Archive for ‘goodbye clutter!’

April 17, 2013

I know this great hole in the wall…

by Decemberbaby

No, seriously. It’s a hole… in the wall. Or it was. See?

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In my eternal quest for more space in our little house, I started thinking about all the wasted space between the walls. The more I thought about it, the more I pined for a shallow pantry in which to store our canned goods. My longing turned into a burning desire, which turned into the above hole. Seeing that empty cavity inside the wall made me sigh with contentment.

Then I got to work.

After enlarging the hole and building wooden carcasses for the cabinets, I slid the carcasses into the wall:

IMG_3733As you can tell in this photograph, they’re not level. That’s okay, though – neither is anything else in my house.

At this point, Mr. December frowned and complained about the gaps between the carcasses and the edge of the wall. I tried to explain the magic of trim and quarter-round, but he didn’t seem to get it… until the trim was all in place:

IMG_3839Suddenly it looks like something you might actually want in your kitchen, right?

I painted the trim…

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And added doors to match the rest of our kitchen (thank God for IKEA)…

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And then filled it up.

IMG_4039Oh, and we painted the inside my favourite colour… so now I smile every time we open our pantry. And you would not BELIEVE how much stuff it holds! The shelves are only deep enough to hold one can, which means we can always see everything in there. This pantry has freed up three whole drawers in my IKEA pull-out pantry, which now proudly house the small appliances that were cluttering my countertop. I love this thing. It’s the best hole in the wall ever.

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And now I’m eyeing a huge expanse of wall in the hallway where our bedrooms are. With no plumbing and no electricity running through it, that wall is wasted space just waiting for a purpose. I can’t wait to build floor-to-ceiling cupboards there to store toilet paper, lightbulbs, cleaning supplies, extra toiletries, craft materials…

If you could have a cupboard like this anywhere in your home, where would you put it? And what would you fill it with?

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January 30, 2013

Finally, an HST we can all get behind.

by Decemberbaby

The decluttering and purging continues unabated. Today somebody bought our old 27″ TV for $50, enabling me to clear some space in the basement and brag that “my house just lost 100 pounds!”  I’m also keeping up with my “five minutses”, and after three weeks of one small task a day, the difference in our home is striking. I love my new system.

I haven’t been doing much sewing lately (aside from N’s pants,) but I do have a backlog of photos to share with you. So, without further ado, may I present…

My very first HST* quilt!

*HST=Half Square Triangle. NOT Harmonized Sales Tax. FYI.

This quilt began as a promise. For her birthday last July, I told my old nanny (as in, she came to live with us when I was 2 years old, and she’s still with my parents) that I’d make her a quilt as a birthday/Xmas gift. I googled some quilt patterns and showed her the pictures, and she chose a fairly traditional HST pattern.

I thought it would be fun. I thought it would be easy. I started with pre-cut squares, for heaven’s sake. How hard could it be?

Apparently, very. HST triangles need to be sewn, then cut, pressed, and then trimmed to a uniform size, making sure that the diagonal seam is precisely in the middle of the square. It’s exhausting.

But it was worth it. Behold!

Maureen's christmas quilt

Relevant details: the HST’s are made from Cuzco and Ticklish by Moda, along with Kona white. I used more batting than usual, and in addition to the thin cotton batting, there’s a layer of fluffy polyester batting. I really wanted that puffy look and feel. Adding to the puffiness, I tried to keep the quilting pretty minimal.

 

The backing is a cuddly pink minky. I love how defined the quilting is on this back.

Maureen's christmas quilt back

The binding was problematic. Well actually, it’s my procrastination that was problematic. I was racing against the clock on December 24, and I absentmindedly started sewing the binding on the front, instead of the back. After experimenting with a bunch of things (all of which looked terrible) I decided to embrace the flaw and machine-finish the binding with a zigzag stitch. It actually looks kind of cool. Not cool enough to make that mistake again, though.

