Thursday, July 29, 2010

15 Minutes declutter: Thurday edition

Talk about letting things pile up! I can't believe how much this was bugging me--and how fast I managed to get things under control--once I decidied to just muck in.

Yep: 15 minutes is truly magic. I even had time to sweep the floor.

I'm not entirely happy with the dining room table, though. There are a few projects on it that have been lingering for more than a few days. I don't know what to do with that stuff, though. (It's here because this is where I do my sewing, and it is a sewing project.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Productice and Happy?

This is a great article from Zen Habits: How to be Insanely Productive and Still Keep Smiling.

I have agreed to write yet another chapter on spec for (what I am calling) the Canadian History project. Essentially, it is to be a book on Canadian History, arranged chronologically in narrative form for children between the ages of 8 and 14 (or so). I am torn, mentally torn in 100 different directions at once. I know that once I settle into it, it will be easier to get everything pulling in the same direction, but until then, what a struggle! It's exactly the author's first point.

  1. Make peace within.
    Most people live in a constant state of inner conflict and suffer from a barrage of negative thoughts that sabotage productivity.

    Here’s a scenario: Imagine that your car has landed in a ditch. A group of helpers gather, attach ropes and start to pull the car out. Unfortunately, they’re not all pulling in the same direction. Some try to pull the car toward the road, whereas others try to pull it deeper into the ditch. It’s absurd.

    That’s exactly what happens when we’re divided within: everything is a struggle, nothing much happens, and it’s frustrating. But what if your mind, body, and soul are all aligned?

    When our energy is aligned, we are in a state of flow.

    When we’re at peace within, and immersed in the task at hand – without negative thoughts sabotaging our productivity – action becomes effortless. We’re able to achieve much more in less time. And with more enjoyment.

    Tip: Wear an elastic wristband. Whenever you notice negative thoughts, change your wristband to the other arm. This will help you to create and maintain peace within.

Please read the whole thing at Zen Habits. It's well worth it.

So, without further ado, as Doland recommended, here is my Monday Morning List (on Tuesday) of things to do this week. I found that having items carrying over from last week not only feels awful, but doesn't leaver much room (in my head) for new tasks. That may not be a good thing.

To Do List
July 27-31, 2010

  • C and I for blood work
  • kids' and C's eye appointments
  • E’s music lessons
  • E’s horse riding
  • clean out craft drawer
  • clean out kitchen cabinet by the fridge
  • clean out baking shelf
  • reorganize and label pantry shelves
  • file papers for 15 minutes
  • go through curriculum shelf and sort items to sell
  • Start planning next academic year
  • write out goals
  • kids: math everyday
Canadian History:
  • Research
  • Write out timeline of events
  • mind-map events to include
  • outline
  • Write
  • Return items to Ikea
  • Take curriculum items to L.
  • Find tote or basket for magazines
  • Get dog's nails clipped
  • see list
  • weed garden
  • make up grocery list
  • make up menu plans for August
  • Build and install screen

Hooks in back hall:
  • Paint boards grey
  • Mount hooks on board
  • Mount board to wall
E’s Room:
  • Mount curtain hardware
  • Sew curtain

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday: From To Do to Ta Da: Checking off the list.

Here is the original list. Everything completed is in orange.

Take picture and list for sale:
  • Tae Kwon Do sparring gear
  • Dog crate: Sold!
  • Dog house

  • two large speakers with speaker wire: gone!

