Thursday, May 21, 2009

Seasons Change

It's finally to the point in the year where it's safe in most locations to change take out your kids' winter clothes and replace them with summer clothes. Living in Texas, this actually occurred a month or so ago, but I'm trying to be sensitive to my northern dwelling neighbors.

I like to use this opportunity to weed out the items that couldn't or shouldn't be worn next winter. This is how my routine looks.

1. Go through each child's dresser and closet, removing the out of season clothing. As I remove it, I decide if (A) it still has wear left in it and (B) if it will fit one of my children in the fall. I make three piles, one for clothes that have reached the end of their useful life, one for clothes that are in good shape but will not fit any of my children in the fall, and one for clothes that are still in good shape and one of my children can use again.

2. I go through my container of off-season clothing, picking out what clothes will fit my children this summer. I use a large plastic tote for this purpose and keep it in my youngest daughter's closet. I make a pile for each of my children from these clothes.

3. I fold the pile of clothes that are still in good shape and will fit my children in the fall and place them in the tote.

4. I place each child's current summer clothes in their drawers and closet.

5. For the items that will not fit my children and the items that have reached the end of their useful life, I decide whether I want to resue them in some way, sell them, give them away or donate them.

This has been a tried and true method for me for a few years now. I like to pick up clothes at garage sales and from other parents and toss them in the tote until I need them. I have jeans and t-shirts in the tote that my children will not be able to wear for several more years, but on that morning when they wake up and suddenly none of their pants fit I'll be ready.

P.S. One of my favorite places to use to pass items on to another person is Freecycle. You sign up with a user ID and then post what you have to offer or what you would like from another person. You can decide who your item goes to, or you can offer it first come, first serve by setting the item on your porch or in your yard and noting it in the post. When your items are claimed, you simply post again to let other users know your items are taken. Children's clothes go quickly, so someone will likely come pick the clothes up the same day.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Book Review: How to Make {Almost} Everything

Ready Made How to Make {Almost} Everything, A Do-It-Yourself Primer by Shoshana Berger

I picked up this book at the library on a whim as I'm always looking for ways to recycle clutter into something useful and aesthetically pleasing. This book did not disappoint me.

From a doormat made from wooden clothespins to a dog bed made from old pairs of jeans, this book has great ideas for any type of materials. In fact, the book is broken down into chapters by the type of material being used: paper, plastic, wood, metal, glass, and fabric.

I particularly like the bird feeder made from old glassware because I know I can't be the only one with partial sets of glasses hanging around.

Each project comes with a color photo of the finished product, a list of ingredients and tools you'll need to make it and step-by-step instructions to guide you. For some of the bigger projects, helpful drawings guide you through the steps.

But the book makes for an excellent read in addition to being a great idea guide. In between the projects and witty and often funny selections of text that include the history of some of the products, advice, and random facts about various subjects. The section on various fears in the metal chapter is particularly amusing, and the section on how to use chopsticks in different countries might very well come in handy some day.

So if you're a do-it-yourself clutter recycler like me, give this book a spin. I bet you'll come away with all sorts of fantastic ideas.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Cute Idea for Old Linens

Image from Country Living
If you have some linens that you can't seem to part with, the We are THAT Family blog has a great idea.

Working with a piece of cloth about the size of a bandana, cut it into eight equal size squares. Then stack the pieces on top of each other, turning each slightly from the one below it. Grab the back in the middle and twist all of the pieces, making them appear like an open flower. Put a few stitches in the bunch to hold it in place, then use a safety pin to attach it to a shirt, purse, jacket, whatever. They make great gifts for the women and girls in your family.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Overcoming Emotional Roadblocks to Getting Organized

When you look around your living and work space, are you happy with what you see? If you're reading this today, the answer is probably no.

What is it about your space that makes you unhappy? For some, it's the constant clutter that seems to hang around everywhere. For others, it's the inability to find what they are looking for or the lack of space to add something new.

For many of us, the reasons we haven't been able to overcome the issues that make us unhappy with our space are as numerous as the reasons we're unhappy in the first place.

This entry will examine emotional roadblocks to getting organized and give you some solutions to overcoming them.

Feeling Overwhelmed
Even the most motivated of us can lose our eagerness to get organized when faced with an overstuffed closet or a packed garage. How do you get started on a project that seems like it might never end?

1. Break a large project into smaller projects. If you can't stand the idea of cleaning out and organizing an entire desk, then don't do it. Pick a drawer, then only clean and organize that drawer. When you have time you can move on to another drawer or to a small section of the desk surface. If you come across something in one section of the desk that belongs in another, then go ahead and drop it in there. Eventually you will make it through every area of the desk, and the items will make it to their proper places. This same strategy can work in any number of areas. If you're working on a closet, choose one shelf. If you're working on a garage, choose one small area.

