Clutter-Clearing “Container”

In the book Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act, the author Carolyn Koehnline says, “creating order can be messy.”  That’s certainly the truth.  I’m in the stage with my decluttering that some areas look worse now than before I started the process.  But I just try to keep my eye focused on the end result I’m hoping for, and just keep plugging away.

In her book, Koehnline suggests putting together what she calls a clutter-clearing container, a place to hold all your clutter-clearing process materials and a way to make sense of the mess that comes from decluttering.  She suggests something like:

  • a 3-ring binder
  • a file box
  • a digital folder

The container is basically a place to store and access notes and writings related to decluttering.  She says to skip this step if it seems too overwhelming for you.  At first, it did sound too overwhelming, but when I found myself reaching for a small steno notebook, I realized having a place to write about the process was a good idea for me.

I don’t feel the need to decorate my journal/container like she suggests at one point.  But I can see how that could be inspiring for some people.  I’m afraid I might get lost in the details of beautifying the journal and lose sight of the process of decluttering.  I think I just need to keep it all very plain and simple.

I also decided that updating my blog and Facebook page with thoughts and observations would give me another place to keep ideas and to keep track of my progress.  When notes from my steno notebook gel into something somewhat cohesive, I’ll share them here for safekeeping.

Things that Koehnline suggests keeping in the clutter-clearing container include:

  • helpful resources
  • details about projects
  • questions for self or others
  • process writing
  • inspirational quotes
  • poems
  • song lyrics
  • scriptures
  • pieces of own writing

I personally am just keeping notes on thoughts that come to me while reading Koehnline’s book, and the pieces of writing that are inspired by her book’s writing prompts, or by the process itself of clearing clutter.

Another idea she shares in her book for including in the container is photographs of “before and after.”  I haven’t included photos in my container(s), but I can see how that could be a valuable part of the decluttering journey.  Since I’ve already completed a few areas of my house, I might take a few “after” photos.  An empty bookcase.  Empty dresser drawers.  Neatly stacked boxes with carefully sorted Christmas decorations.

When I first read about her idea of keeping a clutter-clearing container, it didn’t resonate with me.  But as I found ways of adapting the idea to the way I work and the things that inspire me, it’s become the backbone of my decluttering project.  And also allows me to share my journey with others.

What sort of container do you think you would find helpful?

Decluttering Focus

I’m planning on moving in a year and downsizing in the process.  I hope to declutter enough that I’ll only be moving things with me that matter.  Right now, I have things in my home that I never use, so I’ve been asking myself if these unused items are things I want to haul with me to my next home.  The answer is frequently no.

I took a few minutes to make lists of the areas I need to focus on.

Big Picture Questions

What sorts of clutter do I have?

  • books
  • decorations
  • office supplies
  • clothing
  • bedding
  • games and puzzles
  • art supplies
  • kitchen gadgets and dishes

Which places are the most cluttered?

  • bedrooms
  • kitchen
  • office

How big of an endeavor is this project?

  • an entire house
  • a year’s time frame
  • a little bit at a time

I heard someone talk one time about how sometimes having a meandering focus can be helpful for people like me who can get overwhelmed with firm lists and agendas.  A meandering focus would be keeping the end result in sight, but allowing your time and attention to move organically through the project at hand.

For example, with my decluttering project I can keep the end goal (having things cleared out in a year) in my mind, but allow myself to move throughout the house fluidly as things come to the forefront.  I have most of my bedroom and its assorted closet space and drawers pretty much finished, I started working in the spare bedroom during and after the holidays, because I store much of my Christmas stuff in the closet there.  I’m going to move my focus into my office.  It might seem haphazard to other people, but it helps me to have the freedom to meander around my house as it seems appropriate.

A meandering focus is also like steering a sailboat.  You move around with the wind and waves but keep the destination always in sight.

Decluttering Fears

The book I’m reading, Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act, had us think about fears we might have that relate to decluttering.

Possible fears:

  • Not completing the process
  • Getting overwhelmed
  • Stirring up emotions; finding triggering objects
  • Regrets over things I part with

What should I do with those fears?

  • Acknowledge them gently.  All of them are real possibilities, so denying them isn’t helpful.
  • Not completing the process is an error in thinking because the process is a process, an on-going process.  There’s not a “finish,” but just a “doing.”  As long as I keep doing, it’s victory.  Even taking pauses in the process isn’t failure.
  • Triggering objects are everywhere in my house, so it’s just a matter of course that I’ll stumble upon them.  The last time I did, I sat quietly, breathed slowly and deeply, and practiced being mindful of my immediate surroundings.  I also talked with someone about it.
  • I might regret some things I’ll part with.  In fact, I already do.  So, I gently acknowledge the regret, I don’t beat myself up about it, and I move forward.

