Decrease, delete, declutter…

We’re moving to California!  Which means….we need to downsize – a LOT!  In fact, we’ve put a deposit down on a….wait for it…1 bedroom, 600 square foot apartment.  Yes, we are moving from a 4 bedroom, 1900 square foot house with a garage to a 1 bedroom, 600 square foot apartment with no garage and no real storage (more on that in another post).  I know, I know – it is certifiably crazy, that’s for sure!  Regardless, there’s a lot of this going on lately:

…in other words, we are trying to clear out the clutter.  So far we’ve already paid one junk hauler to come through and take away half of our garage worth of stuff and have taken one Mazda3 car load worth of clothes to send to Goodwill and to Powell’s Books to get rid of a laundry basket filled with old paperbacks that we never read.  Seriously, I got rid of some of my summer reading requirements from my high school AP English classes and even the dress that I wore under my gown to my High School graduation!  We won’t discuss how many hairstyles ago that was…

So this brings up a good point.  How do you decide what to give away, donate, re-furb, etc.  I’m a MASTER de-clutterer.  It’s probably because I’m not really a very sentimental person except in rare cases and my Mom taught me from a very young age to go through the crap and keep only what is super meaningful/useful to you.  So I thought it would be good to kind of detail here a couple categories of things here – maybe it’ll be helpful, maybe it won’t?  And maybe we’ll be getting to more stuff later on!

Clothes – Ahhh….yes, clothing.  Here is where we ladies tend to go overboard.  But I have a few simple rules for controlling clutter.  First off, you need to go through your closet every season change (well, fall and spring essentially).  And you should also go through it whenever heavy items fall on you whenever you open the door – it’s always a good rule of thumb.  But here is how I determine what to keep/throw away:

  1. Have I worn it in the past 6-12 months OR have I worn it in the previous season?  If the answer is no for both of those, then it’s probably time to say hasta la vista, baby!  Just to be safe, try it on to be sure it fits….
  2. Does it fit?  This probably seems pretty obvious, but I can’t tell ya how many people I know who keep those “skinny” jeans just in case they might fit again.  Lemme tell ya somethin’, honey.  Get rid of them!  Once you do lose that weight, treat yourself to a non-calorie item and go out and buy NEW clothes!  Also, remember this saying always – “You should wear your clothes.  Your clothes should NEVER wear you!”  If you don’t feel absolutely sexy/beautiful/insert miscellaneous compliment here, then it’s time to get rid of those clothes.
  3. Stains?  Missing buttons?  Repair work that’s outside your scope?  Again, pitch it.  Especially if you’ve attempted repair and it’s just not taking.
  4. If you need more space, then click here to learn how to fold your clothes the “right” way – Seriously, I have so much space in my drawers now because of learning how to fold shirts this way.  And it sounds silly, but both Dr. J and I used to have our own “methods” for folding shirts and now we both fold this way because it saves us *so* much room!  It may just change your life – you never know!
  5. Lastly, understand your climate – Everybody said when we moved to Oregon that we wouldn’t need our warm winter coats and (for the most part), they’re absolutely right.  There are also a lot of “climate” issues that I’ve noticed about living in Oregon versus living in Ohio – anything that’s suede and/or water penetrable in my closet absolutely *cannot* be worn.  That means shoes, coats, blazers – you’ll rarely see an Oregonian strutting their stuff in a pair of Uggs – it’s the most colossal waste of money!  So eliminating these items from my wardrobe is pretty important.   Now that we’re moving to California, we’ll no doubt be going through a whole other set of wardrobe changes….gotta make room for it!
Books – I’m finding out as I get rid of books and try to offer them to people that so few people are reading these days!  Ugh!  It’s such a crime!  I can’t sleep at night if I don’t read a few pages of *something* before I go to bed.  But I think books are kind of clutter-catchers, especially light summer reading paperbacks.  Dr. J can read a 500 page novel in about 36 hours on a vacation so we have amassed quite the collection of books.  Don’t believe me?  Check out this snap below:

