Amy Beth

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Tidying Up: Kids’ Clothes

Ugh.

tidying up kids' clothes

After coming off my high from tidying and basically emptying my closet, this category was not so magical. I didn’t uncover new empty areas of my home or feel a great weight lifted from my shoulders. But it’s done and I think I have a few thoughts and tips to help anyone else out there trying to tidy up their home with little kids in tow.

First off, the KonMari method says that you should only tidy your own things. If you live with other family members you have to let them decide for themselves what sparks joy, and you can’t very well force someone to think about that. This is why I am basically ignoring my husband’s office. But I consider tiny children to be an exception to that rule. After all, the person who is most often dealing with their stuff is me. So I think that means I get to decide what to do with it.

Second, the KonMari method doesn’t really address the issue of practicality or future planning or little people who basically need a new wardrobe every season because they grow and change so fast. Going through their clothes and asking what sparks joy sounds like an awful lot of work for clothes that are all going to be outgrown in a few months anyway. So here’s how I addressed the whole issue of kid’s clothes.

Ask “What can he/she wear now.

These are the only things you need to have out taking up space in your drawers. I found many things sitting in drawers and closets that were either too small or too big. These things need to find another home.

Use the KonMari folding method as much as possible.

The KonMari folding method really does save space and make it easier to see the clothes you have to choose from. But kid’s clothes can be tiny and are not always worth folding into rectangles. So fold the shirts and pants and PJs. But skip the underwear and socks. It’s impossible.

Have a plan for what to do with outgrown clothes.

This is a the kicker that can really trip people up when it comes to kid’s clothes. Your plan could be to just load them up and take them to a thrift store because you know you are done. If you know you won’t be having future kiddos and are feeling particularly sentimental about certain items I recommend putting them aside in a box or bin to deal with when you get to the sentimental items category. Right now is just about clearing the clutter, not necessarily going through a whirlwind of emotions. Just make sure you don’t feel sentimental about everything.

Another good plan could be to hand down clothes to a family member or friend. While Mari Kondo advises against passing your belongings on to another person only to clutter up their life, I think kid’s clothes are a good exception. Hand-me-downs are legitimately useful to many people. As you’re preparing clothes for handing off, it would be kind to sort according to size, gender, and possibly season if you have that many items. It’s time consuming, but your friends will thank you. This is a good time to discard anything that has really seen better days. If there are items with impossible to remove stains, tears, or are otherwise not in immediately wearable condition, just toss them. Nobody wants hand me downs that they have to spend a lot of time trying to fix.

And another plan could be to keep them for future use. If this is your plan you definitely want to make sure you have good storage containers and a place to keep said storage containers. This is what has caused me problems in the past. I may have known I needed to clear out a bunch of outgrown clothes, but I had no boxes to put them in. When that happens you either end up with overcrowded drawers or piles of kid’s clothes in other areas of your house. To remedy this I bought several extra of the type of container I like to use so I will have one readily available the next time one of my kids grows a size. Sorting by size and gender again is a given. Be kind to your future self.

Our plan for outgrown clothes is actually a combination of the last two. We figure we may have another kid eventually, but in the meantime, a family member who is expecting a baby soon is taking the bins of the sizes she needs right now. When her kid outgrows them, she’ll pass them back to us.

These boxes of outgrown clothes may not spark a lot of joy right now, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be very joyful when the next baby comes along and all I have to do to dress him is pull a box out of the garage.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

An Intro to The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Are you read for some extreme tidying? No wait, wrong question. Are you ready to CHANGE YOUR LIFE?

Yeah, I don’t know if I am either, but had to start this whole endeavor off with a bang. Let’s get excited! About decluttering!

If you’re lost, let me back up. This past summer I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Even then I was a little late to the game. EVERYONE was talking about it. I was skeptical that it could really be life changing, but I was intrigued at what made this book such a hit. And I was also sick of all the clutter in my house.

So I read it. For a book about decluttering, it’s a pretty enjoyable read. The author has just enough quirkiness to keep things amusing, while still doling out some practical advice. Now, I’ve read many a blog post and magazine article about how to clear the clutter, organize your house in 15 minutes a day, and become a minimalist in 100 easy steps. I was surprised to find that the KonMari method (the name given to the method outlined in the book) actually has some unique specifications and tips. If you’re really serious about decluttering, then I suggest you read the book, but here’s a quick recap of those things that make this book a bit different than what you may have read before.

  1. It’s better to declutter all at once than just a little bit at a time. So many other decluttering gurus say to break it down in to manageable chunks and do a little each day. Marie Kondo says to just go for it. All the way. She says that when you make it a BIG EVENT you get to enjoy the benefits much sooner. This gives you more motivation to stay decluttered. Forever.
  2. Declutter by category, not location. This makes a lot of sense. You can’t accurately get a handle on all your stuff if some of it is hidden away. For example, you can’t tell how many writing utensils you have if you have pens scattered between the bedroom, kitchen, office, your purse, and at the bottom of the junk drawer. You have to gather them all together before you can decide what to keep and what to discard. in a similar vein…
  3. Store things according to category rather than frequency of use. For example, I have a small collection of cords in my desk drawer. My husband has other cords in a box in his closet. Some cords are kept in camera or laptop bags. However, any time I need a cord I can never remember where I keep that particular cord and I end up looking in several different places. But if I kept all the cords together I would know there was only one place to look. Every time.
  4. Keep only those items that “spark joy.” This is really the central rule to her whole system. You are supposed to physically handle every item you own during the decluttering process and sort it into “keep” or “discard” based on how it makes you feel. She claims that you will be happier if you are only surrounded by things that give you joy. It’s a rule that sounds lovely, but probably the one I have the most trouble implementing. It feels a little impractical to me.

