Monday, March 26, 2012

Project Simplify Week 4: The Final (Not Really) Push

What a month!  I've gone from, "Wow, this should be fun," to "OMG, are we going to be on 'Hoarders'?"

Now that weeks 1-3 have come and gone, my house has some spots that are truly working well:

  • Kitchen: The papers cluttering the counters and refrigerator were out of control and we had no real system for keeping them managed.  After adopting a filing system that included a calendar, my family is now more organized than ever!  We know the day of the week, what is due (and the cost), as well as where the kids need to be and what's for dinner!  Whew! :-)  That alone makes me happy.

  • Kids' Things: Not really done, but much more manageable, the "toy room" was a mess and the boys didn't like to play there. What does that mean?  All the toys came out into the living room!  This wasn't pleasant.  So, we put away the toys we wanted to play with, stored some we wanted to keep, and donated [very] few that were not loved.  We also got the labeled tubs back on their shelves and my oldest son's artwork up on the walls for his little brother to admire, which he does all day long with "My brother made me this!" :-)  I also got binders to house their artwork and writing samples so that there was a real place to put the things that would never make it onto a scrapbook page but needed to be kept.  This week's project makes them smile because they can play in the playroom and admire their work in the binders.

  • Closet, Cabinet, and Drawers: This week's project took a lot of effort on my part only really.  It was all my stuff!  I like to think that my family makes the messes, but I too had way too much stuff.  I culled my clothing by 4 big bags, emptied some drawers to make room for baby, and down-sized my scrapbooking items to almost half (and organized it in a way that got it out of the over-crowded, catch-all office that should be a baby's nursery in a few months and into the room where I actually do my scrapbooking!) What a great idea.  This not only benefits my family, but also my good friend's Girl Scout troop that loves to do craft projects.  It's a win-win.

Week 4 was supposed to be about the garage.  I planned on spending the whole week hanging shelves and cleaning out tons of stuff we don't really want.  Instead I think I'll spend the time working in the office, turning it into the baby's new room.

I get so excited thinking about this little boy and I want him to actually have a room of his own.  The older boys love sharing a room now, so we are going to wait until this guy is old enough for a twin bed before changing the rooms around.  Ry will be in third grade in two more years, and O will be starting kindergarten the same year, so that may be the time... or we may wait until Ry is in forth grade.  Either way, a baby's schedule would not be nice to the older boys' sleeping and eventually our oldest should have his own room... When the time comes, we will shuffle again, but for now I want to make the office more comfortable for us to spend time with the littlest.  I am so looking forward to this week! :-)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rainy Day - Please, go outside for a while!

So in this seemingly never-ending pursuit to clean up the house, I've discovered a couple little things that seem to impeded my progress...  They are super cute and give great hugs, so I don't want to get rid of them, but today they just had to go outside.  Rain or not, please go outside for a while...

Since we'd spent the morning cleaning out the playroom, they both deserved some down time from cleaning.  Nap time had come and gone hours ago (without a nap) and neither of them were hungry, so I sent them outside.  AS soon as they went out though, the long-awaited rainstorm came!  This means only one thing: chalk time! :-)

O went first, as he usually does, and Ry came out a few minutes later.  They play so nicely together.  Their only concern was the giant fluff-ball who kept erasing their drawings with his wagging tail!
Ry and his rocket ship.

O and his pile... why must you pull them all out at once?

O's "jelly sandwich."

Project Simplify Week 2: Kids' Things (Part 3)

It's going to take me several more days (or another week) to finish, but it will get done.  Eventually I hope to get Ry's computer in there for him so the baby will have his own room in what is now the over-crowded office.  I'm getting excited about nesting!!! :-D

Here are the pictures from today:

Notice the corner shelf is gone?  It's in the driveway trying to attract a buyer, and there is so much more room in here. Both boys came into help clean up, and we actually got some things into the "give away" box!  Amazing...

Here are the BEFORE pictures:

Project Simplify Week 3: Closets, Drawers, and Cabinets... Oh My!


So this week has been a looong week for Project Simplify.  Early in the week I started weeding through my clothing and the boys' old clothes to find items for donation.  My goal was 6 bags (including household items) and I am almost there!  I have four bags of just my clothes for donation, but I forgot to get them outside for the free pick-up so now I have to take them to the Salvation Army truck down at Wal-mart.  No problem.  Here is an "after" picture of my closet:
I have all my hanging clothes that I really love, a stack of jeans, a stack of long-sleeve layering tees, and a stack of PJs above that.  On the tp shelf, I have my lesser worn, seasonal clothes (bathing suits, winter gloves, etc.) separated into baskets, and my heating pad... Hey, they come in handy! :-)  To the right of the pants hanger begins my husband's clothes, so I think I did a good job of fitting my wardrobe to the space available.

