Life in 409

This blog is about my quest to declutter my apartment. It focuses on clutter, decluttering, and the endless quest to separate the junk from the important stuff - at home and in life.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Wide Open Spaces

I have been doing alright the last few nights - working off my list and not much more. So far I have done the top shelf of my closet, one shelf of the linen closet, and one box of kid-stuff in the living room. All three were relatively quick jobs.

My dining room table is once again piled up, though not as bad as it was. I should be able to deal with it tonight, as I have another night "off."

We actually all spent some time in the living room last night - amazing! - and the Boy decided he wanted to have a campout there, in his Bob the Builder tent. (There was actually room to set it up!) Yesterday was the last day of school, so I said ok. The Girl was going to sleep there too, but after 5 minutes she decided it was "creepy" and returned to our bed. (I guess her own bed is "creepy" too, as she doesn't sleep there either...)

So... overall I'm keeping up with the "list" but not with my routines too well, and I haven't done much in the way of decluttering. Now that school is out, I will ostensibly have more time... but we'll see...

Monday, June 26, 2006

It's Monday again!

I did not get much decluttering done over the weekend, despite my best intentions. Hubby and the Boy went on a father son trip, and I had visions of the Girl taking long naps while I whipped the place into shape. Didn't quite work out that way - but it's alright. My girl and I did lots of fun things like going to the park, watching videos, and eating M&Ms. On Saturday I met my neighbors and their 4 year old daughter at a McDonald's with a big indoor play place, so while it poured outside, the girls got to run around for 2 hours and the moms got to sip iced coffee and talk. I don't get to connect with my neighbors a lot, so it was nice and it even felt like "down time."

As far as what I got decluttered, let's see. I did go through all my yarn and organize my many unfinished projects. I now have a list of unfinished projects and a bag of said projects along with their patterns. Will I finish them? WHo knows. But a surprising number are a) very close to being finished and b) unassigned (I didn't make them for anyone in particular) - so maybe the thought of banging them out and giving them as gifts or selling them on ebay will inspire me to get cracking. I also have several unfinished "assigned" projects which I should probably finish first.

I have more yarn than I could ever use, but surprisingly I didn't really earmark any for donations. I should have, I just didn't. No excuse here.

I also finally dealt with the portable air cooler that has been sitting in my bedroom, unused, for over a year. My super rescued it from the trash and thought I could use it as a humidifier, but I was always squeamish, since I never knew who used it last and what kind of mold or funk might have been in there - and I had no instructions on how to use it or clean it. From what I could figure out online, you have to fill it with ice and it works like a portable air conditioner. Not very practical either. But of course, it seemed wrong to throw it out. I had tried to freecycle it, but the person who was interested never made it here, and another person wanted a demonstration of how it worked (hey, buddy, I'm not making a freezer full of ice for you. It's free, take it or be gone). So, I brought it down to the basement and left it by the trash. I don't see it today, so either someone else took it, or it's already been put with the trash and I will see it outside tomorrow night. I do feel a little guilty, but every time I see that empty corner, I'm happy.

My daughter helped me straighten up the living room (and wanted me to move things so we'd have a "nice empty space") - it looks nice but we didn't make any progress on the decluttering. Still, we were able to sit on the couch and read a book without me cringing every time I looked around.

My niece (14) is staying with us for a few days in mid-August. I counted up the days on the calendar and have just about 36 days until then (skipping over the days I will be out of town or busy at night). Then I made a list of things to do before she comes - very basic - things like "living room box 1, living room box 2, top of my closet, bottom of my closet, top of linen closet, etc." The living room boxes are numbered up to 10, though I don't think I have that many. I don't quite have 36 things on my list yet, but I will add to it as I think of things. The idea is to do one thing a night so that the place isn't a total nightmare by the time L. comes around. Now that the boy's school is done (in 2 days) I hope to use my extra morning time and/or extra evening time (since he'll be staying up later) to tackle one task each night. I got home from work tonight and since no one is home (where are they? Park? Hospital? Dead in a ditch? Who knows. No note and hubby left the cell phone here) I chose an item at random. Top of my closet. It only took a few minutes because there's not much up there. Mostly I neatened it up. I do have a bag of the kids' "special" baby outfits up there but I made a note to buy 2 rubbermaid boxes - one for each - so that I can store these in a better way and move them into THEIR room.

That's all... if Hubby ever gets home we need to clean out the turtle tank as it is looking rather greenish...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Victory is Mine!


Ahhhh... after!

OK, I'll give Hubby some credit, he did a little bit before I got home. But just a little. I did the rest. I also washed it down to get rid of the stickers and the stickiness.

The basket still needs to be dumped and purged... and a lot of stuff just got moved temporarily to other places... but the garbage has been tossed, some things have actually been put away and the dining room is clean, at least for now.

Also last night, got the laundry folded and put away -- I was going to leave it for today, but I went ahead with it, and was much happier this morning for having done so. Do you know that in 7 days, the Girl managed to wear 15 shirts???

I will also give Hubby some credit for having done a sink full of dishes in the afternoon... (though I did b**** him out about it that morning) and for washing and drying all the clothes too.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Losing steam (again)

Things in 409 are on a downward spiral, as we've been on the go for the last few days. I feel like the little progress I've made has been washed away. My dining room table, which is usually not too bad (it used to be worse) is suddenly a major "hotspot" again. It doesn't help that we haven't eaten dinner at home in nearly a week because of various events:
  • Last night: Baseball game - ate at game
  • Monday night: Co-op board meeting - ate pizza
  • Sunday night: Father's Day - ate at inlaws' house
  • Saturday night: Baseball game - ate at game
  • Friday night: Hubby took kids to baseball game, I ate takeout
  • Thursday night: can't remember, so this was probably the last time we at at home.

