Declutter Calendar: January 8th – January 15th



January 8th – “Throw out old coffee/tea/pods”:

Hmmm, not sure I’ll have anything to throw out, as I don’t have a coffee maker and don’t have that much tea.  Let’s check some expiration dates…well, the two boxes that are kind of old have best by dates from 3 years ago.  Except I’m still actively drinking them and they taste fine, so they can stay.  There are some loose packets that appeared somehow without me buying them, so I should try those and if I don’t like them I don’t have to drink them.  I did, however, toss out two drink mixes from the same shelf.  One is a spiced apple cider (a mix for a complete drink, not like…spices to add to apple cider), and the other is a Hershey’s Chocolate Milk Mix that looks like it might have come from the 80s.  No date, since it’s not packaged for individual sale.  I’m pretty sure with all the Nesquik and cocoa mixes that we will not miss this.

Confession: I have barely even been in the same room as my declutter calendar for a week.  First I did a TV marathon to catch up on all the shows I’d missed, then I had to do a bunch of cleaning that wasn’t part of the calendar, and finally I started going to work at 6 am (thus getting up at 4:30) and I’m now pretty much coming home and passing out.  

Case in point: Today is my first off-day after 4 days of work.  I managed to stay awake until 9:30 last night, and when I woke up I thought, “Crap, I woke up at time for work.”  I went to the bathroom and got a drink of water, all quietly to prevent waking mom, and then I saw that it was 7 am and she was already out of the house.  I slept for 9.5 hours without even stirring, which is quite a feat given that the four-legged and furry ones make a point of waking me.

So here’s a rundown of what I should have done over the past week…I’ll try to get to some of it today, but I know for a fact that at least one of these was going to get the “I can’t do it now, but it’s in the master plan” treatment.

January 9th – “Set up/clean up recycling area”:

We do have a recycling area.  It’s kind of a disaster.  We have a couple of cardboard boxes in the garage to gather paper and plastic bottles.  A couple of grocery bags hanging on nails collect the aluminum cans and tin cans.  Grocery bags are shoved inside each other and tossed behind a sofa that’s on top of a table.  Cardboard boxes get piled up wherever there’s a spot, but for the most part we had been keeping those as we thought we’d need them for packing.  Glass?  Well, I know it’s a great thing to recycle, but we so rarely have any that it got sacrificed for space.

In my vision of the house, there’s a tidy area in the garage with 2 stacks of 3 IKEA SORTERA recycling bins.  The garage is a huge project that can’t be done until a lot of other decluttering projects have made room for the items stored there, so it’s simply not realistic to even touch the recycling area at this point.  I did make one small improvement though.  I keep a bin for paper next to my desk, then carry it to the garage to empty it when it gets full.  However, mom sorts her mail in the dining room and piles paper to be recycled on the table until she makes a trip to the garage.  So I tucked another little bin in there, under some decorative tables by the door.  Now I just need to learn to empty that one as well.

January 10th – “Give away your over-abundance of mugs and glasses”:

This is also a “not right now” task.  We did get rid of a huge amount of these when holding a yard sale…about a year and a half ago.  There are still too many, in my opinion, but that’s an area where mom gets veto power so we would have to sort through them together.  As for me, I could get by with the following: aluminum tumblers, tall plastic cups, my travel cup and mugs, and the teacups that go with our dishes.  The teacups I don’t even use, but I’d keep because they’re part of the set and I’d want to look civilized if I had guests and offered them tea.

January 11th – “Go through one food cabinet”:

I’m imagining that the food cabinets Beth had in mind would be regular kitchen cabinets of 2 or 3 shelves.  What I have instead is a tall freestanding cabinet with 9 shelves (one of which is double width), and a repurposed linen closet with 5 shelves.  So that’s sort of like having 5 food cabinets.

What I’ve just done, as I’ve organized and reorganized these things in the past, is give all the shelves a quick look for anything out of place, and then tackled the one shelf where I stashed all the “expiring soon” foods.  I figured they’ve now reached the “oops, the date has passed” stage, so I was looking at them to either throw out or to pick a specific dish for them to be cooked within the next week.

As it turns out, we need to give up on buying soup.  There are 4 cans of tomato soup with best by dates in November 2013.  So I’m sure those are still fine, I just don’t know what to do with FOUR CANS.  Mom gave them to me as a gift along with a microwave soup mug, so I could save money (and the planet) on the Soup at Hand I was occasionally taking to work.  Unfortunately, the mug doesn’t actually hold a full can of soup.  Well, it does, but then when you microwave it the soup pours all over the microwave and you spend your whole lunch break cleaning it.  The lid was also not spill-proof, so I couldn’t pour a partial can in and just take that to work.

We also have a can of cream of broccoli, a can of cream of chicken, and a can of broccoli cheese.  All those have best by dates in September, so probably still edible although the taste may be slightly off.  Which is a bad thing when it comes to anything creamy, as even the fresh ones make me gag (I totally ruined green beans at Christmas by making them into a casserole with cream of mushroom soup).

There’s a little bit of powdered potato soup mix leftover from a giant bag.  We have been eating this forever, as evidenced by the best by date in 2012.  Oops.  Any family smaller than 4 people needs to give up on the idea of bulk groceries.  We were planning on being lazy and having fish sandwiches tonight anyway, so I’ll make up the rest of that potato soup to go with it and whatever we can’t force ourselves to eat can go in the trash (I’ve tried heating it up as leftovers, but it’s really hard to eat that way).

There was a can of some horrendous mixed fruit.  We bought three different varieties to try, and the only thing they had in common was passion fruit.  Passion fruit, as I quickly learned, smells like rotting meat and tastes just as bad unless you refrigerate it and swallow it nearly whole while holding your nose.  With the first can, I tried to adjust to the taste.  With the second, I picked out the good bits and left the passion fruit in the fridge for a while thinking I might try it again.  Now with this final can, I’ve just tossed it in the fridge to chill, and when I open it the passion fruit is instantly going in the garbage.

The final item on the “use it or lose it” shelf is green chile sauce with pork.  I can’t actually find a date on it, which scares me, because it may be quite old.  I’d have to plan a special recipe to use such a weird ingredient, and then if I planned it and opened the can and it was clearly bad…  I’m leaning strongly toward just tossing this one.  But what do I do with all those cans of soup?!