Here was the "Before" picture:
It was almost empty because I couldn't open the door! :-(

Drawers to Cabinets:

I decided that for drawers I would go through my scrapbooking things to pare down what I had.  My markers, stickers, punches, etc. were in the yellow drawers from the office. (Pictured in my BEFORE pictures)  While I was sitting there looking at it all, I eyed my nemesis "The Paper Bin."  This is a 68 quart plastic tub filled to overflowing with my 12x12 scrapbook paper.  To say the least, it's overwhelming... actually, I should say it WAS overwhelming.  I downsized! :-)  

I know some scrapbook-making friends would say I am crazy for getting rid of so much, but I just lost all desire to make pages when I faced the daunting task of choosing papers from a 3-foot bin.  I went through and ruthlessly pulled all the prints and colors that I knew I wouldn't use.  I went through the big stacks that come bound and pulled out only the papers I really wanted and threw the rest in a stack.  My god friend is a Girl Scout leader, so she has inherited the entire stack, all 7+ inches!  I also added the stickers, stamps, and punches that I no longer used.  It's such a huge stack, I know her girls are going to love it!  

Now that my scrapbooking stash is much smaller, I was able to relocate it to the living room where I actually end up doing my crafts.  I was able to box everything neatly and even had room for my little printer! Those empty cabinets in the living room sure came in handy!  Here is the "after" picture of my scrapbooking stuff:
Ribbons, thread, and embellishments are on the top with the drawers with my remaining markers, adhesives, and colors.  The second shelf down has my craft sewing machine, stamps and chalks, and inspiration notebook along with the picture album from my childhood that I have been converting to a scrapbook for my brother and me.  The bottom shelf holds all my remaining paper.  This cabinet is only 11 inches deep, so you can imagine how much paper those Girl Scouts will have.  The plastic folio in the middle holds all of my remaining stickers, sorted be theme, and those cute quote books.  Now when I want to make a page or two for the boys, I just have this cabinet to look through and not a huge tub plus drawers.  *sigh of relief*

Now I need to get back to the playroom to finish what I started weeks ago...  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Project Simplify Week 3: Closets!!

Well, actually the week's theme is closets, drawers, and counter tops, but I think I have already mastered the counter tops in our home.  We only have them in the kitchens and tiny bathrooms.  I used the kids' stuff week to contain the kitchen clutter already.

By the time I get back into my pre-pregnancy clothes, I'll probably be ready for new ones, so my clothes should be easy to purge.  I read somewhere that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time... or was that brain power? :-)  I'm positive that I don't wear most of the clothes I have.  I can name at least 15 pieces I don't like off the top of my head.  Don't get me wrong, I don't have a ton of clothing or buy stuff on impulse.  Actually the opposite is true.  I hate clothes shopping, so when I find something I like I buy every color/print it comes in so that I can stop looking!  This means that I have several items that wear at the same time or stretch/fade/go south all at the same time.  I can just round up each version of the item and toss them all.  That way I don't have to try them on either!

My husband on the other hand has a TON of shoes!  I think he holds on to old shoes as "yard shoes" so that he doesn't have to part with them.  I find them in the garage, hallway closet, bedroom...  They are usually all the same too!  he will return to the same store every year or two to get the same pair of shoes!  We are going to get rid of some of the old ones this week.

We are pretty good about getting rid of the clothes that the boys stain or grow out of, but now that we know the baby will be a boy I'm trying to hold on to some of O's hand-me-downs.  He is pretty rough on clothes though and he is the second in line for most of them.  We've been getting big guy clothes from a coworker lately now too, since Ry is going to be 7.  This just enables me to avoid clothes shopping further! :-)  I love it!!  However, I'm sure there are clothes in the boys' room that shouldn't be saved because we just don't like them.  My boys don't like skulls or dark colors much, so we can donate them.  I know we have several pair of little boy shoes that can go now too since the 3-year-old wears SIZE 11 and the almost-seven's kindergarten clothes from last year.  At some point he just started wearing his older brother's clothes and shoes and now we have sizes 9 and 10 in shoes and 2T, 3T, 4T that no longer fit him.

