Sunday, January 26, 2014

AT's January Cure: Living room refresh

Alright, can I ask you something? Am I the only one who's had  30-seconds tasks on her to do list for five years? Seriously. Today we finished something that took 30 seconds. And we've been meaning to do that ever since we moved here, actually I think we meant to do it in the old house. 

So, yeah, I'm still working on AT's January Cure. In fact, we've been tackling so many of the little things, and the larger projects we just didn't get around to.  Or didn't do because, frankly, sitting on the couch with some cookies and hot tea is way more fun after a long week than causing a giant mess in your house by cleaning, purging and rearranging.

And it does make a mess. Funny, but for me cleaning and purging always makes a mess. Yes, technically there is the outbox for that, but somehow stuff just ends up all over the house, waiting to be returned to its original place, waiting to be found a home for or waiting to be dealt with in some other way.

Like that huge white drawer full of DVDs that has been sitting in my living room since last week -  removed from the TV chest that we've removed and waiting for us to digitalize the DVDs. Or the stuff from the outbox that we've been putting up for sale. Not to mention the two large laundry baskets full of magazines that I am slowly making my way through.

I hate that. Isn't organizing meant to make your house nice and clean? Sigh. Guess it'll take another couple of days until the last things are put away / recycled / sold.

But let's look at what we did get done:

8. Keep Yourself on Track: Get a Get-Together Together

Uhm, well. Not really doing this one. We have a birthday coming up at the end of the month, and while we did use the Cure last year to prep for a party, this year we've decided to just send the kids off to the grandparents and enjoy a nice weekend for two. Much better reward for all that hard work if you ask me!

9. The Clutter Filter: Create a Landing Strip

Still working on this one. We've rearranged a few things in the hallway and I did add a wooden bowl we had to throw in keys and such, but I need to take a trip to Ikea to buy some wall organizer I can use for storing brushes, lipstick and other accessories for getting out the door quickly in the morning.

10. Unplug for an Evening: Try a Media Fast

Instead of getting out my laptop, I went through stacks of old magazines last week. The result? A big stack of magazines ready to be recycled and not much done in terms of blogging, editing photos or starting the 2014 edition of my annual photo book. Not sure I like this. I think I do need the time when the kids are in bed to be creative - well, as creative as my brain allows me to once it's half-asleep from a long workday. But you know what I mean. What I did find is that it actually makes sense to close the laptop once I find myself mindlessly browsing Pinterest or worse, shopping for things we do not really need might urgently need at some point in the future. Once my brain refuses to wake up, I might just as well go to bed. Revolutionary, I know.

11. The Halfway Point!: Project Progress

Not the most productive of days, but I did some prep work for the big living room rearranging all week, so maybe that counts... ahem. 

12. Weekend Chores: Flowers, Bedroom Cleaning & Wardrobe Organizing

Lots of progress over the weekend. Not on the bedroom though, mind you. But hey, if you can get your significant other to help you with that goal project you've been meaning to do, you're not gonna go and clean out your closet instead, are you? Didn't think so. Besides, my closet will get it's semi-annual clean-out when it gets a tad warmer and I can pull my Spring wardrobe out and sell all things I am not delighted to see again plus all things that didn't get worn all winter long. 

Only bedroom progress was cleaning out my sock drawer and doing the regular weekly dusting / vacuuming / mopping. 

But, folks, we did go from this:

To this:

And all just with rearranging and purging. We got rid of a ton of things, including the already mentioned magazines, lots of technical equipment, DVDs, CDs and countless other things that were just there because they had a place.

Do you have that, too? Things that live in your house simply for no other reason than that there is space on the shelf for them and they are still good? We had plenty of these things.

Now, we have a lot more space and only those things left that we really need. The only things we bought were two guitar holders and a large canvas of one of my photos. Everything else we already had somewhere (such as the lampshade and lamp or the four white ramekins that from the kitchen clean out the week before). Sunday we went for a walk with the kids and got some branches that sit in a vase and yesterday we put up the canvas that came in the mail. 

I'm still sitting here with a big grin, happy over the fact that we got it done. Looks so much nicer now, I have no idea why we didn't do it in the first place.

13. Less Mess & Stress: Getting Your Paperwork & Files Organized

Ugh. That was my otherwise free Monday morning. It was ugly. And I don't really want to talk about it. Still some things left to organize, but overall just surprised that something you do regularly can take so much longer if you decide to really do it, I mean, not just putting all the new papers on top of the old ones (which are neatly organized, mind you), but really go through ALL of it and decide if you really, really need to save it.

14. Worth It: Clear Up Cord Clutter

Busy workweek. Still had it from Monday. So. No. Didn't clean up any cord clutter whatsoever. Although, not true, stuck one visible extension cord back where it belongs. I did, however, remind my dearest that there are still cord-related things on his to do list... ahem. 