There are probably more fears than this, but these are the ones that came to my mind the first time I thought about it.  I’d actually never thought about ways that fears could potentially interfere with success with clearing clutter.

Random Thoughts on Decluttering

Thoughts about decluttering:

I don’t want to carry clutter with me. I want to make a fresh start, with spaces for newness of life to come in.

If I work a little bit every day, the project will be done thoughtfully and thoroughly. I have already begun by clearing some drawers and shelves. I have found bags and boxes to donate, bags and boxes to throw away, and will find the bags and boxes meant to be kept.

There is healing in the clearing. Even when there is pain, there is healing. This process won’t always be easy, but it won’t always be difficult, either.

One room at a time. One closet at a time. One drawer at a time.

I will touch all of it, and all of it will touch me.

I will be my own helper, my own cheerleader, and my own deepest friend and companion on this journey. And throughout the process, I will make room for my Future and for my Future Self.

Proclamation for Clutter Clearing

The book I’m reading (Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act) had me identify a person or thing or concept to dedicate the clearing process to, and then to write a short proclamation of intention.

“I proclaim that my clutter-clearing process is an act of devotion to my Future, and to my Future Self. As I clear my clutter, I am making room/space for a deeper, more vibrant engagement with my Future, opening myself to new possibilities, and trusting, as I go, that richer treasures will come into my life.”

This weekend, I made a list of the next areas of my house that I need to focus on, and came up with 1) the Master bedroom and bathroom, 2) the spare bedroom closet, and 3) Christmas things. Since I will be taking down my tree and putting away other holiday decor, Christmas things moves to the top of the list.

I’ve found that after some difficult family things happened a few years ago, I can be triggered into great grief and sadness unexpectedly when I come across items with heavy emotional attachments. I’ve moved on to a place in my healing that I can now let go of things that bring me pain without the guilt that used to accompany parting with highly charged items.

I’ve noted that several of the ornaments on the tree this year were bringing me haunting grief when I’d see them, so I’ve decided as I take down the tree, the ornaments that bring pain will be finding their way into the donation box to find a new home. I’ve come a long way. The first couple of years, I couldn’t put up any of my ornaments and just bought a box of inexpensive plain ornaments that I used for a couple of years. Each year since, I’ve taken steps to reclaim my holiday decor. Now what’s on the tree are ornaments that bring me joy and happy memories. It took a while to get to that place.

So, I’m going to start the New Year with clearing holiday clutter. There may be some pain lurking in the process, but I know from experience, there are also steps leading to healing.

Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act

I’ve been doing a slow-but-steady decluttering project in preparation for some big changes coming in my life. I don’t want to carry my excess clutter into the next phases. I want to open up space in my life so there’s room for new things to come in. And by “things,” I don’t mean more clutter. I mean new and clearer vision and purpose and connection and perception and people and dreams and passions and adventures. Not necessarily big things, either. Just the small everyday actions of a new life stage that’s coming in the next year.

A friend recommended a book to me called Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act by Carolyn Koehnline. I’m finding its collection of gentle essays, poems, writing prompts, and ideas resonates with me. It’s not so much a “how to declutter” book (although some of those are wonderful), but more of an inspiring look at finding reasons to declutter and ways to find focus and success with the process.

My decluttering process is going to take place over the course of a year. I have almost exactly twelve months to clear out all the things that don’t belong in this next stage of life. Taking things step by step, room by room, closet by closet, drawer by drawer, I feel it’ll be a process that has the potential to succeed with what I need it to do.

The first assignment in the book was to identify someone or something you can devote your clutter clearing to, and then write out a dedication. I choose to dedicate this process to my Future, and to my Future Self.

“As I clear out space and make openings in my home, it will make spaces that are open and ready to be filled with the newness of a new stage of life, an exciting Future, and a new Future Self.”

Grandma’s pancakes

My grandmother cooked pancakes
on a large round griddle

with a spatula that had come through
many meals before

so many hours I spent at her side
begging to flip the pancakes

a large brown ceramic bowl
cold to the touch

stiff peaks of beaten egg whites
folded in carefully

Grandma’s secret weapon
against boring breakfasts

a glimpse into days gone by
only the womenfolk cooked breakfast

only the menfolk got away with
not cooking or cleaning up

these were the years before this budding feminist
shouted it’s not fair to whoever would hear

200+ Summertime Boredom Busters

 

I was talking with one of my neighbors yesterday. It was her kids’ last day of school and they were starting to look foward to finding summer activities. She told me their first step is to make a huge poster with lists of potential activities they can check off as they do them. She told me the idea for the poster had come to her after reading my list of summertime boredom busters. They tailored the list to their family’s interests, put it into a format that made sense to them, and have done it for several years now with great success.

