Category Archives: decluttering

Happy New Year! Let’s Get Moving!

This isn’t my house, but isn’t it pretty? I’m not sure I’d want to go the whole nine yards on minimalist decorating, but I do love the clean look.

As I’ve considered lately what I want to create in our home, I’ve been imagining a home with a feeling of space in it, even in a 1500 sq. ft. home filled with 6 active people full-time, and a 7th who visits between semesters.

For me, a feeling of space comes from …

Clear surfaces
Natural light
Few things in any particular area

The first four were no-brainers, but I was a little surprised by Movement. Living things move. I looked up the six characteristics of living things, and the first one said that living things are highly organized, from the smallest part to the largest. Well, my doorbell isn’t alive, but there is a sense of life in a living, warm, comfortable home, at least in my imaginings!

Movement shows up in all sorts of areas in a home. For instance, food. Ideally, food is carried into the house by my strapping strong sons, put away in the refrigerator and cabinets, and then cooked (or not) and eaten. The remains of the packaging are trashed or recycled, possibly composted, and the food disappears one way or another — like it’s supposed to! That’s what food it for. There is movement in that process. Contrast that to bottles of salad dressing in the refrigerator door with expiration dates from two years ago, or taco shells that have been in the cabinet for, like, a year (true-life example, that one).

Thinking of movement brought up the contrasting condition, where an item comes into the house and then stays . . . and stays . . . and stays. One jar of verde sauce in the cabinet? No biggie. Multiply it by 200 or 500 things throughout the house (and garage), and there’s a super-duper recipe for clutter.

I suppose we’ve all read those decluttering tips: (read in Martha Stewart’s voice) 1. Box up items you’re not sure about. If you don’t need to get into the box in 6 months, you can donate it without ever looking iin it again! (Peter Walsh now) When you switch out your seasonal clothes, hang them all with the hangers backwards. At the end of the season, anything that hasn’t been moved goes out the door. All kinds of clever ways to tell yourself whether or not you need something. I would say that the most current decluttering advice is more like to address the more philosophical and spiritual issues, but there’s quite a boatload of information out there to plow through.

So I’m on the lookout for things that have gotten “stuck” in our home.

While I’m finding the stuckies and moving them along, I am also thinking about the things that will inevitably come in the front door. For food? I want to buy products that are destined to be used because I have a plan for them. I haven’t been doing any meal planning lately. Just couldn’t muster up the energy for it. But I’m connecting planning meals with having the food on hand we need AND leaving the food we DON’T need at the store (or on the internet, my most favoritest shopping place in the world).

Past attempts have focused on the “thou shalt not’s” and efforts to find some list of 10 fool-proof ways to keep your house decluttered. What a breath of fresh air to be looking at the “yes do’s!!”

Not everything is going to come in and then go out. Some things are going to come in and stay in one place, but be used every day (furniture, appliances); some things will come in and just look lovely and that will be their entire job. But if it’s going to be here, I want it to either be something I believe is beautiful or something I know to be useful. (said by one William Morris waaaay back in the 1800’s).

Happy New Year! Let’s Get Moving!

Kaizen . . . or Not?!

So, first of all, I got way too hungry because I just HAD to go to Tarjhay TONIGHT to get Kepler a potty chair. I have no idea how to potty train this child, but I decided without a little chair, it for sure would not happen. When I got home, all my plans to have a baked potato with some cottage cheese just disappeared when I spied the ziploc bag of leftover pizza on the counter. Two pieces later, I was already being tempted by the chocolate chip cookies. I forgot to ask myself, “What is one small thing I can do to take care of my health this dinner?” and asked something more along the lines of “How the *&%$& am I going to manage not to eat that whole $#@$%@# bag of cookies?” I guess it was a form of kaizen because I ate one half of one cookie and actually stopped.

Then, in the basement, my favorite clutter pit, I felt that familiar overwhelmed feeling and remembered! “What is one small thing I could do to improve the condition of the basement?” The answer was to deal with the six boxes over there. After I successfully completed that major step, I had even more energy left so could ask the question again. I ended up working for about 45 minutes and came upstairs with less clutter and a calm spirit, plus some sneezes from the dust.

