Stuff, stuff and more stuff

George Carlin said it best, “A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.”

We all have stuff. My stuff is important to me, somehow I have let it define who I am, spiritually this sucks but I’ll get to that in a another blog.

As I write this I am surrounded by stuff, my home has taken on the appearance of an episode of hoarders. Over a year ago the husband and I moved to Florida and bought a home that we knew we were going to redo. It has been an adventure and the first seven months we lived out of boxes. Knowing the remodel was coming I didn’t unpack a box unless it was absolutely necessary. But it was fun every time I went searching for something as it was like Christmas morning when I would open a box and find something I had forgotten about. Some of our stuff wound up being in boxes for almost two years, as we had decluttered and packed up most of our stuff while staging our old home to sell. So a lot of our stuff was out of sight and out of mind.

The day we moved into our new home the movers were kind enough to point out that all of the boxes I had labeled “linen closet” were not going to fit in the linen closet. I had made the decision at the start of the move process to not get rid of anything as I didn’t know what stuff we might need in Florida. Now I had to deal with all that stuff!

While I love to buy stuff as a rule I try to keep our stuff to a minimum. We have a two-year rule in our house. If it hasn’t been used in that time period it goes to the yard sale, charity or trash. The only exception we have to this rule is items of extreme sentimental value. What’s extreme sentimental value? Well in our house it is any item that would cause you distress to not have. An example in our house is the handmade cradle my Dad crafted when my nephew was born. We aren’t using it but I would be very upset for this handmade treasure to go elsewhere, that and I am hoping someday my nephew will want it for his children since our dog refuses to sleep in it.

This rule has tripped me up with the husband a few times but for the most part our stuff is minimal compared to most homes.

I sometimes long for the days when I could fit all of my stuff into my car and go, not that I ever did, but the idea was nice, not being tied down by stuff.

So as I unpacked our stuff after the main remodel was complete I said to the husband, “Let’s be ruthless about our stuff!” We most certainly didn’t need most of it and let’s face it the less stuff you have the less upkeep and cleaning!

I was vicious with the purging and the husband was, to my delight, actually second guessing stuff he was keeping that  he normally would have fought me about getting rid of. We each had the ability to pull things out the others pile if we thought the other was being to harsh. Surprisingly we got rid of a huge amount of stuff.

The other incredible thing that happened through this process was we communicated more with each other. We discussed stuff we normally wouldn’t broach. I know this process was hard for my husband especially since a majority of things he was holding onto were his mother’s. After much discussion and a few heated moments we came to the decision that we shouldn’t hold onto stuff just because it belonged to a person we loved but because we had a direct connection to an item too. For example, the end tables in our living room aren’t really my taste but they were his parents and were in the house where he grew up. I get it – I have that cradle after all!

Some of the other things we compromised on. He wanted to keep her bedroom suit which was a very dark 1970’s heavy wood. As it wasn’t a family heirloom he agreed to let me repaint it white and put new hardware on it so it better fit with our decorating style.

Living with less is a process and it doesn’t have an end. I think a lot of people out there think that organizing your stuff is something you do once and your done. If we didn’t continually acquire new stuff this would be true, but we do and thus the process never ends. Organization is a lifestyle not a project.

But I don’t what to leave on a too serious note so below you will find a link to one of George Carlin’s best bits about STUFF!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvgN5gCuLac

All Tied Up

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In a world that is more wireless every day why do I find myself constantly wrestling cords, cables and wires?

My husband is especially gifted when it comes to bundling cords into neat little packages.

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My attempts look like more like I cooked spaghetti than tried to organize anything.

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I’ve tried several things over the years from twisty ties to rubber bands. Neither of which worked very well for me. But fear not I have found a few solutions to wrangling cords that if I can do them so can you!

One of my favorites is the empty toilet paper roll. You didn’t misread that. I especially love this trick because the roll encases the entire cord and keeps other things from getting tangled in it. It works for most interior household cords 10 feet and under. You can also use empty paper towel rolls – just cut it in half!

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If you have women in your home or you have long hair – hair accessories come in very handy! Hair clips work great!

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Hair elastics work great and I like them better than rubber bands because most hair elastics are made not to catch and pull hair and they also glide over the cords to make using them easier.

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For smaller cords a medium to large binder clip work well as long as you don’t crimp the wire/cord.

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And finally when traveling I rely on the trusty Ziploc bag!

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Ah yes the genius of plastic, plastic and more plastic. I love all of these solutions and now I don’t have anymore mystery boxes and piles of spaghetti lurking in drawers and closets!

House of Cards

Every January as I try to settle back into a routine post holidays, I notice that one Christmas decoration that eluded me during the cleanup. This year’s lucky winner was the card holder and all the cards we received during the season.

I love getting Christmas cards. In an ever digital world its nice to have a tangible reminder that someone took the time to pick out the card, sign it, stamp it, address it and get in the mail. Extra kudos go out to those of you who do the photo cards and yes I even enjoy the letters describing what you did over the past year.

But what to do with those cards after the tidings have been read and the pictures admired. It seems such a waste to toss them in the garbage.

I love to scrapbook (in my spare time) so I always keep the photo cards and put them in our albums. I even keep the letters in the album too as I am not the best at journaling what is going on in my own life let alone anyone elses. And there are those cards that strike my fancy as a graphic designer that are just too cool to be recycled. Like the card we received one year that was also an ornament of an angel. That was awesome – still hang it on the tree every year. But what about all those other cards.

The least we all can do is put them in the recycle bin, but if that seems to harsh here are a few other ideas.

1. Make gift tags out of them. My mother always prided herself on never buying gift tags. She would take the cards from the year before and cut them up into tags.

