Friday, July 22, 2016

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Decluttering: You've Done it; Now What?

From Shadwwulf At English Wikipedia CC License 3.0

If you're like me, you find yourself having to go through cycles where you declutter.  After a while it is exhausting.  So I've scoured the internet for tips on how to prevent this constant cycle of accumulation and decluttering.

1) Keep your children away from stores- When my youngest was about a year old, I went in to a pick up a few things from the grocery store.  It was around Christmas time and perched at the cashier's station was a jar stuffed with over-sized candy canes.  While I was checking out, I missed my child grabbing a candy cane, but noticed that he had one- plastic and all- in his mouth.  Slightly embarrassed and annoyed, I smiled at the cashier and said "well, I guess we're buying a candy cane today too."

My children are older now so they don't just randomly grab food and shove it into their mouths, but they do whine and still have impulse control issues when entering a store.  I figure if grown adults can't control impulse shopping why do I expect my children to exert it?  So I avoid going to stores with them if possible particularly ones that have toys.

If I must, I set clear expectations for them before going into the store. "Now we're going in to get X,Y,Z.  You will not get to choose something else."  And for longer trips like a huge grocery store trip, "You can pick out one treat (such as a consumable) and you can have it if you behave yourself in the store."  They get to choose their treat at the beginning and hold onto it.  If there's misbehavior, it goes back on the shelf.  And they only choose one.  Sometimes they change their mind about their treat, and they're fine with placing the other one back on the store shelf.

2) Encourage people to give you consumable/experience gifts- If you do this, once you consume the gift it's easy to discard.  If you are having problems with getting rid of the packaging, you may have a hoarding problem and need to seek help.  For my birthday, one friend brought in a bouquet of flowers and another a tin of teas.  My mother-in-law has sent my children gift cards to the movies. Perfect.

3) One in, one out- I bought a pair of new sneakers for the gym, but held onto my worn down ones.  I justified to myself that I could still use the old ones for every day wear except that was a poor excuse.  After hanging onto them and then realizing that I plenty of other shoes, I finally dumped them.

It doesn't have to be about replacing like items either.  If I feel that I have too many tops and not enough bottoms, I can always trade them out.  That said things need to have some equivalence.  A tiny Lego stud does not equal a play kitchen.  Sorry.

Another tip, if items function together they are one thing like sneakers.  You need one pair.  If it can function as a separate item, such as a set of pajamas or a jewelry set then the pieces function as multiple things (with the exception of a pair of earrings.)  So the ring and necklace are two, not one.  The top and bottom of your nightie are also two.  Yes, even if they match. 

4) Stick to the shopping list- I don't go into stores that I don't have to very often.  If I do, I go in there to look around not to buy anything unless it's on my list.  Occasionally I will buy something off the list.  This is always a grocery item I realized that I neglected to list.  I often meal plan at the same time I'm writing a list so I'm prone to forget staple items until I'm physically in the store.  "Oh, yeah, we need milk" has crossed my mind a few times.

5) Spend some time questioning the need for the item- Once you purchase the item, it immediately looses it's value so I really question what I am purchasing.  Do I really need the item or is something else still working?  What part will this item play in the running of my house?  Do I have a space for it?  What will I be willing to get rid of as a result of purchasing this item? And so on.  It also helps to have a goal in mind for not spending the money.  Are you saving to buy a house, go on a vacation, etc.  If you have a larger financial goal in mind, it becomes easier to not spend money of frivolous impulse purchases.

6) By pass freebies- While cleaning out a junk drawer, I discovered that I had accumulated three bottles of eye glass cleaner.  They were complimentary for purchasing glasses.  I usually use soap and water to clean my glasses, but these days my youngest does actually need the stuff.  I still don't need three bottles of cleaner.  Next time we're offered a new bottle, I'll simply by pass unless we're out of cleaner.   Unless you think you will actually use up or can one-in-one-out the item, politely reject any magnets, pens, pencils, pads of paper, and anything else anyone passes along to you and your family.  Borrowing, of course, is an exception.  You can always return that item back to it's owner or the public as in the case of the library.

