Decluttering: Consider usefulness

It’s very funny how the little things get by me.

I was walking through our kitchen (arguably the room in our house that is now the most organized at this point) one day and realized that the tiny counter in front of the stand mixer was just littered with stuff.  A plastic container filled with just a few raisins, the new bag perched atop, and kitchen timers (yes more than one – both get used) blocked my access.

Meanwhile, the thin, long drawer just below the counter held birthday candles and cake decorating stuff that we use about once a year.  It took just a moment to relocate the few things in the drawer and replace them with the timers  The raisins were walked to the pantry (they’d been on the counter to remind us of their existence.  After 10 years of this, I’m thinking we’ll remember).  Why had I never thought of this?

Considering the usefulness of each item in our home answers the question of priority, and that in turn answers the question “Do I keep this, move it, or toss it?”  Just because something has landed in a drawer doesn’t been it deserves permanent occupancy there.  But I’d never really thought about it, so the small cake decorating kit had a little home while the timers — and raisins! — cluttered the counter.

Which got me thinking about our kitchen towels.

We have no dishwasher and keep our kitchen towels in two bins under a work table.  We use dish cloths to wipe down the dishes, dish towels to dry them, and bar mop towels to wipe down the counters.  I also have tea towels for constant hand wiping while cooking.

The bins were overflowing.  Who needs this many towels?  Who needs this many towels that are mostly over 10 years old?  The old ones were too old to be of any use to anyone else (or us!), so they often were used as bar mop towels, and the kitchen laundry piled up.

I got rid of all of the bar mop and dish-drying towels except 2 newer ones, and kept the newer dish cloths.   The longest lasting, best quality towels were from Williams Sonoma, so I returned there to buy 8 new towels.  I bought 5 new bar-mop towels from Target.  I bought all in white so I could wash them with the bathroom towels in one load. The new towels fit neatly into the bins, and really help dry the dishes effectively (in the winter if we let them air dry, it takes forever to get things put away).

On that note, it’s really very nice to get things put away at the end of the day and not wake up to loads of dishes to put away in the morning.  We have one drainer by the sink, and a collapsible drainer I highly recommend by Progressive for the overflow (dishes brought home late from packed lunches, etc.).  When all is dry, the collapsible drainer goes under the sink.  I’m considering having both drainers be collapsible to allow for more counter room as long as it can be adequately dried by the end of the night (don’t put a wet drainer in a dark place unless you enjoy rapid bacterial growth.  Ick.)

It has been lovely to have a working kitchen where I can spend a good deal of time making my family good food.

Consider the usefulness of the things you use all of the time.  Are they working for you?

Accumulation, Rejuvenation

When we moved into our little house 15+ years ago, we didn’t have that much stuff, because after loading a small U-Haul a few times we simply gave up and the rest of our stuff was either donated or hit the bins.  We had movers carry the three large pieces of furniture we owned: our dining table, bed, and couch.

Our shared closet, once inhabited I presume by a lady willing to share just 6 feet of hanging space with a gentleman, had recently been vacated by an elderly lady who kept 14 lab coats from a job she’d abandoned 20 years earlier, along with her wedding shoes from 60 years previous.  Noting this as a cautionary tale as we viewed what would become our home, I immediately eliminated more than half of my wardrobe.  I began with what I hadn’t worn in 6 months and was down to what I hadn’t worn in about 6 weeks in very little time.

My husband’s wardrobe still landed in the closet of the second bedroom.

Almost from the time we settled in, however, we began accumulating stuff.  We bought living room furniture and bookshelves.  The garage from the former owners contained so much stuff that opening it revealed a wall of objects that ran all the way to the door, which was held aloft by an old wood ski.  Our version soon contained remnants (old letters, old typewriters, anything we couldn’t quite let go of – trophies?!) along the periphery.

You get the picture.  It was minimal, but we were still expanding a bit.

And then came the kid.

Right before her impending arrival, we rearranged the entire house to accommodate her tiny body.  Her minimalist room bearing a crib, changing table and our old armoire was set up.  Our room acquired 3 huge Ikea closets.  The garage was converted into our office.  A shed was added to the backyard to hold remnants of the garage (after a serious purge, during which we found a box of saved wicker baskets which had housed a family of possums.  At least they’d finally been used).

From there things spiraled out of control.  We were very busy with our child.  I got a master’s degree.  My husband got promoted to busier job.

Pretty soon, and abundance of stuff littered every spare space, and I rapidly became very, very unhappy.  After an astonishing 7 years, we’ve started to make the kind of headway (literally) that’s slowly improving my outlook.  An example below: Continue reading