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60/30 challenge – Day 10

It’s day 10 of my 60/30 challenge and CHALLENGE it is.

Challenge 1: Find all the things. As I mentioned, we’re not minimalists but we’re also not hoarders. Our home is likely average using ratios like: things:people, things:square-footage, useful things: total things. I wondered if we had 930 things to get rid of. We don’t have a lot of closet space or storage-type furniture. If there were 930 items to discard, where would they be?

Some days felt like things jumped into my line of sight, ready to hit the road.  My closet, the kids’ closet, and my office were easy targets where I had carte blanch. In communal spaces, I stuck mostly to my things. I don’t believe in the “toss it now, apologize later” method.  Shared items like thermometers, expired toiletries, and broken objects were set aside and discussed at the end of each session. These days were pretty easy.

Other days, I really had to dig into “hidden” places: the basement closet, the garage, and the side of the house (a.k.a. the flowerpot graveyard). I started planning: weekdays are for deep digging in closets and the garage, and weekends are for spaces like the living room bookshelves and the art cabinet.

Challenge 2: Find time to find all the things.  School schedules, work, and family priorities intensified this daily challenge immensely. The weekends were especially difficult; kids snooped and asked questions, even when it wasn’t their things I was looking through. And I didn’t want to take up whole weekends purging.

Despite the challenges, I’ve enjoyed the experience. It feels good to purge and streamline. More importantly, it hasn’t negatively impacted my kids or husband, which means I’ve made good decisions about what to discard: things that are not used or loved – which means they won’t be missed. At least not yet…

My progress so far:

DAY 1: my clothes (60)

DAY 2: 2 pairs boots, 2 baby outfits, 2 pairs goggles, 1 bunch of business cards, 10 books, 22 kids’ clothes, 20 my clothes (59) clothes

DAY 3: 2 trophies, 1 phone case, 1 flashing light, 1 glasses case, 4 old lipsticks, 1 pile receipts, 4 random crap (from craft/project box), 3 grocery bags, 4 puzzles, 5 hairspray caps, 1 set bobby pins, 1 oil lamp, 7 empty cosmetic bottles, 1 empty toothpaste tube, 1 empty soap dispenser, 4 nail polish bottles, 2 kids’ thermometers, 1 thermometer case, 1 kids Seahawks ring, 1 can hairspray, 1 broken hair clip, 1 bottle bronzing lotion, 1 sewing kit, 2 tubes tooth bleach, 2 toothbrush travel holders, 1 storage tin, 1 pair scissors, 1 lint roller (broken), 1 bunch old band aids, 1 toiletry bag (58)

toiletries

DAY 4: 2 dolls, 1 pair goggles, 2 flower pots, 2 perfume bottles, 2 broken toys, 2 flower pots, 11 treasures from kids, 1 picture frame, 1 broken wine stopper, 1 birdhouse craft box, 1 leprechaun catcher, 4 decorative bins, 3 CDs, 24 magazines (57)

DAY 5: 1 candle holder, 1 photo album set, 2 kids clothes, 6 keychains, 46 greeting cards (56)

DAY 6: 55 greeting cards (55)

art

DAY 7: 41 broken hair clips/ponytail holders, 12 play dough tools, 1 paint bottle (54)

hair supplies

DAY 8: 1 float toy, 1 terra cotta yard decoration, 1 candle holder, 5 play dough cans, 1 silly putty egg, 7 birthday balloons, 1 jingle bell, 2 noodle crafts, 2 paper puppets, 1 flag, 1 broken phone cover, 6 Shopkins lists, 1 torn play dollar, 2 paper name tags, 1 lanyard, 1 glow stick, 1 tiny pencil, 1 acorn, 1 band aid holder, 2 sticker pages, 1 broken purse, 4 Hot Wheels cars, 1 space guy, 1 decapitated Barbie, 1 zoo map, 1 broken bow tie, 2 bibs, 1 pompom (53)

junk

DAY 9: 8 glitter glues, 6 paint pallets, 12 paintbrushes, 1 coffee charm, 1 bag, 1 super straw, 1 tube glitter, 22 school papers/artwork (52)

art extras

DAY 10: 51 school papers/artwork (51)

papers

504 items gone…426 to go!

30/30 challenge

Have you heard of the 30/30 challenge?  It’s a method for discarding things every day for 30 days. The challenge ramps up: day 1, remove 1 item, day 2, remove 2 items, and so on. Successful participants rid themselves of 465 items in 30 days. I typically don’t like these gimmicky methods for de-cluttering, but today a member of my (Facebook) Minimalist Meet-Up Group posted her progress. “…on day 25…it really is a challenge…missed a few days and need to catch up.” Indeed, discarding 465 items in a month seems daunting. And yet I wasn’t daunted. I was inspired.