It's now Wednesday and my table looks like this:
This is where my son does his home- work...

...for added fun, it's also sticky!

Among the things scattered across the table are:
  • The pirate ship given to the Boy by my neighbor's son
  • a bag of soil and a flowerpot for some seeds that we have yet to plant
  • a box of crayons, pens, glue & other school supplies
  • toys
  • Books
  • a sticker stuck to the table
  • flowers that were fresh 2 weeks ago (or more)
  • cup that needs to go in the sink
  • the boy's homework (imagine trying to concentrate in this chaos?)

The big white basket in back started out as a temporary holding place, so that when I would clear off the table for dinner, I could just dump things in there quickly. The idea was to clean it out each night after dinner. Can you guess what happened?

On the chair are some more things we got from my neighbor's son when he cleaned out her apartment. We still have to find space for them. There's also some clothes and a baseball cap on top of the pile.

I asked my Hubby on Monday if he would clean it up. So far he has not. I know I could probably do it in less than 15 minutes but I'm just so annoyed about how bad it's gotten.

Oh and since Steph asked for the after pics of the kids' room...

After 10 days

Now you see why I didn't post the after pictures...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sluggish Monday

Did nothing last night. Between the co-op board meeting, getting the kids fed and bathed, and eating too much pizza myself, I just couldn't deal with anything. (I am coming to realize a lot of my motivation or lack thereof revolves around what I ate and whether I ate too much of it. Hmmm, something to think about.)

I fell asleep earlier than usual and was up around 4am with a bad tummy ache. I eventually got back to sleep.

When I looked around 409 this morning, I realized there is not one room that does not look like a hurricane hit it. Well, maybe the bathroom. But who wants to hang out in there???

A friend asked me why there are no "after" pictures of the kids' room on here. I haven't posted them yet because they still look like "before" pictures.

Better luck tonight I guess...

Monday, June 19, 2006

Sunday Morning, all before coffee

Everyone's allergies were acting crazy on Saturday due to the heat and humidity. I spent a lot of the night listening to one or both of the kids coughing. They both have asthma so the slightest cough tends to set me on edge, but there were no incidents. Still, at 6am, the Girl (who sleeps with us) started in again and I could not get back to sleep, so by 6:30 I moved to the living room. (In 409, we are often playing musical beds, and many mornings I wake up to find both kids in bed wtih me, while Hubby is sleeping in the Boy's loft bed.)

Anyway, I was still awake and watching some bad TV didn't help, so I figured I'd try to tackle some of those toy bins in the living room. It was much easier going through the kids' stuff without the kids, of course. I actually got through several bins, though the process actually made more mess, as I ended up with a dozen piles of stuff, and was undecided about where to put them. Some, I was able to integrate into the new homes we've been making in various other bins. Others are, as of Monday evening, still spread out on the living room floor. I didn't throw too much away, but my box of "stuff that I can't figure out where it's from" is getting bigger.

Eventually I had to stop, as the kids got up (also earlier than I'd planned), the Hubby got up (and wanted his Father's Day presents), and we were due to meet my inlaws for brunch... and I needed coffee, badly...

So, other than that, I didn't get much done over the weekend, but I'm feeling optimistic today. Flylady is in the Master Bedroom this week, and since I did a lot of work on mine already on Friday, I bet I can keep up and make the place much nicer by the end of the week. I hope so, anyway.

Friday, June 16, 2006

A Night Alone

Hubby took the kids to the Mets game tonight, and so I had a night to myself. I picked up his Father's Day gift on the way home, picked up some Chinese food for myself, and came home and vegged in front of the TV for a while. I saw my neighbor's son had dropped off more stuff (toilet paper, light bulbs, ziploc bags, and some food from the pantry) and I rang the bell to thank him, but no one answered, so I went back to get some "work" done.

I had promised myself I'd finish cleaning the kitchen floor that I had started here so I first moved most of the stuff out of the kitchen, then got down to scrubbing - real scrubbing, on my knees with a brush. When that was done, I mopped over it and let dry.

Next I had wanted to deal with my bedroom, so I spent some time getting pretty much all the kids' junk out of there. Lots of books and toys. I was able to sort most of their stuff into the baskets and areas we had made on Saturday. As I hauled stuff into their room, I also took things back out - piles of laundry, toys that went elsewhere. So I accomplished a lot and my room looks a lot better. AHHH.

I decided I am going to give away at least one bag of the Swimmie diapers and also give away all the loose diapers from the last jumbo pack we bought. I bet I have 30 of them lying around and at least one neighbor who'd take them. I also still have two sealed bags from that jumbo pack. I know I should part with those too, but I feel like I spent the money and ... I know... it's dumb. What am I going to save them for 3 or 4 years until the baby I may or may not ever have, will fit into size 4s? (Thanks Fran for this great insight...) I should put them in my "out box" as suggested in the Apartment Therapy book, and see what happens.

Sometime during my bedroom clean up, the doorbell rang, and it was my neighbor's son and his wife, coming to say goodbye, as they are going back to Florida in a few days. I invited them in, and as they looked around, I saw my living room as they must see it - a disaster area, with toy bins and toys scattered around, not an inviting place at all. Just a ... yuck zone. I didn't really see it that clearly when my mom visited, because she is used to the mess and I'm used to not caring what she thinks. But tonight... ugh. I felt miserable.