January 12th – “Get enough sleep this week”:

HAHAHAHAHAHA.  Well, that didn’t so much work.  That night, I stayed up to watch Revenge.  So I went to bed at 10 pm, which means I went to sleep around 10:30, and had to get up at 4:30.  6 hours of sleep, before spending 12 hours on my feet.

The next night, I went to bed at a reasonable time, I think.  I was reading, but still got close to 8 hours of sleep.  So the only explanation for how exhausted I was all day Tuesday is that 10-hour shifts are clearly not for me.  We won’t talk about how unfortunate it is that my days are not going to get shorter.

Then last night, as I mentioned, I got 9.5 hours of sleep.  I know they say you can’t catch up on missed sleep, but I don’t believe it.  Otherwise, why would my body sleep so soundly for so long when it’s beyond the normal length of my sleep?

So going forward this week, I will attempt to sleep enough.  I’ll also attempt to do last Sunday’s task of that 5 minutes of corpse pose per day that I committed to and never actually did.  In fact, I’ll be back in 5 minutes…

I’m back.  I did not do 5 minutes of corpse pose.  Oh, I tried, but I am physically incapable of staying still for 5 minutes.  I don’t think I do even when I’m sleeping (at least, the way the covers are completely wrecked every morning would indicate that I move non-stop).  So instead I spent 5 minutes lying on my back on the floor (I got that part right!), but with the occasional stretching and squirming and tapping my foot to phantom music and the bursting into the theme song from The Smurfs out of boredom.

Also, I was gone more than 5 minutes.  More like 20.  The dryer stopped and I had to go retrieve my shirts that had been in there since Friday.  Not drying non-stop for 5 days, it’s just I forgot them and went to bed Friday night, and I just remembered when I woke up this morning that I needed to turn the dryer on to tumble press, and then actually get the clothes out when it finished.  They aren’t all upstairs though, as I couldn’t carry the clothes on hangers and the spare hangers, and the slipper socks that had been air-drying for 5 days (guess what – they got dry).  Also I came upstairs to find my phone to take a picture of the lint trap, which is filled with red fuzz because apparently that red chenille sweater really should be air-dried.  The sweater’s fine, and there’s no red fuzz on the other clothes, but I’m thinking the sweater won’t stay fine if I keep putting it in the dryer.

When I put away a washcloth I’d been using to add moisture to the dryer, I saw that I hadn’t replaced the toilet paper roll I used up, so I did that, and then came to the office to put the empty roll in the recycling and then I sat down and started typing and still haven’t gone back to take the picture and carry my clothes upstairs.  If I’d been born a few years later, it’s quite possible I’d have ended up as one of those heavily-medicated kids with ADD.  Instead I’m just quirky and scatterbrained.

January 13th – “How do you want your bedroom to feel?”:

This task is more of a “for the past” one!  My bedroom is the closest of all rooms to being how I envision it.  When I was a child, I felt like my things had to be kept in my room and could not go into the rest of the house.  I felt like it was preferred that I do my reading and my playing and everything in there if possible.  I’m sure I was never told this, and pretty sure my family didn’t even intend that, but it was the impression I got.  So as an adult, one of my challenges has been to designate specific purposes for rooms, rather than to have “my room” in which I do everything, and leave the rest of the house to mom.

The fact that my room is teeny-tiny and holds enough furniture for a room twice its size does force me to limit what I do there.  I’m actually quite okay with the size and the furniture.  I’ve nearly finished organizing drawers, and the closet is totally spiffy (I did document that project with photos, but like with the unfinished office project I’m daunted with the idea of actually doing something with the photos).  I’ve already talked about my vision for the room, but I didn’t address this specific question of how I want it to feel.

I want my bedroom to feel uncluttered and functional.  Items should be stored within the drawers or closet or underbed boxes, and stored neatly at that.  There should be no trouble finding anything, and the surfaces should be clear except for some simple decorations and anything I’m actively using (such as a current book on the nightstand).

January 14th – “Declutter one end table” & January 15th – “Declutter another end table”:

DONE.  And by “done”, I mean, all I had to do was check the shelf under mom’s for outdated TV Guide magazines, as the end tables are one of the few places I manage to declutter almost daily.

So now I’m caught up on the calendar again.  I’ve glanced ahead and see that some of the upcoming days are particularly easy (in some cases, they ask me to clean non-existent locations in my house, so that could be considered easy or maybe impossible).  I’ll continue plowing through the office clutter during this time.  I’m close to getting the CD boxes out of the floor.  I should have the ones in the current box ripped today, and the rest of the ones to be done are neatly organized on a bookshelf while they are waiting.

I also need to find a place for a “things to be sold” pile, as it’s in my way and I know it will be a while before I get around to the actual selling.  Then the biggest task of the office is to sort the remaining papers into “recycle”, “type then recycle”, and “keep permanently” piles.  Or boxes, as piles would be messy and susceptible to cat chaos.


Stash Knit Down: The Big Picture


About 7.5 years ago, I learned to knit.  A little over a year later, I started an account on Ravelry.  At this point, I’m guessing that either you knit/crochet/weave/spin and already know what Ravelry is, or that it doesn’t matter what it is because you don’t do those things and don’t care.  However, as a brief summary to help this post make sense: Ravelry serves two major functions: as a discussion forum for all things yarn-related, and as an organizational tool for those who make or use yarn.  

For the most part, I only use the organizational features.  I’ve never been a fan of participating in online discussion forums, and usually when I decide to try it out I just end up getting aggravated at the other participants.  There is one group on the site that I keep being drawn back to though, and it’s called Stash Knit Down.  I’m guessing you have to be a Ravelry member to see anything there, but I linked it for the benefit of anyone who is.

Stash Knit Down is kind of like rehab for yarn addicts.  In all creative arts there is some need for a “stash” – a collection of supplies that you haven’t used yet, and maybe don’t know for sure what you’ll use them for, but they are there to be picked up when inspiration strikes.  One of the best arguments I’ve read in favor of yarn stashes is that it’s like a painter having a variety of paint colors on hand.  You wouldn’t expect a painter to sit down and make a list of the 4 or 5 colors she needs to go buy for just the next painting.  

On the other hand, there reaches a point when the size of the stash becomes a burden, rather than an inspiration.  This point is different for everybody, depending on factors such as budget, storage space, crafting speed, etc.  At some point, the excitement of the possible projects gets overshadowed by guilt at having acquired too much, by obligation to use up supplies that don’t inspire you when there are other things you’d rather spend time on, by the sheer inability to get organized and find what you’re looking for.  Back to the painter, this is the point when she has bought 13 shades of red that no one else can distinguish between, or when she has a full spectrum of watercolors when she only enjoys painting with oils.

