My current inspiration to clean …

broom-womanI’ve been off school for the summer and enjoying the unusually nice weather we’ve been experiencing (but now with all the fires in Washington State, it’d be great if the rains returned ASAP!).

I’ve actually been accomplishing a lot of decluttering and cleaning this summer.  I decided not to share my process here, though, until I knew it was actually going to work.  I was tired of seeing my best intentions end up being for nothing.  Again. And again.  And AGAIN.

So, what’s been my secret to actually getting all those things accomplished that I’d been putting off for a long time?

Binge watching the TV show, Hoarders.


the hoarder in you book coverI also read a book this summer by one of the psychologists who work with the show (The Hoarder in You by Robin Zasio) and realized that without too much effort, I had the potential to become something more than just a regular messy and unorganized person.

That was eye-opening.

And more than a little bit scary.

Hoarding often begins with some sort of trauma and loss (which I’ve definitely had my share of the past ten years or so).  Hoarding is sometimes an expression of fear of losing something else.  And hoarding is often the result of just being so overwhelmed by life that you give up.

Yes.  Yes.  And yes.   I’ve felt all of those things.

But I realized this summer while watching the show that I can actively choose to let go of the things and the stuff and the clutter that was starting to find it’s way into my home.

A bit about me and why I  ended up with so much clutter:  After for a few years working at an antique mall and buying/selling items, I’d accumulated a lot of things that were being stored for resale later.  When I returned to college full-time, I stopped working the resale/antique business, but still had a large accumulation of things that I just had a difficult time parting with, or even actually identifying as “junk” or “clutter” since the items had been originally purchased for business purposes.

I had an “Ah ha!” moment recently and realized that the investment I’d made in those items was just a business loss, and I needed to move on and let them go. All of them. Books, decorative objects, art, random furniture, dishware, china, kitchen gadgets.  All wonderful and useful (and even valuable!) items. BUT they had become nothing more than clutter in my life and my home, and it was time to release them back to the thrift stores from whence many of them came originally.

I found that there were quite a few people on Hoarders who had previously been resale, antique, or junk dealers whose homes had become their storage and staging area for their businesses, and then basically the business inventory had overrun their home and their lives.  I was well on my way to becoming one of them.

Honestly, I still have trouble when I stop by a thrift store or a garage sale to keep myself from thinking, “Oh, I could sell this!”

And yes, I probably could sell it.  And at a profit.

But I’m not doing the business anymore, I don’t want to do it anymore, and so I consequently need to stop the habits of mind that led to the accumulation of too much stuff in my life.

This summer I’ve also sorted through my personal bookshelves.  No easy task — I had over 3,000 books!  I still have a lot of books, but I actually emptied several bookshelves, and feel much happier about the collection I currently have.  There were a lot of books I no longer agreed with and that actually made me somewhat upset when I’d see them on my shelves.  So why was I keep them if I felt unhappy when I looked at them?  Because they’re BOOKS.  And I LOVE books!  But I realized this summer that not all books are created equal, and that some are actually damaging to my personal well-being.

So this is a long, rambling post about how I’ve been spending my summer.  Reading, binge-watching Hoarders, cleaning, decluttering, and enjoying the sunshine.  Not a bad way to spend the time off before my last year of Grad School.

There’s actually been something very healing about the process, too.  I feel stronger.  Lighter.  Happier.

It’s a good thing.  🙂


Off and running! Not.

So, did you read yesterday’s post?  I was all excited about starting a new month, a new week, a new Monday, a new weekly Chore List.

Hm. Nice thought, right?

Well, this is what the day was going to look like:

Everyday Chores:
[ ] Make bed.
[ ] Fill/run/empty dishwasher.
[ ] Clean kitchen sink/counter.
[ ] Sweep kitchen floor.
[ ] Ten Minute Tidy of living areas.
[ ] Empty garbage(s).

