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Phase 1 in Home Improvement

I've been avoiding a big project at my house. It is something I know I have needed to do but it just seemed so overwhelming that I have been pretending it isn't there.

My house is FULL of crap.

There. I said it. I desperately need to de-clutter in a big way. I can't believe I avoided this so long. When I was living at my grandparent's cabin a few years ago, I felt smothered in STUFF. We've had that cabin for over 40 years so it has accumulated an enormous amount of stuff from various family members. While I was there I couldn't stand that every closet overflowed with old junk to the point that I couldn't even use one. Every cupboard was packed to the gills with things so old I was afraid to eat or use them (including an old baby bottle for the baby that had recently turned 40!). Every space was jam packed with something that wasn't even useful or beautiful and anything useful was impossible to access. It just made me crazy.

A few times I snapped and cleaned out a closet or two and even tackled a bookshelf with 10 year old AAA maps. This wasn't a popular move with the grandparents who see nothing wrong with their cabin. I did this almost 8 years ago and still, anytime they can't find something now, they decide I must have gotten rid of it.

From what I gather talking to other people about their grandparents or parents (those that went through WWII and the Depression) have a deep love for their things and won't throw anything out. They did without for so long they just can't get rid of anything they have now. This means I lived with empty jars, coffee cans, broken TVs, bags, etc.

Living with this kind of clutter kind of scarred me for life. I have a horror of the overflowing now. Which is why I can't believe I've gotten cluttered myself now. It happens so quickly and easily, doesn't it?

So I have declared this the "Summer of De-cluttering" (kind of like the Summer of George but better and longer since I'm actually starting this in the Spring). I'm going to tackle each closet, drawer, surface, and corner that has "stuff." My goal is to get rid of at least 50% of everything. In some cases that percentage should be even higher. The de-cluttering measurement is, "If my house burned down in a fire, would I miss this?" If not, then it is a good candidate for being ousted.

The project commenced this weekend. Start where the problem is the most annoying, right? So I started in my bedroom. I have a pretty good size closet and I have plenty of drawer space but everything has overflowed to surfaces in the room. This sets my teeth on edge and really means that what should be my comforting personal space is an area I don't even like to walk into.

Exhibit A: The top of my dresser. I'm so embarrassed to even show this to you. Notice Scarlet Kitty is present and ready to help. Also, I can't close one of the drawers because it is so full, a t-shirt has fallen behind the drawer. I have to take it out and dig down back there to retrieve it.

But I can't put any of this away. I also have overflow on the chair next to the dresser where I "store" all my workout clothes and under the cat's table (yes, she has her own table for her food and water so the dogs can't get into it) where I've been storing dog rugs and blankets. Not only do I hate all these but they are right at the door so they are the first thing you see when you walk in. Ugh. (For the record, I'm hoping to replace the carpet this year. They aren't actually as bad as they look in this picture but they are that awful champagne color that shows EVERYTHING.)

(Do you see the two eyes looking in from the hallway? It isn't a monster. It is Oscar watching all the fun.)

This is the offending closet. It is so full it is impossible to do much more than stuff things in there and hope they stay. The dog bed in front isn't helping much because it is hard to get to the closet but I haven't figured out a solution for that yet. Even when I move the bed a dog sleeps there because it is the side of the bed I sleep on. The dirty clothes basket looks awful too. I was hopeful I would find space in the closet for it too. I had a lot of hopes riding on this project.

The first step was just pulling everything out. Because I've been dreading the scale of this project I kind of had to put myself at a point of no return so I pulled things out quick and piled them up on the bed. Now I would have no where to sleep unless I finished this project. I've also started some piles with the easy decisions. It boils down to: what gets thrown away, what is getting donated and what is kept.

Some decisions were not easy. Brand new items I had either never used or only used once or twice in over 5 years had to go. My book bag I used all through college had to go because the plastic lining is starting to crumble. That was kind of tough but I haven't used it since school (17 years ago!). I was just keeping it for sentimental reasons. But I was brutal and I would say I eliminated 3/4 of my shoes and purses.

Here is the pile of shoes and purses before I went through them. That shoe holder extends the entire length of the closet. I was hoping I could get rid of some of the holder after I weeded through the shoes. I don't even know why I would have this many shoes since I'm really not a shoe person. I wear the same pair of clogs almost every day.

Here is the closet now it is empty (the little things you see on the racks are the lavender and cedar sachets to deter moths). I have to say I was more than a little horrified how GROSS the empty closet was. It was dirty. It was so dusty and around the shoe holder were gross cobwebs. I did managed to get rid of nearly half of the shoe rack by the way. So before I could do anything else I had to actually clean the closet. Vacuum, dust, etc. My allergies took such a hit that I'll wear a mask for the next closet project.

Here is Scarlet Kitty helping. (Her doggie brother helped by chewing up a kleenex box in the office.) Notice the door jamb? That is actually part of the driver for the big clean out project. The house has some aging issues that are mainly cosmetic such as this dinged up, outdated door jamb. I want to do a bunch of painting this summer (when it is nice and dry in Oregon) but part of making that happen is just getting rid of stuff so I can put things away and maneuver furniture around the room to get to walls, ceilings, window trim, etc. Also notice the floor. I hate that floor. It is really cheap looking in person, doesn't match anything, and whoever did the trim did a TERRIBLE job. It will be a big expense because I actually just want to put new flooring through the entire house but I've started my little savings plan and it would be great if it can be my big, expensive project this year. I should be able to swing one a year.

The smudge in the picture is probably dust from everything I had put in the air when I disturbed the items in my closet!

And here is the finished product! There are a big bunch of hangers right in the middle that are empty. I should have taken them out when I took the picture to emphasize the improvement but I was absolutely beat and filthy by the end. I got rid of over 50% of the clothes easily.

This is everything that went (with the exception of all the shoes and purses which had already been hauled out of the room). The stuff at the foot of the bed is garbage (I got rid of all wire and cheap plastic hangers) and the stuff on the bed will be donated to Goodwill. Three garbage bags full. Good stuff too. Items that still have the tags on them, some nice jackets that I just had to admit to myself were too big for me. There were a lot of things that I actually really liked but if they didn't fit well, if they weren't flattering and if I wasn't wearing them, they went. I actually found a lot of clothes that had been hidden that I had forgotten about so I feel like I went shopping for new stuff!

All of the workout clothes are easily stored on the shelf and where I was able to remove the shoe rack I now have the dog rugs and blankets neatly stacked.

This was step 1 in the Great Home Makeover. It took me about 2-3 hours and I really think moving that fast actually made it easier to make decisions about what to get rid of and what to keep. I've even gone back a couple of times and decided there are a few more items that should have gone in the first round. I'm a de-cluttering fool now. The next step for my bedroom are the drawers. This won't be nearly as big a project so I'm not afraid of it.

Scarlet Kitty was very pleased with the empty basket. You know you have done a good job when you get a cat's stamp of approval.


Want to work on my house too? It is less pet friendly but has a junk ... valuable stuff loving male!