Someday = Never

Managing the Everyday

I’m a organization & simplification junkie.

I’ve lost count of how many books & blogs I’ve read that promised to teach me how to streamline my life and manage everyday life.

Whether that meant outsourcing my tasks (hiring a cleaning service, having groceries delivered, etc.) or reorganizing our kitchen like an efficient restaurant kitchen, I’ve been all in. Some things have worked great, others were interesting experiments that didn’t last. 

But you know what piece of advice has been one of the most liberating of all? The thing that has brought me the most joy, helped keep my drawers well organized and even helped me get ready faster in the morning? 

The simple realization that…

SOMEDAY = NEVER

This is a key thing that I’ve been reminded of while reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (KonMari). 

With that in mind, I’ve been releasing myself from all sorts of future obligations:

  • Half-finished craft projects (like the finger puppets in the first photo)? Re-homed through our Buy Nothing group
  • Super-specific ingredients for a complex recipe I’ve never tried? Left for neighbors on our building’s “Free Table” or tossed in the compost. 
  • Shoes that I might wear someday if I can finally get the right outfit? Given to my sister.
  • Books that I started years ago, but never finished? Taken to the used bookstore. 
  • The Pasta Maker I used twice in three years? Sold. 

So many things that I never have to worry about again.

No more questions of if/when I will use them or where to store them. 

No more piles of clothes left on the bed after trying on my entire closet and deciding (once again) that these items just don’t work for me. 

No more guilt or feeling like a failure when I look at my half-finished projects. 

Do I miss any of the things I’ve gotten rid of? No. Not once. 

Instead I’m surrounded by the things I love & use. 

I am free. 

What “Someday” things are you holding on to?

 

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. Thank you for supporting this blog! :)

Goodbye Mr. Cello

Managing the Everyday: Goodbye Mr. Cello

So…if you have followed this blog for a while, you might remember how I gave away my wedding dress.

You might also remember that I said I was going to donate my cello?

Well, that was 2 YEARS ago. 

As of 11am this morning, Mr. Cello has finally left the building!

It now safely in the hands of Scott Gelband, the Executive Director of Seattle Music Partners – a nonprofit that runs free weekly after-school music instruction and mentoring to underserved elementary school students in our neighborhood. 

Managing the Everyday: Goodbye Mr. Cello

When I first started playing the cello in elementary school, it wasn’t because I loved it. It was because it was free.

Money was tight and there was no extra money for instrument rentals. Thankfully, the school had cellos that students could use (maybe because they were more cumbersome than violins or violas? I don’t know)…So the cello it was!

I played from sixth grade all the way through high school. I even joined a string quartet and made money playing at weddings. After graduation, I played sporadically and bought my own cello.

Over time, I played it less and less. Soon it started collecting dust. 

Managing the Everyday: Goodbye Mr. CelloI remembered back when I was about 12 and overheard a family friend mention how she used to play the cello but hadn’t touched it in years. It was under her bed. 

It was summertime and that year I didn’t have a cello to use. I had recently started playing and loved it.

Hearing that someone had a perfectly good cello under their bed while I loved playing, but didn’t have an instrument to use, really made an impression on me. 

I wanted to ask her to let me borrow it. But I was shy. Instead, made a firm decision to never let that be me.

Back then, I thought that meant that I wouldn’t let my cello gather dust. I would play forever!

But that didn’t happen. Instead it meant that I gave my once beloved cello away. 

I think 12-year old me would be cool with that. 

Do you have an instrument collecting dust?

Free up space in your life & spread the love (& music). 

 

Too Much Stuff? Start a Fire

Managing the Everyday: Too Much Stuff? Start a FireEarlier this month, I collected all the things in our apartment that 1) didn’t have a home and 2) we weren’t sure what to do with. 

Looking at that big pile on the living room floor, I immediately felt overwhelmed.

Managing the Everyday: Start a Fire

These were things that had been “undecided” for years. Things we had moved from home to home, not really because they were used or needed, but because we either felt bad about getting rid of them, thought they might be useful someday or just weren’t sure what to do with them. 

They were the things that at the end of every move, just got dropped into a box to be dealt with “later”. 

Managing the Everyday: Start a Fire

I decided to play the “Fire!” game:

Imagine your home is on fire. Which items would you save? 

I picked out a couple childhood trinkets, but for the most part I found myself wishing that there actually was a fire so I didn’t have to think about what to do with these things or feel obligated to carry them around with me any longer. 

And then it hit me. I could make my own fire. 

Managing the Everyday: Start a Fire

Now, to be fair, I didn’t start a fire inside our apartment. 

But I did label our kitchen trash can a “Burn Barrel”. 

