Days 103-106 of Isolation

Decluttering!

First, I attempted to take some boxes for donation. I called ahead and they confirmed they were accepting donations. Got there and was told “we aren’t taking donations today.” WHAT THE HECK! I just called. So the stuff from work is sitting in the back of John’s car. This was our second attempt to donate this stuff!

Maybe next week it can finally get donated!

2 boxes out of the house at least!

Second, I decided to declutter/organize my genealogy boxes. This picture shows the end result. I started with 2 boxes this size and reduced to one box. I confirmed every bit of information on every piece of paper I decluttered was also found in my Ancestry tree. I also made a spreadsheet for the birth, marriage, and death certificates I have. Needless to say, this led to rabbit hole “excitement” for me.

124 “items” gone!

Third, John replaced the storage cabinet in the garage with a shelving unit. He also purchased plastic bins to put stuff into. I used the label maker to put on the bins. Not many items decluttered but it sure does look better! The old cabinet doors couldn’t close anymore.

13 items gone!

139 items out of the house!!  Feeling accomplished!

Day 100 of Isolation – decluttering the extra closet

Since Kiddo #2 was home for 24 hours, we decluttered her bedroom closet. Yep it is still called her bedroom and kiddo#1’s room is still hers. Kiddo #2 left home 13 years ago but some things never change!

Kiddo #2’s room is set up with a bed and dresser.

Kiddo #1’s room has the extra TV, bookcase, and sofa sleeper. When she visits, that’s were she sleeps, even if Kiddo#2’s room is not being used. Silly girls!

Here’s the 117 items decluttered!!

Day 99 of Isolation – decluttering the bathroom

Kiddo #2 came out to trade cars again. She ended up coordinating and delivering over 5800 diapers to local shelters! WAY TO GO!!

She will be finishing her residency program next week and temporarily moving back in with us August 1st. Job searching during a pandemic has been challenging to say the least. She can save the money in her savings account for the move when she gets a full-time job. She has arranged for per diem work at a local clinic to hold her over until she takes her board exams in October.

Because of this, she wanted me to declutter “her” bathroom. Our Saturday afternoon fun was just that!

78 items were removed from the bathroom! Productive day!

34 items to a local women’s shelter! 

We consolidated the bandages.  There was an empty blood pressure device box.  Where’s the device?  Who knows.  The stethoscope is gone – kiddo #2 called it crap and said we don’t need one.  She also laughed at the diameter of the 80’s curling irons.

Tomorrow is her closet – imagine, she wants some of the stuff that we’ve been storing in her room since she moved away to college 13 years ago to go elsewhere! I’m hoping most of the stuff will be hers!

Days 96 & 97 of Isolation

After working on the windows, I decided to declutter/reorganize the DVDs.

We had reached the point of more DVD’s than the shelves would hold. That meant going through the old VHS tapes and reorganizing the cupboard to make room for them. 21 items decluttered!

I also decluttered 10 old coupons from my desk.


A few other things we did over these 2 days:

  • 3 hour phone chat with a friend
  • chats with both kiddos
    • Kiddo #2 detailed her delivery of diapers from the “Diaper Drive” she organized at work for a local women’s shelter. 5300 diapers were donated over 2 weeks! Great work!
  • trip to the cemetery to “visit” John’s Dad.
  • John cleaned the rain gutters at his Mom’s house
  • did some DAR research for a prospective member
    • This is another rabbit hole for me!

We watched MANY episodes of the series “Yellowstone”. We are really enjoying this one!

Days 92-94 of Isolation

Now that we have a TON of time to do all those wonderful chores we’ve procrastinated doing, we decided to conquer one accidentally!

Ours were the windows. We spent DAYS working on them. Partly because I also vacuumed all the baseboards in each room as I worked my way through the house.

It all started when I was cleaning the bathroom. I decided I should vacuum the blind. Then that led to vacuuming the window sill. The window sill needed more than vacuuming this time so I had to wipe with a damp microfiber cloth.

That led to wiping the window itself. Once you do the inside of the window, you have to do the outside. This is where John comes into the chore! That means removing the screen and cleaning that. Before you put the screen back on, you have to clean the window track. Some of these were really YUCKY!

Even though it is not perfectly clean, it is so much better than before.

I don’t know about you guys, but this hadn’t been done thoroughly in our house for at least 5 years (assuming we did it during the 2015 Great Flood).

So one bathroom window means every window was cleaned inside and out! Every screen was cleaned. Every track and sill was cleaned. Every blind was vacuumed.

What pandemic chore have you completed lately?

Day 84 of Isolation

Today represents the completion of our 12th full week of self-isolation due to “Safer/Stay at Home” orders. My, how time flies (is there a sarcasm font out there?)


Kiddo #2 “graduated” from her Pediatrics residency program tonight. She doesn’t actually finish until June 30th. Usually they have a big celebratory dinner and invite the families. Instead, they did a small virtual ceremony earlier than usual. We are so proud of her!

2 more steps are required – pass the Pediatrics board exam and find a job. Many places are under hiring freezes, even for doctors. Since the kids aren’t in school, they (and their families) aren’t getting sick! Add to that the people losing their health insurance due to layoffs and you have plenty of uncertainty. It seems weird to think we are in the middle of a PANDEMIC and some medical professions are not “needed” at this time.


On the home front, John played with the sprinklers (again and still!). Things are looking so much better. Can’t wait to post a picture of the grass actually growing!

I moved to the middle drawer to declutter it. Here’s the stuff that was decluttered and the before and after pic. We have no idea where the rest of the Cuisinart mini is. Maybe decluttered earlier? Most of the paper pile was recipes torn from magazines and newspapers along with a BUNCH of recipe empty recipe cards.

Day 83 of Isolation – Decluttering

Today I decluttered a bottom drawer in the kitchen.

17 instruction booklets, 2 bags, 4 chair leg plastic caps (these just won’t stay on our chairs)

23 items decluttered today and a much neater drawer.


John worked on the sprinkler system in the back yard. We now have a drip system for the patio plants and planters and it is on the timer! Thank you hubby!

Day 77 of Isolation – Decluttering!

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that we had 14 rolls of undeveloped film just hanging out in the desk drawer. Feeling inspired, I took the 14 rolls of film to get developed in January 2020. The drugstore initially said it would be about a week. Several weeks later and only 9 rolls had been processed and returned. After a couple more weeks, the other rolls were processed and returned.

