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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Get rid of things you don't like!

I'm a terrible shopper, and part of the reason is that I don't know if I like something until I get it home and try it out.  I don't do a very good job imagining it on me, or me using it, or whatever forethought it takes to decide if something is right for you.

Let's take the bowl for example.

Item #8: Red bowl

We bought it as a fruit bowl because I wanted to keep fruit on the table for snacks.

But it's ugly.  And red.  I don't have a lick of red decor in my house. 

But worst of all, it tips over all the time.  And then you have oranges rolling all over the floor.

So today I am getting rid of the ugly red bowl that doesn't hold stuff.  Ahhh!

What is in your house that doesn't work nearly as well as you thought it would?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Do we really need reference books anymore?

Yesterday I talked about decluttering the book shelves. Today, I'm challenging you to take it one step further...

Reference Books

Now, if you are a book-lover like myself, you probably adore your reference books.  You may have your very favorite dictionary that you've had since high school (mine is about 3 inches thick and has full color glossy photos of all the US Presidents.  I think it ends with Reagan!); the Spanish-English dictionary you took to Argentina; your very favorite commentaries of the Bible; and your children's dictionaries.

But I have finally come to the realization that we never use them.  Never.

Because when my kids ask me how to pronounce a word, I go to HowJSay.

When they want to know how many babies a platypus has, I send them to Wikipedia.

 A question about the Bible? Try Blue Letter Bible

Google is our friend!

Just like the card catalog of yesteryear, the internet has made almost every reference book in the home obsolete. I would even argue that the need to alphabetize is almost archaic.

I'm expecting that the library time I used learning how to write out a card for the card catalog will now be used teaching my children how to verify if an online source is valid for personal use, academic use, and serious research.  And, of course, I do expect libraries to continue housing reference materials, since in a library books are not clutter.  

But in my house they are.

So, today I am saying goodbye to this stack of reference books.  I know there are others hiding here and there, and they will be going too.  And I'll bet no one notices.

Item #7: Stack of reference books. 

How about you? When was the last time you used your set of encyclopedias? The dictionary?  Is there any reference need you think cannot be fulfilled by a good internet connection?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thinking ahead when giving gifts

We have been so very blessed by the generosity of others.  They see our large family and know that their forgotten toys and bikes with be used and used for many years to come.

Two Christmases ago, someone from my husband's workplace approached him about some porcelain dolls she had.  They were in wonderful condition and just needed a loving home.  We thought it was the perfect Christmas gift for our girls, then 8 and 10.

We gave the 8 of these beautiful dolls.  They have played with them - maybe 6 times in 2 years.

However, the dolls take up so much space!  They have to be on a horizontal surface and they have to be up away from little sisters. I've moved them from place to place, but honestly I'm just tired of moving them and looking at them.  Add to that our dust allergy, and I think it is time for these girls to go!

However, in my zeal to declutter, I do not want to emotionally scar my girls. I don't want them to be afraid that I will steal their favorite Christmas presents, and I don't want them to be afraid to leave me at home with their stuff.  After all, I would be seriously miffed if my husband threw away my stuff.

So, I took the dolls down and put them in a tub.  I'm guessing the girls won't even notice they are gone.  If they haven't mentioned them by Thanksgiving, I'll talk to them about passing them on to another loving family.

Item #6: Porcelain Dolls (about 12 inches tall)

But what this has taught me is that I need to think about the gifts we give to our children (or ourselves). Do we actually have a good place to keep the gift?  Is there a smaller version that would be just as fun or useful?

What gifts do you give that take up little space?
Do you have any gifts in your house that are taking up too much space?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Decluttering the book shelves

My husband and I are both avid readers, and much of our courtship was spent discussing books we had read, long ago or that very day.  In fact, he dreamed about having his own library.  A room filled floor to ceiling with books, and probably a fireplace, velvet winged-back chair, and a pipe too.