I know a lot of people feel somewhat sacrilegious in throwing away books, so here are a few tips that might help you out when it comes to decluttering books and also some thoughts on how to purchase books in the first place:

  1. Buy yourself an e-reader - Are you a Nook-er or a Kindle-er?  In our household, we’re both.  And honestly, I don’t think it matters very much anymore what kind of e-reader you should buy.  If you like to read, they are VERY affordable nowadays (an entry-level e-reader will only set you back about $100 these days).  And if you’re looking to declutter, this is an absolute no-brainer!  We purchased an e-reader about a year ago and honestly it is just about the best thing we’ve ever done.  When we went to Hawaii last year, we took our Nook and Dr. J read about 2000 pages in a matter of a week.  Not sure how many books that was but it doesn’t really matter.  An e-reader is a declutterer’s best friend!
  2. Go to the library – This is one I’m always trying to get Dr. J to use – I mean, 2000 pages in a week is easily 3-4 novels – possibly more!  And since his tastes in reading tend towards fiction, it’s very “disposable” light reading that he can easily check out of the library and return with no need to store it!
  3. If you must buy, then leave the paper, take the hardback - Here’s a tip – hardback books are pretty and they really give a bookcase a nice “distinguished” look (minus the dust covers).  Paperbacks, however, are ugly.  Their spines never retain their shape, the artwork is very often ugly and super market-y/loud and they just DO NOT look good – i.e., they are very disposable.  I realize books aren’t all about looks, but if it’s something that I feel “obligated” to keep because I’ve read it, then YES, it IS about looks once the passage of reading enjoyment has gone.  And, no, I don’t believe in keeping books as “conquests” or as a brag sheet.  That’s what the public library is for!  If it’s paperback and it’s a “disposable” title, then I say pitch it – unless it’s something you read often.  And if you read it often, you may want to consider forking over a few extra bucks for a hardback version because a paperback is not good for repeated reading – or see about buying it on your e-reader!
  4. Now I have the book, how do I decide to keep/pitch? - This is a very personal question – and it really depends in your level of interest in the book.  I have a few books that I re-read every few years or so and make it a point to keep them handy for those times.  For example, I re-read the Harry Potter series probably every couple of years from 1-7, so those books will always be on my bookcase (and some are paperback just to give you an idea).  However (and I will probably get a lot of crap for admitting this publicly), I had to pull teeth to get through the Twilight series  so I ended up sending those books to the toss pile even though it was a high quality hardback set.  If it’s a book that I will likely never touch again and it’s a paperback (see paperback note above), then I have no qualms in giving it the boot.  So ask yourself these questions – Do I love it?  Will I read it again?  Does it have a memorable inscription/meaning?  Do I need this book for work/class?  If the answer is ‘no’ to any of those questions, then it’s time to retire the book.
  5. Where do I send my old books?  - As unsentimental as I may be about “stuff”, I do still think that books should be given proper burial.  I.e. – send them to a used bookstore, a library, or see if some of the titles you have are appropriate for your local school and call to see if they would accept donation?  There are so many options for getting rid of books.  Don’t ever feel like you have to throw it in the garbage – that IS actually a crime!

So that’s all I’ve got for now.  I’m sure there will be repeats of tips above on other sites, other places.  We still have a long way to go – namely the kitchens and the bathrooms will need a serious down scaling.  But we’ll get to those in time.

From here to there and back again – a tale of a TV stand

Ahhh….love them.  Hate them.  No matter how hard we try, we just can’t seem to get rid of our TVs.  And whoever said that the internet would kill the Television?!?  Just like video killed the radio star, right?

A few weeks ago, I told you all about how my hubby, Dr. J, built this incredible TV stand with his own two hands!