When we picked them up at the drugstore, I quickly went through them and realized MOST of the pictures were worthless. $322.36 later to realize maybe one roll of film worth of pictures were kind of usable. I put the pictures back in the envelopes and said I would deal with it later.

Later arrived.

I’m decluttering 14 envelopes, 10 cds and 541 pictures (due to duplicate printing.) Some of the date stamps are from 1999, 2000, and 2001. Just a few years hanging out in the drawer!

565 items gone!

Day 2 of Isolation

Today is St. Patrick’s Day!  It’s weird not having 150+ middle school kids checking out your clothing to make sure you have green on.

So today I decluttered!  Guess I should have counted how many pictures I removed but totally forgot to do it – maybe a trip to the trash can is in order.

I went through an old box of photos, digitized the ones I wanted to keep, threw away many, and put a few into the small boxes for the kids.

No pics for this one – sorry!

Other things that happened at our house:

  • took the car to get looked at (see our Random Acts of Kindness post!)
  • went to work to pick up my scanner before the complete lockout at 2 pm.  The county has extended Barb’s out of school until April 30th.  All school buildings are off limits.  I needed the scanner to digitize some of the pictures.
  • watched “The Rainmaker” movie
  • John did some yard work as well as transplanting a bush
  • made Corned Beef, Cabbage, and Potato dinner.  This has to be one of the easiest “holiday” meals to make!  We embraced our Irish roots with non-traditional Irish foods.  I seem to remember reading that Irish immigrants to the US started eating corned beef and cabbage because it was cheap.  Anyone know for sure?
  • John took a nap
  • FaceTime with the grandkiddo!  She is growing so much!
  • Talked with both Kiddos – kiddo #2 was venting that her noon conference was about potty training in midst of Coronavirus pandemic.  Guess they want the Pediatricians to remember parents will still have concerns about things other than Coronavirus.
  • Talked with both mothers.  They find it funny that we are both considered “elderly” when they first started talking about the age groups most vulnerable.  The media has lost the term elderly.  Guess too many people were offended being called elderly.

Hope everyone is taking time for mental health breaks in their day.

old work stuff needs to go

As a teacher, we hoard all kinds of teaching supplies.  Last weekend I went through a cabinet in the hallway that housed OLD teacher editions of textbooks (copyright 1993) and associated supplemental materials.  We are in the early stages of adopting a new textbook and these are at least 3 adoptions ago!  I couldn’t tell you the last time I looked at them.

The text bank book even mentions that IF you have a computer to contact them and they will send you a disk with the text questions.  I’m assuming it is a 3.5 floppy!

So here are the pictures of all the supplemental materials I got rid of.  The actual teacher editions I took back to school just in case anyone wants one. (doubtful, but you never know)

Why do we keep things like this??  Any other middle school science teachers have these still?

decluttering the medicine shelf

So after yesterday’s spice cabinet shelf decluttering, I was inspired to tackle the medicine shelf.

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after the decluttering

 

9 containers were removed or consolidated.  The large extra strength “Tylenol” was used to refill the smaller container here, in my purse, and in the car.

The fish oil was almost empty (4 left) in the opened container so it was consolidated with the new one.

The old prescriptions were for pain meds we barely used.  Discarded the meds (not down the drain!) by mixing them in a ziploc bag with leftover bacon grease from breakfast.  I sure wouldn’t want to sift through that!

And I thought we were done decluttering!  8 more items decluttered!

the darn spice cabinet

I’m not even sure why I opened the spice cabinet this morning.  It still hasn’t come back to me.  But when I opened the cabinet, there were 4 new bottles of spices lined up across the opening.  John went shopping!

But then I inspected them more closely.  All 4 bottles were for spices we already had plenty of!

First thought – “OMG How much did that cost?”

Next thought – “This cupboard is a disaster!”

Imagine the “heated” discussion we had about the purchase of spices!  After decluttering the cupboard, we have a lifetime supply of ground cumin, cumin seeds, cayenne pepper, Old Bay, ground ginger, poultry seasoning, and whole allspice.  All are duplicates of full bottles.

So in all, I decluttered 6 bottles of consolidated spices and old stuff (Fruit Fresh anyone?  And how about an old Mrs. Dash?)

I was able to consolidate the Old Bay and garlic powder.  Both had a large container and a small container.  (Note:  Our Old Bay large container (6 oz) is nothing compared to that found in the cupboard of a Marylander!)

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Sorry not before and after pics of the cupboard but here’s the bag of duplicates.  They are going into the pantry with the new understanding that John is not allowed to purchase spices without “prior approval” (or at least making a concerted effort to confirm a duplicate doesn’t exist.)

 

After 30 Years, it’s being Decluttered!

I have finally hit that section of the garage I’ve been dreading.  We found a box labeled “Pictures” and ” Fragile” taped up.  When we opened it, it was indeed pictures, in frames, from our old house that we moved out of in 1989!  Wonder what other boxes have been sitting out there for 30 years??  I’ll let you know if I find any!

Now I bet you are wondering how I know it was that old?  Several clues:

  • It was still sealed and it definitely wasn’t from the great flood of 2015
  • only newborn pictures of kiddo #2 (born in 1989)
  • only my brother’s first 2 kids (born in 1983 and 1987), no other nieces or nephews
  • WE LOOK SO YOUNG!
  • A lot of pictures of us before we had children!

And here’s a picture that definitely sparked joy when I saw it!

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sometime between 1979 & 1984

 

 

Decluttered in 2019 Update

Can you believe 2019 is over???  We did continue our decluttering journey this year.  Every so often you open a drawer or closet and realize it’s looking “full” and messy.  In straightening things out, some stuff just has to leave!  Here are a few things that we shoved under the bed, in the dresser “junk” jar, the bathroom cabinet, and kitchen drawer.  It sure would be nice to get rid of the “junk” jar – or rename it!

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This year we removed at least 884 items.  Why did I say at least?  We were not as dedicated to the counting aspect this year.  We began the year by saying we weren’t going to count and then felt an overwhelming need to count.  Go figure!

Here is a surprising set of numbers:  Since we began counting in 2014, we have counted and removed 16,951 items from the house!  Since the average house has about 300,000 items, we figure we can work on 2020 items in 2020.

Decluttering Update 12/2019

I finally decided to start working on decluttering the photos.  The first box held pictures from my aunt.  I think she must have been decluttering for me to end up with them!

