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!

 

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!

   

30 Day Clutter Challenge- Day 2 Closet, Part 1

This post contains an affiliate link.

Well, how did you do with yesterday’s challenge? How much clutter did you remove from your pantry? I actually didn’t have as much as usual. I got rid of a few boxes of cereal that were open and stale, one jar of rice wine vinegar that was almost empty but expired (vinegar expires?!), some instant oatmeal that my kids chose and thought they would eat but actually don’t like, a half-eaten bag of stale chips…not too bad. I still have A LOT of food in there, but I am making an effort over the next few weeks to use those items and leave some empty space. How did you do?
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Okay, now….on to today’s mission: your closet. You can see one end of my closet above. If you’re willing to give up just a little bit of control for the sake of less work, you can enlist your kids’ help here, too. They can work in their closets at the same time (assuming they are old enough). I have broken the closet down into two parts to keep it at 15 minutes per day. I mean, come on…it’s Wednesday for heaven’s sake. We don’t have time for an entire closet overhaul on a Wednesday!

You, too, can have more space. All you have to be willing to do is live with less stuff. That’s it….a simple equation that you don’t have to be a math nerd to appreciate.

LESS STUFF = MORE SPACE

Today, we will only focus on the simple…stained/torn items and those that you have not worn in at least a year. First, the stained and torn. This should be a given, but you might be surprised at how many of these items you hang onto.

We hate to waste money, and it seems to us that if we are getting rid of these items, we are throwing away the money we spent on them. Here’s the thing, though…the money has already been spent. You are not getting any of that money back unless you are able to sell the items (and in this case, I don’t think many people will want to buy your torn or stained items). Keeping these items in your closet is taking up valuable space. You have enough space to fit everything, though, so why clear the space?

Have you ever scrolled through Pinterest and looked at closets that you’d love to have? What do they all have in common? Let me take a guess here…MORE SPACE. You, too, can have more space. All you have to be willing to do is live with less stuff. That’s it….a simple equation that you don’t have to be a math nerd to appreciate.

LESS STUFF = MORE SPACE

The next step is to get rid of things you have not worn in at least a year. If you’re thinking, how will I know if it has been a year? Here’s a simple solution: if you cannot remember the last time you wore the item (not the exact date- I just mean that you cannot picture yourself in the item), let it go. The only exceptions are specific items that you only wear once in a blue moon (a suit for an interview, a formal that you will actually wear again,…). The same rules apply here as above. You cannot reclaim the money you spent by hanging onto items you do not use. And….if you only wear the item occasionally just so that you don’t feel guilty about keeping  it – not because you actually like it (be honest with yourself here!), get rid of it.

There are a few of options here for getting rid of the items. If they are expensive brands and are still in style, consider selling them. Facebook is actually a great source for selling items such as this. Just post them on your page, or join a local sales group page and post there. If the items are in great condition and still in style, but you couldn’t get much in return for selling them, donate them.

Otherwise, if they are clothes that no one would want (again, be honest), get rid of them. (If any of you have good ideas about specific things that can be done with these items, please let me know!)

*If you absolutely can’t let these items go right away, box or bag them up, write the date on the outside, and put them in your storage room/garage/basement. Check back in 6 months and get rid of what is still there!

Although you can’t see it in this picture, I have a set of these hanging shelves on the left of my built-in shelves. I use these to organize my folding clothes. The only clothes I do not hang up are underclothes and shorts. Yes, I even hang my t-shirts. I have this thing about folding clothes… I hate it. Anyway, Amazon has these for a great price right now if you are interested in adding them to your closet. They are really handy for organizing clothes for the week.  Whitmor 6536-300-GREY Hanging Accessory Shelves, 10.75 x 10 x 35

Don’t forget to keep up with your results and take before and after pics! I’d love for you to share them in the comments with me or on social media using the hashtag #mysimpleclutterchallenge and let us know how much clutter you cleared!

Come back tomorrow for the next mission. Two days already down…28 to go to. We can do this, and we will be so glad we did. Thanks so much for joining me for this challenge!

 

30 Day Clutter Challenge – Get Rid of the Clutter in Just 15 Minutes a Day


If you’ve been following this blog since the beginning, you know that I have worked in the past toward having a clutter-free home. Let me be the first to admit that I have failed. Don’t get me wrong…it isn’t due to a lack of effort. I have tried. However, when I look around my home, I realize that I still have a lot to do.

I eliminated a ton of things from my home last year, using the Konmari method from the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Slowly, but surely, the things have crept their way back into my home, though.

I have learned that you have to continue to de-clutter. It is not a one-time event that lasts for years. Until my entire mindset shifts toward less consumerism, I will have to regularly evaluate the items in my home. This is the reason I came up with this challenge. My home needs this. I feel so much happier with less stuff cluttering my home, and I don’t have to spend nearly as much time cleaning. Those of you who know me well known that cleaning is one of my least favorite things to do. 😉

So, I hope you will join me for the next 30 days. You shouldn’t have to spend more than 15 minutes per day. If you don’t have an extra 15 minutes (really?), then set your alarm 15 minutes earlier. I promise you won’t miss the minutes, and you will be so thankful for the peace that a de-cluttered home will bring.