15. Declutter & Organize: Bathroom Cabinets Cleanout

That took half an hour while dinner was cooking and it was so good to get done. I should've taken a photo of what I tossed, some really amusing things in there. Heart-shaped hair clips, anyone? Elastics that no longer have any relation to their name anymore? Self-tanning body lotion from I-have-no-recollection-of-ever-buying-let-alone-using-that? Ahhh, that is the Cure at it's best. Quick decisions, easy disposal (hello, garbage bin) and instant gratification. Check!

Medicine? Well, that doesn't live in my bathroom, because really, medicine shouldn't live in bathrooms. There are two wall-mounted cabinets with locks for that, one for kids, one for adults with the contents sorted by illness. Yeah, could've sorted through that, too. But really, it was time for dinner and as I said, it doesn't live in my bathroom... ahem.

16. Lightening Up: Declutter Media Collections

Does tossing all those magazines and CDs over the weekend count here? 

17. Weekend Chores: Flowers, Outbox, Living Room & Lighting

With last weekend, we don't really have much left to do here. I already did add a table lamp, and while I would love to replace the floor lamp by my couch that makes me squint at magazines trying to decipher text, it's not in the budget right now and also will depend on the new couch I'll eventually get (been saying that for two years now.). So for now, it stays. Emptying the outbox is always my least favorite part, it seems to take forever and requires so may trips to drop off things, ugh. But this time I am really going to face it and get all things out of the house by  next week!

My favorite part is the energy the Cure sets free. I find myself constantly decluttering things and sorting as I go, no matter if they are assignments or not, on my list or not. And I am still hopeful that this year I can really sort through most parts of the house before Summer comes. 

So that was it for me - how has it been going for you? What's your most favorite part and what parts do you loathe?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

AT's January Cure: The kitchen. And then some.

You know that feeling when you’re totally exhausted, but still glad? That was me Sunday night. I knew the kitchen cleaning and organizing task that is part of AT’s January Cure would be quite a bit of work, but I had no idea it was going to be this bad. I mean, I do believe that I have a fairly organized kitchen, after all, organizing drawers is something I’d do for fun (believe it or not), only to keep opening that drawer, smile at the nicely organized contents and close it again. Yes, that is something I like.

And yet, that kitchen task took me all weekend, and more. But let’s start with the beginning of the week.

Monday: get a fresh perspective

The theory is you sit in a spot for 10 minutes that you never sit in, and try to get a new perspective on a room. Ideally that makes you think of ways to improve the flow of a room or change that one thing that’s always been bugging you but you never really knew why.

I sat in the open door to my tiny entry, trying to figure out a way to make the flow of kids coming in with dirty shows, winter jackets, hat, scarves and school backpacks fit better into that little space. We had made some changes over the weekend as part of the floor cleaning task (LINK!!!), such as bringing in a stepstool leftover from the bathroom for little brother to sit on and take his shoes off. Still, that space feels cluttered and cramped. Well, actually it IS cluttered and cramped, because it’s just too small for four people and their stuff. I knew that when the floor plans of the house were being finalized, and yet I rather wanted some extra space in my kitchen and not in my entry.

We already keep extra coats, shoes and accessories tucked away in a nearby closet and have (labelled!) baskets for the kids’ hats and such, but still. But what I came up with is this:

-          that room really, really needs to be painted. And this time it’ll be painted white.
-          the coatrack holding the boys’ jackets needs to be hung higher – after all, we’ve lived here for close to five years and the kids have obviously grown a lot
-          I need to rethink the placement of that large mirror. I love it, but across from our coatrack it seems to visually double the coats. I will try to find another place for it and put a large-scale photograph in its place in an attempt to calm and widen the space
-          as already on my list (LINK!!!), I really need to find a new way to store those things like hairbrush and lipstick, preferably close to a smaller mirror
-          I need to remove as many things as possible from that room!

I also used my free morning on Monday to get a headstart on the kitchen and cleaned out the candy cabinet. I have absolutely no idea where all that stuff came from. It feels like I clean that out every month or so, and within no time at all it gets so cramped that the door will hardly close. This time, I had no mercy and threw a ton of stuff out, including all the cheap Halloween candy. I kept just as much as I can easily let my kids eat without having to worry, and I will have to have yet another serious talk with the grandparents about the sheer amount of sweets they bring. Two tiny bags with a kid-sized handful of gummybears are plenty, no need to buy the XXL bag for each boy. I mean, I found gummybears that were actually expired! And my kids love gummybears, but they can’t eat half a bag each day. Ugh. Such a waste.

Tuesday: Set up an outbox

That one was easy – put a large box into my storage closet. Done. Already added a few things to it. The weekend’s kitchen cleanout resulted in a separate outbox that we’ve put into the basement together with all the other things there that are waiting to be donated.