 

 

maureen's christmas quilt binding

 

Finish it off with one of my labels…

 

maureen's christmas quilt label

And Voila! A finished HST quilt, ready in time for Christmas.

maureen's christmas quilt 2

The entire time I was cursing the HST’s and swearing I’d never do this again, but I already have plans for a quilted duvet cover for my bed…

January 24, 2013

We want for nothing

by Decemberbaby

For a complicated variety of reasons, my sewing room is overflowing with fabric. It’s not exactly clutter, but there’s just too much of it. In the spirit of drastically reducing clutter, and having adopted the old rhyme “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without,” I decided to sew a few pairs of pants that N desperately needed. He’s a tall, skinny boy – any pants that are long enough in the leg have to be cinched in all the way in the waist, and the resulting ballooning looks kind of silly – so I figured making his pants also carried the advantage of giving him pants that fit nicely for a change.

It was while sewing his third pair of pants that I started thinking that I should have just ordered a few pairs from Old Navy online. I reminded myself that in order to avoid shipping charges I’d have to order at least $50 worth of merchandise, most of it stuff we don’t actually need. What N needed was three pairs of pants, and now he has them. The temptation to buy a little more, or to buy something cute on impulse, is completely absent when I make my children clothing. It just takes too long to make something if we don’t have a need for it.

It occurred to me the other day that I haven’t spent time in a mall in a very long time. I don’t like malls these days: I always leave with a severe case of what I call the “wanties”: I want some new pretty t-shirts, I want new throw cushions for the couch, I want that awesome floor lamp, I want another travel mug, some costume jewellery, a more coordinated wardrobe. None of these things are things I need. None of these things are things I wanted before I went to the mall. It’s just impossible to spend time in a place dedicated to consumption and to novelty without succumbing to the shopping bug.

Grocery stores offer similar pitfalls, though not on such a grand scale. I was just saying yesterday at a Weight Watchers meeting that planning my meals and shopping only once a week reduces the number of times I have to be tempted by food that I want but don’t need (and, arguably, shouldn’t have.) Last time I went shopping I handed over a bag of pecans, a bag of Craisins, and a chocolate bar to the cashier. “I changed my mind,” I told her, “I don’t really need this stuff.” I saved myself thousands of calories (yes, thousands. No joke.) I saved myself about $15. I also saved myself from a bit more kitchen clutter. I don’t know if I’d have the strength of will to do it three times a week, though. Stores have a way of convincing us that we need things.

When K was younger she liked to tell me that she needed things: “Mummy, I need a balloon. Mummy, I need a twirly dress. Mummy, I need chocolate!” I made a point of telling her – each and every time – that there was a difference between “need” and “want.” She doesn’t confuse the two very much anymore, but I don’t know that we can say the same for most adults in our society.

Most of us have what we need: shelter, some functional clothing, food, heat, family, friends. I’d hazard a guess that we also have most of what we want: stylish clothing, gourmet food, tastefully appointed homes, cars, iPods. We should be able to say that we want for nothing. But don’t we keep on wanting and wanting?

Thankfully, with no TV and no trips to the mall, I manage to keep my list of wants to a bare minimum, and I have no trouble saying “no” to myself if necessary. The kids are fine too: their wants aren’t many, and so we’ve avoided accumulating a lot of stuff. I wouldn’t say that we want for nothing, but we definitely don’t want for very much. I can say that we need for nothing. And if we did need something, there’s a very good chance I’d make it myself. It’s the best way I know to make sure that we have as much as we need, but no more. And besides, I want to make room for some pretty new fabrics…

January 13, 2013

Out of hibernation: my organized life

by Decemberbaby

Whew. I’ve made it through winter break with my sense of humour mostly intact, sailed through Chanuka with enough time and energy to make my own sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts,) ran a princess birthday party (for K) that didn’t make me want to hurl, and I even had time to read. All the while I was thinking, “I should blog this!” but we all know how that went. Sorry.

