Amanda Moments
April 13, 2015

tips for purging your closet

Ever since I’ve been turned on to the concept of minimalism, I’ve been trying to get rid of clutter and things I do not like or use anymore as much as I can. One weekend I decided to tackle my closet and go through every single piece of clothing in there to purge out the items I just don’t want or need. Since I have soo many things, it makes choosing what to wear each morning a task in itself since there are just too many options. A lot of what I own I barely even like, but haven’t been able to part with things because of my hoarder mentality. This time, I was determined to make a dent and simplify down to the clothes I love and wear most.

I’ve been following minimalism blogs and keeping my eye out for tips how to successfully purge. I wrote down the tips that resonated with me the most and referred to them often as I tackled my closet. They really did help! So much so that I couldn’t keep them to myself, so I just had to share them with you all in case you need some motivation to do the same.

Tips for Tackling Your Closet

-Before you even start, make three piles with bags or bins to make sorting easy: Donate, toss and sell.

-Consider a fourth pile for items you need more time to think about. Put anything you’re on the fence about in there and revisit it later. Going through it with fresh eyes then will help determine if you really care about it or not. And if you can’t even remember what’s in there, there’s a sign it must not mean that much and can be tossed.

bins

-As you go, take EVERYTHING out of the closet. It’s easier to make a pile and go item by item, then put the pieces back in that you want to keep. This also helps you reorganize things as you go.

-Try on EVERYTHING. The only items I did not try on were the pieces I wore as recently as just a week ago.

-Try the hanger trick while you’re putting the keepers back: Reverse all the hangers so they face backwards. Then as you wear things, put them back the usual way. In a few months, or even weeks, you can easily see which items you don’t wear anymore and will make the next purge much easier.

closet afterPutting your hangers backwards helps you see which items you wear most, and least

-If you’re in doubt about an item, take a photo of yourself wearing it. Sometimes seeing it in a photo makes you view it differently and helps you really determine if it looks good or not. If you still can’t decide, send the photo to a friend and ask for her vote.

trying on dressI actually was planning on getting rid of this dress, until I looked at the photo of myself in it, when I realized it was still kinda cute!

-Within your donate pile, keep another pile of the nicest items with the least wear that you can either sell (like through ThredUp) or offer to friends instead.

sell items on thredupI sent four items to ThredUp to sell, and only got $2 back, but it’s always worth a shot to make some moolah

-Have goals before you start the process, such as to get rid of 25% of your closet or to keep 30 items per season if you want to try a capsule wardrobe.

-Allow yourself a little bit of leeway, but set limits. For instance, I allowed myself 3 keeps, or exceptions, for sentimental reasons.

-Try the 1-touch rule. I didn’t do this, but it might help for others: Only allow yourself to touch each item once, so you must decide right away if you’re tossing or keeping it — no picking it up multiple times and being indecisive.

-Have a basket by the door of items that need to be relocated (for instance, boots to move to another closet, etc.). When you’re done, move everything at once. This helps minimize distractions and keeps you on task.

-Find a place to make and put a permanent donation box so that in the future you can keep tossing items in there if you change your mind and want to get rid of pieces after you finish your first purge. This way you don’t just put it back and forget about it.

-Remember that everything must have a place and a purpose.

-If you want to keep things for sentimental reasons, try taking a photo of it instead so you can keep the memory without the clutter.

-Consider the opposite method, where instead of picking items to get rid of, you pick the items you want to keep. By prioritizing your faves, you more can easily find the items that don’t mean as much.

Questions to ask yourself about each item

If I were shopping right now, would I buy this (again)?

Does it make me feel good?

Is it versatile?

Do I love it?

Do I use/wear it?

Is it beautiful?

Does it have a purpose?

Do I really need it?

Would I notice if it were gone?

Could someone else get more use out of this than me?

Does this portray the image I want to convey to others?

What tips do you have for decluttering?

January 6, 2015

minimalism

I have hoarder tendencies. I hang on materialistic things for too long because of sentimental value, it’s still in good condition though I never use it or even like it, or I hang on to the thought that maybe someday I’ll want or need it for some obscure event. No, it’s not so bad I have to climb over broken computers and bags of garbage in my hallway, but my closet is overflowing with clothes, I have tons of trinkets on every surface (“for decoration”), too many DVDs that literally have never been watched and just too much stuff in general. And my virtual/electronic clutter is just as bad.

The more I hear about minimalism, the more it appeals to me.

The biggest argument that’s stuck with me is this: The more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to clean.

I also tend to believe the other argument that physical clutter can contribute to mental clutter. The more things you have, the more things you have to worry about. More than that, the more you clean and worry about things, the less time and energy you have to put into relationships, family, friends, hobbies and fun.

Why do we let material things take such hold over our lives?

Most every time I go to Target, I pick up at least one thing that I don’t really need just because. I’m impulsive and I love a good sale.

This has been weighing on me for awhile, and the more articles and blogs I come across singing the praises of minimalism, the more I think I need to pay attention, the more I feel called to give it a real shot.

Over the past year or so, I have done a few closet purges and donated several bags of stuff to thrift stores, but sadly I’ve hardly even noticed the difference. Those bags were needles in a haystack, and if I hadn’t been the one to remove them, I probably wouldn’t have ever realized what was missing. Which is also sad that I own that much stuff that when bags worth disappears, I can’t even tell.