We have a neighborhood pickup on Saturday for the local cancer research center, so this is a great week to get a move on and purge our closets.  My goal is at least 6 bags to donate!



Sunday, March 18, 2012

Project Simplify Week 2: Kids' Things (Part 2)

This is a continuation of my Project Simplify Week 1: Kids' Things from a week ago.

So this weekend we finally got into the playroom (AKA Toy Room) to clean up a bit and purge some unloved toys.  Turns out "we love them all" was a little too hard for me to argue with so not much actually left the room. I think it will take someone hard-hearted to come in and help me finish the job... or maybe it will just stay jammed packed.  I really appreciate the advice in Organized Living: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living when it comes to the idea that if we purge what we just don't love, then we will be left with the things we truly do love.  I know my kids don't really love every toy.  (Just like I know my husband doesn't love each and every one of his newspapers.) I just don't know what my next step will be... okay, I do know, It's to finish the book and read about the actual process of decluttering since I'm still reading about the theory! :-)

Anyway, I thought I'd post some "After" pictures from our clean-up this weekend.  The new artwork came from my oldest son's kindergarten portfolio that he insists the youngest needs to see.  I like that it got the wicker basket above the fridge cleaned out and the plastic storage box pared down.  I also like the colors on the walls, and I have to admit it will make throwing the paper out easier when the colors fade and O gets to kindergarten and makes his own letter art. :-)


Okay, this looks a lot better, but it still looks like a huge pile of toys that no one can reach back there in the right hand corner...  The ottomans are from the living room redo and we figured they would be good for storage, but they are empty!  They take up too much space too.  Can you say, "Yard sale"? :-)

This is my 3-year-old's favorite spot in the room.  He carefully placed his beloved monster trucks on the shelves for this clean-up, but he finds it nearly impossible not to rush over and pull them all down to play!  I tried to display them on the picture shelves on the opposite side of the room so that I could purge the corner table, but they were all too wide to fit.  I'm going to have to keep looking for a better solution.

I love the simple look of the cloth bins.  I have laminated tags on each handle so the boys know what goes in each, but they don't look at them... They remember the color! :-)  I didn't realize this until I switched a couple bins and contents a few months ago. They insisted I "fix it!"  I think we really need a book shelf in here...

Each of the bins in the closet has a picture and name attached.  I've found that the easiest way to make a kid-friendly label is to cut a portion of the box the toy came out of and use packing tape to stick it to the tub.  That way I don't have to print pictures and labels anymore! :-)


Project Simplify 2012 Week 2: Kitchen and Pantry

Here's an easy one!

Early last week I pulled out everything from the fridge and freezer, cleaned the shelves and bins (luckily it hadn't been too long since I'd last done that) and put everything good back in.  I found several take-out boxes that were so old no one would eat them, and a yucky bell pepper, but not much else was bad... There were some things we just didn't want though.


Last week, our office pantry was full of bags of food from the last big shop, but I couldn't get to the closet to put it all away.  Thanks to the boys and Dad-Dad, the office has been cleaned out and i could finally get to the food shelves.  We had been eating out of our food storage for several months since I have been so busy at work.  Shopping trips had been kept to milk, fruit, and bread.  Luckily we had a nice supply.  This last trip was a stocking up one for mainly canned goods and cereal.  I love when Stater Bros. has a great sale! :-)


Overall, I'd say this was an easy week... good thing though since we are all feeling a bit under the weather.   I'm looking forward to another successful week of cleaning!  This is invigorating!

Why you shouldn't leave your camera out when a 3-year-old is near...

So today I finally got the Internet back on and went to upload vacation pictures.  I knew I had taken about 100 pictures of the boys on our trip to the desert with Papa last weekend, but I was surprised to see that Picasa wanted to upload 174 pictures!  Wow, I thought I was keeping track...

