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Old 08-07-2010, 01:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi All,

I've been a member for years and lurking quite desperately for a few weeks but haven't posted in a year or so. I am a married SAHM with 2 children under 3 years and a cat. My brother in law also lives with us but he will be moving out in the next few months. We are preparing to put our 4 level split up for sale in a few months so that we can buy a less expensive house in a small town outside of the city we are currently in (part of our plan to be debt free in 5-10 years).

Anyway..... I have decluttered quite a lot over the past couple of years after living in a total disaster for most of my married life (11yrs) and more. We still have a long way to go though, and admittedly our main problem is actually not ever finding a home for things or putting them away.

I am considering taking desperate measures in order to help change our habits and also have a house that is tidy enough to put on the market without a panic every time we show it. House sales are horribly slow here in Calgary, Alberta and we need as much help as we can get to make ours something that sticks out in peoples minds when they are looking.

I've been feeling pretty overwhelmed with the almost constant state of chaos in our house. I actually have been fighting anxiety over it for a couple of days, which tells me it's really time to do something more than I am. I feel like I'm always "catching up". We went camping for 4 days and as much work as it was with 2 littles, it was wonderful to have only enough dishes and clothes for what we needed, and to have to wash our dishes before we could eat again. I'm considering boxing up all but one set of dishes per person, 2 sets of bath towels each, and all but 1 weeks worth of clothes for everyone (seasonal, of course). And that's just a start...

Has anyone tried this? I'd love any tips or advice!

Thanks,
Shellie
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Old 08-07-2010, 02:24 PM
 
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I haven't tried it myself, but it's a common practice. Somebody (can't remember who) posted a link (can't remember which) recently (can't remember when). (I'm a real help, aren't I? ) I know that it was on the zenhabits.net site, and the jist of it was that you should stash away pretty much everything. After a couple of months, whatever you miss--much less remember owning!--you can keep.

That strategy may not work in the middle of selling your house. But honestly, if my house were on the market, I would shell out for both a storage unit rental and a cleaning lady. Get bids on both before you dismiss the idea. And declutter as much as you possibly can so that you can rent the smallest unit. It may actually be worth paying both of these expenses compared to the amount of money that you could lose while your house sits on the market. When it comes to the chaos that small children generate, you may be taking on too much. Just some thoughts!

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Old 08-07-2010, 02:24 PM
 
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I can comiserate that I live this way too. We have a nice house with storage yet nothing ever seems to get put away. It's probably just true laziness on my part, it's just eaiser to pile stuff on the counter. I have a ton I need to get rid of. We are hoping to sell our house in about two years and like you, I don't want to be in a panic just because it might be shown. I also would like it to be at a place where people could actually drop by and I wouldn't be hugely embaressed about the place. Ummm..like totally hoping they don't need to use the bathroom while they are visiting. After reading here I am really considering getting rid of a lot of our clothes. Laundry is a big problem for us. Right now I have three full baskets of clean laundry and all of our closets are full...that is too much stuff! Anyway, you are inspiring me to be more drastic with my purge, I look forward to what others have to say.

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Old 08-07-2010, 02:37 PM
 
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We are former packrats turned hardcore minimalists and I can vouch that life is sooooo much easier when you practically "camp" in your house. We have 6kids and are getting ready to put our house on the market before moving cross-country from PA to OR. We haven't made changes for moving per se, because we love living like this. We made the changes before my husband got his new job... but the way we live will make having the house on the market with 8 of us (kids 9, 7, 5, 3, 2, 8 months) less stressful (stress-free would be great but not happenin').
Here's a few things that have worked for us:
We got rid of all of our fluffy towels (bath, beach, old, new) and replaced them with 5 total turkish imam towels (there was a link off a mothering.com discussion on these.... can't remember where we bought them). They are super thin, dry us off wonderfully and get hung on a hook after we're done and dry almost immediately. We love these towels. After a few months with 8 people using 5 towels we realized we had too many.... so we put 3 away for later and only keep 2 out. We have 3 to 4 washcloths and don't use handtowels

My hubby and I have both picked capsule wardrobes for the season we're in - the rest is put away. We each have 3 pairs of underwear, 3 undershirts for dh, 3 camisoles for me. Kids have 6 pieces of clothing total out (ie: 4 tops,2 bottoms), rest is put away.

