Archive for the ‘Uncluttering’ Category

You may remember my scary, overflowing entry closet from a few weeks back. It was unusably full, and as I went through it, I discovered that it was full of stuff that didn’t need to be there. Now, it is so empty and I’m not sure how to make the best use of this space. Here’s the before and after shot so you can see the progress.



Top left: Will Creator that was free after rebate to give to my parents (not so subtle hint, haha; they’re expecting it, so it’s not coming out of the blue!), and breast pump that I need to mail to my cousin
Top right: Baby monitor (that we never use because our house is so small! My husband wants to keep it, though), fan that we use in the summer

Middle left: Jackets
Middle right: Mail sorter, now with blank envelopes, address stamp, and postage easily accessible; bottom drawer for keys, middle drawer for receipts, one slot for Mr. Penny’s business papers. The basket on top is for Mr. Penny’s wallet and pocket stuff.

Bottom left: Shoes – jumbled together still and in need of better organization (three wire baskets) I’m taking the shoes out of here altogether.
Bottom right: Nothing!

So I’m thinking of rearranging the set-up here. I am considering removing the baskets below the coats, lowering the coat rack, and adding the mail shelf over the coat rack. That would leave the whole right shelf empty, with 5 of those wire baskets that are hard to pull out and push back in, for storing something. What should I do with that space? I am enchanted by this idea for transient storage space – a place to put library books, things to donate, gifts, and things to deliver. I’m not sure it’s the most effective use of this space, though. Also, it has no doors.

Any ideas?


I also had to share my amazing Kohl’s deal today. I had $80 in gift cards from the Safeway deal last weekend, and an hour in between a mystery shop and my weekly date to go walking with a friend, so I stopped in and made a bee-line to the clearance sections. I scored! I got 4 sweaters and 4 long sleeved shirts for myself (I’m set for next winter!), two pairs of pants for Sweet Pea (crossed off the list, naturally), a Dr. Suess book, and a transforming robot/remote control car for Peanut’s gift from Santa this year. He’s going to *love* it.

My total was $57. 59, but apparently the book is “not subject to discount” so I had to pay cash for that, and then it threw off my other calculation so I gave a $20 coupon and it only scanned in for $12. 59. The cashier couldn’t give me the difference in cash, obviously, and didn’t want to let me pick something else, so we called over the manager. When I asked him, he just gave me the $20 coupon back, saying it was less complicated than trying to re-ring it for me to pay with cash. So I paid $5.46 out of pocket and $40 in coupons that I got for free, and because you wouldn’t believe the amazing deal, I scanned the receipt. I’m corny, I know! You see the Total Saved? Yes, $411.99! Is that crazy or what?
(If you click the image, then click it again, it increases the size so you can read it. I’m not sure how to scale it to a readable size here, sorry.)

I still have $40 in gift certificates. I’m going to another nearby Kohl’s to check out their clearance sections later in the week. I’m planning on checking out potential Mother’s Day gifts for our moms and  Father’s Day gifts for Mr. Penny and my dad.

This post is linked to Metamorphosis Monday.

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We have a small house, under 950 square feet, built in the 1940’s, with 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. It’s cozy, but it fits for us. After posting the crazy “before” dining room pictures, I got a request to see our bathroom and kitchen. They stay reasonably neat, especially in comparison to the dining room, but neither would win any House Beautiful contests.

Today you can take a look at our bathroom. I need to scrub the corner of the shower and the scuff marks on the wall near the toilet, but it’s overall fairly tidy.

My shampoo and conditioner are in the corner of the tub. I use Giovanni Smooth as Silk and love, love it. I bought a small container for full price early last year, loved the results, and did a little happy dance in the aisle when I found these bigger containers at Marshalls for 1/3 of the regular price per ounce. I bought two shampoos and one conditioner, and I’m still on the first shampoo, so it should last awhile. I don’t see myself paying full price for it when it runs out, though, so I’m stretching it.

I see that there is a red bath toy behind the toilet in this picture; it’s back in the toy basket, which lives in the tub between baths. My mother-in-law is disabled, so we have the bar for her. We definitely need to repaint in here, including putting putty over the old TP roll holder in the wall. The door doesn’t quite reach the bottom of the floor for reasons I don’t quite understand, so when I’m in the bathtub, I’ll sometimes hear kids outside and see little hands poking in from underneath!

I wash the sink and toilet most nights while the kids take their baths, because I have a new-to-the-potty boy whose aim needs work, and two very exuberant hand washers!