I took a picture of each picture I wanted to “keep” – digitally of course.  Put them into a folder temporarily name “photos from the shelf” and renamed each one with the name(s) of the people in them and an approximate date if the date wasn’t on the picture.  Some were easy – me as an infant.  Others were more obscure – grandma in the 1960’s.

46 pictures gone!  plus 6 items from around the house this week.  52 things gone!!

Couldn’t resist – picture of me at age 4 had to go on top!

Christmas Cards “Decluttered”

I have had Christmas cards in the hall closet now for at least 5 years.  I know this because I’ve not sent them out since before the Great Flood.  They were packed up during the repairs and put back into the closet.

I decided to address those cards today!  Some people will be surprised I did so.

Is it wrong that I was contemplating how many to mark off on my 2019 in 2019 sheet while doing so?  Is it 3 (boxes) or 39 (number of cards used)?

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Decluttering Update

We decluttered 186 items in July, most items were from the garage so the tow dolly can be parked in it.  This is pretty amazing since we were gone July 1 – July 21.  We are up to 688 items this year!!

So far in August we have decluttered 32 items.  26 of those are recipes from the recipe box that I have NEVER used, many from when we got married 35 years ago!  I also found 2 bottles of stuff that had gone bad when looking for something in the pantry.

Here are some pics of the stuff that left our house.

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May 2019 Decluttering Update

So with all that has happened, you would think we wouldn’t have time to declutter.  Not only did we declutter 81 items but we went camping one weekend with friends and babysat for a 3 day weekend.

Grandkiddo got to do things with us she NEVER gets to do with parents – watch Finding Dory with Deda, ride in the back of the shopping cart, and pet a bear (granted it was dead at the Wildlife Center)

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Decluttering Update March 2019

I can’t believe another month has passed!  We’ve been taking little trips and really need to write about those.  This has got to be the best part of a decluttered home!

Cleaning hardly takes any time.  Laundry is now put away when it comes out of the dryer.  (I am guilty of leaving it in the dryer longer than I should!)  This almost seems like it should be a separate post!

On the decluttering front, we removed 28 items in March.  Our 2019 total is now 392 items!!

Some of the stuff removed:  holey shorts, holey tshirt, DVD player, receipts, loofah, calgon (really, when was the last time I took a bath?), empty lotion, candy found under the bed, empty box found under the bed, empty docking station box (from John’s work, why under our bed??),  book (yes, I know I already took a picture of it but it came back!  Why do people return things when you say they don’t have to??), tea strainer, weird spork.

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Declutter the Desk Drawer

I know I started the filing cabinet BUT I opened the desk drawer for something and decluttering the stuff kicked in.

How many of you have correction film and no typewriter??  Well we don’t any more!

And how many small worthless sharpeners do you have?  We had 5!  Being the person I am, I had to test the three sharpeners I thought I might use (those that catch the shavings).  The scientist in me set up an experiment – sharpen brand new pencils (I have 41 to pick from) and twirled them in the sharpener for 20 turns to compare the effectiveness of each.  Results are shown below.  Conclusion: NONE WORK worth a darn and need to be decluttered.

10 more items gone!!

Declutter the Filing Cabinet

Here’s a friendly reminder to declutter your filing cabinet!

So I had a few “minutes” to spare today.  Why not declutter something, since I need to catch up to Melinda @ PurpleSlobInRecovery.com

I went to the filing cabinet and decided to tackle a small section of work-related papers.  I pulled out this pile of stuff I hope I never need again!  (Sure hope I don’t change grade levels before I retire!)

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There are 165 double-sided pieces of paper and an unknown number of single-sided.  I think it is probably close to 300 because the single-sided pile is about twice the size of the double-sided stack after sorting.  The double-sided are going into the recycle bin.  The single-sided are going into the scratch paper reuse pile.

165 items gone from our house!!

Declutter the Desktop!

I cleaned off my desk yesterday and removed 128 pieces of paper and other random stuff – mostly work related!  It just sort of piles up in a corner quietly and stealthily.  Some things in the pile were – gasp – put back where they belong.

I also removed 2 items from the bedroom closet (an old jacket and dress shoes I know I haven’t worn since Labor Day 2008 – our niece’s wedding) and John is getting rid of a raggedy belt.

131 items gone in one afternoon!!  Feeling accomplished!

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Hello 2019!! Here’s a Decluttering Update

It’s been a while!  We ENJOYED THE HOLIDAY SEASON without the usual craziness of house cleaning!  This is our first weekend home in a month – more on that to follow.

Decluttering update:  in 2018 we removed 548 items from the house.  We aren’t quite ready to get rid of counting – we think it keeps us accountable for the stuff coming into the house and “forces” us to examine what needs to leave.

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On that note, Barb decluttered one shelf of the refrigerator this afternoon.  It is embarrassing to show this pic BUT it needs to be done.  We are pretty certain this stuff has been in there since before Christmas, oh my!  Time to get back into Decluttering the Stuff!!

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Decluttering mentality is following me to work!

Last week I walked into the copy “room” – it’s really more of a closet – only to find a bunch of stuff all over the place and I was unable to make it to the copy machine.  I moved a few items, made my copies, and then went over to the office to find the principal or assistant principal to vent to.

AP came over to look and said “oh my”.  That was it!  Not a “I’ll get someone to clean” or anything similar.

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On Wednesday I met with Principal and AP (along with the 3 other union representatives for our school – yep, I’m a union rep!) and mentioned the copy room issue again.  Safety was my primary concern.  Having to step over the stuff can’t possibly be safe!  AP said she would have it taken care of.

Today, Monday, I walked in again only to find someone left a bag of bottles for recycling right in front of the copy machine!

I spent about 1/2 hour straightening things up – some boxes were moved to the shelves, some needed to be restacked, empty crushed boxes removed from the room, bag of bottles moved out, chairs stacked.  The leaning tower of boxes was because some brilliant person stacked other boxes on top of empty boxes!  OH MY!

Now I can get to the copy machine!  Feeling accomplished!  I’ll let someone else conquer around the corner.

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Now the big question – how long before someone adds more stuff??

It’s Been A While!

I sat down this afternoon to write a quick post about the couple of things we decluttered recently and to catch up on reading blogs I follow.  I realized it has been about 3 weeks since I wrote a post and even longer since I did any post reading.  What have I been doing????  It doesn’t seem like we’ve been busy.