He also loved to browse garage sales for these treasured books, and quickly became interested in the "look" of a book.  He bought all of the Reader's Digest Condensed books...all of them, so that he could have them beautifully lined up.  Volumes 1 through 166.  He bought every Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew he could find.  If he found an author he really liked, such as Tom Clancy or Patrick McManaugh, he bought several copies of their books.

In our almost 13 years of marriage, we have moved 9 times.  Each time, our fabulous friends who showed up to load the truck would sing the refrain:

"I've never seen so many books."


"Do you actually read all of these?"


"Another box of books?  How many more are there?"

Recently, I read a wonderful post about how to choose which books to get rid of.  I was so tired of crammed and sagging shelves that advice like "anything that is red" or "any book over 1 inch thick" would have been welcome!  But her advice was even better.  She said

Keep one shelf of books you plan to read in the next year.  You can also keep books that have very significant meaning to you (such as yearbooks).

One shelf!!  Could I really consolidate my books onto one shelf??  I took it as a challenge.

  • I first cleared out all of the books that I had already read and did not need to read again.  That was at least one box. 
  • Then I took out all of the books that I had not read and really didn't ever want to read.  This still left quite alot.  
  • Then I started thinking about "What would I read today?"  That narrowed it down to about 30, and everything else went to Goodwill or the Give to Friends pile.  

That was about a month ago, and now when I look at the bookshelf I realize there are books out of that 30 that I now don't have any desire to read.  So, today I'm telling them goodbye and sending them off to a new home.

By the way, two websites have really changed my need to keep books in my house.

The first is  When someone recommends a book, or I see that lots of teens are reading a book and I want to pre-screen it for my kiddos, I add it to my reading list.  Voila!  I don't have to buy it.  I don't have to keep it on my shelf.  It's on my list for whenever I get around to it.

The second is my Library's website. I have a fabulous library system that has pretty much every book ever written.  When I decide I want it, I just place it on hold and two days later is waiting for me!  When I'm done, I can give it back! It's kinda like I'm keeping all of my books at the library.  Books never have to fill up my space again - because I'm spaced out!  I'd rather make room in my home for people than things.

Since my kids love books too, we go to the library on a very regular basis, and conveniently there is a computer right there by the kids' section.  I can go online and log in to my Goodreads account, and browse through for something that looks wonderful, look it up on the library's catalog and find out exactly what shelf it is on.  It's fun!

Wanna know what I'm reading?  Check out my reading list!

Wanna know what I'm not reading?

 Item #5: Books I can live without.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Don't keep broken things

I have never been a fixer-upper.  I don't fix things around my house.  There. I said it.  I'm not a terrible, lazy person, I'm just realllly bad a fixing things, using glue, or trying to buy a teeny little part, remembering to bring the part in from the car, finding the necessary tool to apply the part, and taking the time to actually do it.  In fact, there's a good chance I'll take my car in to the shop if a headlight burns out.

So, knowing this about myself, why oh why do I put broken things in my garage??  Do I think I'm going to wake up one day, plug in my hot glue gun and get to work?

It's not gonna happen, so I'm resolving to throw away broken stuff.

Item #4 - Broken Chair Parts

We received a much-needed desk chair from friend who was cleaning out his storage and sometime during the weekend an arm fell off.  I suspect it was missing the knob that held it on.  So our chair had one arm all weekend.  It bothered me, but not enough to actually fix it.  Then I realized with glee that I could take off both arms, and then the chair would push in under the desk.

Before this blog, I would have placed the arms in the garage, where they would be destined to be moved from shelf to shelf for 5 years, getting separated from one another and bent, until I finally realized they would never be used.

But today I am throwing them away NOW without them first fermenting in the garage.

What broken stuff is fermenting in your garage today?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Dealing with Socks in a Large Family

Item #3: Unmatched Socks

As a highly disorganized person, keeping all of the kids in matching, clean socks was quite a struggle for me. After consulting many different blogs and forums, here's the system I have now:

*When I buy socks, I only buy Hanes brand.  Hanes have a color coded word or stripe on the bottom of each sock, so I know which child it belongs to. (The other socks you see are either gifts or hand-me-downs) This one tip has been such a time-saver for me, and also makes it possible for someone other than Mommy to match the socks. 