The medicine cabinet. Top row: my make-up brushes and make-up, and the unexpected multi-tasker: Monistat anti-chafing gel, which I use as make-up primer. It sounds crazy, but the ladies over at Make-Up Alley rave about it and it is SO much cheaper than the stuff I used before (Smashbox, before frugal). If you have an FSA, you can even buy it with pre-tax money.

Middle row: Q-tips with my tweezers on top, Chagrin Valley Dead Sea Spa facial soap (no coupons – I pay full price because I love that stuff!), floss, band-aids, and eyelash curler.

Bottom shelf: sunscreen, eye make-up remover, Mr. Penny’s deodorant, my deodorant, various face creams that I never actually use (I got the top one as a sample, some Olay wrinkle thing, and the bottom one with a coupon-sale combo; I don’t use them so I should probably toss them), Cetaphil moisturizer from Costco that I’ve been using a full 5 years. Does that stuff expire? It’s probably time to replace it, even though there is 1/3 of the jar left. And I see in the picture that I need to clean the line on the bottom!

I’ll post pictures of my kitchen next week. In the meantime, this is the project I’m working on:

The crazy messy entry cabinet. I cleared it out yesterday and am sorting through the piles of junk. It’s empty and almost nothing belongs there, so I’m working to find homes for a lot of this stuff, and sorting papers. I’ll  post the “after” picture with the kitchen next week.

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February was the Month of the Dining Room in my home. I completely remade what was an unusably clutter-full room into a cheerful space where my family can sit and enjoy meals, play games, and be together. The 28 Day Challenge was just the nudge I needed to really get it done, and I love love LOVE the results!

The color palette inspiration came from this stained glass, which we’ve for years but had but never hung:

and these napkins, which I made in sewing class last semester:

I love the aqua, red, black and white together, so I planned the room around it. Here it is:

The Picture Wall

The Bookshelf Wall

The price tag? Just $162.31, and four kid-free days, thanks to my husband and mother-in-law. Where the money went:

  • $75.00 – Six chairs to match the table, bought second-hand from Craigslist
  • $17.02 – paint primer (paint was free from a mystery shop)
  • $34.32 – Two silk shantung curtains from St. Vincent de Paul thrift store and a hanging rod (I negotiated down from $50, which is a steal for silk curtains!)
  • $26 – lighting fixture to replace the broken overhead light/fan (in transit; UPS shows it in the Mid-West still)
  • $7.88 – printing photos to put in frames that I already owned; photos are from Flickr’s Creative Commons, and I took them to Target to print out
  • $2.09 – hooks to hang stained glass that I already owned

What I already had or got free:

  • Bookshelf moved in from my another room.
  • Stained glass art piece (and WHY didn’t I hang it sooner? Gorgeous, right?)
  • Black frames, which have been sitting new in their box for more than a year at the back corner of the dining room!
  • Table cloth, from our wedding
  • Pampered Chef large bowl, freebie from when I was a consultant
  • Paint, free from a mystery shop
  • Plant, free from a mystery shop

Let me remind you what it looked like before.

Ridiculous!! Garbage on the floor, Christmas tree at the back of the table at the beginning of February, piles and piles and PILES of stuff. I am not proud of this, but we all start somewhere, some of us farther than down others. It was a hovel, to be sure. I’ve done a lot of introspection this month, trying to figure out not just where to put things away to make it a usable, pleasant space, but why and how I let it get to its truly horrendous state in the first place.

You can follow my progress by visiting the following links:
Improvement in the Dining Room! (February 10)
Even More Improvement in the Dining Room! (February 14)
Guess What I Did Today? (February 20)

Org Junkie, the host of the 28 Day Challenge, has posed the following questions for people participating in the challenge:

1. What was the hardest part of the challenge for you and were you able to overcome it?

The hardest part for sure was just starting. Tackling the room as a whole was so overwhelming! The fear of how hard it would be to let go of the stuff held me back from even starting, but once I got started, it was not nearly as hard as I’d imagined. In fact, I was excited at the end of the day – and it only took one day to sort almost all of the stuff! – I felt really good about how much garbage I’d pulled out. There were a few things that were tough to let go of, but I had the idea in my mind that I wanted the clear space more than I wanted things just in case. If I needed something I had been keeping just in case, I wouldn’t have been able to find it anyway!

I spent many, many hours sorting and purging, shredding and filing, though there were distractions. Having the kids out of the house for four whole days (!!) made all the difference in actually getting it done.

2. Tell us what kind of changes/habits you have put into place in order for your area/room to maintain its new order?

I pulled everything out of the room that didn’t belong, and now there is so little stuff that it’s easy to maintain. After every meal (now eaten at the table!) I clear the dishes and wipe off crumbs. I sweep every day. Nothing stays on the table or floor overnight, and I have kept it up for more than 2 weeks.

