Category Archives: How To

Decluttering with Clutter Interrupted!

Last week I showed you lots of clutter pictures, especially of my Clutter (Kitchen) Island. I also told you that I found some new inspiration. Now you get to read all about it and see some progress and an after picture!

Here’s the story.

I was visiting one of my favorite organizing blogs, I’m an Organizing Junkie, and she was talking about how she was interviewed on the Clutter Interrupted Radio show. Well, I love listening to podcasts while I do household tasks like dishes and laundry (so that I’m not bored out of my mind), so I was all over it!

Once I heard the show (the hosts are Tracy and Chelle, by the way), I was pretty much hooked. So I listened to all of the archives, too. And they have great blog posts to go along with each radio show topic each week, too. Sweet!

Now for the show that inspired me and changed my thinking about my constantly cluttered kitchen island. It’s this one: Next Stop. The Clutter Zone.

On that show and in a blog post, Tracy and Chelle talk about the 3 Steps to get Started Organizing your Clutter Zone.

Here they are:

Step 1: Ask, “What is in the clutter? Why?”

This is the one that was earth shattering for me. WHY is this clutter here??? WHY? Why didn’t I think about the why before?? Maybe it was just the right timing for me to really hear this, or maybe it was my auditory learning kicking in, but it was like a lightbulb went on.

Later I remembered that I actually have analyzed my clutter once before. When I decluttered my master bedroom. That might be the only time.

Of course I needed to figure out why this island keeps getting cluttered and then make changes to help us keep it clear. And I’m not talking about a  general/big picture-type analysis, I’m talking details.

I actually wrote down a list of the things I found on the island and tried to think of why they were there. No, I didn’t write down every single item, but I did notice trends as I was writing things down. This is just the front side of the paper to give you an idea of what I did.


Step 2: Reenact: Reality first. Ideal next.

In this step we are supposed to “reenact” what happens when we put things on the island and then talk about what the ideal situation would be. The way I did this was sort of interviewing my family members (except the 3 yr. old) about why they put things on the island and leave them there.

Gabe (7), had a cheery response, “It seems like a great place to put it.”

Ok! Let’s find an even better place!

This step fit in really well with adding to that Why list I made.

Here are some of the reasons that came up more than once:

  • Item doesn’t have a “home”/Don’t know what to do with it
  • The place to put it is too hard to get to, or already overflowing with clutter
  • Keeping things “safe” (away from the 3 yr. old, usually)
  • Keeping things (usually paper) handy, because some action needs to happen with it, or it has important information to refer to later.

I sort of forgot to talk to everyone about the “ideal” part, but I know at least the adults in this house want everything to get put away in its own proper place (and some of those places are yet to be determined). There.

Step 3: Use END CLTR to organize your clutter zone.

END CLTR is an acronym for Tracy and Chelle’s signature organizing method. It gives you the steps to follow to organize a space. You can read more about it in this blog post where they used END CLTR to do a Mud Closet Makeover.

So here’s how it went for me and the island:

E: Empty

Start by emptying the space. I do this for some decluttering projects, but for some reason I haven’t done it with the island. I usually just pick and plod away at it trying to get everything put away. It wasn’t working most of the time.

So I grabbed some boxes and bins and started removing everything from the island and categorizing it as I went, which brings me to the next step….

But first I have to say that it felt SO GOOD just to get all of that stuff off that island!

N: Name Piles

THIS is all the stuff that has been cluttering up my island! Seeing it this way also helps with the “What is in the clutter?” question. There was more paper than anything. A decent amount of kid stuff, kitchen stuff, and look at that trash/recycling that was just sitting on my island!

Categories of clutter from the kitchen island

D: Decide

This is where we decide what to keep, donate, and relocate. Most of this stuff just needed to be put away in the correct place.

I put away the kitchen stuff (had to throw away a few things). I put an apple bookend in the donate bin. I put the arts and crafts stuff in the arts and crafts bin (which needs its own decluttering). I gave the kids’ stuff to them to put away (I may have thrown out a few things first).

