Friday, January 29, 2010

The Desk

The last area that I really wanted to finish before the weekend was the desk in my kitchen. It would complete all of the visible areas in the downstairs. This desk is the catch all spot to end all catch alls. Not only does the top get cluttered, but it also has 6 full drawers that quickly became junk drawers. No one needs 6 junk drawers! You can never find anything. This area usually gets cleaned about twice a year and involves me shoving everything on the desk top into a box to sort later, which of course never happens. The cabinets above the desk usually hold seasonal dishes and my medicine chest type things. I made the bold decision to repurpose this whole area. The medicine could stay, but the rest of the desk area will now be for school and homework supplies only. I managed to find space for everything that needed a new home and the whole job was rather painless.
For this one I had the forethought to leave the doors open.



Now each of us has a file folder for mail and papers (super cheap from Ikea). The shredder sits under the desk so I can shred junk mail as it comes in instead of letting it pile up, and for the first time since we have lived here, I can fit a real chair at the desk and expect it to stay long term. This is a great homework spot because I can keep an eye on the worker, but they can not see the t.v.
I tossed a good amount of expired drugs and even a bottle of baby vitamins - my youngest is 5 now. I like to buy over the counter stuff generic which can make it hard to tell what it what. I took out a sharpie and wrote the brand names on there as well as expiration dates. The mystery is now gone.

This one comes with an extra picture because opposite the desk is our "new" coming and going area. The china cabinet use to be here. Now I have two chairs that we hang coats on, a basket for gloves and hats, reusable shopping bags, and a table for purses and bibles. We also made room for shoes, school bags, and anything I need to remember to take with me in the mornings. It makes getting out of the house a lot faster and certainly looks better than having everything piled in the floor.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Island of Despair

Having an island in a kitchen seems like such a wonderful idea. My kitchen is laid out perfectly for it's island. It manages to increase the work and cabinet space without being in the way. Sadly, that is where the good points end. Our island is a constant landing place for anything and everything. Check out the before picture.

Most of the stuff on there isn't even kitchen related. There are so many things to pick on here that it is hard to know where to start. I have 2 rolls of paper towels out but neither of them are on the paper towel holder. There is part of a loaf of bread that should have been thrown out last week, but wasn't because somehow the new loaf got placed on top of it. I think my favorite is the shampoo bottle mixed in among the dirty glasses. This is one that truly makes me hang my head in shame.

Well, not any more!
The real work in this room actually went on behind the closed doors. I wish I had shots with the cabinet doors open. I took the time to really think through the work I do in my kitchen and laid it out accordingly. I also scaled down on things. I have a whole big box full of extras and stuff I don't use. I've put it in the garage for a few months to make sure I really don't need 3 cheese grater (still don't know how or why I had 3), 12 dish towels, or any of the mystery lids.
My table cloth experiment in the dining room has paid off big time so I decided to try it on the bar as well. I used a table runner that I had found on clearance at Walmart, got another one of those gold chargers I had hanging around and that is now the place we keep fresh fruit like apples and bananas. It looks pretty, reminds people not to put stuff there, is easy to remove if I need the work space, and as an added bonus, we are eating more fresh fruit.
It has been a few days and it still looks great. People have even started putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher so as to not mess it up. Having family over this weekend is going to be the real test. If it is still even remotely clean on Monday I will be thrilled and amazed.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

JD's Good Job

I sent JD upstairs this morning to pick up all of his dirty clothes. When he came down he said he had a surprise for me and that I needed to bring my camera. With a 5 year old you really never know what the word "surprise" means. This time it was a good surprise. He had picked up all his clothes and made his bed all by himself without being told. Since I have been making pictures for the rooms I clean he thought I needed to make a picture of his bed. Then he sweetly suggested that I could post it on my blog so everyone could see his good job. I quite agree. So, here is JD and his awesomely made up bed.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Kitchen Closet

Instead of just storing food and a few small appliances, my pantry had become more like a closet for junk that was vaguely kitchen related. I clean out my pantry on a fairly regular basis, but all it takes is one trip to the store for it to fall back into chaos. This time I got out my label maker and made tags for each shelf. I have a space labeled for breakfast foods, beverages (tea bags, lemonade mix, etc.), snacks, crackers, cooking supplies, mixes, and canned goods. On the top shelf that I have to strain to reach I put small appliances and extra paper towels. The floor has a couple of heavy things like the crock pot and the fire extinguisher.
Here is before:

