Spring…er, February Cleaning

19 02 2012

So, the only cleaning chore I actually like doing is laundry. To me, it’s the most tangible – clothes are dirty, you put them in the washing machine and dryer, and they come out clean and smelling nice! Plus, it’s the only thing that the dogs can’t seem to dirty up immediately!

I realized recently that there are some spring cleaning-type things that I should be doing involving the laundry…like washing my pillows and comforter. I was reading in a magazine yesterday that you can, and should, wash pillows regularly, and it’s something that I forget to do. So tonight, after my regular laundry was finally finished, I put the pillows in with some fresh powdered detergent from Sweet Grass Farms. My mom had gotten me some of their laundry sachets for the dryer for Christmas, so I recently ordered some of their powdered detergent and fabric softener, and it does make my laundry smell so lovely and fresh.

It’s a good idea to get in the habit of washing some of the “extras.” The week before last, I washed all the dogs’ toys, and went through them at the same time to throw out any that were a bit torn (just used regular detergent and no fabric softener for those!).  I also am trying to wash their bedding on a weekly basis, since the yard has been a bit on the grungy side thanks to Ollie, who is systematically destroying it in every way possible. So they’re bringing in more dirt, and I’m trying to cut down on it.

It’s so nice to walk into a room with everything that can be washed being freshly laundered. It makes me think of the spring to come! So while I promised I wasn’t doing any major housework this weekend, I am doing a bit of “spring cleaning!”

And I stuck to my promise to work on de-cluttering, and did another section of the closet this afternoon.  That leaves me with just one side of the hanging stuff to go through, and I’m done. I’ve found that breaking the closet down into sections has made me far more ruthless, which is a good thing. For example, I just went through my shoes the other day. Normally, I’ll take everything out of the closet, get through a little bit of it, and then tire of the project and end up sticking a lot of things back in there because I don’t want to do the work of deciding what I should really keep.

But by splitting it up into smaller tasks each day (I used to treat the closet as one task by itself, but it really is a huge project), I’m much better at going through everything and identifying what I really wear, what no longer fits, what doesn’t really work with my style, and what I just don’t like.  I admit that I didn’t take any before pictures, because I really was too embarrassed, but I’ll definitely take some afters…and then when I’m back from my month of travel, I can finally paint that closet too!

But I didn’t just separate out the things I’m no longer going to keep – I put them in my car right away, and took two trips this weekend to donate them already. If I don’t, I find I’m just exchanging one mess for another – they go from cluttering up my closet to cluttering up the basket in the hallway. So I’m really happy with myself for ripping the bandaid off, being honest about what to keep, and paring things down. The closet looks so much better already!


Oops, I did it Again

7 02 2012

Despite my best intentions, I didn’t get around to taking shots of my painted closet today! Tomorrow instead!

I was tired tonight, but I have big plans for cleaning the house this week after work because I have a friend visiting this weekend. After using my panini maker for the first time (yum – cheese and ham, toasted, FTW), I futzed around in the kitchen for a bit, wiping counters and straightening up. I managed to motivate myself enough to clean out the fridge and freezer, and I’m embarrassed to say there was more than one expired item in there.

But that was some positive de-cluttering for the night, which made me realize that I can incorporate it into my nightly routine (when I stick to it, which hasn’t been very much lately!).  The kitchen is now spotless (minus the floor, but with the dogs, I like to wait as long as possible to get that clean!). I also dusted the rest of the first floor, cleaning up spots of Barney-drool as I went – gross, but a fact of life with some bassets.

I also used my new vacuum, with a fancy pet attachment that it came with, to clean the couch. I’d left the cover off all week, so it had gotten a bit of hair on it, and the friend who’s visiting is unfortunately allergic to dogs.  She takes some allergy meds when she comes, but this will be her first visit with two dogs, so I’m trying to get it as clean as I can.  So I got as much hair as I could see off the couch and put the clean slip cover back on – I also plan to wash it again towards the end of the week.

I vacuumed the two chairs in the room – the pups never used to sit on them, but Barney has taken to sitting in the one in the corner, because it gives him a different vantage point of the cul-de-sac for his “patrolling.” You haven’t lived until you’ve watched a basset hound growl ferociously…while he lays his head on the arm of the chair. It’s obviously very intimidating…um, not so much.

At any rate, I also did another de-cluttering job that I’ve been putting off – going through the boys’ toys.  It’s a little ridiculous how many toys they have, and it’s been a little while since I’ve washed them and thrown out the ones that Barney has ripped open.  So I did that tonight, which should also cut down a bit on the doggy-ness of the house. Unfortunately, Ollie has also managed to destroy the toy basket, one of my favorite baskets in the house, by chewing a handle off, and part of the side, so I’ll have to pick up a new one…probably a smaller one, to keep me from spoiling the pups too much!