The following is the list she used for her original inspiration that was originally brainstormed a number of years ago by me and a group of young moms I knew at the time. Perhaps you can find some ideas here, too.

1. ride bikes
2. roller blade
3. basketball
4. play board games
5. make a tent out of blankets
6. squirt with hoses
7. run through the sprinkler
8. jump rope
9. read books
10. blow bubbles
11. make homemade play dough
12. play with play dough
13. press flowers
14. do crafts with pressed flowers
15. write a letter to a relative, friend or pen pal
16. clean bedroom
17. vacuum living room
18. clean bathroom
19. make a craft
20. draw
21. color
22. paint
23. pull weeds
24. watch a movie
25. write stories
26. use binoculars
27. use magnifying glass
28. use microscope
29. bird watching
30. write a play
31. act out a play
32. invent circus acts
33. perform a circus
34. play card games
35. make art on the front walkway with sidewalk chalk
36. play catch
37. play baseball
38. collect rocks
39. collect leaves
40. collect feathers
41. play Frisbee
42. make Frisbee’s out of old plastic lids, decorate with markers
43. dust the house
44. brush the pet
45. write letters
46. read a magazine
47. play dress-up
48. play Cowboys
49. pick vegetables
50. play outside with the pet
51. build a fort in your rooms
52. build a fort in the backyard
53. do a jigsaw puzzle
54. play on the Geo-Safari or other educational game
55. play on the computer
56. listen to a story or book on tape
57. do extra schoolwork to get ahead
58. do brain teasers (ie: crosswords, word searches, hidden pictures, mazes, etc.)
59. cook
60. prepare lunch
61. surprise a neighbor with a good deed
62. play store
63. prepare a “restaurant” lunch with menus
64. hold a tea party
65. have a Teddy bear picnic
66. play with toy cars
67. play dolls
68. play house
69. chase butterflies
70. collect caterpillars and bugs
71. plant a garden or a pot
72. collect seeds
73. hunt for four-leaf clovers
74. learn magic tricks
75. put on a magic show
76. plant a container garden
77. sprout seeds or beans
78. make sock puppets
79. put on a puppet show
80. make Christmas presents
81. make homemade wrapping paper
82. make homemade gift cards
83. make picture frames from twigs glued onto sturdy cardboard
84. crochet or knit
85. make doll clothes
86. sew buttons in designs on old shirts
87. run relay races
88. make bookmarks
89. take a quiet rest time
90. take a shower or bath
91. bathe a pet
92. feed the birds or squirrels
93. watch the clouds
94. organize a dresser drawer
95. clean under the bed
96. empty dishwasher
97. vacuum under the couch cushions and keep any change found
98. write these ideas on pieces of paper and pick out one or two to do
99. whittle
100. whittle bars of soap
101. practice musical instruments
102. perform a family concert
103. teach yourself to play musical instrument (recorder, harmonica, guitar)
104. fold laundry
105. sweep kitchen or bathroom floors
106. sweep front walkway
107. sweep or spray back patio
108. sweep or spray driveway
109. wash car
110. vacuum car
111. vacuum or dust window blinds
112. clean bathroom mirrors
113. clean sliding glass doors
114. clean inside of car windows
115. wash bicycles
116. clean garage
117. play in the sandbox
118. build a sandcastle
119. work with clay
120. copy your favorite book illustration
121. design your own game
122. build with blocks or Legos
123. create a design box (copper wire, string, odds-and-ends of things destined for the garbage, pom-poms, thread, yarn, etc.)
124. plan a neighborhood or family Olympics
125. have a marble tournament
126. paint a picture with lemon juice on white paper and hang it in a sunny window and see what happens in a few days
127. finger paint with pudding
128. make dessert
129. make dinner
130. give your pet a party
131. paint the sidewalk with water
132. start a journal of summer fun
133. start a nature diary
134. have a read-a-thon with a friend or sibling
135. have a neighborhood bike wash
136. play flashlight tag
137. play Kick the Can
138. check out a science book and try some experiments
139. make up a story
140. arrange photo albums
141. find bugs and start a collection
142. do some stargazing
143. decorate bikes or wagons and have a neighborhood parade
144. catch butterflies and then let them go
145. play hide-and-seek
146. create a symphony with bottles and pans and rubber bands
147. listen to the birds sing
148. try to imitate bird calls
149. read a story to a younger child
150. find shapes in the clouds
151. string dry noodles or O-shaped cereals into a necklace
152. glue noodles into a design on paper
153. play hopscotch
154. play jacks
155. make up a song
156. make a teepee out of blankets
157. write in your journal
158. find an ant colony and spill some food and watch what happens
159. play charades
160. make up a story by drawing pictures
161. draw a cartoon strip
162. make a map of your bedroom, house or neighborhood
163. call a friend
164. cut pictures from old magazines and write a story
165. make a collage using pictures cut from old magazines
166. do a secret service for a neighbor
167. plan a treasure hunt
168. make a treasure map
169. make up a “Bored List” of things to do
170. plan a special activity for your family
171. search your house for items made in other countries and then learn about those countries from the encyclopedia or online
172. plan an imaginary trip to the moon
173. plan an imaginary trip around the world, where would you want to go
174. write a science-fiction story
175. find a new pen pal
176. make up a play using old clothes as costumes
177. make up a game for practicing math facts
178. have a Spelling Bee
179. make up a game for practicing spelling
180. surprise an elderly or homebound neighbor or relative by weeding his/her garden
181. finger paint with shaving cream
182. collect sticks and mud and build a bird’s nest
183. write newspaper articles for a pretend newspaper
184. put together a family newsletter
185. write reviews of movies or plays or TV shows or concerts you see during the summer
186. bake a cake
187. bake a batch of cookies
188. decorate a shoe box to hold your summer treasures
189. make a hideout or clubhouse
190. make paper airplanes
191. have paper airplane races
192. learn origami
193. make an obstacle course in your backyard
194. make friendship bracelets for your friends
195. make a wind chime out of things headed for the garbage
196. paint your face
197. braid hair
198. play tag
199. make a sundial
200. make food sculptures (from pretzels, gumdrops, string licorice, raisins, cream cheese, peanuts, peanut butter, etc.) and then eat it
201. make a terrarium
202. start a club
203. take a nap outside on your lawn
204. produce a talent show
205. memorize a poem
206. recite a memorized poem for your family.