We have 1 king size fitted sheet on our bed and will be buying a new comforter that's fluffy and white to stage the bed with (we sleep in sleeping bags on top of the bed - that's a change we've made for the move to make getting everything show ready in the morning easy). We also have fitted sheets on the 2 bunk beds my kids never use that stay made up (my kids prefer to sleep in our room on two thin single size mattresses that we slide on top of the king in the morning and under the comforter... anyway... they sleep in sleeping bags there and in our bed. So. not a lot of laundry. With sheets, clothes, towels we have at most 1.5 loads.
This is how I do laundry: I store dirty laundry in the washer. When it's full I move to dryer, then move to one pretty wicker basket I keep in a closet. I fold a towel and put it on top so it looks neat, but really everything is unfolded. My husband does his own laundry and hangs his stuff up.... but the long and short of it is we have so much put away that we never have piles and the long chore of "doing the laundry" has practically been eliminated. When we want something we dump the basket on the bed, pull out what we need, dump everything back in. Easy.

This past spring I bought 7 sets of the same series of Correlle (so they would stack easily). I put away all the dinner plates (which are too big for us) and keep out one bowl, 1 salad plate, and 1 mug per person. Each person has their own pattern and the rest are put away (dragged out for guests and in case of breakage). This act alone will save you GOBS of time and your kitchen will be so clean! Before doing this I had mismatched white plates, bowls, etc (cool minimalist look, but tons of breakage)... and lots of them. My dishwasher was my best friend but my kitchen was always a mess (I've been very messy my whole life).... because we would all just keep getting new dishes out instead of washing the old ones. Oh, and the cups! Distinctive cups makes such a difference because people don't get new cups because they can't remember which one was theirs.
I can have my house immaculate..... um, well, not clean, but perfectly ordered by 9am or so and I have 6 kids under 10! I never would have thought that possible. So, yes, i think decreasing what you have out will make a huge difference.
I could go on and on about how much easier my life is now.... but I'll spare you, LOL.

We've gone minimalist with our whole house (digital books, music, files.... limited toys.... etc)... but if I were back to where we were about 2 years ago (way more stuff) and about to move I would go hardcore on stuff that's not bringing joy and/or useful and that costs money to move, and then put away everything you're not sure about/not ready emotionally to handle (that's why it took us so long to get rid of stuff... it took a long time to let go of each layer).... just box up the rest.
Anyway... hope some of this is helpful!
Hang in there... moving is stresssssful, especially with kids.
-Emily
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Old 08-07-2010, 02:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ah yes, "Turquesa", I know the article you mean. I love reading zen habits and other simplifying sites & it was a guest post on it I think.

Ok, here's the link to the article:
http://zenhabits.net/clean-slate/
I've thought of doing it but that means lots of storage and isn't good timing with selling. We may do a more drastic method of getting rid of things we may have just boxed up otherwise, and replacing them down the road if we really need them. I use freecycle and kijiji for a lot, so shouldn't have to spend a lot replacing truly needed items if I can find them online.

We've decluttered a LOT lately, using freecycle mostly, although selling some. If I'd actually put things away it would help. :P I've used Flylady and other methods but it's just so easy to throw things over a couch or in a pile instead of putting it away. Yickes. (Just as you were saying, "Wish"...I sympathize!!!)