7) Deal with paper work now- I don't know about you, but it's easy for me to drown in paper work.  From information about the summer reading program to fliers announcing discounts on water park tickets, it somehow finds me.  I find that paper work can be divided into three categories: important papers to file like my son's medical reports, temporarily important information such as a school calendar or appointment cards that I need to transfer to my family calendar- much of this is listed online these days such as the school calendar so unnecessary to begin with, and junk like credit card approval notices or business flyers.  My method is to sort through any paper work as soon as it enters the house.  If it's junk, it's filed in my recycle bin.  If it's temporary, I decide to either transfer the information elsewhere or place it where it is needed.  And if it's permanent, it goes into a file or our fireproof box in the case of SS cards/passports/birth certificates/marriage license/house title/you get the idea.  I'm not perfect about this, but the junk at least definitely doesn't hang around.  In some cases it doesn't even make it past the front door, as we keep our large recycling bin close by.

I hope my tips helped and and inspired you on ways to keep down the clutter.  Learning these things through experience and also from others has certainly helped me.  Have a great day!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Capsule Wardrobe: What to do with extras and holes

Warning: Affiliation links ahead.

If you haven't been following along, a capsule wardrobe is a core set of clothes that you wear.  These may shift depending on the season and if you have a separate set of clothing (like a uniform) for work.  Once you've gone through your clothing and removed items that: 1) no longer fit 2) are in too poor a shape to repair 3) have too many "duplicates" like a lot of white blouses 4) or too many of for example several coats when maybe you live in Arizona and need only one heavy and one light.  Then the real work begins.

You can go ahead and trash the clothing that is in too poor quality.  You may be tempted to cut them up and use them as rags.  And if that's okay then do so, but if you're like me and rags seem to accumulate, it may be best to dispose of the clothing altogether.

The rest you may say to yourself "well what do I do with them?"  Sell them.

There are a number of used clothing stores in my area that I have sold clothing.  There are also a number of online places that accept clothing.  These can be divided into two categories: ones you list and ones that buy them and then resell them.  You'll need to figure out what items they accept and how they wish the items to be shipped.  For example: Thredup will send you a bag and they will accept wallets and handbags, clothing for women and children, and shoes.  They are particular about which brands they will accept too.  Whereas Swap will accept clothing for women, children, and now men, shoes, children's items, decor, movies, and books.  You can send your items in a box but it must be a specific size.  Double check return policies if the company elects to not sell your items.  Some will donate the item for you or charge you shipping to return.

If you are looking to sell more directly, there is always Craig's List and Kijiji which do not cost you a fee.  Ebay and Poshmark are also good but they too will charge a fee.  Ebay will also accept some items and sell them on your behalf.

If all else fails, there are plenty of non-profit places that will accept quality donations.

I also suggest shopping at second hand places if you discover "holes" in your wardrobe.  As one friend put it once, "I always seem to have way more tops than I need and not enough bottoms."  Maybe this happened to you while you were weeding out your closet.

Make sure to look for what you want exactly or you could fall into the stuffing-your-closet-with-unused-clothing trap again. Also choose a quality article not a cheaply made fast fashion garment.  Goodwill now has a online place where you can bid on quality items without having to sift through the store for a fraction of the cost.

Have a Happy Closet!


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Cleaning Hacks for Lazy Slobs Like Me

Hi, my pseudonym is Delta, and I am a slob.  Like a huge slob.  As in my mother was disturbed by piles of clothing on the floor and never making up my bed, and my mother is not a neat person either.  My husband was equally disturbed by my lack of regular cleaning of dishes (I lacked a dishwasher) and taking out of trash when I lived on my own.

But just today my husband was all like "you need to slow down. You are getting more of a neat freak than I am."

Why, thank you, dear.