Today I begin my own 30/30 challenge.  You might think that as a Professional Organizer I have an advantage: insights, motivations, or methods for inspiration. Yes, I do. But I’m not a minimalist. And I have small kids – which means we have stuff. And I’d much rather purge and organize with my clients than sort through my own things.  So I’m leveling the playing-field by doubling the challenge. I’m taking on the 60/30 challenge: 930 items in 30 days. And I’m going to do it backwards. Day 1/60 items, day 2/59 items, and so on. Will there be anything left in our house? Will there be protests from my naked children who have no toys to play with? Will my husband wonder what he should use to spread peanut butter on the toast? Stay tuned…

Day 1: 60 articles of clothing (mine)

60 for Day 1 Pile
60 for Day 1 Bags

It’s like playing Tetris…

“I have so much storage space” said no one, ever. Most of us play “House Tetris.” Organizing a bedroom-closet means moving stuff to the hall-closet, and from there to the basement-closet, and from there to the garage. And so the car gets parked outside for another year. This type of organizing dilemma is like a Tetris puzzle: fitting things together efficiently. And like Tetris, it can go on this way. Forever.

Side-note: (Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetris)
Tetris is a tile-matching puzzle video game, originally designed and programmed by Russian game designer Alexey Pajitnov which was released on June 6, 1984. The objective is to manipulate these Tetriminos, by moving each one sideways (if the player feels the need) and rotating it by 90 degree units, with the aim of creating a horizontal line of ten units without gaps.

Successful “House Tetris” means getting rid of things AND creating efficiency in existing spaces. Things can fit together, but unlike Tetris, you need gaps. Gaps allow air and light to flow in and space between objects decreases wear-and-tear and increases your access to them. And when accessibility increases, so do the chances that things get put back where they belong.

These photos are from my wonderful clients’ one-bedroom condo. She has no garage and only a small outdoor storage closet next to her patio. She parked her bike in her living room. Her laundry and utility spaces are in the kitchen. When she called me, her living spaces were overflowing, making it difficult for her to entertain, which is something she really enjoys. So we got to work on the parts of her condo that needed to work better for her.

Laundry before: hardware, craft supplies, laundry products, all crowded in behind 2 large room separators.

Laundry before: hardware, craft supplies, laundry products, all crowded in behind 2 large room separators.

The laundry area was so cluttered that doing laundry was more than a chore. And her tools and craft supplies were never put away because where would they fit?

Laundry before: nothing was easy to see or find.

Laundry before: nothing was easy to see or find.

The pantry was inefficient and things always had to be moved out of the way: mop, broom, vacuum, grocery bags. Her HUGE kitchen felt cramped and crowded.

Pantry/utility: starting to overflow on the floor.

Pantry/utility: starting to overflow on the floor.

Kitchen and laundry are critical spaces that need flow. We cleared out all large hardware, craft supplies, and items used infrequently. All that remained in the laundry are were everyday tools (small hammer, screwdrivers), flashlights, batteries, cleaning and laundry supplies. The bottom drawer became a clothes hamper, replacing a basket taking up floor space.

Laundry after:  products reduced to those frequently-used, categorized, and spaced in drawers and baskets for easy access.

Laundry after: products reduced to those frequently-used, categorized, and spaced in drawers and baskets for easy access.

Removing the room separators opened up the space and made it light and airy. She intends to add a curtain to close it off as needed and a matching curtain for the pantry.

Laundry after: removing the room separators opened up the space, allowed light to enter, and now there's motivation to keep it neat.

Laundry after: removing the room separators opened up the space, allowed light to enter, and now there’s motivation to keep it neat.

The pantry had accordion shutters which made the space crowded. By removing unused items and putting low-frequency items on the top shelf, the space remaining was just right for keeping her pantry full and organized. A clear bin on the top shelf corrals items stored vertically. A few wire racks hung beneath shelves was a low-cost way to use otherwise unused space. And we still ended up with some open spaces.

Pantry after: nearly the same amount of items, just organized.

Pantry after: nearly the same amount of items, just organized.

Lastly, the storage closet. The shelf was originally turned sideways making it difficult to park her bike inside. By rotating the shelf directly across from the door, access to the closet increased. By purging old construction supplies, we were able to nearly double the floor space and make room for her bike. (Sorry, no “before” picture but you literally couldn’t enter the closet).

