Month: May 2014

Tip of the Day: Regift!

I had two crock pots. One was a wedding gift, and the other was a Christmas present from my brother. Both new, both awesome, and both genuinely thoughtful gifts. I loved them both.

But I don’t need two crock pots.

Sure, I could keep one “for a rainy day” in the attic, and then when my current crock pot breaks, inevitably forget that I have a spare.

No.

Hiding something in a cabinet or attic like that is no way to appreciate a thoughtful gift! So, I gave one of the crock pots to my sister-in-law. And now you know what? She loves it. She makes delicious meals with it! It’s even got adorable polka dots on it, which look cute in her brand new condo. Everybody wins.

If you have an item that you don’t need, and you know someone else who does, give it to them. Pay forward the kindness and generosity that was bestowed upon you by the original giver and remember: “What’s sentimental for us can be useful for someone else” -Joshua Millburn, The Minimalists.

Weekend Challenge: Beauty product round-up

I LOVE beauty products. Makeup, body washes, lotions, potions, body sprays, scented candles, you name it! I love them all. But I have an entire linen closet of doom that is filled to the brim with various products, and what do I use on a day-to-day basis? A comb, a bar of plain soap, and some moisturizer. That’s crazy.

Here are some inherent problems with collecting beauty products:

  1. They’re fairly small items, so it’s easy to justify storing them. It’s true, 50 eyeliners only take up a small percentage of space in a drawer, but do you really NEED 50 eyeliners?
  2. Any given product has a shelf life of between 90 days and several years. How old are those eyeliners, anyway? As they expire, products lose their effectiveness, but can also spread (or cause!) infection. Gross.
  3. They’re expensive! I find it’s often difficult to get rid of things upon which I spent absurd amounts of money. But how useful is that? The money is already gone, and I’m not using the product anyway. Let go of the guilt, and quit buying more.

This weekend I decided to tackle my beauty product collection and come up with some solutions to these problems.

  1. Embrace the space. An empty drawer is a happy drawer. Nobody needs 50 eyeliners, even if they technically fit in a drawer. Is there everyday clutter on the counter that could be stored instead?
  2. Most of my products were old. I’ve listed the average shelf life for different things below. If your stuff is old and gross, toss it. No need to give yourself pinkeye.
  3. Things you can do to justify the cost, instead of throwing useful items straight in the garbage:
    1.  Give them to someone who will use them. Some women’s shelters will accept donations of unopened products. Body sprays and other items that don’t come into contact with your actual skin are easy to give away to friends or family. I put a free sign on a box of hardly used products in front of my house. Anything that was still there at the end of the day is thrown in the garbage.
    2. Give yourself a strict timeline to use up your products. I’ve given myself 30 days to go through some of my items before I have to toss them. If it’s a bath or shower product (soap, body wash, etc), only continue using it if you LOVE it. If it’s greasy or smells weird, toss it. It’s much easier to justify tossing something once it’s all slimy from the shower.
    3. Google alternative uses for bath products. For example, I shave with extra lotions I have laying around instead of buying shaving gel (But, I was using plain soap before, so my shaving routine is pretty basic). I have a ton of bath bombs from Lush, and I found an interesting list of alternative uses for them, since I rarely take baths. Check it out at your own risk.
  4. Work on breaking the habit altogether! Now that I don’t need a full face of makeup every day, I’m experimenting with lighter looks and routines that don’t involve foundation and false lashes. Eventually, I’d like to even try a “no-poo” method of cleansing my hair, and avoid buying shampoo. Unleash your inner beauty!

 

Beauty Product Shelf-Life:

I found this handy website where you can enter the code of a specific product and it will tell you whether or not it’s expired. I haven’t personally tested it, but if you’re on the fence about whether or not something is still good, you can try it out here. Apparently, the FDA only requires expiration date labeling on “drugs” (sunscreen, acne treatments, dandruff shampoo etc) but the EU requires one on products that have definitive expiration dates before 30 months. For a more detailed list of products, click here or here. When in doubt, throw it out!