C: Contain

The fact is, I don’t want much on my island at all, so I don’t want to do too much containing of stuff there. Right now I have 3 things that should “live” there (and they could get kicked off, too): My fruit bowl (Which should only have food, not toys and paper!), my pretty flour container, and my paper towel holder.

Here’s my BIG idea for the kid/toy clutter that I know will end up there unless I can invent a force field for protection. I’m going to keep that blue container (from the picture above) in the kitchen and whenever I find toys and such on the island, I will put them into that bin. Then it’s the kids’ job to put it where it belongs! I hope you love that idea, because I do!!

Now about that paper clutter. Huge amounts of paper clutter. Guess what? I have a solution worked out thanks again to Clutter Interrupted! One new thing I have is an inbox, but that’s not all. I’ll tell you all about it and show you pictures in my next post! I can’t wait to show you!

L: Label

Not necessary in this case. 🙂

T: Test/Treat

Now I need to test things out and see how they go. Right now things look good. I know a lot of it is just putting things away every day so that it doesn’t pile up to an overwhelming state. I may need to test out some different places for my inbox. I’m trying to pick a place that is not actually on the island, but near it.

I’m planning to test things out until October 1st, because that is about a month into the new school year, and you know school = clutter.

Can you believe I almost forgot to put a before/after shot in this post? The after picture is the “Treat” part of this T.

Clutter Island Before:

Kitchen Island 7-20-13

Kitchen Island After!!

Kitchen Island!!!

R: Revisit

On or about October 1st I’m going to revisit the kitchen island and see what is working and what needs to change (if anything). I’m going to put that date on my Google calendar to remind me.

Thanks Tracy and Chelle from  Clutter Interrupted  for helping interrupt my clutter!

And in case anyone is wondering, I am not affiliated with Clutter Interrupted in any way. I just love what they are doing and wanted to share!  🙂

I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you have a clutter zone where you would like to try this method? If you have any additional ideas for me, I always love to hear those, too!

I linked this post up with the Organize It! Link Party.


Filed under Before and After, Declutter, Hot Spot Check Up, How To, Kids

The Big Toy Purge | Part 1

Toys are fun, aren’t they?

But when they take over your whole entire house, they are less fun.

I think when there are too many toys and they are disorganized and spread out all over and who-knows-where, kids just get overwhelmed and the toys actually don’t get played with as much.

However, if you walked into my house, you wouldn’t guess that this was my thinking.

It’s time for action.

The Cleaning Fairy has arrived. This cleaning fairy puts everyone to work!

The only way I can get my head around a project like this is to get all of the toys together in one room. Not everyone would agree with this method, but here’s why I like it:

-We can see exactly how many toys we have

-We can see if we actually have all of the parts and pieces for each toy

-We can see how many of each category of toy we have (dolls, stuffed animals, cars)

Once we have everything in one place, we categorize and sort into various containers just so that we can really see what’s there. This is where we are right now with this project.

Here’s the start of toy sorting:

We have gathered many of the toys from around the house, but we still need to do another round of gathering and sorting this week.

After that, I think we will get rid of the easy stuff: Broken toys and things no one cares about or plays with anymore.

Then comes  the harder part: Choosing favorites to keep, making sure we have reasonable space for the toys we want to keep, getting rid of the rest.

It’s a good thing I’m telling you all about this, because now I know I need to come through with some good after pictures! Keep an eye out for Part 2, coming soon to a blog near you.


Filed under Declutter, How To, Kids, Toys

Tips on how to be prepared for a power outage

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that we lost our power for 4 days. Not so fun, and very unexpected. What was supposed to be a thunderstorm, turned into a derecho storm. The strong winds brought down a lot of trees and power lines in our area.

If you’ve been a reader here for a while, you may remember that in the fall we lost power for 5 days from a hurricane. Most of the time though, if we lose power, it’s back on within 24 hours.