One big problem I found in there was that of empty boxes. There was no way for me to know that we were out of "x" because the box was still in there. So I took out everything that was individually wrapped and placed them in a ice cube bucket (the kind that comes with your frig for no good reason). For the snack section I used a plastic box from Dollar Tree that is about the size of a shoe box. Now I know when things are empty and boxes are not taking up so much space.
And now for the after:

The last thing I did in there was to mop the floor. I didn't want to haul out a whole mop bucket and mop for this tiny area so I snagged one of the kid's sand pales and did it by had with a sponge and some Murphy's Oil. I even got up a paint spot that came with the house. One cleaning tip that came in handy tonight was that a pencil eraser will get up scuff marks with very little effort. Just remember to do it before you mop or it will leave kind of a dull spot. It is a little sad that the cleanest spot on my whole kitchen floor is in the pantry, but hopefully that will be fixed tomorrow.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Closet

I vacuumed the floor of my closet today! I didn't stop there. I got the cob webs out of the corners and even did the baseboards. Do closets usually have baseboards? It seemed odd to me.
I have got a ton of clothes to donate, which I am pretty excited about. The only real change I made in this room, aside from clearing it out, was to add in a small trash can so that when Rocky empties his pockets of tissues he can throw them away instead of letting them pile up on a shelf (ewww!). I also took out some worn out shoes that I don't wear any more which made room in my hanging shoe rack for things such as swimming suits. Now I don't have to try to cram them onto the self we have for socks and underwear.
Here is the before
And the after
I'm not sure pictures do this one justice.

This weekend I am tackling the kitchen. Nix's birthday is next Friday and I am trying to have the downstairs completely done by Saturday when we have family coming to celebrate. This may be a stretch because my parents will be spending the whole weekend here so I do have to get the upstairs in order, too. My plan is to send Rocky upstairs with the kids to tackle a basic clean upstairs while I rearrange the kitchen. If I can get the pantry done tomorrow, that will be a huge head start.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mostly Finished Bathroom

First I must explain my before picture. Since I have yet to retrieve my first before shots from my laptop I took a new one right before starting work on the bathroom. Several things from the bedroom project got moved in as did the cleaners and the previously mentioned tiny box. So, do me a favor and keep in mind that this before really is much worse than my typical bathroom mess.

And now the almost after

It is counted as an almost after because I am done organizing and purging (3 trash bags this time), but the deep cleaning part has been put on hold. While using my shark steam cleaner, which I love, I managed to steam my hand. As I learned in 9th grade Principles of Technology class from Mr.Toy, steam burns worse than hot water. I'm fine, but my left thumb has been sidelined for a couple of days. Thank goodness I can type without my left thumb, right?
Most of the cleaning is done. I just have to finish the shower, tub, and toilet. After that I have promised myself a nice hot bath in my perfect bathroom.
I think the most dramatic part of this room is in the linen closet. Since I was able to move the sheets into the bedroom I opened up a lot of space in there. Combine that with throwing out the junk and things that didn't belong (like the bullets) and I have a ton of room.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Weirdest Award

I knew that when I embarked on this cleaning journey that I was bound to come across a few weird things in odd places. Up until today the most out of place thing has been a DS game in a stack of papers under my bed. We still haven't figured that one completely out yet. However I have now been crowned the bestest mom ever for finding it.
Today while emptying out my linen closet in the master bathroom I found something that is sure to go down as the strangest most out of place item in the history of house cleaning. I know I am only a few rooms into this, but it can not get any weirder than this.

For those of you who are not familiar with firearms, those are bullets for a .22 caliber rifle. The really strange part is that I do not have a 22 in my house. Even if I did, I still can not imagine a reason for putting bullets in the back of a linen closet. I am pretty sure that this is a box I got when I first learned how to shoot. That dates them back to the mid 80's. I suppose I should find them a nice new home. Maybe somewhere with some woods where the bullets could run around and feel useful again.