Follow my blog to join the fun. You will receive emails each time a new blog is posted. You can also follow me on social media for daily updates. Go ahead and reserve 15 minutes tomorrow to begin clearing the clutter from your home. See you tomorrow!

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A Series of Fortunate Events

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”   -John Lennon

I used to be a lawyer. It was brief, at times it was fun, but in the end I decided that it was not for me. You see, when I was in school, I was always one of the smart kids. I was competitive with my grades, too. I didn’t just want an A… I wanted the highest A. This determination served me well, and I ended up being the valedictorian and the STAR student (highest ACT score) of my graduating class. I had people telling me all the time that I would end up being a doctor or a lawyer or a CEO. I believed them, and when the time came to decide on a major, I began to explore my options.

I’ve never liked to simply follow the crowd, so I didn’t want to do something that all the others were interested in. That ruled out education and business. I wanted to choose a major that sounded impressive. You see, I also had a bit of a chip on my shoulder. The dumb blonde jokes were really popular, and I worked really hard to make sure everyone around me thought I was smart. I never wanted to be thought of as a dumb blonde. I researched my options and decided on electrical engineering. It sounded exciting enough, the research showed that it paid well, and I didn’t know a single person who had majored in it, so that sounded like the major for me. Right up until the end of the first semester.

Engineering, as it turns out, was not the major for me. I had the potential. I had the scholarship. What I realized I did not have was the love. It didn’t make me happy. I gave up the scholarship, researched my options, and changed my major to business…specifically marketing. My brother was working in sales and was very successful, so I decided to follow his path. I loved the classes and started to envision a future in that field. I finished my bachelor’s degree on time, but as graduation approached, I realized that I was not yet ready to get a job. Law school seemed like the logical next step. I didn’t really know that law school was the path that I should take, though. I knew some of the people who were planning to go to law school from undergrad and they all seemed so much more serious about it than I did. Still, graduation was fast approaching and I had to do something. I signed up to take the LSAT. I decided that I would not prepare at all and if I scored high enough, that would be my sign that I should try law school. I did score high enough, but there was another step that I hadn’t really considered…applying! I had less than a week to get my application ready and turned in for law school, so I buckled down and put together what I felt like was a good application minus one thing – the required references. I did not have the time remaining for those, so I sent the application in without them. Again, I trusted that if it was meant to be, I would get accepted. If not, I would find a job. I mean, surely there are always jobs available in sales, right?

I was accepted to law school, graduated a semester early, passed the Bar exam, and married an NFL kicker (whom I began dating when he was kicking in college). The next step fell into place when we were living in Jacksonville. Before he officially made the roster, we needed money. I had passed the Bar exam in Mississippi, where we were from, but I thought that surely I could find a position with a law firm as a clerk. I began researching Jacksonville attorneys online with the hope of finding one who had attended the law school from which I graduated. I found one, e-mailed him, got an interview, and was hired by the firm. I worked with them until my husband was scheduled to kick in NFL Europe for the summer (which got cancelled two weeks before we left due to a hernia surgery). My husband was released by the Jaguars the following year, immediately signed with the Broncos, we moved to Denver, and that is a story for another day.

Eventually, we ended up back in my hometown. We were fortunate to have enough savings that we could take some time off while my husband tried out for some other teams. He never ended up signing with another team, but we had the chance to live, as adults, debt-free for a little while without working. I believe that experience was what shaped all of my future decisions. You see, after that experience, the bar was set high. I knew what it was like to be happy and I didn’t want to settle for anything less.

I realized that the only thing I loved about practicing law was the research. I loved to research and write, but everything else seemed like work. I tried to love it, but I just couldn’t. I had a daughter at this point and started to think about her education. The only thing I knew about the local school system was what I had experienced. I started to think about how I could get involved. I began to tutor and sub and realized that I actually enjoyed the job I never thought I would. I decided to make a major change and get my teaching license.

I am now a teacher. It was a move that most people could not understand. I still have students every year who cannot fathom what would make a person give up a higher paying job for a teacher’s salary. They are amazed. They think I am crazy, and they tell me so (there really is not much of a filter in kids if you haven’t noticed). They ask me to explain my decision, and I do. I know that my words will not sink in now, but I envision a future scenario in which one of my former students becomes a successful lawyer/pharmacist/salesperson/any-other-profession-that-pays-well  and he reaches a point at which he discovers that his true passion lies in some other significantly less profitable field. I see his friends’ and family’s reactions. They tell him he is crazy to give up his great job. They tell him that though the job he wants to pursue is a worthy cause and that those kinds of people are needed in the world that he is too smart for that. He is too successful to give it up. I hope when he gets that reaction and begins to waver in his desire to give up the wealth that he will remember my words and follow his dreams. I hope he will tell them all that it is actually okay and that he knows this because he once had a teacher who taught him something that wasn’t in the curriculum.

And now, here I sit, at the starting line of another dream. I’ve always loved to write, but I never really thought anyone would want to read my words (and I didn’t think I had the time because we still have to pay the bills). As I have spent time lately reading the articles written by others, I have begun to realize that it isn’t really about whether or not others want to read it. It’s about the process. It’s about doing something that makes you happy. So, I will continue down this path and see where it leads me. I don’t know what the destination is, but I know my plan. I’m going to enjoy the ride.

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.