Well, I reached this point.  I’m not sure when it happened, but one day I realized that I was wishing my yarn stash would go away, so I could start choosing a pattern first and then shopping for the right yarn.  I joined Stash Knit Down in September 2009, and posted an introduction.  At that time, I was explaining that I only considered my stash a little too large, and that really I had plans for most of it, and no I didn’t intend to stop buying yarn, but I’d just like to use up more of what I already had.  See all the justifications spewing out?  My goal at that time was to have a total of 64 yarns moved to the “all used up” tab of my yarn stash page…by the end of the year…when at that point only 28 were on that tab.  Somehow I was supposed to use up 36 yarns (not just skeins, but yarns) in 4 months.  I am the queen of unattainable goals.

Not sure how much, if any, progress I made toward that goal, because the next time I posted in the group was in November 2011.  Yes, more than two years after joining.  I jumped into a discussion on personal goals for 2012, and set my goal as using up the 12 oldest yarns in my stash.  I even listed which 12 yarns they were, and confessed to cheating and skipping over three of them, because two were in currently in-progress projects, and another one was for a planned project I knew I would not be completing within a year.

As you may have guessed, all 12 of these yarns are still untouched in my stash.  At the same time as this goal, I also signed up for the Elann Sample Skeins Subscription under the theory that getting a handful of tiny skeins of yarn to play with each month would reduce my urge to buy yarn in large quantities.  I actually think that worked.  And no, I never made anything with those either.  I really thought I’d wait and collect them all year, then use the whole batch together in a project.  I still might.  As far as the space my stash takes up, those are making only the tiniest dent, so I don’t feel too bad about holding onto them.

I did stay active in the Stash Knit Down group for a couple of months.  I only posted one other time, but I read a lot of discussions.  My final post in that go-round was to set goals for 2012 in the “Moderate Merino” challenge.  This is the less-strict of the two main challenges in the group.  There is “Cold Sheep” in which you completely give up buying yarn and work strictly from stash, with the possibility of earning badges for consecutive days without a purchase.  I have some quibbles with the rules of this challenge, and I also think it’s more important to learn to be responsible about purchases than it is to completely ban them.  

So in December 2011 I outlined the situations in which I would be allowed to purchase yarn in the upcoming year, as well as some goals about managing the existing stash.  I promptly forgot about ever returning to the group, until I wandered over there in November 2013.  During those nearly 2 years, I had acquired a total of 93 skeins of yarn.  Most of these were gifts or greatly discounted (a full third of them came from a friend’s yard sale, and it was more like I bought a project bag from her and she stuffed it with free yarn).  So there was no guilt about the incoming yarn, but a great deal of guilt about the fact that only 25 skeins had been used up during the same amount of time.

It’s no longer challenging to not buy yarn.  I can easily walk around in stores or browse online and walk away without buying anything.  However, I now need to put serious effort into reducing the stash that already exists.  A thread in Stash Knit Down that I found really useful was called “The Big Picture”.  The idea was to evaluate your stash.  What do you have a lot of?  What do you not have at all?  What do you actually enjoy knitting?  What should be in your ideal stash?

In the best scenario, I’d have been able to pull all the yarn out into view and look over it and rearrange it while pondering these questions.  However, my yarn has been stashed away (pardon the phrase) since we thought we’d be moving, and I have yet to get the house organized enough to find space for a craft room.  So instead I took advantage of the fact that I’d done a decent job listing my stash on Ravelry, and looked over the photographs instead.  Here’s a summary of what I discovered:

What I Don’t Want:

  • Plain acrylic.  I have some that is for a specific planned project, and I have no objections to synthetic content in a special yarn.  However, I really don’t enjoy knitting with acrylic enough to need a bunch of it in solid colors and medium weights.  Mom does use it for her crocheting, so I’ve been working to transfer it out of my yarn tubs and into hers.  This doesn’t solve the “getting yarn out of the house problem”, but it does take the pressure off me to use it.
  • Random single skeins.  I mean, having a few single skeins of really nice yarn is not a problem.  However, I have a weakness for mystery grab bags which has resulted in a large portion of my stash being single skeins that I would not have necessarily chosen to purchase individually.  I made a first pass through the yarn stash listings and tried to find patterns to use up these single skeins, unless they were singles from a brand I really like and have lots of in my stash.
  • Truly uninspiring yarns.  There are a few yarns in my stash that I do look at and think “I have no desire to ever knit this”.  More often it’s just “I love this yarn, but haven’t figured out what to do with it yet”, so the ones I really don’t want to knit really need to go to a new home.
  • Crochet thread.  This probably falls into the category above (and a little into the one above that).  I got a lot of crochet thread in some grab bags years ago, and given that I don’t love crocheting as much as knitting, and my hands cramp up doing it even at a much larger gauge, I don’t foresee ever using this.  I’m going to keep a couple that are in interesting colors, in case the urge ever strikes, but the plain whites and creams need to go.
  • Sweaters to unravel.  Between rummage sales and cleaning out old clothes from the house, I ended up with two giant 110 qt Sterilite tubs full of sweaters.  Realistically, I’m not going to want to sit and unravel, re-skein, weigh and log all this sweater yarn.  I’m probably not even going to want to knit some of it.  So a couple of days ago I sorted through the two tubs, and reduced the “to be unraveled” sweaters to a single tub.  26 sweaters to be unraveled, 13 of which are already at least started.  Then I kept five to wear, and bagged the rest up based on whether I was re-donating them or offering them to family first.

What I Do Want:

  • Nice yarns for which I have a plan and am excited to either own the resulting item or give it to a specific recipient.  
  • Nice yarn for which I don’t have a plan yet, but know that it’s in an appropriate quantity for the type of project I would make.  I have a bunch of sock yarn and lace yarn in my stash, and while I’ve never knit either so far, when I do get ready to try it I know that the amount I have stashed will be just enough to make something without a lot of leftovers.
  • Kitchen cotton.  I adore making washcloths, scrubbies, market bags, etc. and I also adore giving gifts to people (even those I’m not terribly close to).  Having a lot of kitchen cotton handy makes it possible to do this whenever the urge strikes.