Anything I wished would just get swallowed up in flames so I didn’t have to make decisions about it anymore, went in the can (or the recycling/Goodwill box if more appropriate). 

Juan and I helped each other by tossing things into the “flames” when the other person wanted something gone, but felt bad about it. Juan may have felt bad about tossing a college memento, but I didn’t. He helped toss some of my items too.

At the end of the day, the pile was smaller and I felt free. 

So, so free.

Is it time for you to start a fire? 

3 Tips for Beautiful Bookcases

Managing the Everyday: 3 Tips for Beautiful Bookcases

It doesn’t take much for small homes to look cluttered – even if you don’t have a lot of “extra” stuff. 

Like I’ve shared before, our place is small and doesn’t naturally have a lot of storage (hello one closet!) so we have been continually adding storage solutions. 

We brought these two Billy bookshelves from our last place. We added the optional extension pieces and now they are super tall – almost to the ceiling.

They take up an entire half-wall in our living/dining space and the glass doors mean that everything is on display. 

Every time I looked at them, I felt stressed. There was just so much going on:

Managing the Everyday: 3 Tips for Beautiful Bookcases

There was some stuff that I wanted to get rid of, but for the most part the items on the shelves were things that we actually used & needed and didn’t have anywhere else to store. 

I realized that part of the problem was all the different colors and miscellaneous items. There wasn’t a sense of order, which meant my eyes bounced all over the shelves. Here’s what helped:

3 Tips for Beautiful Bookcases

1) Sort Books by Color

I saw this trend awhile ago and finally gave it a try. I really like how it turned out:

Managing the Everyday: 3 Tips for Beautiful Bookcases

2. Hide visual clutter using boxes and baskets.

I was already doing this and bought more boxes to contain the other little items like small vases & candle holders that didn’t already have a home.

For a more put-together look, try keeping the boxes/baskets in the same color family. 

Managing the Everyday: 3 Tips for Beautiful Bookcases

Note: You can see that I swapped out the green boxes for more calming white ones. The green boxes are now storing things in the bathroom cupboard.

3. Keep things interesting by adding different colors & textures. 

This is a great opportunity to shop your home – look around and see what you can find. I found this little basket hanging out in our kitchen. 

Managing the Everyday: 3 Tips for Beautiful BookcasesAfter being annoyed by our bookcases for months, it is such a joy to look out from the kitchen and see this. I literally feel my shoulders relax. Managing the Everyday: 3 Tips for Beautiful Bookcases

Which parts of your home are causing you stress?

Our Bedroom Closet Makeover

Closet Makeover

Our 656sq ft apartment has one closet. Yes. One! Uno! 

It’s narrow, deep and tall. It’s also in our bedroom, so it’s where Juan and I store most of our clothing along with our suitcases and a bunch of other random stuff. 

Our closet has 2 rods, one in front of the other. We keep out-of-season and special occasion clothes on the back rod and our everyday life clothes on the front. 

The photo above is how it looked earlier today. 

Also, here is a photo of the laundry basket where we actually put our dirty clothes. It has been a semi-permanent guest in the living room for a couple months. Not awesome. 

Closet Makeover

(Note, we only use one of the three sections of this laundry basket. One of them is holding old pillows that I want to save for a project and the other is holding clothes that need to be dry cleaned. Again, not awesome.)

Also, I don’t even roll this basket to the laundry room. I fill up a regular plastic laundry basket and take that instead. 

Room for improvement? I think we can say yes to that. 

On my last trip to Ikea, I picked up a SKUBB laundry bag:

skubb-laundry-bag-with-stand__0148769_PE307082_S4

It’s tall, deep & narrow. Just like our closet. SKUBB in hand, I got to work. 

Here’s what I did:

  • Set aside anything that no longer fit for either storage or Goodwill (hello and GOODBYE post-baby clothes!)
  • Moved anything that we weren’t likely to wear in the next couple months (like sweaters, etc.) to the back rod and/or out-of-season storage. 
  • Emptied the 3-section laundry basket: gathered the dry cleaning for my next errand run, put the pillows in the back of the closet and washed & dried whatever was left. 

Here is the refreshed closet with the new Mr. SKUBB. See how I can now fit my boots in the closet? They were cluttering up the floor in the coat room and now they have an out-of-the-way home.

Our Bedroom Closet Makeover

 

I also hung all of the clothes on the front rod on black hangers and faced them in the same direction, grouping similar items together. It’s a simple change with big visual impact.

Closet Makeover

In case you are wondering about our plastic laundry basket, it has a future home in Javi’s new Pax wardrobe. And the 3-section laundry basket aka stuff-collector? It has been washed and is sitting by the door, ready to go to Goodwill.

Today has been a good day. 