Monday’s Chores:
[ ] Clean fridge.
[ ] Clean fingerprints off doors, switches, and appliances.
[ ] Check pantry and kitchen cupboards for empty boxes/bags on shelves.

But this is what my chores today actually looked like:

  • [X] Emptied dishwasher.
  • [X] Ran another load of dishes (which I didn’t empty).
  • [X] Vacuumed the living room carpet.
  • [X] Did a haphazard Ten Minute Tidy.

::: sigh :::

I was totally overwhelmed with the last week of school and the pending homework/deadlines.

That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.  😉

Tomorrow is another day.

Contest for a book giveaway of one of my books

41rIlTMZdiLThroughout the month of June 2015, to celebrate the beginning of summer, I’ll be running a series of giveaway contests.  During the last week of June, there will be a Grand Prize so you’ll want to stay tuned.  🙂

The first book to be given away will be an autographed paperback edition of my newly re-released book  The Original Simple Mom’s Ideas Book: Hints and Hacks for Home and Family.

All you need to do in order to enter the contest is submit Your Favorite Frugal Tip in the comment section of the following blog post:

And if you didn’t know I’d started a small publishing venture, here’s a quick history of what’s up:

Tomorrow’s the first Monday of a new month

de-clutter-mmAs soon as Grad school started up last fall, I promptly let this blog sit all alone with no updates, etc.  It was unused and unloved throughout the entire school year.  Poor little bloggy thing.

Anyway, today I realized that tomorrow will be the first Monday of a brand new month, and I thought I remembered writing a post about a similar situation last summer.

Yep, I did.

So here’s the link to last year’s post (that could just as well be today’s post).

Care to join me in implementing the Chore Lists afresh? 🙂

Doing dishes …

dishwashing (2)by Debi

In her essay, “Trouble Man,” Dodie Bellamy states, “I’m a lousy housekeeper, and by the end of the week dishes are stacked on every available surface of my kitchen.”

Me, too. Surprisingly, even with an automatic dishwasher, the plates, cups, pots, and pans still pile up.  My problem is that the dishwasher needs to be emptied prior to loading in some fresh dirty dishes.  Maybe it’s not so much that I’m a lousy housekeeper, but that I’m a lazy one?  Emptying the dishwasher just seems like too much work.  In reality, it isn’t a lot of work when I actually do it, but my mind tends to make emptying the dishwasher seem like a huge task looming over me that will somehow disrupt my entire day.

Bellamy listens to Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man soundtrack while she’s getting caught up on the week’s backlog of dried on kitchen gunk.  Sometimes I listen to music, too—my favorite dishwashing CD is the soundtrack to the No Reservations movie.  But usually I listen to the soundtrack in my head.  Either a song stuck in my brain, or just my quiet ruminations on life.

There’s something soothing, almost mesmerizing about doing dishes. The mindlessly repetitive, rhythmic movements.  The warm water and fragrant bubbles.  It’s satisfying to take the kitchen from complete disarray, and return it to a clean, shiny state.  Is that why I procrastinate?  Is it less satisfying on some internal level to just do little clean-ups here and there, but never have the transformational experience that comes from a complete overhaul?

Many things I’ve written have developed after a time of quiet personal reflection—believe it or not, usually while standing at the sink up to my elbows in warm, soapy water, gently scrubbing my plates and glassware.  Standing in one place, actively involved with a mindless physical activity, seems to release something creative in my mind.

Many writers over the centuries have used the mindless activity of walking as a physical meditative process.  For me, while I thoroughly enjoy a good walk, I tend to get so caught up in the sights and sounds, people and birds, creatures and weather around me, that my mind isn’t quite as free to wander as it is when I’m staring at a corner and small window of my kitchen.  The kitchen almost works as a sensory deprivation chamber.  There isn’t much to see, or hear, or experience.  Just the warmth, the steam, the water, the suds, the rhythms of the washing.

I wonder why I delay doing the dishes when it’s such a fruitful, creative time for me?  I have no answer.

