30 Day Clutter Challenge – Day 5 Linen Closet

  Thanks for hanging in there with the clutter challenge. Do you feel like you are making any progress? Things have been really busy around here, but I still feel like I am getting things done to clear the clutter.

Today, we will focus on the linen closet. This task will be simple. All you need to do is get rid of any torn or stained linens. It makes sense that you would do this as they become stained or torn, but, if you are like me, the reality is that you think you will find a miracle stain remover and someday soon you’ll get them back to new condition. Or…you think that a little tear in a towel isn’t a big deal. Then, you let it go for a few washes and suddenly your little tear has turned into a big, frayed mess.

There are probably very few people who enjoy spending their hard-earned cash on new towels or sheets, but having a few really nice quality ones is a better option than having a ton of torn and stained ones that you are embarrassed to have anyone use.

So, go take a look in your linen closet (or under your sink, or in your bedroom floor, or in the laundry basket…wherever you keep your towels and sheets) and give them a quick sort. If you find any really bad ones that you can’t use for cleaning rags, consider donating them to a local animal shelter. They can usually use them and would be happy to have them. 

This one won’t even take the full 15 minutes (if you keep all the items in one location). Go get it done. Quickly. While you’re motivated. See you on the next mission!

 

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30 Day Clutter Challenge- Day 4 Kitchen Utensils 

So, if you’ve been following my blog, you know that I love to cook. I’ve always dreamed of opening a restaurant. Creating plates of food that people enjoy eating makes me happy. Because of this passion I have for preparing food, I have built up quite a collection of kitchen supplies….ingredients (as we discussed in the pantry mission of this challenge), dishes, cookware, appliances, and kitchen utensils. Just as a carpenter needs the right tools when building, I’ve always felt that I need the right tools when cooking.

When I began my big clutter clearing mission last year, I knew that clothes were my biggest problem and that the kitchen was next. It’s pretty simple…every time I catch myself complaining about cleaning, the two things I complain the most about are laundry and the kitchen. It makes sense that those are my two most cluttered areas.

You see, the problem wasn’t just that I wanted to have every tool I might need in the kitchen (even is I only used it once a year), I felt like if having one tool was a good thing, having two or three was even better.  As I started to group my items, I was amazed at how many duplicates I had. You might be, too.

Today, you will need to take out all of your kitchen serving utensils and group them into like items. This is great practice for younger kids in matching. Place serving spoons in one group, spatulas in another, whisks in another, as so on until they are all grouped. Once this is done, you should notice that some groups are larger than others. Now, you’re going to have to figure out how many you need. This process will vary from one person to another. For me, it was a matter of thinking through how many food items I would generally prepare at once and what utensils would be needed for prepping and serving those things. So…a typical meal here consists of an entree, two or three sides, and a bread. For prepping that, I could need a whisk, a spatula (the stirring type and the flipping type), a set of tongs, two or three cooking spoons,four serving spoons, a serrated knife for cutting the bread, and a butter knife. I most likely wouldn’t need all of these items in the same meal, but it is a possibility, so I want to be prepared. I want to have all of these items handy so that if a need arises, I don’t have to look around for a needed tool.

Let me stop for just a minute and share a couple of recommendations that might make your life (well, at least the part spent preparing meals at home) a little easier. My favorite utensils to use for cooking are bamboo. This set from Amazon is inexpensive and will last for years. Lipper International 826 Set of 6 Bamboo Kitchen Tools, in Mesh Bag. There are several reasons why I love these. First, they do not scratch nonstick cookware. Second, they come in a variety of shapes that meet most cooking needs. They are made of bamboo, so they do not run the risk of melting and imparting chemicals into your foods as you are cooking, they feel nice in your hands, and most of all…they are beautiful. (You can see a couple of these in the photo at the bottom. I used my wood burning tool to add a few designs to them, but these are the ones I ordered from Amazon.) My second recommendation is that if you do not already have it, you get a nice set of serving utensils. If the ones you have are in poor condition, I suggest these Klassische Kuche (TM) Professional Grade Stainless Steel Flatware 6 Piece Kitchen Tool and Gadget Set. I was able to let a lot of my utensils go because once I had grouped them, I could easily distinguish between the nice serving pieces and the junk.