Tiny Box

One of the steps in doing the cleaning I am doing is to have a "tiny box". It is a box to put tiny things into. As you are cleaning and organizing you run into all sorts of tiny things that have no home such as paper clips, safety pins, loose change, etc. You take those and put them in the tiny box and then sort them out in the end. All of your tinys now have a home and you know where to find them when you need them. You can stop buying bobby pins and rubber bands because chances are good that you already have more than you need.
My tiny box is about the size of a shoe box. My thinking was that if everything that went in there was tiny then how much room could you really need. Also, I'm great at keeping little things in special spots so they don't get lost. After 3 rooms I have found out that not only am I not as good as I thought, but that a bunch of tiny things take up a lot of room.
I wasn't feeling so hot today so I arranged to take today off instead of Friday. As I sat around doing nothing I began to feel guilty for not getting anything done. I think that is another delightful skill that comes with motherhood, guilt over being under the weather. So anyway, I decided I could sort my already full tiny box while sitting on the couch watching t.v. hoping to feel better. I really wish I had thought to make a picture of this box while it was still overflowing. I had no idea I had so many safety pins. I may never have to buy pencils again. I am still trying to figure out where all the screws came from, but on the bright side I also found all the screwdrivers needed to put them back in when I find out.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Dust Lions

Dust bunny is much to mild of a word for what I found living in the corners of my room. Dust lions seemed much more appropriate. I still can not believe the amount of stuff I pulled out from under my bed. A lot of it should have been thrown out awhile ago. Some of it was things I had been looking for and thought were lost for good. The truly scary thing I found under there was enough dust to choke a horse. I can not believe we have been sleeping on top of that all this time. We (I) have decided that nothing will be stored under our bed ever again and to that end I have tucked our bed skirt up so it no longer hides that area and we will not be tempted. It took me all week to purge this room of junk. I took out 2 full bags of trash, a packed box of things to go through later and possibly store and/or donate, and one table that we had books on. The books are now in our wardrobe where I also found room for all of our king sized sheets, storage space for candles, and I still have a couple of drawers I can put things in if need be. The wardrobe had been a mess of things and a bunch of sweaters I never wore because I forgot they were in there. They have been moved to my closet and all of the junk found a new home or was tossed.
I think the best way to handle my before and afters this time is to use pictures taken from the doorway of the room. I think you will notice some obvious changes right away.

One cute tip I picked up from the book that was helpful in this room is to take a pillow case from your sheet set and store the rest of the set inside. This keeps pillowcases from wandering of, fitted sheets from magically unfolding, and in general keeps things neater.
Below you will find a picture I just took tonight of my den and dining rooms. It has been a full week since I transformed both these rooms and as you can see, it is staying clean.
p.s. I have red flannel snowflake sheets because Target put them on sale for $15 in king size and this was the only print they had left. I don't care how badly they clash with everything I own. They are really comfortable and they were cheap. You can not pass that combination up.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Snow Day!

My friend Tiffany just posted memories of snow days and it took me back to living at the merge of Manley, Duncan, and Reynolds drive hills.
Growing up, my house sat on the corner of the two steepest hills in West Tennessee, and just down from a third. They may have been the only 3 hills in West Tenn. This was great for two things, 1. riding bikes and 2. sledding. It was also good for wrecking both. Everyone from my neighborhood has a story about a wreck they had on those hills. Most of the stories involve trips to the ER. Yes, this includes super cautious me. Although mine did not require medical treatment, I do still have tiny scars.
One year after the perfect snow for sledding we were taking turns riding down the smaller hill next to the house. I guess it was my brother's turn for a trip to the doctor that day because he hit the end of the cove just right and went flying.
My parents took him in to get x-rayed because his wrist was looking pretty nasty. After a few minutes the doctor comes back in and says they need to x-ray the other arm as well. This made no sense because his other arm was fine. Then the doctor explained that Matt's wrist was bent and they didn't think a sledding accident could do that and they wanted to check to see if the other arm matched. It did, and he was sent home. If I had a dollar for every time a doctor has said to one of my family members "We've never run across this before" I could...well, pay all the doctors bills that come after that statement.
I never had a sledding wreck, but only because I was too scared to go fast. It must be genetic because Nikki is the exact same way.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Wrench in the Plan

Any time you start on a big project you can just about count on something going wrong that aims to derail you. In addition to my cleaning project we are working on making this the year we become debt free. Both of these projects have gotten off to a pretty good start. I have started on my most challenging room to date, the master bedroom. Between the amount of stuff to be purged and work starting back it may take the rest of the week to finish. I am planning the biggest change yet in this room and am very excited to see the before and after. This is where the wrench comes in. The monitor on my laptop seems to have stopped working right. All of my before images are now trapped along with a fair number of family photos. Thankfully I backed up everything in November, but a lot happens in December and I am slightly paniced that we won't recover it all.
In the past we probably would have spent every last dime we had saved to get a new laptop, but that is not in the debt free plan. We do have a working desktop now so I am not totally in the desert, but it will take time to make it my primary computer. Rocky says there is a $5 adapter that will help get my photos back but until we find one I won't have any before to share.
I should probably stop pouting over my computer and get back to work so I will have an "after" to show.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Getting Excited