Many people have been more specific about what they do and don’t want, in terms of fibers and colors and yarn weights.  I think I would have to get the existing stash more organized before I could really address those issues.  I have a lot more specific goals about the reduction of the stash, and a lot more to say about the process of doing so, which means this will probably be my other major project this year alongside the general decluttering.

Declutter Calendar: January 3rd – January 7th


Unless I have a large project to discuss, I don’t want to post every day about the tasks on the Declutter Calendar, so I’ll be saving drafts and then posting after a few days have been completed.

January 3rd – “Make sure out of season items are off porch” & January 4th – “Declutter kids’ items off of porch”

We do not have a porch, just a little slab of concrete by the door, and we don’t put anything out there.  Also, there are no kids in the house.  The only seasonal items outdoors are a spiral tree at the end of a few strands of lights, and those were already taken down.  So on the 3rd, I instead started gathering all the holiday decorations from the upstairs of the house and carrying them down to the basement to later be sorted into the appropriate storage boxes.  The box was full and there were decorations left, so I was lazy and didn’t take the rest of the items downstairs until the 6th.  So that’s a big fail.

Also in progress on this date: the most workable bit of multitasking I’ve ever done.  In late November or early December, I hunted through every single box in the basement, trying to find our Christmas CDs.  When we boxed things up a year and a half ago, I repeatedly made a point that CDs and DVDs should stay in the basement, rather than be moved to the breezeway or garage where they’d be subjected to extreme temperatures.  Only after exhausting all possibilities in the basement did I dig into the mountain of boxes in the breezeway, where I found that half of these boxes were CDs and DVDs (including the Christmas ones I was looking for).

They were in a variety of oddly-shaped and unwieldy boxes, so I brought them in to be re-boxed in the Small Moving Boxes from Lowe’s.  First, however, I’m importing them all to my new computer (music was all on the external hard drive that was dying when I bought this computer, and not all of it had been imported anyway).  The time between inserting a disc and being able to swap it out for a new one is perfectly filled with another task: cleaning up my browser bookmarks.

When I set up the new computer, I imported about a dozen bookmark files into Google Chrome.  This was a terrible idea, as it sorted them into folders based on which file they came from, and there were tons of duplicates and no organization whatsoever.  So I re-exported the whole collection to a single file, and then visited each link in the file and added it to a nice blank slate of bookmarks.  As it turns out, the bookmarks were done a lot faster than the CDs, so I’ll need to find another task that fits between inserting discs.

January 5th – “Find exercise that you enjoy”:

Well, I did this back in September.  I started going to the local walking trail every day.  Initially, I was jogging, then I had a clumsy moment involving flip-flops, a laminate floor, and a telephone.  The resulting ankle injury and the fact that I was stupid and kept walking on it ended up with me limping around for weeks.

Barring a few days when I simply could not get around, I did keep up with the walking for over a month, and although I lost the motivation to go to the trail (especially as the weather turned), I did keep up with the rest of the workout routine I’d been doing with it: crunches, squats, lunges, etc.  Until, one day, I didn’t keep up with it anymore.

At the moment, I’m working a job that involves constant walking.  I only get to sit down to pee and eat lunch.  I’ve lost about 10 pounds since starting there, so the idea of going out of my way to do additional exercise seems a little silly.  However, I’ve been interested in doing yoga (in that “maybe someday I’ll get around to making a habit of it” way) for far too long to count.  So let’s start with: I will do 5 minutes of corpse pose lately.

…stop laughing!  I have to start somewhere, right?  I didn’t learn to knit by committing myself to making a scarf every day.  I’m already behind though, as I totally didn’t look at the task for the 5th until the 6th.

January 6th – “Clear your left kitchen counter of things not used daily” & January 7th – “Clear your right kitchen counter of things not used daily”:

Okay, today’s the 6th and left would be the section between the stove and the sink.  Taking a wild guess that tomorrow I clean the right kitchen counter – why look at that!  That’s exactly what it says on the calendar.  Given the complete lack of counter space in our kitchen, I really ought to be able to do these in one day.  And by “one day” I mean more like “twenty minutes”.  But then I won’t have a task for the 7th, so maybe I’ll only do half of it today.

Nope, went ahead and did both sides.  There’s still a fair amount of clutter on the counters, but there’s simply nowhere else to go with it.  At least, nowhere else that wouldn’t get the plants eaten by a mob of cats, and the SodaStream forgotten in a dark corner and never used.

2014: The Year of Declutter


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As a long awaited update to the office closet organization: it’s not done.  Many things went terribly wrong, and I did finally give up on the idea that I’d wait until it was finished to post about it, but then I still wanted to include pictures of the progress (and the things that went wrong!).  I’ve been unmotivated to do so, and distracted by running around listening to Christmas carols and causing a worldwide tape shortage by wrapping gifts.

I’m still hoping to post a detailed account of the project, but it could be a while, so instead I’ll summarize: the inside of the closet has been painted, the IKEA shelves have been assembled and placed inside, and some of the office supplies have found their way onto the shelves.  I still need to finish filling them up, which has been hindered by the fact that the hanging file folder holders were bigger than advertised and I had to return them, and by the fact that I ordered more of some Sterilite mini-drawers that I had, but the company I ordered from shipped the new model instead of the old model that they were listing for sale.

I would elaborate more, but I really came to kick off the Year of Declutter.  About halfway through last year, I discovered the Lovely Declutter Calendar.  I subscribed to Beth’s e-mail newsletter and got access to my free download of the calendar…and promptly forgot about ever using it.  This year, since I’d be starting from the beginning and because certain things just don’t work for me in electronic format, I ordered the printed version of the calendar as a Christmas gift for myself.

Yesterday’s task was “What is the vision of your home?”  I’ve had this on my mind for a long time, and I was also more in the mood for physical decluttering, so yesterday I emptied some file folders and some old product boxes into the recycling.  Not nearly all of them, but it was a little progress.  Today, however, the vision of my home:

Master Bedroom/Bathroom:

These are mom’s, so I don’t really have a vision for them, other than someday I’d like to see the carpet in her room removed and replaced with hardwood like the rest of the house.  Plus of course I’d like to see less stuff and more organization, but I want to see that everywhere I turn.