Eyeshadow: cream based shadows, 1 year. Powder, up to 2 years.

Eyeliner: Between 1 and 3 years. Some sources say eyeliner can last up to 5 years. But if you’re hanging onto eyeliner for that long, are you really even using it?

Mascara: 4 months (Surprise! I know your mascara is older than that)

Lipstick and lip gloss: between 1 and 4 years. If it looks/smells questionable, toss it.

Nail Polish: 1 year.

Foundation and concealers: 1 to 2 years.

Powder and blush: 2 years.

Alcohol based hair products: 3 to 5 years.

Bar soap: up to 3 years.

Shaving cream and deoderant: up to 2 years.

Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel: up to 3 years.

 

Don’t worry, I will be posting the before/after of my linen closet of doom once it’s finished. I broke several of my own “de-cluttering with kids” rules while trying to get through it. Learn from my mistakes!

 

Tip of the Day: One in, One out.

While getting rid of stuff is awesome, don’t underestimate the allure of a place like Target. Of course, we needed those decorative coasters and four new towels! I just forgot I needed them until I got there! Believe me, it takes a strong willed individual to resist the siren song of Target’s never ending aisles. So keep this rule in the back of your mind: one in, one out.

If we throw out an old towel, we can replace it. If we bring home four new towels, we need to ditch four old ones.

This rule can apply on an item-for-item basis, or you can use it as a blanket rule to help with our purging projects. Bring home a new shirt? A book has to go.

If you have a lot to ditch, multiply it. One in, five out. Etc.

Miss Minimalist explains it like this:

To keep your stuff level from rising, live by the following rule: every time a new item comes into your home, a similar item must leave. For every drip into the bucket, there must be one drip out; this ensures that your household won’t flood, and threaten the progress you’re making. -Francine Jay, Miss Minimalist

And in case you’re wondering, you don’t need the coasters. Put them down. Trust me.

Tip of the Day: Pick a Surface!

This tip comes straight to you from the UFYH playbook: if you’re feeling overwhelmed, pick a surface to declutter and clear. It could be your coffee table, your kitchen island (like mine!), bedroom dresser, or even a floor. Throw away all the trash, donate anything that needs to be ditched, and put everything else in its rightful home. Take a before/after picture if you need motivation!

The benefit to this type of challenge is it takes relatively little time and provides instant gratification. Just try not to fill it back up again!

Today is top of the dresser day for me. What about you?

Before/After: Kitchen Island

Be warned: My before/afters are pretty terrifying. Even the “afters” could use some tweaking. But remember, this is about the journey, not the destination. Yet.

Kitchen Island Before:

island before

Kitchen Island after only 1 20/10 (explained here):

island after

Complete with photobombing Billy dog action.

Truth be told, I could probably get rid of half of the contents of the island. Do I REALLY need that many dishrags, Tupperware containers or cleaning products? Probably not. But the kitchen is D-man’s domain, so we will save it for another day.

Dealing with Emotional Attachment, Part 1: The Dress

It all started with a dress.

Image

Photo Credit: My dear friend Nicole Z.

That’s me in the middle there, on my wedding night, surrounded by so many of my closest friends (aren’t they fabulous?). The dress is a 2009 Betsey Johnson, and I spent weeks looking for it. It fit perfectly, I looked so fierce in it, and every time I passed it in my closet, I was reminded of this wonderful time.

True life: I attach unnecessary emotional attachment to inanimate objects. This dress is more than a dress; it’s a memory. It’s PART of me. I save everything. Concert tickets, movie stubs, pebbles from the Grand Canyon from that trip I took with my mom when I was 11. Each time I look at these objects, I am transported back to the time and place attached to the object.

 

If I get rid of the item, I am afraid I will lose the memory. 

 

This fear is intense. Some people are afraid of spiders, I’m afraid of losing all of my memories. Which, thinking about it logically, is nuts. I mean, how could I ever forget this time? It was one of the greatest days of my life!

Image

Photo Credit: My dear friend Sarah F.

