I have finally pinpointed the source of my anxiety and depression, and am taking action to combat it.
In one hand is a trash bag, in the other, a donation box. Bring it on.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Kitchen Cupboards

After my previous (self imposed) humiliation, I decided that I should get my butt in gear. My bedroom may be an overwhelming and daunting task, but my kitchen is only slightly cluttered. (And for those who know me and were a little shocked at the bedroom: Yes, there IS a reason why the bedroom is such a black pit: My kids. It's the only place where I can shut the door and not have my boys get into and thrash EVERYTHING, and I'm afraid I take advantage of that fact far too often.)

But I digress... the kitchen. I devoted an hour to it last night, and I was able to go through three cupboards and three drawers. I started by eliminating our extra sets of dishes. I decided to keep the white (seating for four) and the yellow (seating for 6). They weren't in the best shape, (as they have a few chips) but they were the most complete sets and I like the colors. (There are a few missing in the photo, since these were taken just after dinner.)

We also decided that we only really need one set of glasses, so we are ditching the random blue glasses. They have a tendency to break anyway, (and were from my husband's bachelor days, along with the blue dishes) so there were only a handful left. (There's only a portion of them in the photo since there were a bunch currently being washed. You may also notice a cute little pumpkin candy dish... which for some reason never made it back into the Halloween decorations. It's now chillin' out in my room *shudder*, along with some trick-or-treating buckets and Easter baskets.) 

Because we made space in the cupboards, I was able to move our plastic toddler plates, bottles, sippy cups, and turquoise plastic "picnic" gear all into the same cupboard. Now all of our dinnerware can be found in the same place!

Because I moved items over from another cupboard, I decided to tackle it and the three drawers below it next. I started by moving the remaining baby gear out of the cupboard. Tiny bowls, formula/cheerio containers, and those little mesh teethers that are meant for feeding babies cold fruit. (I love those things.) This stuff hadn't been used in months, so there isn't really much sense for keeping it handy. I've started a box of things to go into storage, with the rest of the baby items. 

 Then I pulled everything out of the cupboards and drawers. 
YEESH. There's stuff in there that I had completely forgotten we had!!

I decided to start with the simplest AND most frightening area: THE JUNK DRAWER. 
(Dun, dun, dunnnn.)

I tossed all the garbage, old batteries and random sauce packets, put the candles together in a zip-lock baggie, and tidied up the drawer. I had forgotten that there was a calculator in there! Handy.
Next came the task of choosing which measuring cup and spoon sets to keep. I have quite a few other measuring tools, so it's not as though I need two sets of these. 
My husband prefers the red cups (as evidenced by a few being dirty at the time of photo) and the metal spoons are rusting and not food quality. I've decided to keep the unwanted ones for now, because I want to try out making my own laundry detergent. Once I find the recipe I like, I'll keep what I need for making it and toss the rest. :)
Here's the completed "measuring" shelf. I have two nice Pampered Chef wet/dry measuring devices, and the one with the tilted side (for more accurate pouring) is great for holding the spoons and medicine syringes. I also have a set of nesting glass Pyrex cups, which I love. 
Those two glass containers are Pampered Chef prep bowls, which I had forgotten I even had! Those things are really useful when cooking from scratch. I never would have found them if I hadn't cleaned out my drawers. 
Next I tackled what I've started to think of as the "sharp" shelf. My Pampered Chef chopper made the cut, as well as the super-fine grater. The large metal grater in back was one that I purchased a while ago to replace a broken grater (which for some reason was still chillin' in the drawer- what gives?) and the two items on the right are the blades I pulled out of the Food Processor. Ever since our two year old mastered the child latches, I've been wary of him being hurt on those, so why not put them up high?

The bin contains smaller items, like corn on the cob holders, a pizza wheel, zester, garlic press, veggie and potato peelers, can opener, cork screw... etc. All those fun pokey sharp things!

I would have liked to put my mandolin up there as well, but it was just too long to stand up or lay down on any of the shelves. 