  1.  We went camping 2 weekends – 11/2 thru 11/4 and 11/9 thru 11/11
  2.  We went to the desert for Thanksgiving, leaving on 11/17 and returning home 11/24 – another weekend away.

Well, no wonder it seems like we haven’t been home much lately to read blog posts!  3 of the 4 weekends we were gone.

Since we decluttered the stuff from the house, all of those weekend chores have been reduced!

  1. Cleaning takes SOOOOO much less time.  Who knew cleaning would be quicker and easier if we decluttered the stuff?  Ok, maybe a lot of people but we are slow learners!
  2. Yard work has been streamlined.  Having the state impose strict watering requirements was an incentive to streamline by removing grass and replacing with slow-growing drought-tolerant plants and pavers.

AND NOW WE HAVE TIME TO HAVE FUN!!

October Decluttering Update

On the decluttering front, we removed 6 items from the house.   It seems silly to report this BUT we are finally accepting the idea that we are at a decluttering end point and will not count decluttered stuff next year.

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Here are a few ways we’ve decreased the inflow of stuff:

  • We filter/trash the minimal amount of mail the moment we remove it from the mail box.  No more mail piling up to declutter later!
  • We have transitioned to digital statements for most accounts.
  • We are not saving the digital statements on the computer hard drive since most companies allow you to review at least a year’s worth online.  And really, when was the last time you looked at that statement from 9 months ago?
  • We no longer get magazine or newspaper subscriptions
  • Barb uses the library instead of purchasing books
  • We have gradually been spending less money on random stuff, really thinking about purchases before we make them.
  • We have quit accepting “free” stuff.
  • I decluttered the Halloween gifts (coffee mugs and decorations) from students by placing them in the staff lounge instead of bringing them home.  Someone else is getting “joy” out of those items!  All the things were gone by the next morning!  WIN WIN

 

All The Kid Stuff We Saved

If you are like us, you saved TOO MUCH kid stuff.  While we have decluttered the stuff, we found boxes of kid clothes.  Now keep in mind, our babies are currently 29 and 31 years old.  We still had infant stuff!

Most of this kid of stuff has been decluttered.  Now the challenge will be all the boxes of  school stuff.  How much should we keep to give to them?  I was thinking of dividing it into 2 boxes and letting them decide but that seems cruel!  My mom recently gave me a school box and I trashed all my report cards – it really wasn’t something I wanted and I’m assuming the kiddos will feel the same way.  They are less inclined to save things already.

They haven’t looked at it or missed it in all these years.  I haven’t looked at it or missed it in all these years.  I sure could use some simple advice from someone who has boxes of kid school stuff they’ve decluttered.  What kind of things did you keep?  Did your kids want any of the school stuff?

 

Visitors and No Stress!

I had several coworkers over this morning to prep for the new school year.  It is the first time we have done this and I VOLUNTEERED to have everyone meet at our house.

Just so everyone knows – over the last 3 years we have decluttered about 20,000 items from our house (some were from the garage as well.)  We rarely had people over before we began decluttering because the chore of “cleaning” for company was overwhelming to us.   With so much stuff gone, cleaning is so much easier – I still hate to do it but at least it can get done.

All I had to do to prepare for this was purchase a few snacks and beverages.  I also vacuumed and made the bed (the bed fairy was me this morning!!)  Everything else has been so easy to maintain that I really didn’t need to do anything extra to prep the house for visitors.

One person commented “I thought you said you had a small house.”  I replied that our house is about 1300 square feet (about 120 square meters).  [We have 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, living room, kitchen/dining/family room.  She replied with “Oh, it seems so much larger than that.”  Is it because of the decluttering?  I’m going with YES!!

Feeling like decluttering the stuff has been worth it!!

First Saturday Home after Vacations

Here we are – our first Saturday home since May.  Back to the normal routines – laundry, cleaning, shredding, and some decluttering.

This morning we cleared off our desks – 38 random pieces of paper removed!  We also got rid of a dress, 2 shirts, 4 hangars, a puzzle, and a water bottle.

Total today is 47 items!  We are on a roll today!!

Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!

June 2018 Update

Not much decluttered since we spent most of the month away from home.

9 items decluttered this month.  Here’s a pic of expired coupons.

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309 items so far in 2018 – we are getting to the point where we think we are “done” decluttering the big stuff (aka drawers, closets, counters, etc.)

Guess it’s time to go through those “memory’ boxes of pictures, old drawings the girls did, and all that kind of stuff when we get home and before school starts again.

Next post will be the continuation of our vacation!  There was some “excitement” while in Wyoming!

100 Item Challenge – last update

If you are looking at these 4 items and trying to figure out what they are, here’s the explanation!

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Our old motorhome had a short queen bed.  (Essentially a queen width but a full length.)  To add 6 inches to the length, I cut a foam sheet into 6 inch pieces and stacked them to be mattress height.  I then used an old sheet to cover them.  The 3 bundles measure lengthwise the width of a queen bed!  Genius right?

When we would make the bed for the night, we would pull the mattress out about 6 inches and place these at the head of the bed.  John now had an extra 6 inches so his feet now barely hang over the end.  Shorty Barb never has this problem.  Now to keep the mattress from sagging at the foot end, this piece of plywood would be pulled out about 6 inches to support the mattress.  Again, genius!

The new motorhome has a standard queen mattress. NO MORE MOVING THE MATTRESS!  There has to be a Godfather reference in this somehow but I can’t think of one!

 

Decluttering The Stuff Challenge

We are ready for a new decluttering challenge!

How about 100 items?  We should probably set a deadline – how does May 1st sound?  That would be 9 days with an average of 11 items per day.  I know some of you will do all 100 in one decluttering event and that’s ok.  I’m just feeling the need for some accountability on getting rid of some stuff!

Who’s ready to join me in a quick “GET THE STUFF GONE” challenge?  Remember that even 1 items is one less item cluttering the place!

Old Computers

We recently “inherited” 2 old computers within a week of each other.

“Inherit” probably isn’t the best word to use here.  Mother-in-law recently decluttered Father-in-law’s desk (he passed almost 3 years ago) and was going to just throw away his computer into the trash.  John grabbed it and brought it home for me to “clean out” and decide what to do with it.

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Now “cleaning” an old computer when you know what you have on it is so much easier – you just transfer everything to the new computer, digitally wipe it clean, and get rid of it.  I started going through files and quickly realized my time could be spent doing more enjoyable things (like decluttering my own computer!)  This computer hadn’t been accessed in the previous almost 3 years.  How much of it would I really want to download??  They didn’t have any photos saved.

