Saturday, 30 April 2011

Minimalist mania

I recently discovered that there are dozens -- thousands? -- of minimalist blogs, sites, and books. This was news to me.
The minimalist message was initially appealing, but I'll never be one. If there's one thing that I like more than space, it's beauty. Stark and minimal can absolutely be beautiful. But so can old and meaningful.
To me, de-cluttering means getting rid of, and avoiding, useless and ugly things, and being able to find and use what we have and love.
I recently read a post by a woman who had scanned her grandmother's letters and then discarded the originals. She was thrilled because she could now read them any where in the world. True enough, and smart to scan them. But discarding the originals? How much space could they have occupied? Perhaps her grandmother was more prolific than mine.
Keeping my grandmother's letters is a no-brainer for me. My goal is just to gather them all into one box!
A tougher spot for me is her chipped china. So many memories, so little use... Yes, I have a long way to go in this de-cluttering project.
For me, arbitrary advice like, "if you haven't touched it in a year, toss it," makes de-cluttering more intimidating. I know that that rule will never work for me, so I'm tossing it!
So far there is one guideline that does work for me, which is William Morris's advice to "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
That allows a pretty wide scope, which may be part of my problem. I'm going to need some more guidelines.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Every little bit counts -- each way

Today I didn't (intentionally) dedicate any time to clutter-busting, but I took more stuff out of the house than I took in, so I'll call that progress.

I started out looking for something in our over-flow kitchen cupboard (over the basement stairs), and I wound up pulling out an entire shopping bag full of expired foods.

In the past, finding expired foods in my cupboards actually made me feel good, because I gained space. I'm still glad to get rid of useless stuff, but I was also saddened by the waste.

Perhaps this wasteful feeling remained when I went to the grocery store, because for the first time ever, I came home with the items I intended to buy and nothing else. I came home with less than I threw out this morning.

Having a limited budget is both a help and a hindrance when it comes to de-cluttering. The hindrance was obvious: it's harder to get rid of something that you can't afford to replace. But living on a limited budget also makes it easier to buy less, which means having less.

In hindsight, having a job I didn't like motivated me to spend more. I felt slightly better about my job when it enabled me to buy the best for my son, for example. Buying less feels so much better.

My new favourite source? The public library. I love returning books almost as much as we love borrowing them.

Thursday, 28 April 2011


I started my clutterbuster blog to track my efforts to de-clutter our home, as opposed to my OldDogBlog which is a diary of my efforts to change my life. There's more overlap than I expected.

I haven't been making much progress on de-cluttering the house, but I'm slowly working on the bigger picture. Prioritizing is a big part of it.

How is it that, while I have been dying to de-clutter for years, and while I finally have time to do it, and feel great doing it, I am moving so extremely slowly?

Well, the beautiful spring weather may have a little to do with it. But probably more so some bigger questions. Like, what do I want to do with my life? What do I want to do with my day? What am I actually going to get done in this particular hour? And how can I do more of the things that are most important to me?

Well, for the next couple of hours, the most important things are going to be making supper and then raking the back yard with my little boy who loves to help, bless his heart.


Oh, dear. I'm not making much progress at all. I'm actually going backwards.
We finally moved our son out of his crib and into a bed, but we kept the crib set up just in case. Just in case what?
Of course, there was no room for all this furniture in my son's room, so we moved his dresser into... my nice empty guest room.
He's now had five successful nights in the new bed. Time to lose the crib...

Thursday, 21 April 2011


Well, I did it. I cleared all of the clutter out of our guest room. It is fully functioning and even occupied by a guest (thank you Steven). The framed photos that I hid under the bed for the past couple of years are even hanging on the wall. It's all good.

So why does it feel so anti-climactic?

Is it because the photo wall that I finally created is not quite finished? I ran out of hooks with three photos to go. I bought more today but didn't get them up. In the meantime, I already want to re-position a few of the photos that I hung yesterday. And add more photos of friends and family. It's not just incomplete, it's bound to evolve. I think that's a good thing.

Or maybe it's because I deferred sorting through the clothes and the boxes from my old office that I had stashed in the guest room. That was a reasonable decision, but having carved those tasks off from my guest room project, I'm both itching to get them done and dreading the process.

Indeed, after this tip-of-the-iceberg de-clutter, I'm getting a better sense of how much lies ahead; how much slows me down; and how many other things I want to do with my time too. I see my resistance to leaving a task unfinished (like this late-night post!); procrastination; and self-doubt.

Despite longing to de-clutter for years, today I found myself wondering whether this is a good use of my time! I believe that it is; it will simplify our lives for years to come. But "cleaning my room" (now my house) feels so childish. Is this how little progress I've made? If it remains to be done, I suppose that it remains to be done.