With the bedroom done, the kitchen floor dry and things put back together in there, I took a shower, then vegged out and watched some bad TV for a while. I've probably spent more time here typing than I really spent cleaning tonight - but things do look and feel just a little better. Still, I'm feeling frustrated... I could probably do this every night, all summer, if I had the time, and still not make a dent...

OK Everyone's home so I'm signing off...

Esther's Stuff

I didn't really do much last night. I cleaned out the little hanging cabinet over the toilet, but that took about 2 minutes and all I really did was shuffle things around and condense a few things.

There was some other stuff going on last night, too.

A few weeks ago, my neighbor Esther died. She was 80 years old but seemed healthy -- lived on her own, volunteered at the senior center, walked in the neighborhood every day. But something went wrong somewhere and she had a massive stroke, and died a few days later on May 17. Her son and daughter-in-law came up from Florida to be with her in the hospital, but returned home after the funeral. They are back in town this week to clear out her apartment. Lewis is like his mother, very friendly and generous, though it's obvious he is very sad about his mom. His wife Regina is very sweet and warm. When we visited with them after the funeral, they gave the kids a few trinkets from Esther's apartment as keepsakes: a crocheted clown, a large doll, some little "toys" like a light-up snowman and a little box that screams "Let me outta here!" when you pick it up (Seriously.) I took these with thanks.

This week, though, they are doing the heavy cleaning and they have offered us a lot of other items (you knew we'd come back around to decluttering, which is the whole point of this blog). They are donating mostly everything to charity but they want to offer us things too. So far they have given us:

  • a small air purifier (which is something I've always wanted to get)
  • a small space heater (which we absolutely don't need, since the heat is usually up so high in the building)
  • an electric menorah (we don't have one, but we don't really need one either)
  • a big stack of writing and drawing paper (great for the kids as they constantly use all my printer paper)
  • a couple of books (a History of Israel for Children, and a Hebrew Alphabet learning book - not bad things to have, I guess)
  • some wrapping paper (can always use that)
  • a pretty big model of one of Columbus' ships (kind of nice, but kind of odd - though the Boy really likes it and brought out one of his toy pirate ships to put next to it - both are on the dining room table right now)

    Lewis also gave the Boy a very cool hologram ruler that shows pictures of traditional Jewish items (dreidel, yarmulke, menorah, etc.) and their Hebrew translations. He was honestly thrilled with this.

    Anyway, now most of this stuff is in my dining room and I have to find places for it. I'm supposed to be bringing stuff OUT, not in. I'm sure there are other people in the building who can use this stuff more than we can. I know Lewis also offered Hubby the television, but we don't need it. I told him to tell them we'd be happy to try to find a home for it, or donate it for him and send him the receipt for his taxes.

    But I feel terrible because I really miss my neighbor and I also know that Lewis and Regina want to be done with this so they can go home. And of course I keep thinking of Flylady's post that she sends around quite often, about "Will you leave clutter as your legacy?" Now I'm not accusing Esther of having clutter - but I do know how hard it's been for her son to go through all her items and it makes me very sad. I remember my Mom going through my Dad's stuff as well - he was not a hoarder but he kept odd things sometimes.

    Well that's all for today, I guess. But surprisingly, I found this after Esther died. I bet she didn't even know it was out there. So have a look and remember her, if you are so inclined.

  • Wednesday, June 14, 2006

    Fun in the Bathroom

    I managed to do 15 minutes (actually more like 25!) in my bathroom tonight. Armed with Fantastik OxyPower and some paper towels, I sprayed and wiped down my tile walls. The tile goes about halfway up the walls, all around the bathroom, which isn't much as it's a tiny room. I skipped the shower tiles - I will have to do that another time. After the walls, I cleaned the lightswitch, toilet, sink and mirror. When I checked the clock, I still had 3 minutes left of the 15 I promised myself - so I took out the two plastic shoeboxes of sample shampoos, creams and so on from under the sink. Hubby actually uses the sample stuff, and probably has a mental inventory, so I didn't dare throw out "his" stuff. I did get rid of three fairly large bottles of lotion that were given to me, though - they were all a few years old, yet all largely un-used, and even though they are "nice" (Bath & Body Works), I never liked the smell and probably never will. So out they went!

    I then had to rearrange the trash because if Hubby sees them in there, he will grill me as to why I threw out the nice lotions. I would leave them in the basement, but is anyone really going to want to take someone's discarded toiletries? Doubt it.

    I also managed to find a few bottles of bubble bath that I can use on the kids, and some lotion that I really do like and will use. When I was done, everything fit into one shoebox, so I liberated the other one (will probably end up using it for more of the kids' stuff).

    Also got all the dishes done and took the garbage out tonight.

    More laundry excitement

    Again I didn't get much done in my zones last night. It was laundry day and I did get everything folded and put away, clean sheets on the beds, clean towels in the bathroom. I kind of like that. And now that I've gone through the kids' wardrobe, there is lots more room for the clean clothes. I even matched up last week's socks, which I never got around to doing last week.

    I didn't do anything in the bathroom or kids' room, but I did sort through a basket of their clothes that's been sitting in my room. It was mostly clothes that are still too big for the Boy, or stuff that the Boy outgrew but the Girl could maybe wear in a year or two. And then there was other stuff mixed in there that needed to be in the outgrown/donate/toss pile. I put the too-big stuff on the top shelf of their wardrobe, which I had emptied when I did the big switcheroo last week. So now there is no longer a big basket of stuff at the foot of my bed. The basket itself was one of those pop-up hampers, but being overstuffed had destroyed it, so out it went. And that's about it for last night.

