Thursday, January 29, 2015

Minimalism and Me: Decluttering


At noon today:

at 4pm today:
Oh my goodness, you guys. The instant that second shelf came out I felt like 20 pounds had just rolled off my shoulders. So odd. So freeing. Both of the kids do not like it.

This month, I signed up for the course "A Simple Year" because I wanted to explore minimalism and see whether it's for me. Decluttering was the first module and that makes sense because is the first step towards the simple life. I have been decluttering for years and expect to continue for many more.

I have always decluttered because 1) We don't use the stuff, 2) We don't need the stuff, 3) we don't have room for the stuff we don't use or need. Those are excellent reasons to declutter. But there is more.

There is choice.

As I cleaned the house and decluttered things during the January Cure, I realised that I am a minimalist only because my house imposes it on me. I have two coats--not because I only want two coats or because I can only afford two coats--but because my closet is so small--two coats is all that will fit --given the other three people in my house and their coats!

I have the kitchen gadgets I have--because that's all I have room for.

That's not really choosing. That's accommodating.

So, I thought, if I am going to choose minimalism, or the simple life, or whatever, then I need to make a space where I don't have it. I need to choose space--over display, over storage, over "usefulness."

Books from the shelves above were re-located to my library landing--and using the Kon-Marie method,  I weeded out these books to make room for them.

I'm on my way.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Does This Bring Me Joy?

You know, I laughed at the question.

I mean, you know, yeah, well, it is a great question, but I don't really trust my emotions all that much. What brings me joy today may not tomorrow. And worse? Something may not bring me joy right now--but it just might down the road.

But, I am struggling with this whole minimalism thing as I do the Cure and declutter the house simultaneously.

Does this bring me joy?
This bookcase I agonized over decluttering just last week?

Well, actually, yes it does. Now that I have lived with it and styled it a bit, it made me smile just last night.

Does this bring me joy?

It used to. I was a happy lady the day I brought these old books of mine from my University days out of storage and placed them on the shelves.

Now, they tower over my head as I sit at the computer hour after hour, day after day, and they just seem to be collecting dust.

They don't really bring me all that much joy anymore.

I do love to decorate. I love pretty things. I love well designed things. I love making compositions and displays. I love playing with texture and colour and form.

But have I done that here? Is this the place to even do that?

I want the biggest damn painting/print/canvas of water I can find. Or clouds.

Like this:

Taken in southern Alberta in the summer of 2010

It could look something like this:

Don't laugh. I haven't figured out photoshop, yet. This was done in Word. Yes, it's a scanned in word document.

It's an engineering print*--and it can be printed out 2 x 3 feet or 3 x 4. (The one above approximates 2 x 3). I could either put the print up with tape (the image is actually just printed on standard paper) or I could mount it on a board painted black (to simulate a frame, as here), remove all the shelves the top and bottom and prop it on the bottom shelf. 

Maybe. What do you think?

*engineering prints can only be done in black and white and they cost less than $10.00. Apparently, the quality is not the greatest, either.

Monday, January 26, 2015

From the Weekend: Scenes from The Living Room Cure

 I wonder who the maid was who realised this thing would put her out of work? (I confess, I am writing up this post right after watching Downton Abbey.)

 I used it to vacuum the sofa--both with the slip cover on and with it off. I used it to vacuum the wood floor and the rug (twice). I used it to pick up some spilled soil off of the coffee table (I need to get a better potting mix for the cacti). I even used it to vacuum the chair and all the pillows.

That white slipcover is an absolute bear to get back on the sofa. I had to leave off the cover I usually place on top of the slip cover because it has a large tear. We are having an incredibly long warm spell and the dog has taken to digging in the puddling snow and mud. I've washed the seat cover twice in three days. I have to do it again. And I need to get that cover--an old hotel tablecloth--mended asap.

( The sofa is rather blinding without its navy blanket. The blankets were in the wash when I took these.)

I discovered another use for a microfibre cloth--the TV. Slightly damp, it cleans up the TV screen beautifully. It's also a great duster--and with a little glass cleaner the perfect thing to clean the windows and with a little Murphy's oil, a great cleaner for the wood.

I spot cleaned the carpet with good old fashioned vinegar and hot water.

I did the whole room piecemeal, over several days as I had to work throughout the weekend. But a little bit every day gets a lot done, even though there's no great whiz bang of effort--nor of satisfaction, at that.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Linen Closet

I have been wanting to get to this dratted closet for a while, now. It is upstairs in the hallway between our bedroom and my daughter's. It holds our bed linens, stuff for the powder room (also on this floor) and travel bags.