3. What did you do with the “stuff” you were able to purge out of your newly organized space?

I was ruthless! I had SO MUCH STUFF, and almost none of it belonged in a dining room! Most of it ended up being recycled or tossed, or boxed up to sell.  I didn’t keep much in this room except for the books, and even then I took three full boxes to the used book store to sell. The other three boxes of stuff to sell are boxed up and ready; some have been listed on Craigslist already. The bulk of it was garbage and recycling, with a few boxes of stuff that I donated.

Of the stuff in the original picture, I would estimate that less than 10% ended up staying in our home – the table, the lamp, Christmas ornaments (finally put away!) and books you can’t even see in the original picture are just about it. I have no regrets for any of the stuff that is gone now.

4. What creative storage solutions were you able to introduce in order to create additional space as well as establish some limits and boundaries?
The bookshelf on the wall is the single storage solution in the room. Having a place for the books, and having them organized by category – cookbooks with cookbooks, novels with novels, etc. – makes it easy to find the book I want. I went two deep with a few categories.

Two of the bottom squares hold my sewing supplies. One has a basket with my iron, foot pedal and cords, and a pull-out container for all the small pieces I need, like bobbins, thread, scissors, etc. My sewing machine and a plastic bin that contains just my current project are in the other square, with a reversible ironing mat/self healing cutting pad slid in next to it. When I’m ready to quilt, I can now pull out the one basket, one plastic bin, and my sewing machine, and I’ve got everything ready to go. When I’m done, it’s easy to put away.

I also particularly like this square, with my clock CD player/radio, CD binder (goodbye, bulky cases!), and pretty cloth napkins. I had the shelf divider, bought for but never used in the kitchen, and it’s just the right size to divide the shelf and leave space for the CD binder. The cards on the side are conversation starters to inspire family dialog during our meals.

And perhaps most surprising is the fact that I still have an empty square! I’m leaving it empty on purpose; I’ve had a really hard time with leaving empty spaces, feeling like every space needs a thing, and I’m trying to reroute that thought process. Empty space is a good thing.And that one square holds all of the magazines I kept. If it didn’t fit in that square, off it went to the donate pile. You would not believe the amount of magazines in that room on February 1!

5. Why do you think you should win this challenge?

Let me show you the before and after pics again and let them speak 1,000 words:

And then I’ll petition on my behalf. I worked really darn hard on this! It’s not just the drastic before and after photos, from a could-be-on-TV’s -Hoarders room to a pretty, functional space. I got down to the hard business of unlayering the crap, sorting through not just boxes but feelings. I posted in the comments on February 11:

I’m sorting through more boxes and really questioning why I kept most of this stuff. What am I getting out of having it? I am being pretty ruthless and tossing most of it. It isn’t bringing me joy; in fact, most of it is keeping me from fully enjoying my home.

I’m angry at myself for letting it get so bad. This is not how I want to live in my home, and not how I want my kids to grow up.

Walking in and having a clear table, and clear space under the table, is like a weight off my shoulders. I did a puzzle with my son yesterday, and we ate dinner at the table. Today, we did a cutting and pasting project, and after we cleaned it up, I wiped down the table, swept the floor, and cried, literally cried, because that’s NORMAL stuff families do, and my inability to let go of garbage, really, has held us back from doing that.

Last year, I did a serious purge of the kids’ room, and it has stayed organized and clean since then. They pull out toys, of course, but everything has a place to be put away and it’s easy for them to help keep it tidy. Why haven’t I done that in the rest of the house?

I hope that I’m making the mental shifts that I need to be able to keep it cleared out once I finish.

In the weeks since posting this, I’ve swept every single day. I’ve kept the table clean. I’ve washed the windows, hung art, organized the books on the shelves and my sewing things to make it a functional, beautiful space that I love to be in. The transformation is not just with the room, which is the most organized, pulled-together room I’ve ever lived in, but in myself.

If you’re new to my blog, poke around a bit and consider subscribing through RSS feed (top right corner of the blog) or e-mail (on the right bar under the search button) so you can see my March declutter challenge – the closets.


Like my transformation? Check out others at the 28 Day Organizing Challenge over at orgjunkie.com.