He wanted to know why all the sudden I've reversed course and went from slob to cleaning freak.  Well, buckle up because I'm about to tell you and it's a wild ride.

1) Get inspired- Seriously.  This Sunday is my birthday and I'm getting way too old to be expecting other people to be handling stuff for me.  This includes my cleaning habits.  If your mother's way of living is not for you, ditch it. I love youtube because there are thousands of videos out there helping you to find better, faster means of cleaning stuff.  They help you organize your house so that you can clean less.  Also looking at pictures of people's houses helps too.  I've gotten into this "I'm waiting for my forever house before I do anything" mind set.  Folks, this is dumb.  I'm getting too old.  Time to just make what I'm living in now work for me.

2) Make up you bed- Yeah, I know.  It's an oh, so simple way to straighten up your room instantly and see what other things need to be put away too.

3) Put everything away after you've used it- Stop making excuses about putting it away later.  Do it now.  Stop leaving your stuff on the floor.  Go and hang it up.

4) Get as much stuff off the floor and counter tops as possible- If you haven't got a place to hang it up, go and buy something.  You can find stuff that hangs on the back of doors or that can be wall mounted.  There is no reason for you're designated spot for your purse to be the floor even inside your closet.  At least get a box for St. Pete's sake!  My husband made his remarks after I put away the dishes from the drying rack and then hung the drying rack (with the towel wrapped inside) on a nail on a cabinet.  It's a Shaker thing to make everything able to hang up so you can easily clean the floor.  Use this hack.  It's awesome.  You will no longer need to move stuff when you vacuum, sweep, or wipe down.  It will be out of the way already.

5) Put a laundry hamper where your laundry usually ends up.-  Sometimes this is difficult if you have a tiny bathroom so try hanging up a laundry bag from an over-the-door bathroom hook instead.  10 bonus points for having something off the floor.  If you've got the space or a large family, a laundry hamper is best.

6) Don't wash anything until it's actually dirty- Not only will this save you money on the costs of soap and electricity, you will also save money on clothing.  Clothing lasts longer if you don't wash it as much.  Instead hang up your slightly used item and re-wear it a few more times.

7) Have plenty of trash cans- We have a trash can in every bathroom, the kitchen, and the office.  These are our high traffic areas for accumulations of trash and we live in a small house.  So make sure you have enough in those areas. 

8) Always have something in your hand when changing rooms- This is a hack that my husband got from his grandmother.  Got a dish in the room you're in?  Pick it up and move it to the kitchen.  Found a sock in the hallway?  Pick it up too.  The more you do this as you go about your day, the less you will have to deal with at night. 

9) Get your children in the habit of tidying up as they go along- Why wait until the end of the day?  If you are about to have lunch or go to an appointment, make sure you have enough time for them to clean up before the next activity.  It's less overwhelming for children to clean up a little at the time frequently then a lot all at once.  This includes cleaning up bath toys.  We have a basket that I keep under the sink.  They only get a select few and must clean those up or forfeit using the toys next bath time. 

10) Have a place for everything- Last post was all about visual clutter and this is related to that.  Try and keep everything behind something and make sure it has a place.  If it doesn't have a place, consider it time to declutter.  Organize your house so that there way is no excuses for not putting the item back into it's place.

11) Have a cleaning routine- Maybe you do dishes at night or in the morning.  Maybe you sweep in the morning and vacuum at night.  Maybe you do laundry once a day or on Mondays.  You have to decide what it is and stick to it.  Mentally tell yourself to stick it out for a month.  Then reevaluate.  If it's not working for you, then change it up.  Find something that you can live with and know that you must do regardless of whatever excuse you may make.

12) Declutter- The less stuff you have, the less places you need to put it, the less space you need, and the less cleaning you will do.  I never want a large house.  The sheer thought of having to clean 2,000 square feet is just daunting.  Plus I don't want to spend all my day cleaning stuff.  I want to take a couple hours a day cleaning and then be done with it.  (Keep in mind I'm a stay-at-home mom so I do a lot more cleaning because people are home messing up my house). 