Lost and Found

Missing cell phone status: FOUND. Even though we had looked down in and under the couches, yesterday I stuck my hand down in the cushions and pulled out a cell phone! Kind of like Tom Thumb — Oh, what I good girl am I! (Told you I’m still a good girl!)

Missing library book status: STILL LOST. But I was able to renew it, and I also found out that losing it will only cost us $3.91 so I’m not sooo worried anymore.

Missing Sure Steps: STILL MYSTERIOUSLY LOST. So strange. I still believe I am going to find them because I still have hundreds of nooks and crannies to check.

What all three of these items have in common is that I am going to keep them a little closer to ME and a little farther away from the KIDS as I find them. I know Kepler loves dangling his little Sure Steps, but he can dangle these once he has new ones to wear on his feet. And I think I will just hold onto Joel’s phone for the time being.

Making progress!

The Fine Art of Looking for Missing Things

There are three things missing in my house.

1. Joel’s cell phone.
2. Kepler’s Sure Steps (foot braces he wears in his shoes).
3. A library book checked out by Anna-Jessie and overdue and unable to be renewed.

One of my most pettest peeves is not being able to find something. When something is missing here at home, I have my radar on almost all the time as I move about the house and I look and look and look and look. Now, almost all the time I find it.


1. Joel’s cell phone has been missing for quite some time. He found it one Saturday, had it for an hour, and, sadly, lost it again. I’ve looked and looked but haven’t been able to find it.

2. Kepler’s Sure Steps, for which we were charged $1400 just over a year ago, were on his little feet last Thursday afternoon. Sadly, on Friday when it was time to put them on, they were nowhere to be seen.

3. Library book. Aargh. Not in sight.

The Fine Art of Looking for Missing Things mainly consists of leaving no stone (or shoe, or sock, or piece of furniture, or article of clothing) unturned. It also usually includes moving the furniture because I have found that is the best way to really find out what is underneath.

Over the past several days, I have conducted three archeological digs — one in Eli’s room, one in Joel’s room, and one in the living room. Archeological digs consist of picking up every single thing in the room, throwing away the odd bits (or large bagsful) of trash, putting all the stuff that goes elsewhere, well, elsewhere, moving the furniture of course, and just generally putting things in order. And, a big goal of the digs is to make the floor clear, so that one could vacuum, or maybe walk.

These three rooms have been certified clear of the three missing objects. I do have two more rooms on this floor, but if the missing pieces are not there, then I have to descend (jaws music here) into the basement, that pit of packrattery, that den full of piles of everything.

Wish me luck. I will need a flashlight.

Before and After

Oh, yeah! I remember why I started this blog in the first place! I was organizing and decluttering and wanted to share my accomplishments with all of you. OK, I got a little distracted for a few weeks. But he-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e’s another installment in the incredible tale that is my decluttering and organizing adventure.

So Val was taking a shower about four years ago and was holding onto the handicapped bar so she could better reach the shower head, shrimp that she was. Oops. The wall fell off because water had been getting behind the tile for a long time. Good thing it was a lithe youngster for whom the handicapped bar gave out! Seeing as how the tile color scheme was black and blue, we voted to remodel the entire bathroom rather than replace the tiles. Plus, who knew what havoc that water may have wreaked behind the tile?

As part of the remodeling, we put in a laundry chute. Here’s the business end of it:

And here’s the resulting mess:

Although the lovely laundry chute saved me running down the stairs with baskets full of clothes, and also led to me finding some interesting items among the clothes especially when the kids were younger, I was not happy to have this big pile of mess on the floor. So I put my thinking cap on and came up with this:

And now the floor looks like this:

I got that hanging basket for free from Discovery Toys in my brief insane foray into multi-level marketing. It’s been hanging around my basement for quite awhile and I finally found a great use for it! The hardest part of the project was hammering the %$^%#$%^ nails into the floor joists since there was only 8 inches between them and the hammer wanted more space. But, now that little rectangle stays concrete-y and uncluttered just all the time.


The Family Room of Our House

My dear husband, Toyota T., bought this house without me even seeing it. I think he did a great job. He loved two things about this house: the yard, and the family room. This room has windows on three sides, and is on the west end of the house so it gets some lovely natural light all year long.

When we first moved in, one wall was red brick, presumably the outside wall of the house at some point, the floor was 1950’s green patterned linoleum, there was a screen door between the kitchen and the family room and the counter opening between the two rooms was divided with some fancy plexiglass panels. 9 years later, we have painted, added carpeting, removed the door and plexiglass, and incorporated it into the rest of our house, year-round.