My job became much easier with the decision to 1) remove the hard;  2) have John destroy (literally) the hard drive (I think he used a drill and hammer);  3) have John take the destroyed hard drive and rest of the computer to hazardous waste.

I know we could have sold some of the parts BUT it really isn’t worth the effort.  How much would we really get from a 3 year old computer???

After my Dad passed, Mom was decluttering some stuff.  She also wanted to throw out an old computer.  What’s with people just wanting to throw out computers????  This one was about 10 years old and hadn’t been used since she got a laptop about 5 years ago.  I didn’t even bother to turn it on – just removed and destroyed the hard drive and send the stuff on its way.

Now back to thinking about clearing out my own computer!

 

February 2018 Update

February has been a roller coaster of a month for us.

On a more personal note, Barb’s dad passed away suddenly on February 26th.  Mom called about 8 am saying he fainted and she had called 911.  About 8:20 am while Barb was driving to their house, she got the phone call that he was gone.  Just like that our small corner of the world is turned upside down.

These kind of events make you evaluate what’s important – it sure isn’t all the crap you keep in the house, garage, etc.  Our decluttering sort of made this a little easier when we helped clean out the garage, closet, and dresser.  We did have to remember that not everyone was used to going through stuff and getting rid of it.

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Dad in his prime – about 50 years old here.

Digital Decluttering – Part 3

So this week I’ve removed 1705 emails and 2 folders in email.

Total removed since I began this challenge:  2948 digital emails, contacts, and folders!!

This exceeds my goal of 2018! (and to think I thought I wouldn’t have 2018 emails to remove hahahaha)

Now to finish cleaning the email without counting.

This week’s summary:
1/25 – 1 email folder and 199 emails.

1/26 – 100 emails

1/27 – 1 email folder, 203 emails

1/28 – 1203 emails

Credit Cards Decluttered

We have made a concerted effort over the last 5 years to minimize the use of credit cards.  We do have one that earns us mile/points for the airline that transports us to visit kiddo #1.  Unfortunately, we don’t use it enough to keep up with our visits.  Since we would be paying for the flight and hotel, we have been driving instead of flying to help keep the costs down.

I received an email update today from Credit Karma with the question “did you close an account?”   I knew we hadn’t closed anything.  When I went to their website and looked at our closed account activity, JC Penney closed us!  I know we haven’t used it in about 10 years.  I also noticed that Lane Bryant closed recently too!

I went to the credit card pile (that seems much smaller than it did a few years ago) and decluttered those closed account cards!   You know they haven’t been used in a while since they still have the stickers on them!

Feeling lighter every time I check off a box!

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Digital Decluttering -Part 2

I’ve been trying to declutter email a little bit each evening.  Here are the numbers since the last report.

contacts removed: 17 + 2 = 19

emails removed:  78 + 308 + 78 + 391 + 195 = 1050

files removed:  4

account removed from devices:  2

Removed this week:  1075

GRAND TOTAL REMOVED:  1241 items!!

Daily summary:
1/17 closed an old email account and removed it from 2 devices, removed 78 emails

1/18 declutter dropbox account – removed 4 files, declutter email account for dropbox – remove 308 emails

1/20 continue contact decluttering – 17 contacts removed and 78 emails removed. (weird, it was 78 a couple of days ago!)

1/21 different email account contacts decluttered – 2 contacts removed and 391 emails removed (working from oldest to newest, currently at Jan 2015)

1/22 finished email decluttering of one account – 195 emails removed

NEXT UP – declutter my primary email account, why do I have so many different email accounts????

 

Decluttering the Digital Contacts

I have joined Anne at Minimalist Sometimes and decided to do a count of the digital clutter I remove this year from my desktop, laptop, ipad, and phone.

Tonight I spent about an hour going through my contacts for one email account – 44 contacts removed and 122 emails removed while trying to figure out who the email address belongs to.   I was able to put a name with many of the email addresses as well.

I made it to the K’s tonight.  Feeling so much “lighter” and organized!

2018 Goals

Well, we have decided on 2 goals for each of us, the house, and financial.  Keeping it simple and specific seems to be the best way to do this.

HOUSE
◊  
Remove 2018 items from the house/garage.  We think this will be our last year of counting.
◊  Get rid of the air hockey table.

BARB
◊  The always on the list but more reasonable this year, lose 15 pounds during the year.  That’s only 1¼ pounds each month!  That seems doable!!  Tomorrow is Weigh In Day!
◊  Do yoga class/video at least twice a month.  After the shoulder injury, this is something that hasn’t happened in about 6 months so it’s time to get back into it!

JOHN
◊  
A weight loss goal of 20 pounds for the year.
◊  Complete another backyard planter.  This is really more of a house goal but that’s ok!

FINANCIAL
◊ 
Have a no spend month – most likely February.
◊  Decrease our food out budget to average $400 per month.

 

2017 End of Year Update

I can’t believe another year has passed!

This is the time of year people reflect on their previous year and make plans/goals for the upcoming year.

So how did we do with last year’s goals?  Depends on how you look at it!

√-  Our decluttering goal was to rid the house of 2017 items.  We got rid of 1506 items.  That brings our total since we began counting in fall 2014 to 15,519!  Not quite our goal but better than nothing!
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More stuff gone in December (empty turbotax case and phone book we never use among the gems!)


GOAL REVIEW

√+  We wanted to have a No Spend Month.  Well we did it last February!  Surprisingly (or maybe not) we have been more aware of purchases than we were even before this experiment.   We are contemplating another one this month but with our first granddaughter due any day, I’m not willing to do no spending just yet.  We will have travel expenses to see her (I suppose we could eliminate this from the “rules” but then there will be meals out, etc to contend with.)

√-  Next, we wanted to thoroughly go through the garage.  Most of our big decluttering in January and July were due to decluttering the garage.  Not quite as much as we would like but it looks better than before Jan 2017.

X  The last big goal was to clear out enough of the garage to put a car in it and purchase a new garage door and opener.  Well, the car still parks every night in the driveway.  The big item that seems to be holding this up is the full-size Air Hockey Table.  We just need to suck it up and figure out a way to sell/give it away.  The facebook for sale and craigslist for our area has a lot of these and they aren’t moving even if the price is $0.  Not sure how we will deal with this – maybe we need to start having our air hockey championships again!  Granted, it was a lot fun when the kids and their friends were involved – just us, not sure.