  • Kids' dental appointments
  • Chris and I for bloodwork
  • kids' for swim lessons in August at pool

  • sign up son for animation lessons at City Arts Centre
  • kids' and Chris's eye appointments
  • daughter for music lessons


  • Rubbermaid kitchen drawer. Match lids to bottoms. E-mail Rubbermaid and see if they'll send replacement lids
  • Kitchen drawer full of bags and tubes of wraps
  • Spend 15 minutes on book sorting
  • list everything to go to eco-centre. Start collecting items.
  • remove rocking chair from kitchen

  • supervise 15 minutes of decluttering in kids' rooms
  • Start planning next academic year
  • have kids re-start their math today
  • write out goals
  • plan this week

Canadian History:

  • pick a topic
  • begin research
  • pick up drycleaning! ($87.00 yikes.)
  • shop for produce on menus
  • see list

  • replace bunt out lightbulbs

oh what the heck, the Errand List:
Home Improvement Store:
  • rubber feet for step ladder
  • 8 hooks for hallway
  • screen kit for upstairs bathroom window (see below)
  • small extension cord for microwave
  • 6 small buttons for shirt
  • soap dispensers for hand soap and dish soap for kitchen counter
I added a few things: Declutter:
  • clean out craft drawer

  • purchase dividers for junk drawer
  • return items to Ikea


  • Find tote or basket for magazines
  • set up charging station


  • Measure existing window
  • See what supplies we have
  • make a list of what we need
  • purchase what's needed
  • build and install screen
Hooks in back hall:
  • plan position of boards on wall
  • measure and mark board
  • cut board
  • prime and paint board grey
  • mount hooks on board
  • mount board to wall
So, everything in black is my "Weekend" Finishing list--as well as some housework tasks.

I'm exhausted though and it hurts to bend my head. We'll just have to see what gets done.

Friday, July 23, 2010

De-cluttering, Friday Edition

I have a head ache today and a nasty cold.

Yesterday, I took a trip to Ikea and to London drugs--a drugstore which carries the little rubber maid drawer organizers. This morning, in about 2 minutes flat, I set up a battery-and-cell-phone-charging station. At Simplify 101, something like this is called a "mini-zone."

Then, I quickly finished the junk drawer organizing project.

I managed to use my lidless Rubbermaid "easy find lid" storage containers, too. That was gratifying.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

De-cluttering--the Thursday Edition.

Or rather, I'm-looking-after-my-2 1/2-year-old-nephew-for-8-hours-and-it's-the-day-before-garbage-day--edition.

Quick and dramatic: the fridge.



Thank you.

I'm seriously considering labeling it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

De-Cluttering, Wednesday Edition

Sometimes a de-cluttering project will take more than 15 minutes. It took me 25 minutes to get these books sorted into three categories: books to sell at the bookstore down the road, books to sell at a homeschool curriculum store, and books to donate to our church. Oh, and there was a fourth: books to donate to charity.


To: (And sometimes some decluttering projects just aren't a visual "wow.")

I also went through all our paint cans and put aside those that can't be used any longer. We took them to our city's Eco-Centre, along with batteries, lightbulbs, ink jet printer cartridges, an old coffee maker, an old CD player, the old VCR, (how long has that been hanging around?) a keyboard, and the microwave which quit about two weeks ago. I was quite happy to be rid of it all.

I finally got the rocking chair out of the kitchen: but I created another mess!
It wasn't on any "TO DO" list anywhere. Not the weekly list. Not the master list.

Yes, the infamous junk drawer.

Really what do I need to keep in here?
  • Flower food. Yes
  • twist ties, yes
  • birthday candles and holders, for sure.
  • plastic bread catchers, of course.
  • old milk jug lids? well, yes. Hubby uses them to hold up eggs while he's cooking.
  • allen keys? Weeeel, yes, but how many?

and so on and so on.

Where did everything go?

I took the tools to the toolbox. I took the hardware down to the basement where it belongs. As for everything else? The garbage, I imagine. I really have no idea. This is obviously not the "final" after shot: now that I've eliminated the junk from the junk drawer I can get the little organizing containers and drawer separating bits which will make this purty.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

15 Minute De-clutter, Tuesday Edition

Super simple and fast today.

Two drawers, both in the kitchen.

First up is the storage container drawer. I know most folks keep theirs in their cabinets, but with so little cabinet space, I prefer to keep mine in a deep drawer. It works well.