    I think I figured out why I always lose steam with Flylady halfway through the month. I do alright with the hallway & kitchen. When we get to the bathroom, I always feel like I don't have a lot to do in there, since it's really not cluttered. I guess I should be doing the deep cleaning in there. Something to think about. Flylady also says to work on "one other room" during the bathroom week, which should be the kids' room, since I don't have an office or laundry room or garage or den or anything - but I never quite get to that. And then the following week is always the living room, which I dread, so I avoid it. But I am going to try and tackle it next week when we are in that zone. I really am.

    Tuesday, June 13, 2006

    Too much lasagna

    I got nothing done last night. NOTHING. Hubby cooked the lasagna that I prepared, and it came out good (but a little runny)... and I ate too much and felt like a big slug all night. So I did nothing. OK, I did get my bills paid, but I had to do that anyway, and it didn't do anything to improve the overall condition of my house. The dinner dishes are still in the sink, and I didn't touch my "zones."

    And the kids' room is already drifting toward mess. I knew I should have taken the "after" pictures while it still looked good!

    I have to get myself on the ball tonight.

    Monday, June 12, 2006

    Kitchen Confession

    Well, as Flylady's kitchen week is just about over and I didn't finish the kitchen, I decided to take a little time in there Sunday morning. I wanted to reorganize the cabinets under the sink, so I could fit the empty fishtank back in there, but ended up having to do a thorough clean because - UGH - ok - I have trouble admitting this, but I'm here to keep myself honest. I pulled out a couple of boxes from under the sink, and realized they were gritty with some substance. Looking more closely, I realized there were dead, dessicated insects stuck to some of the inside walls of the cabinets... and some were stuck to these boxes... EWWWWW... The exterminator had come on Saturday, so I'm guessing the bugs came out of the walls to die, but still... UGH UGH UGH.

    I pulled everything out of the entire cabinet (it is one large cabinet with 4 doors)and sucked the little suckers up with the vaccuum, then scrubbed the inside of the cabinet. It wasn't too bad and most of the dead bugs were limited to one corner, but the whole cabinet is pretty water-stained and grungy inside. I suppose dead bugs are better than living ones, but still. YUCK. Luckily the only food I keep down there is in sealed cans and bottles. Most of the other stuff is things like cleaning supplies, paper towels, grocery bags and so on. So, it wasn't as bad as it could have been, but afterwards, I still felt gritty... ewww ewww eww.

    I want to take this time to say I have been in this apartment for over four years and have never never really seen bugs. We had grain pests for a while, and every few months we see one of those giant waterbugs, but I don't have roaches and I keep my kitchen pretty clean. The exterminator comes every 2 weeks. So, I'm really upset about the whole thing. I'm just going to keep telling myself they came from the apartment next door, where a lot of work is going on.

    Anyway... confession time over... I did manage to throw out a bag with a few lbs of playground sand (we were using this in the hermit crab tank at one time), combined a few boxes of Swiffer supplies and other cleaning supplies, made room for the empty small fishtank and the fish accessories, and neatened everything up. Then I went to the upper cabinet on the other side of the room and threw some stuff out of there - a bunch of Ragu Express pasta dinners (gotten as freebies from my old employer, but icky tasting, and the single serving doesn't even satisfy my 3-year old) and a jar of ice cream sprinkles that I've had probably since we were first married (we never use them). I found a sealed jar of salsa, which has been in there a while -- I opened it up to check it out, and it seemed fine, so I put it in the fridge and will buy some chips this week. I found two half-empty bags of sugar (each in its own sealed ziploc bag, lest you think I am inviting more pests), and combined the two. Found lots of wine and liquor that we will never drink, so I have a mental note to start asking friends & neighbors what they like.

    I also got to the supermarket Sunday morning while everyone was sleeping and picked up a few things we needed. While there, I returned two bags of deposit bottles (just $0.50 cents worth, but getting them out of the kitchen = priceless). Last night I even managed to put together a lasagna for hubby to cook tonight.

    I am trying to stick with Flylady's schedule this month, which means that I work on the bathroom and another room this week. My bathroom is probably the neatest room in the house (too small for any clutter) so I will focus more on the "other" room, which for me will probably mean dealing with the clutter in my closet and the linen closet. There is always the kids' room - but I think I will wait for school to let out, so they have more time to help me in the evenings. As for Apartment Therapy, I think the 8 week plan might have been a little ambitious for me, and I'm thinking of expanding it to 16 weeks, spending 2 weeks on each lesson.

    In the Jungle

    Well as I've already mentioned, the kids' room looks like a hurricane hit. Followed by another hurricane. Then a raid by Vikings. Then another hurricane. In any case, my mom was visiting on Saturday, so I wisely shut the door to their room before she arrived. Of course, during the course of the visit, the little one insisted on changing her outfit AGAIN and left the door open, and when Mom walked by later she gasped and made a million remarks about "How do you live like this?" and "No wonder they still sleep in YOUR room" and so on. I didn't discuss it and told her to back off... but GRRR...