On the personal goals:
√ √ 0 X  Barb is drinking more water!  She is “officially” a descendant of the Mayflower;  she didn’t gain any weight (and only lost about 5 pounds for the year); and the picture boxes are untouched.
√+ 0 X  John is tracking his blood sugar every day (like he was supposed to do all along!) and has found that alcohol affects it (he needed to see the results himself!)  He didn’t gain any weight (also only lost about 5 pounds for the year);  and we can’t park in the garage (see above).

While we both had some successes and some “failures”, we are quite happy with how our year turned out.  We are less stressed about STUFF and other things in general, eating healthy meals at home more often than before, and enjoying doing other things that we wouldn’t have before.  Guess we need to start writing about those things too!

So now off to think about the goals for 2018!

Desk Drawer – again!

As the end of the year approaches, I’ve decided to “start” decluttering all over again.  I began this journey in earnest with our bathroom.  I then moved on to my desk.   Here are the things that didn’t make the cut this time around.

1 box of pencils (16 pencils), counted as 1 but it could be 16!
5 postcards
2 protractors
1 chemical rings stencil
1 circle stencil
1 curvy line stencil
5 different types of address labels

16 (or 31) items leaving the house!!

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Decluttering the Bathroom – Again!

I finally finished the book I’ve been working on for about 5 months documenting one of John’s family lines from the 1740’s to present.  123 pages later!  I was really wanting to finish before Christmas to present a hardbound copy to mom-in-law and I submitted it to the book binding place a couple of days ago.  Hope it arrives before the holiday.

Now that that project is finished, while doing a much needed cleaning around the house, I decided to do a quick decluttering of the bathrooms again.  12 more items gone!  Now I should go finish cleaning the bathrooms!

What a great feeling of accomplishment on so many fronts!

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November 2017 Update

Our November wasn’t too productive on the decluttering front. We removed 6 items from the house.  That gives us 1435 items so far in 2017.

I doubt we will hit 2017 but that is OK.  We decluttered like crazy for 2 years and removed so much during that time (over 15,000 items!).  We are now finding occasional things that can leave – removing an item we want/need just because we have a 2017 goal is really stupid!

We have noticed that less comes into the house – that’s a good thing!

We took a weekend trip to Sequoia National Park during the month.  It was nice to get away for a weekend.  We were able to spend it with Kiddo #2 – her first weekend off since July and she wanted to spend it with us!!  It helps that she is averaging about 85 hours a week and really wanted to feel like it was something “unique”.

Feeling small in the world next to General Sherman.  This definitely puts a lot of things into perspective.

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We had 2 different Thanksgiving dinners – one at John’s mom’s house with his sister and her family, the two of us, and his brother.  Kiddo #2 was able to surprise us by getting off work early on Thanksgiving and arrived about half an hour after we sat down to eat.

Dinner #2 was at our house – just us and kiddo #2 on Saturday.  We love making a turkey and all the trimmings!  Nothing fancy but nice to enjoy seeing the kiddo twice in the same week!

Somehow the pic was taken before the gravy and veggies (roasted brussel sprouts) were put on the table!

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October 2017 update

It seems like yesterday I was writing about decluttering our keychains and then looked at the date – 4 weeks ago!

On the decluttering front, we removed 12 items from the house in October.

Grand total so far this year: 1429 items

This doesn’t seem like much but when you consider that we have now removed over 15,000 items from our lives.  We have both spent too many hours to document cleaning out emails and digital files (which we didn’t count).

Can we stop decluttering?  Of course not!  But I think our focus/outlook on what is essential has gradually changed over the last 2 years.  I think it will still be important to occasionally go through those same closets and drawers again.

Image result for clutter meme
source:  http://www.relatably.com/m/img/cluttered-memes/meme.jpg

 

 

Declutter your keychain

We had a key break in the back door lock recently.  John did the lock replacement today and while we were dealing with a new key, decided to determine if all the keys on our keychains still work the door locks.  Guess what?  They don’t!!

I can only imagine that since we replaced doors and locks over 2 years ago after The Great Flood of 2015, these are old keys to the old locks.  Why didn’t we declutter them sooner?

How many unnecessary keys are you carrying around??

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Declutter the Extra Pictures!

Advise:  Don’t keep every copy of every picture!  Get rid of them before they become clutter.

Kiddo #1’s mother-in-law asked for some baby pictures of Kiddo #1.  That part was “easy”.

Oh, the memories!  It took longer than expected to find our favorite pics.  John and I laughed over some of our attempted family selfies from 30 years ago.  (Those are not getting published!)

Going through and eliminating all the duplicate/triplicate/millioncate copies of the pictures was also easy to do.  Why did I keep every copy of every picture??

We also found the extra baby announcements you get with the hospital pictures.  Kiddo #1 is 30!  Why did I keep the extra 7 announcements for 30 years??  My attitude toward these extras has changed so much – it was easy to recycle them (30 years later!)

62 items decluttered!  The picture box is a little lighter today!

Below is kiddo#1:  left picture is the official hospital pic – got rid of 3 sheets of extra pictures;  right picture is her 6 month pic – got rid of 4 sheets of extras.

 

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August 2017 Update

57 more items left the house!  Just when we think we are finally done, we find more stuff that seems unnecessary.  Decluttering has become second nature and we are finding we aren’t as focused on the counting (even though we still do it) as we are on clearing our space.   1355 items so far this year!

Some realizations – our daily habits have changed:
The little bit of mail we still get gets sorted, put away, and/or disposed of as soon as it enters the house – no more letting it pile up “until we have time to go through it”.

The kitchen counters are clear almost all the time!

You can open any closet or drawer without fear!

We both even spent an evening recently clearing our email, saved documents, and such from our computers all because we have the time to do so!  It amazes us how much “free” time we have now that we aren’t having to spend as much time cleaning up to clean or stressing about the condition of the house.

 

Here are a few of the pictures that didn’t make it to being their own post.  Imagine, we are getting rid of some reusable bags.  Why?  We aren’t shopping as much and haven’t used them in over 2 years!

July(ish) Challenge – Day 17 the Last Day of this Challenge

We are at the end of our self-imposed challenge.  Our original goal was to average 18 items per day decluttered.

