Category Archives: Simplify

The Monster Under the Bed

Something interesting happened in my kitchen this week, though it probably wouldn’t have been to anybody else but me. I was washing the dishes when I dropped a ceramic pitcher in my sink and it cracked. The pitcher was a housewarming gift, went beautifully with my serving dishes and I loved using it. I used to get really upset when I broke anything, particularly so when it was something I really loved. But that night I just shrugged, set it by the trash can and told myself I could find another. I’m sure I’ll be able to find something at the thrift store, Marshall’s or Ikea. I kind of thought that by getting rid of my things I’d become more attached to what’s left, but now I’m realizing for the most part it’s just stuff.

Anyways, onto the monster under the bed, aka the large Rubbermaid and the giant suitcase stuffed with clothes that didn’t fit in my dresser that I shoved under my bed. I pulled them out, dusted them off, opened them up and decided that just like the pitcher I just didn’t care anymore. I doubled the amount of clothes in the trash bag, and filled more bags of clothing to take to the consignment and thrift stores.

What did I keep out of all those clothes? 3 pairs of pants that are a size too small, that I hope to fit into in the next few months, and 2 pairs of hiking pants.

Now what do I do with a giant duffle and an empty Rubbermaid container?

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Me vs the Dresser

A few months ago, one of my dresser drawers stopped closing: my lovely high-quality Ikea particle board bureau couldn’t take the weight of all my pants in one drawer. The metal track that the drawer rests on had pulled away from the side of the dresser. I told myself that I really should clean out the dresser before I fixed it, so it wouldn’t happen again. Well, I’m finally back to my simplify project, and it was about time to get that drawer off my floor.

I pulled out all my clothes and divided them into 5 piles:

  • Keep
  • Consign (white bag)
  • Donate (brown bag)
  • Craft
  • Rags
  • Trash (trash bag)

(Yes, I know there’s still clothing shoved on the shelf on my closet: that gets tackled soon.)

I trashed things I wouldn’t buy at a thrift store myself, namely bathing suits and underwear, as well as things with stains and holes, like old socks and torn up jeans. Excess tee shirts primarily went into the craft pile if they had sentimental value, otherwise they’ve been set aside for rags. Things that didn’t fit, weren’t flattering or just weren’t my style were divided between the consignment and donation piles based on how nice they were.

Next I grabbed a screw and my screwdriver and repaired the metal thingy the drawer rests on (like my technical terminology?), and refilled my drawers with the keep pile.

With all that, what did I keep? Clothes that fit, look good, that I actually wear, with no holes or stains. They all fit nicely back in my newly repaired dresser, distributed so all my pants aren’t in the same drawer, and with room to spare. Which is great, because next week I plan on tackling the two Rubbermaid bins of excess clothing under my bed.

One of the scary parts of all this is that I haven’t done a lot of clothes shopping in the last two years, which means most of this survived the giant purge when I last moved, and I still don’t like half my clothes.

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The Black Holes in My Kitchen

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but I’m short. Not kind of short, but really short. As in I haven’t been measured without shoes on in years and I’m still only 5′ 3/4″. Even standing on my tippy toes on my step ladder, I can just reach the edge of the top shelf of my pantry and the cabinets over my refrigerator. As a result, those spaces have turned into black holes. Every time I go to put something away up there, I kind of just shove it in and ignore whatever else is getting shoved around or tipped over in there.

Yesterday evening for my last step in cleaning out my kitchen, I decided to tackle those spaces. My Swiffer has a rubberized handle which helped me to kind of push things towards me, which I set out on the counters and table to sort: 3 water bottles, 3 thermoses of various sizes, some serving dishes, a never used butterfly covered tea set, an Easter basket, Christmas cookie tins, a selection of bento boxes, paper plates and napkins, plastic cups and silverware, disposable cake and pie tins, and a ridiculous array of empty glass jars. Not Mason jars, but random jars that I’ve emptied and saved just in case.

Water bottles were put on a lower shelf where I’ll use them more often, the tea set has been set aside to give to my niece for Christmas, a Goodwill box has been started with Easter basket and some thermoses, and a lot of jars went into the recycling bin. A few tall ones from oils and sauces got set aside for a future project and everything else was returned to the cabinets within reach. Mission accomplished and all within 30 minutes.

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Land of the Misfit Condiments

Tuesday night I came home and felt ambitious. I canned 9 ½ pints of crushed tomatoes (thank you Tomato Fairy!), 4 half pints of sweet pickle relish, and baked a loaf of whole wheat bread. During the long water bath time for tomatoes, I decided to tackle my refrigerator. The shelves and drawers weren’t too bad: they just required a wiping down.