Our TV stand accessorized in our old house

…and when we lived in Ohio it housed our old 27″ Sony hundred pounder TV – and, yes, that thing does weigh a hundred pounds!  I guess there is *some* good that has come from flatscreen TVs!  But when we moved cross country to Portland, Oregon we rented a house and then later purchased a house that both had “built-in” TV areas and we had no need for a TV stand.  So it kind of just sat in our office in the rental for a year and then another year in the office at the new house until we *finally* decided that the current set up in the Room of Requirement just wasn’t functional enough for us the way it was:

…so we changed it to this…

….and now we have more of this…

….and while it’s not pretty (OMG, still need to paint, buy bedding that doesn’t have holes in it, organize the bookcases, hang artwork, etc, etc), it’s very functional now!  We actually have a place to sit and watch TV/play video games as opposed to sitting on the floor – fun when you’re thirteen, not when you’re thirty!  And we have an additional guest room in a pinch – which comes in handy when you have gaggles of familials coming to visit like we are this coming weekend!  Whoo to the hoo!
Stay tuned later this afternoon for the announcement of the Giveaway!!!  Thanks to everyone who participated!!!

It’s Not Easy Being Green: Re-usable Grocery Bags

Kermit was right – it’s not easy being green!  But I’ve figured out one way that it’s *super* easy to be green!  Re-usable grocery bags!!  Yes, I have finally *finally* purchased re-usable grocery bags to cart my goodies home from the store and it’s as easy as….well….easier than being green!  I know, I know.  I’m a little late to this (hello….Louis Vuitton was creating couture re-usable canvas bags back in like 2005 – where have I been?!?!).  Honestly it was part laziness, part cheap-ness, and part convenience-ness (huh?).  So why now?  Basically I have had an “environmental epiphany” within the past few months and I’m out to do the “right” thing, which isn’t always easy, but I assure you this is as easy as it gets!  And hopefully it will help to prevent things like this from happening:

I’ve always tried to be a good person to my one and only home.  I recycle, I compost, I car-pool, and I think very seriously about the “stuff” I bring into my home and whether or not I truly need it.  I only buy things I truly need, love and cannot live without, or are necessities to living life (socks and underwear, you make the cut in good times and bad!!).  I’m not saving the world, one recyclable at a time, but I am doing my small part to make my home and my family a little bit greener and gentler to our surrounding environment!  I still have a long way to go, but I am working on it!

The problem, I admit, was that I had a drawer in my kitchen that was filled to the brim with plastic bags and they multiplied like bunnies since I wasn’t “re-using” them quickly enough to dispose of them (I use them a lot for bathroom canister liners and doggy-poop bags).  So they litterally turned into “litter” around my house and I was sick of it!  So I went through and emptied out about half of what I had and took them to the grocery store to recycle (most grocery stores will have large bins that you can dump these bags into, but if yours doesn’t, then here are a few helpful ideas to get rid of yours).   Then I took an empty Kleenex box and stuffed the extra bags in there so I can grab and go when I’m on my way out the door with the Magsters and then they are more organized and “contained” than they were before.  I also keep a few empty boxes under the bathroom sinks for fast access when I need it.

So now that one problem was tackled (organizing), I was ready to bring more “stuff” into my house.  But rather than jump at the bit and run out and purchase all new, I did the eco-friendly thing and “shopped my house” for perfectly usable (and re-usable) canvas bags and the like and here’s what I found:

All of these bags were sitting around my house and I wasn’t using them save for the occasional trip to Mt. Hood to corral miscellaneous ski gear or as a dirt collector stuffed in the corner of my kitchen.  I took about five minutes one afternoon searching down these bags and then stuffed them into a “super shopper” bag (which I got as a house-warming gift a few months back) and threw them in the back of my car.  So now whenever Dr. J and I are at the grocery, we just remember to go to the trunk and pull them out!  Couldn’t be simpler!  Not only that, but we only had to buy two extra bags and then every time we go to the grocery store, we get an extra ten cents off our purchase, which, depending upon the store, you can either add back to your tab or donate to a good cause!  Score!

