First up for Project Simplify this year was kids’ stuff.
I started a couple of days early with the clothes. For some reason it seemed like a good idea at the time to let the boys help. And actually it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t terribly efficient either. We (well, mostly I) packed away the things that are too small for Simon but still too big for Ian and set aside the things that Ian has grown out of for my sister’s baby boy, who is getting ready to make his appearance at the beginning of May. We didn’t get to Clara’s clothes, but she hasn’t really grown out of anything yet, so I had just a few gifts and stray hand-me-downs to put in their proper places.
I also spent a couple of hours one morning straightening up and organizing toys in the basement playroom. We have sorted through toys somewhat recently and I was kind of obnoxious this year in asking that everybody limit the number of gifts that the kids got for Christmas and birthdays, so this task wasn’t as big as it has been in the past. I have a couple of grocery bags to donate and two small bins of toys hidden in the basement that will also be donated if the kids don’t miss them or ask about them in the next six months.
The biggest change this year had to do with the little alcove by the front door. Years ago the roommates and I made it a reading corner (the L’Abri corner), and when Jason and I got married we more or less thought of it for the same purpose. But the reality was that we hardly ever read or listened to music in the big red chair. Instead the whole space had become a dumping place for our coats and whatever else we carried in the door.
So I had the idea that we should use the corner for another purpose: kids’ stuff. We took all the stuff that was kind of sprawled out all over the main floor and gave it a home.
The before was actually much, much worse; it’s just that I didn’t think to take a picture until we had started the process. The after stayed picked up for about seven minutes; it’s messier now. And as often happens with decluttering, one project kind of overflows into others. Because we had to clear off the bookshelf in the L’Abri corner, we started going through all our books. Currently we have two half-empty bookshelves, a dining room table full of books waiting to be reshelved, and five bags of books waiting to be sold and/or donated.
Next week we organize the kitchen and pantry.
As cute as this pic of my little consumers perusing the Target special edition toys sale flyer may be, it pretty much sums up the opposite of what we’re trying to teach our kiddos. Perhaps it’s this year in particular, specifically because we’re anticipating the arrival of our little one (less than six weeks!), that I’m feeling claustrophobic with all the stuff already in our house, but I have been on yet another (or maybe continued) decluttering/simplifying/organizing tear. Call it my version of nesting.
Saturday we conquered the basement. I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been that clean (and organized!), well, ever. We took two full van loads of stuff to the People’s City Mission (the Pretty City Mission, as Simon calls it) and filled up our recycling and garbage cans to overflowing. I commented to Jason that it was remarkable how much stuff we had down there—and how good it feels to get it all out—and he replied that it was pretty disgusting actually. I agree. I don’t have before and after pictures; I think it’s something you need to see in person to get the full effect.
I’ve really appreciated Simple Mom‘s series on planning a peaceful Christmas. And I’ve already simplified even more by skipping task 3, order and organize sending Christmas cards. I keep thinking one of these years I’ll feel grown up enough to start sending Christmas cards, but turns out this isn’t that year.
I’m *this close* to feeling done enough for now with the decluttering. With the exception of everything in Jason’s office, I have now gone through everything in the whole house once. I can already tell that things need to be gone through again (and again and again)—I’m looking at you, pantry. Jason told me this morning that I can clean today but that after today he’s putting a moratorium on the cleaning/decluttering. He says he needs me at 100 percent for the holidays. I hope he’s taking into consideration that 100 percent at 34 weeks pregnant is about 40 percent or less. Also, now I need to start baking.
Our pantry has no heat, and we are less-than-half joking when we say it acts as an extra refrigerator/freezer in the wintertime. For the past several months, I have gone in there as little as possible, so it’s not too surprising that it has ended up as a total disaster—everything thrown in willy-nilly, lots of repeats since I never knew exactly what I had, things that didn’t really belong in the pantry at all. It was jam-packed and seriously overwhelming. And my refrigerator was in much the same state, though I had no good excuse for that. All this to say, Project Simplify was once again much needed this week.
I started first thing on Monday with the pantry, and let’s just say that chaos- and mess-wise things got worse before they got better. I have to add, though, that my kiddos were nothing short of amazing. We spent close to two hours working on just one shelf. Ian, with his signature laid-backness, was perfectly content in his seat the whole time. I decided to risk the mess and give Simon the expired spices and whatnot (chocolate drink mix, baby rice cereal) to make his own concoctions with. Totally worth it. He was still dumping and stirring his ‘pices long after Ian and I had decided to call it good for the day.
After naps on Monday, I got something of a second wind and decided to tackle another shelf. This time Simon’s primary ingredients were flour and chocolate sprinkles. None of us had quite as much stamina as we had had for the morning shift, but we made good progress.
We picked the project back up today, starting with the fridge. Simon was my Best Dumper, and together we poured out the “ucky” contents of most of the jars in the door. As it happens, we are collecting jars for the decorations for my sister’s wedding, and I think we probably doubled the number of jars we’ve saved so far.
My mom was here today, and she wrangled the kids, which is the only reason I got done or had a shred of sanity left at the end of the day.
Getting this done felt particularly good. I went deeper than I ever have before, meaning that I was more realistic about what we would actually use and pitched (or donated) the rest. I feel inspired and hopeful about a fresh start and better habits going forward.