Now there's a whole empty shelf!
Whatever will I DO with it??

(And yeah, I know, the painting and laminate job on these is pretty terrible. It's a rental, what can I say? The good news is, I have permission to spruce it up, so hopefully this summer I'll be scraping up the sticky stuff and repainting!)

At this point I dove head first into the two remaining drawers and my spatula vase. 

Drawer number one contains serving utensils. Salad claws, spreading knives, the ladel and pie server, tongs, etc. I also decided to put the pot strainer in there, so it would be handy next to the stove.

Drawer number two features cooking supplies. Rubber spatulas, the rolling pin, whisks, things like that. I was even able to fit my Kitchenaid Hand Mixer in there! The baggie tucked in the back has the icing piping bag and its various tips. 

I did manage to whittle down my cooking spoons and spatulas in the vase by quite a bit, surprisingly enough. I know, you're shocked. That thing used to be overflowing, though. I'm going to keep track of what I use, and get rid of any extras by the end of the month. I tend to use the bamboo more for serving, so I'll likely move them into the drawer... I guess it's still a work in progress.

A handful of the rejects. A melted spatula, busted up cheese grater, rusty ladle...

All in all, I'm really pleased with what I accomplished. I keep looking in the wrong places for things, but once I get over the initial "oh, yeah" moment, it's all so much easier to find. I'm not digging through drawers and I'm not reaching past the stuff that I don't actually want! Score.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Procrastination, Thy Name is Me.

I have been struggling here. I had have grand plans, but I can't seem to buckle down and accomplish them. I think I'm just overwhelmed. No big surprise, right? The entire point of becoming a minimalist is to live a simpler life. When I look around, though, and see the complicated mess we live in, I freeze up.

I've seriously spent the past week+ avoiding the issue. I tried a few times to work on things in my bedroom, but as a SAHM to two toddler boys, I soon found myself giving up, shoving everything into a lump in the corner, and pretending it wasn't there. My bedroom has actually gotten WORSE since I started trying to declutter. I go in there, and feel like crying, I'm so overwhelmed. This morning I found myself daydreaming about some kind of fire or flood... that is NOT healthy thinking. I would just trash everything and start over, but as much as there is a lot of crap stuff in there, there's also a lot of nice, important things there.

Here... I'll show you what I'm talking about. This is just a peek of my bedroom, through the door...

I'm seriously so close to not sharing this, I'm really embarrassed. Maybe I'll be able to shame myself into getting it all finished, if for no other reason than that that I need to redeem myself.

Like I said before, it has gotten worse since I started trying to get things cleaned out. The dresser is covered in all the books that used to be in storage or on our second bookshelf (the repurposed DVD rack.) We were going to order a second, matching bookshelf ($25 @ Walmart.com!) so that our needs would be met... but they are out of stock! There is one that matches it in the boys' bedroom, so I'm considering stealing it and getting a different style for their room. I guess we'll see if it comes back into stock in the next couple days. I don't want to wait any longer.

The hope chest is now empty! It used to contain all of my "this is too precious to toss, but I can't justify having it out" stuff. You know... precious baby shoes, moments from our wedding, my graduation cap, love letters, things of that nature. I managed to whittle it down to just the things that would make me cry should they be lost, and put them into a rubbermaid container. I marked it <3PRECIOUS THINGS<3 and lovingly booted it all to storage. The bin is only half full, so there's plenty of space for me to squirrel away future items.

I'm planning on putting our sheets and blankets (currently stacked against one wall, yikes!) into the chest. Hopefully that will open up some space so that I'm not quite so overwhelmed at the thought of working in there.

As much as I'd like to go through my clothes RIGHT NOW, it's just not realistic. I'd have to have a whole day, and tackle the entire room. In my life, that's not happening. I guess I'll just have to keep chipping at it, one pile at a time.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Changing the Way I Shop.

We've been busy with life here, but that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about my new mission. In the past few days I've nearly purchased something and changed my mind THREE TIMES. Who knew that I so frequently had the urge to purchase unneeded things? Can you imagine the money I can save?