So anyhow, I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Have you read it? I loved the idea of determining small, concrete actions to take each and every day. And since I’ve had it up to here with feeling overwhelmed and underproductive, I decided to take (small, concrete) action.

I’ve tried to get organized using apps and websites, only to discover that in this realm I’m a low-tech kind of person. I bought myself a massive calendar with big squares for each day and started writing everything on it: menu plans, recurring tasks (pay the bills, for example,) and – my favourite – my “five minuteses.”

Five Minuteses are tasks that take very little time to complete, but keep getting put off. Changing a particular lightbulb, for example, or fixing a broken toy. Sending an email or making a call. Instead of promising myself to do them “sometime” I write them on the calendar, only one a day. Right now I’m booking my Five Minuteses about nine days ahead, which sounds like a long time until you consider that some of these tasks have been on my mind for months. So far I’ve done ten of those tasks and I have nine more penciled in. Isn’t that exciting? The stuff’s getting done!

It’s amazing how much calmer and more organized I feel, just from being able to know exactly when a task will be done. The lack of procrastination feels good. And boy, do I love seeing all those checkmarks on the calendar!

In other organized news: the great basement purge is going great guns and the basement rec room will soon be kid-safe (no more batteries or coke-can sculptures lying around.) I can breathe a little. I may become addicted to purging my stuff… but only if it’s scheduled on the calendar.

So… if you’re still reading… whether or not you celebrate the new year in January, do you often use this month as a fresh start? What are you going to start doing? Tell me in the comments, please!

November 19, 2012

What comes after purging?

by Decemberbaby

Mr. December and I have decided to put a moratorium on buying things (actually, on bringing anything new into the house, consumables being the exception) until all of the clutter has been purged. But decluttering is only the beginning of the battle. Our plan of attack looks like this:

  1. Ruthlessly purge all clutter. We covered this one a couple of posts back.
  2. Fix all the broken things. You know how it is. Once you’ve been living in your house for a few years it’s easy to overlook the cracked tile in the kitchen, the doorknobs that have to be jiggled and lifted at the same time in order to work, the rust on the bathroom light fixture (seriously, who looks up there?). By the time we’ve done this step, everything in our house should be whole and in perfect working order… for about an hour, right before the kids come home from their time with their grandparents.
  3. Thoroughly clean everything. I’m not an exceptional housekeeper, and thus there are many things in my house, from the glass shades on light fixtures to the moldings above the doors to the windows themselves, that have never been properly cleaned. That’s going to change, though. Once the house is clear of the clutter and everything is working properly, we’re going to give it a really good, top-to-bottom clean.

Why are we doing all this? Right now the clutter is not only depressing, it’s costing us money and time. And our house is feeling a bit crowded, but I have a hunch that it’s the clutter that gives that impression. Well, the clutter and the mess. And the stuff that doesn’t work is just aggravating. Those things combine to make living in our house less pleasant than it could be (although we do love our home.) I hope that by really thoroughly organizing our home we’ll discover that it’s a bright, open, welcoming place that we’ll be happy to live in for another five years… or more. And if it’s not… well, our house will be uncluttered, in good repair, and ready to put on the market.

November 17, 2012

The pit bull eventually lets go.

by Decemberbaby

That is the difference between a pit bull and a hoarder, isn’t it?

The next step in our process towards loving our small home – and continuing to live in it as our children get bigger – is getting rid of stuff. All kinds of stuff. Our basement hallway has become the repository for so much of it that it’s kind of hard to get to the laundry machines without stepping on things. It was hard, at any rate. It’s much easier now.