I wonder if it's possible to declutter too much? Not an issue I'll have, I think. Although I do feel so desperate at times I want to just walk away from the house and start fresh with a tiny place and only 1 of everything.
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Old 08-07-2010, 02:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ohhh, thank you for the response, "lovemyblessings"! We're open to having more kids so really need to get this in check while we only have 2! You are such an inspiration. I'd love to hear more about your capsule wardrobe & how you get by on 3 pairs of undies! Also, how do you deal with hand-me-downs with so many kids. I'm so torn between frugality and minimalism. :P
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Old 08-07-2010, 03:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Is this the towel you use?
http://www.theeclecticlife.com/tubato.html

Shellie


"Here's a few things that have worked for us:
We got rid of all of our fluffy towels (bath, beach, old, new) and replaced them with 5 total turkish imam towels (there was a link off a mothering.com discussion on these.... can't remember where we bought them). They are super thin, dry us off wonderfully and get hung on a hook after we're done and dry almost immediately. We love these towels. After a few months with 8 people using 5 towels we realized we had too many.... so we put 3 away for later and only keep 2 out. We have 3 to 4 washcloths and don't use handtowels"
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Old 08-07-2010, 07:33 PM
 
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Yes, those are the towels we have. They are awesome.
Let's see..... capsule wardrobe... I keep 2 pairs of jeans (boot-cut and skinny) and a few tees in black and gray, 1 denim pencil skirt and 1 black pencil skirt, plus one dress. Then I have some layers that I use to make different outfits: denim jacket, navy blazer, my beloved black moto jacket and vest, and then I normally have tons of fun scarves and belts (I already put away most of these to declutter my closet for showing the house, so now I have 1 belt and 2 scarves out). Then I have shoes. sigh. I justify my shoes (boots, actually.... i just love boots) because they can totally change a look and make it look like I have more clothes out then I do.
I should mention, though, that I keep alot of clothes put away. If I could do it all over again I might have a 20 piece wardrobe or something like that, but since I already have too many clothes I really like I just keep them out of constant rotation. I pick 10 or so items a month to have out and play around with them with different accessories.
My husband has washable dress shirts and pants for work, a few blazers and ties, 2 pairs of jeans, a few polo shirts, one pair of black dress shoes, one pair sandals, one pair lounging around the house shoes. The biggest thing for us has been to figure out what colors look good on us and limit our wardrobe to those colors. I wear black and grey as my base colors, with scarves and accessories mostly in blue, purple, and a few in red. My husband wears black or grey dress pants, blue and white dress shirts, blue and black polo shirts, and blue and red ties.

We used to keep tons of clothes for the kids to grow into. I gradually woke up to the fact that they were part of a larger problem for me in terms of making me think I needed a bigger house with more storage than I really do. We moved into this house with tons of hand-me-downs in rubbermaid bins organized by size and sex. We currently live in a 3000 square foot house and don't use probably 85%. We will be renting a smaller house in OR and hopefully buying an even smaller one later on (it is hard to convince someone to rent you a small house when you have so many little ones :0). Anyway. I also started thinking about the funny thing about hand-me-downs... that kids today have so many clothes that they end up outgrowing them before they've been worn out. That's kind of what started me down the path to limited closets. I should mention that we homeschool, so I can get away with a bit more in terms of repetive clothing. If our kids were in school I'd have a few more clothes for them than I do now. Anyway. We hand very little down because most of their clothes are worn out by the time they're done. I do keep coats, winter boots, and snow gear to hand down, and the few items that make it after so much wear. I don't organize by size or sex now, I just have around 4 rubbermaid bins for the whole families put away clothes that we aren't currently wearing. Every now and then I dump them out and go through them, particularly at the start of a new season.
I am hoping there will be good thrift stores where we are moving so I can maybe not keep anything and just shop at the beginning of the season for what I need and donate at the end. We don't have good thrift stores here, so I could never depend on finding what I needed where we are right now.
Oh, and I second getting a cleaning lady in ... I'm trying to psych myself up right now to book someone. I've never had anyone clean up after me (well, anyone paid, LOL)... and don't feel super comfortable with the idea. I'm a horrible cleaner, though, and I'm sure it will help the house sell faster.
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Old 08-07-2010, 09:06 PM
 
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Originally Posted by ShellieC View Post
Ah yes, "Turquesa", I know the article you mean. I love reading zen habits and other simplifying sites & it was a guest post on it I think.

Ok, here's the link to the article:
http://zenhabits.net/clean-slate/
Thanks for tracking that down for me. I was wanting to bookmark it.