In addition to getting rid of old, I also have made a concious effort to “reduce” the plastic bag clutter by abstaining from bringing any more home than I absolutely need to – i.e., cutting the Check-out person off at the pass by saying, “I can carry that in my purse, thanks!”  Most of the time I don’t need a bag and I appreciate some stores asking if I really need one to begin with.  You can tell the stores who are really conscious of their waste because the bag is an option as opposed to a hard and fast rule.  The best example I can think of is Ikea where they have *no* bags, so if you drop by, be sure to bring your super-shopper bag just in case you decide to buy a bunch of little things as opposed to the large flat-pack boxes that they love so much.

So there ya have it!  One step closer to living a little more green-ly in the Tell’er All About It household!  So You  Tell’Us!  What are you doing to green-i-fy your life?  Do you feel like choices like this make a difference or is it all hogwash?  Discuss!

Turtle photo above courtesy of environmentalcrime.com.

We’ve Been Benched! Chapter 3

So it goes without saying that tackling any project like our recent Master Bedroom window seat demolition and window storage building risks everything from your sanity, your cleanliness, even your marriage.  Luckily Dr. J and I work exceptionally well together on house projects, otherwise our marriage really *would* be in trouble, but the mess these past few days has certainly kept us feeling a little….dusty.  Can you imagine if we had to do a full-scale remodel?  I’m two rooms away in our office and the iMac has dust all over it…le sigh.

But for now if you’re just joining us, then Dr. J and L-Blogger are in the midst of dismantling a pretty useless window seat in our master bedroom.  The whole inspiration for this demo and rebuild is really to inject some functionality into a pretty architectural feature in our bedroom.  I mean, seriously, who has heard of a window seat that *didn’t* have some sort of storage?!?  And, I also have a love affair with this pic below from a Pottery Barn mag (admit it, they’ve moved up from brochures):

Look familiar?!  Ours has similar beadboard (though no baseboards at bottom – future idea) and while we don’t have the curtains or the fun woodwork on the top, these are all great ideas for future projects!  I really am turning into my grandmother – I’ve always got something up my sleeve for my hubby to work on.  He’s never bored being married to me!

But back to the goods of it.  We just finished installing two boxes into the remains of our window seat bench and I got to test them on for size.  L-blogger storage worthy?  Check!

However, the edges were looking a little “unfinished”, so we cut a few pieces of plywood to size and placed them over the “seams” of the built-in.  Actually, this was also a functional addition, as we had to get the depth of the window seat correct all the way across so that when our eventual door is finished, everything will be on the same plane.  We wouldn’t want to pinch our rumps on an uneven window seat.  Yowza!  This is what it looks like:

After that it was as simple (or as time-consuming) as putting a little Wood Putty into all of the seams, waiting for it to dry, and then sanding it down to the same level plane as the rest of the plywood.  So we waited….and waited…..and waited….and waited some more…..and then we realized that this project was taking far longer than anticipated due to drying times.  I think it’s that whole moisture-in-the air problem we have in the Pacific Northwest this time of year.

So here is an ugly photo before of the pre-sanded Wood putty:

Then it was time to sand…

….then paint….

And then it was on to creating the door.  Basically, and I think you know where this is going, we reduced the width of the two original MDF boards,  and we put them back, we had a large open space In the middle.  So we cut *two* MDF pieces.  One long and skinny to fit in between the two old pieces of MDF right by the window glass (which I am painting in the pic above) and then another to….piece de resistance….create a door, kind of like an old fashioned toy box that opens UP.  We carefully cut the door so that it had 1/8″ wiggle-room gap around the three sides where it butts up against the rest of the top.  But the real kicker here is just finding the right kind of hardware, which we found at Lowe’s in the form of an old fashioned piano hinge:

We are on the hunt for a “child-safety” toy box hinge, so if anybody knows of a good place, let us know.  We figure it might come in handy for any future kiddos, any future buyers, and it’ll be Dr. J, L-Blogger, and Maggie safe – we’re a little accident prone, so the more safety we have the better!

