Home Sweet Home Blog

Mar 5, 2018

Good Monday morning! It's a rainy day here in Central Iowa and that always makes me want to organize something. Seems like if I can't get outside, then I should be productive and straighten a drawer or organize a closet.

We've all got that one closet, right? That closet that turns into the place we shove the items we don't know what to do with. Eventually that closet becomes the one we avoid opening for fear of being buried in the deluge of junk that's bound to come tumbling out. It's time. It's time to open the door, face the mess, and take control. Don't panic. I'll walk you through it.

For us, the problem closet was our hallway linen closet. It held everything but the linens. It was literally the catch all for not only the 3 of us who live in the house, but for kids and grandkids to store things like extra clothes or board games. This is what it looked like when I opened the door. Every shelf was more than jammed full with stuff from first aide supplies to craft supplies. Board games to camping gear. Puzzles to pillow cases. Okay, you get the idea. It was a mess. A huge mess that made me stressed out and nervous to even consider tackling. It was definitely time to tame the closet monster. I'll be honest. When I opened that door, I nearly backed out. If you feel that way, I want you to tackle a single shelf. If the entire closet is overwhelming, just do one shelf. You got this.

The first thing I did was remove everything. I didn't just grab it, I pulled things out and placed them on our bed in categories. I chose the bed because it's a king sized bed so it gave me a large space to work with. Given all the crap I'd shoved in there, that was critical.

Next, I cleaned the closet. I dusted each shelf, wiped down the walls, swept and mopped the floor. No sense in starting with a dirty space, right?

As the walls and floor dried, I surveyed the categories of stuff on the bed. The linens were a no brainer. I stored them in the bedroom they belong to. Since I don't keep more than one or two sets of sheets per bed, this didn't really free up any clutter but it did remove a category and that made me feel like I was making progress.

By this time, it was time for a cup of coffee and some thinking. If I wasn't going to use the linen closet for linens, what was the best use for it? I didn't have a definite answer, so I decided to tackle the largest category of things on my bed. With 16 grandchildren, this category was a combo of games and arts/craft supplies. While we use these items regularly, we don't use them daily or even weekly, so they didn't need to be on the main level of the house. Instead, I moved them to the storage shelves in our large basement storage closet. Still readily accessible, but not taking up valuable real estate on the main floor of our home. I did choose to keep the card games and the coloring books and crayons that were used weekly in this closet. As you can see, I put the card games in a plastic bin, and the coloring books and crayons on the same shelf. Easily handy for impromptu visits, but the dozens of board games that were used maybe monthly, were no longer in the way of the items we use more frequently.

Next, I stored the decorative items I frequently swap out around the house and/or use when we do book sales to decorate my table. Those items need more care than can be provided in the garage and are used too often to be stored in the basement. So the breakable items went on the top shelf where they were safe from grandorables, while candles went on a lower shelf so little hands could 'help' in the decorating process.

I then stored first aide items in a white plastic bin, with the heating pad beside it. Because let's be real. With 16 grandkids, we need the heating pad a lot. They wear a person OUT. Now, I did go through the first aide items and tossed anything that was out of date or looked too old to be safe or just needed tossed. Honestly, that was probably half of the items. We made a vow to be more cognizant of that waste, also.

Camp supplies like sleeping bags, flashlights, and similar items were stored in the basement closet. Items like bug spray, sunblock, and insect bite sticks were reviewed for expiration dates and stored with the first aide products.

What was left was an array of oddities that didn't really fit into any category. I reviewed each item for quality first. If it was in good shape and useful, I then determined when/if I used it or needed it. If I wanted to keep it, it went to the basement with a small sticker on the bottom with the date on it. This tip really helps me keep my hoarding tenancies in check. If, when I next review the same item, I haven't used it and it's been six months or a year or more, I donate it. Clearly I don't need it. I just think I do. Similarly, if it was damaged or expired, I tossed it.

The only things left were an unclaimed sweatsuit and an odd sheet/blanket that we have no idea where they came from or who they belong to. Things like this happen a lot around here. We left them on the shelf in the hopes that the rightful owner would eventually claim them and take them home, but to be honest, that never happened. When we sold this house, a year or so after this major purge, we donated both of these items to charity.

You can see, once I was done, we had the entire floor space empty and nearly every shelf was at least half empty. That was my goal.

I can't tell you what a sense of accomplishment I felt when I was finished. Yes, I was exhausted, but I was so pleased. I ended up with two large laundry baskets of items to donate. Sheets that don't fit any of our beds, curtains we don't need in this house, games we don't play, or decorative items we no longer want or need. I also filled our trash bin with expired first aide products, torn or filled coloring books, etc.