Last summer, I purchased Rubbermaid's "Easy Find Lid" storage system and got rid of 90% of my other containers.
I like the fact that they are square (square containers use space more efficiently than round) and I love the "snap together" feature: It allowed me to stack three containers in a "tower of condiments" while we were camping. The lids are also easy to get on and off (not a feature found with every food storage container) and I like the little "handles" on the containers themselves. The fact that the lids come in essentially three sizes (though I have five different sized containers) in another wonderfully efficient feature.

Nonetheless, the dog loves the flexible plastic of the lids. So, today the job was to sort what had lids, what didn't and contact rubbermaid to get more lids.

I needed five lids.

I called the Canadian Customer service number: and alas and alack, no lids. Rubbermaid doesn't make them available separately any more.

Bah and humbug.

The second drawer is the "wrap" drawer.

Years and years ago I had purchased a wall mounted container which housed rolls of wrap. You simply unrolled it from the container itself. It looked like nothing as sleek as this, but this is the same general idea:

Unfortunately, not realizing my garage-sale find had been rare, I got rid of it when I moved west--and I looked and looked for another one. Frankly, I had no idea how one stored and used wrap without one. One day, I was at a friends while she was cleaning up after a meal. She had one of those huge beautiful kitchens--and I saw her reach into a drawer and take out the box of plastic wrap and use it. It was revolutionary. I rushed home and quickly cleared out a drawer and put my boxes of wrap into it.

But the drawer became full of crap that didn't belong, like this junk:

The big reveal:

And, that's a wrap.

New Habit: The Monday Morning "To Do" List

In Quick and Simple Clutter Control at Simplify 101, Aby defines clutter as lingering or incomplete intentions. I particularly like the way she put this aspect of it:
If we intend to get a project done, and we don't get it done: it's clutter.
(taken from Lesson 1 of Quick and Simple Clutter control)

A "To Do" list, then is a preemptive strike against clutter. Yes, as Brian Tracey would say, it is a clutter clearing device of its own: it clears the clutter from your mind of all those racing nagging thoughts about what you need to do. But it is more than that. Somewhere, in "Unclutter Your Life in One Week," Doland mentions sitting down on "Monday" morning and making a list of all the things you want to get done that week. It's one of those "doh" ideas--of course I should do that. Why haven't I done that before?

(To be fair to myself, I was in the habit of taking a day before our week began to plan our school week: what needs to be done each day and so on: but I've never applied that to my home life.)

Our "weekend" is Sunday and Monday, which makes "Monday" really Tuesday. So, without further ado, I present the Monday Morning "To Do" list (on Tuesday. Which makes perfect sense.) I plan to do my best to chip away at this list all week and present what I've managed to complete at the end, either of each day or on Saturday. I am looking after my 2 1/2 year old nephew Wednesday morning and from 8 to 5 (or so) Thursday through Sunday this week.

Take picture and list for sale: (Bargain finder, Craig's list)
  • Tae Kwon Do sparring gear
  • Dog crate
  • Dog house

  • two large speakers with speaker wire

  • Kids' dental appointments
  • Chris and I for bloodwork
  • kids' for swim lessons in August at pool
  • sign up son for animation lessons at City Arts Centre
  • kids' and Chris's eye appointments
  • daughter for music lessons

  • Rubbermaid kitchen drawer. Match lids to bottoms. E-mail Rubbermaid and see if they'll send replacement lids
  • Kitchen drawer full of bags and tubes of wraps
  • Spend 15 minutes of book sorting
  • list everything to go to eco-centre. Start collecting items.
  • remove rocking chair from kitchen
  • supervise 15 minutes of decluttering in kids' rooms
  • Start planning next academic year
  • have kids re-start their math today
  • write out goals
  • plan this week

Canadian History:
  • pick a topic
  • begin research
  • pick up drycleaning!
  • shop for produce on menus
  • see list


oh what the heck, the Errand List:

Home Improvement Store:
  • rubber feet for step ladder
  • 8 hooks for hallway
  • screen kit for upstairs bathroom window
  • small extension cord for microwave
  • 6 small buttons for shirt
  • soap dispensers for hand soap and dish soap for kitchen counter
And there we have it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

UYL: The Evening Edition

Thursday evening: The Home Office.

