Posts tagged ‘decluttering’

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…

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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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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?)