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Old 08-08-2010, 07:00 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Testing

Apparently my token has expired (what??) And I lost two huge responses i typed up. Grrr!
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Old 08-08-2010, 07:04 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quick version of what I wrote and lost....

Have you used freecycle?
Do you miss towels or do you use a lot of paper towels for big cleanups?
Do you have spare clothes ofnthe current size for replacing wrecked kids clothes or do you get them as you need them?
Do you have a blog (you have a fasinating life!)
Do you wash all colors together & has it ever been a problem? ( what about reds and diapers?)

Thanks again for the great responses!!!
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Old 08-08-2010, 03:17 PM
 
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Originally Posted by lovemyblessings View Post
We are former packrats turned hardcore minimalists and I can vouch that life is sooooo much easier when you practically "camp" in your house. We have 6kids and are getting ready to put our house on the market before moving cross-country from PA to OR. We haven't made changes for moving per se, because we love living like this. We made the changes before my husband got his new job... but the way we live will make having the house on the market with 8 of us (kids 9, 7, 5, 3, 2, 8 months) less stressful (stress-free would be great but not happenin').
Here's a few things that have worked for us:
We got rid of all of our fluffy towels (bath, beach, old, new) and replaced them with 5 total turkish imam towels (there was a link off a mothering.com discussion on these.... can't remember where we bought them). They are super thin, dry us off wonderfully and get hung on a hook after we're done and dry almost immediately. We love these towels. After a few months with 8 people using 5 towels we realized we had too many.... so we put 3 away for later and only keep 2 out. We have 3 to 4 washcloths and don't use handtowels

My hubby and I have both picked capsule wardrobes for the season we're in - the rest is put away. We each have 3 pairs of underwear, 3 undershirts for dh, 3 camisoles for me. Kids have 6 pieces of clothing total out (ie: 4 tops,2 bottoms), rest is put away.

We have 1 king size fitted sheet on our bed and will be buying a new comforter that's fluffy and white to stage the bed with (we sleep in sleeping bags on top of the bed - that's a change we've made for the move to make getting everything show ready in the morning easy). We also have fitted sheets on the 2 bunk beds my kids never use that stay made up (my kids prefer to sleep in our room on two thin single size mattresses that we slide on top of the king in the morning and under the comforter... anyway... they sleep in sleeping bags there and in our bed. So. not a lot of laundry. With sheets, clothes, towels we have at most 1.5 loads.
This is how I do laundry: I store dirty laundry in the washer. When it's full I move to dryer, then move to one pretty wicker basket I keep in a closet. I fold a towel and put it on top so it looks neat, but really everything is unfolded. My husband does his own laundry and hangs his stuff up.... but the long and short of it is we have so much put away that we never have piles and the long chore of "doing the laundry" has practically been eliminated. When we want something we dump the basket on the bed, pull out what we need, dump everything back in. Easy.

This past spring I bought 7 sets of the same series of Correlle (so they would stack easily). I put away all the dinner plates (which are too big for us) and keep out one bowl, 1 salad plate, and 1 mug per person. Each person has their own pattern and the rest are put away (dragged out for guests and in case of breakage). This act alone will save you GOBS of time and your kitchen will be so clean! Before doing this I had mismatched white plates, bowls, etc (cool minimalist look, but tons of breakage)... and lots of them. My dishwasher was my best friend but my kitchen was always a mess (I've been very messy my whole life).... because we would all just keep getting new dishes out instead of washing the old ones. Oh, and the cups! Distinctive cups makes such a difference because people don't get new cups because they can't remember which one was theirs.
I can have my house immaculate..... um, well, not clean, but perfectly ordered by 9am or so and I have 6 kids under 10! I never would have thought that possible. So, yes, i think decreasing what you have out will make a huge difference.
I could go on and on about how much easier my life is now.... but I'll spare you, LOL.