I was also excited to hang up a map of Rome that I found – I had framed it a while ago, and then put it up in the attic because I didn’t have anywhere to hang it.  I decided a few months ago to hang postcards or prints from my travels on the wall leading up the stairs, after I found a beautiful print that looks like a pencil drawing of the Eiffel Tower, while I was in Charles de Gaulle airport. Since then, I’ve added three cards I picked up in San Francisco (also in the airport), a Christmas card one of our clients sent us for Christmas from Prague, and now the map of Rome, which we actually used while we were there – my dad’s notes are even on it. Since Rome is one of my favorite cities, it will be nice to see that every time I come up or go down the stairs. I’ll have to post a photo of that tomorrow too.

All in all, a rather productive night, surprisingly.  This is a rather mundane post, I know, but I promised to write daily, and there are a lot of mundane days for us handy homeowners! But despite it being mundane, I must say it’s nice to sit down on the couch with the washing machine going, the dishwasher loaded, and everything clean and straightened.

Roadblocks to De-Cluttering

1 02 2012

Just a short post from me tonight, because I’m still battling the effects of hitting my head over the weekend (and had a nice knock in the head right in the same place from my hard-headed basset puppy this afternoon as well).  Let’s hope for a great night’s sleep and better health tomorrow!

But this week, I’ve been thinking about de-cluttering, and what some of my roadblocks are to getting it done.

Now, I’m not a hoarder, by any means.  If you go into my house, and then go to my neighbors’ house, you’d consider me a minimalist.  Visible clutter makes me feel claustrophobic, so I’m regularly making sure to put things in their place.  But there are definitely some areas that don’t work as efficiently as they should and need help – namely my kitchen cabinets, and anywhere I have clothes (though I’ve still managed to keep a whole closet in my bedroom bare).

So what holds me back from getting rid of clutter?

  • Exhaustion: That’s probably not the best word to describe it, but it’s all I’ve got right now.  This comes in a couple of forms – one is when I get a big burst of energy and decide I’ll de-clutter a big area, all at once. Like, maybe I’ll decide to tackle a closet, so I’ll take everything out of it – all the clothes, shoes, belts, purses, etc. And then, I’ll start to parse through it all and get tired. I’ve lost my energy burst, but now there’s a pile of clothes on the bed, and I’m not making the most effective decisions about what should stay and what should go.  To combat this, I’ve been working on just de-cluttering a small area at a time.  The other day, I de-cluttered the medicine cabinet over the sink in the downstairs bathroom. I felt really good after getting it done, and it only took me about ten minutes.

    I’ve heard from some other people that they’ll set a timer – give themselves fifteen minutes, and then be done.  I think the key there is then to not use those fifteen minutes to overwhelm yourself with taking things out.  That’s a bit tough to do in a closet, and I keep mentally telling myself that I’ll just go through my closet when I’m ready to paint it, but I think what I need to do is break the closet down into pieces – start with the shelf first, then one side of the closet, then the other, the shoes, and then the sweater cabinet.  Then, I can do a little at a time.

    That brings me to the other kind of de-cluttering exhaustion, and that’s the initial exhaustion.  If I really want to be serious about de-cluttering, I need to make it a regular part of my day until it’s finished.  But I quickly forget that I can do it for just fifteen minutes or so, and believe the projects to be overwhelming – I look at the WHOLE of de-cluttering, instead of the small project in front of me, so I psych myself out before I start.  To get over that roadblock, I need to set a timer for fifteen minutes at the end of each work day, and just de-clutter something.  Fifteen minutes is such a short amount of time that I can’t talk myself out of it.

  • I might need it: This is another big one for me, the worry that I might need something “one day.” Like my laundry basket for example. I’ve had this great laundry basket for quite a long time. It’s plastic, it has great handles and it can fit a lot.

    I don’t use it.

    I mean, I never use it.  I always carry laundry down and up the stairs one load at a time – it’s good exercise, and my bathroom/laundry room is too small to leave several loads lying around on the floor waiting to be washed. So the laundry basket sits alone in the downstairs shower (which I also don’t use, unless I’ve caulked the bathtub upstairs). But when I think about getting rid of it, it makes me anxious.  What if I need it? I mean, reasonably, I can get another one, just as good or maybe better.  But I’ve already got this one. And what if I don’t stay here in the house for more than a couple more years, and move to one where I need and use a laundry basket?  (See what I mean?). This one is harder to combat, because it’s emotional. So I’ve got to work through my fear of “needing” things and decide whether I really “need” them.  Because there are things I’m not using that are just taking up space.