But here we are, a few days later, and we can finally close the lid on our window seat reconstruction…..

or…keep the lid open…a la the toilet seat….d’oh!  Did I just say that?!?!  But this window seat is not for crap, it’s for stuff!

Now the only thing left to do is a to finishing painting and caulk around the windows….but how lovely is this transformation?!  I mean, seriously….You Tell’Us!

The Quest for the Holy Grail: A House Completed Before X-Mas??

In case you haven’t noticed, J & I have been furiously trying to get our house all primmed, trimmed, and ready for its closeup, Mr. DeMille – i.e. Christmas 2009!  And if you recall this post from a few months ago, we had a pretty ambitious “Quest” to complete all of it before the Yuletide Cheer descended upon Tell’er All About It.  In a manner of speaking, it was truly the Quest for the Holy Grail: A Completed House for Christmas!  But, as with all things, life intervened, and we found ourselves scrambling just to get the simplest of tasks completed.  Now that I am back to work, our time (and energy) is much shorter than it used to be, though the extra cash certainly helps us complete projects that have otherwise festered for far too long.  So we thought now would be a good time to “Return to the Quest” and figure out if our projects have shaped up like we planned.

We had divided the projects up into three fairly essential categories (Safety, Functionality, and Cleanliness).  For the most part, we were just looking to get some “basics” completed and the “aesthetics” were simply bonus points.  If you look below, we have updated the list with some handy dandy links to point you towards the projects we have completed (along with the words crossed out like so to indicate they are finished) and updates in italics on some of the things we *have* completed but didn’t necessarily report on here at Tell’er All About It.

SAFE:

  • Buy and install (by ourselves, of course!) a new Hot Water Tank!  That should be fun! (Update:  Unfortunately, we still have not been able to get this done, however, it is tops on our list for 2010!)
  • Buy and install a garage door opener (our house never had one installed – what gives?) (Update:  Santa actually gave us one for Christmas – hooray for celebrating Christmas early when presents need to be shipped from 3,000 miles away!  Installation process and photos to come!)
  • Window Dressings for a minimum of 4 more windows.  Is privacy a safety factor?

One of the 10 Window Dressings we have purchased since July!

  • Caulking our outdoor “leaks” and repainting almost all of our window aprons before winter sets in.
  • Replacing the seals on our front door and our garage entry door so that they don’t leak – and while we’re at it, see if we can fix our “leaning tower of Pisa” doors. (Update:  We are pretty much finished with this project, though the pictures weren’t as interesting as simply telling you about it)
  • Service the Furnace – we can’t turn it on until we do!  Could be a cold winter…Brr…(Update:  Actually, the furnace is almost *too* efficient – we are boiling at night still trying to figure out what the best temperature settings are).

FUNCTIONAL:

CLEAN:

So out of 16 Bullet Points, we were able to complete 9 Full Bullets and two are halfway completed (we simply need to install the garage door opener and the painting of the house is almost completely done).  I’d say those are all pretty good odds and considering I was doing much of the painting on my own, it was a successful first 5 months in our new house!  Yes, only five months, can you believe it?!  Can you imagine what this house will look like after one year of us living in it?!

