Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sites I Like #1: Clutter Busting

The Internet is a big place. Surprise! Haha, I'm sure you knew that. But it hit me the other day when I installed the StumbleUpon add-on for my browser that there are so many things out on the interwebs that I've never even dreamed of. Cheesy, yeah, I know. But I also discovered that there are a lot of sites relevant to my own blog project. So I'll introduce you to my favorites by blogging about them!

Today's site: Betty Kramer's Clutter Busting column

Perfect relevance, right? This woman lost everything she owned in a fire and started her life anew sans clutter. She's a professional organizer, too, with a business called Professional Organizing Services. If my mom and I had the money, I think she would be perfect for cleaning up our place. At this point, though, I think we're invested in this as a DIY project. :)

Kramer's main column has lots of neat little how-to articles, including a recent one that I think has worked well for my mom and me: using a timer (image thanks to Kramer's site) to make sure you get in some time every day to work on the de-cluttering process. In fact, my mom came up with pretty much the same idea (and even a little better) on her own without the Kramer lady's help!

Tip: My mom's suggestion is even green-minded: take at least one waking hour out of your day to not use electricity. Naturally, for us, that hour is what we spend to work on de-cluttering. Generally, we take it during the afternoon, when we can get good light from the now unblocked balcony window area. This time period is also good because it's peak time, when electricity costs are high and everyone is using their computers, etc.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, May 30, 2008

Wrapping Paper Row*

Here's a cute and witty cartoon that somewhat pertains to this whole project. Click the image to see a larger version on the original site, (If it doesn't work, try this.)

Yesterday afternoon was an event. Bored with yet another jobless afternoon, I decided to clear the clutter in the doorway between our kitchen and living room, where a large box of wrapping paper rolls has overflowed for years. I started unrolling one of the wrapping paper rolls, when my mom came over and demanded to know what I was doing.

A short spat ensued, with Camp Mom arguing for keeping the paper, and Camp Alex arguing that it never gets used and that it needs to be cleaned up. Eventually, her being the mom, I backed off and started on the bookshelves instead. I was a little annoyed, because arguments like this happen rather often when there are questions of what to donate or recycle or whatever. This time, like all other times, I was sure I was right, since there were numerous wrapping papers that we so seldom use, and it would take forever to get through using them all. Wouldn't it just be better for everyone if we recycled the majority and kept only the useful ones?

But in talking with my good friend (who is so conveniently an objective eye to this project), an environmental studies major and green enthusiast, I discovered I would have to admit defeat and ignorance. Her advice was this:

     The order is reduce, REUSE, recycle!

I had never even thought there could be a reason for the word order in that old adage! But it makes perfect sense. My friend elaborated further, reasoning that recycling the old wrapping paper would be like buying something then discarding it. It's completely true. Now I feel a little guilty about recycling a lot of my old blank notebooks. Tip: Research organizations in your area to see if there's something like my good old standby, Books for the Barrios, that takes old school supplies in addition to the traditional stuff. Try to think of ways you can donate or reuse your stuff before you just chuck it. Tossing stuff is the easy way out!! Too easy...

So basically, doooon't follow the cartoon 100%. "Throw away" should be "recycle," and you should have a fourth pile for "reuse"!

* - Apparently the word "row," when used to mean "a quarrel," is pronounced to rhyme with "cow"!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Up To Now

As I mentioned, I'm starting this blog a bit in the middle of things. We have actually made some progress in the past couple weeks, since I've come home from New York. So I thought I would catch you up.

I started with our fridge, which was chaos! Expiration dates going back to 2003. Scary. A big problem we had was the shelving - the top and bottom sections were reasonable sizes, but for some reason we had the middle shelf at only one rung tall! Fixing that fixed our entire fridge. Tip: It's getting a little crazy in there again, so I'm planning to organize it differently - top for drinks and jars of food; middle for leftovers and favorites, and bottom for the short or special stuff. What's your fridge system?

Then we took to the living room, a HUGE mess. It looked a bit like the room on the right - you can't even tell what room it's supposed to be! (Image courtesy this site.) My mother and I each went through loads of papers and knickknacks, relics of our pasts really. We recycled nearly all of the enormous, useless cardboard boxes that were blocking our window out to the balcony. Now you can see our couch! (A friend of mine whom I've joked with about this for ages was very impressed when I showed her the couch corner from the front door the other day. No one is allowed inside, you see, until the project is done.)

Once we had separated the "donate" piles from the "save" pile (which I pestered my mom to make smaller until I was satisfied that we weren't keeping any more crap), we took our things to the proper organizations. Goodwill has been a favorite for our clothing. Our local one sometimes gets filled up fast, though. Luckily, there's a Salvation Army right next door!

Today we made our second trip to Books for the Barrios, a local organization that takes toys, books, and school supplies, among other things, to donate to poor schools in the Philippines. I think it's a fantastic cause. Some of my childhood has left us for good, but I'm ok with that if it means a cleaner apartment!

My goal for next week: open and de-clutter the two closets we haven't peeked into for over two years!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

First Post

I'm sure no one is reading this at the actual beginning, preferring instead to read back in the archives after I've had this up a few months. Or maybe I'm just too hopeful and no one is reading!

In any case, this is the beginning. It was more or less spontaneous, since I'm home for the summer and still without a job. So instead, my job so far has been helping my mother catch up on thirteen years of spring cleaning. Here's the backstory:

My mother and I, a compact nuclear family, moved to our current apartment when I was seven - thirteen years ago now. It was pretty cozy for a while, since my mother had a good job and a comfortable home is very necessary for such a working woman and her young daughter. However, clutter amassed over the years. I couldn't invite people over anymore because you couldn't see the couch. Or the floor. Or the spaces between the couch, the floor, and everything else. Walking through our already-small apartment became a daily challenge.

But, because school and work took up our time, we never bothered to clean. So it got worse and worse. Currently, my mom is unemployed (previously on disability) and has been for about a year. I'm attending NYU during the school year.

I'm starting this blog a little late in the game, since we started our project over winter break when I was home. But I plan to document the rest of our progress, via blogs about our ideas, what we do with our old crap, daily projects, and before and after photos. (Those won't come till the after photos are ready, because I want to keep the blog pretty for now!)

Feel free to post comments, ideas, and your own resources as we go along. And here's to a clutter-free lifestyle in the coming thirteen months. Maybe. :)

Stumble Upon Toolbar