Here's a shot of my "home office" in use. I took this earlier today while I was composing the first post.

I refuse to call this cluttered. Yes, there's a lot of stuff on it: but it is all there for a reason. I am using, or about to use every item. Well, except for the papers stacked in the top left corner. See those? Just under the phone? That's my "paper collection system" (yes, a stack can be part of a system.) And it is, admittedly, a wee bit out of control.

So, this evening, I set the timer and worked on it specifically. I cannot praise Aby's course, Paper Clutter enough. It has revolutionized my paper handling: and it doesn't scare me half as much as it used to. I was able to put away every single piece I handled in two minutes or less (except for a checque I wrote to charity, that may have taken three). The pile looks appreciably smaller, doesn't it?

As for the rest of the items, I simply put them away. The paper left out, under my water, is simply two lists: my errand list and a "to do" list. I do have a home for them: I'm just not in the habit of using it just yet! Some call it a "Tickler"--I just call it the binder with the birds on it.

On the agenda tomorrow is scheduling--and living with clutterbugs. The weekend looks interesting, too, but I am going to take a hiatus from this project. We're going camping (yes, again! I just got the sleeping bags rolled up and the suitcases put away!). We're going somewhere we've never been--and it is only 1/2 hour out of town! The plan is to leave Friday evening and come home Sunday afternoon. I went and got groceries tonight--and I'll be getting ready most of the day tomorrow. Though, I may take time to declutter something for 15 minutes!

It has been absolutely wonderful to focus so intensely--and yes--so briefly on my home. I have got a lot of things cleared away and sorted out and I've plenty of breathing room--for the moment.

Have you noticed the book does not address closets or drawers? None of the hidden spaces (except in the kitchen) are discussed at all--and I'm not sure what to make of that. I think it's unfortunate, but like Apartment Therapy, (the book), the agenda of this one isn't quite as obvious as you might think. UYL is more about systems than it should be. I just wish the closets had been included somehow. They really are part and parcel of the whole system of maintaining a house that supports a "remarkable life."

But let's not end on a down note. Not when I'm feeling so upbeat and energized. Creating space is so liberating! Go free some stuff today.

Unclutterer, The Week

Day Four: Thursday.

Morning: "Living Spaces"
Evening: Home Office

Living Room
Watching TV, listening to music, reading, playing piano, playing music, hanging out.

This room is good, except for the Alien Invaders.

I went through the piano bench and discarded a lot of old flashcards and music note games we don't need anymore. I went through the music as well: but I really don't know what to do with their big fat music books. I guess they'll go down to the basement with the others--and then I can throw them out when they leave home (guilt free.)

the piano bench:

(You are forgiven if you can't see a difference.)

The bookshelves:

I went through them are took out about five books or so I know we'll never miss. What I really need to do is go down to the basement and sort all the books already culled into three piles, re-sell to a home-school curriculum store, re-sell to a bookstore and donate.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

UYL: The Evening Edition

Kitchen and Dining Room

The kitchen is such a huge project that I may or may not finish it today.

The first thing Dolan wants you to do, is look.

What do you see whenever you walk in?

Me? Usually chaos. Dishes on the counter, the table covered in who knows what, every day. The stove is usually piled with last night's pots and pans. The floor, well, let's just say you wouldn't even try the ten second rule--or even the five second rule.

She lays out three criteria for a kitchen worthy of being the "heart" of a home.