Of course, there have been even more occurrences of buyers remorse. It really is a learning process. I'll get home and realize that I bought something (or somethings) that I plain didn't need... and didn't really want. I'm going to challenge myself (and you!) to stop and think about EVERY item I place up on that counter. To consider the cost. How much time of my life am I trading to own this? Exactly where will I place it? Do I already have something that will do the job?

My little sister, who was the recipient of quite a few pieces of furniture, shared these photos with me the other day.

Our bench found new life in her sons room, serving as toy storage. Previously the toys had just been piled up in the storage.

And the TV with its stand have been set up and working great in her living room. The bottom drawer had its face fall off on the way home, but she'll able to easily repair it with a little wood glue.

I'm glad that I was able to re-home some nice furniture that I was just not using. It feels good!

Yesterday we pulled our window A/C out of storage, and while we were there I spotted and snagged the very last box of clothes that I have in storage. I've had two babies in the last 2.5 years, so to say that my weight has been fluctuating would be an understatement. Six months ago I had boxes and boxes of everything from size 6 (which is what I wore when I met my husband, 5.5 years ago) to size 17, befitting my post-baby body, to maternity and nursing clothes. Now that our youngest is 14 months old, I've managed to work my way down to a healthy (and hopefully steady!) size 8/10, the time has come for me to ditch the stuff that doesn't work.

Why am I keeping those size 17 jeans in the closet? Am I giving myself permission to once again be that size? No way! At least, not without giving birth first, and I don't plan on doing that again for quite a few years. So why am I holding onto them? Now that I have all these clothes shoved into my closet, I can't find what fits (USEFUL) and what I like (BEAUTIFUL). Aren't those the rules? Only what is useful and beautiful? If I never wear something because of a stain or snag, then there is really no point in keeping it.

So, my next project: Closet Catastrophe. Stay tuned for the carnage.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Unseen Consequences

One benefit of cleaning my pantry is that I'm suddenly much more aware of what we have. Before when mealtime came 'round, I'd stand in front of the piles of food and be so overwhelmed that I'd be unable to come to any conclusion. (Which led to take-out and drive-through meals far more often than I'd like to admit.) Now, I look into my pantry and I'm inspired. I know what's there and I'm suddenly excited to cook again.

Yesterday I made these mini-muffins from a long forgotten box of blueberry muffin mix. There were so good that my family gobbled them right up.

I ended up picking up another package from the store last night when I went for the cheese we needed for dinner. We had enchilada and tortilla soup, so good! I had no idea that we even had so many cans of enchilada sauce until I went through the pantry.

There are other benefits that I hadn't anticipated, as well. I ended up getting rid of all the unnecessary "snack" foods, and moved the cans to where they had been. I've found myself opening that cupboard multiple times, looking for something to nibble on. When I see the cans I'm reminded that I don't need to be eating right now. It seems that there's health benefits to a minimal lifestyle, as well!

My next project, sticking with the theme of food, seems to be the refrigerator. I've yet to pull it all out, but I honestly don't think I would be doing myself any favors by doing so. Let's just say that there are a few leftovers that we never got around to eating. I'm chipping away at the Tupperware and Rubbermaid containers, bit by bit. Once I'm left with only edible things, I'll go about cleaning it out. Even if there's nothing to throw away, I'm sure that the fridge could stand a good scrubbing. Not to mention putting things to order.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Operation: Pantry

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you my pantries. We have limited cupboard space in our apartment, so when we moved in we decided to purchase these beauties.

It looks innocent enough with the doors closed. The top is pretty shameful. I have cookbooks, toddler art supplies, vases, old magazines and abandoned crochet projects piled up. I'll have to address that another day, though, since most of it depends upon our second bookshelf being put into our bedroom.

Once you open it, you can see the piles and disorganization. I'll spare you the closeups, just know that everything is stacked three or four items deep. The drinks on the table are what we chose to keep from the old bench, which used to sit beneath the painting.