So this year, I’m adding a new resolution/goal: To declutter as much as I can. With our goal of moving into a house by the summer too, the less we own, the less we have to move, which is appealing in itself. Why move lots of objects from one untouched place of the apartment into a new space where it will continue to sit and collect dust there? That seems silly. In the meantime, I hope to find time to slowly tackle places of the apartment and get rid of things as I come across them, and maybe on a free weekend, do purges and make noticeable progress on ridding the useless stuff from our house, and our lives.

I also can’t help but think of how it would be nice to have fewer belongings so that I can teach my future children that time with people and time spent pursuing passions and really living, matters more than physical possessions.

I know I will never be a true minimalist. I will never be able to stick to a true capsule wardrobe. I don’t have much desire to live in a tiny house. But I’d like to get a lot closer to those ideas.

I could use any tips you all have for helping me achieve these goals. One awesome question I’ve heard you should ask yourself is, ‘If I were shopping right now, would I buy this item’ and if the answer is no, out it goes. Do you know of anything else to help motivate and inspire?

December 8, 2014

diy photo coasters

Last year for Christmas, I way overspent on gifts, and it set me back for months. This year, I knew I had to reign it in, so I looked for more homemade/DIY, affordable and thoughtful ways to still give to the special people in my life. I made my list, then took to Pinterest in search of ideas and started to pick out gifts I knew my friends and family would love and/or use. Since I’m not a particularly gifted crafter, I asked my friend Jenessa to help me out. She made my ideas doable, lent me some supplies, helped me shop and came over to make them.

One gift I was overwhelmed by, but once she stepped me through it, it turned out to be super easy! I love that I was able to personalize these DIY photo coasters, and that they’re practical. Best of all, the total cost to make one 4-coaster set was less than $10.

You’ll need:

-Four 4×4 tiles (found in the flooring section of Home Depot) (they come in packs of eight)
-Four photos printed or cut to 4×4
-One foam brush
-Modpodge
-Clear finishing spray
-Four thin 4×4 cork pieces for the backs
-Double-stick tape or brush-on adhesive glue
-Optional stickers
-Optional ribbon to tie them up

diy coaster materials

Directions:

-Line up your tiles and cut your photos to about 4×4 to fit on the tiles.

cut photos

-(Optional) Tear around the edges of the photos (be careful and precise!). You could also tear in further and use colored paper underneath as a border if you wish.

tear edges

-Pour Modpodge on a spare paper plate or dish. Lightly brush a coat on the back of the photos (and get all the way to the edges) and stick the photos to the tiles. Apply stickers on top if you wish. Let dry for about half an hour. (Tip: Do this step on top of some newspaper or cardboard so you don’t get your counter or table messy.

pour modpodge

-Once photos are adhered to the tiles, brush a coat of Modpodge over the photo tiles. Make sure to get the edges good! Tip: Brush all in one direction so the lines go the same way. Remember it will apply white but will dry clear. Let dry for about half an hour.

apply modpodge

-Once the first coat is dry, apply one more coat of Modpodge again, this time brushing the other way (this creates a cool cross-hatch effect). Let dry for about half an hour.

let dry

-Once dry, take the tiles outside if possible and spray on a coat of clear finishing spray. Tip: Put your coasters on top of some cardboard so you don’t get the spray on your deck or sidewalk. If you buy a low-odor spray, you can do it indoors, but be sure to ventilate the area well. Let sit for about half an hour, then bring them in and finish drying overnight.

-The next day, brush glue on the cork backs or apply double-stick tape and adhere them to the backs of the tiles. Let dry a couple minutes.

-Stack them up and tie up with a pretty ribbon if you like! Then give away as gifts to your loved ones!

tie coasters with ribbon

Check out my tiles featured in a story on DIY gift ideas in our local newspaper!

What is your favorite homemade gift?

Crafty Allie

create and share new button

May 27, 2014

how to coupon


I titled this post “Couponing for Dummies” not to insult, but because I once was a coupon dummy. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago! I always liked the idea of saving money, but the thought of couponing was so overwhelming. I’d clip a few here and there from the newspaper inserts, but that was about it.

Once I got married though, and we had to budget, saving money became much more important. Thankfully, I have a friend who is a couponing genius and pretty much taught me everything I now know about it. Today I want to pass that wisdom on to you all.

Here’s the thing: I know all the reasons you’re saying you don’t want to try it. It’s overwhelming (it can be, but not if you read this:)), it takes too much time (it doesn’t), there’s never coupons for the type of food or items I buy (there are), I like paying full price (OK, if you’re saying that, I don’t understand you and you can go away right now).

First, some myth debunking. The No. 1 excuse I’ve heard on other blogs against couponing is that the only coupons out there are for processed, packaged foods and never anything good for those that like to eat healthy. This is so untrue! Whoever has said that clearly did not look too hard. I have found plenty of coupons for fresh fruits and veggies and even meats.

The No. 2 excuse I hear to not coupon is that the money saved is never worth the time put into it. That the coupons out there aren’t high value enough to add up significantly. Again, these people must not be looking in the right places because I don’t do too much, but I always save significantly.  Even if I didn’t though, I would still do it because even if it’s 50 cents or a few dollars here and there, it all adds up. Proof? Check out this recent from a recent Target trip: I saved $15 just in one trip – my total just for my week’s worth of groceries and essentials went from $80 to $65.

target receipt

OK, so let’s get to it! There SO MANY ways to save, and I’m going to do my best to break it down in the easiest way I can. Remember too that you can pick and choose what you do, because any money saved is good. The more you do, the better, but my recommendation is to start slow and then add new methods once you feel confident with the first. Do not start doing all of these at once, because then it WILL be overwhelming. When you build over time, you catch on fast and catch the coupon fever!