    This brings me to another emotional issue I’ve been having, and that’s with going paperless.  I must admit, I love my little scanner. I’ve been slowly scanning in the documents in my office and anything I need from the mail that day, and it’s great to get that room back in the house, and know that it’s pretty easy for me to locate things on my computer.


    When I first started scanning in things like receipts (if you know me, you know I keep every single – and I mean EVERY single – credit card receipt and invoice), and getting ready to shred them, I was hugely anxious. I worried that I might need the receipts and wouldn’t have them (even though they’re safe in my computer – and I’ll be backing them up shortly). It’s all in my head, so I need to work through that fear of having things in my “hot little hands” as one of my teachers used to say.

  • Wasting: I worry that I’m wasting things when I get rid of them and there’s nothing wrong with them, even if I don’t use them.  Now, I don’t just throw usable things out – I’m a HUGE fan of donating things to the veterans.  They even pick up at your house, depending on where you live. Unfortunately, they don’t pick up at my house, but I can take things to my parents’ to be picked up there, which is great. And I’ve even tried selling a few things on Amazon, like books and computer games, with limited success.  But I still feel that guilt about money spent and not fully utilized.  That’s another emotional roadblock that I need to work through – when I’m giving things to people that need them more than I do, it’s not a waste, and I need to remember that.

    But on the flip side, I also need to remember that feeling whenever I make a purchase and make sure that I’m buying things that are really useful to me and will add to and not detract from my life.  That will help cut down on incoming clutter as well.

I’m sure there are other roadblocks to de-cluttering for me, but that’s all I’ve got for now (and it was a longer post than I thought it would be!).  What are some of your roadblocks to keeping your house clutter-free?

Goin’ Paperless

12 01 2012

You may remember that I mentioned I’d be getting a machine that would revolutionize my life – well, it’s here.

It’s the Neat Desk, and it’s here to help me go paperless. This beauty can scan (back and front) 50 pages at a time (yes really), or, if it has the insert in, like above, you can scan 15 business cards, 15 receipts, and 15 documents at a time.

I think I’m in love.

I set it up last night, and while I can see that I really need to start working on organizing things that I’ve scanned in, I can also see how quickly this is going to revolutionize my life and help me go paperless.  I have SO MUCH PAPER filed away – magazine clippings, receipts, binders full of conference documents for work, and more. It’s starting to take over my office, and it’s definitely taken over my attic (uh, along with all my Christmas and Halloween decorations, which unfortunately can’t be scanned). So I can’t wait to set up my folders and start getting virtually organized, as I scan in all my paper!

I also realized last night that I can scan in cards – I often like to keep cards, which also start to take over, and while I will still keep some hard copies, this way, I can scan in many of my cards, and then send the originals to St. Jude’s for their card recycling program.  Going paperless AND helping a good cause makes me happy.

**As a note, Neat Desk has no idea who I am. This is just a scanner I saw on tv and fell in love with before it even arrived.

Organization Tips

8 01 2012

My love of Pinterest has given me some great ideas…as I mentioned, I’m working on seriously decluttering my house this year. I’ve decided to do it little by little, because I have a lovely habit of starting a BIG project, and emptying out a lot of drawers, and then losing steam.  So I’m going piece by piece instead.

One of the areas I worked on was the cabinet above my microwave.  It drives me CRAZY, because I have a bunch of things up there that I don’t frequently use, but when I need something, it’s a big balancing act to try to get that item out, without pulling everything else down on top of me.  So I did a little search, and found an idea from Martha Stewart’s kitchen, where she used suspension rods to create better cabinet organization.

I gave it a whirl:

Pretty nice!

Is it perfect? No, but it’s FAR more functional than it was before, and I can pull my pans and trays out and put them back without wanting to tear my hair out. I have enough suspension rods to try the idea in other places needed, so I’ll let you know where else they work!

Continuing on the De-Cluttering Project

26 04 2011

I’d let the Trash it or Treasure it de-cluttering project fall by the wayside a bit and realized that my house was starting to get a bit more cluttered again.  So it was time to re-commit!

I was still working on the living room, and I think mentally, I believed I had to not only de-clutter, but also re-decorate anything that wasn’t working (i.e. paint the trim).  So that was holding me back a bit too.  But I realized that the de-cluttering side of things was far more important to me, so I just got on with it.

I had done the big scrub part of it, and waited (longer than I was supposed to) to see where clutter gathered and why certain things weren’t working for me. I didn’t have to get rid of much, fortunately, so I just made sure that any existing clutter was removed and cleaned the whole room top to bottom again.  Here’s the before and after:

Before - not terrible, just needed a bit of sprucing up

After - much cleaner!