Yvonne commented on my Facebook post that she would love to hear strategies for coping with these situations. We have learned a lot about dealing with power outages over the past several years, so I thought I would pass along some tips. Being as prepared as you can be helps a lot. Some of these are in the obvious category, but I’ll include them anyway.

Also, when our power goes out, we also lose our running water from our well, so I’ve included a few tips related to this issue as well.

1. Fill old juice/soda bottles with water, and then keep them in the freezer.

This first tip is one from my mom. I’m putting it first because I want to make sure I remember to do this! I think it would have really helped us. It’s like having your own ice blocks handy. These can also be moved to a cooler, if needed.

2. Flashlights

Have at least one per floor/living area or per person. We also have a worklight just like this Cooper Lighting LED120 35 LED Rechargeable Worklight (see the picture at the top of the post). It can act as a regular flashlight or act as an area light. It has a magnet clip and stays on the side of our refrigerator until we need it.

3. Save the power outage reporting phone number for your power company in your cell phone.

This makes it easy to report the outage quickly and get outage updates.

4. Have at least one cooler to help keep important food cold, or to transport food to another location.

5. Generator

If you can afford one and have the space, this would be great to have. We don’t have one, but several of our neighbors do. We do have an extra-long outdoor extension cord and have plugged our sump pump into a kind neighbor’s generator to keep our basement from flooding.

6. Have extra batteries for flashlights and radios.

We also have this Black & Decker VEC026BD Electromate 400 Jump-Starter with Built-In Air Compressor. It’s basically a portable battery pack that we mostly use for my husband’s CPAP machine  (for sleep apnea), but it is also great for charging cell phones and laptop computers. It will only last us about one night, though, without needing to be recharged.

7. Grill (and propane tanks/charcoal)

Cook your food before it goes to waste!

8. Extra gas for cars (or don’t let cars be on empty)

When the power outage is widespread, like it was for us this time, getting gasoline can be a challenge! Most gas stations were closed in our area, so the few that were open had crazy lines and wait times, and were running out of gas themselves.

9. Have canned food and can opener on hand

10. A safe heat source

We don’t usually lose our power in the winter, but when we do, I’m glad we have a wood burning fireplace.

11. Find a friend or family member with power!

When we lost our power in the fall, the weather was nice, so we stuck it out here at the house for 4 of the 5 days before staying at a friend’s house. We did catch a shower and recharge batteries/cell phones at another friend’s house before that. This time around, we were having hot, hot, 100 degree weather, so after the first day, we stayed with some out of town friends, plus one night at my parent’s house after they got their power back. We feel very blessed to have wonderful friends and family!

Losing running water due to power outage

1. Fill the tub with water

When I know a bad storm is coming and we might lose power, I start filling the tub. This water can be used to manually flush the toilets.

2. Keep extra water on hand

There are lots of recommendations about how much to keep. We usually only keep about 2 gallons, plus I fill some other containers when I know a bad storm is coming. Edit: When we know a really bad storm is coming, we store more water (10+ gallons).

3. Paper plates, napkins, cups, plastic forks/spoons, etc.

It’s hard to do lots of dishes when you don’t have running water.

4. Have baby wipes, antibacterial hand wipes, and hand sanitizer available.

Especially in the bathroom!

I’m not an expert on this topic. I’m just sharing what I’ve learned from experience. Do you lose your power very often? Do you have any tips to share?

This post contains affiliate links.


Filed under How To, Life

Decluttering and Organizing Food Storage Containers

My cabinet where I keep all of my plastic food storage containers has been bugging me for a while. It’s basically an avalanche waiting to happen. I can’t even tell you how many times in the last year I’ve taken before pictures of this cabinet. But this time I finally did something worthy of posting an after picture!

I found this before picture from a year ago.

And here’s my most recent before picture.

Time to declutter and organize!