Side note: About 75% of my grocery shopping happens at Target because their prices are spectacular to begin with before any coupons or sales are applied. I have compared items I frequently buy between Target and my local grocery stores, and Target is much cheaper almost every time. I do still get some meats and produce at my grocer though because the selection is larger and is sometimes fresher.

Target also has the best coupon policy I know of. Beyond that, they offer so many additional ways to save in store, there’s really no reason to not shop there.

Apps

Cartwheel: Easily my most favorite app probably ever. If you shop at Target and don’t have this app, GET IT NOW. If you do only one thing from this list, do this one. As of right now, so far using Cartwheel alone, I have saved $114.60 at Target. How it works if you have a certain amount of “spots,” and you can search for items on your list to fill your spots. Browse the offers and add the savings! It’s often things like 5% off Charmin toilet paper, 20% Up & Up hand lotion, 5% off Market Pantry brand almost everything — cheese, eggs, pasta sauce, lunch meat, milk and more. They also include offers on clothing, personal care, household items, etc. And, they frequently have deals on fresh berries, peppers, avocados, ground beef and those items that naysayers claim don’t exist. When all your spots have filled up, generate a barcode to show at checkout to get your deals.

Target app: Yes, separate from Cartwheel, Target has its own app. With this one, find the “deals and coupons” tab, and then in “Mobile coupons,” there’s more ways to save at checkout by showing the barcode. Some items are even doubled up from Cartwheel deals, and yes, you do get both! In this app though, you don’t have to claim any deals, you just get anything on the current list by showing the one automatic barcode. Here’s what was in a recent mobile coupon:

target mobile coupons

Shopkick: Admittedly kind of hard to navigate and understand, the gist is that you just need to open the app up in any store you’re in and earn points. I earn 30 points every time I walk in Target, and 45 at lots of other stores. You can also search for specific items and scan the barcodes into the app to earn even more points. When you’ve banked enough points, you can cash them in to get gift cards.

Foursquare: Though they seem to do this less often than they used to, some retailers will offer check-in offers. For a long time, JCPenney had 10% off your total order just by checking in. Some restaurants will have deals like a free appetizer, so why not check if you have a free second standing in line or waiting to get your tab?!

Retailmenot: With an app and a website version, never check out anywhere — in store or online — without checking here first. They display all current promo codes or sales and special offers at most all stores, so that even if you don’t have a coupon on hand, you can see if there is a deal that you don’t know about.

Ibotta: I’m new to Ibotta so can’t say yet if I love it, but it seems easy enough so far. Search deals at stores you shop at, claim items/offers you want, then scan the barcode and receipt to earn cash back on those purchases.

Websites

Ebates: Cartwheel aside, this is the second most important thing you should take away from this post. Seriously guys, any time you buy ANYTHING online, go through eBates. It’s a cash back site, and all you need to do is use their click through link to earn it. It sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t. Just by clicking on the links to Amazon, Best Buy, Petco and more, you earn cash back which is mailed to you via check each quarter. My last check was for $6 and I hardly had to do anything extra. You’re already buying it; just click through, people! Shout if you want an invitation sent to you, because they also reward for referrals. This is such an easy way to save online.

Target printable coupons: Yep, in addition to Cartwheel and mobile coupons, you can also use their printable coupons off their website. It’s super easy to search for items and they have a nice variety. Again, item offers are often repeated, so you can get 5% off cheese with Cartwheel, $1 off cheese with the mobile coupon and 50 cents off with a printed coupon.

coupons

Printable-coupons.blogspot.com: Great for online shopping at various retailers, they post the best and current deals/sales/offers all over the web and in store. Check it before you leave your house.

Coupons.com: The one thing I hate about this site is it’s not searchable, so you have to scroll forever to see all the deals. There’s always at least one or two coupons for things already on my list there though, so it’s worth checking the pages and printing out a couple.

Swagbucks: I only just started using this a couple weeks ago so am not super confident in it yet, but other bloggers are raving about it. I hate the site design itself because it’s way confusing, but so far what I’ve found easiest is to earn points by taking a daily poll, enter promo codes that I get via push notifications and watch a few videos. You can also install their search bar and earn points just for searching what you’re already searching for. What I like most is that they also are integrated with Coupons.com, so you can print off your coupons through them and not just get the coupon deals, but also earn points on Swagbucks for doing it through their site instead. Earn enough points and cash it in for gift cards.

Other tips

-Bring your own bags to Target and get 5 cents off per bag. I always bring in my reusable cloth bags, and it’s an easy way to save just a little more. Pay with your Target debit or credit card and get another 5% off the total purchase there.

-Watch the sales! Sign up for email newsletters at the stores you shop at because 1) You often get a nice welcome offer with a discount or coupon, and 2) You get advance notice of special sales so you can plan around them. My local grocery store has a meat sale every few times a year where you can get 5 packages of meat for just $20. I stock up every time and freeze the extras. I come away with chicken thighs, ground hamburger, sausage links, pork loins and more. Target also offers great sales on everyday items that rotate, and usually you can add them on to the coupons you have to save in every possible way.