    The thing is, I really did want to get to the room, and after she left, we got down to it. NOT BECAUSE OF HER COMMENTS, you understand. On the contrary, her comments made me want to leave it a mess, because I'm nuts like that (just ask Mom). But I had been looking for a block of time to do this for a while, and an open Saturday night seemed like a good place to start. So here's a few BEFORE shots.
    Looking west into the kids' roomRemember kids, you can't organize clutter!
    No wonder she doesn't sleep in her bed
    Get something out of the closet? You must be trippin'
    A closer look at what's blocking the closet and lower shelves. By the way, that toy box is full to the top with stuffed animals that the kids probably don't even know exist

    With a promise of a trip to Baskin Robbins as an incentive, we started by getting everything off the floor. Stray clothes went out into the hallway (dirty, clean, I didn't care - I put them all in the hamper when we were through). Stuffed animals and dolls went on the Girl's bed. If it was obviously broken, or obviously trash, it went in the trash bag (though to my son, nothing is broken OR trash, it's all "part of something else" or "really needed"). Pretty much everything else went into a big laundry basket. After the floor was clear we took the big basket and started sorting again, making piles that made the most sense - characters, animals, legos, "stuff that we can't identify and/or need to find the rest of", and so on. It was hard keeping the kids on track, but we actually made it through that whole basket and another smaller bin that was full of assorted stuff. Then we had to find places for the piles, which we did, with more bins and baskets. It's not perfect, but at least there is a clear path.

    I did manage to snag a few toys for the donation bin (including a few that had BEEN in the donation bin but somehow made it back to the kids' room). I have to get them out of the house soon or they will end up right back in their room again. I also managed to snag the pieces of a broken Sky Dancers toy that the Girl never plays with anyway, and hide them in a trash bag. She caught me going to the trash and cried her eyes out, even after I explained that the toy doesn't work and it's broken and not fixable. I told her that we can buy her a new one if she really wants, but I hope she doesn't hold me to that because to me, that toy screams "you'll put your eye out." (Hmmm, I'm not even kidding. I googled it to find a picture and found this instead...)

    We went for our ice cream and had a really fun time playing follow the leader as we walked home. Then Miss Girl asked when we were going to get everything off her bed because she was "really gonna sleep there tonight." Yeah, right.. So we managed to stick all the dolls and plush into two of those pop up hampers. Where did all this plush come from and what am I supposed to do with it, anyway? Two pop up hampers AND a toy box full, and I'm pretty sure one of those milk crates in the living room is hiding more...

    Friday, June 09, 2006

    Losing Steam?

    I feel like I lost some steam last night - although really, I guess I still got some stuff done. First, in the kitchen - in addition to the cookie jar I cleaned out the other night, we have two huge bowls of candy. Mostly lollipops, jawbreakers and other sweets of the kind my mom called "tooth rots" when we were little. We keep one bowl on one of the microwave carts, and the other on top of the fridge. I have no idea why there are two different bowls. I think at one time they held different categories of candy, but not anymore. The kids helped me combine the two bowls. We threw out a few things - some stuff they don't like, some half-opened stuff, anything getting stale or sticky, and some stray Nerds & Smarties that had fallen out of their wrappers. We also broke down some unopened goodie bags and hauled out some little toys that had found their way in there. In the end, it all fit into the one bowl, which I put back on top of the fridge. I also explained to them that they need to ask from now on, if they want candy - as I frequently find my 3 year old eating lollipops at all hours of the day. I would like to reiterate at this point that we still have more candy than my kids can eat in 3 lifetimes, and most of it is stuff they will never touch (hard sucking candies, creme savers, and little taffies with Russian writing on the wrappers, which we seem to pick up every Halloween, and throw out every following October in preparation for more).

    Other than that, not much got done, but we did do our turtle tank maintenance, which made its resident African Mud Turtle, Little Ann, very happy. At least I think she (he?) is happy.

    My mom is coming for a visit tomorrow, so I need to do some of Flylady's "5 minute room rescues" tonight - but overall I think we're in pretty decent shape - and a lot better than we were a week ago.

    Even so, I feel like I lost a little momentum last night, and I think I know what happened... I made the mistake of putting on the bedroom TV and sitting down for "five minutes" while hubby put The Boy to bed. Next thing I know, I was watching some new show about people winning the lottery, and I couldn't drag myself back to any of my decluttering projects. I know now why so many of these decluttering books tell you to GET RID OF THE TV - or at least keep it turned off. Heck, I figured the summer is a fine time to break the TV habit, since everything is reruns, but not anymore. Lots of new shows starting this summer. And reruns of stuff I missed the first time around. And fun stuff on the Food Network. I also see why Flylady insists that you keep your shoes on all the time - much harder to sink into bed and get stuck there when you are wearing your shoes - but that's a habit I still can't get into either. Oh well. Hopefully I won't get caught up tonight...

    Thursday, June 08, 2006

    A break from the kitchen

    Well I got some unexpected things done last night, but skipped on other things. As expected, my bed was piled with clean laundry, so I had to get that folded and put away. I dreaded putting the kids' stuff in their armoire because it is such a mess... summer and winter stuff all mixed together because the weather has been crazy... dirty clothes mixed in with clean because The Girl changes her outfit 4 times a day and doesn't get the concept of "hamper"... outgrown stuff, stained stuff, and too-big stuff all jumbled up because they have too damn much stuff. It's really The Boy who has the most stuff, as he inherits clothes from his cousin. Anyway... since The Boy is off from school today, there was no rush to put him to bed last night, so I managed to tackle a lot of the stuff in the armoire as I put back the clean clothes. I threw out some stained stuff. I divided the other things into piles like, "winter clothes that should still fit next winter" (put those in a drawer), "winter clothes in good condition that won't fit next winter" (split these about 50-50 between stuff to donate, and stuff to keep for sentimental/future baby reasons), "summer stuff they can wear now" (put in the armoire). He and his sister played nicely during all this, so I got a lot done. There's still more to do in various bags and boxes, but at least the armoire shelves are neat and they can find things.