Today we removed:
an old inkjet printer      IMG_4216
4 torn bags found in the garage
a leg? to something found in the garage     IMG_4217
a wicker basket
another cell phone cover (again for a phone we no longer own)
2 books
2 small bags (one empty, one with thread)
1 screw in Barb’s jewelry box (not sure why it’s there)
1 complete box of slides of unknown people – Barb received this from her mom, when asked who they were “I don’t know.  That’s why I gave it to you.”
1 set of slides, again with unknown people.  IMG_4218

Today = 15 items

Challenge Total = 312 items

Average =  18.35 items per day!!  We meet our goal!!  Happy Decluttering Dance happening right now!!!

Thank you Jen at HiddenHoarder.com for the challenge idea!  You motivated us to declutter just about every day for 17 days!

July(ish) Challenge – Day 16

This morning Barb is “suffering” as she prepares for her colonoscopy this afternoon.  John picked up an old coffee can, wandered the garage (to get away from the sufferer), and picked up all the stray nuts, bolts, screws, nails, etc.

Not sure how many items, but it has to be at least 18!  John was not willing to count them.

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Today’s Total = 18 (ish) items

Challenge Total = 297 items

Daily Average = 18.56 items per day

July 2017 Update

It seems had to believe this month is over already!

The end of July means the both of us have to return to work (sigh), John on the 3rd and Barb on the 4th.

We decluttered 560 items on this forced staycation.  Our 17 day July(ish) Challenge was successful!  We have 2 more days but I think we will make it!

We have decluttered 1298 items so far this year!

We calculate we need to average 54 items per week to meet our goal of 2017 items in 2017.  Is it possible?  YES!  Will we make it? Sure hope so!

Now that we are going back to work, we look forward to using the Instant Pot.

Beans have been mastered!  Artichokes were attempted.  The crock pot feature works wonderfully!  Happy meal prep is ahead!!

 

July(ish) Challenge – Day 15

So I walked into the garage to do a load of laundry and happened to look up to the top of the cabinets.  Why??  Who knows!  But I did find the home and supplies for the hermit crabs.

How long ago did we have Hermie and Crabby?  I’m assuming about 12-15 years ago.  Kiddo #1 was still living here and she graduated from high school in 2005.  She moved away to go to college and has “never returned” (is that sounding too dramatic for this mommy??)  I seriously doubt they were in our home her senior year – more likely earlier – hence the range.  Does anyone remember when having hermit crabs was the big thing??  Early 2000’s??

 

Today’s total = 10 items

Challenge total = 279 items

Daily Average = 18.6 items per day 

July(ish) Challenge – Day 14

So this morning we got up (not bright and early) to spend about an hour in the garage decluttering.  Here are the 29 items we removed from our home.  Now to load some into the car for a trip to the donation center.

3 plastic storage boxes.
1 wire closet organizer + 1 extra drawer
1 portable BBQ from John’s dad
1 gardening wire support
1 turkey fryer – used only once in 20 years
1 pair of crutches
1 child safety gate – ironically never used for our kids but to keep the dog away from the cat.
1 dried up rubbing compound
10 balls and 1 badminton birdie
1 pet watering bowl missing the water holding portion
6 miscellaneous trash things

Today’s total = 29 items

Challenge total = 269 items

Daily Average = 19.2 items per day

July(ish) Challenge – Day 13

Actual items out of the house/premise today = 0

But we accomplished so much!

Barb spent the day organizing and purging her work portable hard drive.  Today she started with about 46 GB worth of files (this is when she decided to look about noon).  No idea how many actual files, probably over 30,000.  By the end of the day, there were 25.1 GB and 14,356 files.  Many of those were duplicates.

John spent the day fixing the sprinkler system.  About a month ago, kiddo #2 was home alone and heard a weird clunking noise in the bathroom.  When she walked around the house to investigate, there was water all over the patio.  John thought he fixed is a couple of weeks ago, but when he turned on the water, it obviously wasn’t.  We must have had a pressure surge because 3 pipes had cracked/burst at the same time.  Today was spent finding and fixing the other 2.

Total for the challenge = 240 items + a bunch of digital files!

Daily Average = 18.46 items per day.  We definitely need to remove some items tomorrow!

July(ish) Challenge – Day 12

We worked on another shelf that had all the large framed pictures from the walls and under the bed before the Great Flood of 2015.  It has been about 2 years since we “moved” back in after the flood and the pictures were still bubble wrapped on the garage shelf.  Can’t claim we work fast!

We decided to get rid of 5.  The others will be put up in the house.  We’ve gotten used to the bare walls.  Adding a few pictures will be ok.

The nursery picture!  So sad to see it leave but “Really? We still have this?”

Freezer Grandma made the wedding wreath needlepoint for us.  We haven’t had it up on the walls for about 30 years.  Another one of those “But Grandma made it for us.” discussions.

The Los Angeles girl and the Norman Rockwell were given to us by Barb’s mom.  She “collected” these in the 80’s and when they downsized, we got them.  They aren’t our style and really, who cares if someone I don’t know signed them.  The Rockwell picture is supposedly signed by the boy model.

The seaside is one of those you get when you in your first home together and “have to” have something on the wall that you both agree on.

 

Total today = 5 items

Challenge Total = 240 items

Daily Average = 20 items per day

July(ish) Challenge – Day 9

WOW!  We’ve decluttered something every day for 9 straight days!  This morning yields 16 items.

Here’s a blast from the past that we can’t even look at and our 16 items, sadly all from Barb’s desk.

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When was the last time I used these?  Not in the last 21 years – that’s when I started teaching at the middle school.

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Challenge Total = 175 items

Daily Average = 19.44 items per day

July(ish) Challenge – Day 8

After much debate for the last several years (and yesterday), the old chest freezer took a ride this morning in the newly reclaimed Xterra.  The local appliance company said if we drop it off they will take care of disposing of it.

We just don’t need it anymore.  With just the 2 of us, even 2 refrigerators seems excessive.  That debate will be ongoing – probably for several more years.

This freezer still works wonderfully.  We inherited it when Barb’s Grandma died in 1993 (24 years now!  Wow!)  Hence part of the reason for the debate.  How do you get rid of “useful” stuff you inherit.  Of all things, it’s a freezer.  We also got the miniature lemon tree she had on her patio forever.  It still produces a ton of lemons every year!  Whenever John makes lemonade using those lemons, we call it Grandma’s lemonade.  He freezes the lemon juice but we really don’t need a separate chest freezer for that.  Grandma lives in our hearts, not the freezer.  (That sounds weird now that I typed it!)