Storage after

Storage after

With the addition of some large hooks she can hang her cords on the wall and her bike from the ceiling, leaving more floor space.

Storage after

Storage after

This project didn’t require any construction and only a few small storage products. We simply worked through every item, categorized, and relocated as needed. We created a “project box” for things that needed attention: things to fix, things to finish, etc. Once the box is full, nothing can be added until some projects are completed. No more project-clutter shoved away. We recycled, donated, and tossed items along the way, but this was low-maintenance, no-fuss organizing.

Friday Fuzzy Friends

Stuffed animals, stuffies, lovies, or in our house buddies, are sometimes like unique members of the family.   Most of us at some point felt comforted by one.  Some of us still have our favorite childhood stuffies.  And then there’s anthropomorphism.  I admit that I struggle with this.  But it’s a big part of what makes me special.  So how am I supposed to help my kids let go of some of their less-than-favorite buddies when I feel those pangs of emotion too.  I’m not writing this because I have the answers, but because I want to share my exploration of this topic.  But since it’s a sunny Friday here is Seattle, by law, we must frolic and bask. So I leave you with a client photo and text.  Have a great weekend!

“I love that they’re all making eye-contact with me when I walk in the room!”

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Gratitude

I LOVE MY JOB!  I recently shared this with a friend, and we both got very excited and animated about how wonderful this is! Here’s what I shared with her: on days where I don’t have any hands-on organizing scheduled or I’m not meeting with a new client, I feel a little blue.

I love what I do so much that I get a little down when I’m not doing it. But I’m happy to experience this low, because it means that I’ve found my calling; I found work that is challenging, fulfilling, and fun. It’s also exhausting, and sometimes I come home dirty, my muscles get sore, and my hands hurt. But I have never been afraid of hard work, messes, or chaos. In fact, I love the process of this work.

And I admire my clients. It takes courage to let someone into your home, your possessions, your challenges, and messes. For some of them, this is an emotional process. I admire them for asking for and accepting help. And my favorite part is when they feel lightness and relief.

So it is with gratitude and appreciation that I look forward to work every day.  Look at that happy face!

“She usually asks for a TV show when we get home but today she went straight to the back room and asked if we could play a game, and we played two. Then she was coloring. She’s over the TV. So incredible.”

-update from a client after we organized their family room.

After organizing the family room, an update from a client: "...she usually asks for a TV show when we get home but today she went straight to the back room and asked if we could play a game, and we played two. Then she was coloring. She's over the TV. So incredible."

Beach House Inspiration Update – Before and After

I committed to a huge chunk of work for the Beach House Inspiration post, but I’m proud of the results and the house feels lighter.

I started with Task 2, which was the hardest: reduce quantities of *select items in specific storage spaces: *linen closet for towels and extra bedding, kitchen counter “stuff” that isn’t for food preparation, and mud room for extra shoes, boots, and flip flops.

  • Main focuses: kitchen counter catch-all (frustrating on a daily basis) and the great room (piles/bins of projects).
  • Lesson learned: keeping my in-progress projects visible did not yield motivation or inspiration.  Instead they made me feel overwhelmed and frustrated.

Before – kitchen counter – the worst place for a drop-zone.

Before - Kitchen Counter The worst place for a drop-zone.

After – a placemat increases discipline to keep the space clear for eating or working at the counter.

After - Kitchen Counter A placemat keeps the space clear for eating or working at the counter.

After – the tray that enabled a drop-zone and served as a dangerous catch-all had to go.

After - Kitchen Counter Removed the tray that served as a dangerous catch-all, and all that it held.

Task 2 nicely merged with Task 4: move incomplete projects to a master list, then to a plastic bin, and store properly.

  • Before I started anything, I walked around the house noting things that needed to be done.  We use Evernote as our master list, so I added them there.
  • Lessons learned:
    • sometimes my master list is overwhelming.  To gain traction, I’ll select 2 or 3 items from the master list, break them down into smaller steps, and get them into my calendar.  (Project management 101).
    • I should have only 1 project out and in progress at a time (whenever possible) to increase productivity and decrease visual clutter.

Before – piles, photo organizing project.

Before - Piles of projects in progress Photo albums and more...

Before – piles and a bin.

Before - Piles of projects in progress Organizing family photos.

After – Removing projects in-progress reveals a peaceful and sunny window seat.

After - Removing projects in progress A peaceful and sunny window seat.

Before – Piles on top of bins, framed photos, kids artwork, and mystery items.

Before - Piles of projects in progress Tubs of framed photos, kids artwork, and who knows what...

During – most of a day spent planning the arrangement, spacing, and hanging.