We've gone minimalist with our whole house (digital books, music, files.... limited toys.... etc)... but if I were back to where we were about 2 years ago (way more stuff) and about to move I would go hardcore on stuff that's not bringing joy and/or useful and that costs money to move, and then put away everything you're not sure about/not ready emotionally to handle (that's why it took us so long to get rid of stuff... it took a long time to let go of each layer).... just box up the rest.
Anyway... hope some of this is helpful!
Hang in there... moving is stresssssful, especially with kids.
-Emily
What great ideas!

SAHM to two amazing boys
8-21-05
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Old 08-08-2010, 07:20 PM
 
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What excellent ideas! This advice will help a lot of people! Most of us have w-a-y too much, and we are so used to storing it (or stepping over it) that we don't even think about the fact that it is excess.

You pointed that out in such a wonderful, rational, insightful way! Thank you. I am personally inspired by your post.
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Old 08-08-2010, 08:52 PM
 
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LOVE the ideas!! Thank you for sharing!! Lovemyblessings, what part of OR are you moving to? We live right smackdab in the middle.

Mrs. S - Crunchy child of The King, Wife to my best friend, and Mama to my many blessings.

 
 
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Old 08-09-2010, 12:10 AM
 
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After moving 7x in 4 years and doing a lot of travelling in between, I came home one day and was digusted with all the time and energy I wasted maintaining our stuff...and it wasn't a home, it felt like a storage facility.

We have 1 set of sheet per bed...so that is only 2 sets. DS sleep in a sleeping bag...he loves it and thinks it's cool. : ) We have a huge down comforter and 1 extra blanket for the winter time.

Towels- we have 3 regular, quick drying and 3 beach towels (we swim a lot and travel to the beach alot)

Clothing- I maintain a work wardrobe but keep it too black, white, red, gray and some pink. This gives me endless options and I only by easy care- wash and hang dry, maybe a little iron touch up. I like to wear sheath dresses, just add a cute pair of heels or boots and I am out the door.

Otherwise, I wear a white t-shirt (short for summer, long sleeve for winter)and yoga pants around the house w/flip flops or boots in the winter.

Hubby is very basic- Harley t-shirt w/shorts or overalls in the winter and houseshoes. He is a cop, so his work clothes are easy to maintain.

DS- I buy seasonally and I buy enough to last 10 days (he is a boy after all). I buy him basic t-shirts and shorts/pants and he wear his older sneakers He just started school and I buy him "uniforms" of khaki pants, polos and sneakers. Makes it easy for special days too and church.

The "stuff" of a home. We now have 6 white plates, bowls and mugs (which are great for soup/cereal/ etc.) Set of silverware and 8 medium size glasses w/2 plastic glasses for my son.

Toys- I purchased an unfinished toy box and only what can fit in there, we keep, plus a small basket of crayons/playdough/paper/scissors/paint w/brushes and his 2 big trucks. Also, a small basket of his favorite books, otherwise, we just go to the library 2x a month. He has 3 small stuffed animals. Rule is 1 toy in, 1 toy out. He is into ZHU ZHU pets now, so we donated all of his Diego toys. Makes for a quick clean up and I add a soft bench cushion so he has a place to sit and read. He has a bucket of outside toys in the garage that he knows to pick up and put away. That, with his bike and pool, are all he really plays with.

I don't collect chotskies. I have no collections. I use my own photography as wall art plus I made handprints for each of us in paint and I hung those up. Much more personal and I can control the colors and style.

I keep all of my appliances off the counters. I have a smaller coffee maker, blender and small food processor. I got rid of the rest as I never used them.It makes for a cleaner look and easier to wipe down the counters. I do not bake other than opening a box of Betty Crocker, which is just fine with my son. I have a muffin pan and small glass square dish for the BC stuff. I got rid of the rest. I rather just buy something special. I toast everything in the broiler as I kept buying toasters or toaster ovens and they would break.

I have one small closet set up with bathroom essentials but I really don't buy ahead other than a 12 pack of soap, which lasts us awhile. I do not stock up on much, other than tp, tampons- stuff we use weekly. I use Costco or Sam's and do 2 huge shopping trips a year for stuff like tp, tampons, my son's shampoo/bodywash, etc. It saves money and time for me. I installed a piece of wood across the metal shelf on the top of the closet and store all of our medicines there. I have a basket for each of us. Grab and go and it looks cute and organized.

