December challenge

A few years ago, I read a blog written by two women who were close friends. They would plan out their year, month by month, by picking a challenge to complete each month. They would start a new running habit, pick a home improvement challenge, plant a garden, etc. These were mostly fun projects that involved a lot of hands on work plus the potential to learn something new.

After reading through a lot of the blog archives, I was inspired to take on a few challenges of my own. I don’t remember all of the challenges I attempted but I’ve been feeling inspired lately to take on a new challenge. I want to focus on minimalism and moving forward on making my bedroom a safe and comforting retreat. So for the month of December, I’m going to attempt to make at least one improvement in my room each and every day (except Sabbaths). This includes the actual bedroom, the master bathroom, and my closet.

At first, I thought this is too small of a challenge for an entire month. But it’s a holiday month and my two girls are off school for the last two weeks of December. So hopefully bite-sized pieces each day will make for a big difference at the end of the month.

I started making a list of things that need to be done and realized this is actually a pretty big project, if I try to do things in their entirety. For example, I have several books that need to be returned to their owners. This means I need to track down the owners’ addresses, package the books, and take them to the post office. While this isn’t a huge task by itself, I have quite a few projects that involve multiple steps. I need to return several orders to Nordstrom. I need to ship some clothes to a friend. I need to sell some books online. I need to declutter my hanging clothes and I’ll have to decide if any of it can be sold or if I’m going to post things on my local BuyNothing group. I have a huge pile of paperwork that needs to be sorted, scanned, and then recycled.

Hopefully this will force me to complete a couple of very small tasks that never seem to get done. There’s some damage to the front of our bathroom cabinet but it’s an easy fix involving some glue. Then we have several burnt out light bulbs that need to be replaced. Easy fix but never gets done!

So this project will keep me quite busy! And of course, I hope to blog about my progress. Hopefully my room will feel much less cluttered and more relaxing by the time I’m done. Once my room is complete, my to-do list will certainly be much shorter!

Decluttering

I seem to be going through an organizing and decluttering frenzy. I’m not exactly certain why, though I suspect it has something to do with seeking to control one of the only areas in my life where I feel I have control. In much of our house, I cannot control things being thrown, banged, or just generally being treated poorly. My kids, probably due to their environment during their formative years, have little respect for belongings, both mine and theirs.

In an attempt to establish some boundaries, we have mostly made the master bedroom off limits. The girls cannot play their music on speaker phone in my room. They are not allowed to rummage through my belongings. They are not allowed to destroy anything. These things have been issues in the past.

Now, my room is a safe and quiet place. In an attempt to make it an emotional retreat, I have been decluttering like crazy. In some ways, I am drawn to a minimalist lifestyle. I know that I will never be considered a true minimalist as I love books. We have two bookshelves full of books in our bedroom and more books piled in the closet. However, I have slowly been culling our collection, eliminating books that I will never read or that I do not truly enjoy. I am leaving books that I hope to read someday and books that bring me joy (Marie Kondo style!).

I’m also spending a lot of time cleaning out my closet. Even though I’ve gone through my clothes several times, I still have clothes that don’t fit or that I’ve never worn. I’ll be working on clothes after I conquer the massive pile of paper clutter that piled up in our closet. Don’t have time to sort through the mail? Toss it in the closet! Need to scan and save that document on the computer? Toss it in the closet! Working on the FlyLady system has been enlightening in several ways. I no longer have multiple paper hotspots around my house. Just my closet!

It’s slow going, but hopefully each step toward organization will be a permanent improvement. I really want to move next summer. We’re renting a two bedroom condo and I would love to move into a three bedroom house (probably also a rental). But I don’t want to move a ton of stuff we don’t need. I can’t believe I shipped 15 boxes to Washington and packed my car to move up here. I own an entire condo full of stuff now. However did that happen? The least I can do is weed out a bunch of stuff we no longer need. Our local BuyNothing Facebook group has been amazing for taking tons of my stuff, proving that one woman’s junk is another woman’s treasure.

Deep cleaning and other goals

This week I decided it was time to get organized and get some things done. There isn’t much I want to accomplish before we travel to Taiwan, but I would like to deep clean my house. I want to come home to a clean and organized home. So I’ve set some daily goals for myself:

30 minutes of exercise (trying to lose a couple of pounds)
60 minutes of Chinese (trying to become a tiny bit closer to fluent)
30 minutes of organizing/cleaning (beyond my normal chores)

So far so good! I’ve exercised both yesterday and today. I studied yesterday for 62 minutes and have 45 more to go today. And I’ve done 30 minutes of cleaning both yesterday and today. Here are a couple pictures of my progress.

before

after

before

after

before

after
I’m not sure the before and after photos look terribly different, but I did get rid of a few things. I am keeping the KonMarie principle in mind as I clean. “Does this bring me joy? If so, keep it. If not, get rid of it.” I discarded some really old and ratty kitchen towels, outdated spices, and a few instruction manuals that are available online. And now all three of these cupboards are scrubbed down and organized.