And I’m linking this post up all over the place, because I’m proud of my accomplishments and want to share with everyone! 🙂

DIY Showoff
Shop the House Sunday
Room A Month

Before and After Party
Metamorphosis Monday
Make It Monday
Make Your Monday
Just Something I Whipped Up
Motivate Me Monday
Made It Monday
Making The World Cuter
It’s So Very Creative
Made By You Monday

Toot Your Horn Tuesday
Trash to Treasure Tuesday
Tips Tuesday
2nd Time Around Tuesday
Talented Tuesday
Today’s Creative Blog
Tackle it Tuesday

Works for Me Wednesday
Power of Paint
Penny Pinching Party
Make It Yours Day

Show and Tell
Room To Inspire

Transformation Thursday
Thrift Store  Thursday
Thrifty Thursday
Show Off Your Stuff Party
Strut Your Stuff Thursday


Victory of the Week
Frugal Friday
Feature Yourself Friday
I’m a creative cat
Frugalicious Friday
Remodelaholics Anonymous
Show and Tell Friday

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I had this wooden IKEA organizer in the living room, but had moved its stuff to another container so it sat empty. Now it’s being put to good use, holding pens and erasers, staples and tape refills, index cards, scissors and rulers, and kids craft supplies like crayons and markers, child-friendly scissors, glue sticks, and paint and paint brushes.  The phone message log (we have a home based business and lost messages = lost money), stapler, and tape are right on top. It’s just $10 new, and holds a LOT of stuff! I’ve seen some really cute decorated versions on Flickr, so I may do something creative with the drawer fronts down the line. For now, I’m happy to have a home for all the clutter!

Next to that, my Financial Notebook is in an easy-to-access location, ready to pull out and update! I have the worksheets from The Budget Kit filed by month, plus a sheet protector where I slide my receipts, a section for a home-made mystery shops worksheet (what’s coming up, what the pay/reimbursement is, when the pay should arrive, and a box to check when it has arrived.) The blue plastic envelope holds my coupons and rebate forms.

Also, I filed the random loose papers that were all over my desk. I had the file divider cards, made by Homefile Organizer. Each category has recommendations on what to save, how long to keep it, and whether to file it in that category or somewhere else. For example,on the bank accounts divider, you’ll find suggestions of making a separate folder for each bank, what to file for each one (like cancelled checks, statements, and 1099 forms from banks.) The “Do Not File Here” lists CDs and IRAs to go to investments or retirement savings, Credit cards go to credit, and Mortgage information goes to Residence or Real Estate.  Labeled “When To Remove”, the divider suggests how long you would want to keep the documents stored here. My papers are now remarkably organized!

These are just a few organizing accessories that are working for me. To see what’s working for other moms, check out Works for Me Wednesday.

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Have you entered my giveaway yet? If not, go enter now! The winner will be chosen on Tuesday, February 16.

I just wanted to post current pictures of the dining room, where I’ve been spending considerable time sorting and purging stuff we don’t need.

On top of the bookshelf: our nephew’s birthday present (we’re giving it to him Tuesday), a stained glass art piece going in the window this week, and a clock waiting for batteries, to be hung in the kitchen. The books are all organized by category and the bottom four squares are EMPTY! You can see my CD player/radio and cloth napkins in one square. I’m still putting CDs into a binder to slide in the space there, taking a lot less space than their cases.

Look Ma, no Christmas tree! 🙂

The other side of the room was so full of stuff that I couldn’t even reach the window.I’m down to just four  boxes and one bag of stuff in here: two are things I’m posting to sell on Craigslist (plus the nursing pillow) and two boxes and one bag are books I’m taking to the used bookstore to sell. They’ll all be gone this week. Here’s what’s left:

I bought the chairs on Craigslist for $75, six chairs that match the table, are very solid, and fit perfectly.

I’m mystery shopping a home goods store and buying paint this week, so the room will get a fresh coat of paint next weekend. I’ll be watching out for curtains on clearance or the thrift store, and need to hang a few photos and  replace the bulb in the overhead light, and then it is a completely decluttered, totally usable dining room.

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Have you entered my giveaway yet? If not, go enter now! The winner will be chosen on Tuesday, February 16.

Now, I wasn’t so sure that public humiliation would be an effective tool in getting me to clean up my disaster of a dining room, but what do you know, it kind of was.

Now it is not completely finished, obviously, as you can tell by the ongoing presence of the Christmas tree and the pile of junk still in the corner, but let me remind of you where it was a mere two weeks ago:

I would call that a measurable improvement! We can sit at the table to eat now, and I’m picking up chairs from a posting on Craigslist tomorrow so each of us has a spot at the table. (Our current two-chairs-for-four-butts chair situation isn’t working!) The craziest part? Almost all of that was garbage or to be recycled and it was cleared out in a single afternoon!

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