-If all else fails, just Google it. If I don’t have a coupon and there’s nothing on an app, I do a quick search before I check out just in case I’m missing a deal. Try googling “best buy coupon codes” or “Macy’s sales May 2014” and see what you get. Sometimes a random blog or website will have a tip you otherwise wouldn’t have found.

-Does your grocery store have an attached gas station where you can save on gas? Mine offers 1 cent off per $10 spent, so if I spend $40 on groceries, I get 4 cents off per gallon of gas. I also know that they accept up to three gas coupons at a time, and when I cash in 3 at once, my gas total always goes down several dollars. On the back of my grocery store receipts, they also have a coupon for the liquor store next door, so I save $2 on every purchase there too! Speaking of receipts, do those surveys attached to some receipts. PetSmart often offers a post-shopping survey online to save on your next trip.

-Frequent buyer programs are great if you already shop at those stores. The best programs are free, like punch cards at restaurants where you get your 10th purchase free, or stores that give you a free gift on your birthday (Victoria’s, Ulta), coupons based on your total spending (Express, Victoria’s and Macy’s), lower costs for members (PetSmart), but I even find that some are worth paying for. I pay $20 for the Barnes & Noble membership because I save 20% extra on most purchases with it, and so far every single year it has paid for itself and then some.

-Don’t throw away expired coupons. Bring it in and see if they’ll accept it. Some stores will accept coupons past their expiration date. I know for sure that Bed, Bath & Beyond does, and some others might too. The worst they can say is no, so may as well try.

-Check return policies. Sometimes if there’s a sale on an item you recently bought, you can bring in your receipt for an adjustment and still receive the sale price. Target does this, and I’m pretty sure Kohl’s does as well.

-If you want to earn more gift cards for free, you can also take surveys to earn rewards. I’m a member of several panels and get enough gift cards to eat out for free a few times a year and give out as gifts. It can be time consuming, but to me it is worth it. I most recommend IPSOS i-say, eRewards, YouGov and MyPoints. Shout if you want me to send you an invitation to join any of them!

There’s a lot here, but none of it is hard. I promise. If I can do it, so can you. There’s no need to try and be on “Extreme Couponing” but a few simple steps like these can help you save significantly.

Did I miss any of your favorite ways to save? Let me know your best money-saving tips in the comments!

May 2, 2014

I went on a spring cleaning frenzy a little while back and wanted to report back here on how it went. I decided against posting a “spring cleaning list” or detailing everything I did with photos because there are so many of those posts floating around already. So instead, I’ll focus on one aspect of my cleaning that was also an experiment: cleaning the stove-top burner trays.

4 ways to clean oven trays


These have been disgusting me for years, but I never really knew how to clean them well. I tried soaking them in hot soapy water and scrubbing away, but it did little to nothing. After that, for years I just quickly wiped away dust and crumbs now and then, but it got seriously gross and I had to find a better way. Thank God for Pinterest.

I found four different methods to cleaning oven trays and decided to try each one to find the best method. The most recommended method involve soaking in ammonia, but I must be an idiot because I could not find ammonia anywhere in the store, and there’s never an associate around when you need one, so I gave up and called it fate that wasn’t meant to be my method.

Here’s how icky they were to begin with:

stove beforeAnd so, on to the methods and results!

vinegar baking soda stove cleaningFor this method, place tray in your sink, spritz with vinegar, and sprinkle baking soda on top. I did a few layers of this spaced out maybe 10 minutes or so apart. Let sit for at least half an hour, rinse with very hot water, and scrub any remaining burnt spots off with hot soapy water.

baking soda paste to clean stove

This method requires you to mix equal parts regular dish soap with baking soda. Whip it together with a fork and small bowl, and it gets creamy and foamy. Wipe the mixture all over the burner and let it sit for at least half an hour. I sprinkled a little baking on top for extra good measure. Rinse out and scrub with hot water to finish.

boil stove burners with vinegar

This is probably the easiest method. Simply place your burner in a large pot of boiling water and vinegar. I used approximately a 3/4 to 1/4 water to vinegar ratio simply because I didn’t have enough vinegar, but equal parts would be even better. Let boil for at least 15 minutes (preferably more), remove, let cool and scrub with hot soapy water to finish.

oven cleaner on stove traysThis was my last resort option. I’m trying to get away from using so many chemicals in my home, and regular oven cleaner is probably one of the worst. But, for the sake of comparison, I gave it a shot mostly out of curiosity. I laid some plastic bags on my deck, sat my burner on top and sprayed a thick layer over it. Make sure you wear gloves and be very careful to not breathe it in because it is toxic! I let it sit for well over 2 hours, though longer would have been better.

Here is the after shot!

stove afterI honestly am not sure which method was best in the end. They all produced very similar results. I expected the oven cleaner to work the best, but it was no better than the other methods. For that reason, because of the chemicals, I’d recommend not using it. Hey, now we know! If I had to pick, I think the first method of baking soda and vinegar probably won, but not by much.

All the methods still required some additional hot water and soap scrubbing, though each method did make that job easier than if the burners had no other treatment and only went straight in the sink.