If we have a few dollars extra before we leave, I’d like to buy a spice rack. My spices are almost all bulk purchases from Whole Foods so I have a ton of little baggies on the bottom shelf of my cabinet. It is a mess! It’s hard to cook because I have to pull out handfuls of baggies and sort through them to find the spice I’m looking for. I’m doing to do some research to see if the bulk spices are actually fresh or if I should just buy jarred. If I go to the bulk route, I want to buy glass jars to store what I purchase. If I go the jarred route, I want to toss out everything I have and buy the staples I need. Either way, I’d like to organize the spices so that I can start teaching my daughter how to cook.

Half an hour still until the Women’s World Cup game between Japan and Netherlands so I’m going to sneak in some Chinese studies before the game.

Happy cooking!

Odds and Ends

I’ve been taking my last blog post to heart, going through the house and weeding out things that I can let go of. I took a pair of boots and a bag of clothes and books out to the car. I just need to stop by a donation bin to drop them off.

We visited Target a couple days ago and I picked up two plastic storage bins. Can you believe that I was so excited to own two new $2.79 storage containers? We have very little storage in our house so things just lie around and drive me crazy. One bin is going to be used to store quilting fabric, as right now it’s loose on a shelf in our closet. The other bin is now housing a bunch of electronic odds and ends, things we use but not everyday. Blank CDs, a thumb drive, our webcam (for talking with my nephews in England), a pair of headphones. It feels great to have that stuff off our kitchen counter!

Now I just need to find a pen container to hold all of the pens that are also on the kitchen counter. I looked at Target but they only had two and both were ugly.

It really is the small touches that bring a house together. Decluttering, practical storage, a place for everything and everything in its place.

UFO progress

I’m so excited that I was able to make some progress on my 2014 UFO list today!

Home organization

    Spare bedroom
    Living room storage
    Pantry
    Clothes closet

This sink area is in our living room next to the fireplace. We don’t actually use the sink so I don’t have to worry about water dripping underneath into the storage area.

Before

After

Before, this cupboard was a complete mess. It was basically being used as a catch-all. I still don’t think it’s organized all that well and I would love to buy some more storage bins someday. But at least it’s much tidier now.

The containers on the right are for my knitting and quilting supplies (minus yarn and fabric). Next to that is my stack of cards and stationary, which is mainly used for our child sponsorship kiddos. Then there is a stack of remotes for the blu-ray player and cable box and Wii. AND there is a stack of office supplies like extra printer cartridges and printer paper. It’s still a catch-all but at least it’s now an organized catch-all.

I can’t believe that I was able to throw out half a bag of recyclable papers and half a bag of non-recyclable items. Where does all of the junk come from? I have a hard time fathoming where the clutter originates when we moved to Washington with our belongings backed into 14-ish boxes of books and the contents of our car. It’s amazing how much you can accumulate in a year and a half without even trying.

It feels good to be making some progress! Now what should I tackle next…?

2014: The year of UFOs

This year I didn’t really make any new years resolutions, other than to finish up the myriad of half completed projects laying around my house. Today I made an inventory of every project that has been started but is incomplete. This list will keep me busy for awhile!

Quilting Projects

    Monkey quilt
    Christmas tree table runners
    Disappearing 9 patch quilt
    Hazel’s Diary mystery quilt
    Rail fence quilt
    Denim quilt

Knitting Projects

    Mom’s book bag
    Jeff’s secret project
    Growing leaves cowl
    Baby blanket
    Winged scarf

Home organization

    Spare bedroom
    Living room storage
    Pantry
    Clothes closet

Digital organization

    Digital photos
    Cookbook
    Blog redesign

I’m excited to tackle some of these projects. I need something to keep me busy while we wait for the adoption to finalize. It’ll be a relief not to have half completed projects laying around when our daughter finally comes home. Then I’ll be able to start new projects with her! I wonder what her interests will be…

This week’s goals

I loved having an organized to-do list last week. When I was wondering what to do next, I worked on something from the list.

Last week’s list:

  • De-clutter the top of the fridge – Done!
  • Hang the Welcome sign – Not done. Need hubby to help me.
  • Put up a nail in our pantry to hang my apron on – Done!
  • Reorganize our bedroom clothes closet – Not done.
  • Catch up on my e-mail – Almost done!
  • Take care of The Pile – DONE!


The Pile – Before


The Pile – After

This week’s list:

  • Hang the Welcome sign
  • Reorganize our bedroom clothes closet
  • Finish clearing out my inbox
  • Write book reviews for the books I’ve finished in the past two weeks
  • Pack for my trip – I’m leaving on Sunday to visit my grandparents in WY
  • Write letters to our two girls in Korea

The list might be a bit ambitious on top of my regular chores, but we’ll see. I’m finding inspiration in having a cleaner household and it makes me want to become even more organized and clutter-free.