Bottom shelf are the beach towels, water shoes, suncare, and if I have anything extra.

I deplasticized my home, so I have a lot of cute baskets. We have 2 pop up mesh bins in our closet for laundry and my DS has one. He can carry it to the laundry room and it control the piles of dirty laundry I used to have.

We are in the process of downsizing even more. We have this HUGE tv stand..I mean huge thing...that we no longer really use the storage. There are the board games, a few college books and pics on just a few of the shelves. I think I could store the games.books in the closet and move the pics somewhere else.

Utilize your closet space. I love my sweater shelves that you can buy and I doubled the rods in all my closets. Simple fixes for twice the space. I installed shoe shelves in our master and love it. So much easier to get ready. I also bought the drawers, so all of our under pinnings are in there, so we got rid of a behemouth of a dresser. : )

I really kept track of what we used in a month and the rest was pretty much sold or donated. It took me several weekends to get through everything and then purges here and there. I enjoyed the process and we have probably downsized by at least 60%. Good luck.
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Old 08-09-2010, 04:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I've weeded my 2.5 yr old son's clothes down to his 4 drawer wire dresser, and my 1 yr old daughter to that plus shirts & dresses hanging up. I'll be giving a lot more of hers away in a month when she won't need her summer clothes anymore. Now I only have one box each to "grow into", and still 5 small banker boxes of hand-me-downs to weed through again for future babies. I got rid of 4 bags of clothes last week and just filled up 6 more. Yay!!! I also pulled all of my clothes out of the closet and put back what I loved. About 10 shirts, 2 pairs of jeans, some comfy/ yoga pants & pj sets, 6 sweaters, and 6 skirts. It's still a work in progress. The rest I have put to the side for a few days to make up a "shopping" list for replacing with ones in basic colours that are a better fit, unless I decide I have enough.

Thanks for all your inspiration everyone!!! I'm packing up my dishes today and pulling out any baking/ cooking ware that I can give to an immigrant family someone I met through Freecycle is collecting things for. We'll be heading out this evening to buy a set of dishes for each of us, a deep bowl, a plate, a cup, and a mug each. It'll feel good!!!!

Things I've gotten rid of in my kitchen today:

My bread machine that wasn't working right anyway and will bake bread from scratch (I would rise it in pans and bake it in the oven anyway) or buy from a local bakery.

A clunky food processor.
A too-small pot that I only kept since it matches my set.
2 spare muffin tins
1 spare baking sheet,
1 glass serving plate I've never used
1 metal flipper I don't use
2 knives that we didn't get rid of when we bought new ones
2 extra cutting boards
1 extra tea ball
2 extra travel mugs

It's been really hard to declutter my kitchen up until now. I was so influenced by my mom to have and keep so many kitchen things, since her kitchen is chocked full of every kitchen gadget and gizmo out there (she bakes a lot, as do I). As much as I love her, I don't need to be her! What a freeing thought.

I still have more baking/ casserole dishes to get rid of, and vases (oh, so many vases), and I'll box up the dishes for guests (or to give back to my mom) once we've gotten our new ones tonight.

This is fun!!
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Old 08-10-2010, 06:28 AM
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sounds like great progress! congratulations!
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Old 08-10-2010, 07:45 AM
 
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Awesome, ShellieC! Hey, that's my mom's name, and her last name starts with a C too, ha. You are doing fantastic, and I hope your home feels much better and more peaceful. I love to bake too, and I used to love getting new cool baking gadgets, pans, etc., but no matter how great they were/looked, I just didn't use them often enough to keep them cluttering up my kitchen. I don't have much space in there as it is, and I need that one counter area for kneading dough and all that good stuff. So I got rid of tons a few years ago, and I haven't missed one thing. And if you or I ever feel like we really need some special tool or pan of some sort- I can go find one somewhere, and you can borrow whatever it is from your mom!


catscharm74, Lovemyblessings, Turquesa, and ShellieC: Thank you SO much for taking the time to post such inspiring and informative ideas! You guys kick butt.

lovemyblessings, I'd like to know what part of Oregon you're moving to, also! If you wanted to share. We're in Arlington, Va, and moving somewhere between Sandy and Government Camp sometime in the next year. We are ridiculously excited.