This book also has it’s quirks though. There were a few things while reading it that I thought were either a little strange or just unhelpful.

  1. Along with the whole “spark joy” rule, Marie Kondo is a little out there about the things in our homes. She talks a lot of “waking up” your belongings so you can see them more clearly. She encourages thanking the things you decide to discard so you can release them to the world without guilt. She talks of a certain way to fold socks so they are “at rest” in your drawer. It can be a little odd.
  2. This book is written from the perspective of a single woman living alone in a small Japanese apartment. She doesn’t really address some of the big issues that many American families have like garages full of stuff, or baby gear that you feel like you should keep for future children. I guess she would say that you should still ask “Does this spark joy?” But I kind of wish she had spent more time addressing things like the craft closet rather than cosmetic samples and spare buttons.

Despite it’s oddities, I still found the book to be pretty inspiring and motivating. I also feel like it gave me some very clear steps to follow. So, although it took me about 6 months to get going, I’ve officially started Tidying My Home. Updates forthcoming.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How to keep stuff from overtaking your home

I am by no means an expert in minimalism. In fact, I default toward packrat. I’m pretty good at seeing the potential in things and I can always convince myself that there’s a really creative use for whatever stuff is taking up space in the back of the closet. But I’ve learned that for the most part, this tendency just adds extra stress to my life. What I really want is a calm and clutter free home that I don’t have to constantly clean and reorganize. So there are a few things I’ve learned that can help a packrat like me live a more minimal life.

Give your stuff physical boundaries

Anytime I find it difficult to find the space to keep my stuff, I know it’s time to purge. It’s natural to think that you just need to get more containers and boxes and storage units to hold your stuff, but in my small house I don’t have the space for those things either! So rather than try to squeeze things into the space I don’t really have, I find it’s useful to decide on the space I have first, and start filling it from there. I make sure I include the best/most useful items first and anything that doesn’t fit when I run out of space gets kicked out of the house.

One example where this has really been useful is with kid’s toys. We recently started to feel like Charlie’s toys were taking over the living room. So we gave them some boundaries. He can have the amount of toys it takes to fill one drawer in our console cabinet, the shelves on a small bookcase, and a couple of cubbies in my desk. Everything else had to go! My living room is now able to be used by adults and Charlie hasn’t missed any of his old toys!

Find a worthy cause to take your stuff

One of the hardest things about getting rid of excess stuff is getting over the feeling that you’re “wasting” it. Especially if it’s something that is perfectly useful and sometimes barely used! I’ve found that it really helps when you have a plan to give that stuff to a person, cause, or organization that will appreciate it much more than you ever did. Goodwill is always an option, but if you look a little harder most communities have ways to make donations that will go directly to people in need. For example, a homeless shelter can always use good clothing, coats, blankets, and shoes to give to the people it serves. Our town has a ministry that helps refugees set up house in their new country. These people sometimes come into our country with nothing, so donations of furniture, household and kitchen items, and bedding can go a long way to help these people get settled and comfortable. A crisis pregnancy center could make good use of all your old baby gear. Getting rid of that perfectly good set of pots and pans feels a lot better if you know it will be used by someone who really needs it.

Be honest with yourself before you start purging.

I find this tip to be most helpful when dealing with my closet. Even though I may have good intentions to mend that hole in that shirt I wore once, or make some simple alterations to make that cute dress actually fit, the truth is that I will never actually get around to doing those things. So before diving in and trying to decide what should stay and what should go, I find it’s good to think about the reality of my life. I’m not going to do any sewing. If something is uncomfortable, I won’t wear it, even if it is super cute. And if something doesn’t fit, chances are neither I or the clothes are going to magically morph size or shape. When I have some guidelines in mind it’s a lot easier to be ruthless when getting rid of things that are just taking up space.

I’m pretty sure I will foreverandalways have more stuff in my house than is necessary or useful, but I feel like over time I’ve slowly but surely started to open up the space in our home by following these guidelines. I might need to work a bit faster in the next few months though. We have to make room for a whole new person!

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Spontaneous Garage Improvement

Every now and then a strange spirit overtakes me. There’s no way to predict when this will happen. It’s a rare cosmic occurance that only happens when my energy level, my schedule, the weather, and a build up of annoyance at the clutter in my house all align at just the right moment. When this happens I suddenly become possessed with the intense desire to do some major cleaning/purging/organizing. There’s no holding it back. This week the stars aligned and the cleaning spirit descended on the garage.

Since moving in to this house almost a year ago, the garage has been the place to stick everything we don’t have the time to deal with.

“Are we going to hang up these curtains?” “Eh…not today, just stick in them in the garage for now.”
“Where do you want to put these leftover decorations from the party?” “I don’t know. Just throw them in the garage.”
“Do we need to do something special to dispose of these toxic cleaning chemicals?” “Probably, just put them in the garage until we figure it out.”

You get the idea. Despite the fact that we have only been here a year and we never had more than a closet for extra storage space at our earlier apartments, we had managed to fill an entire garage. We couldn’t move around or find anything we needed. It was a problem.

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