My husband

Please forgive me for gushing about my husband for a moment. See, today is his 32nd birthday. It is also our 5th anniversary. It was not intentional that we were married on hubby’s birthday but I had taken a vacation day to surprise him and we ended up eloping.

I am so grateful to God for placing such a wonderful man in my life! My husband balances me. Where I am rash, he is thoughtful in making decisions. His laid back ways are perfect for countering my go-go-go attitude. We don’t always see eye to eye on decisions, but we’re a good match.

I love how my husband is thoughtful, kind, loving, sincere, and level headed. He loves me even when I don’t like myself. I am so blessed!

This year I’m doing acts of service for his birthday gifts. Hubby is working tonight and we’re not sure what time he will be done. I promised him I’d stay up and have dinner ready for him when his work is finished. He had a hard time picking an entree for his birthday dinner but he was very quick to request pumpkin pie for dessert! I have a homemade one baking as I type this.

When trying to decide what I was going to surprise him with as a gift, I thought of his desk. The poor man puts up with my clutter. Somehow, tons of my paperwork, notes, and various other items had drifted over to his desk. I thought it would be a nice surprise to clean up our game shelf, remove the games we never play, move the movies to the newly open space, and dust his desk. It’s so cluttered (with my junk!) that it’s gotten pretty dusty.

I’m a sucker for Before and After pictures so I took some. This first photo is of our game shelf and I was half way done cleaning the middle shelf before I remembered that I wanted photos for my blog post. Oops!

(Hopefully hubby isn’t embarrassed by me posting photos of his desk, but the mess is mostly mine!)

We sold the tiny bookshelf we used for storing movies and video games so they all ended up piled on the back of hubby’s desk.

And here is the front view of hubby’s desk. Now that I can see the After, I can’t believe he was willing to put up with it! But he didn’t complain, other than to occasionally offhandedly mention that his desk was getting kind of bad.

And here is the After photo of our game and video shelves. The top shelf isn’t really organized yet but I wasn’t sure how much time I would have before hubby came home. I’ll get to it eventually.

Here’s the back of hubby’s desk now that almost all of the videos are moved. He likes using a boxed set of DVDs to keep the speakers taller than the monitors.

Lastly, the front of hubby’s desk. SO much better!

Hopefully he likes it!

Monday… again.

I can’t believe it’s Monday. I was right that I was going to be “off” a day this week. I kept thinking it was Tuesday!

Today I once again attempted my hour of forced productivity. I shut down the computer, set the kitchen timer for an hour, and worked. It was nice! I cleaned the kitchen again (no dirty dishes!), vacuumed, cleaned out the vacuum cleaner, washed a load of laundry, folded clothes, cleaned off the bar counter, filed some paperwork, and started organizing my recipe book.

Remember this lovely binder I found for creating a recipe book? That blog post is from June. My recipes are in that binder, but they are not organized. I don’t use the book much for that exact reason. Today I decided it was time to change that.

I spent a full hour today trying to find the correct template for these tabs and then trying to figure out how to get them to print so that the labels would display on both sides. But they’re so pretty! I ran out of time to actually start sorting the recipes, but it’s a good start. I have tabs for This Week’s Recipes, Breads, Breakfast, Desserts, Entrees, and Salads. I’m not sure those will be the final labels, but I’ll change things around as I figure out what works best.

Tomorrow’s project – Sort through all of the recipes currently in my binder and toss the ones we don’t like or no longer eat. Put the remaining recipes behind the correct tab. Eventually I’ll get them all typed out in OneNote so that they are consistent from one recipe to the next instead of printed from various websites.

It’s amazing how much I can accomplish once I kick myself off the internet.

Spare Room Progress

I have been spending all of my time cleaning and sorting through JUNK in the spare room. I am determined that the room will be clean and organized by the end of next Tuesday. I have 4 working days. Instead of keeping up with the dishes, vacuuming, etc., I have done nothing but cook and clean the spare bedroom. I’m resorting to using the dishwasher during the week. *gasp*

Here is what our spare bedroom looked like on Sunday morning:

And this is not the worst it has ever looked… Here is our spare bedroom at the end of today:

Much better, but it is still ugly. Here is what our “dining room” looked like a couple hours ago:

This is how much stuff has to still get moved out of our apartment and I’m not even done in the spare bedroom. We’ve already dropped off four boxes of books, several boxes of clothes, and hubby took out three boxes of trash right before I snapped this photo. It really is disgusting! Every time a box of books or clothes or JUNK leaves the house, I feel a little bit more relief. That is less JUNK I have to pack up and move someday. That is less JUNK that I have to organize or clean. That is less JUNK that I have to rummage through to find what I’m looking for. If it’s been boxed up or stored away for the past four years, we obviously didn’t need it.

So I am making a lot of progress. I’ve been keeping a running tally of how much JUNK has been carried out of here and I will post it once I’ve finished with the spare bedroom. All of that money wasted. All of that time we’ve already spent carting it from one residence to another. All of that eyesore. And I still have to tackle the spare bedroom closet. Ugh.