Grandma had this freezer for at least 10 years.  She moved back to California in 1981 and we think that is when she purchased it.  [Interesting side note, she moved to Iowa to care for her ailing father in 1972.  Barb can’t remember if she put it into storage when she left.  It could be even older than we think.]

Among the things in it were soup bones (since 2002- yikes!)  and some meat from a partial cow purchase in 2009.  We think those are no longer edible.

We also removed extra floor tiles.

Removed today = 26 items

Challenge total = 159 items

Daily Average = 19.875 items per day

July(ish) Challenge – Day 7

John was motivated this morning to clear out some things from the garage!  When he got this pile ready to move out, we considered it a day for the challenge.  Anything else he removes (now that the post is finished) will count for tomorrow.

13 carpet scraps, 1 old wooden school desk, 1 garment rack (again something not used since the girls stopped dancing about 15 years ago), 1 bar for the garment boxes when we “moved” out during the great flood of 2015.

Total today = 16 items

Challenge total = 133 items!

Daily Average = 19 items per day!  We are still ahead of our goal of 18 items per day!!  We are doing a decluttering dance today!

July(ish) Challenge – Day 6

We are still finding stuff to declutter – and to think we thought we were done!

19 items gone this morning!

Barb’s desk yields 2 magazines, 2 cellphone covers (for a phone we don’t even have!), an appointment card, and a duplicate check thingy from 2013.

John’s desk yields 2 magazines, 1 not working pen.

The linen closet yields 3 pillowcases, 3 flat sheets and 2 fitted sheets.

and a pair of winter boots and a butane powered curling iron from when the girls competed for dance (about 15 years ago!)

 

Total for challenge =  117 items gone!

Average = 19.5 items per day

July(ish) Challenge – Day 4

20 more items gone!   Thank you Jen for the random number challenge! You would think that after removing over 15,000 items so far we wouldn’t have anything left.  We find it encouraging to go back to a place we thought was “done” only to find more that can be removed.  Today it took about 10 minutes to find, photograph, and post.

Today, we opened a drawer in our bathroom.

6 makeup brushes, 3 mercury thermometers, thermometer covers, 3 lip balms, 2 nail clippers, 1 nail brush, 1 contact case, 1 glasses cleaning cloth, 1 lipstick, 1 cracked drawer organizer.

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Total items gone because of this challenge = 80

Daily average = 20 items per day.

July(ish) Challenge – day 2

23 more items leave!!

How many ace bandages does a household of 2 middle-aged people really need??

Expired hydrogen peroxide (2011 and 2013)  Guess we don’t use as much as we thought.

Random makeup, brushes, and “special bandages” from the extra bathroom – guess the girls don’t need it any more!

“Directions” for a reading light that’s not in our house.

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Total for this challenge:  41 items

Average: 20.5 items per day

July(ish) Challenge – Day 1, 18 items

Jen at HiddenHoarder.com has inspired us to work toward a certain number of items each day.  We are on vacation for 3 more weeks and have decided to try to get an average of 18 items per day (since that is Jen’s goal).  That would be 306 items gone by Aug. 2.  [John goes back to work on the 3rd and Barb on the 4th.]

Today = 18 items!

expired food from the pantry, appliance booklets, medicine spoon, wooden grinder thingy, and a partial bottle of Slo-Niacin the doctor said not to take any longer.

 

Take Pictures of Your Stuff

Here is an interesting article supporting the idea scientifically that people are more willing to donate items if they first take pictures of the stuff.  This allows one to keep the memory “alive” while decluttering the stuff.

Declutter Your Life With This Great Science-Backed System

Who knew that documenting donations for tax purposes (in case of audit) and for a blog actually encourages donating and decluttering?!?

June 2017 Update (and a new car)

We removed 51 items from the house.  738 less items this year to bother us!!

Here are a couple of pics!  We both cleaned off our desks but didn’t take pics of the resulting pile of paper.  The binders had old transparencies – does anyone still use an overhead machine??  She counted each binder as 3 since she separated the transparency and paper insert from each other – transparency into the recycle bin and paper inserts used for scratch printer paper (you know, the things you want to print out but don’t want to waste “good” paper for).  An old VHS tape we felt we could depart with and a set of sheets.  Extra dishes and wireless headphones from the motorhome – we couldn’t remember the last time we used these.

 


So much for our financial simplification though.  We decided to get a new car!  Brand new Prius V five – our first car with all the bells and whistles!  We gave the dealer a very specific color and model.  He found it about 2 days later.  Now to get those windows tinted!

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Our old 2010 Prius base model, which we’ve had for 7.5 years, is going to kiddo #2 for the bargain price of $5000 – we are still discussing her payment plan hahaha  Maybe a nice cruise or something when she begins making more money!!

John finally gets his 2003 Xterra back – it has been in the “possession” of a kiddo since 2005 when gas prices hit $2.50 a gallon.  He drove it until that magic value was hit and then traded with the kids.  Kiddo #1 was driving our tow vehicle (1992 Honda Civic, which was John’s parent’s tow vehicle until they got something a little bigger to tow).  Our Honda tow vehicle was replaced with a 2008 Nissan Sentra in 2008 and John still drives it every day – I can’t believe it’s been 9 years we’ve had this car!

The Xterra averages about 16 mpg, while the Civic and its replacement Sentra got significantly better and he is the commuter (about 12 miles each way).    Our gas prices here haven’t been that low since, so there was no “rush” to trade cars again with them.

Xterra possession:
2004-2005 John bought it a year old.
2005-2005 kiddo #1 – finish high school
2005-2007 kiddo #2 – finish high school
2007-2009 kiddo #1 – finish college
2009-2011 kiddo #2 – finish college
2011-2012 Barb – kiddo #2 was home and driving farther for her volunteer work and classes.
2012-2013 no one regularly drove it – and gas prices sucked, usually about $4 per gallon.
2013-2017 kiddo #2 – med school
2017-???    no one will regularly drive it but John is looking forward to having it back – 12 years later!!

 

Working on the garage

We are spending this afternoon working on the garage.  So far we have eliminated 53 items.  Barb was kicked out of the garage since she wasn’t helping much with her shoulder injury and was annoying John as he started on a new section.

4 license plates – not sure how to dispose of these.  Recycle bin??

1 old first aid kit

1 piece of wood

47 books