So, now you’re probably thinking…what if I have a party, or Thanksgiving is at my house this year? I have a solution for you, too. When I did my big utensil purge, I knew that there were several items that I might need occasionally but would not use very often. I didn’t want to face a need and know that I had gotten rid of the exact tool I needed, so I bought a little tub like this one Sterilite 18828012 6-Quart See-Through Latch Box with White Lid and Peacock Latches and placed the items I knew I would use again but not very often inside. I closed the container and placed it on an upper shelf in my pantry. This keeps me from having to shuffle these items around daily while looking for something I need, but also ensures that I have them when the need arises. The thing you want to be careful of here is that you truly only keep the ones you know you will use.

Once you have figured out which items you will actually use, place those back into your drawer, and get rid of the extras. I suggest thinking about your flatware, too. This is not an issue with me, but, I do know people who have three or four complete (?) sets of flatware in their drawers. Why would a regular person in a family of four or five ever need that many sets of flatware? If you don’t have more than six people at your table almost every day of the year, you do not need twenty-four forks and spoons. You need to wash dishes more often. Here is an important thing that I have realized: If you have more utensils and flatware than you need, it is tempting to use more of them before doing the dishes which creates a dirty kitchen. If your silverware basket is always running over in your dishwasher (and you don’t have a houseful of guests), this is probably directed at you. Try an experiment…take away the extras for a week and see if you can survive without them. If you find that it does not create too much extra work to keep them clean and that it does create a cleaner-looking space, pack them up until needed.

My last tip today is to separate your utensils in to more than one drawer if possible. After cutting the number I have in half, I still have quite a few utensils that I use almost daily or at least a few times a week. I hate wasting time digging through the drawer trying to locate the exact item I need, so I put all stainless steel utensils in one drawer and all others in a separate drawer (my flatware is in a third drawer). I realize that you might not all have the luxury of extra drawer space. If that is the case, consider grouping one set in a pretty container on your counter. This one is really nice because it rotates. OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Rotating Utensil Holder You might even have a nice container sitting around that could be put to use for this purpose. My kids can easily separate the utensils into these two sets because either the utensil is all silver or it is not. The end. It is easy to choose the correct drawer. I could fit all the items in one drawer since I don’t have an excessive number of them, but having them in separate drawers is so nice because it allows me to see with a glance what I am looking for and grab it.

I hope these tips will help you and that they will save you a few precious minutes each day. I would love for you to stop back by and let me know how this mission worked out for you. I hope to see you again for the next mission!

30 Day Clutter Challenge Day 4 Kitchen Utensils

30 Day Clutter Challenge- Day 3 Books/Magazines

How did the closet mission go for you? I’m pleased to say that I only had to get rid of a few t-shirts this time and one pair of pants that I hung onto in the last purge but realized I really do not wear. I feel like I might finally be getting into a groove with keeping my closet under control. We still have one more step to go in the closet, but I will save it for later in the challenge.

Today’s mission is very simple and fast (unless you have to dig under beds and through closets to find them). We are going through old books and magazines. These items can take up a lot of valuable space in your home. I realize that these items have a sentimental attachment for some people, but they take up a lot of space, and most people do not actually go back and read them again.

I don’t have any pictures to show you from my house on this one, because I got rid of my books and magazines the last time I did a purge. I realized at that time that I had saved stacks and stacks of magazines thinking that I would use one project or another. Do you know where I looked each time I wanted to come up with an idea for a project, though? Not my stack of magazine. Nope, I looked on Pinterest. So….. I saved the one magazine that had a collection of food gifts and their wrapping ideas and got rid of all the rest. All of them.

I also took a long, hard look at my books. This part was a little tougher because I really loved each of the books I had read and hung onto. I had to admit to myself, though, that I really was not going to go back and read any of the novels again. Some of you do that, and that is fine. Keep your books if you will truly go back and read them again. I am just not one of those people. Because of that, I donated my novels. I took several of them to the school, and I donated the others to the local library. They were thrilled to get them. There are a few that contain advice about saving money or decluttering, and since I refer back to them and do read sections over in them, I hung onto those. I placed them all in one location so that I could easily access them and I hung onto a couple of novels that I thought my girls would enjoy when they get older.