During - Removing projects in progress Photo wall collage spacing.

Afterish – still in progress but 2 large bins of frames hung up and cleared out.

After - Removing projects in progress Still in progress but 2 large tubs of frames emptied and removed.

After – only 1 bin remains visible which are the photos needed to complete the wall collage.

After - Removing projects in progress Only 1 tub of left out, photos to complete the photo wall collage.

Task 3 was the most fun: place charming baskets or pails outside each entryway for kids to store their “treasures,” muddy boots, sandy crocs, and wet umbrellas. Squeeze in a potted plant that can survive the traffic level.

  • Lessons learned:
    • having a vision makes the work easier.  I felt motivated to do what felt like drudgery: clearing out dead leaves, cleaning up dirty beach toys, moving shoes (again).
    • a vision kept me focused.  I didn’t get overwhelmed by the sides of the house that also need attention but were not part of this project.

Before – front door with an empty flower pot and a lonely tulip

with an empty flower pot and a lonely tulip

After – front door (close-up) softened with palm-grass and warmed up with red pots full of seedlings that will burst with color in a few weeks.

After - front door (close-up) softened with palm-grass and warmed up with red pots full of seedlings that will burst with color in a few weeks.

Before – back entry off the deck, originally built for relaxing, now a high-traffic drop zone, narrowed by bags and shoes.

Before - back door entry from the deck which was built for relaxing but has become a high-traffic drop zone

After – back entry (close-up) after removing clutter and added flower pots.

After - Back Door (close-up) Removed the "to-do" bags and added flower pots. Goodbye to so much chaos.

After – back entry with less stuff feels great, even with the Cinderella kite watching us.

After - Back Door Still a small space but with less stuff feels great, even with Cinderella watching us.

Task 1: create a space meant for one solitary purpose: do nothing but relax and unwind here.

I assumed that my office/craft room would be the space for relaxing and unwinding since it’s the one space that is all mine. But something surprising happened!  My kids opened up the storage box where we keep seasonal shoes and other items that get shoved there. I thought they were going to take out all the rain boots, garden clogs, and crocs, but they found my yoga matt and unrolled it on the deck.  And just like that, my space meant for relaxing and unwinding was complete.  

  • Lessons learned: you might end up somewhere unexpected, but it’s where you were meant to be; sometimes your kids know better than you do!

Beach House Inspiration

My plans for the weekend can be summed up in 2 words: beach house. Just thinking about it makes me feel relaxed. But now I’m back home and that beachy-vibe is disappearing quickly. I’ve always wanted to recreate a little of that beach house relaxation back at home. In fact, I could use some of that same magic in my car, in the backyard, and in my head.

I’ll forgo trying to move the ocean or fill the front yard with sand and settle for some interior rearranging. So what makes the beach house so relaxing?

The beach house is not home, and therefore inherently relaxing. I’m not thinking about cleaning or yard work and the bed is definitely not covered with clean clothes that need to be put away. Sure, I’ll wash some beach towels and wash dishes after making dinner and s’mores, but with none of the *blah* that accompanies these tasks at home.

Task 1: create a space meant for one solitary purpose: do nothing but relax and unwind here.

The beach house has what we need and nothing more: dishes, pots, pans, and tools in quantities appropriate for the size of the kitchen; bath towel sets for each of us plus a couple of extras, a spare pillow or two plus an extra blanket in each bedroom.

Task 2: reduce quantities of *select items in specific storage spaces: *linen closet for towels and extra bedding, kitchen counter “stuff” that isn’t for food preparation, and mud room for extra shoes, boots, and flip flops.

Each entrance to the beach house is welcoming. There’s a door matt, a bucket or basket for things that should stay outside (sea shells, rocks and sticks, dog leash), in other words, vessels that imply “keep those special things here.”

Task 3: place charming baskets or pails outside each entryway for kids to store their “treasures,” muddy boots, sandy crocs, and wet umbrellas. Squeeze in a potted plant that can survive the traffic level.

At the beach house, there are no incomplete projects laying around to remind me that my to-do list is over-the-top-long. Even fun projects can become stress-inducing clutter or “noise” when shoved into a corner of what is supposed to be “living space.”

Task 4: move incomplete projects to a master list, then to a plastic bin, and stored properly. (This list will appear in a future blog about prioritizing).

It seems reasonable to give this task list 30 minutes a day and I should be done with it by the end of the week. Task 1 will require some thinking, so I’ll start of task 2. Tasks 3 and 4 seem fun so I’ll save them for last as a reward for being focused and diligent. I’ll follow up with before and after photos.

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