It needs to (she writes):
  1. be safe and sanitary
  2. have hands-free access to trash can
  3. be a place where you enjoy spending time

There are many things which need doing to meet the above conditions.
  • I need to replace our filtered water faucet with the new one. That will keep water from leaking all over the counter top.
  • the knives need to be taken somewhere and sharpened (as Dolan suggests.)
  • I need to take the trash can to the car wash and give it a good wash. (Another brilliant suggestion from Dolan--if only my husband will let me do it.)
  • I also need to investigate why the lid doesn't seem to want to go up all the way when I stand on the foot pedal.
  • I also need to do a bit of painting and sanding in here. The table needs a sanding, the chairs a paint job. As well, the cabinets need to be re-painted. The last time I did them was the summer of 2000 during the nesting urge while I was pregnant with my daughter.

Tools of the trade:

All your pots and pans, baking dishes, dinnerware, glasses, etc., are to be taken out, sorted, grouped, and the excess disposed of. Here, I do need to look through and get rid of any left over containers which are impaired--or unpaired (especially lids!). The baking pans stored in the drawer beneath the over could do with a look-see, too.

Clearing out the pantry and refrigerator:

Well, we just got back from vacation, so the fridge is in good shape. But the pantry? I'll have a look.

Cookbooks and Recipes

Whew. I'm good to go with this one. I have a couple of shelves for cookbooks--and I have set up my own home cookbook--two, in fact. One for baking and one for meals. They work well, especially with my home made over sized dividers.

Meal Planning and Elimination Mealtime Stress

Meal planning is covered. Not only have I got the menu planning thing down for the month, but checking what produce I need weekly is working out well, too. That said, I could get rid of the redundancies in the Master Shopping List and the Pantry Inventory List. I could also organize both lists by aisles in the store.

We'll see.

Interlude: Musing on Habits

Aby Garvey's newsletter today discusses habits as "the key ingredient" to staying organized. I think she's right.

She challenged us to think about how habits and how they influence our clutter: these are my thoughts.

1) Which specific habits are causing my clutter?

Is not doing something a habit? While it seems odd to say so, isn't it so? What's procrastination but a) not doing something and b) a bad habit? (At least that's what my Grandmother always told me!)

Tiredness. I should put my clothes on the couch when I go to bed--not on the floor! I should also be making my bed and throwing in a load of laundry when I wake up. Yawn. I'm often just grateful I'm awake before noon.

I hate folding laundry, too. I avoid it. I'm not sure why. True, the laundry room is dark and freezing cold in the winter. (I tried running a portable heater, but blew a fuse.) It's a long way from company and cheer--but I'm afraid that if I bring unfolded laundry out of the basement, I'll just perpetuate laundry clutter in the main areas).

2) Pick one habit to change.

Oh well, I have been starting a load, transferring one and folding one pretty much everyday since we got back. I think I'll keep it up.

3) Get support


4) Create a list of compelling reasons to change.

Maybe that's part of it. With respect to the laundry, I'm not really all that affected by whether it gets done or not. My wardrobe is very small. I collect my dirty clothes separately from the rest of the family. When I need something, I run a load and include it. I also think we have too many clothes, even though my husband never has a clean shirt for work and my son, right now, says he has no pants. The fact of the matter is, my son has a gazillion T-shirts and a couple of pairs of pants. So, it is entirely possible for me to do two loads of darks--and nary a pant leg nor a work shirt for my husband will emerge while doing the dreaded folding. I'm not sure what a "reasonable" amount of clothing is--but it's something to look into.

One compelling reason?
I don't want anyone telling me they "can't" do something because they don't have whatever it is they need to wear. No more complaining. No more yelling. No more icy trips to the basement on the edge of my toes to retrieve socks and underwear.

I think I'll also train the kids to take over some days....

5) Decide up front to stay the course.

OK. However long it takes, I'll stick with this. However long it takes--to do what exactly? Stay on top of the laundry? See, this chore, this habit (like the other bugaboo, doing the dishes) never ends. There is no "over." There is no "done." No completion.

