Saturday, July 19, 2014

40 Bags :: Halfway there!

It's week six of our 40 Bags {summer edition} challenge and we are officially halfway there. We've enjoyed (?!) some cool, rainy days lately which seems to be perfect purging weather. We're even running a little ahead of schedule around these parts, anticipating a busy second half of our summer.

Here are a few more spaces I've checked off my list recently:

Main floor closets (three total!)

Master bedroom dresser

DVD's / electronics

In addition:


Dylan's room

Dylan's clothes

Paper / magazine piles

Our sell / donate pile continues to grow. We dropped off another load this week and I'll leave you with this gem that I spotted at the local thrift shop (and yes, hopped back out of the van to snap a picture of...)

Quit clowning around. Start decluttering!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

40 Bags :: Catching Up

So it turns out I'm loving the purging process this summer, but not so much loving the blogging that goes along with it. I committed to it at the beginning because I knew it would keep me accountable, but I have been kept plenty accountable by the lovely ladies in our private Facebook group. 

{Our group recently did something new and fun -- we put everyone's name into a hat who had completed 10 spaces, which is where we should be at at the end of Week 3, and drew for a Starbucks gift card. 15 of us have made it to that mark!}

In an effort to get caught up here on the blog, I'm going to quickly touch on the spaces I've been working through. 12 more spaces total crossed off the list.

The garage. Mady is officially a two-wheeler as of this summer, so good-bye tricycle and toddler garage toys. I also returned a ladder, a sign, a table, and a bin to their rightful owners. Check out the way the sunlight is shining down on our overflowing trash can!?!

The bathrooms and upstairs linen closet. Our master bath was the worst -- the drawers all needed a good cleaning -- but all 3 1/2 baths got some TLC. More than anything, I am committed to using up our bathroom goods (shampoo, body wash, detangler, etc.) before buying anything more! I also, unrelated to 40 Bags, freshened things up with some new bath mats, towels, and the like. It feels downright spa-like these days.

The girls' rooms. I spent one day on their clothes (closet and dresser) and one day on the rest of the stuff in their rooms. Our girls are hoarders, no doubt about it. I debated working on Ella's room while she was at day camp last week but as a 7 year old, going on 13, I wasn't sure how much she would appreciate that. Luckily, she went into organizing mode herself without me saying anything (maybe it's contagious?!) and she did a great job doing most of the work herself.

Mady's room. Top left: a purge in process. Top right: little girls are all lip gloss and plastic jewelry. Bottom left: all the 4T's are out the door. When did my baby get so big? Bottom right: the after!

And the rest of it: the laundry room cupboards (before & after, above), the kids' craft supplies (yes, I did spend an entire afternoon testing markers and recycling old coloring books), and our nightstands/built-in drawers (Matt's boxers and my jewelry reside in the same drawer. It makes perfect sense to us).

23 spaces down, 17 to go. I'm ahead of pace but once I get going it's hard to stop. Love the feeling of being surrounded by all of these purged, un-cluttered spaces; love sending all these bags packing. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

40 Bags :: "just in case"

"Unless it’s near impossible to replace, and unless you use it all the time, there’s really no need to hold on to something just in case—especially when that “just in case” almost never actually happens." -- Tsh Oxenreider, The Art of Simple
I came across this quote a week and half into this round of 40 Bags and it resonated with me. Originally, I thought this time around I would start with some "easy" spaces and tackle the bigger ones after I had found some momentum, but with this quote as my guide, I have been able to cross a couple of the harder spaces early on.

First up: the storage room. We have basements in Michigan and everything that doesn't have a real home ends up here. We don't have tons and tons of extras but this space is a clutter magnet and I cringe a little whenever I have to walk into this room. This time through, I tried to be ruthless: if it didn't have a use or a spot somewhere else in the house, and it wasn't seasonal, why continue to hold onto it "just in case"? 

Within about 15 minutes, I had a pretty big pile. Within an hour, I had some empty the storage room. Some of it I sent straight to the donate pile, some of it I snapped quick photos of and posted on a local Facebook garage sale site (most of it sold quickly...a little extra cash never hurts...and what didn't sell within a week went out the door to be donated).