Caveat here. When I talk about first aide items, I'm talking about band aides, gauze, and antiseptics. I'm not talking about cough medicines, or any medicines, really. Those are stored out of reach and are reviewed monthly. Any prescription drugs are disposed of according to our trash company's recommendation and any real dangerous medicine like pain pills, muscle relaxers, etc, are taken to our local police department for disposal.

I have to tell you, I honestly thought this closet would take the bulk of my day. In reality, it took maybe an hour and a half, start to finish. And I won't lie, I got up and opened that closet door just to look at it several times over the next few days. Take pride in your work, ya'll. It feels good to clean and organize and purge!

February 25, 2018

Our Excess Clothing
Happy Sunday! I wanted to share how we started our purging journey. Like many of you, I'd heard about the process where you take all of a single item like all of your clothes or all of your books, and put them in a pile in the middle of the room. Then, you hold each item and evaluate if it brings you joy or not.

While I think this is certainly a viable option and it has helped many, there was no way I was hauling all of my clothes to the middle of the floor, only to sort through them and put back what I wanted. To begin with, I had a tremendous amount of clothing and it was scattered over a wide array of locations. Another issue is our corgi, Sophie. We have dog hair like you would not believe. We have so much dog hair, that our 8 year old Sophie has destroyed 6 vacuums so far. There was zero chance any of my clothes were going on the floor. The laundry alone would kill me.

But I do think there is value in determining how much we really like something. If you're like me, you're going to find your closet is filled with things you don't really have any strong feelings for. And for the money we're spending, our belongings should be things we really enjoy.

 I started with the walk in closet in our master bedroom and I did hold each item of clothing in my hands. If I really liked it and felt good wearing it, I kept it. If I didn't, I examined its condition. If it was in good condition, I put it in a pile to donate to the local homeless shelter. If it was in poor condition, I put it in a pile to be tossed.

To be honest, when I first started this, I felt a little silly trying to determine if an article of clothing made me feel happy or not, but once you do it, it makes total sense. There were many things that I love and kept. There were many things I used to love but knew I wouldn't wear again. And there were many, many more things that I just didn't care about at all.

Ten bags and two boxes donated
At first, as the donation pile grew, I felt badly about all the money I was wasting, but the reality it, I was wasting that money by allowing perfectly good clothing to hang unused in my closet. Donating it to the homeless shelter where those who are truly in need can benefit from them is a much better use of my money.

My tips to beginning this process:

  • Set aside a few hours. Your closet didn't get messy in 15 minutes and it isn't going to get clean in 15 minutes, either.
  • Designate locations for your piles. Make sure they don't get mixed up or blend together. You don't want to have to sort the clothing a second time.
  • Have boxes or bags to house your donations in advance. Otherwise you're just moving your mess from one location to another. 
  • Remove everything from the floor and vacuum. Get rid of all those dust bunnies while you're there. 
  • Reward yourself after you drop off your donations. A movie, dinner out, or whatever works for you.  You've put in a hard few hours and you've donated multiple items to those less fortunate than you. Take a moment to acknowledge and reward this behavior. 
  • Take time to appreciate your clean closet. 
  • Keep it clean.

February 19, 2018

Welcome to my new adventure. I'm going to blog about subjects that are near and dear to my heart. Organizing and downsizing. In this day and age, I think many of us are treading water in stuff. Some of us are even drowning in stuff. There's stuff everywhere. On our table tops, jammed in drawers, shoved into closets, and even stacked in storage sheds we pay monthly fees to rent. The question is, why? I mean, really, how much of this do you need or even want?

We've been conditioned through media programming to believe buying more will make us happier. The truth for many of us is, in fact, just the opposite. Freeing ourselves from the overwhelming clutter reduces our stress level, frees up our time, and helps us surround ourselves with things we really love to look at and use rather than what caught our eye as we wandered through the dime store or the local mall or even Amazon.

The past five years have been years of discovery for me and my family. We sold a house and bought a house that was triple the size. We filled it with furniture and spent the next six years living in less than a third of the house. Occasionally, we'd venture into the larger living spaces, but mostly we lived in the same amount of space we lived in before. So the only thing we'd really accomplished was increasing our mortgage and giving ourselves more debt for the increased need for furnishings and more time spent in cleaning and maintaining such a large space. Don't  me wrong, I loved the house. It was beautiful and we enjoyed our time there. However, when our clothes closets were jammed full and a huge storage closet was jammed full, and we were trying to figure out why we needed this much stuff, that we made some major decisions.

Our personal goal was less responsibility and lower bills so we could travel more. We didn't want a huge yard and/or house to maintain and we didn't want a huge mortgage. This realization is what started us on our journey. Now, five years in, you can benefit from our experiences. So stay tuned. I plan on updating this blog weekly with tips and tricks on how to start the organizing and downsizing process, and how to expand it once you're comfortable with the basics.


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