I tried to start by just plucking things out, then I remembered the rules. Take EVERYTHING OUT, then decide what needs to be put back in. Pick what to keep, not what to toss.

 So... out it all came!

That's..... a lot more food than I thought we had.

Not to mention tortilla chips!! Why do we have FOUR bags?

Let's just say that we had nachos for dinner last night.

A few hours and some close scrutiny later, I was able to turn the pantry into this.

It's beautiful! I can see where everything is! I thought about packing it all in more closely so that I could fit other things in there... but then I remembered. This is about having less. This is about being streamlined, organized, and minimal. I'm not throwing things away so that I can make space for more. I'm making space for living!

Mission Accomplished!
I wonder what I should tackle next?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I've been a busy little bee the past few days. Between family obligations and the every day adventures of having two toddlers at home, I've managed to expel a good bit of furniture from our apartment. We've shed one bench, a rack of TV dinner trays, a side table, a TV, a TV stand, and a DVD rack, all gone to live with my little sister. (I made it clear to her that she was in no way obligated to take or keep any of it. She was welcome to say no to, sell, give away, or donate anything she liked.)

The TV and stand were extras that we had sitting in storage. Though I really (really) liked the stand, it didn't work in our space, and we couldn't use it because of its low profile. (Our kids are button pushers!) So why was I storing it? In hopes that I could use it one day, when we can afford to move in x years? Foolishness!

A little inspiration...
The bench is one that we've had for a while. It's actually one of the few pieces that moved with us from Florida, and I've held onto it all this time. There's just no space for it, and no real need for it . It's been shoved into one corner of our dining or living room since we moved in, and resulted in a lot of banged shins. As much as I love it, it's just not worth the space it's taking up.

I don't think we've used those TV trays a single time in... two years? Yeesh.

The DVD rack was actually being used as a make-shift second bookcase in our bedroom. We could only fit paperbacks onto it, and there were stacks and stacks of leftover books on our dresser. (Not to mention all the books crammed onto our first bookshelf, or stacked on the floor.) The shelf we still have is relatively cheap at Walmart, so we'd benefit from just getting a second matching self. It will take only a little more floorspace than the DVD rack did, and provide a LOT more storage. I could also use it to store office and craft supplies, in order to clear out some of my closet for clothes, and clear off our desk for working on. It just makes more sense. So yes, I am getting rid of something in order to bring something else in, but it is a fair trade since it will help solve the storage problem in our bedroom.

I'll be honest, I'm afraid of when the time comes to go through my books. I donated and stored hundreds of books when I moved to Florida, and many of the ones that were stored ended up being donated upon my return. (They were YA books that no longer interested me. Not classics, etc.) It was HARD for me to say goodbye to them. I LOVE books. One of my "dream home" fantasies involves a large library, with floor to ceiling wall to wall shelves, covered in leather bound books. That rich, almost musty smell is one of my favorites. Giving away a book feels like abandoning a friend...

Am I ever going to read this dime novel again, though?...probably not. Ok, fine. Definitely not. It's valuable real estate, to be wasting on something that doesn't hold any value for me beyond a sense of obligation.

I know that one day soon I'm going to have to address my books, and I'm going to have to say goodbye to a lot of them.

Thankfully, today is not yet that day. I'll be honest, I'm just not yet emotionally there.

The furniture, though.... I've not missed it. I thought I would at least feel sad that my bench was no longer there...


The only problem was that it WAS a storage bench, which we used to store overflow in drinks (soda, juice) from our two pantries. Those drinks are now on the floor along the wall in my kitchen. Nooooot the best place for them.

I think the next step in Mission: Minimalism is going to be the pantries. It's time to clean them out! There's some stuff in there that's been hanging around for ages, never getting used. I wonder if there's even enough space in there to store some of our counter cluttering and cupboard hogging appliances? Only cleaning it will tell! I'll be sure to post before and after photos, though they may be cell phone pics. My memory card seems to have disappeared in the sea of clutter...