Since we all love this room, we have added more and more stuff to it. Finally, at the breaking point, we had two couches, the tv and components, the tv cart, a dresser, several little drawer units, a toy corner, a bookshelf, a telescope, a tub filing cabinet, both computers, a glider, and, finally, a 6 foot by 4 foot desk for me to use (translate: cover completely with stuff). I had added the desk because I thought my problem was that I didn’t have any drawers at my desk. That’s a good one.

As you can see from the above photo, we had this room jam-packed. I finally realized that the drawers in the desk apparently weren’t doing me any good at all since my desk was constantly covered in stuff, and I mean deep.

When I decided to apply “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful,” I saw that my really big desk was turning out to be neither useful nor beautiful. I began to transport almost everything out of the room. I’ve read that in several books — take everything out of the space before figuring out what you want there.

After removing the majority of the stuff in the room, I ended up with the two couches, the dresser (now holding the tv instead of the tv cart), one table holding two computers and two printers, the tub file, and two drawer units. I also gleaned a table from my mom which fit perfectly in the corner and is now holding several houseplants.

The room is now open, and everyone loves being in here. I think the clutter was really getting to everyone, and even though no one had to use my desk for anything, the heap of stuff was frustrating everyone. I think the thing that finally got me to make a change was that I could never find anything I was looking for. I spent so much time looking for things. It drove me crazy.

The good thing about this room now is that it is REALLY easy to pick up. To get this photo, I had to pick up a wristwatch from the table, and a pair of socks. Otherwise, there’s nothing else in this end of the room and this is where we all sit to watch TV.

The only secret to my success that I can claim is that I have a lot less stuff in this room and it is very easy to see when something is out of place. My family can even easily clean up this room because it is so obvious when something doesn’t belong. I highly recommend it.

Decluttering Update

I know you must be wondering what the next step is in the decluttering road I’ve taken.

It’s called: hit a roadblock.

I haven’t yet told you all my wonderful success of clearing out the family room and part of the basement, and the kitchen. But I’ve had some wonderful success clearing out the family room, part of the basement, and kitchen.

That was on spring break. Since then, I have realized that my newfound love of decluttering is having to be subsumed to the minutiae of the day.

Today I will spruce up the decluttered family room, give a nod to the part of the basement that has been cleared out, and tell myself that I am STILL decluttering even if I haven’t taken a carload of stuff to Goodwill lately.

And, I j-walked this morning, so I’m good for exercise today. (J-walking is interval training consisting of 200 steps walking, then 200 steps jogging. I love it. It’s not pronounced jaywalking. But jwalking.)

I have been worrying about whether or not to go lo-carb again. I realized this morning that a high protein diet PROBABLY isn’t any worse for me than a high junk food diet might be, so I’m back on high protein.

50 Lbs Lighter

Over the years, as boys will do, my sons have accumulated a large quantity of LEGOs. I’ve been a pretty conscientious mom, taking the time to keep the instructions together, picking up thousands of LEGOs and putting them back into the bin, finding and utilizing a larger bin when the LEGOs outgrew their home, and NOT vacuuming them up, but instead, bending over thousands of times to pick up these teeny pieces and putting them away. After many years of watching the kids play with the LEGOs, I noticed they were not being used much anymore. I checked with the boys so see if they were ready to let them go. The boys agreed they were ready.

I generally don’t list anything on Ebay, since it’s faster and easier to drop things off at Goodwill, but I wondered what a huge lot of LEGOs might go for on Ebay. I was amazed to find that LEGOs indeed are quite worth selling on Ebay. We took a lovely photo for our listing (only one shot) which I am including for you here.

I should mention that we discovered the weight of the blocks by my 13-year-old son weighing himself with and without the bin. NO WAY was I getting on the scale with that huge, heavy thing. I already see a big enough number on my friendly scale without adding 45 pounds onto that number. We also took them to the post office to get the exact weight, so we could, you know, price the shipping correctly.

For the first several days, the only auction action consisted of multiple emails from people trying to get them for a ridiculously low price, asking me what my reserve price was (isn’t that usually kept a secret?), and checking to see if I could do things I had already said I wouldn’t do on the listing. (Apparently, their parents didn’t do a good job of saying “no” and meaning it.)

