Creative Ways to Declutter Your Home

Monday, April 16, 2018

I love a good decluttering. Getting rid of unwanted and unloved things gives me such a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. And the funny thing is, no matter how vigilant you are about keeping clutter out of your life, it has a sneaky way of returning: magazines pile up,  party favors creep in, socks go missing and their mates hang around, pens migrate home from the office, your collection of glass jars and tupperware containers gets out of control. If like me, you are craving a good spring clean out. Here are a few creative ways to start the decluttering process:
Timer Method Set a timer for a period of time in which you go through a room looking for items to throw away/recycle/donate, as well as items to be returned to their proper homes. Set it for 25 minutes, and it's officially the Pomodoro Technique.

 • One-Item-A-Day Commit to getting rid of an item a day for a month (or longer!).

 • Gone Box  Place a box in every room that needs decluttering and every time you find something you’re ready to part with, place it in the box. At the end of the month, take them all to the Goodwill or other charity.

 • The 20-20-20 Challenge Locate 20 items to throw away, 20 items to donate, and 20 items to be returned to their proper homes.

 • Photographic Evidence  Take photos of your home to gain a fresh perspective on where clutter lurks. This is a tip that Celerie Kemble shared with me long ago in an interview about decorating. But I found it surprisingly effective for decluttering! Don't believe me? Take a look at what this room above (our old living room) and what it looked like in a photo before we staged it for sale, as it is shown above. At the time, I didn't realize how cluttered our place had gotten!

 • Snowball Method  Get rid of one thing on Day 1, two things on Day 2, and so on until you are getting rid of 30 things on Day 30. This sounds like a lot, but it is possible. I've gotten into the 20s and quit, but one day, I'm going to make it to 30.

 •  Buddy System One of the most effective ways to declutter, choose one of the methods above and agree on a plan with a friend. Then text each other pictures of what you’re throwing away/donating each day. My friend and I have done this with the Snowball Method and it is a magic bullet of motivation.

Digest 2.9.18

Friday, February 09, 2018

Here is a short list of what's caught my eye lately—from an adorable house reno (above) to a yummy recipe, and a healthy dose of green thinking for you. Enjoy!

Dreamy #littlehouse.

That's the GJORA bed from IKEA (and this photo makes me regret not buying it for myself!).

I love this waste-saving idea so much.

Might be popular in France come 2020.

A next-level pegboard concept.

Change your life in 30 days.

Shades of gray.

Thinking about upping my bread-baking game.

Tried this recipe and loved it—it's weeknight friendly too.

Old-school delivery, new-school milk.

Let's nix the 6.

Toy Creep: A Tale of Three Dump Trucks

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

My son is 2 ½ this week and he’s more of a little boy than a toddler with each passing day. Along with boyhood comes an onslaught of toys, and I’ve been thinking a lot about their place in his life and in our home.

Before our son was born, I read everything I could on blogs about the intersection between parenting and minimalism. I devoured Rachel Jonat’s The Minimalist Mom. Later, I dove into Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids, an inspiring book that advocates for fewer toys, reduced clutter, and an overall spirit of less. Both books are worth reading and will help motivate parents to get a handle on their kids’ clutter, but neither prepared me for the reality of what I’m calling “toy creep.”

Our son still has many fewer toys than his same age peers, but little by little, his collection has grown, and I can now understand how families end up with the insane amounts of playthings that I find in most homes. Let’s take my kid’s dump trucks as an example of how we all end up with so much.

Dump Truck #1 entered our lives last summer. We’d gone to visit friends at their beach house for a weekend, and I’d neglected to pack any toys. Our son didn’t need a toy (he was having a blast playing with the garden hose), but I decided we’d get him a toy dump truck that we could play with in the sand, partly out of a nostalgic desire to return to the toy store that had been in this town since my own childhood. He loved the vehicle. 

Dump Truck #2 came on the scene over the Thanksgiving break. We were headed home with a four-hour flight ahead of us, and I knew a new toy would chip away at the plane time we needed to fill. Again, he was delighted. He started referring to it as “special dumper” and the new toy went into constant rotation.

Dump Truck #3 was a Christmas gift. My husband’s father observed that his grandson loves trucks, and wisely chose a set of construction vehicles as a holiday gift. When the package arrived in the mail, our son was thrilled to discover the new dump truck.

So, here we are, the proud owners of three dump trucks. Our son happily plays with all three, and they don’t take up much room, so I have no real motivation to insist that we pare back, but I can also see how this is just the start: How long before Dump Truck #4 and Dump Truck #5 turn up? I’m trying to figure out how we begin to cull the less-loved toys, especially now that our boy has developed strong opinions about everything

If any parents of older children have advice, I’d love to hear it. And if I have any advice to share, I’ll post it here.  

Plastic-Free and Reusable Lunchbox Containers

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

In the new year, I am trying to bring my lunch to work again every day, so there's a lot of lunch packing going on in our house! A while back I wrote a post about how I pack my workday lunch in reusable, non-plastic containers. And while I still swear by the products I mentioned at that time, I have a whole new list of favorites that I use for my toddler son's lunch (and in turn my own). These items are also great for storing leftovers.

Here are my go-to plastic-free and low-plastic lunchbox containers:

I have two sets of these U Konserve round nesting stainless steel containers. They're leak-proof, easy to clean, and the perfect size for little kid snacks and meal components. The company sells replacement lids (because you will lose them.) Plus, my newer set is marked with the tare on the bottom—handy if you're a bulk shopper. $18 for three.

I bought a Planet Box, but it was way too big for my toddler (and too heavy for me to schlepp to work each day). The LunchBots Trio is a better size and weight for my kid and it's 100% plastic-free (though not leakproof, FYI!). $25.

We did, however, really like the Planet Box accessories: the Little Dipper (great for small-portion things like hummus or raisins) and the Big Dipper (the right size for portioning out yogurt or applesauce). The bigger ones are great plastic-free, leak-proof alternatives to the U Konserve containers I love. $5.25 for small and $10.25 for large.
We have a Kleen Kanteen water bottle, which our son loves, but for those on the quest for totally plastic-free option, the Pura Kiki 11 0z. water bottle, which converts from baby bottle to sippy cup to straw cup is make from only stainless steel and silicone. $20 to $25 each.

And here are the things I'm still working on:
I'm still trying to find my ideal alternative to zip-top plastic bags, so any suggestions are welcome. I have some Lunchskins, but they are a pain to launder (the Velcro always sticks to something). The Stasher silicone bags (above) are good, but also tricky to clean (especially for those of us without dishwashers). 

As an alternative to disposable bags or wraps, I am very curious try Bee's Wrap; my sister-in-law uses these for her kids. 

Finally, I dream of a plastic-free sippy cup, similar to the wildly popular Munchkin Miracle cup. Maybe I need to manufacture it myself? What are your favorite plastic-free ways to pack kids' and grown-ups' lunches?

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