A lot of things that I purged also simply went into recycling or got dumped. Chipped bowls, expired foods and that gigantic surplus of chocolate.

Wednesday: Pick a project to cross off your list

Not quite sure about this one. I’d love to do some major living room re-arranging to make it less cramped and win back some wall space for floating shelves and ideally some large-scale art. But we’ll have to see how the month goes, and with half the family being sick last week, I called the living room project a bonus and focused on crossing a few of the kitchen things off my list while working on it over the weekend anyway.

Thursday: Prep artwork for framing and display

I was really lucky that my three workdays had light loads in terms of The Cure. For this one I decided to do it the other way around – not pick a piece of art to frame, but a frame that needs some new piece of art. Specifically the large ABC poster in the kids’ bathroom. It’s this lovely print by enna  and while I still think it’s beautiful, they simply have outgrown it. I still do love the dark wooden frame though, so last week I went through my photos from the last vacation at the beach and picked one. Actually took me until this week to finally get the measurements of the frame, decide whether I want the photo with or without a mat and order it. But it’s done and should be ready in time for hanging it as one of the next Cure assignments.

Friday – Sunday: Flowers, kitchen organizing and cleaning, make a meal

Nothing better to start your Friday than clean out the fridge and freezer, right? Well, at least the kids were at school so I could make a giant mess out of my kitchen, barely managing to clean it all up before I had to run out of the door to pick them up cleaning it all up, having a nice cup of tea and waiting for them at school. Ha. The upside was that little brother and I went for a nice and relaxed grocery shopping trip later that afternoon (and yes, if you usually deal with two kids arguing and racing their shopping carts around the aisles, taking just one of them shopping is actually nice and relaxed). He chose some red tulips for our weekly flowers, and we bought some chicken for making a citrusy grilled chicken Saturday.

I felt pretty good with the worst kitchen offenders already dealt with and flowers on my table. I should have known that if it takes me quite some time Monday to clean out one cabinet and all Friday morning to do the fridge, the rest of the kitchen wouldn’t exactly be a piece of cake either.

And let’s just say it wasn’t. By Saturday night I had at least dealt with all the food cabinets, plus those two drawers holding my baking pans, measuring cups and waffle irons (why, yes, I have two. One for waffles and one for ice cream cones. Not that I have ever made ice cream cones yet, mind you. Guess that is on my list for 2014, or else that thing will have a place reserved in next year’s outbox!) that had been driving me crazy for ages. But it was late, dinner was on the grill and the kids were tired.

Ah, right, that is why everything seemed to take even longer. Kids. Two of them. Having demands like wanting drinks, food and mommy to find that tiny little flashlight that belongs to one of those Playmobil figurines. Somehow I have a feeling this Cure thing would be easier if you could just keep working without interruptions, until late at night if you have to and then collapse onto the couch and order a pizza, oh, and sleep in the next morning. Well, no such luck. That reminded me why I don’t usually do weekend projects like this one and try to break tasks into chunks that I can finish off while they are at school and I am off work...

In the end we did get it done though, and although I am sure my men all think I am nuts and rolled their eyes here and there, they did let me work and even took the time to appropriately admire my work.

So this is what we ended up with for the outbox. I found a couple more things, such as a pair of fruit knives. Who on earth needs fruit knives?! I asked my mom when she came in, but she insisted that “people used to have them”. Right. And what for? “Well, for when you want to cut an apple of so”. Hmmm, when I want to cut an apple I use a real knife and cutting board, thank you very much. But what else is she going to say, she was the one who bought that stuff. I was going to add them to the outbox and took them out of their WMF package (yes, they were still in their original box, and made it through two moves. Go figure.) to see what they look like – turns out they look precisely like miniature versions of my regular WMF cutlery. So into the kids cutlery drawer they went, at least now they have knives sharp enough to cut their chicken themselves. Just another one of those why didn’t I think of that earlier moments.

Anyone else having these moments during The Cure? I find it has several effects:
-          these lightbulb moments where it finally dawns on you that an unbelievably simple solution for something that has been bugging you for ages is staring right in your face, and has been all along. You just didn’t see it.
-          you actually take those five minutes it really takes to clean up little messes instead of planning to add it to your to do list for five times before you actually do add it, and then postponing it another five times before you get around to it. So instead of wasting a lot of time and thought on “I have to remember to purge that battery drawer”, I took the box holding the batteries out yesterday, put all the dead ones into a recycling bag and organized the rest by battery, rechargeable and those teeny tiny special sizes. Then actually found and recharged three and put them into little brother’s flashlight, that has been sitting on my kitchen windowsill for ages, missing batteries. Amazing how simple things can be.
-          making plans. I can’t help it, even after making my master house list last week, I keep seeing things and adding to the list. I have a feeling, this Cure will take me longer than January... Much longer.
-          finally crossing off things you meant to do forever. Some of them never even made it on my list because I keep forgetting them. Am I the only one who finds that she forgot thing on her initial project list? Maybe I should have taken more time to write that one... Anyhow, funny thing is even though you have your plate full with assignments, you somehow manage to cross things off here and there, simply because it raises your awareness of the things that work and don’t work in your home. And I guess that is what The Cure really is about.