My New Mantra: Just Finish One

Feb 8/12 H is for Hanging up the laundry

This happens to me too often:

It’s finally quiet. Javi’s napping and I finally have some time to get things done around the house.

I start putting away the dishes when I notice the wine glasses that I wanted to donate to Goodwill.

Suddenly I’m inspired to gather up all the donation items. I grab a box and start filling it with the wine glasses, leaving the rest of the clean dishes in the dishwasher.

As I’m filling the box, I think of other things I wanted to donate. There must be something in my closet, right? I head to my closet. I’m greeted by a mangled mess of hangers and clothes. I’ll just take a moment and straighten things up…

Soon the bed is covered with the contents of our closet. I’m sorting sweaters and button-downs when I hear Javi.

I look at the clock. Yep, nap time is over.

Sound familiar? 

I get started on one thing, but soon I’m distracted by something else that seems more appealing or urgent. Even as I write this, I’m looking at the half-folded load of laundry, a growing stack of half-opened mail, things in the hallway that need to go to the storage room.

All of these uncompleted tasks just add to my mental to-do list. Instead of crossing things off and making progress, I feel like I’m constantly busy and yet falling further behind.

My challenge to myself the last few days has been this:

Just. Finish. One.

Take one task from start to completion.

I sometimes have to say it aloud. JustFinishOne. JustFinishOne. JustFINISHone!

It feels silly.

But it works.

The upside is that one completed task builds momentum that often leads to another. And if it doesn’t? I’ve finished one. It’s done. It won’t come back to haunt me at the end of the day.

And with that, I’m off to go finish putting away the laundry.

What’s your “ONE” to finish today? 

photo by Judith Doyle

What I Learned By Donating My Wedding Dress

In case you were wondering if I really followed through with what I said I would do, the answer is yes.

I donated my wedding dress.

A couple weeks ago, I brought it to work with me. (Unlike the Superbowl, I chose not to wear it this time.)

I put it in a box. I felt determined, but a little emotional.

I taped up the box. Things were becoming more real.

I left it in the outgoing mailbox and went back to my desk.

Part of me wanted to run and grab it back. Did I really want to get rid of it? What if I would regret it? What if I should keep it?

I couldn’t come up with a good reason why, but I still had that agonizing what-if feeling pumping uncertainty and panic throughout my body.

I realize this sounds incredibly dramatic. But it is as close to the truth as I can put into words. I was surprised by my emotions. But there they were.

A little later, I walked by the front desk and took a peek at the outgoing mailbox.

My dress was gone.

Gone.

Strangely, I felt a little better.

A couple hours later, I checked in with myself again. How did I feel about it? I felt good. A little nostalgic, but good.

The more time passed, the better I felt about my decision to let the dress go.

By the end of the day, any trace of the crazy what-if feelings were gone. Instead I felt almost neutral about it.

The next day, I felt downright triumphant.

The Power of Letting Go

If you have something in your life – or closet, garage, storage unit – that you are debating getting rid of, let me encourage you to let it go.

Somewhere through the process, you may second-guess yourself. You might feel sick. You might want to run and grab that thing out of the donation box.

Sure, you don’t use it. You haven’t taken care of it properly. But you just might – possibly – need it. If you fixed it. Or lost weight. Or you could have a garage sale! That could work. (Garage sales are great. But I suspect, from personal experience, that the idea of having one is more often procrastination than a plan of action.) 

If you are like me, you will be amazed at how many creative and almost-rational excuses your brain can come up with for keeping things that no longer have a useful and/or valued place in your life.

It comes down to this: We give things power. Whether we are letting them speak for who we are, were or want to be or if we are holding on to them as pieces of people we have loved and lost.

Donating my wedding dress taught me that not only does letting things go lessen the hold that possessions have, it gives some of that power back.

And that feels good.

Watching the Superbowl in My Wedding Dress

“Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”
– William Morris

One of my continual goals is to remove things from our apartment that we don’t use or enjoy.

Tonight, this meant my wedding dress.

I’ve been conflicted about letting it go. On one hand, it’s my wedding dress. 

But on the other hand, I’m not planning on wearing it again.

(Except for one more time to see if it still fits. This is why while Juan and I are watching the Superbowl I’m dancing around in my pretty dress. Still fits.)

I love it, but it isn’t a family heirloom. So the only person who cares if I keep it or not is me.

I could save it for our future daughter to wear someday, but there is no telling if 1) we will have a daughter or 2) if it will fit her body or style.

Instead I can loan her the pearl earrings Juan gave me on our wedding day. Classic and one-size-fits-all.

So I’ve decided to donate my dress to Brides Against Breast Cancer.