 
"Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion."-Thich Nhat Hanh 
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Old 08-10-2010, 10:54 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ShellieC View Post
Quick version of what I wrote and lost....

Have you used freecycle?
Do you miss towels or do you use a lot of paper towels for big cleanups?
Do you have spare clothes ofnthe current size for replacing wrecked kids clothes or do you get them as you need them?
Do you have a blog (you have a fasinating life!)
Do you wash all colors together & has it ever been a problem? ( what about reds and diapers?)

Thanks again for the great responses!!!
Sorry! I've been on mothering.com for years but I hardly ever post (I'm a huge lurker on this board).... so I'm having to figure out how to reply and do quotes and stuff. I think I just put a smiley in there. cool! This is fun!!!

Ok, first off - great job! You did a ton! That is awesome! Don't worry if things initially get more crazy. That's how it usually is for us... we make a change (like switching to 1 set of dishes per person)... and it takes a week for me to put the extra dishes away, to drop our old dishes off at the thrift store, and to bring the boxes the new dishes were in to the recycling center, and to get used to the new system of hand-washing and putting away immediately (we're still working on that one, LOL). So for that week we've got stuff everywhere and I'm thinking "this is going to make my life easier??!!!" but it did. just took a while.

Now let me see if I can answer your questions:
Freecycle: I want to like freecycle. I really do. I have gotten rid of some stuff that way but I nearly lost my mind. I usually drop off whatever I can to our local thrift store. If it's big then I put it in the craigslist free section or put it at the end of our driveway with a "free" sign on it. That works really well. I prefer the craigslist free section to freecycle because it blocks my email address (so I can completely ignore emails without getting reamed).
Here's my entirely passive-aggressive guide to listing stuff on craigslist for free:
list it, then completely ignore the emails asking only if the item is still available. Also completely ignore all emails that use "U" instead of "You" and "R" instead of "are"... etc. The first email you get that is written by a polite person and is a few sentences long and perhaps tells you what they are going to do with said item and thanks you in advance.... that sort of thing... email them back and give them your address. Those are the people who will actually show up. If they don't (never happened to me with my mean system), then reply to the next polite email. When it's gone just delete the posting and forget about all the people in your inbox who want to know if u still have it.
Do I miss towels or use paper towels -
I don't miss having more towels. Now, keep in mind that we keep 3 extra put away in an easily accessible location... so if I get behind I can always pull them out. This is what I have figured out, though: if you never have (or can never find) x (fill in the blank: clean dishes, towels, washcloths, underwear, shirts, kids shoes, socks, etc, etc) it is because you have too many of them. I used to have 12 bath towels and 12 beach towels in the regular rotation... we were always needing towels!!!!! The more you have the less you have it available. That's at least how it goes in our house. So, in our house, if a child has 4 pairs of sandals and is playing in the bushes in the front of the yard and comes in later missing a sandal - well, the next morning I would just pull out another pair of sandals. By the time we would get to having 4 single shoes I would have no idea where to look and looking would require a lot of effort because if I have 4 pairs of sandals for each child then I probably have a lot more excess stuff to search through at the bottom of the closets and under the bed etc... so finding missing sandals is an absolute chore. In the summer we keep one pair of shoes per child... so when that sandal goes missing we can remember vaguely where the child was playing. All my closet floors are empty (I keep a basket in a cabinet in the kitchen for shoes and dump them in there) and our house doesn't have much stuff in it, so looking for that extra sandal doesn't require that much effort.
So, back to the towels: I don't miss having all those towels, because now we always have towels! We always have towels sort of because I'm forced to do laundry easily (although that would mean because we've run out of towels, which we rarely do).... more because doing laundry isn't this gargantuan task anymore.
I don't use paper towels, never have. Before downsizing stuff, though, that translated into tons of towels (dish towels, special towels that fit on the end of my swiffer-like mop, old washcloths, new washcloths, etc). I used to tease my husband for not choosing the appropriate towel for the job (ie: child spills a tablespoon of milk on the floor and he would clean it up with a beach towel and throw that onto the laundry pile)... but that got me thinking: how much of a towel do we really need to clean up stuff??? So I started playing around and my kids were thoughtful enough to give me lots of scenarios for wiping up all kinds of things and this is what I figured out:
you can clean up anything with a washcloth. even an overflowed bathtub. Big mess? get a bucket or a bowl and wring the washcloth out repeatedly into the bucket. You don't need to do a load of towels everytime there is a mess on the floor.
And then I started thinking about what my magic washing machine does when I turn it on. I look at my washer as doing some special cleaning job that "officially" gets everything clean. But in reality, a washing machine behaves rather simply: it pushes sudsy water through the fibers of your clothing and then rinses. So I could do that in my sink with my little washcloth and a small amount of water and it would be no different than my washer doing it (ie: it will be just as clean, or as I found out, more clean than my washer can get it). So, I could do my little clean up job, then take my wash cloth and a bit of bar soap and wash it in my bathroom sink and hang it up and voila: i've eliminated all those towels I was washing, drying, folding and storing to take the place of paper towels.
Do I keep spare clothes for the kids - right now, yes. I haven't quite figured out kids clothing all the way yet. I picked out a capsule wardrobe for my girls 2 years ago, then reacted to that by binging last summer... and we still are dealing with the excess from that. So we keep them put away. I would love to have some put away... but not much. I will say that I have found that if you have the equivalent of 3-4 outfits for each child you WILL have to replace them with more mid-season, and if you are buying them new that can work for or against you (ie: you can buy them on clearance because the new seasons clothes are out already or you can end up unable to find clothing for the season you're in). Anyway... I'm still figuring out how best to do kids clothing.
Do I have a blog - no. I've totally thought about it because it would be fun to have commenters to share ideas with because there isn't much info out there on going minimalist with a big family.