My Bedroom:

My bedroom is small, and has far too much furniture in it, but it’s actually getting close to what I want it to be.  I got the closet and most of the drawers organized a while back, and will be able to finish up the drawers now that I received this gorgeous Powell Cherry Jewelry Armoire for Christmas.  I’ll be able to get all the jewelry cleared out of the dresser drawers, which will leave some free space for things that have been sitting out in the room.  I’d also like to get 4 of the KOMPLEMENT box with lid from IKEA to better organize some things stored under the bed (particularly shoes).  After that, all I’ll need to do is get the pile of knitting stuff moved to my craft room, whenever I figure out where my craft room is.


There is a narrow hallway that runs along the side of my bedroom and ends at my mother’s room.  We used to have a row of half-height bookshelves along the wall, with a painting hanging over them.  Then when we had the house up for sale we packed all that away and replaced it with a tiny table with a nightlight and some decorative objects on it.  I’d really like to get those shelves returned to the hallway for some much-needed storage space.  We also don’t really have a place in the house to display photographs, so I’d like to hang some kind of photograph display above the shelves.


Aside from the closet, which is a work-in-progress, I do have a pretty clear vision for the rest of the room.  It involves removing the extra desk since mom and I don’t ever use the office simultaneously, adding lots more bookshelves to accommodate my ridiculous collection of reference books (knitting, cooking, home improvement, foreign language, etc.) and still leave a little room for some to-be-read novels, and replacing the recliner that got shoved in there with a more comfy and less bulky reading spot.


My fantasy of what this space could be is well beyond any budget and ability constraints I have, so instead I’ll look at what can be done with its current state.  First off, when we redid the floor I had a color picked out, and then somehow second-guessed myself and picked something different.  Guess what?  The first choice was the right one.  So I’d really like to redo the floor again.  This should also happen along with changing the sink.  The current one is a color that completely doesn’t go with the new look of the room (not so sure it went with the original look either), and is sitting on a big boxy cabinet that makes the tiny bathroom feel cramped and doesn’t actually provide that much useful storage space.  Mom will argue against this, but I’d really like a pedestal sink in here, maybe with something similar to this Pedestal Sink Metal Organizer Stand to hold a few spare toilet paper rolls and such.  The items currently in the undersink cabinet will easily fit in the bathroom closet once I reorganize it and add a few more of the wire baskets that hang under the shelves.  Finally, the ugly yellow tub surround needs to go!  White is fine, we have lots of other white in the bathroom, but I would really like for the shelves to be in the corners, rather than jutting way out along the long side and seriously constricting the space I have in which to shower without knocking shampoo bottles onto my feet.


Oh, I don’t really know where to begin.  This is the absolute worst room in the house.  Not enough storage space, not enough work space.  Any vision of how it would ideally look is going to entail massive renovations, so for 2014 I’m only looking at the things I can easily change: remove excess containers/utensils/gadgets, especially duplicates but also anything we are never going to use; improve the food storage system so it’s easier to find things and harder to buy extra because of forgotten inventory; implement some kind of system for tracking needed groceries and planning meals.

Dining Room:

This should truly be called the “dumping room”, as we virtually never eat at the table, and it’s right by the door we use to enter the house.  It’s a fairly small space, but I should be able to find a way to add some organizational items to corral what typically gets dumped and keep it off the table.  We especially need a way to tame the tangle of chargers for phones, cameras, Kindles, etc.  This last part isn’t a home vision thing so much as a habit vision, but I desperately want to actually eat my meals at the dining room table.

Living Room:

My vision for this room is never going to happen.  For one thing, it involves moving the television to a different wall.  We’ll probably have a new television at some point this year (the old one is going bad to the point it’s virtually unwatchable), and this will necessitate buying some kind of furniture to put the new and less-bulky TV on, which may be able to incorporate my desire for more storage space in the living room.  By more storage space, I mean any storage space, as we currently don’t even have a little shelf with a few DVDs on it.


We do have an actual entryway, by the front door that is really not even close to the front and no one ever comes through it.  It is a gorgeous orange color that glows when the sun shines through the door in the afternoons.  I would very much like to put some kind of bench/storage unit in here, just a little place to sit down and put on shoes, and hold a few coats and scarves if we have visitors.

Hall Closet:

This is a space I pretty much avoid looking at!  There’s a rod to the left for hanging coats, where we have about 10 times the coats we actually wear (I’m still going out in sub-freezing temperatures in the jacket I wear year-round).  There’s a shelf above the rod, and a bunch of stuff piled under the coats, and some shelves at the back, and stuff piled in all the open space.  On the right is the stairs to the attic, which I have never even seen.  I mean I’ve never seen the attic, but the stairs are so piled with stuff that I can’t see those either.  I’d like this closet to eventually have just some coats and maybe some of mom’s shoes, scarves, etc (I keep all mine in my bedroom, but she may not want to do that).  The vacuum and maybe our folding stepladder, both of which are currently in there, wouldn’t fit anywhere else so they can stay.  Mostly, I just want to be able to see those stairs again, even if there’s no occasion to climb them.


Two things of note: 1) The breezeway is actually an enclosed room, but not heated or air-conditioned, unless you count the small window air-conditioner and some plug-in radiators, neither of which we use except on rare occasions.  2) The breezeway is probably at least as big as the living room, and is where the cats like to play (and where they have their litter boxes, except when we bring one in at night during the winter).  I’ve actually had a vision for this room for a long time, and while it would take a little work and money, it’s manageable.  First up, I want to install 2 ceiling fans that have built-in heaters.  I’m happy to use this room in a variety of temperature levels, but in the winter it does get too cold, and some of the hottest summer days are too hot.  It doesn’t need full-on heating or air-conditioning, but something to give us a little more control over the temperature would be nice.  Then I’d like to install cabinets along the back wall of windows, and put a window seat on top of them.  This would not only give me a peaceful place to sit and read, but would also add storage for shoes, umbrellas, and other clutter that needs to be kept near where we enter and exit the house.  I’d also like to use one long wall of this room to fill up with all sorts of crazy cat trees – a cat forest, ultimately.  Then across from it there would be a space for the litter boxes, and some kind of storage for all their excess toys so I can easily swap things out of the play rotation without rummaging in cardboard boxes.


We have an oversized 2-car garage.  Plenty of room to be storing tools and outdoor items, if only it were organized.  So the goals here are to take out anything that is being stored there but doesn’t belong and find a place within the house for it (or get rid of it), put up pegboard on the unfinished walls so we can hang more things, replace the existing ratty and mismatched shelves with nice ones, and get some real recycling bins rather than sorting it into random cardboard boxes.  The dream items are: replace the random hanging shelf in the middle of the garage with a ceiling storage lift, and put an epoxy coating on the concrete floor.