After cleaning up one area you will get a sense of accomplishment and feel motivated to keep going. This is a good technique not just for getting organized but for any large project.

2. Set time limits or a schedule. If the project you are working on cannot easily be divided into smaller sections, then consider setting a time limit for how long you will work on it. Use a timer -- even the one on your microwave -- if you have to do so. Knowing that you are only going to work at clearing an area for 10, 20, or 30 minutes keeps you from being stressed about the amount of work. If you are able, work the time limits into a schedule. Perhaps you can work on your project for 20 minutes after your kids are in bed every night until you are done. Maybe you can work on your project for an hour every Sunday afternoon. Remember, don't be too hard on yourself if you can't make your scheduled time. Just like you would do with a project at work, reschedule for another time.

3. Buddy up. Working with a friend is a good way to get started or keep motivated while working on a project. Make sure the friend you choose is one who will help you stay on task while still being able to carry on a conversation. If you would like to spend more time with your older children, they can act as your buddy. It's easy to make a game out of getting organized when working with a group of children or adults: If someone has gotten off track in the clearing out process, any other member of the group can call out "focus". Once a person has been called out for being off track three times they have to do something silly agreed on before the start of the game. This keeps the clearing out fun and keeps you on track.

4. Throw it out. Can you remember the last time you opened that kitchen junk drawer? If the answer is no, a good alternative to sorting is to pull that drawer out and pour everything into a trash can headed to the curb. Chances are, if you haven't used it in the past few months it's not something you need. If you don't think you're capable of doing this, then ask someone else to do it for you. What teenager wouldn't like a quick $5 to take everything out of a drawer and straight to the trash. If you didn't know it was in there, it's not going to bother you that it is now gone. Imagine how nice it will feel to have a completely empty drawer in less than five minutes, a completely empty cabinet in ten minutes, or a completely empty closet in twenty minutes.

Sentimental Attachment
Another large roadblock in the quest to getting organized is the struggle to let go of items that have sentimental value. Be honest, do you still have toys from when you were a child, your favorite t-shirt from high school, or your first son's baby clothes stuffed in attics, closets and drawers around the house? So do many people. But if you want to reclaim your space it's time to employ some new tactics.

1. Find a replacement. The first step in this tactic is to decide why you kept the object in the first place. This sounds easy, but it isn't. Because most of the time you have kept the item as a representation of a fond memory, you've stopped looking at the item as an everyday object. That high school t-shirt isn't a t-shirt any longer, it has become your first road trip with your friends.

You must figure out what the item represents to you. Once you have decided the significance of the item, then look around you for a replacement you already have. Do you have a photo album of that trip or a cassette tape that you listened to? If so, decide which one you would rather keep and toss out the others. You'll still have all of the memories triggered by seeing one of the objects taking up far less space.

2. Give it away. So many times people hold on to something they don't really care for because it belonged to a deceased family member. These "family heirlooms" take up a lot of space you could be filling with items that reflect your personality and style, but you feel so guilty at the thought of throwing them out. What are your plans for that item if you are no longer around to appreciate it? More often than not you have decided to pass it on to another family member. Why wait? If you want to give grandmother's end table to your granddaughter, do it now. Think of the enjoyment you will feel being able to see how much she appreciates it. If you don't have a specific person in mind for certain items, just start asking family members. Who knows which of your nieces might like to have that serving platter Great Aunt Ida used to serve the Thanksgiving turkey on or which of your children would love to have the toys they played with as toddlers? The items will have a new home with a caring family member, and you will have your space back and be guilt free. It's a win-win situation.

3. Display it. If you simply can't part with something, considering displaying it in some way. From shadowboxes and scrapbooks with your high school mementos to a quilt made from your children's baby clothes, the possibilities are endless. You'll be able to see the item everyday and reclaim your storage space at the same time. Browse craft magazines and websites for ideas or drop by a local framing shop. You would be amazed at what can be framed or recycled into something new.

4. Give guilt the boot. Sometimes the sentimental attachment to an item isn't yours. The person who gave you the item might have expressed an attachment to the item when they gave it to you, and now you feel stuck with it out of guilt. There are two good options to overcoming this roadblock. If you no longer want the item or never wanted it in the first place, contact the giver and ask if they would like to have it back. Let them know that you no longer need the item and that if they do not want you to return it you will be giving it away. You might find out very quickly just how strong that sentimental attachment really is! If this type of conversation does not appeal to you, an alternative to this is simply to get rid of the item if it is not something that the giver will notice is missing.

Clutter is not something that happens overnight, and in most cases it is not something that can be tackled overnight. Getting started is a big step but one that produces many rewards at the end. Hopefully you can employ some or all of these strategies to take the first step in reclaiming your space. However, if you find that you still require assistance in your de-cluttering efforts, seek a professional organizer in your area who can give you as little or as much support as you need to achieve your goal of a clutter-free home.