But on that note, I have dishes awaiting me.  Meditation time draws nigh.

Too much stuff

Interesting article from the Seattle Times this week  …

Too much stuff: We collect it all our lives, then what?

Update after the clothing purge …

If you missed the post about how I purged my clothes closet, start HERE.   Then be sure to come back.  🙂

Today I felt regret for the first time about something I’d gotten rid of in the Great Clothing Purge.  I was looking at a fashion blog for women over 50 (yep, another sign I’m getting older) and there were some adorable outfits that I loved, but they all involved a blue jeans jacket.

I’d purged my denim blue jeans jacket.

Oh, the regret—  the remorse—

The pain of knowing it was gone.

But then I thought back as to why I’d sent it to Goodwill.  Did it bring me joy?  Well, yes and no.

Yes, I loved having a denim jacket and knew I could wear it with almost anything, BUT the jacket I had was actually a men’s jacket and didn’t fit well.  Whenever I would look at myself in the mirror while wearing it, I always felt like things looked nice … but …  the jacket was boxy.  I felt it made me look like a short, fat, almost-square person.  Not exactly the look I’m usually going for when I get dressed in the morning. 😉

I realized as I worked through my regret, that if I had a denim jacket that was cut for a woman’s body, I would wear it at least once a week, if not more.  Turns out, it wasn’t a matter of a blue jeans jacket not bringing me joy; it was a matter of the fit of the jacket not bringing me joy.

So I now have a new item on my shopping list:  A women’s tailored denim blue jeans jacket.  Something I know I will love, it will bring me joy. and I will wear it regularly.

Now I have joy again about that denim jacket which I had momentarily regretted parting with—the jacket taught me a valuable lesson which I can now take with me into the future of my shopping, my closet, and my clothing.

Exhausting the Contents of My Junk Drawer

by Debi

(New to this blog?  Start here.)

This quarter in my MFA program, we’re doing a lot of experimental writing. One of our assignments a couple of weeks ago was to “exhaust” something. Basically take something and completely make use of it, or catalog it, or whatever definition of exhausting we want to use.

I chose to exhaust the contents of my coffee table junk drawer. I needed to clean it out anyway, so this was a good way to accomplish two tasks.  I realized after writing this list, a person could learn a lot about someone else simply by looking at the contents of their junk drawer.

For example, from this list a person could know the following about me:  I like games, have a cat, have issues with dry skin, have asthma, have been to Jamaica, have been to or live near Tacoma, do crochet, watch movies, wear jewelry, eat pizza, have a computer.

Is there anything else you learn about me from the contents of my favorite junk drawer?

  • “In Huskies We Trust” Russell Stover candy-bar (partially eaten but still wrapped)
  • Cribbage board
  • 4 old family photographs
  • A baggie of old looking screws (I suspect they’re something important but I couldn’t say what, maybe for Shannon’s drafting table?)
  • A broken glass nail file with peacock feather design
  • A list of movies I wanted to watch but then promptly forgot that I’d made this list (The Iron Lady, The Descendents, Fay Grimm?, Coreolanus?)
  • 2 unopened packs of Trident cinnamon gum
  • Assorted cards that used to be in my wallet: Orca bus card, gift cards (don’t know if there’s anything on any of them or not – Nordstrom, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, Fred Meyer), insurance cards (medical and dental), preferred shopper cards (Famous Footwear, Fred Meyer, Walgreens), membership cards (AARP, Tacoma Zoo)
  • “Hey Mon, No Problem” souvenir playing cards from Jamaica
  • Burt’s Bees Hand Salve
  • 2 empty Albuterol inhalers
  • Tiny troll key chain (with purple hair)
  • Remote control (not sure what it’s for, something audio related)
  • Burt’s Bees Almond Milk Beeswax Hand Crème
  • Padded finger splint
  • 2 nail clippers (small and large size)
  • Small red flashlight (actually has working batteries in it!)
  • Small tin of cinnamon flavored Altoids
  • Pack of toothpicks
  • Earrings (2 pairs)
  • Black earbuds
  • Microsoft Office “Important Documentation” envelope
  • Packet of La Cross Emery Boards
  • Assorted gum wrappers and soda bottle tops
  • Long dead cell phone (wonder if I need anything off that phone? Numbers?  Photos?)
  • Lens cleaning cloth
  • More random screws (these were loose in the drawer)
  • 2 Benadryl gel capsules (still in wrap)
  • C-battery (no idea if it works or not)
  • 6 crochet hooks (various sizes)
  • 1 broken brown shoelace
  • 1 black Velcro strap
  • 6 pens/pencils (assorted)
  • 16 hair ties (various shades of blue, must have been a set)
  • Laser cat toy (still works)
  • 3 Post-It notes with names/phone numbers
  • 1 Post-It note that says “she gets super manic when she’s stressed” (unknown who the “she” is in this statement, but it is my handwriting)