Today was the third day in a row that I spent an hour purging the basement of its clutter. I got rid of things like the half-empty box of grout, a box of brand new switch plates, and extra hardware pieces from our IKEA kitchen. In theory these things could be useful in the future. Then again, these sorts of things pile up and end up obscuring the things we really do want to use again, like the infant rainsuit that I hadn’t been able to find for two years and ended up replacing with a brand new one. If you take that example and monetize it, subtracting the cost of the grout and switch plates and hardware from the cost of the rainsuit (not to mention all the time I wasted looking for said rainsuit,) the clutter didn’t save me any money or time. In fact, it cost me.

Tonight Mr. December and I culled the stuffed animal collection. We’re getting rid of more than half of our stuffies, and even the number remaining seems excessive to me. It’s physically sickening at times, how many useful things are just idling in our basement – enough to clothe a whole family and provide toys for their children – while other people go without. Why is it so easy to just keep acquiring things we don’t need?

This is cathartic for me, this purge. I’d like to get us down to the necessities that we love and use. I’ve made peace with ruthless purging, accepting that when I needed different clothing sizes for the kids we had plenty of friends willing to lend or just give us their outgrown things. We’re not living in a post-apocalyptic world, and it’s time to accept that thinking as if we might be impoverished at any moment is actually robbing us of a peaceful, relaxing, calming home.

Children definitely complicate this process. For some reason they attract stuff (most of it tiny and plastic) the way a magnet dropped in Parry Sound will attract lots of tiny little pebbles. And the stuff hides everywhere and mates and has babies, until the room that was clutter-free two weeks ago is once again littered with collections of the Brattiest Pet Shop and dinosaurs from The Land Before Time-Warner Productions. I’m left to wonder whether any of the people who speak or write about conquering clutter actually were able to live that way with small children in the house.

It’s a huge pile, and as I remove one layer of stuff another is revealed. Every trash bag that leaves this house (6 so far) and every box of donated stuff (4 and counting) makes me feel lighter, more relaxed, and less stressed. It actually inspires me to get back on the weight-loss wagon, because how better to characterize my recent gain-back of almost everything I’ve lost than to compare it with decluttering my entire basement and then going on a huge shopping spree and filling it back up?

It’s definitely time to start considering food the way I consider a potential purchase. In the meantime, though, at least I get a surge of pleasure every time I head down to the basement.

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November 6, 2012

In brief…

by Decemberbaby

I spent today tidying up my workshop. Note to self: no more fabric purchases until at least half of this stuff has been used.

Around 8:00 p.m. I was finally able to see my desk, and I spent an hour whipping up some non-removable (by toddler) mittens for N and R. They match the pixie hats I sewed yesterday. I’d love to show you the entire set, but my bed is calling me. Pics tomorrow!

October 28, 2012

Frustration!

by Decemberbaby

Remember that TV commercial for the board game Frustration? “Frustration can be fun!” No, no it can’t.

I’ve been working on a very intricate quilt for the last couple of weeks. It’s been the bane of my existence. Anyhow, I finally got the top pieced and I spray-basted the whole thing together with the batting and the back. I started quilting. And then…

CLUNK.

Ugh. Really? the thread started bunching up under the quilt like little multicoloured bird nests. I sighed, took the machine apart, cleaned, re-threaded, changed the needle, and started to quilt anew.

CLUNK.

Grrrr. Maybe I missed a small piece of thread that’s stuck between two metal pieces? I repeated the whole cleaning and re-threading process. Now to fire the machine up again…

CLUNK.

I’m stuck. I’ll have to take the machine into the shop on Monday and hope that it doesn’t take them long to fix the timing (I’m pretty sure that’s the issue.) I suppose this is what a backup machine is good for… although I’m not sure if my darning foot will fit on the IKEA machine, so I might be out of luck as far as the quilting goes. Maybe I can work on some of my smaller projects.

Or maybe I should turn my attention to the clutter-pit that is my house. First up – the calendar area.

(Can I maybe just go back to bed and hope for de-cluttering elves to show up tonight while I sleep?)

October 9, 2012

Choosing to love our small home

by Decemberbaby

Our house is small; I’ve mentioned that many times before.