As a side note, while you’re cleaning your stove burners, make sure you lift up the hood and wipe down under there. And pull out the stove and sweep up all the crumbs and dust that has collected under and behind the oven. This is what ours looked like after 5 years:

behind stove

How do you clean your stove-top burners? And where the heck do you find ammonia?

P.S. I’m co-hosting this month’s Marriage & Relationship Goals linkup with Amberly on Monday. If you’d like to participate, think of your marriage goal for the month and come link up next week!

April 12, 2014

Happy weekend everybody! I’m guest posting over at Paige’s blog, Moments for the Journey today, with instructions how to upcycle your old candles. I hope you’ll go check it out and give it a try if you’re a candle fanatic like I am.

upcycle candle DIY

Here’s a little snippet: If you’re anything like me, you have a bunch of used candles sitting around that you don’t have to heart to throw away, but in the meantime is creating clutter. I have a super easy DIY project to turn those old candles into a brand new one. …

Click here to read the whole post and learn how to do this fun project! Perfect for a weekend activity!

Now I’m off to do some spring cleaning, and I will be back with a report of my best tips and tricks!

April 9, 2014

One of the gifts I gave my husband for Christmas was a date jar. It was one of my very first attempts at a DIY/craft project. And for me, I think it turned out OK!

date jar

I love this jar because sometimes we fall into a rut when going on dates. We go out to eat, go to a movie or get ice cream. That is, if we even make it out of the house. Most often, we stay at home and watch things on our DVR. We like variety and trying new things together, but it’s so easy to get complacent and do what you normally do.

Sometimes I forget that there are cheap or free date ideas all around us! It can be as simple as turning off technology for awhile, playing some games, building a fort, cooking a meal together or rearranging a room (yes, to us, that is fun). Or, if it’s nice and you want to get out of the house, take a walk or picnic in the park, go for a scenic drive, visit a nearby town that you’ve never been to, or go see a play/comedy show/concert/museum. It just takes a bit of creativity and a willingness to try something out of your routine.

Making a date jar makes it easy to have a fun date when you’re low on ideas or can’t agree on something. Simply take some popsicle sticks and write a bunch of date ideas on them – things that are doable in your area and that both you and your partner would be open to doing. I obviously didn’t write down go on a hike or go skydiving because we have no mountains near us to hike in, and neither of us are the dare-devil type.

For my jar, I took a used candle jar and cleaned it out. (Place it in a pot of boiling water to melt the old wax, pour it out, wipe the insides down with olive oil to get rid of any lingering wax, then wash with warm soapy water.) Or use a coffee mug, vase, cute box, whatever you can find. I cut some wrapping paper to put around the jar and made a little label. I’m sure my more craft-inclined friends could create something better, but this works for me.

I set it out in a visible spot near out front door so that it doesn’t get forgotten. Now anytime we have a scheduled date, or are bored and decide to do something on the fly, we have this option. We just have to both agree to do whatever is picked, weather and budget dependent. I also keep any restaurant gift cards we have by the jar so that if we don’t want to spend much money, we can choose from one of our cards to keep costs low if we end up eating out.

It’s a simple project that can add some fun back into your relationship, so why not give it a try?! It could also be a great gift idea for engaged friends, or even as an anniversary gift for a couple you know that could use some more time together.

What’s your favorite date? Do you have a date jar?

Linked up with Paige for the Create & Share party!

February 20, 2014

Linking up with The Albrechts and A Beautiful Exchange today for The Girl Between the Lines!

A post about my all-time favorite pins EVER has been on my list for awhile, so considering the topic of this linkup, it seemed perfect to finally pick my fave pins. Without further ado, here are the pins that have been the most successful, most delicious, most helpful or most inspiring to me.

1. Through a Rapist’s Eyes: Tips for Women. One of my biggest fears is getting murdered/attacked/raped/something else awful, so articles like these make me feel better about my chances of possibly surviving something like that. Call me paranoid, but I call it prepared.

through a rapist's eyes tips for women

2. Spa in a Jar. I made my own slightly altered version for some friends and family for Christmas, and they loved it. I made my own bath salts too, which made it more special. I’m totally doing more things like this in the future.

spa in a jar project great for gifts

3. Upcycling old candles. We have tons of old candles laying around that I didn’t have the heart to throw away, so this was a perfect project for me. I used the old wax from several to make one new candle! You can even read about the result of my doing this pin one weekend!

upcycle old candles

4. Leo and Harry with a dog and a cat. No real reason for this one besides great for looking at when you need to smile.

leo and harry with a cat and dog

5. I simply cannot pick just one recipe pin. So here’s a few of the recipes I’ve actually made from Pinterest and loved so much that they now are in frequent rotation in our household’s meal plan.

Baked Spinach Eggs. Love this for breakfast on the weekends.

baked spinach eggs

Cheesy Chicken Tacquitos. So easy and delicious! Make extra and freeze for leftovers too!

cheesy chicken tacquitos

Potato Corn Chowder. Best soup I’ve ever made at home. Yum!

potato corn chowder

Chicken with Pesto and Asparagus. Shameless self promo, this is my own take on a pin that I loved so much I made my own pin and blog post about it.

pesto chicken asparagus

P.S. I wouldn’t be upset if you followed me on Pin Land:)

P.P.S. YOU GUYS. I made it into the top 3 in my category for best new blog in My So Called Chaos’ Best of Blog Awards! This is HUGE for me and I am so friggin’ stoked. Please go vote for me and let’s see if I can win this thing. I will love you forever! Every vote counts so I need you! Vote here.