Now here’s the tricky part. A piece of clothing is still technically functional. I could still technically wear it somewhere some day, right? Right. Except:

  • I had a baby 7 months ago and my bones aren’t in the same place. It’s unlikely the dress would fit again soon, if ever.
  • It’s white. I’m a stain magnet and I don’t tan.
  • The only semi-formal events I’m likely to be attending in the near future are weddings, wedding related activities, or baby showers. This dress is not really appropriate for any of those situations.
  • During the last song of the night, a particularly raucous rendition of The Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” I partially busted the zipper in the back.

Now, instead of a beautiful memory, all I could see was a partially broken, ill-fitting, poofy yet beautiful designer dress, taking up space in my closet.

So I sold it. 

I sold it for $13 to a little consignment shop in the next town. And now, somebody else will be able to make beautiful memories with it. To treasure it, as I have. Or to wear it once and have a fabulous time. After all, it is just a dress.

Tip of the Day: Love it? Display it!

When considering whether or not to toss, donate, or keep an item, ask yourself this: do I love it?

Does this item bring me joy every time I look at it?

If it does, why isn’t it proudly on display in your home? (If it’s a useful item that serves a function in your life, it can get a pass and live in a drawer). Why hide special keepsakes in boxes in the attic? What purpose do they serve there?

Pinterest has tons of ideas for displaying keepsakes, from shadow boxes to DIY repurposing, so put the things you love out for everyone to see! Then you can love them every day.

Most important to remember: forgive yourself if you can’t part with a special item. And celebrate your progress when you can!

Goals

Goals.

We all have them. Some are big, some are small. Some are lifelong and some are day-to-day. I’ve thought a lot about my goals for this process, and I try to keep them in the back of my mind when I’m facing a particularly difficult day in my journey. They are subject to change, of course, but we must always be looking forward to the future, and not dwell on past behaviors and habits.

Here is a simplified list of my major personal goals in my journey toward living a simpler life. I want:

  • Everything I own to have a specific home. A place for everything and everything in its place.
  • To not spend the majority of my time cleaning and organizing my house. To be free to spend my time with my friends and family.
  • To teach my children how to live simply, and not attach unnecessary sentiment to material things. I’d rather they value experiences and memories.
  • To share my journey of ditching my clutter with others, in hopes that I can inspire them to lead a better life.
  • When we eventually leave this house, I want the moving experience to be as pain free as possible. No more moving random boxes of crap!
  • To spend more time decorating and working on the design aspects of my house, and less time controlling clutter.
  • To work smarter, not harder.
  •  To be free from excess.

These are the major goals I remember along the way. Minor goals include:

  • Developing a solid cleaning routine and sticking to it.
  • Cutting my shoe and clothing collection down to ONE closet.
  • Emptying the attic.
  • Using storage space wisely, and not filling drawers and cabinets to the brim.

Those are my goals. What are yours?

Overcoming Obstacles

When it comes to cleaning and organizing our spaces, we all have challenges.

Whether you’re the kind of person who obsessively scours your bathroom with a toothbrush for four hours a day, you’re a lazy channel surfer who hides pizza boxes under your couch, or somewhere in between, we all have challenges.

There will always be a million reasons why your house is a mess. A millions reasons there’s a mountain of stuff in the garage. A million reasons why you can never find the time to go through it all and live in the perfect happy and healthy space for your family.

Of course, I am not exempt. Some of my challenges are:

  • I have a baby!
  • No time!
  • No storage space!
  • No money for fun Pinterest projects!
  • No money in general!
  • Lazy!
  • Busy!
  • I love all my things like children!
  • Nobody ever taught me how to properly clean!
  • If it’s going to get messed up again in five minutes, why bother?
  • Where do I start?!

I will address each of these challenges, and many more in subsequent posts, because I feel like at one time or another in my life, I’ve come across someone who could benefit from fixing one (or more) of these and other issues. You can either make excuses and continue living the way you’ve always lived in the habits you’ve created in the environment you’ve built for yourself, or you can follow steps to change it. Your choice.