In case you aren’t familiar with Brides Against Breast Cancer, it is a not-for-profit organization that collects new & used wedding dresses and sells them at discounted prices to raise funds for programs benefitting cancer patients and their families.

I actually purchased my dress at one of their sales, so it is going full circle. Which I think is very cool.

My wedding day was beautiful.

Not having my dress hanging in my closet or tucked in a box under my bed doesn’t take that away or make me any less married.

And getting married was what that day was all about.

For more info about Brides Against Breast Cancer and how your can donate your dress, click here.

(photos by Christopher Gendron)

Eliminating Paper Clutter

Over the last couple weeks, the paper clutter on our desk has grown from a couple things to be filed to an all-out mess that threatened to spill onto the floor.

Even worse, I knew that somewhere in there were important things that I needed to deal with: Bills to pay, financial statements, my election ballot.

This afternoon, we decided to tackle it. We pulled out the shredder and file box, grabbed a bag for recycling and pumped up the 80s Pop Mix on Pandora. It was time to make sense of the mess and bring back a sense of order to this area of our lives.

The Speed Sort

I’ve heard suggestions about going piece by piece and avoiding putting things into a “deal with it later” pile, but I wanted some instant gratification and motivation so I started with a quick sort.

Everything went into one of these categories:

  • Important
  • Shred It
  • Recycle

My goal was speed. If I found myself debating whether I should keep something or not, it went into the Important pile.

Sorting the Important

Now that I had all of the obvious trash out of the way, it was time to deal with the Important stack.

I grouped things into categories:

  • Deal with it tonight! (Bills, election ballot, appointment reminders for the calendar)
  • Coupons
  • Cards & Letters
  • Financial Statements
  • Tax Receipts
  • Other

Some things already had folders in our filing box. That was easy.

But then there was that last little Miscellaneous stack. You know the type – the kind of random stuff that has given birth to junk drawers worldwide.

Feeling overwhelmed, I asked Juan, who had been dealing with some of the “Deal with it tonight!” items, to come over and help me. Together we went through it piece by piece.

Did we want to donate to this cause? Yes. Ok. Write a check.

Did we need this instruction manual? No. Recycle it.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, bring in a fresh set of eyes. If that isn’t an option, set it aside and come back tomorrow. It’s better to avoid getting overwhelmed and burnt out than to finish the task in one sitting.

Thoughts on Filing

We use a basic portable filing box with hanging files. I like to label things based on what makes the most sense to me.

Some labels are specific: Passports (Current). Others are more general: Medical Receipts 2012 or Auto. 

I don’t worry about sorting the documents beyond putting them in their correct file folder.

When and if I actually need to find something, it is usually easy enough to find.

The goal is to be able to find what I need in a reasonable amount of time, not to have the best filing system in the world. If it works for us, that’s good enough for me.

The After Photo

Here is what our desk looks like now:

That small stack of papers on the left is what is left of the “Do It Tonight!” stack and a couple other items that have homes elsewhere. I could have hid these away for the photo, but I like keeping it real.

Our desk will probably never be paper free, but it’s better and no longer causes my heart to drop in shame (“But I write about managing everyday life and look at that!”).

What is your clutter hot spot?

 

Got Drugs? What to do with unwanted prescriptions.

To Sleep Forevermore.
photo credit Dean

One of the potentially challenging things about organizing your life and getting rid of clutter is knowing how to dispose of things properly.

When we organized our medicine cabinet, we ended up with a few expired prescriptions – mostly heavy-duty painkillers left over from when I had my wisdom teeth out.

We aren’t going to use them, so what should we do with them?

Flush them down the toilet? No.

Low levels of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications are already showing up in our water supply. While there are more causes for this – including antibiotics given to animals –  flushing expired or unwanted medication just adds to the problem. No antidepressants in my water, please.

Toss them in the trash? Maybe.

If you are going to throw away your medications, you need to take several steps to make sure they are not consumed by animals, children or people who might go through your trash in hopes of finding them. You must:

  1. Crush / grind up the pills.
  2. Add water.
  3. Mix them with something unattractive – coffee grounds or kitty litter are two suggestions.
  4. Put everything in a leak proof container or bag (again, got to remember the groundwater.)
  5. Remove your name from the pill bottles. (These can’t be recycled).
  6. Conceal the bottles within other trash.

Sounds like a lot of work, no? Also, I don’t like the idea of tossing out plastic containers. It hurts my recycle-focused brain.

The easiest way?

Tomorrow, Saturday, September 29th is the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

From 10am to 2pm you can drop off your unwanted prescriptions at one of their many take-back locations.  You can go here to find the location near you.

So go through your medicine cabinet and make a note on your to-do list for tomorrow. Your home will be a little bit lighter and your local rivers, streams, lakes and other bodies of water will thank you.