P.P.P.S. I wrote my first-ever guest post on how to be a compassionate spouse for Charlene at From Bisons to Buckeyes and Beyond. Watch her blog on Saturday as I’ll be there! Whee!

Girl Between the Lines Link up
January 22, 2014

Maybe it’s New Year’s resolutions, maybe it’s a new epidemic, maybe it’s pure luck, but I’m well aware of how many blogs very recently have posted about deep cleaning, organizing and decluttering. Well, add me to the list because I am all about it right now. This is not at all Pinterest perfect, but it’s real, and it worked for me. (Please forgive me for the awful photography. I will never claim to be good at taking good photos in good lighting, nor am I any good with editing them.)

My husband groaned when I told him we had an agenda full of cleaning, organizing and decluttering for the weekend. But as soon as we started, we got in a groove and both loved the results. Cleaning can be very therapeutic for me. It makes me feel good. I love the feeling of knowing that I worked to make something look better than it was before. Plus being in a nice, clean environment just makes you feel good, ya know?

What really gets us is clutter here and there. It’s easy to start thinking we need so much stuff, but really, we don’t. I cringe and feel anxious when I see piles of clutter in my house. I try to pick up a few things every day, but it’s SO HARD to keep up! It feels like as soon as you clean one area, you turn around and there’s another problem area. But that wasn’t going to stop us from tackling it all anyway, with the promise to try and keep the areas clean. I thought, if we can devote one entire weekend to nothing but cleaning, surely, we can get it all, right? Well, mostly anyway.

Source: hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

Source: hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

Finding the Inspiration and Tips & Tricks

I was most inspired by my friend Lindsay’s blog post about living a more minimalist lifestyle. Ever since she wrote it months ago, it’s been in the back of my mind, and I put an item purge on my mental to-do list. I started becoming more aware of all the stuff I had and started feeling guilty and upset with myself that I’ve become such a hoarder and a messy jessy. Lindsay’s argument made so much sense to me. The less stuff you own, the less stuff you have to clean or keep organized, and even more compelling, the more time you have to spend on things that truly matter.

Since then, some more blogs have caught my attention on this same subject, and it seemed like the stars were aligning to give me the kick in the pants I needed to once and for all, conquer my clutter. Wifessionals gave me more inspiration by realizing the less stuff I have, the less stuff we have to pack up and move with us when we get a house. Then, Kate’s post at The Florkens gave me the idea to actually try on the old stuff I have. So glad I did, because a lot of the clothing I had that wasn’t in current frequent rotation was so easy to give up. I definitely encourage trying all items on, because just from glancing at stuff on a hanger doesn’t do the trick. By taking them out and putting on, you see the things that have stains or got stretched out, realize the pants that you can’t even zip anymore, and question your fashion choices from years ago. Then, my Cara Box partner Kathryn posted this, also about clearing the clutter. Lastly, I found this awesome guest post about how to hausfrau here. Yes, it was definitely my turn to clean all the things.

One quote I came across in searching for ideas and inspiration online said: “Cut down your closet by 25% by asking yourself, ‘If I were shopping right this second, would I buy this?’ If the answer’s no, out it goes.” That helped me a lot when it came to every area of the house … and not just the closet.

Another trick I figured out that has worked really well for me in the past is that for any item I’m hesitant if I’m ready to part with, I put it in a bag and hide it away for awhile. Then in a few months, I’ll open up the bag. Most of the time, I don’t even remember what’s in it, and that’s the sign I won’t ever miss it and it’s time to say goodbye. If I’m still in doubt though, store it for another few months and do it again. If after the second round, I didn’t miss it but am still hesitant, I suck it up and donate or toss it anyway. If I don’t draw the line somewhere, I’d keep things around forever that I never use or wear, “just in case.”

I have a habit of keeping around things I bought for a special occasion just in case the same occasion comes around again. Think themed parties. Ugly Christmas sweaters, ’80s parties, etc. 75% of the time, I never use it again. So just toss it now. If another ’80s party happens, it will probably be years down the road and my current items may not even fit then, so I’ll buy something on sale in the future to use, or just improvise and go with colorful accessories, high ponies and full-on makeup so I don’t have to spend again. In the meantime, there’s no use in it keeping around.

We’ve cleaned up our spare bedroom about four times in the past year. But it seems like as soon as we get it looking nice, all of a sudden it looks like an episode from Hoarders. What was key for us this time was not just rearranging the items, but getting rid of what was there in the first place. I had several stacks of old magazines, about three comforters and even more blankets piled in the corner, tons of empty cardboard boxes that I keep “in case we need them for moving,” several kitchen appliances that are too large to fit in the kitchen cabinets, a big ol’ stack of leftover wedding things, and who knows what else landed in there over the past few months.

Getting Started

Before we actually started the big clean, I went to the dollar store and purchased tons of different sized bins – some very small to use to store my chapsticks in the nightstand, and some larger to store the pet toys, collection of TV remotes, etc. I purchased far more than what I had actual plans for because I knew I’d end up finding a purpose for them all eventually, and can you ever really have too many bins to put stuff in? Any container you can use to store items that otherwise would be scattered somewhere is worth it.

cubeicalI also caved and finally bought a Cubeical organizer at Target because I was so sick of odds and ends on the floor in the living room. Getting them up into little storage spaces makes a world of difference. Word of advice though: Check the storage bin sizes before you buy. I accidentally came home with the teeny weeny bins when I meant to get the large bins that would actually fill each cube. Oh well, live and learn.