*When I'm matching socks, I always end up with stragglers.  I let these unmatched socks gather in the bottom of the laundry basket or in a little pile for a week or so - long enough to know that I've done lots of laundry and should've found it's match by now.

*About once a month I lay out all of the new unmatched socks that have been accumulating that month.  I make sure there are really no matches.  Then I pull down a bag of old unmatched socks from the previous month.(See below) One by one I pull out socks from the old bag and either find it's match or throw it away.  Yes.  I said throw it away.  Just try it - throw away one sock...and feel the freedom!!

This whole "throw it away" concept was totally mind boggling to me.  I would keep unmatched socks for years- until the child had outgrown them- before throwing them away. I've been using my current method for 2 years now and, surprisingly, we have never run out of socks.  Just the one package from Nana at Christmastime seems to keep us going all year long.  (But that is for 6 kids, so really at Christmas there are 60 new pairs of socks entering the house)

*My exceptions to the "throw it away" rule are thus:
 - Socks that I really think I'll find the match because I've seen them in the car or a bag,
- Socks that are in very good condition and part of a large batch, like the Hanes socks, and
-Socks that I adore and am not ready to admit defeat. Surely their match will find its way home!!
These socks I put in a small bag that I hang on the wall in the laundry room.  This is the bag of old unmatched socks.

It works!  What used to take up an entire football game, with socks strewn across every square inch of the couch now takes 4-5 minutes a week and 10 minutes once a month.

So, today, with much fanfare, I am throwing away that nice pile of socks.  Buh-Bye!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Toys they'll never miss

Item #2: Bin of Toys

We have 6 children currently.  Toys are everywhere.  I justify keeping them because they really do play with them (I know this because they go from neatly in bins to scattered around the house in the blink of an eye)

This is a tub of toys I gathered up about a month ago, not intending to get rid of it, just trying to make the boys' room easier to clean.  It's been a month and they haven't even noticed the toys are gone!!

In lieu of my friend's comment about cleaning out the toys every other week, I'm taking these toys to Goodwill. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Here we go!

I have a problem.  I'm a little bit impulsive and overly dramatic at times.  I like to make wide, sweeping changes instead of little adjustments.

Just, for example, yesterday:

I realize I need to make some changes to the amount of stuff in my house.  My first target....the heirloom china cabinet.  Certainly if I get rid of all of my grandmother's china, that will clear out alot of space.  Hmmmmm.

Not knowing if this was a reasonable idea or not, I asked a few friends I trust.  Two responses I got:

"I'm in a big de-clutter phase right now, but heirlooms are different." -Jen, from Our Peculiar Lives

"I'm not a saver at all BUT I think in this season of society the call to "de-clutter, de-clutter, de-clutter" is going to make some people regretful some day" -Heather, from The View from the Trenches

Also, at a friend's house last night, she mentioned that she purges the toy bucket every other WEEK, with the goal of filling a whole trash bag!  A whole trash bag every other week!!  How can that much stuff come into the house in two weeks?

But it made me realize that I don't need to declutter BIGGER or with more intensity, I need to declutter more frequently.

So, here is my pledge.  I'm going to try to take one thing out of my house every day.  It can be as small as a pen or as large as a couch.  (Currently planning to keep all children, but that might change ;) )

I'm going to take pictures of every single thing that leaves the house, but I'll just tell you now, me and technology don't get along.  You wouldn't think in the year 2012 it would be much trouble to get a silly picture onto the internet, but I know right now this will be my biggest battle.

Here we go!

Item #1:
This really cool box of file folders came for free from my husband's workplace.

                                         Note to Lindsey: If someone is giving something away 
                                         for free because they never use it, it will probably sit 
                                                      in your closet never used.  Just sayin'.