The problem with the closet is not the closet.

The problem with the closet is that the light in the hallway does not work. We keep the bathroom light on in order to make our way up the stairs, but as you can imagine, trying to access the closet after 5pm can be pretty hit or miss. (We need to call an electrician but we're being ostriches about it as we know the house is not up to code and we're afraid of what the bogeyman might say.)

So it's a mess.

I've also been wanting to tackle this as part of my homework in the decluttering module with Joshua Becker, as part of Courtney Carver's year long course called "A Simple Year."

My first step was to determine just what all I wanted to keep in here. I won't bore you with the details, especially as nothing really changed.

The next thing I did was to figure out the number and kind of linens I wanted to keep.

Here's the breakdown:

In this family of four, my husband and I share a queen sized bed, the kids each have a twin.

For pillows we have:
Ben --1 queen, 1 standard
Emma --1 standard
Chris and I: 1 pair of Euro pillows, 1 pair of queen, 1 pair of standard pillows. (Well, that's the goal. Currently, we have one queen and on standard in addition to our Euros.)

So, if each bed is supposed to have (at least) two sets of everything, though Cheryl Mendelson wisely advises three, here's what we should keep:

Pillow Protectors:
6 queen
8 standard

Pillow Cases:
2 pairs Euro (4)
2 pairs Queen (4)
2 non-matched Queen (for a total of 6 Queen)
2 pairs standard (4)
4 unmatched standard

Sheet Sets (Top flat and fitted bottom):
2 sets Queen
4 sets Twin
PLUS 1 set of flannel sheets for each twin bed.

Mattress Pads:
2 Queen
3 or 4 Twin. (I can get away with three if I don't change the kids' mattress pads on the same day.)

Whew. Got all that?

You notice I left out comforters, duvets, duvet covers, and blankets. That's because I'm just not ready to deal with all of that just yet.  Some of them are on the top shelf.

Professional organizers recommend that you have everything--from all over the house--before you start. So, I folded some sheets waiting in the laundry room, started a load of laundry, and collected a few things I had in storage down in the laundry room.

Later, I found another sheet set in my son's room--clean but covered in dust. I must have given them to him and told him to change his bed a while back.

The pillowcases and protectors.

Here are all the grocery bags I fished out of all the hidey holes in the closet.

 Isn't that ridiculous? There are only two garbage baskets which take them. I decided that I would toss half of them and then sew up a grocery bag holder and put it on the door of the closet to hold the rest.

Several hours later, we have....

Ta Da!

The Donation pile.

I can take them to women's shelters, Ronald MacDonald House, Homeless shelters, Compassion Houses, basically, any charity which has beds. Severely used or torn sheets are better suited to animal shelters for bedding.

And so, here we are, all loaded up again. I was just racing against the light at this point.

I decided to put Queen sized stuff on the top and the twin stuff on the bottom. The stuff in the middle is all bathroom related, since there's no closed storage in there.

(Yep, I kept waaaay more than my allotted 6 queen pillow cases! They're vital to surviving the zombie apocalypse. I'm just sayin')

Ironically, I have a shopping list. In spite of having a ton of bed linens, I am actually short in a few categories. I'm ready for a white sale.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Comings and Goings

today's sunrise. 

Assignment #14.

Create a Landing Strip.

The idea, of course, is to have a place near your exits and entrances for all the stuff that finds its way into your home, no matter who brings it in.

This is a multi-faceted problem. Let's take this systematically.

The Front Door.

Who uses it?

Myself and the kids.

What comes in? (What do you need a place for?)

1) Boots and shoes

2) Coats, Jackets (Personal items like scarves, hats and gloves are stored in the coat pocket and/or sleeve.)

3) Papers my son delivers once a week

4) mail

5) my purse and my daughter's backpack

What goes out?

6) outgoing mail

7) library books to be returned

8) things to be returned to various people

What do we need to store? 


What have we got?

A narrow hallway right by the front door and around a corner,  a wider hallway with a coat closet. Let's take it in turn.

By the front door we have the carpet for boots, the small wooden child's chair for all sorts of things (currently holding my son's papers. When I am getting ready to leave for work in the morning I put my purse and lunch kit on it. Sometimes, it is a place to put my purse down so I can get my boots off.) The child's chair is in the entrance arch to the living room. Across from it is the doorway to the dining room/home office.