do i wash colors separately -
No. my husband is the only one in this family brave enough to wear white, though
I don't wash reds separately either. Because we are moving next month I'm not currently cloth diapering - but I normally wash diapers separately. I'm hoping to experiment with diapers when we get there to figure out a more minimalist approach. So far I've drawn only blanks (besides EC'ing but we're a bit late for that).
Our laundry system works for us but it would be a nightmare for someone who likes to wear white. Actually, separate or together, whites and lights are a lot of work. I just don't go there.
My husband has one white button-down shirt and that's it. He washes it with everything else (all his work clothes - which for him are dress pants and shirts) and it lasts a long time for a white shirt. For undershirts I buy v-necks so no part of it pokes out if he unbuttons his collar. If he gets in a car accident and ends up in the emergency room everyone will know the awful truth: I'm a laundry rule breaker and all our whites are dingy. sigh.
Anyway... this works for us because I'm totally okay not wearing white (with all these kiddos I would spend most of my day fretting over white anything, I think). But I know people who love having white in their wardrobe and for them it is worth the extra work. So I don't think my laundry system will work for everyone, and good thing, too, because I enjoy all the cool summery outfits people put together with white items... totally cute but not for me right now.
Oh, and did I mention our sheets are black?
Really, I would paint my walls black if it wouldn't totally depress me.
A busy psychedelic pattern would work too, but we're trying to sell this house, LOL!
(and for walls and trim I'm crazy enough to like white, which is why I have to have painters in this week. sigh)

Okay, I think this is the end of my novel.
Oh, for those who asked: we are moving to Portland. I've actually never been to OR at all. We were given the opportunity to all go out there this summer to check it out but I decided I'd rather move out there sight unseen than spend ANY extra time in an airplane with my kids. Our kids are great, but I'm not looking forward to this trip
-Emily
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