I have never had a large bookshelf that was full of books, so I was shocked at just how many books I had accumulated. It was nice to recover that space and know that the books would be enjoyed by others. It’s kind of like giving your beloved books a new life. They exist to be read and enjoyed, and giving them the opportunity to continue that “life” just seems like the right thing to do.

Happy decluttering!

   

Having Less Gives Me More…

declutter simple minimal minimalism  This morning when I walked downstairs and looked around, I started to panic. My house looked like a wreck! How could this be? I have worked so hard to eliminate the unnecessary. I have tried to establish rules for everyone to follow about putting things away as soon as they are used. I have assigned places to all the things that belong in the kitchen and family room areas. So, how was I looking around at such a mess?

Thoughts started to swirl inside my head… What if someone drops by? They will never believe that it was clean yesterday! I begin to argue with those thoughts, though. I watched a movie with my husband after the kids were asleep last night. This rarely happens because I usually fall asleep too early. If I had spent the time cleaning the kitchen, I might have missed the opportunity to spend that time with him. Hmmm…. there had to be a balance. I decided to just suck it up and the girls and I got busy cleaning. A funny thing happened, though. It only took twenty minutes to clean. Twenty minutes and it was right back in shape! Clean enough for company. Do you have any idea how exciting this is to me?

You see, although there was stuff everywhere, it all had a place where it belonged. It was simply a matter of putting it there. Some things were downstairs that belonged in the laundry basket upstairs…less than two minutes to gather every one of these items and place them in a pile at the bottom of the stairs. Next, there were several pairs of shoes scattered around the room…30 seconds to gather and put in another pile beside the stairs. A few dirty dishes on the table and beside the couch needed to be moved into the kitchen, then the big kitchen clean-up began. First, I filled one side of the sink with hot, soapy water. Next, I started quickly loading the dirty dishes into the dishwasher. There were more in the sink and on the counters. Where do these things come from? Is our cat preparing midnight snacks and eating off of plates every night while we are sleeping? I might believe that was the case except that we were downstairs watching a movie until after midnight.

Okay, I will admit that my husband and I might have cooked a snack to eat while we watched the movie. And by snack, I might mean that we cooked sausage dogs on an indoor grill pan and didn’t clean up the mess when we finished. Don’t tell my girls though. 😉

Back to the cleaning…any dishes that did not fit into the dishwasher went into the soapy water. Once the dishwasher was fully loaded, I turned it on. Ten minutes into the cleaning at this point. I hand-washed the remaining items while the girls dried them and put them up. Fourteen minutes. I used the soapy water to wipe down the countertops and cooktop while the girls cleared the remaining items off the table and put them away (sunscreen, paper and markers, coasters). I wiped down the table. Seventeen minutes had passed. All that remained was for the girls to grab a few toys from the family room and take the dirty laundry, shoes, and toys upstairs while I swept the floors. Done in less than twenty minutes! Now, don’t get me wrong… the floor still needs to be mopped, the furniture dusted, the baseboards cleaned. What I’m shooting for is presentable, though – not looking like a tornado just came through my downstairs. And, we achieved that in LESS THAN TWENTY MINUTES.  I owe this all to having less stuff.