[stopped going through junk drawer to play with Velma – she heard the laser cat toy rattle when I picked it up and came running to play]

  • Tan-colored elastic headband
  • 3 yarn needles (1 metal, 2 plastic)
  • Disney™ Wonder souvenir pin (still on backing)
  • Address of a friend
  • A note that says “Sometimes life is as simple as just showing up.”
  • Nearly empty tube of Dramamine
  • Wristwatch with brown band and large face (still working but the strap doesn’t latch)
  • Thermometer
  • Orajel Severe Pain Formula
  • Another address
  • Coppertone Sport Ultra Sweatproof lotion
  • Broken laser cat toy
  • Handheld “20-Q” (20 Questions) electronic game (works)
  • The Camper’s Knot Tying game (??)
  • 12-foot retractable measuring tape (so that’s where it’s been!)
  • Laptop reading light
  • Pocket Blackjack game (needs AA battery and small screw to hold on battery casing)
  • Large blue wide-toothed comb
  • 1 wrapped Luden’s sugar-free cough drop
  • Small black memo book (mostly unused but has some old notes in it from 10+ years ago)
  • Moon Valley Organics Lotion Bar (empty tin)
  • Purell Hand Sanitizer (2 oz. bottle)
  • Cute buttons in an Archibald Sister’s plastic bag
  • Batteries for cat laser toy
  • Yahtzee™ score pad
  • Nikon CoolPix camera manual
  • Receipt for pizza delivery from Papa John’s
  • Small pink nail polish

[just realized that perhaps the “broken” laser cat toy only needs new batteries … put found batteries in and tested … Velma confirms the laser cat toy works just fine now]

  • Rand McNally “Easy to Fold!” plastic-coated map of Tacoma streets (why is this in the coffeetable drawer and not in the car?)
  • Keyboard cleaning brush
  • Unknown plastic “thingy” (can’t even adequately describe it … it’s a “thing” and it’s unknown)
  • A list of movies I watched in a World Film class (Mother, Le Havre, Aftershock, The World, A Separation, The Mirror, The Kid with a Bike)
  • Receipt from The Melting Pot in Tacoma – server Michael – 06/12/2014 (graduation dinner with UWT friends)
  • “I Saw the Flame” pin (from seeing Olympic flame go by)
  • Nintendo-24 Controller Pak
  • Cranium™ game key-chain
  • 2 single earrings without mates
  • Packet of lens tissue “lint free for cleaning lenses, cameras & glasses”
  • Full box of Chloraseptic Total Sore Throat and Cough Sugar-Free lozenges
  • A pack of purple Post-its™ (say THAT ten times fast!)
  • Pack of red “Bee” playing cards
  • Instructions to play Canasta Caliente
  • Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm
  • More random screws
  • Regal Isolation 2-Way Splitter (looks like something for the television? Or one of the game consoles?)
  • Loose change (1 dime, 4 pennies – definitely not a wealth-making venture)
  • Nail clippings (ewwww)
  • Dust
  • Random fuzzy stuff

Decluttering Mission … Clothing!