Excerpted from The Original Simple Mom’s Idea Book by Deborah Taylor-Hough

 

Keeping Your Summertime Organized

(Excerpted from The Original Simple Mom’s Idea Book.)


Just because life is a bit more relaxed during the lazy days of summer doesn’t change the fact that we still need to know where things are and keep them handy. Here are some simple tips to keep your summertime activities and supplies running smoothly.

1) Keep like items grouped together in separate crates: BBQ supplies, pool maintenance supplies, etc.

2) Keep a basket of beach towels clean and rolled up in the laundry room near the outside door for easy pool, lake, beach, sprinkler, play.

3) Keep a handled bin in the back of your trunk or van for putting supplies, groceries, etc. and keeping them from rolling all over the car.

4) Have an insulated bag rolled up in the trunk, too, for keeping frozen foods cold on the trip home from the store on hot days.

5) Keep a folded blanket or sturdy tablecloth in the back of the car for impromptu picnics in the park, or to sit on during an outdoor theater or concert event.

6) Store all hand-held gardening and weeding tools in plastic bucket with a handle. Trowel, gloves, knee pad, etc.

7) Hang a shoe-bag organizer over the back of one of the car’s front seats for your kids to store their toys, books, games, maps, water bottle, and other car or travelling related supplies. If the bag’s too long, cut it to length and hem the bottom.

8) In your guest bathroom, keep a small bin or wooden box on the countertop for easy access with a collection of summertime ointments and lotions. Sunscreen (a variety of SPF levels), aloe, hand lotion, bug spray/lotion, antiseptic, anti-itch lotion for bug bites.

9) Store a small accordion file in your car with all essential car-related stuff. Registration, insurance information, maps, emergency contacts, receipts, and directions.

10) Store a “Before We Leave” checklist in luggage. Make a master list of chores, errands, and packing requirements you encounter before each out of town trip you make. You can even laminate the list and then check off complete items with a dry erase marker.

11) Before leaving on your summer road trip, make certain that your jumper cables, tire jack, and emergency kit are all actually in the car.

12) Keep all camping supplies in one place. Store camping cookware in a hamper that stays packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice. A Camper’s Word to the Wise: If you’re going tent camping, double-check that your tent poles are actually packed with the rest of the tent before you find yourself attempting to set up camp in the mountains—miles and miles from civilization—without tent poles. Please don’t ask how I know this one.  😉

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