Before I started eliminating the excess, I had pieces from five sets of dishes. A few had been broken along the way, so I kept adding more to replace them without ever getting rid of any. This resulted in my having a towering set of mismatched plates in my cabinet. Putting the dishes away when they were cleaned required great skill and balance. Plates had to be removed from the cabinet and rearranged each time the dishwasher was cleaned out in order to avoid an avalanche if they were not stacked from largest in diameter to smallest. I had three stacks of these. I also had two different types of bowls that resulted in the same problem. They had to be strategically stacked in order to avoid a collapse. I have a good bit of cabinet space in my kitchen, and I felt as if I needed to fill every inch of it. I wish I had counted the number of coffee cups I had accumulated. I love to drink coffee, and we have collected a few coffee cups from places we have visited. In addition to those cups, I had a variety of cups that I had received as gifts throughout the years, the cups that had not broken from three sets of dishware, the twelve cups that were part of my set of china, and the list goes on. For Christmas, my mom gave me a set of black dishes. Twelve dinner plates, twelve bowls, and twelve coffee cups. I decided that I would keep that set and my set of china and get rid of the rest. Putting dishes away became SO much easier. I have two stacks of plates on my lower shelves – the black dinner plates, and the china dessert/salad plates. There is no balancing act because each plate in its stack is identical. And, in case you are wondering, yes…we use the china on a daily basis. My four year old eats breakfast off of the china plate. For years I stored these dishes that I love so much in a china cabinet and only brought them out once or twice a year. I realized a while back how crazy that was. I love these dishes! Why was I saving them?

I kept a few of the special coffee cups in a separate cabinet because when I’m the only one awake, I like to drink my coffee from one of these mugs. If the cabinet gets crowded, though, some will have to go. It is so much easier to put things away when the cabinet is not crowded. If I ever have the need to host a dinner party, I still have more dishes remaining than I have seating.

If you dread having to clean out your dishwasher or put away the dishes after hand-washing them, take a minute and evaluate your dishes. How many do you have? Do you need them all? If not, do you love them all? Try keeping one set of ten to twelve dishes (unless you have a smaller or much larger family) and packing the rest away temporarily. I’m not telling you to get rid of them *yet*. This is just a trial. Give it a month. See how it goes. You might just find that it brings you more peace to wash dishes a little more often but to have an easier time getting them out of and putting them into the cabinets. While you’re at it, evaluate your cookware, too. How many eyes do you have on your cooktop? Do you need more pots than that? What about casserole dishes? How many do you need of the same size? If you run across something you think you might be able to live without, pack it up and put a date on it. If you can make it through a major holiday without needing it, you can probably let it go. If you just feel as if you can’t let it go, at least pack it away so that you don’t have to work around it each time you open the cabinet door.

I have learned that having less gives me more. It gives me more space, obviously. It gives me more time…time that I don’t have to spend cleaning/moving/organizing/looking for/putting away. It gives me more peace…clear spaces make me feel so much more relaxed and calm. It gives me more of a sense of accomplishment…I am learning that the things of life do not define me. Give it a try and see…you just might find that having less can also give you more. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. What does having less mean to you? If you are working on this, what have you eliminated from your kitchen and did you miss it after it was gone? If you plan to give it a try, let me know how it goes!

The Life-Changing Magic of a Book

  Okay, to say that a book can change your life seems a little drastic, but I recently read a book that was the capstone to a journey I began a while back. Marie Kondo’s bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, was the final push I needed in a direction I needed to go.

I am a recovering stuffaholic. I majored in marketing in college, and though I understand the tactics, I allowed the ads to draw me in… to convince me that I needed the latest this or the newly-updated that. A few years back, I began to realize that my house was cluttered, so I took the logical(?) first step and began to organize. I created an entire board on Pinterest that was dedicated to organization ideas. I researched the topic and found ideas for ways to organize kitchen utensils, clothes, toys, cleaning supplies, even junk drawers! What I failed to realize was that it would have been much easier to clear the clutter than to organize it.

You see, the organization tips sound great until you step back and realize that most of them require you to purchase – you guessed it – even MORE stuff. You begin to think that if you just had the perfect set of baskets in your pantry, and a set of those beautiful glass containers for all of your dry goods, and a hanging organizer over the door, and an organizer for your canned goods, and some type of organizer for the 250 plastic containers and lids, ……. then your kitchen would look awesome!

Once you make a trip to The Container Store, Walmart, and Target, and you arrive home with all your newly-acquired organization “solutions” you are ready to get started. You begin to pull all the things out and put them into their pretty new compartments and you start to feel that sense of accomplishment. You know the one…look at me, I have organized all this stuff! If you’re like me, though, months pass and the hard work slowly slips away, giving way eventually to another cluttered mess. That’s because, like me, you probably started at the end.  That’s right. Organization is not the beginning. It is the end.