As the auction neared its close, the bidding picked up, but still slowly enough I wasn’t sure we would even reach my reserve price. Imagine my surprise when the bidding reached and quickly surpassed my reserve! Eventually the LEGOs sold for $250! We have just returned from the post office where we shipped the lot off to the lucky new owner.

My husband and I went to the post office together to ship the LEGOs today and he was highly skeptical that I had charged the correct price for shipping. He used to work for the post office, so maybe that influenced him, but I was Pretty Sure I had been careful to put the right info in. I didn’t really want to charge the guy $40 for shipping and end up paying $75. Smart thinking, eh? Dear husband was delighted to see that the shipping price was correct, as was I. And off the LEGOs went to their new home.

So, I’m 50 pounds lighter! It feels good.

Now let’s get back to those photos . . .

Picture This

I’ve fast-forwarded somewhat so you can see some of my actual decluttering!

Before we got a digital camera (or two, actually), we had those old-fashion 35mm types that took photos that had to be stored somewhere other than the computer. As a result of a husband who loves to take pictures and who is rather good at it, I am the proud owner of four photo boxes, an American Girl doll box, two bags, and one large 12″ square photo box full of photos. I know they are not supposed to be stored in the basement, so they are in the coat closet of my house. Remember, we have a small house, and the closet space is very limited, and this is the best place I can think of to store these photos.

Two days ago I decided it was time to attack the photos and see if there were one or two that could be discarded. Oh, I should mention that I am not a Creative Memories afficionado, and even if I were, it would take me at least 27 years to get all these photos cropped and arranged. So, they remain, in boxes. At some point along the way, I did try to bring some organization to them and used little ziploc bags to put photos into groups. But, alas, they remained a very large, very burdensome, treasure.

As I began to look through the photos, I realized that my photographer husband has always believed that one needs to take at least 2-10 shots of something in order to get one good copy. And I also realized that I myself bought into that “get duplicates” thing. So, here’s a nice shot of baby sleeping on her handmade blanket. Oh, and here’s a duplicate of that one. No, it’s not a duplicate, just one very similar. And, here’s another similar one, and another, and another, another, and ok, this one for sure is a duplicate. And I asked myself: WHO of us, even the one pictured, wants or needs to look at 12 extremely similar photos of this precious little baby sleeping? Especially because we have several other sets of her sleeping as well. So, I culled out most of them, leaving myself with one or two of these particular shots of her sleeping. It’s not like she had colic or something and pictures of her sleeping were as hard to come by as hen’s teeth. She slept fine.

So, I began the process. Pulled out duplicates, removed really blurry photos, took out photos that were dark, and removed some of those “proofs” from the multi-shot sleeping sessions. At the end of the day, I had removed 7 pounds of photos. Here’s the photo:

I was feeling very proud at this point. 7 pounds of photos! Woohoo! I had cleared out 1 1/2 of the photo boxes and was feeling strong and confident, ready to attack the American Girl doll box the next day. Which I did. By the end of the process, I had cleared out enough photos to be able to actually get rid of the American Girl doll box!

I put the pictures into grocery bags and then into the trash. The trash even got taken out. Then I started worrying. What if I’m sorry I threw them away? It’s not like a pair of shoes that I can go and just get another one of. When these are gone, they are truly gone. I thought maybe I had better do some journaling about this before they were gone and I decided I still wanted them for some reason.

What reason could I possibly have for wanting them? I wasn’t sure, but I have learned in this decluttering process to listen to myself when I am feeling unsure about something. As I wrote, I realized that I had always had this idea of making a photo album for each of my five children and I realized that if I threw away all the duplicates, I couldn’t make pretty much identical albums for each child. But, wait! Do I WANT to make identical photo albums for each child? Wouldn’t it be more fun to make them similar albums? That is, albums with photos from all their childhoods, but different photos? That seems like it would be much more fun. Upon further reflection, I thought beyond making them for the kids and decided on a theme for my eventual photo albums: Life in _________. Each album would cover a time period when we lived in a certain town/state/country, or maybe just cover a certain time period, like college/graduate school, or our own childhoods, “Life in my Family of Origin.”