I hate that.

Unclutterer, the Week: Wednesday

Day Three: Wednesday

Today are two huge areas.

Morning: the bedroom
Evening: the kitchen and dining room. (Yes, both!)

Fortunately, my bedroom is in good shape. I do have too many books and magazines and they need to be purged, but as far as creating a "calm" atmosphere for sleeping, well it only took 45 minutes this morning.

My bed took maybe three whole minutes.

I know the nightstand took less than 15 because the timer was on.

I took the extra time and started in on the dresser. Folding the sheets and dealing with the stuff underneath did take a while, though.

However, once that was done, clearing away the evidence of my daughter having spent the night on the couch was quickly cleared away: that sleeping bag, though, has to be wrestled back into its holder.

And that, as they say, is that.

Well, except for the catastrophe lurking behind the door called my bookshelves. But that's for another day.

I've dusted, I've swept, and now I'm done.

Except for the kitchen and dining rooms.
Oy, yoy, yoy.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

UYL: The Evening Edition

Tuesday evening is for thinking about routines.

I have a checklist for the year from Motivated Moms.

When I'm on my game, I do this everyday. I could dedicate Friday to sheets and towels as that's the day the above checklist schedules them to be changed.

I've pretty much set Sunday's to be my fresh food shopping day. I could add Wednesday evening for other errands.

But it isn't the scheduling over the week that gets me: it's the day to day I have trouble with.
I don't even know where to begin. I'm not even sure what I want to do.

I like the way Dolan has divided up the day into segments.
  • Morning routine.
  • Welcome Home Routine.
  • Laundry Routine.
  • Dinner Routine.
  • General Cleaning, and finally,
  • Before Bed routine.
I'd like to add one more: the work out routine.

Simplify 101 is offering "time management" for the first time this fall.

You can bet I'm registered.

Unclutterer, the Week: Tuesday

Day Two: Tuesday

This is bathroom day.

  • Make a list of all the activities that happen here.
  • Take everything out.
  • Sort, pile like with like, toss the excess and expired .
  • Put it back in mini-zones, according to what you use the room for.
  • Keep enough sets of towels according to the following formula: (number of people in the house plus guest rooms) x 2 (And yes, a blow up mattress counts as a "room" )
There's more in the book, of course, but essentially that covers the "uncluttering" steps.

I have one and a half baths. Both small.

Down Bath:

the obvious, showers, baths, hair brushing, teeth brushing (son), shaving, plucking, clipping fingernails, reading, cleaning the room itself.

Everything out of the cabinet:

Everything off the shelves:

And then, the stuff is sorted and the cabinet and shelves washed.

Cabinet after:

(For obvious reasons, things are organized more by height than by "mini zones!"
Nonetheless, there is something indescribably satisfying in looking at this.)

Shelves after:

Up Bath

(That nasty looking stuff on the top of the tank is rust. The toilet is original to the house--+50 years old! Long time readers of this blog will know I want a new one but finding one to fit the space (and easy to clean) is a challenge.)

the obvious, putting on makeup, removing make-up, brushing teeth (3 people), cleaning the room itself.

This is the area beside and above the sink:

Everything out:

I mounted a swing arm rod above the window (I've been wanting to do that for ages)--but I haven't even made (let alone hung) the curtain panel!

The make-up rack, "after:"

And the bathroom, after. (I really need some colour in here! Any suggestions?)

That Easter basket on the top shelf over the toilet is my make-up removal mini-zone. I love knowing everything I need is right here!

(Head band and elastics to keep my hair back. Wash cloth, my very own dedicated petroleum jelly, make-up remover pads, and face towel. No more nearsighted pawing for for things while water drips off my face! I created this back in May.)

The "expired" pile from both bathrooms:

Feels a bit like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Either that, or I am better at this de-cluttering thing than I've previously noticed.

This evening:
Establishing routines and chores.
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