Funny side story: When Jason left for work this morning, I was already stacking yogurt and leftovers (refrigerator top shelf) on the kitchen table. He kissed me and said, “You are an awesome wife and a terrific housekeeper.” I thanked him for his pep talk but reminded him that we both know I’m actually not a terribly good housekeeper. He revised his encouragement: “You’re a tenacious housekeeper.” Well, okay. I’ll take that as a compliment?
I think one of the best things about Project Simplify (and decluttering in general) is that one good thing tends to lead to another. As we make our way through the five weeks, I’m finding that I’m also tucking away ideas for what areas I want to tackle if they don’t come up as one of the hot spots. On Sunday night, I went downstairs to put in a load of laundry and was reminded that the playroom has been total chaos lately.
I made a mental note that a major playroom rehaul would be my first priority for continuing to declutter once Project Simplify is over, so I was super excited to read that toys and/or kids’ clothes were the next hot spot to be subdued.
Before: All four of us had gotten completely overwhelmed with the sheer volume of toys. Everywhere. All the time. The boys were hardly playing with anything. I think they probably just didn’t know where to start—they would dump out a bin (that was a mishmash already) and then just move on. It was ugly.
The Plan: Although Tsh suggested that we involve the kids in the process, it was just too much. I think next time we do a purge, we’ll be able to ask Simon (and Ian when he’s older) to choose one or two toys to give away, but this first time, we had to make major cuts, and the only way it was going to get done was on the down low. We gave to friends or donated five bags of toys, and we put away the baby toys that even Ian has grown out of, the toys that the boys just don’t get how to play with yet, and about a third of the trains and trucks (to be pulled out as new and exciting in a few months).
After: I wasn’t surprised at how good it felt to get this done, but I do have to say that it has been even better than I expected. I had been pretty sentimental about some of the toys that didn’t make the cut, but the boys’ reaction has more than made up for any angst I felt about letting toys (just things, after all) go. They don’t, of course, even notice that they are missing any toys, and I can already tell how much they are enjoying playing with the ones they do have now. And they are really playing trucks and tools and blocks instead of just dumping them out and kicking them around or tripping over them.
The Best Part: I kept the actual bags out of Simon’s sight so that he wouldn’t melt down over any specific toy, but as we drove to the People’s City Mission this morning to drop off the bags, I talked with Simon about giving some of his toys to other kids who don’t have as many as we have. He seemed to be okay with that (he was, of course, more interested in all the construction on N Street), but I wasn’t really sure how much he was really getting it. Then this afternoon as we were getting ready to pick up Jason from work, he came running out of the house clutching a toy. I asked him if he wanted to bring it in the car to pick up Daddy. “No, Mommy,” he answered. “I want to give it away. I want to give it to some kids.” Heart. Melting.
And I’ll share as a sidenote that I also got the kids’ clothes all rotated out for the spring/summer. I didn’t expect to be able to get that done this week because it is such a huge job, but it just kind of fell into place today. Simon was actually a big help in putting his own clothes into his dresser drawers, which is fun. We also finished up the dressers in our bedroom this week. We’re still not finished with the paper clutter, but we’ll keep hacking away at that.
When the second Project Simplify hotspot was revealed to be paper clutter, my first thought was “Meh. Too easy.” After a quick look around the main floor, I was almost disappointed with our lack of paper clutter. How was this supposed to keep me busy all week? I figured I’d deal with the mail basket by the door, the short stack of papers on the dining room table, and the addresses and notes on the refrigerator and be done with it all before the kids finished breakfast.
But then I remembered that we sometimes put papers that need to be filed in a pile on Jason’s desk. And, oh good grief, suffice to say I was wrong: as it turns out, we have no shortage of paper clutter. Plus, Ian has been helping Jason with the filing, and while I’m thankful that he wants to help, I think the system needs a bit of tweaking.
This project will be ongoing for a while: Jason had saved every bank statement, bill, pay stub, and insurance EOB since at least 2004. To his great credit, the first several years’ papers were neatly filed (the folder for the Sprint bills was three inches thick). For the last year or so, though, papers started getting stashed and stuffed, just to get them out of the way. We did a bit of research on what you actually do need to keep (relatively little) and then started shredding.
We filled up a huge box of papers to be shredded, and Simon was gleeful at getting to help. We turned out six garbage bags plus a giant tote all full of shredded paper before I busted the shredder. We’re probably about halfway through, so I will continue to sort and recycle until we can get a new shredder.
In the meantime, we have a new and improved system for dealing with incoming mail. I am ever so slightly disappointed that we didn’t get done with the paper clutter so that we could have a clean slate for next week’s project, but we have made so much progress, and I can see how good it will be when it’s all done. So that’s a big something (that doesn’t take up any space at all).
I do love a good plan for decluttering, so I’m very excited to follow along for the next few weeks with Project Simplify on Simple Mom. I came across this project by way of a blog entry titled “How De-Cluttering Helped Us Dream,” which sparked a whole lot of thoughts and ideas for conversations I want to have. If those thoughts start to come together in blogish form, I’ll write about them too. In the meantime, here’s how the cleaning is going:
The first hot spot was the master closet. I was really excited to tackle the closet because I have been putting off for a long time and I figured it would net a pretty satisfying result. I know I wear the same things all the time, and I pictured having about six things left on hangers when all was said and done. The before and after pictures really don’t look as dramatic as the change feels when you’re actually standing in the closet (and I didn’t get the angles right to show exactly the same views). I am very pleased with the amount of stuff we were able to get rid of. I cut at least half of my clothes in every category (except dresses). We still have the dressers to purge, but the closet was by far the bigger chunk of work.