Basement Main Finished Room:

This is currently set up like another living room.  It can stay that way, but I’d like to redo it so that the furniture can be reconfigured into a spare bedroom for guests.  Replace the couch with a futon, and add in some chaise lounges with arms that could be pushed together to make a nice secure bed for little visitors.  This room also needs to incorporate both storage and a playing area for our awesome collection of board games.

Basement 2nd Finished Room:

Currently this room is holding some spare beds we don’t use, and a couple of bookshelves.  Plus, like most of the basement, it’s piled up with things I’m trying to sort through to either donate, sell, or reorganize.  With the removal of the beds and the addition of a dehumidifier, better lighting, and the appropriate storage and seating area, I think this could be a workable craft room.  There are two open doorways out of this room to other parts of the basement, and I’m totally envisioning turning the collection of buttons grandma salvaged from old clothes into some really cool “bead” curtains.

Basement Main Unfinished Room:

This room houses the furnace, water heater, deep freezer, washer, and dryer.  I’d like to find a way to make it feel a bit less industrial, with a nicer area for doing the laundry (especially with the addition of a utility sink and more space for air-drying clothes).  Also better organization for cleaning supplies, and turning the random boards nailed to a wall into a proper storage space, which would ideally be used for storing seasonal items (holiday decorations, extra blankets, etc.).  I’d like to do up the floors in both unfinished rooms with the same epoxy coating I envision for the garage.

Basement 2nd Unfinished Room:

This room is currently full of a mishmash of shelves and a work table, and all of it is cluttered with boxes and boxes of stuff we haven’t found a space for yet.  Aside from the obvious goal of finding a space for those items, I would someday like to turn this room into a “potting shed”.  It has a door that opens out onto a patio area in the backyard (which also needs massive work, but maybe someday that will happen), and would be the perfect place to store pots and gardening tools, and set up a little seed sprouting area with grow lights.

So there you have it: a vision for my house.  I can see this all pretty clearly, and can imagine how relaxing and functional it would be.  Not so relaxing?  The process of getting to that state.  Now I’m off to the first step, which is today’s task from the calendar: “Clean up any trash in entryway.”  I’m not sure whether I should consider that the real entryway (with the lovely orange described above), or the place we actually enter the house.  Maybe I’m supposed to do both.

Workable Re-Visions

Following up on my previous post, I had a new vision (at least for the office closet…still pondering the rest of the room) and as a result I remeasured to make sure my measurements were precise.  Guess who is incompetent at measuring?

Actual measurements of the closet are 57″ wide (the trim at the floor is wider than the shelf supports, so the extra smidge of space I thought I might have does not exist), 23 1/4″ deep, and 65″ – 67 1/2″ high (depending on whether the clothes rod is removed).  The key here is the height – it’s 10″ more than I measured before.

These accurate measurements don’t help any with the shelves I was originally looking at, but I have found an alternate solution that requires only the slightest bit of IKEA Hackers magic.

  • 3 x BILLY bookcase (this is the shortest, narrowest one which measures 15 3/4″ wide x 41 3/4″ high x 11″ deep; width of all 3 combined is 47 1/4″)
  • 3 x BILLY height extension unit (15 3/4″ wide x 13 3/4″ high x 11″ deep; this brings total bookcase height to 55 1/2″)
  • 3 x BILLY extra shelf (to divide each bookcase into 4 sections instead of 3; I may even want more smaller sections in the future but this seems a good starting point)
  • 1 x BENNO DVD tower (7 7/8″ wide x 79 1/2″ high x 6 3/4″ deep; this is where the hacking comes in – I need this to fill in as much closet width as possible [total will be 55 1/8″ out of the 57″ available] but it only comes in this tall height so I will need someone to cut the sides of the frame down to match the bookcases)

So with this combination there is only 1 7/8″ of width left over in the closet, and there will be 9 1/2″ – 12″ between the top of the bookcases and the clothes rod or shelf.

Additional organization is still being brainstormed, but here are some of the ideas:

  • 4 x 11″ x 14″ Plexiglass Sheet (will decorate top of shelves with photos, fabric, paper, etc and place plexiglass on top, with added benefit of stopping things from falling behind the less-deep BENNO DVD tower; the 11″ is perfect for the depth of the bookcases, and the total of 56″ the other direction is so little over the bookcase width that I’d probably let it hang over the ends instead of cutting it)
  • 1 x NOTUDDEN hanging storage (to fill in that little bit of space at the side – may not work due to bookcase topper idea above)
  • Some variation on the cups and S-hooks idea from this Organizing Craft Room article on Good Housekeeping (to make use of the clothes rod, and fill in the empty space above the bookcases)
  • 2 x Wireworld 4-tier rolling cart (16 1/4″ wide x 9″ deep x 33″ high; just the right size to squeeze one in front of the bookcases behind each of the sliding doors to store more items but easily roll them out of the way to access the shelves)

Unworkable Visions

I had a vision of a nice, tidy, organized home office the other day.  First, a bit of a description of the existing home office.  It’s in the corner of the house, so two adjacent walls have windows.  One is pretty much centered, the other is significantly off-center.  One wall has a closet that takes up half the wall.  The final wall has a heating vent and a door that swings inward (such that it blocks the closet door).  This doesn’t leave a lot of choices about where to place furniture.

Currently there are 2 desks and 2 short filing cabinets along the back wall, where the off-center window is.  Mine is one of those monstrous flat-pack desks with drawers and a printer cart and a big storage unit that sits on top of it.  I’ve had it over 20 years, since back when I got my first computer (a Tandy!) when I was a child.  

The other desk is one mom bought at a rummage sale and refinished.  It’s much smaller, with 2 drawers on each side which are all just slightly the wrong shape to hold things.  The filing cabinets have 2 drawers each and are on either side of her desk, which sits in front of the window.  

In the corner between the other window and the closet there are 3 bookshelves, with 5 shelves each.  Also a small CD/DVD shelf that sits at the end of them.  Under the window are 2 rolling file carts with 2 shelves under each one.  And on the final bit of open wall, between the door and the heating vent, is a recliner.  Its mate is in the living room.