Now what? Enjoy my accomplishments and make a plan. On the de-cluttering front, I'm going to tackle the closets next, to create storage spaces. More broadly, I'm going to organize my time, to better balance my priorities and values. After all, de-cluttering is a worthy objective but it's not my only priority.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Our guest room is starting to look like a guest room!

You know what? For a first day, I did okay.

Regrettably, I moved a lot into the basement. But I think that's inevitable if I tackle "one space at a time".  A lot will filter down into the basement, and then I'll sort that out when I finish the main floor. That could be a disastrous strategy, except that I'm committed to doing this, and I actually have the time to do it now.

For anyone else who might actually read this, a WARNING. The following list would be like watching paint dry. I'm not sure why I wrote it as I went along, but it made the task less lonely and kept me motivated.

A. Leaving the house (this is my favourite section):
  • A car seat. Going to the grandparents' house.
  • An unused "closet organizer" that my sister-in-law gave me (they were such a great deal that she bought more than she needed...been there). Going back to my sister-in-law.
  • Garbage:
    • An unused box of synthetic, scented "rose petals"(!). 
    • An anthology of (often) sexist children's stories, like the one about the trapper who went to the general store and picked up a wife with his dry goods. I bought it on eBay because I'd enjoyed it as a child. Oops.
    • Old bath toys. 
  • Give-aways:
    • Several bags of clothes. 
    • A white plastic ladybug tray. Where's the charm in a white ladybug? Someone left this at a party at my house, but no one would admit to it.
    • A nearly-new blanket that generated massive amounts of fluff as soon as it was washed. (Is it uncharitable to give such a beast away?)  
    • A lace wall-hanging. Pretty, well-intentioned gift, but not my style. Difficult for me to give away because it was a gift, but surely someone else will enjoy it more than I have "enjoyed" storing it.
    • A Christmas wicker door-hanger basket. I always liked this, and it was a gift from one of my terrific aunts, but it's only useful at Christmas time. After ten years of storage in three different homes, it's going to go to charity. I hope my aunt would understand... or would she want it???
    • A portable CD player. Wow. This is obsolete. 
    • Better yet, a cassette-deck adapter to play said portable CD player in old cars! Quaint.
B. Leaving the guest room but staying in the house (way too much):
  • A corded phone still in its box. This old-school basic cost $6 at Target two months ago. I could not resist. Going to the basement.
  • A cordless phone still in its box. I finally unpacked it and plugged it in, and threw out the broken phone that this is replacing!
  • Son's sticker sheet. Put away in the sticker spot. We actually have a spot for these(!).
  • Son's bag of Valentines received. Created a bin for son's sentimental stuff. I know that this is just the kind of thing I should be discarding, and teaching him to discard, I think, but these are his, not mine... He'll need a spot for his trophies, his badges, his first concert tickets, and now he has one. I found room for the bin in his armoire.
  • A case of diapers. Moved to son's armoire.
  • An unused "training seat" (potty-training insert) that I bought last week. Moved to son's armoire until I can make room for it in the bathroom.
  • Lone sock. Found its mate in my basket of lone socks, and put it away in the sock drawer.
  • Shoe polish bin. Found a new home for this in our bedroom closet.
  • Roll of masking tape. Put away in its spot in the basement.
  • 2 Iyengar yoga belts & one elastic workout band, rarely used. Moved to basement.
  • 4 empty straw baskets. Good storage potential, but not stackable... Moving to the basement. 
  • 5 "Bring back 5 clean black pots, and get a Fresh Face Mask Free" pots. Into the dishwasher so I can bring them back "clean".
  • A child's hand-rake. Moved to sand-box.
  • Crayons, markers, and ink-stamp stuff that I bought long before I had a child. Into a now too small bin of art supplies in the basement.
  • Gift-wrap. Put away in the basement in the gift-wrap bin.
  • Greeting cards and other stationery. Into the basement bookcase. Except for the ones which I'll never use, which I'm giving away. :-)
  • A box of Christmas ornaments that my ex-boyfriend kindly returned. Into the basement with the rest of the Christmas ornaments. 
  • An unused mosquito net, suitable for tropical bedrooms, purchased on impulse at Ikea. I put it in the basement, but I should move it out to the shed where the 'skeeters are!
  • Various TV cables. Into the basement for now...
  • Extra bins and label-maker. Down to the basement. Note to self: buy bigger storage bins.
  • [Getting better...]
  • A suede robin's egg blue note-pad-and-pencil-crayons-and-sharpener set. So pretty to look at, so soft to touch, and so useless. Since I can't bear to part with it, I'll put it in the diaper bag where it may inspire me or my dear son next time we're waiting at the walk-in (and-get-comfortable) clinic.
  • My Oma's opera glasses. These are amazingly powerful and clear. Onto the mantel in my living room, to watch the birds and squirrels.
  • A Deluxe 'Electric' Putting Cup. My son will love this! And I'll be a better golfer, which is why my Dad bought it for me.  Out of the closet and into the basement playroom.
  • A small box of sentimental items, primarily related to the birth of my son. Definitely keepers. Into the basement.
  • An envelope full of inspirational quotes that I cut out of a notebook a long, long time ago. Apparently I was already trying to take more chances back then. My favourite of the selection is, "What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?" by Vincent Van Gogh. I wonder where he was in his life when he wrote that. These are actually worth saving. Into the sentimental box.
  • A brand-new pair of sunglasses, that look great on me! Did my dear husband win these in a golf tournament? Who knew that de-cluttering could be so materially rewarding?!
  • One pair of black suede boots that I bought on Boxing Day shortly before I quit my job. Still in the box. I'm saving these beauties for spousal office parties; funerals; and future job interviews. Into my closet. 
C. Staying in the guest room (that's all!):
  • 2 plungers (they don't fit in our bathroom cupboard). They now fit in the closet.
  • 2 potties (we're on a training break). They now fit in the closet.
  • Clothes steamer (my hubby uses this daily, bless his heart). It not fits in the closet.
  • Child-size clothes hangers. I can't think of a better place for these; there's no closet in our son's room.
  • One now-empty closet organizer. That feels good.
  • Spare linens, which now fit in the bottom dresser-drawer.
D. Still to do:
  • 2 boxes from my old office, and another box of paperwork, etc., that I need to go through. That's a whole other project. Don't want these too far out of sight/mind. They can sit in the corner of the guest room, for now!
  • A bunch of clothes that I need to go through. In order to completely de-clutter the guest-room, I'm putting these into the back of my husband's closet, and yes, I'll have some 'splaining to do. I guess I'll have to tackle the clothes soon...but I'm dreading it.
  • Many framed photos hidden under the bed and in the dresser be hung as a photo and my big ideas...
  • 2 great vintage wall-pockets. Hmm. 
I'm going to close the guest room door, say nothing, and see how my husband reacts when he goes in to get the steamer in the morning. Make it good baby!