That shelf is mostly decorative, but it does hold outgoing mail at the moment. The bin underneath it holds some library books and a bag of borrowed items to be returned to its owner.

Around the corner is really where the hard work happens.

yes, the two hallways are different colours. That will likely be changed during the Spring One Room Challenge in April.

That dresser (and the calendar above) is command central. School papers which need signing go into my folders--and then get returned to the kids' folders. (Well, that supposed to be how it works. In my son's case, he tends to give them to me right when he comes home from school and immediately retunrs them to his back pack. My daughter wakes me up the morning they are due and frantically waves a pen in my face. We're working on it.) My husband and I also have our own folders. I highly recommend that everyone in a household have a place like this for their own papers.

We collect grocery and gas receipts (separate from our other receipts) so there are envelopes to catch them set up here, too.

One drawer in this dresser is devoted to hats, mitts and scarves, year round. I go through and purge it in the fall. (This way, too, if I do find the odd hat or glove lying around, I have a place to put it without having to find its owner or her coat.)

The coat closet also doubles as a broom closet, so I have all sorts of things here. Most importantly, it is the home for our coats, bags we use to take to the grocery store, bags we re-use, empty backpacks and my purse.

The Back Door.

This is the way to the back yard and the garage.

Who uses it?

Mostly my husband, the dog, sometimes me and the kids.

What comes in?

My husband and his workboots (which he likes to change out of before he goes out to play with the dog), his lunch bag and book bag. Groceries. dirty, filthy dogs paws.

What goes out?

All of the above, plus, in summer, sports stuff.

What do we need to store?

In addition to the above, I need access to gardening supplies, (gloves, a hat, secateurs, and a trowel), a table cloth and roasting forks.

What do we have to work with?

A teeny tiny entry way, and stairs going up to the kitchen and down to the basement.

The shoe pocket organizer holds mostly mosquito repellant and odd bits at the moment. The drawer underneath holds things we won't need until summer.

First, the stairs leading up to the kitchen.

On the left wall, a strip of wood with cup hooks holding keys and the dog's leash. On the right, a towel bar with the long shoe horn and a rag both for the dog's paws and my husband's boots. On the ledge, the spray bottle is to discourage the Beagle's barking. (On the floor to the left is a bucket with cleaning cloths to be taken to the basement laundry room.) Those are my husband's work boots and winter boots/shoes on the stairs.

As you go down the stairs there's boot shelf with a curtain rod above it on the right.

Those sandals are being held up by a bent hanger, the boots by a hanger clip. Sandals and keds live in the pink magazine holders. Beneath the shelf are hooks for bike helmets and a bag holding fishing gear.

Opposite this are the baskets, also suspended from the flooring joists.

They hold hats, summer work gloves, ball mitts and rollar blades and knee pads. They've held all sorts of sports equipment through the years.

(That mess underneath the baskets belongs to the epic basement clean up project which is next month!)

As far as curing goes, I dusted the navy shelf, cleaned off the top of the white dresser, and sorted through the paper work. I decluttered the baskets at the back door, vacummed the magazine/shoe holders and the wire baskets. Then I washed the walls and swept and washed the stairs. I vacuumed the hallway and the coat closet floor, too. Yep. I'm tired.

So, there we have it. I think I've covered how we --and all our stuff-- come and go.

Any questions? I'll answer in the comments.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Pantry: At Last. and Experimenting on my Face

Dear lord, was it really Assignment #4?

I know I hadn't been ready for it when it came.

But I have done it now.

I have, actually, tackled this particular bookshelf which I call my pantry many, many times. I actually love this strange unit--a holdover from my childhood when it used to be stuffed with record albums. I've expanded it with closet organizer shelving.

It sits in the basement opposite my laundry area.

My goal was to re-organize it, declutter the old stuff and wipe out every cubby.

To be honest, it was daunting.

The first surface, emptied.

It took about an hour.

The oldest thing I found was a box of lemon pie filling mix.



I'm not even sure how that is possible as I have purged the pantry more than once in the last ten years! Maybe I got it from my Mom? Maybe I just never looked at it?

I also found my stash of peppermint tea. I thought I'd had some! And it was just in time, too The largest package expires next month.

So, here we are.

Ta Da!

I also did today's assignment--clearing out the bathroom cabinets. Nothing too exciting there.

The wall cabinets in the bathroom downstairs:

These two cabinets are right beside one another.