Wherever the stuff ended up, I really don't care, because the "after" space looks like this and that's good enough for me. Good-bye leftover picture frames, outdated home decor, beaten up bags.

As an added bonus, I found a new home for my gift wrap (I love gift wrap!) outside of the sad, dark (although now clutter-free) storage room in a nearly empty hall closet just around the corner.

Sending our "just in case" items out the door -- either to a new home or to a local thrift shop -- and the junk into the trash or recycling bin is exactly what the 40 Bags Challenge is about. It's like lifting a weight off my shoulders, each time I clear out a space, to know I'm no longer in charge of managing/maintaining/storing stuff we don't really use or need.
"There is indescribable freedom to owning only what you truly, really, honestly need. I’ll take that beauty over the risk of “but what if?” any day." -- Tsh Oxenreider, The Art of Simple

Thursday, June 19, 2014

40 Bags :: Kitchen Chaos

We are two weeks into our summer edition of the 40 Bags challenge and I'm ready to share some spaces! 

I started in my kitchen because it was literally right in front of me. And because kitchens are the heart of the home, or something like that. Right??

I love every mug I kept and they finally all fit!
I broke my kitchen up into quite a few spaces / days so it wouldn't seem so overwhelming. I also took the time to wipe everything down really well, inside and out. 

(Side note: there is an amazing cleaner found at most dollar stores called LA's Totally Awesome cleaner. I am quite sure there are many horrible chemicals involved but this stuff works. Desperate times -- such as the icky plastic shelves in my corner lazy susan -- call for desperate measures.)

Totally Awesome.
For those of you keeping track at home, my kitchen spaces included our upper cabinets, lower cabinets, drawers, spice cabinet, under the kitchen sink, the desk area, pantries, fridge, and freezer for a total of nine spaces.

The kitchen is an area that I do try to keep pared down -- we have a nice sized kitchen but it's not huge, so I have to make good use of the space we have -- but it seems like I can always find some things we just aren't using. Purge items included sippy cups (Mady is 4 1/2), baby silverware, coffee mugs (I bet the average American family owns at least 37 and uses three), and some pretty dishes that are nice (mostly very thoughtful gifts) but never get used.

Desk area | Happy spatulas | Shiny silverware | A place for everything
In the pantry / fridge / freezer areas, I ended up with a couple small bags of toss items and a grocery bag full to donate. The main thing I took out of those spaces, however, was packaging. So. Many. Empty. Boxes.

Our recycling bin is a happy camper these days.

The fridge after | My new favorite tee | Boxes, boxes boxes | A full pantry is a blessing indeed
As I worked through the kitchen, I thought a lot about what a blessing it is to open up a full refrigerator or strain to find the back of a cupboard. In addition, our pantry and fridge are filled to the brim with (mostly) good, healthy food. We don't know what it means to go hungry or to have to choose between cheap, unhealthy options and the more expensive, wholesome ones.

Working through our stockpiles of food also helps me to be a more informed meal planner, smarter shopper, and better steward of our resources (no more buying too much of something we don't really need). It's a good way to re-ground myself and practice gratitude.

Can't go wrong with color in the kitchen.
And lastly, my favorite consequence of the kitchen purge? Emptying the dishwasher (into clutter-free cabinets!) has never been so much fun.

Monday, June 16, 2014

40 Bags :: Progress & Printables!

It's only Week One and bags are already flying out the door.

I started in our kitchen, and I've worked through most of our cabinets and drawers. Pantry and fridge/freezer (and pictures!) coming soon.

If you're not someone who loves to clean and declutter, this might not sound like much fun to you, but even for the reluctant, once you get started, you just want to keep going. (Hello, snowball effect.)

Enthusiasm is contagious and I am loving the 40 Bags gang who is joining me this time around. Here's a quick peek into the spaces (and bags) they've been sharing in our Facebook group. Each picture below shows the amount of stuff leaving just ONE space. Can you imagine the end result after 40 spaces?!