The Steps

1. Take everything out of the cabinet.
2. Wipe the inside of the cabinet clean.
3. Match up containers and lids.
4. Get rid of items that are damaged, disliked, mismatched, unnecessary, or just not fitting well in the space.

I used to keep lids and containers separate. I kept the lids in a bin and stacked the containers. One problem was that I simply had too many lids and containers. It was a pain to dig through that container to find the right lid.

Another problem was having too many different, yet similar containers and lids. I would pull out a container and lid that seemed like they should fit, but they wouldn’t! I have wasted way too much time with this process.

I had tons of lids that had no bottoms! These are all lids that were extra!

5.  Arrange and organize the items you are keeping. Make sure they fit well in the space so that it is easy to find what you need and easy to put them away.

Here’s my after picture!

At some point, I would love to switch over to mostly glass containers, like this Pyrex set, but for now I will use what I have.

How are your food storage containers looking?

This post contains an affiliate link.


Filed under Before and After, Declutter, How To, Organization

Organizing the spice cabinet by category | Before and After

I wasn’t sure what decluttering and organizing project to work on next, so when I saw that my friend Kristen at The Frugal Girl was organizing her cabinets and inviting others to join in, I knew that was my ticket to motivation!

I like to cook. I like to try different recipes. I have a ton of spices. Too many, I think. And disorganization usually reigns.

Problems that lead to spice clutter:

  • I buy a spice that I don’t usually use for one recipe I want to try.
  • I buy too many seasoning blends. Aren’t they fun and easy, though?
  • I don’t use all of the spices I own, but I don’t want to get rid of them because I might come across a recipe that needs that spice, and I don’t want to have to buy it again.
  • Disorganized spices. I don’t always put them back after using them which leads to spice containers cluttering up the counter, wasted time looking for spices, and buying duplicate spices because I don’t realize I already have an extra jar of nutmeg in the back of that random shelf.

Note to self: You don’t need to own every spice and spice blend known to man and grocery store to be able to cook a variety of meals.

The spice cabinet before organizing

The first step was clearing the space. As I was doing the clearing, I found this fun discovery:

Really? 6 cans of cooking spray?

And you know what? 4 of them were pretty much empty, just sitting there. So now I’m down to this:

Much better!

I also threw out some other things that were very expired and/or gross.

Now let’s focus in on those spices. Here they are on the island along with a cute little boy.

Lots of spices

Here’s the empty cabinet:

Yuck. The counter that had all the spices on it was even worse.

This next picture is actually encouraging to me. The bag on the left contains mystery spices from who-knows-when (pre-blog). The bag on the right is recent and I know exactly what is in there. I wrote the date on it, too after I took this picture. I think I’m learning something!

Labeling is good!

Next, I separated out all of the seasoning blends (or at least the ones I think of as blends).

Seasoning Blends

Gabe helped me and we alphabetized the rest of the spices and stacked the duplicates.

Alphabetized spices

I usually organize my spices alphabetically. I’m using the word “usually” very loosely here, because I never seem to keep up with that system very well.

So I decided to take  a break to see Kristen’s before and after pictures. She used containers to group her spices by category. I kind of loved that idea, and I was really ready to try something new, so back to work I went with my new plan!

Little Anna “helped” too.

Spice hopping. A new Little People sport.

I started out just doing the spices that way, but I was loving it so much that I organized that entire cabinet.

Here’s the bottom shelf, where I am keeping my most commonly used spices. I have them separated into savory, spicy, and sweet.

Savory, Spicy, Sweet

The next shelf is more of a baking shelf. You will find a nice big, important container of chocolate, one for nuts, and one for dried fruit.

Baking shelf: Nuts, dried fruit, chocolate

The next shelf up hold less-frequently used spices, and the top shelf holds spice duplicates and some infrequently used spice blends.

infrequently used spices and duplicates

I put the more frequently used spice blends on a turntable in the corner cabinet.

Spice Blends

Let’s look at that before picture one more time, for comparison:

The spice cabinet before


Organized spice cabinet with a clear counter!