So there you have it.  Those are my hacks.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Decluttering: Cutting Back on Visual Clutter

My husband and sorta myself have been watching a show about the human brain.  It's amazing how we have the ability to hyper-focus on things and as a result tune things out. 

I want you to take a moment and look around the room you are sitting in.  Now look at the walls.  I'm betting you are noticing things right now that you didn't notice before.  I notice a scratch at the bottom of one wall, covered over nail marks, an obvious bit of plaster work, and I'm sure that you've got similar things on your walls.  You might be thinking "geez, you're right. why didn't I notice that mark before?"  It's because our brains can hyper-focus and if our visual spaces are cluttered with stuff, we miss things.

You've probably got furniture in your room, and on said furniture is stuff.  Maybe it's a nice table cloth, or pillows, or books.  I have that stuff too.  My eyes naturally focus on that stuff and not notice other things.

This isn't a bad thing.  You want to have something to display when people come to visit you.  But you have to decide what that is.  Instead of putting up every picture on the wall that you own or displaying every knick nack, only display the ones you want people to notice.  Because let's face it, if you have a lot of eye candy around, chances are anyone visiting your house will not notice the one focal point in the room that you actually want them to notice.

For me, my biggest visual clutter happens in my kitchen.  So I'm trying to eliminate that.  I took all the stuff off the fridge except for one dry erase board which I use to keep a shopping list.  I want to focus on that because even though the list has been on my fridge for ages I often forget to check it before I go to the store.  Then my husband gets a phone call mid-way through shopping asking if he can read the list to me.  It had been dwarfed by the shear number of stuff on the fridge: soup labels for the kid's school, the school schedule, drawings from the kids, and so forth. 

To combat this, I tucked the extras away so I'm not staring at stuff constantly.  I put the school schedule on the back of a cabinet.  If I need to I can always go look at it, but now I don't have to have my brain ignore it.  I took the children's drawings and created a collage and put it in a poster frame.  It's now a focal point but not one that leads to so much distraction.  The soup labels went into a drawer. 

This is also important to do when cleaning.  If you leave your counter tops, your end tables, your coffee tables, and your floors cluttered with things, you begin to not notice when something is out of place.  If you don't notice that your child has stuck a drawing on top of a stack of mail, it could sit there for a while.  But if you have a clear countertop with essentially nothing on it, the drawing becomes obvious.  So does the tiny lego, the pen, and the dish.  I don't know about you but I find these extremely helpful when trying to tidy up.

Now I'm trying to reduce the amount of visual clutter I have.  This isn't easy.  I would love to have everything behind a door or cabinet so I don't have to see it if I don't want to, but alas I have things like book shelves which are open.  But I'm making a small effort to reduce my stuff so that I can have less out there that I must see.  Yet another great motivator in the war on stuff.

So have you heard about visual clutter before?  What ways have you set about reducing it?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Decluttering: Overcoming Common Mental Hurdles We Face

Before organizing a house or before a move, one of the things we face is removing the excess stuff from our lives.  At times it's extremely hard because we make a lot of mental justifications for hanging onto the stuff.  So here are some of the most common things that I find myself thinking and what I mentally tell myself in order to push past it.

Things I find myself thinking
1) I may need it some day.
2) But it's special because Child drew it/made it for me
3) It was a gift
4) It was very expensive

Things I tell myself instead
1) If I do need it some day, I can always go buy it/borrow it.- If I'm not using the item now and haven't over the past year, chances are very high that I will not need it in the future.  Right now the item is taking up space, cluttering my house, collecting dust, etc.  If I find a point in my life where I actually find the need for the item, then I can always go and purchase it then.  Case in point: the tea kettle.  I had a tea kettle early in my marriage, but then life happened and I never really used it so I donated it.  Now that I'm in a better point in my life to have friends over for afternoon teas, I went and bought a new tea kettle.  It's a-okay to do that.  Same with any baby/children stuff.  Stop holding onto old children's toys, a baby swing, etc.  Unless they hold sentimental value (which I'll get to later), I can always go pick out a gently used one or new one for the next surprise baby.  Heck I can give the item to a friend who's having a baby now and I can always ask for it back when she's done with it.  Lots of friends have sort of a rotation of stuff amongst friends.