However, the door was another story all together. Apparently my refrigerator door is where unwanted condiments go into exile. I had a few jars of hot sauce with only few drops left, some sauces I bought on a whim that I never liked. Those were easy to empty, rinse, and put in the recycling bin. However, the scary parts were things I actually use. When I moved in, I bought medium sized containers of ketchup, mayo, and mustard, since they were cheaper by the ounce. Along the way I picked up a handful of salad dressings on nights when I was too lazy to even mix my own salad dressing. What’s wrong with that, you might ask? Well, I finally checked the expiration dates, and the most recent one was December of last year. Yes, they still smelled and looked ok and apparently tasted fine the last time I used them, but do I really need foods that are so processed they last for a YEAR beyond their official expiration date?

Obviously, those all got dumped. But what to do about any potential replacements? Well, salad dressing dressing takes about 10 seconds to whip together between olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, and a pinch of seasonings, so no more excuses there. Also, lately I’ve been making my own mayonnaise, which comes out in small batches and is ah-mazing. I’ve seen some recipes for mustard that seem pretty straight forward and should give me super fancy mustard for not much money.

Anyways, now I have a clean and organized refrigerator where I can actually see all the condiments I own! Hurrah! Here’s hoping I’m not repeating this experiment in a few months.

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Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

As I’m attempting to simplify my life by getting rid of things that clog my house, I’m also realizing that I need to take better care of what I already have. While confronting my pantry last week I realized the white door was getting a little grungy where I handled it. I looked around and noticed that all my cabinets were kind of grungy, particularly those under the sink.

Please note the grayish ick on the bottom. And once again, I’m really selling my kitchen, aren’t I?

Anyways, this week I spent an evening with a bowl of hot soapy water, a dish cloth, an old toothbrush, and a little bit of elbow grease. For the most part, this system worked really well: stains, grease, and dust came right off. That is, until I got to the cabinets under the sink. You see, I bought this house from some inexperienced flippers. Yes, they repainted the cabinetry, but they did a bad job of it, including painting over dirt, leaving bumps in places, and without sanding, so the latex peels off. So, yes, I managed to get most of the dirt off, but unfortunately that meant I occasionally took off a layer (or two) of paint by accident. Those brown spots on the lower left? That’s bare wood. Oops. Perhaps a future project will include properly stripping, sanding, and repainting my cabinets.

Regardless, my cabinets now sparkle, which makes my floor look dingy in comparison. Guess that’s due for a good scrubbing too.

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Clearing Out the Pantry

As a total foodie and someone who makes almost all their meals at home, my pantry gets used a few times a day. Before I moved into this house, I moved on average twice a year, which meant twice a year my pantry got cleaned out, extras got donated, and I would find a new system. However, I haven’t moved in two years, which means my pantry got a little disorganized. Rather than shift things around, I threw up my hands and took to storing extras in my coat closet. What extras? 2 cases of soup from Costco that I didn’t really like, 1 case of empty canning jars, and 20 pounds of flour. Also, I don’t have a lot of cabinet space, so things that didn’t fit there got shoved to the back of my pantry where they developed a lovely coat of dust. (I’m making y’all want to eat at my place, aren’t I?) Other items got shoved on top of my refrigerator (lunch bags) or somehow got divided between my pantry and cabinets (tupperwear).

So, I emptied my pantry, and wiped down all the shelves. Ingredients got put on the top few shelves organized by type/use, tupperwear was reunited entirely in the pantry, less used items such as the tea pot and espresso maker got moved to the cabinets, and all the flour and canning jars were removed from their exile in the coat closet. I posted the 2 cases of soup and a large container of protein powder that I disliked (it turned my milk green, ugh!) on Freecycle and within 24 hours they were all gone.

And for you sharp eyed readers out there, yes I eat Ramen. It’s my fast food: add some egg or tofu, frozen broccoli, and only use half a packet and it’s a relatively balanced meal in 4 minutes. Also, please don’t take my use of a Duke lunch bag as a sign of fandom: I got it as a free gift. Anyways, someday I’ll tackle my magnetic strip/spice jar system, but not today.

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Emptying the Files

I completed my final project for clearing out my office on Tuesday by tackling my filing system. I have a tendency to save absolutely every single bill or statement, stack them on my desk, and let them accumulate for a few months. Then I spend an evening sorting them out, then shoving them into my filing drawer. It was about time to face that stack again, but my cabinet was about to explode. Since I have all my accounts online I can find copies of all these bills going back at least a year online, so I started to purge. Anything that’s got a digital version available got thrown into the recycling bin. All I kept is my account information so there’s a hard copy and of course all my important documents. Now I have plenty of space, and in case of a big emergency, i can grab my files and go.

To prevent this build up from happening again, I moved my office trash can to between my front door and the entry table. That way as soon as I get home I can toss in the junk mail and tear up the bills and statements, so they don’t even make it back to my office.

Next up on my simplify project, my kitchen!

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