An Impossible Mission? Part 3 (The Gripping Conclusion)

Our fearless heroes/bloggers have returned!  This time with the exciting conclusion to the Mission Classified as Impossible.  As you may recall, we had a Spare Bedroom that really wasn’t being utilized to the best of its ability.  Truth be told, we had no idea how the room was being utilized, so we simply called it “The Room of Requirement” from the Harry Potter novels.  It was precisely what we needed it to be when we needed it to be that….so it essentially became a drop zone for all things (books, Aero-Beds, luggage, unused artwork, etc.).  In fact, it had devolved into something that looked a little bit like this:

Personal Nightmare Side A

Personal Nightmare Side B

So obviously something needed to be done!  So we went to Ikea and picked up the Billy Bookcase and assembled it frantically last Saturday.  Actually it took about an hour and a half or so, but it made for a great result!  Then we began unpacking all of our books for the first time in two years on some of them!  What a relief!  Then the organizational storm began!!

And, again, unleashing these books was like a walk back in time for both J & I.  It was awesome looking through all the old volumes we had and we were able to clear out quite a few things we didn’t need as well.  J was able to clear out some outdated textbooks, though not quite all of them.  Darnit!  I hate it when people actually *use* their textbooks in their career!  Makes me jealous!  I really don’t have much use for a Spanish Phonetics Textbook, but the last time I tried to get rid of a textbook via fire, it was neither as dramatic nor as successful as I would’ve liked for it to be, so I have retired my matches for awhile (and if anybody has pictures from that event, I would love to have copies!).

So after another full day of unloading books, organizing, cleaning and even hanging blinds (!!!), the final result is revealed below:

Our Nightmare dream-i-fied

Is it scary that I think that organization is super sexy?

Isn’t it amazing?!  We have many more plans for this space, including painting the room and the shelves eventually, crown molding on the bookcases, trim, etc.  But that’s not all!  The plan is for this room to become an overall Media Lovin’ Space-o-rama!  We’re going to put a TV in here, all of our Video Game consoles, some Day Beds, etc etc.  It’s going to be awesome and it will keep us uber-busy through 2010 and beyond!

To be continued in 2010…

An Impossible Mission? Part 2

So here is yet *another* post on the “Room of Requirement Saga”.  When we last left our heroes/bloggers, they were in the midst of taking a disgustingly cluttered spare bedroom from drab to oh-so-mission-impossible-fab.  But the mission stopped at building bookcases….the cliffhangers continue in this next installment, which I am dedicating to my good friend, Eric, who is living in Germany now, but just recently moved and wished he had “Gawked” his library stacking project at home in Ohio.  If you have any interest whatsoever in creating your own “Timelapses”, then check out this link.  It’s proven to be a super way to waste time on the weekends for us.

But continuing on…and this is a short post with the final result coming tomorrow!  I’m workin’ now, kids, so I gotta milk this blog for all it’s worth!  Enjoy the link to YouTube below to show you just how we learned our ABCs of stacking books.  If that link doesn’t work, then you can click here instead:

Some interesting things to note in this video are the following:

  • In the first few seconds, J is attaching the Ikea Billy Bookcases to the wall with the handily included brackets.  This is a super-important tip for *any* bookcase, especially if you have kids, but any tall bookcase *needs* to be attached to the wall whether or not you have wee ones in the house.  Thank you again, Ikea!
  • J & I couldn’t resist flipping through old books as we pulled them out of storage.  Mind you, it really has been nearly two full years since we last looked at some of these and books are like old friends that you got to know so well for a short (or long) period of time.  Flipping to one page in a book and you are instantly transported back to high school, to college, to whatever was going on in your life at that time….and it’s so hard to throw those memories away….
  • We also found some DVDs that we didn’t have any space to store elsewhere.  I found a curious item that you can see at about :40 in the video.  Let’s just say it was a Bachelorette Party present that I haven’t had the opportunity to practice…
  • Lastly, you can physically *watch* the passage of time as the sun moves across the room.  We’ve been having very rare weather in the Pacific NW these past few weeks – lots of sun and crispness, but absolutely frigid cold!!!  However, it makes for some nice photography ;-).

So there ya have our stacking mayhem!  Stay tuned tomorrow and we will publish the full she-bang with photos!

ABC easy as 123 do re mi, baby you and me now….