Getting Down to It

I decided to start a little while ago actually, and tackled some of the small areas after work on a few nights while the husband was at band practice. That’s when I was able to go through my bookcase to gather up old books I had already read and don’t plan to read again, and some I never read and know I never would, to do a swap with friends and donate what was left. I also went through the kitchen cabinets and tossed expired spices and rearranged all our food so we didn’t have to take 10 items out just to find the baking soda. We also had a knack of collecting lots of loose packets of ranch mix, sauce and dip mixes, etc., that were scattered all over the cabinet, so I repurposed a nice box of hot cocoa packets to put all the packets in. Also, I highly recommend those spinny things to keep cans and spices in.

cabinets before and after

I emptied the random drawer with medicine and band-aids, etc., and moved the contents into the bathroom closet for an actual organized space for our medicine and first aid supplies. While I was in there, it seemed as good a time as any to tidy up that closet too.

bathroom closet before and after

I organized my nightstand drawer from a cluttered mess into something actually functional again. And don’t ask me why I keep the tape in my nightstand – I really don’t know why.

nightstand before and after

I rearranged the fridge door and moved the card photos elsewhere to reduce visual clutter there, and threw out any old magnets that we got for free with logos of businesses we don’t even care about.

fridge before and after

I took the stash of pet toys that was cluttered in the corner and put them in a basket. At least the ones the animals don’t use on a daily basis. There’s still a few little kitty balls scattered around and the one bone that Brick actually chews on, and that’s enough.

pet toys

Once the smaller tasks were done, we waited till we had a weekend with zero other plans to really tackle the big spots. So pretty much my entire Saturday was spent in my closet and dressers (yes, plural because I’m a hoarder). I channeled the Florkens and tried on everything. I got pretty depressed for awhile because about HALF of the pants, shorts and skirts I used to fit in a year ago or so I could no longer zip, or if I could, it was skin tight and barely fit over my thighs. I even had to walk out in the living room to show my husband my muffin top and love handles in several garments. Then I sucked it up and continued on because what use is there in being sad about gaining some more junk in the trunk. It happens. I cleared out about five bags just of clothes to either throw away or donate.

Then I had to go through all the crap that was piled on the closet floor and on the shelf. Boy was that a mess. I hadn’t gone through that since we moved in. Yikes. I had about five purses I no longer use or even like, so many free totes I got here and there that I literally never once used, a pile of stuffed animals, ski boots that I no longer use because I don’t ski anymore, tons of belts that are very much out of style, and lots of other odds and ends. It was bad. But, I powered through and said goodbye to so much stuff.

I think the key to cleaning out a closet is to definitely take all the items out first, go through them on the bed or floor, weed out stuff you don’t want anymore, then dust/vacuum/sweep the now empty closet, then put the to-keep items back inside in an organized fashion, using those totes and baskets to hold the things like belts, scarves, etc. Also a shoe organizer is an absolute must. I know old cardboard boxes aren’t super eye appealing, but I was out of big totes, and they still worked as containers for my large items like stuffed animals (only kept my faves!) and purses. Works for me.

bedroom closet before and after

clean bedroom closet other door

Sadly, cleaning up my closet and dresser sucked up all of Saturday. Granted we did take one small break to go out to eat at a new restaurant in town. I was in no mood to cook after all that cleaning.

Sunday was the day we rallied together to hit the rest of the apartment hard. And we did! Cal handled the spare bedroom slash mancave all by himself, so I unfortunately don’t have photos of that, as I was not allowed to disturb his work … and also I was preoccupied elsewhere. That place was by far the worst, and it took him over half of the day. But finally, we can see the carpet again, the futon is a functional guest bed again, and my pile o’ wedding stuff got weeded out into one small tub and is tucked away in the closet.

I attacked the entry closet, which had become the place where we threw all our board games (and we had A LOT), coats and hoodies, cat carrier, old sewing machine, big cooler and the shoes we wear most often. I weeded out about half of the hoodies that I don’t wear anymore to free up more space and about 10 board games and puzzles we don’t play anymore. We were using the space in there really poorly, so I got a basket to put our gloves and mittens so they weren’t floppping around the shelf, and stacked the cooler and cat carrier on top of eachother on the shelf, freeing up lots of room there too. I organized our shoes to make much more sense and cleared out all the dust bunnies (there were a ton. Ick!). Sadly, I was too in the zone to remember to take photos of this space, so use your imagination.

We ended up having too much space in that closet, so we repurposed some old shelves we had laying around and put them in there to store our kitchen items that otherwise were stacked on top of the cabinets. It was such an eyesore, and I hated the kitchen because of it. Seeing pots and pans, blenders and griddles just strewn across the top up there was awful. Finally we had the perfect spot to put them that was out of sight. And now our cabinets are tidier, which makes me so happy. We left a few mugs up there as decoration, and just the couple pots and one griddle we use on a regular basis for easier access. There’s now so much space up there that Little Girl is having a heydey running around, whereas before she stumbled around and straddled the stuff. Ugh, right?!