And now off to pick up my darling boy. It's haircut day for the little dude.

The best-laid plans are made at the Westwood Clinic

I can't de-clutter while I sit here at the walk-in clinic, but I can write about it with my thumbs...

Standard de-cluttering advice is to focus on one space at a time. That's all well and good if the rest of your spaces are clutter-free. Not so simple when your clutter doesn't belong in the space it's in, but there's no room for it in its intended space. The main objective of de-cluttering may be to get rid of stuff, but I also need to find a place for the stuff we have and need. (Sure, if I were Martha Stewart I could just give away the whole house and order in a concise set of deluxe essentials. Me, not so much.)

For example, I started piling linens in our guest room when the linen closet got too disorganized to hold another pillow case. Seemed like a good temporary solution at the time; embarassing now! So I'm going to have to clean the linen closet before I can de-clutter the guest room. That was always the plan, but what about the focus-on-one-space-at-a-time mantra? I guess the lesson is to start with the right space. Apparently, the right space would have been the closets.
In the meantime, I'm at the local walk-in clinic with my little boy who has a sore ear and a mild fever.
That was four days ago. Not a lot of progress since then, but a lot of hockey, trains, antibiotics, frustration, and yet another trip to the walk-in clinic. 

However, our little boy's ear infection appears to have cleared at last, so today's my day to kick some clutter-butt.

On another note, I have discovered that someone else is following my blog. A huge surprise that's a little bit scary and incredibly motivating. Her blog is honest and brave. 

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Clutterbuster Kick-off

This post will be brief. I have an appointment soon but I'm going to seize these minutes and get started. It can only be good practice.

I'm going to de-clutter our house. We have too much stuff. We want to be able to find things, and put them away. So I have to make room for the things we keep, and remove the rest. The hard part, for me, will be deciding what to keep, and what should be removed. I'm attached to a lot of these things. The fun part will be finding a place for the things we keep. Both parts will take a lot of time.

I've been trying to decide where to start. Fortunately, the decision has been made by our friend Steve's announcement that he is coming to stay in our guest room one week from today. Hurray for Steve!
A few weeks ago I took a house full of "before" photos. Most of them are too scary to post (and conveniently I don't have time at the moment), but our guest room looked like this:

It's actually worse than it looks. The suitcases were full of clothes from a weekend getaway (now unpacked); the boxes are full of things from my old office (untouched); and hidden beneath the bed and in the drawers are framed photos ready to hang on a future portrait wall...

The guest room is even worse today:
Yes, everything from our dear son's potty to my clutter-busting gear -- bins and label-maker. Nothing like buying more stuff to tackle your stuff.

Here we go. One week to go from warehouse to welcoming!