    I found two big bags of Swimmie diapers - two summers ago I had bought a big stash, because they can be difficult to find, and they were on sale at the time. Now that The Girl is potty trained, I don't need them. Once again I am torn between saving for another baby (maybe?) and giving them away. I think I will ask the people in my building who have little babies if they might want them.

    I have this same problem with a huge box of size 4 diapers I had just opened. Why do kids wait until you buy a huge stash, before deciding they don't need it? The Boy did the same thing with grapefruit juice, drank it every day all year, I bought 2 more cases and he decided NAHHHH, no more for me!!!

    The mess in my bedroom was getting to me also, so I got the kids to take a break and haul all the toys out of my room. They were really good about this. When we were putting stuff in their room, The Boy asked if we were cleaning his room too. I said, "Not tonight" because it is too big a job. Still, I felt guilty, demanding that my room be cleaned up, while I let their room continue on as a cluttered obstacle course. I'm hoping maybe this weekend we can get to some of it - but I hope for that EVERY weekend and it doesn't happen.

    Hubby did the dishes and took down all the recycling, but we didn't get to the turtle tank. It's got to be done tonight as the water is looking a little green...

    Wednesday, June 07, 2006

    But we don't even drink tea!

    Last night, I suggested to the kids that we take on one of the toy bins holding their mishmash of toys that I piled up on Sunday. I realized in short order that one bin at a time is not going to work. My 6 year old son can make no distinction between stuff he plays with and stuff he doesn't play with, and my 3 year old daughter just keeps asking, "WHERE DOES BELLE GO? WHERE DOES BELLE GO?" And we just keep finding parts of toys without their other parts, so they end up back in the box. So I"m going to have to rethink this. We may need to set aside part of a day and dump ALL the bins, then sort into categories and piles, before deciding where everything goes. Hmmm, maybe if we do that, the kids will realize just how MUCH stuff they have, and they'll be more willing to part with things. Yeah, right.

    Anyway, my own task was to continue in the kitchen. I took the four ceramic canisters that hold tea, sugar, matchbooks, etc., and dumped them out. I didn't count, but I'm going to say I had about 60 teabags of various brands, and maybe 150 assorted packets of sugar, Equal, and Sweet 'n Low, with a couple of Sugar in the Raw and Splendas thrown in there for good measure. The only time we ever have tea is when we're sick, and we rarely make it for guests. So why all this tea? I don't know. Does tea get stale? Probably. It's pretty old and I'm not even sure where it all came from. And yet strangely, I feel compelled to keep it. Well, I do like a nice cup of unsweetened iced tea, so maybe I can start using up those bags this summer. And Hubby insists we keep the sugar packets. "For guests." I did wash and dry the canisters. I also finished cleaning out the old fishtank, (dumped the old gravel, cleaned the accessories, etc.) and now need to find a place to keep that stuff.

    I didn't bother decluttering the dish cabinets or the cabinet under the sink, as I am trying to make a dent in the way things look on the outside. I know this is somewhat contrary to FLYlady - she believes in holding off on deep cleaning until the decluttering is done - but I need to be able to see that I'm making progress. I did wipe down all the cabinet fronts on that side of the room, scrubbing off drips, finger marks, and greasy spots.

    Then I went through the condiments and stuff inside the refrigerator door. Threw out a few old, almost used-up jars of jelly and other sauces that are never going to get used. Wiped down the shelves in the door. Found FOUR bottles of my mother in law's eye drops. I think she brings them here, uses them, and forgets about them. One has an expiration date in 2004, the other 3 seem pretty current. I have to ask her what to do with them. I didn't clean off the main shelves or the freezer, because they are pretty stocked right now. I'll have to wait until we eat some of the food.

    Darn, I completely forgot about the TOP of the refrigerator. Next time. There's another big bowl of candy up there that could use some cleaning out, plus lots of stuff that can probably be trashed.

    I then got down and scrubbed another section of the floor, then Swiffered over what I had scrubbed yesterday and today. Now my floor looks like one of those before/after demonstrations, with about half the floor shiny and the other half dull and dingy.

    I'm not sure how much will get done in the kitchen tonight. It's laundry day -- hubby does the washing and drying and some of the folding, I do the balance of folding and putting away. On top of that, we need to do our turtle tank maintenance tonight. So the kitchen may have to wait until tomorrow.

    Hurray! Clean water for me!

    Tuesday, June 06, 2006

    OK, one Before & After shot

    On top is the picture posted earlier - the view when you walk into the living room. Below, is the photo I took after some cleanup. The tables are gone, the windowsills more clear and accessible, the blankets and trash picked up. That's Dora the Explorer's house in the foreground of both pictures - my daughter is "still playing with that." Of course, I forgot to move the other pile of stuff (the other picture frames that had been in the windows) and dump the big bag of trash, before snapping this shot. Oh, and the books that were on the coffee table are sitting on the couch in Picture #2. All of those have been moved by now. Hey, it's a start.