The next room on the list is the kitchen, which is definitely a place I have trouble with clutter. I keep telling myself it’s because I don’t have a pantry, or extra cabinet space, but really, I just need to be honest about what I use, what I need, and what can go.

So the first step was again deep cleaning the kitchen, which I did yesterday. Now I’m supposed to wait a few days, and try to make the room the life center of house – cook meals for other people, try new recipes, come in and out of the garden, etc.  Then I can see clearly what works for me and what doesn’t.  I’m hoping that I can really see what that is!

Living Room – De-Cluttering Update

24 02 2011

I haven’t been as diligent with my de-cluttering as I should be.  It’s hard to work, and work on home improvements, and de-clutter, and relax, and start running again, and eat healthy, blah, blah, blah.  Just some excuses for you 🙂

But the next task in the Trash it or Treasure it program is the living room.  The first thing I’m supposed to do is give it a good scrubbing, and then wait a week or so to see what collects in there and where.

I did that last weekend, and I’ve found that I’m pretty good about clutter in there.  Things I tear out from magazines and save from the mail end up on the coffee table, but I do take those upstairs to my office every night.  Cups and plates end up there too, since I often eat on the couch, but I put those in the dishwasher every night.  Otherwise, it’s mostly clutter free.

I had taken out everything extraneous in there a few weeks ago, and lived with it for a while just to see what I could do without.  And the truth is – most of it.  I’ve brought back in a few things, rearranged a few things, and added a couple of things, and I’m almost to the point where I just need to paint the trim in there and do another deep clean, and it will be a great working room.

Here’s what I did:\

I added this poster of a painting to the mantle

I had taken everything off the mantle except for my changing photo frame at the other end.  And although it was nice not to have anything on there, especially when it came to dusting, the truth is that the brick is a little boring. (Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE brick. I just don’t love mine).  The room needed a bit more visual interest.

So I thought I’d get something to lean on the mantle. Initially, I thought about blowing up one of my photographs, but I took a look through Michaels’ posters when I was there last, and found this one, which I just love.  It’s beachy, like my house, but also romantic, and the colors lend themselves well to this room.

I added back in the two candles, because I love those, and my piece of driftwood, because I also love that.  And I couldn’t be happier with the way it looks. It makes me happy whenever I see it.

New basket for the firewood

The other thing I added was a new basket for my firewood. I’d seen similar ideas on some decorating shows, and liked them much better than the tan handled basket I’d actually picked up off the side of the road.  I love these dark brown baskets (I also added two slightly smaller ones to fit all of my crochet supplies in the living room as well), and it makes it easier to access the wood.

I realized when I did this that the setup I had here wasn’t working for me – one side of the fireplace was dedicated to my cable box, while the other had to house everything fireplace related, which made it look and feel cluttered.  So I rearranged the bookcase next to the fireplace and put the cable box there, and then put the wood to one side of the fireplace, and the tools to the other.  I also added back in my basset hound pillow, which my nieces loves to hug whenever she visits my house.

Fake books

Since I moved in, I’ve kept my DVDs in the small cube side table I have – my first ever Pottery Barn furniture purchase.  It’s great for storage, but not that efficient, because if I want to watch a movie, I have to move anything on top of the cube, figure out what movie I want to watch, move it all back and repeat the process to put the movie away.  It’s not a huge hassle, but the point of this project is to simplify my life, and I thought that was a good thing to do here.

So instead, I picked up these fake books at Michaels – I had already gotten rid of all my DVD cases, and put the DVDs into holders (you can just make out the red one that doesn’t have a home yet to the top left).  I measured the cases and the boxes to make sure they’d fit and brought them home.  They look like real books (mostly), and it’s a much nicer way to keep my DVDs in a convenient spot.

Moved the Bookcase!

I have two bookcases downstairs, and they’re very useful.  But they’re not always workable where I have them.  I’ve moved this bookcase once before from the corner on the other side of the fireplace (there’s a chair there now), next to the other bookcase, and now finally to the accent wall.  It was starting to look too crowded on the other wall, so I thought this might be a solution.  (You can also see where I added fabric to the back of these bookcases to cover up what’s behind them – nothing in this case, but wires behind the other bookcase).    So far,  like it there, and it allowed me to free up some space by my other plants because I put this one here.

Moved the screen

Of course, that meant I had to put this screen somewhere.  I really like it, so I don’t want to just put it away, so here it sits. I’m not sure that it will stay there long term, but it works for now!  You can also see that I tidied up where my plants are, so that looks MUCH less cluttered now too!

It’s still a bit of a work in progress, but I’m getting there!