So we’ll see how this week goes, should be ok. Next week I am not so sure, it’s a busy one workwise and some of the assignments will take an hour or two (or more...). You know, paper clutter, bathroom cabinets and such.

This weekend’s assignment will be bedroom organization. Since I do my wardrobe twice a year anyway but usually more towards February or March when I can put the winter stuff away, there won’t be much to do. Maybe I’ll do a quick sock drawer makeover, but my overall plan is to try and get the living room changes underway. Since that involves quite some furniture moving as well as hanging the TV on the wall, I don’t really want to do that on my own.

What are your plans for the weekend? And what is your goal project for The Cure?

Happy organizing,

Saturday, January 4, 2014

AT's January Cure: Starting with a list

Every time AT starts one of their cures, I get excited. Like a fresh start, a clean beginning. I have to admit, last year's Kitchen Cure threw me off (I mean come on, take everything out of your kitchen cabinets, wipe down, sort and put back on say a regular Tuesday night after work and while the kids are waiting for dinner? Sorry, just not happening in my house), but I do love the concept of The Cure.

I did the January Cure last year, at least most of it. And the 20/20 cure the year before. Funny thing is, that even when you don't manage to complete every single assignment - it always gives you a new look at your surroundings. You start really seeing those piles of clutter. The little things you meant to fix - weeks ago. Months ago. The projects that didn't get done all the way. The things that sit somewhere because you don't really know where they belong and they've sat there so long that you start to not see them anymore.

The things you've been avoiding.

Day 1: And that was assignment one of the current January Cure: make a project list. Oh, and my list is long. (It also occurred to me that I need to update my home projects list on this blog. Oops.) Then focus on the few things you want to do for January. So, here we go:


  • clear off and declutter the windowsill, where unidentified plastic kid objects go to collect dust and ultimately die. Also, make pesto to use up that less than good looking basil and replace it with some rosemary. 
  • clear off counters as much as possible and try to find new homes in cabinets for some of the things
  • declutter oils and vinegars
  • use up excess food from the holidays
  • clean garbage drawer under the sink
Living room
  • get rid of TV unit and one of the cubby units. Turn the other two cubby units on their sides (they're similar to the Expedit), hang TV above one of them
  • rethink frames currently on the walls and make plans for new art
  • declutter kids craft materials 
  • declutter kids games and sell the ones we no longer use
  • Sort through bin with recycling stuff I keep for the kids to craft with
  • Go through and file papers (ugh)
  • Declutter fabric, find new home for fabric scraps
Kids room
  • start looking for new art for little brother's room
  • sort through toys and sell baby toys (mostly done over the holidays)
  • hang the guitar shelf that little brother and daddy made for big brother for Christmas
  • get big brother his own craft supplies, now that he and I sorted through every single drawer in his desk
Kids bath
  • start looking for new art replacing the babyish ABC poster, keeping the lovely frame
  • find a new wreath for our door
  • paint!
  • wash the rugs
  • finally get those mysterious stains off the tiles that have been there forever
  • declutter shelves
  • start looking for new art
  • source better way to keep brush, lipstick, kids detangled and other quick-out-the-door essentials nearby but not in plain sight (needs to be wall-mounted)
  • install new hooks for keys

Day 2. So this is where we're at for the weekend assignment:

Buy Flowers: did that while shopping on Friday. Got paperwhites again, and finally put my three tiny helleborus plants back outside today, nestled in a planter by the front door. 

Vacuum the rugs and clean ALL the floors: Two kids, two cats = I vacuum every day, at least downstairs. The floors in this house are dust bunny and crumb magnets. As for the mop, well, thanks to a very lovely migraine, this still didn't get done today and will have to wait until Sunday. No better day to mop all your floors than Sunday, right? At least I washed the bath mats already. 

Stock up on good green cleaners: We use mostly green cleaners, but not all. I haven't found a floor cleaner that does not leave streaks other than the one I use, and that is not green. But what has made a  difference to me is generally decluttering my cleaning products and just using some basics, most of them green, instead of all sorts of harsh and specialized cleaners. I did, however, use this as an excuse to browse the cleaner isle in the local drugstore for ten minutes and getting a new, green, lavender cleaner to use on the kitchen, kids bathroom etc. We'll see.

Anyone else doing the January Cure?