2) It's the memory that's special. Stop holding onto paper/clay, etc.- This tip I got from youtube from several moms who share my pain.  It's not the object itself that's so special in this case, it's the memory that my child pored himself into something for me.  They suggested scanning the picture into my computer or having my child hold the item and take their picture.  I still have the memory there to view whenever I want but it's not taking up shelf space only digital space.  It's the same for any other sentimental children's item.  I may want to save the thing they wore home after being born, and that's fine.  But before those sorts of things take over my life, I can take a picture and send the item on it's merry way to someone else's house who can use it.

3) Again it's the memory and the thought that counts- I seriously doubt people are going to be upset if I let go of Christmas ornaments given at Christmas.  I'm sure they understand that I only have so much space on the tree.  I can always take a picture of the ornament hanging on the tree.  It's really not that big of a deal.  Likewise I'm sure people understand if I have too many pairs of brown gloves or scented candles or bath salts (I'm talking the actual ones not the name given for a type of drug).  Nobody wants me to live in a house completely full of their gifts.  They wanted me to enjoy the gift and if I'm not, well that just defeats it's purpose. I'll write them a thank you note and let the item go.

4) Can I sell it?- I've bought a bunch of baby stuff that if I had been practical about things I should have bought used.  I do this every once and a great while.  Sometimes the item fails me or I realize I'm not really using it when I thought I would.  I learned something about that item- I don't need it.  It's served it's purpose- teaching me that I don't need it- and now it's time to go.  If I can sell it, then I'll try and recuperate some of the costs.  If not, I'm sure there's someone else who can use it but can't afford it.  So I'll donate it.  Mea culpe. Lesson learned.

5) Do I really want to clean that?- My mother-in-law actually taught me this one.  She said she doesn't like having carpets in her house or nick nacks because all she keeps thinking is about the extra effort it would take to clean the item.  It's the same for anything currently taking up residence in my house.  Do I really need 7 pairs of jeans?  Do I really want to clean 7 pairs of jeans and have to hang them up?  Can I live with only 2 or 3?  Do I really need all those shot glasses from every vacation I've ever had?  Do I want to dust them every single day from now until I'm dead?  If cleaning those things doesn't bother me, then hey I keep it.  If it does, time for it to go.  I'm like my mother-in-law- I have a select number of tchotchkes and that's it.  I hate cleaning things.  By the way, no I don't own 7 pairs of jeans or tons of shot glasses. :)

6) It costs too much for me to house this stuff.- Why pay storage fees? Why have a big house and pay all those utility costs just to house all my stuff? Wouldn't my money (not to mention time) be better spent elsewhere? Yeah, I think so. 

7) Do I want to burden my children with having to deal with my belongings?- Sorta goes back to the cleaning thing.  I'd rather spend more time with my children than cleaning.  Likewise after I'm dead, I only want my children to see what I thought was special or had use.  I don't want them to see the mountain of clutter and not be able to differentiate between a garage sell find and great-great-great Aunt Ethel's collection of costume jewelry.  Yes, I had a great-great Aunt Ethel who collected costume jewelry.  I also don't want them to have to sort through too much.  They should be able to know and pick out family heirloooms which they can keep, sell, donate, or give to another family member.   I don't want the process to be anymore painful for them then it has to be.  What kind of mother would I be if I burdened them with useless crap after I died?  I'd rather them spend time praying for my soul then calling a junk place to come haul stuff away.  That vision alone makes me start wanting to remove stuff with gusto.  No purgatory time!  Hooray!

So I hope you found these Jedi mind tricks helpful for the next time you declutter.  May the Force (of the Holy Spirit) be with you!