The bathroom "cabinets" upstairs:

All that's left is my daughter's toothbrush. I don't know why she doesn't like keeping it in the cabinet.

The oldest things I found?

ahem, cough, ahem, those cleansers and moisturizers?

yeah, those.

dated 1996.


(I actually put some moisturizer on my face to see if it was Ok. As it sat there and sat there and refused to be absorbed, I started to feel all weird. What if it gave me a rash or something? So, I grabbed some tp and wiped it off immediately. What was I thinking?)

I just may take that rack down.

Boom da da boom.

Monday, January 19, 2015

From the Weekend: Scenes from the Bedroom Cure

Found on my husband's nightstand while curing the bedroom.

I hadn't really intended to do the "cure" quite this devotedly. I'd intended to do it the way I always do on-line events like this--pick my own tasks and do them at my own pace. Instead, it seems I am doing almost all of the assignments--and when they are assigned, too.

Along with hundreds of others all over the world, I cleaned my bedroom this weekend. I started Friday and finished Saturday.

The assignment was simply to clean. I took it a step further and decided to incorporate one of Joshua Becker's assignments from "A Simple Year." To wit, to declutter this room as one of two areas of my home and get rid of anything "unnecessary."

Once again, I started with a room badly in need of both cleaning and decluttering.

This was taken from the doorway:

This is rather embarrassing, but I had let things go--I knew the big clean up was coming and I was working 'til 10 pm all this week---excuses, excuses.

Immediately to the left of the door, we have the dresser. (That is the closet door to its left)

Then, the loveseat/dog's bed. I have had this piece of furniture since a room-mate dragged it home from a University reading lounge back in the eighties. (Room-mate and University shall remain nameless.) It's an incredibly sturdy and heavy piece of furniture.

On to the bed wall. It is a lovely little alcove just big enough to feel cosy.

And then, to the right of the bed (and tucked behind the doorway) are the shelves.

Oh, the shelves.

I have been thinking about culling their contents for months, now.

Easy to purge: the Simple Scrapbooks magazines I've had for years--but never referenced. Time will tell if I regret that decision, but I doubt it. My scrapbooking style is as simple as can be--and I don't really need books for ideas, anymore.

More difficult, however, were the books dealing with my faith. I have had periods of intense belief and periods of indifferent, almost non-belief throughout my life. I am in one of the latter right now--and I am not completely at peace with it.

When I started purging the books --the books on what it means to be a Christian woman, the books on prayer and the books on God's character, and so on, I was scared. Really scared. I didn't know what it meant. I didn't know what I was doing. Was I saying good-bye to ever believing in God again? Was I committing to being an agnostic? Was I turning my back on God? I wasn't sure I was ready to do that, but those years I was a practicing Christian were truly some of the worst years in my marriage and family-life.

I decided to keep two C.S. Lewis books, Mere Christianity (which I have read) and The Problem of Pain (which I think I've started but not finished). I committed to reading the latter within six months. I will decide then whether to keep my books or let go of them.

It also occurred to me that if I ever do return to my faith--I just might want a different library.

Marie Kondo would have me pile these books on the floor. My knees argued back--and won!

As I considered each book, eventually I found myself picking up each one, holding it in my hand and asking myself, "Does this bring me joy?" Then, if the answer was no, I put the books in the box and said, out loud, "Thank you for your service."

And so I built a pile of boxes outside the door.

As you can see, I decluttered more than just the Christian books.

The rest was easy.

I decided I didn't want to see these boxes underneath the love seat anymore.

What did they store? One box was full of painting clothes suitable for a range of weights and seasons. I kept something in my current size suitable for summer and trashed the rest. The other box held summer clothes for a person about eighty pounds lighter than me. I pulled out two pairs of pants and the rest went out to the hallway.

I vacuumed everything that could possibly be vacuumed, including the mattress and the window screen. I dusted and I dusted and I dusted. I washed the mattress pad and pillow covers, sheets and pillowcases. I vowed to buy new pillows and wrestled the duvet into its beautiful cover and put a new and better piece of fabric on the poor old worn out loveseat.

I practically have a brand new room.


Nothing is styled. I basically finished, took photos and then rushed off to work.

And here we are, the shelves! I am most proud of these.

I pulled out a few toys I've had in storage. That duck on the bike is one of the silliest things ever.

So, there we have it.

One clean and decluttered room, ready for whatever the year may bring.

Boom da da boom.

ETA: I finally got the shelves tidied up and styled. Here they are:

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