I decided at that point to get the photos back out of the trash and keep them long enough to go through them again with my new plan in mind. I feel so much better about this idea, and I am confident I will still get rid of many of the original photos I first discarded, but I am not getting rid of them anymore without some sort of plan. And with photos, I think that having a plan is probably a really good idea.

I’ve always known that getting rid of photos is for me an extremely difficult process. Is it difficult for you? I daresay there are lots of people who have even more boxes than I do who can hardly face the thought of going through them.

My thought about photos is that they don’t need any special colored papers underneath them or little stickers that tie them together with a theme. What I want when I look at photos is to read about the picture — where was this? Why did the photographer take it? Is there a story? That to me is what makes the photo special, especially years down the road when the viewer is wondering what, where, when, why, who, and how?

Picture this! I have a plan!

My "Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui" Phase

So, the next thing I tried was reading this book: “Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui.” Here is an excerpt from her book:

Feng Shui is the art of balancing and harmonizing the flow of natural energies in our surroundings to create beneficial effects in our lives. These natural energy flows were well known and understood by the ancients, and knowledge of them still exists in some cultures today.

I had heard of this concept and I was pretty desperate to get rid of this stuff. I thought maybe if I started talking about “the energy of my clutter” it might help me do something. I mean, energy is good, right? I want energy! I need energy! And if the pesky clutter is draining my energy, then . . . wait. If the pesky clutter is draining my energy, then where am I going to get the energy to get rid of the clutter? It takes serious energy to go through all the junk, not to mention carrying it out to the car or trash, and what about putting the stuff I’m keeping back onto the top shelf? Well, I’m only on page 2 of the book, so I’ll keep on. Maybe she’ll explain where to find the energy that is being sucked out by the boxes of stuff.

And another excerpt:

My own approach to Feng Shui is rather different to that of other practitioners because I work directly with the energy of each space. Over a twenty year period, I have developed the ability to see, hear, smell, taste and sense energy in enhanced ways, so to begin a consultation the first thing I usually do is go around the entire inside perimeter of the building, taking an energy reading with my hands. The history of events is recorded in the walls and furniture in the form of subtle electromagnetic imprints, and through reading and interpreting these I can detect everything of significance that has ever happened there. Traumatic or repetitive events become more deeply embedded and have a correspondingly greater effect on present day occupants. I am also able to find areas where the energy in the building has become stagnant and discover what needs to be done to improve its flow. Whenever I come across clutter, its energy field is unmistakable. It presents an obstacle to the flow of energy and has an unpleasant, sticky, unclean feel to it, like moving my hands through unseen cobwebs. This is what first made me realize that clutter causes problems in people’s lives. It also has a distinctive musty, pervasive odour which I can smell if I walk into someone’s home, even if the clutter is hidden away from sight. Actually, if I tune in, I can also smell it in a person’s aura (the energy field around their body) if they stand near me, because they become imbued with the smell of it. But don’t worry about this if you ever meet me in person – there is so much clutter in the world that I don’t tune in too often!

So, I wonder if people can smell my clutter on me? When I step up to the optometrist’s reception area, do they wrinkle their noses and wonder what is that “unpleasant, sticky, unclean” thing they are detecting. Wow, with this thing to worry about, now I have even less energy than I thought.

Here’s the link to the place I got these excerpts, because it has been a long time since I read the book. I have had to take a lot of naps to recover from reading this, so be careful.

The only other thing I remember from reading this book is that Ms. Kingston believes there is a great deal of energy being captured in empty boxes, and they are especially pernicious when stored under the bed. Well, I knew I had a lot of empty boxes in the basement, so I thought maybe I could scare up some extra energy by getting rid of some of those boxes.

I opened the basement door bravely. I slowly walked down the steps, preserving what little energy I still possessed. Soon enough, I spied a few empty boxes.

In the picture directly above this paragraph, you will notice an empty SILVER box in the upper left-hand corner of the photo. And in the photo to the left, look carefully on the right side and you will notice a dark green empty box that has stuff in it. Does that make it an empty box or not?

But, I ask you. Really. Does it look to you like the empty boxes are the problem in these photos? I think not.

Sadly, I concluded that although Ms. Kingston probably has some good ideas, she wasn’t going to be the impetus that would make me do something about this clutter, now known as energy-sucking clutter.

Will this ever change? Stay tuned.