I’ve also mentioned that we’re unsure of whether we should renovate or move when this house becomes too cramped for us.

After a lot of research, hours of discussion, and many spreadsheets (my husband is an engineer. Every major decision gets its own spreadsheet,) we have decided to take the third option. We have decided to stay put.

It sounds odd, but there it is. When we asked the question, “what problem are we trying to solve?” the answer was that our house feels crowded and cramped, and that there isn’t room for our stuff. Our STUFF. Not “there’s no room for our kids to play” or “we don’t have space to entertain the way we’d like.” We have plenty of space for the people… but not for the stuff. Am I the only person who thinks that’s a really sickening reason to move? Talk about first world problems.

We know that we have too much stuff. We have so much stuff that we don’t even know what most of it is. During the summer Mr. December and I spent a couple of days clearing space in our basement rec room, and we unearthed most of Mr. December’s life as a bachelor as well as much of our early married life; quirky cocktail shakers, a once-prized alcohol dispenser, an entire box of things to re-gift, even dishes that came from his student hovel. All that stuff made its way to the curb economy. Whatever remained went in the garbage. And we still have more stuff.

Our house isn’t like an episode of Hoarders. We’re more like the people who call Hoarders and offer themselves up only to be told that they’re nowhere near as cluttered as the TV show’s guidelines require. But there’s stuff everywhere, and when we remove it there’s more stuff, and it’s just too much. It’s enough to make me think – fleetingly – of how nice it would be to start from absolute scratch the way people do after a natural disaster. Not that I would ever, EVER wish for any kind of disaster to befall us (or anyone); it’s just the thought of being able to have only exactly what we need without having to dig through boxes and piles of our old stuff.

Anyhow, as I was saying… that’s not a reason to move. We love our home, and we’ve invested so much of ourselves (also our money, but moreso our time, sweat, and creative energy) in making this house work for us. We don’t want to leave, and that’s that.

And since we’ve decided to stay put, something has to give. Our new plan is to get rid of all the junk over the next few months, and then make small modifications to the house that will enable us to stay here as long as possible. It’ll be a great winter for DIY projects (did I mention I got a great deal on a circular saw and a table saw? $100 for both!)

Someday, hopefully soon, I’d like to take you all on a photo tour of my house so that you can see why we love it so much. In the meantime, tell me: do you move frequently, or do you like to stay in one home for a long time? Do you find moving easy? Difficult? I want to know.

August 8, 2012

We interrupt this lull to bring you… my life.

by Decemberbaby

People keep asking me how I’m enjoying my summer vacation. It surprises me every time. I’m a mom. I don’t get summer vacation. Summer is my busy season – no school, later bedtime for the kids, earlier wake-ups (I have a love-hate relationship with the long summer days,) the garden, day trips… I’m busy. I can’t wait for school to start, not because I don’t enjoy my children’s company, but because I’ll actually have time do get things done in increments greater than ten minutes. Oh, and I might get enough time to myself to do something decadent, like going back to Weight Watchers (yes, I’ve fallen off the wagon and am crawling back on, shamefaced, seven pounds heavier.)

And yet, I get a fair number of things done. Without further ado, here’s my list of

THINGS THAT MADE ME FEEL GREAT TODAY

1. I fished N’s pyjama pants out of the kitchen wall vent. The vent has now been covered.

2. I managed a Lowe’s run in under 20 minutes. Also, everybody there greeted me by name and asked about my current projects.

3. The construction worker who stands at the end of our street to stop cars from entering told me that she always recognizes me (and therefore moves the pylons aside) because I always smile at her.

4. Our garage is now clean and empty of anything we’re not currently using.

5. I biked about 30 minutes today. So much better than driving.

 

I feel lonely out here in the big, cold internet. Leave me a comment:

What do you feel great about today?  And

If I have limited blogging time, what kinds of things would you rather I blogged about? Crafty stuff? My life? Deep thoughts?