    Tackling the Kitchen

    FLYlady is in the kitchen this week, and Apartment Therapy's week #2 also focuses on the kitchen. 'Tis fate, no? I am going to combine the two and try to make some headway there. Apartment Therapy suggests a thorough cleaning and decluttering of the kitchen, while Flylady reiterates, 15 minutes at a time. Again, most nights I can barely find 5 minutes, so I'm hoping I don't burn out too fast. I tried to divide the kitchen into 5 "zones," so I can work on one per night. Last night was the window/stove/small microwave cart. I cleaned off the windowsill and threw out a dusty candle that was sitting there. There was also an ivy bowl (from a wedding favor) with a large candle that I had stuck inside. I wanted to toss the candle and keep the bowl, but it was wedged/melted in there so tight that I couldn't get it out. I wanted to toss the whole thing but was afraid the glass would break in the garbage chute, so it's still sitting on my stove. Hmm. I also cleaned out a cookie jar full of old, stale candies - tossed out most of the melty, stale hard-candies and starbursts and lollipops - kept a few lollipops for my daughter and a big bag of gummy bears for me (bought these from my niece's school fundraiser and forgot all about them). Then came a real emotional wrestling match - only it wasn't as hard as I feared, in the end. I have this little knicknack that was given to me when I was in the hospital, during a very rough time. It's dusty and faded and looks horrible, but I've held onto it this long as a memory of that time. I finally realized, with the help of Don Aslett and Flylady, that it was giving me more pain than pleasure when I looked at it. So, goodbye! I dusted the windowsill and the few things I put back on there (bud vase, wooden turtle we got in Jamaica, suncatcher that my son painted, the cookie jar, and a small basil plant). I cleaned off the microwave cart, dusted, and straightened. I did a brillo job on the bottom/broiler section of the stove - it's not perfect, not even nearly, but I made some headway. And then I swept and scrubbed just that area of the floor. So a small part of my kitchen is in much better shape.

    I added pictures to the weekend update post below. They are the "before" pictures.

    Monday, June 05, 2006

    Weekend Update #1

    Yesterday, I had to take on the living room. Partly because I had just bought a long-awaited piece of furniture (I know, the idea is to get stuff OUT, not bring stuff IN, but this was an opportunity I had to take - more on that later). The other reason I had to deal with the living room is that it just ISN'T a living room. We don't do any living there. We don't do any anything there. We fight over the tv in the bedroom because we don't even want to SIT out there. So, Sunday morning, when I woke up, I took the advice of the Apartment Therapy book and spent 10 minutes just sitting there. I don't actually know if it was 10 minutes, as my timer is lost amid the clutter. But I sat there as long as I could stand it.

    Here's what I saw... piles of toys in mid-play, chairs no one sits in, couches covered in toys, couch pillows thrown on the floor, a jumbled mess of buckets and cleaning stuff shoved under the turtle tank, picture frames that had fallen off the windowsill onto the floor, books fallen out of the bookcase and piled up in front, toys fallen out of the bins and piled up in front of those...

    In the center of all this were two endtables that I had pushed together as a coffee table. They actually did have a matching coffee table at one time, but it broke and we ditched it a while ago. I kept the end tables around even though they were never really right for our couches. And when more and more toys and stuff took over the living room, I had no more room for them, but couldn't bring myself to get rid of them (what if I *NEED* them???). Finally, in a last ditch effort to save them, I pushed them together as a coffee table. They didn't look right - they were too high, they have rounded corners so didn't exactly align end to end, and there really was just no room for them anyway. Hubby says get rid of them. I tried listing them on Craigslist, but no takers. So there they are.
    Our living room is actually quite large. Our computer desk and files are in a whole separate area. About a year ago I got the bright idea to move the kids' bookcase and some of their toy bins into that same corner, figuring they'd have a little nook to play in. The reality was that the computer chair always blocked the way and the "nook" was much too small for hanging out. They couldn't get to their stuff, and they certainly couldn't put it away, so the toys and books would just pile up IN FRONT of the bookcase and bins.

    looking west: fake coffee table, windows with mess beneath, random assortment of toys, laundry and moreLooking west. This is the view you would get as you enter the living room - almost as soon as you enter the apartment, really. Yikes.

    looking north: entertainment center, varied mess, fake coffee tableLooking north. This is what we see when we sit on the couch. Notice the fake coffee table.

    looking east: love seat, office nook, entry wayLooking east, back toward the entryway. Not too bad right? But you can't see the pile of toys behind the love seat...

    So here's what I got done on Sunday:
    -- first, picked up assorted junk in the living room and put in a big laundry basket. Put the dirty socks and blankets in another basket. Threw away some trash.
    -- Took all the picture frames off the windowsills (and floor), cleaned an inch of grime off the sills, changed the filter in the air conditioner so it's ready for use.
    -- Cleaned and put back *some* of the frames, but took most away, as they blocked the light and blocked the access to the window and a/c. Not sure where I will put them - they're in limbo for now.
    -- Drained the unused fishtank and discarded some old supplies. I was going to move the tank stand somewhere else, but hubby said to get rid of it - and he's right. It was second hand, it's wobbly, the wood is chipped, and it's not something I'd really want in my "someday" house. If we do decide to get more fish, we can worry about it then. So, we brought the stand to the basement. Maybe someone else in the building can give it a home, or maybe it will be trashed on Tuesday. Not my problem anymore. This also fulfills the Apartment Therapy requirement of throwing out one large item. YAY!
    -- took the cardboard box from under the turtle tank, got rid of it, and put the empty hermit crab tank (don't ask) in its place. put the buckets and supplies neatly alongside.
    -- moved the kids' bookcase and the hundreds of books, putting it in the spot where the fishtank had been. I managed to put a few books in the donations pile, though once the kids got involved, this became more difficult.
    --I ended up putting the two endtables in the kitchen - temporarily. I will decide this week whether to freecycle or donate. In the kitchen, I also put three large tupperware bins full of beanie babies and Disney beanies. The bins had been stacked up in the entry to the living room, with more toys on top of them. I still didn't have the heart to get rid of the beanies, but hopefully the kitchen will only be a temporary home. Can't promise, though.