My vision of the room involved the removal of mom’s desk, the filing cabinets, and the file carts.  My desk would move to the wall where the recliner sits now, and the recliner would move over in front of the window where mom’s desk currently sits.  The corner that is freed up by moving my desk would get its own set of 3 bookshelves (we have 1 in the basement and I would need to buy 2 more).  Then I’d remove the random bookshelf and magazine rack and boxes from the closet, and fill it in with cube-style shelves (IKEA EXPEDIT or a knock-off) to store all the random office supplies that are currently boxed up.

The plan was perfect, I set out to buy shelves, and it all fell apart.  The bookshelves we currently have came from Big Lots.  They had shelves on the website that looked the same, although I thought the color might be slightly off.  No matter, as I could put the new ones in the middle of the groups of 3, and it would look intentional.  Then I measured the current bookshelves, and they were slightly off in every direction.  The height and width I wasn’t concerned about (again with the looking intentional), but I was concerned about the new ones being deeper.  I had decided they would work (I have them angled in a corner and thought there was enough space), but when I went to the store they were much darker than I expected and I didn’t like them.

Okay, but I could still get the closet organized, right?  I had planned to buy two of the EXPEDIT knock-offs that were 3 cubes high by 2 cubes wide, and put them side-by-side in the closet with our existing CD/DVD tower between them.  This would fill up most but not all of the closet width.  I was getting the white ones to go with all our doors and trim (and the shelves, once I get that closet paifnted).  They only had 1 white one in the size I wanted.  They had the right size in an ugly dark brown.  They had the wrong size (which would waste closet space) in white.  ARGH.

I ended up leaving with only the longer cable I needed for our internet if I move my desk, some books as gifts, and some 75% off Halloween markdowns.  So I returned home dejected, and started checking the dimensions of the real EXPEDIT shelves, thinking I could make a trip to IKEA tomorrow.  I cannot come up with any combination that fits in the closet without leaving a big gap.  The closet is 57″ wide (maybe a hair more if the shelves don’t come up to the level of the built-in shelf where the support boards make it narrower), and with the clothes rod still in place it’s 55″ high (I may be able to get around 2.5″ of additional height if I can manage to remove the clothes rod).

The 16-cube EXPEDIT is 58 5/8″ wide and tall, so it doesn’t fit in either direction.  There’s an 8-cube, which is still 4 cubes tall, so it doesn’t work turned vertically or horizontally.  There’s also one with wonky mis-matched cubbies, which is not really what I want, but it’s also the same height so that won’t work either.  And then, the next size is a 4-cube (2×2).  Why is there no 3×3?  Not that it would be what I want either – I want the stupid closet to be a smidge bigger in both directions!

Progress, But Not

The current decluttering projects are pretty much the same as they were on Monday, although with more progress made.  There are still piles all over the office, but I’ve been through all of my craft supply storage in the closet and pulled out close to half the items to donate to the local recycling center’s Creation Station.  There’s an overflowing box in the hall filled with notebook paper, construction paper, various types of glue, stickers, colored pencils, chalk, and on and on and on.  Craft supplies have a tendency to pile up around here, due to the “but it might be USEFUL someday” phenomenon.

However, there are not enough hours in the day for all the crafts I could be doing, so I’m aiming to focus only on those I most enjoy and the supplies that are most inspiring.  Also, I’m attempting to reduce the duplicate items.  Take the colored pencils: I have a very nice Prismacolor set.  Also a handful of stray pencils from other high-quality brands that mom had lying around.  When am I ever going to touch the Crayola or RoseArt sets?  Never.  Same with construction paper – it’s a kiddie material, and I held onto one pack just in case, but there were at least 3 more packs of it in the closet.  

Which led to the conversation where mom argued that the reason we had so much of it was because she can never find what she’s looking for, and I argued that the reason we can’t get organized so we can find things is because we have too much crap.  Like the box of standard writing pencils.  I tweeted that I had found a jumbo pencil from kindergarten.  KINDERGARTEN.  This is verging on 3 decades ago.  There should not be a single consumable item in this house that is 3 decades old.  Even so, I kept about 1/3 of the box, including a bunch of never-sharpened pencils that had glitter or pretty pictures on them.  Am I going to use these?  Let’s take a guess that’s a no, given that I haven’t used a non-mechanical pencil since high school.

So on the one hand I’m making progress.  On the other hand, it’s not as much progress as it really should be.  Maybe this round of cleaning will leave enough space to design some kind of organization system, and then when I actually get that system set up I’ll clean out some more things.

On the digital front: I’m slowly plodding away at cleaning up the Pinterest boards.  I’ve done all the renaming and rearranging that needs to be done so that everything neatly fits into larger categories now.  For the following categories, every sub-board has been cleaned up, both in terms of fixing descriptions on individual pins and making sure all the information for the board is complete (description, category, etc):

  • Animals
  • Awesome Artwork
  • Crafts
  • Little Ones
  • Tasty Treats

So, again it’s progress, again it doesn’t feel like as much progress as I should have made.  I’m never sure if this is because I’m a giant loser, or because I seriously underestimate how long a task will take.

Bits of Byte Cleaning

Now that I have open boxes and precarious piles scattered all over my office, it’s time for the inevitable loss of interest in that project.  Oops.  I probably just need to get some of the piles out of the way so it looks less daunting, but yesterday that was not in the cards, so I turned to some electronic tidying instead.

One of the many online activities that I swore I would never ever get involved in was Pinterest.  As you can see by following the link, I did not keep that promise.  I pinned lots of stuff.  Then I finally figured out an organization system, which unfortunately needed to be applied to all the old pins and boards.  That’s been a work-in-progress for a long time.  

Yesterday, I finished up one task that had been bugging me.  Initially, the notes I made on my pins were my comments about the recipe/artwork/whatever.  Then I learned that when people repin things, it copies the original pinner’s comments without clear attribution, and that made me crazy.  Like, “write in with a complaint” type of crazy.  Not that this solved anything.  So, part of my reorganization is to change the notes so that they are things suitable for repinning, and put my personal comments in the comments section.  

For recipes (the section I tackled yesterday, on all of the “Tasty Treats” boards), this constitutes putting the recipe title and an ingredients list in the notes.  I find this useful so that I can scan through the pretty pictures, and see at a glance whether I need to buy special ingredients.  Especially since some of the “recipes” don’t even have a proper ingredients list – I’ve found ones with just photos of the ingredients, and others that have a list and then the instructions mention three more ingredients that weren’t listed.  So doing the tricky part of this in advance while pinning makes it much more likely that I’ll actually try these recipes in the future.