I was worn out yesterday. It took most of the day to "convert" my den. Every minute was well worth it, but I was wondering if I would have the drive to carry on. Today I had scheduled my dining area. I thought it would be easy. There is a rug, table, and four chairs. There is not a lot of room for change. WRONG! True that it did not take as long as the den, but I think the change is more exciting. In an effort to keep junk off the table I put a table cloth on it. I'll let you know how that works out. Then to discourage junk on the counter I laid out three gold chargers I had hiding in a cabinet. My one big problem was a tall chair I have next to the stairs that has become a spot to dump coats. I'm not a big fan of coat racks so I am actually okay with having a coat chair I just don't want it in the dining area, but where to put it. In a stroke of brilliance I decided to move my china cabinet into the dining area (duh!). It is curio sized and shockingly fits like a glove in the tiny space I had available. This leaves the area where the cabinet was (by the back door) open for both of my tall chairs. The one new rule I did make was that each family member is only allowed one coat on the chairs at a time.

I'm not sure if the changes I made here are going to work long term or not, but for now I feel like I am living in a house set up for an open house. Just looking at it I feel lighter.

Another thing I am noticing is that our furniture seems to go together better now. Our furniture varies from stuff we bought as newly weds, to hand me downs, to a couple of newer pieces I actually like :). I've never felt like our home was decorated, but it is looking more like it each day.

This before is not that bad

But the after is AWESOME!

Here is a look at both rooms as seen from walking in the front door.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Start at the Very Begining

The first step of the new cleaning plan I am trying is to let your house get good and messy. I was able to skip this step. We just got back from traveling for Christmas and came home to 4 house guests. So, with new stuff in the house, suitcases out, and about a week of 8 people living here, I thought the first step had been reached. In all honesty I actually cleaned a little during this step because I wanted to take the Christmas tree down before I started.

The next step is to start a journal of your mess. We are going to give this system a fair shake on the main floor of our home before trying to convert the children so I have only done half the house. To start you make pictures of your mess. This is to give you a great "before" shot and also because it is easier to see the mess you step over everyday when you look at it in a picture.

The next step is to describe the mess. This was a bit painful.

Now you write down your excuse for each problem. The inner child in me was great at this step. A lot of blame got passed around.

Now comes the time for the 100 year clean. It is like a 100 year flood, but with a mop and vacuum. I started in my den and performed a cleaning so profound that the neighbors might have wondered if we were trying to sell the house. After that was done I was able to think through the next few steps to make the necessary changes to the room.
Tonight I am very pleased with myself. My first room was a great success to this point. If it still looks even half this good next week I will call it a win.

The Family Room before

Drum roll please...

the after!

The area under the jumbo tron has been completely reworked so that a lot of the mess now has a neat home there. I have also managed to hide a good sized toy box in this room. I removed 2 side tables that were serving no purpose other than to be a flat surface to hold random junk. No table, no where for stuff to sit. Genius! It is a little on the minimalist side, but if it stays clean, who cares? One big win already is that I vacuumed the drapes and found about an inch of dust in my vacuum when I finished. We are no longer breathing that in.

Oh Really?

As kind of a joke way of being helpful, my mother gave me a book for Christmas called "The House That Cleans Itself". As anyone who has been to my house for a planned visit can tell you, I keep a tidy house. As anyone who has dropped in unannounced can tell you I am great at hiding things, panic cleaning, and could win awards for my messiness. Basically, my house lives a double life, the one we let people see and the one we try to hide at all costs. I don't mind if people know I keep a little clutter, but in the back of my mind I do worry a little that the health board would get called if people saw my real housekeeping habits. For someone who isn't a hoarder and doesn't tend to shop a lot, I have a lot of mess.
I got to thinking that if Rocky can go on a diet for New Years I could try to fix some of my cleaning issues. In fact, I have realized that we are messy people in a lot of areas. We need to de-clutter our house, our budget, our diets, and our spiritual lives.
The book suggests setting a time goal of a couple of months and at the end of that have a party of some sort to help you have a goal in mind. I guess we could do that, but I thought using the blog to journal the whole thing might keep me more honest. After all, I am the queen of cleaning for a day. Don't believe me? Just look under my bed.