I didn’t take a before picture, but imagine every inch of these cabinets covered in stuff. Just add a blender, popcorn popper, deep fryer, crockpot, baking dishes, and about 5 more pots and pans and you’ve got it.

clean kitchen cabinets

I feel like we did more, and we probably did a few other small things, but those big areas take a lot of time, especially when you have to combine purging, cleaning and organizing all in one. And multiple trips outside to the dumpster, finding time to eat lunch, feed the animals, take the dog out to potty, go potty yourself. Wow does it all add up, and all of a sudden you can’t believe all you did was get through one closet and it’s been four hours.

In the end when all was done, we both looked at the giant pile of items to be thrown away or donated, and said ‘Wow, we had this much stuff?!” While I’m ashamed we had collected so much stuff we didn’t use, I feel good that someone else will get the chance to use it now, and it’s fewer things taking up space in our place.

donation pile

Once the heavy lifting was done and everything was back in its place, I went did some general cleaning to put the cherry on top. I went around with my Swiffer duster and dusted any areas that weren’t involved in the clean up (small shelves holding picture frames on the wall and such), swept and Swiffered the floors, vaccumed and wiped down all counters. Last, I followed the recommendation of a pin I saw about the 15 surfaces you should be cleaning that you’re not, and went around and sanitized our light switches, door and drawer handles, sink handles, TV remotes, alarm clocks (yes we’re old school and have actual alarm clocks instead of using our phones) and any other surface that we frequently touch.

Cleaning Virtual Clutter

Sidenote: Sometimes a technology cleanup is in order too. I already decluttered my Pinterest, and cleaned up my email, which was ridiculous at over 1,000 unread emails. It’s now a nice 0. In my effort to keep it that way, I unsubscribed from many email subscriptions from stores or restuarants that I don’t really care about, because all it does is add virtual clutter.

dvrOur DVR has been near capacity for months. Like, hovering around 10-30% free. When it got down to 7%, we knew we had a problem. So we deleted a few movies and groups of shows that had been on there a long time since we knew we weren’t actually going to watch them, and during any free time worked hard at getting through what was left. After a couple weekends of hardcore DVR catch-up, we actually got it 100% cleared out. I had to take a photo because it’s never been like that since the day we got it in 2006.

Anyway, back to the weekend cleanup. By the end of the day on Sunday, I was absolutely beat. I flopped on the couch and didn’t move until bedtime. Cal had to make dinner that night because there was no way I was moving. Thankfully he was nice about it, even though he worked as hard as I did. What a guy. Side note: He’s also a great cook. Having a juicy pork roast and cheesy potatoes to top off our weekend was amazing. I know — a guy who cooks AND cleans with little to no grumbling?! AND still let me pick out the TV show to watch while we ate?! He’s all mine, ladies:)

Again, none of these photos are Pintastic and perfect, but to me, our problem areas are far better than they were, and I feel that it was all worth it. It feels so good to finally have a home again that I am actually proud of. I don’t know why it took me so long to do all of it. I think I should make this an annual event to stay on top of everything.

What are some of your tips for decluttering, reorganizing, purging or cleaning?

January 15, 2014

Pinterest is both a blessing and a curse. It gives you so much inspiration and great ideas, but it can also set you up for unrealistic expectations and make you feel like a giant failure. To me, Pinterest is more helpful than not, but it can also be overwhelming. I’ve found some amazing recipes on it and easy and useful DIY projects, plus some super cute animal photos.

pinterest screenshotBut my boards were all amess. I just pinned whatever I wanted without much thought. My boards weren’t very well thought out, and some were far too full of useless pins in bizarre categories. I don’t even know how many total pins I had in my recipes board, but it seemed like I had to scroll for days just to reach the end. And when I wanted to make “that one recipe,” it was so hard to find.

Enter New Year Resolution: project Pinterest. I tackled this resolution first because it seemed easy and achievable. First, I renamed existing boards and added more boards. The prior “Food & Drink” board was split into two – Recipes to try, and Recipes tested and approved. I moved all the recipes that I had made AND enjoyed (yes, some were total fails) into the tested and approved board. Now I can much easier find that ones I have already made that I know I will want to make again. All the recipes I made that were fails, I just deleted so they stop taking up space. I also deleted several recipe pins that I know I will never actually make.

I also had a “Style” board that had pins of clothing I liked, makeup and hair pictures/tutorials, and beauty tips like making DIY bronzer. Then I had a “For the home” board that had cleaning tips, DIY crafty projects, cleaning tips, organization inspiration, and random products that I want to buy like a giant cat beanbag, and tips on how to leave a more frugal life. What a hodgepodge, and several pins overlapped categories. So I made more subcategory boards where everything made more sense and would be easier to find for later.

A few boards remained relatively untouched, like my cute cats board, though I did go in and delete just a few photos that were only mildly cute. I don’t actually look at that board often, aside from when I need a dose of something to perk me up. My criteria for what made the cut here was if I had a genuine smile, chortle or ‘aww’ after looking at it again.

I also rearranged all the boards order so my most frequently pinned and used boards were first.

I found that cleaning up your Pinterest is a lot like cleaning up your closet. It can be hard, and you want to hoard some, but deep down you know that “just in case” actually means “I’m never going to use this,” so you have to go with your gut and sometimes have a heavy hand. But the end result is so worth it.

Pins are easier to find and my boards make much more sense. It feels good to clean up, even virtually. Next up: my physical closets. Oh boy.