And some of their lovely, uncluttered spaces...

One of the things I love about the 40 Bags challenge is that it's not about fancy organization or perfect looking spaces. It's simply your house without all the extra stuff. Peering inside a cleared out closet or spacious cupboard just feels better. Less stuff = less stress.

Whether you're working on your 40 Bags list this summer or waiting until a different season to tackle it, here are some lovely {free} printables courtesy of Missie @ LostBumblebee. I am a big fan of Missie and her work (I first stumbled upon her Advent calendar last December) and I am thrilled she put these together for us.

These would be lovely to display in your home as a daily reminder to keep it simple and live with less. If you pop over to Missie's blog, you can grab all the simply-themed printables in all the sizes (8x10, 5x7, 4x6). 

Enjoy! (And check out the rest of Missie's work while you're there!)

{Printable credit: LostBumblebee}

{Printable credit: LostBumblebee}

{Printable credit: LostBumblebee}

{Printable credit: LostBumblebee}

Sunday, June 8, 2014

40 Bags in 40 Days {Summer Edition}

It's been awhile, friends.

School's out, summer's here, and a new season is ahead.

It's been over two years since my last 40 Bags journey. I loved the entire experience -- the simplicity, the freedom, the community. I think our family is better than we were in the past -- better at not buying so much or holding on to so much -- but still we accumulate. 

I'm reminded that less is more and that I have better things to do with my time and energy than manage, store, organize, and clean unnecessary stuff.

Printable Credit: The Polka Dot Posie
I posted my plan on Facebook last week and 22 friends responded with 22 I'm in's! I was blown away with the response and I'm encouraged that I'm not alone in this.

The plan is to work steadily through this list in the coming 12 weeks, but not at the same space-a-day pace we did last time, during the Lenten season. This time we're leaving plenty of time in our schedules to ride bikes, run through the sprinklers, hit the beach, and visit the ice cream shop. (Because, seriously, we survived The Worst Winter Ever and now it's time to play.)

This will be a more relaxed, more flexible challenge, a summer edition after all, but the goal is the same: clear out the clutter, the junk, the excess. Rediscover simplicity, clarity, freedom.

My list is made and I'm ready (starting tomorrow!) to pull out the junk drawers, swing open the closet doors, and send some stuff packing, one bag at a time.

Monday, January 13, 2014

One Word 365 {exhale}

ex·hale / verb / 1. to breathe out in a deliberate manner.

Furthermore, to pause.

To relax.

To let it go.

To breathe deeply, and with intention.

To start again.

To begin a conversation.

To create space.

To find a place.

To lean into the physical, the human, the most basic parts.

To root into the present.

To get one's bearings.

To take care, to sustain.

To connect. To reconnect.

To let it out.

To feel relief.

To remember:

It's all going be OK.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

ten year bahama-versary.

For ten years, we've been returning each winter to the same vacation spot

There's something to be said for traditions, for familiar places. We know just what to pack, just where to go. Each year we bring back a slightly different version of ourselves, another year older, sometimes wiser. It's become the place where we close out one year and look forward to a new one.

And now, after ten trips, I love how there are memories around each corner. We point out, we retrace, we remember.

This is the place where Dylan took his first steps with a giant, impossibly blue aquarium as the backdrop. 

The place where Ella finally stopped crying after months of colic, took a look around at her warm surroundings and relaxed, I believe, for the first time in her little life. 

The place where newborn Mady first traveled, along with her exhausted mama, one week old passport picture and all.

This year, it became the place where Ella caught her first lizard by the tail, where the big kids met some dolphin-y friends, where Dylan and Daddy played an epic series of beach football with Nicko and Uncle Kyle, where Mady suddenly seemed like a big kid, no daily nap required.

And now...2014.
In ten more years, Dylan will be in college, Ella will be driving, and Mady will be a teenager. And through all the changes the next decade will bring, we will have this place -- a place to rest, to pause, to take a deep breath and get ready to take on whatever's next.

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