This is where Marie Kondo’s book is useful. You have to first start by getting rid of  all the stuff you do not need. This is the hard part, but it is the part that makes all the difference. Here is my warning, though: if you have hesitant family members or children who live at home, you might want to start with  The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life, by Francine Jay. This book was the first one I read, and I probably applied more of the principles in it than from Kondo’s book. I love that Joy gives you permission to put things on hold and think about them for a while before making a decision (Kondo, on the other hand, wants you to speed through the work and get items out of your home as quickly as possible).

When you are new to letting things go (or have family members who don’t quite buy into it all yet), a holding pattern is the best solution. Pack up the things you think you can do without, or in Kondo’s words, “things that do not spark joy” and put a date on them. Revisit them in 6 months and see if you want anything back. Or, better yet, if you haven’t opened the box in 6 months, just let it go. Either way, you get a chance to see what your home could look like without all the excess. You might just find that you value the space more than the stuff.

I currently have several large containers of items that I have placed on hold, and I plan to revisit them in a few months. For now, I am certain that I enjoy the empty space, but whether some of the items get to hang around remains to be seen.  My very favorite lesson from Kondo’s book is her Konmari method for folding clothes. Why didn’t I learn this years ago? I love opening drawers and seeing items folded using her technique. You can see every single item and pull out exactly what you want without disturbing anything else. Take a look:  

Though I found Kondo’s approach to be a bit more drastic than I felt I could take with a husband and children along for the ride, her words definitely inspired me. While I don’t see myself ever reaching a point where I talk to my socks or empty every item of my purse every night only to pack it all back into the bag the next morning, her words are soothing and through them, she paints a picture of a calm home, filled with joy. She made me want to pull every item in my house out into the open and put very few of the items back (Incidentally, I didn’t- I just looked at each item and made a decision. Don’t tell Marie.). Most importantly, she made me believe that it is okay to live with only the things that spark joy.

Maybe you are one of the lucky ones who learned these things at an early age and already have a calm, uncluttered home. If so, I applaud you (and thank you sincerely for hanging around for the entire post 😉). If you’re like me, though, and feel as if you are surrounded by too much stuff, check out these two books. Post a comment and let me know what you think. If you have already begun a similar journey, I’d love to hear your advice.

My Simple Life…Out Loud

homeI have always loved to write, and I have wanted to start a blog for years, but I never felt like I had the time. Lately, I have significantly reduced the amount of time spent watching TV, and I have reduced a lot of the stuff that was cluttering my life. By doing these things, I have created some extra time. The benefits of watching less TV are obvious, but by clearing the things in my home, I got the added benefit of extra time that I do not have to spend on cleaning. Those of you who know me know how much I do not enjoy cleaning. I got so tired of it that I decided earlier this year that I had had enough. I have gotten rid of over 100 bags of stuff and am finally at the point where I can keep my house presentable without wasting so much time.

I have eliminated duplicates of things throughout my home by answering simple questions like… How many can openers does one family need? Do I really need every single color of that shirt that was on sale? How many towels/blankets/sheet sets do we ever really use? I gave each item in my closet a good hard look and asked myself if it fit, if I would really wear it again, if I even liked it in the first place, and if I went shopping today if I would buy it. I gave my children the chance to really evaluated their clothes, too. Children will be brutally honest if you give them the freedom and refrain from offering your own opinions. I allowed my older children the chance to look at each piece of clothing and tell me if they truly liked it or not – and didn’t argue with them if they said they didn’t like something, no matter how much it had cost. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a work in progress. I still have a lot of things in my home that I do not need (and many that I do not even like), but I am working each day toward a home filled with things that I love.

I like to share experiences with others. I cook. I craft. I experience life with my husband and three children. I created this blog to share my life with those who choose to follow along. I’ll share recipes, family experiences, things I’ve made, my thoughts, and my journey to a simpler and less-cluttered life. If any of this sounds interesting, tune in. Here it is…my simple life out loud.