I should have known.  Here are a couple of my favorites.  I just wish he would turn the camera around and get that cute little face sometimes!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Project Simplify Week 1: Kids' Things

Well, I have to admit that we took the entire weekend to go camping with Papa instead of staying home to organize.  However, throughout the week things did get done to organize the kids' things:

  • The garage that held a ton of unused, unwanted clutter (including old toys and clothing) got a nice new look thanks to Dad-Dad.  Salvation Army inherited about a dozen boxes and bags and furniture items in one huge trip.  Now the only things in the middle of the garage are things we love and things we need for the new baby.
  • The kids' paperwork (and ours) is now neatly filed and organized from the three biggest clutter areas in our kitchen.  I jokingly referred to these areas as "control stations" before but they were seriously out of control.  Now with the "tickle file" I posted about last week and the new calendar, we have a place to put important papers and dates.  We have been very good about keeping up the system this week!  I also designated three magnets on the fridge as "art work hanging" and our little artists place their work in the plastic protected sheet to show off their work.  I like this system because it forces them to choose just their favorites to display, thus lessening the clutter and papers falling on the ground, but it also allows us to just pull the pages off the fridge and place them into a binder to keep their as a scrapbook.  I know that we will need to go through the binders periodically to clean out the less loved pictures, but not until we run out of page protectors! :-)


    A clean and organized "control center".
    Big Guy's homework supplies.  He also has a clipboard to hold his homework packet now.  He really likes this because he can take it to the table or into the back yard and still have a solid surface to work.

  • Our overwhelming shoe clutter in the entryway has now received a newly improved system as well.  I'm not sure it will work for "good" shoes, but those will live in the closet anyway.  Now with this new bench and three cubbies, each boy will have a contained place to keep shoes!  I love how the bins can be washed when needed and hung dry.  I know that as they grow the bins will eventually be too small for their shoes (both size and quantity) but they will be little boys for quite some time still.

I also know that we will need to get into the playroom to downsize as well.  I'm not looking forward to this, but I think that Spring Break will be a good time since we will all be home and the possibility of new summer toys will inspire a couple little guys to part with some older, unwanted toys. :-)  I think we will focus on replacing broken and worn outside toys this spring!

UPDATE: Playroom Before/After Pictures here!!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Project Simplify Day 1: Organizing Papers

So even though the project doesn't technically start until today, I tried to get a head start yesterday just be cause I was home... Uugh.  I don't think we are off to a good start, but I do have an idea of how to start.

I did get some good ideas:

Organize our schedule.  I went out a bought a new yearly calendar that hangs from the fridge and fits in the front of the pockets when it needs to travel.  It needs to hang on the fridge so the whole family can reach it to add important information.  My oldest is responsible for giving us notice of the days he wants to eat school breakfast (or lunch) and Dad-Dad works random hours on random days.  I have plenty of late meetings and doctors appointments too.  When we keep a calendar, we do very well with scheduling time.

You can also see our new way of organizing our artists' work.  I've placed page protectors on clip magnets for the boys to put their art in.  When they want to switch out the art, they can do it without adding more to the fridge.  It forces them to make the decisions.  I also like that I can take a page protector off the fridge and put it right into their binders!  I have a binder for each of them.. the youngest only has artwork, but the older has school work and Honor Roll certificates, report cards, and his school pictures.  It forced us to pare down the amount of paper in the wicker basket on the fridge, which is now empty! :-)

Organize new papers coming in.  I bought a  13-pocket portfolio for $13 for the counter and shredder to leave in the garage for those junk mail items with sensitive information like account numbers, pre-approval notices, those checks that credit cards send, etc.  I am very good about dumping junk mail, but I don't want to throw some of these things right into our curbside bin. Now I can ditch the junk outside without compromising security.  For the portfolio, each month is labeled with the month and when a new paper comes in (field trip, class party, car registration, etc.) it gets put into the correct pocket and written on the calendar.  This was called a "tickler file" and I saw it at Simple Mom. Even my green bowl is neat and decluttered!  This is where I keep spare keys, my sun glasses, things to mail, etc.  The white divider to the right of the bowl came from Staples too and holds my meal planner, restaurant coupons, gift cards, and coupon organizer.

So now I have a bit of a system, NO MAIL ON THE KITCHEN COUNTER, and a calendar hanging on the fridge where it should be. :-)  So maybe I didn't organize the playroom yet, but I have gotten a start on controlling our lives.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Project Simplify: BEFORE Pictures

In interest of full-disclosure, I decided to take pictures of our entire house to show BEFORE Project Simplify.  Now that I've actually taken a good look at the pictures, I feel numb at the amount of work needed.  Some of the pictures remind me of the show Hoarders!  I'm not happy about that at all.

I am pleased that I have an accurate view of our mess though.  I see room for improvement.  I also see areas that are working, which makes me feel good.  I know we can do this!! :-)

The images are here:
Full Disclosure: BEFORE