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2. Now if you really want to be cheap – cut the front panel off the card and turn them into postcards for next year’s cards. Not my favorite idea but it has its merits.

3. There are any number of crafts you can use Christmas cards for. Martha Stewart has some of the best. You can see them here http://www.marthastewart.com/276934/recycled-christmas-card-crafts#273222

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4. There are several organization who will take your cards and recycle them into new cards to raise money for their various causes.

As a craft junkie I can tell you there have been boxes of “stuff” tucked away full of pieces for projects that sounded cool; projects that I thought, “I’ll get to it someday.” Don’t follow in my footsteps, unless you actually plan to do a project save yourself the trouble of having to clear out the clutter later and put it in the recycling bin now!

If you’re a doer and these projects will actually get done, then I applaud you! Have fun creating some unique trimmings for your next holiday season!

The Naughty and Nice List

Ask any organized person and they will tell you they use lists. Even the chronically unorganized use lists maybe not of their own creation but lists are everywhere. Just off the top of my head here are some of my favorite types of lists:

Checklist – Very handy for not forgetting things for certain situations
To-Do – I use one every day to keep myself on track.
Grocery – Yummy!
Honey-Do – all those things you want your significant other to take care of
Top Ten – David Letterman knows the importance of this list
Bucket – all those things you want to accomplish before you kick the bucket
Christmas Card – when was the last time you pruned it?
Wish – I really want a pony!
Auto-biographical – jobs, people, family
Catalog – books, music, art and collections that you own
Resource – best of books of all times, these come from outside sources
Reference – conversion charts, timetables, things you reference often
Links and Logins – most used websites and your logins for each

Around the holidays I use lists constantly. There is the Christmas Card List. The Bake List of goodies I want to bake for folks. The Gift List – kind of speaks for itself. Make as many or as few lists as you need.

But remember that just making a list won’t get you organized! You have to USE the list!

If I write down everything I need to do today but then never go back to it to check in with how I’m progressing on the list it doesn’t do me a lot of good. Check in with your list periodically to not only see how you are doing but to refocus on what tasks you have left to do. I love being able to check off or cross out items on my list. At the end of the day I can look at my list and see things crossed off and it gives one a sense of accomplishment. A little affirmation that we so often forget to give ourselves especially when we get busy.

If you can get by with one list great. If you need ten lists go for it. But USE the list!

Oh Christmas Box….

We’ve all done it. Some of us even do it every year. Get your mind out of the gutter…..it’s misplacing that one box of Christmas stuff that you need to finish the decorating. Maybe it’s the box of heirloom ornaments that have been stashed away for safe keeping or the ornaments your little one’s have made over the years, in my case the tree stand and extension cords.

I love Christmas and it is my favorite time of year! I try to keep that spirit going year round by singing Christmas carols whenever the mood strikes. My coworkers over the years have been kind enough not to call the men in white coats or get me singing lessons. So when Christmas rolls around I am more worked up than Honey Boo Boo on gogo juice and pixie sticks. The worst day of the year is taking all the decorations down. This usually happens in mid January because the husband can’t stand it anymore and has started to take them down himself. Bless his heart for trying but no one touches the Chrsitmas stuff but me.

I try to get through this horrible process as quickly and as orderly as I can, but one praticularly tearful year, yes it upsets me that much to take it all down, I shoved the Christmas tree stand in a random box and the extension cords wherever they would fit and all the other little pieces that it takes to put it all together in any nook and cranny that would hold them.

One year, two moves and a new home later it was Christmas time again, and of course I couldn’t find that Christmas tree stand to save my life. Of course this wasn’t any old replaceable tree stand noooo….. it was a specially wired gizmo that twirled your tree around so you could see just how badly you decorated the back of the tree.  After the better portion of what should have been the most joyous day of the year, the stand emerged from the garage tucked inside an ancient hand crank ice cream maker.

How did it end up there? Was it too warm in the attic and it thought it would be cooler in the ice cream thingy? Who knows how some things wind up where they do during a move but it had been found and all was right with the world. Decorating took several days that Christmas season not because we decorate that much but because it was such an unorgaized mess! How did I let it get this way?

I was determined that I would never have the joy sucked out the pre-Christmas prep by being that disorganized again. Hence the Christmas Box – not to be confused with the Hallmark movie.

It isn’t much to look at from the outside. In fact its an old file box from my first college career. It doesn’t match any of the other containers on purpose. I want it to stand out so it is easily spotted when all the tubs and containers come out the day after Thanksgiving. But that wonderful old white file box is Christmas central. It holds, you guessed it, the Christmas tree stand, the extension cords, extra tealight candles, any fastner that is used strictly for holiday decorating, extra ornament hangers, and extra bulbs for the window candles. That box also represents a bit of sanity. I know when I pull that box out first that its going to be any easy breezy setup. I can keep on humming “I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas”

Welcome to Duchess of deClutter!

Have you ever watched the show Hoarders?

It’s a bit like watching a train wreck – you just can’t look away. These people have very real, very big emotional problems and I’m not trying to make light of their situations at all. After watching these shows I feel a bit better about my little bit of clutter and disorganization but I know there are a ton of folks out there who are somewhere between a little bit of clutter and a hoarder. They want help too!

I’ve been an organizer all my life – thanks Mom and Dad! I have amassed a “hoard” of information and experience over the years about organizing just about everything from both a home and business standpoint. From the big stuff, space planning and logistics, to the little stuff, medicine cabinets and junk drawers, and a whole lot of stuff in the middle! So I am adding to my blogging life and starting this new blog and hopefully a website to match very soon.