I finished up with all the currently pinned recipes, and need to tackle the same process on the “Little Ones” boards.  Many of these pins are for art and science projects that also have an “ingredients” list, so for now I can keep on with the same approach.  After that, I’ll have to figure out what type of info is useful for a different kind of pin.

Once I finally get these cleaned up, it will be time to take a deep breath and wade through my Pocket queue.  This is where I’ve shoved things when I was too lazy to either read or pin them at the time (or was in a place/using a device where it was difficult to impossible to do so).

Pig Takes Ricklemeister

It’s been nearly a month since I started this blog, and not a single post after the first day.  This is a surprise, because at that time I had at least half a dozen things I wanted to write, and I stopped myself so I wouldn’t look overeager and spammy.  I have not done nearly as much decluttering since then as I would like – just a few bags of donations dropped off at the thrift store and a few piles of papers recycled.

The recycling is my topic for today.  In the course of cleaning out desk drawers I have encountered numerous things that made me reminisce, which is why it was so hard to throw them out in the first place.  There is a great deal of enjoyment to be had in finding that old essay from high school biology, that “Do you like me?” note that came from your first crush, that congratulatory greeting card received after your first starring role.

Confession: I do have the types of items listed in the previous sentence, but those were really made up examples.  That’s because the items I did find in my desk drawers sound much more lame.  In the past month I have recycled:

  • Many pages of lists of houses we liked when we were planning to move.  Given that we are no longer planning to move anytime soon and none of those houses are even on the market now, it’s way past time to trash those lists.
  • Parts 1-3 of a very long fanfic I enjoyed a decade ago.  I re-read it, then tossed it in the bin.
  • Lots of bits and bobs saved for scrapbooks, such as brochures and maps from vacations.  I have never ever made a scrapbook in my life.  If I’m being honest with myself, I never ever will.  So I kept the most important items (ticket stubs, brochures that I may use for planning another trip, etc.) and pitched the rest.

And then there’s the totally weird items.  Today I’m digging through two big stacks of boxes in the office closet.  These were items I packed for the move that didn’t happen.  I started digging through them to find miniature whiteboards I bought for mom to use as a polymer clay work surface, but after I found them in the 6th box I decided to actually clean out the boxes.

There are a couple of boxes of CDs and DVDs.  A couple more of various papers (things my grandmother wrote, in particular).  Most of it is office and craft supplies.  The sort of things that either need to be accessible so I can use them, or need to go away because I never will.  In just the beginning stages of going through these boxes, I encountered a stack of miniature spiral-bound notepads which I planned to stick in mom’s desk.  Upon flipping through these to be sure they were blank, I found that one had several pages of score charts mom made from my high school academic team meets, plus this mysterious missive in my younger handwriting:

Pig takes Ricklemeister toad fool narket.  Es big muy malo leche task fall fecha de hoy.  El fin de año es naranjada.  Gresgow no loco.  Soy no loco!!

I can’t even reminisce about this, because I have absolutely no clue what the context was.  So it made me laugh to find and read it this one time, but I’m dropping it in the recycle bin now.  If I found it again, the only bit of nostalgia would be finding it once before and being confused.

The Five “Boxes”

I’ve heard it’s a blogging faux pas to post more than once in the same day.  I’ve never been good at avoiding those, and this is no exception.  In my defense, I will say that this is a direct continuation of the first post, but different enough in tone that I felt it should stand on its own.
Each item that passes through my hands and in front of my eyes as I declutter should be placed in one of five boxes.  It’s not practical to sit five literal boxes out for this purpose, as I’d be tripping over them every time I turned around.  If I did, though, they’d be labeled with these five words: discard, recycle, donate, sell, and keep.
It should not be difficult to categorize each item.  In fact, thinking about it for more than a few seconds will likely cause me to second-guess the initial, correct assessment I made of each item’s ultimate fate.  Perhaps I should approach them in the reverse order, although I liked the original order because it emphasized the idea of getting rid of as many things as possible.
This box is filled with the items that truly matter.  Those that serve a practical purpose in my daily life, such as dishes I regularly eat from.  Those that further my career goals, such as books on acting technique.  Those that are most useful in the hobbies I choose to continue, such as my interchangeable knitting needle set.  Finally, those that hold irreplaceable sentimental value, such as the play kitchen my family built for me when I was a toddler.  The KEEP box is designed for all these items which it would physically hurt to part with.
This box is filled with two types of items.  First there are those that I have no desire to keep but which have sufficient monetary value and appeal to others that it would be beneficial to go to the trouble of selling them.  A spare television, for instance, or a nice purse.  The other items in the SELL box also have monetary value and appeal to others, but I do want to keep them.  The impractical, mushy, sentimental packrat part of me gets a little teary-eyed at the thought of letting them go, while the majority of me is shouting that these items are just holding me back.  These items go into the SELL box because the thought of getting a few dollars to use toward current interests softens the blow of parting with the old interests.  This is the box for books I used to love but will never read again, the box for yarn I’m no longer inspired by.
This box is filled with all the remaining items which have value to others, but not enough to make it worth the struggle of selling them.  The items which would sell for less than a couple of dollars if I were ever insane enough to hold a yard sale again.  (Here’s a hint: I will not ever be that insane again.)  The items that would cost more than their value in gas or shipping to sell through Craigslist or eBay.  The DONATE box is filled with the shirts that don’t quite flatter, the pants that don’t quite button, the knickknacks given to me by people who have since broken my heart.
This box is filled with the items that do not even hold enough value to be donated, but do fit neatly into a category for which recycling programs are readily available.  These are the syllabi from college courses, the brochures picked up at highway rest areas, the plastic containers I thought would one day be used to sort craft supplies.  The RECYCLE box fills up with items meant to be transitory, which got delayed in their path from receiving to consuming to recycling.
This final box may as well be a trash can standing by, as it fills with everything transitory that cannot be recycled.  Or rather, that cannot be recycled without expending unreasonable effort.  There are recycling programs for nearly everything these days, but driving my old newspapers and tin cans and plastic bottles to the recycling center is the most effort I’m willing to put in.  Stashing away candy wrappers at a rate of one or two per month only to have to mail them to a recycling center is above and beyond the call of duty.  So the DISCARD box/trash can is there to collect the broken toys, the used up emery boards, the metal coil from a spiral-bound notebook as I try not to feel guilty about sending things to the landfill.