  If we could see that our drawers are stuffed with usuable clothing we might hesitate to buy more.  In the same way, once my yarn was put on shelves, I could see I had plenty of yarn to choose from for my next project – when it was in totes, it was easy for me to forget what I had!

Finally, I think we buy because we can. We can afford to, and our society has taught us that it is better to show our “wealth” in material possessions – a big house, a car or motorcycle, artwork and furniture – than to show it with a large bank account (which no one else can see anyway.)  When we consider this, it’s reasonable for us to save our money, but we have been so conditioned to want the next big thing – both because we see a purpose in them and because of the status it brings – that we continue to buy.  It just doesn’t make sense.

I won’t even get into shopping as recreation!

I’m off – I still have some totes in the basement to go through, as well as some boxes of paperwork to be filed upstairs in the office!

If You Do One Thing…Donate Your Clothing

If you do one thing…

Today I want you to go through your closet and dresser drawers and pull out anything you haven’t worn in the last year, or that you don’t think you’ll wear again.  Pull out anything that doesn’t fit you right or is stained, and take out anything that is missing buttons or snaps, or has tears.

Make two piles:  Give away and mend.

Anything you won’t wear, or that has permanent stains or irreprable tears, give away.  (Please double check that your charity shop will take damaged clothing! Larger chains like the Salvation Army will take ruined clothing to be recycled.  Smaller shops may only want clothing that is suitable for resale.

Take 15 minutes each day and sit down with your mending pile.  Sew on buttons (button sewing tutorial here!), mend tears and do other necessary repairs.

In the future, set damaged clothing aside in a basket or drawer, and take time each week to mend clothing so that clothes remain wearable!

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