    As I write this I'm realizing I didn't really get rid of very much - I mostly moved stuff around. But I'm trying.

    -- I moved the printer stand/files to where the toy bins had been, and put the toy bins where the tupperware boxes and the printer stand had been. (Only now my printer cord won't reach, so I have to buy a longer cord. Noted.) The toy bins are the TROFAST style from IKEA that hold removable plastic bins that slide in and out. They are great, but in 409 they are overstuffed and useless. I told the kids, NOTHING is going back into these bins unless they actively play with it. So now what I have is two empty bin stands. The toys are jammed into the 8 plastic bins, 3 milk crates, a shopping bag and several baskets, and piled up in the former "nook" area. It's mostly junk - goodie bag loot, McDonalds' toys, and other random things. I told them we are going to do one bin each night. Or half a bin, if we don't have the time. The only things that are going back in the bins are things they actually play with - at least that's my plan. Everything else is either getting thrown away, given away, or if they can't do either of those, we will put it into a big box in THEIR room. I only hope I can stick to my guns and get through this stuff.

    Everything is still fairly chaotic, but at least the "living" half of the living room is a little better. I did enjoy the sound of the kids laughing and playing in the cleared out living room.

    As for that piece of furniture and how I ended up with it... I do mystery shopping in my spare time (what spare time?) and I got an assignment at a furniture store with a very generous reimbursement. The reimbursement was about 5 times what this store's usual reimbursement is, and that's quite a bit. So I picked up a cherry-finish rocking chair. Hubby had been promising me a rocking chair ever since my first pregnancy, but we never went through with it because we couldn't justify spending the money when we didn't have the space. Well, we still don't have the space, but the chair was free, so... there you go. It looks nice but the space behind it still needs organizing.

    Pictures later...

    Oh, also, over the weekend, I cleaned out the bottom of the hall coat closet, which is mostly outdoor stuff. I threw away a crumpled, yellowed plastic rain cover for the stroller and a broken paddleball game. I brought several sand pails and a frisbee (we had 2) to the basement for trash-pickers. I organized the rest of the stuff a little better - at least for now. And I got rid of a shopping bag full of outgrown snowsuits. Unfortunately I only managed to move them into a plastic bin. But once the winter season comes, I will give them away. I think.

    Friday, June 02, 2006

    Welcome to Apartment 409

    After years - my whole life, really - of being a pack rat, saver, sentimental collector... after nine+ years of marriage to another collector, and two children with an unequalled collection of fast food toys and junk from the junk dispensers at the local diner... after trying FLYLADY for five years or more and still not "flying"...

    I think I'm ready to do it. I am finally going to get my apartment, my car, and my life decluttered.

    The other day I picked up two books. One was "Apartment Therapy" by Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, creator of the apartment therapy blog, and the other was "Clutter's Last Stand," by Don Aslett. I'm hoping these two books (which I am still devouring), along with the Flylady principles I've picked up and am still trying to implement, will help me get going.

    Well if Flylady could see into my head, Don Aslett is LIVING IN MY BRAIN. His book is so awesome and I think it's finally given me the courage to throw out some of the emotional and physical clutter that is suffocating my family and me.

    In the world of Flylady, a new month started yesterday, which means we are focusing on the foyer and dining room. In 409, this means a long, narrow hallway with a coat closet, coak hooks, storage bench shelf and shoe rack, along with a small half-room that has our too-big dining table, and overstuffed china closet. Flylady says "15 minutes a day" but most nights I can barely swing five minutes. Still, last night, I managed to clean off the shelf over the bench. I put two items on eBay (a pair of new Ninja Turtle slippers without tags, and some coupons from a casino guidebook), two items on my local Freecycle (a circular fluorescent lightbulb that was the wrong size, and a pyrex measuring cup), and one item on (a CD that my hubby never opened, didn't want, but felt guilty returning). I threw out a broken picture frame and an old, ripped tote bag we were using for one of our many diaper bags. From inside the bag, I tossed a dirty disposable bib and some wrapped, bent straws. I moved the bag's clean diapers to a basket in the bedroom (even though my 3 year old daughter just gave up diapers). I put the spare briefs and socks (my 6 year old son's) back into his drawer. I added the little fast food toys to the ever-growing pile (an issue for another day). Of course, all this did take longer than 5 minutes, but now I have a shelf that is clean except for 2 bike helmets and a bucket of sidewalk chalk. I'm hoping to move some of the outdoor stuff from the closet floor, where it is a jumbled mess, onto the shelf.

    Have to remember to take before and after pictures.

    As for the Apartment Therapy book... it presents an 8 week "cure" for apartments, which is probably too ambitious for me. Still, in the last 2 nights I've gotten it started - bought flowers for the table, and made a list of necessary repairs. Other chores for the week include a thorough vaccuming and mopping, sitting for 10 minutes in a room I never sit in, and putting one large item out in the trash.

    .... Lookie! More toys for us!