(New to this blog?  Start here.)

Today I decided to begin some serious decluttering after reading the first couple of chapters in the bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  I realized I’ve gotten weary of the “do a little here and a little there” version of decluttering and decided to dive in and do something BIG.  I was also getting tired of working my way from room to room.  Rather than starting my decluttering with a particular room, I followed the book’s instructions and started with a category of items that was spread over several rooms and closets:  My clothing.

I went through the entire house and grabbed every stitch of clothing that I own, tossed it all into a big heap in the middle of the living room floor, and then went through the entire pile one item at a time. As I held an item in my hands, I asked myself, “Does this bring me joy?” If I felt joy, I put it in the “keep” pile. If I held it and felt anything less than joy, I put the item into the “discard” pile.

I took FOUR garbage bags FULL of clothes (plus an armful of coats/jackets) to Goodwill this afternoon.  Then I folded and rehung the “joy” items.  Now I have nothing in my closest or dresser drawers that doesn’t bring joy. No more of those “I like this but it always makes me feel fat” items or things with less than joyful associations.

I actually made a point of not playing music or listening to the TV or radio while doing this.  I wanted to actually connect with each item of clothing so I could truly evaluate what my feelings were about each item.  I think that any distractions would’ve kept me from feeling my true reactions.

An important thing I did was take the bags of discards directly to the back of my car, and as I soon as I was done sorting, I drove to Goodwill.  I was afraid otherwise I might either carry the bags around in the back of my car for weeks, or I might even end up digging back through the bags.  I also didn’t want big bags of stuff for Goodwill stacking up in the house.  The idea was to get rid of things, actually get them away from my house, not just relocate them into a different room or box.

I’d never really thought about how little joy the vast majority of my clothes gave me.  Or how little I actually wore most items.  It was funny how sometimes I’d hold something like a simple black shirt and feel nothing about it, but then I could hold another very similar black shirt and feel joy.  Sometimes it was the cut, or the shade of black, or the feel of the material.

A couple of items made me feel so much joy, it was almost weird.  But now I know that I LOVE bamboo socks.  The joy for my black bamboo casual socks went through the roof!  I think I’m going to need to pay more attention to the fibers my clothing are made from.  I always knew I preferred natural materials like cotton, silk, and wool to anything synthetic (although I do love rayon dresses).

And now I know I love bamboo.  It tends to be pretty expensive, but if a pair of bamboo socks can make me smile from ear to ear, what would an entire bamboo blouse do?  I’d probably be over the moon!  😉

There were some items that I held in my hands and thought, “Oh, I loved this so much a couple of years ago!  It brought me such joy.”  And I was going to keep those items because there was joy involved.  Then I realized the item actually didn’t bring joy anymore.  Maybe it had stretched out, or didn’t fit right, or the color had faded with time.  For whatever reason, the joy of the item was now past tense.  I found myself smiling at the clothes, almost saying “thank you” for the prior joy the item had brought me, and then putting those items into the discard pile.

Some items were puzzling why they brought me joy.  One long-sleeved maroon t-shirt brought me so much joy, it was surprising.  Why?  No idea.  But I’m going to wear it more often now that I know it makes me happy.  🙂

I still have to do this same “joy” process with my shoes, scarves, hats, and purses.  Then, after I finish with all the clothing types of things, I’m going to dig into my bookshelves.  I have about a dozen bookshelves so that won’t be a small project, by any means.

After delivering the bags of clothing to Goodwill, I feel so much lighter already.  My youngest daughter came to see what I was doing and asked if it was okay if she piled her clothes in the living room to sort through the same way later in the week.  Hooray!  It not only worked for me, it appears to be contagious.  😉

Followup Post:  Update after the clothing purge

A clean carpet!

Shampooed the living room carpet yesterday.

Spilled an entire cup of coffee on said carpet today.

Days without a dirty carpet: Almost 1

::: sigh :::  So proud.