Now I’m jazzed to organize some more cabinets! I’ll keep you posted on how this new system is working out, too. I’m expecting it to save me time, money, and sanity.

How do you like to organize your spices? 



Filed under Before and After, Declutter, How To, Organization

5 Tips for Finishing What I Start

I’m doing dishes. My tendency is to leave just a few things unwashed.

I’m reading a book. Then I leave that one and start another one, never finishing the first.

I’m writing a blog post. I have 45 posts in draft form right now.

In fact, I just looked over and realized that I had just started to sweep the floor when I decided this was actually the best time to start writing this post. So I left this:

It’s one of those things about myself that drives me crazy! It’s really only in the last couple of years that I identified this problem. And that’s a good place to start in moving towards a solution, isn’t it?

I think the underlying problems are: distraction, procrastination, and lack of self-discipline. Oh My!

5 Tips to help me finish a task:

1. Visualize the completed task and persevere to the end! I did this last night with the dishes. There were just a few things left. They needed to be hand washed. I thought about how much nicer the counter and sink would look if I just pushed through and finished those last few things. I did it!

2. Reward myself for finishing a task. Instead of having a snack in the middle of a task, wait until it is finished. I’ll tell ya, I seem to get so hungry as soon as I start working on a task I don’t enjoy! Chocolate should be involved here.

3. Break up large projects into smaller tasks. This is hard for me because I seem to like BIG projects, but I think it will help. Using a timer is one way I do this that works.

4. Turn off distractions. The computer is a HUGE distraction for me. It’s also a fantastic resource. So let’s say I’m organizing the pantry. I might stop after just getting started so that I can look up articles and pictures showing the best way to organize the pantry. One hour later (with checking email and helping small children along the way), nothing is done! I’ve known for a long time that I need to turn the computer off sometimes, but now it’s time for action!

5. Keep a list. When I’m working on a task, if I think about another task that I need to do, I will write it down on a list instead of switching tasks. That way I don’t have to worry about forgetting the 5 other tasks that pop into my head while I’m trying to sweep the floor.

And now I’m off to finish sweeping the floor!

Further Reading:

Finish what you start (I’m an Organizing Junkie)  This really resonated with me when I read it. And if you struggle with feeling like you work all day and get nothing accomplished, you must see the video she has in this post.

Do you struggle with finishing what you start?

I’m linking up with Orgjunkie’s 52 Weeks of Organizing!


Filed under How To, Motivation, Time Management

Where to start decluttering? 7 questions to help you (and me) figure it out

Let’s just be super clear that I am not currently a decluttering expert. I am a person on a decluttering journey. I have a long way to go, but I have been making progress.  Today I have some advice to share as someone who has struggled with clutter for as long as I can remember. It can be very overwhelming. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.

Here are some questions that can help you figure out the best place for you to start decluttering, or figure out what to work on next. I have used all of these questions at one time or another. Often more than one at a time. See which ones motivate you to get started. Or just pick one and go for it!

1. What bugs you the most? Is there an area that is just driving you crazy?

For me:

2. What will make the most impact? Pick a room/area where you spend a lot of time, or the first room when you walk in the front door, or areas that guests will see.

For me:

    • Living room – the first room you see when you walk into our home
    • Coat closet
    • Bathroom
    • Kitchen

3. What will save you time in the long run? Get ahead of the things that make you fall behind. Would you be more efficient in the kitchen if you had a clear counter with  no dishes in the sink, and a refrigerator where you can actually find what you need in 5 seconds or less? Oh yes!

For me:

    • Paper clutter 1, 2 – Too much time spent digging through piles of papers just to find that one very important paper that I need!
    • Laundry/clothes – You gotta love digging through laundry baskets or piles for that one shirt.
    • Kitchen island – Having a workspace ready saves me time!
    • Refrigerator/pantry

4. Is there an area to declutter that would bless someone else in your home?

For me:

    • Car – Mr. RSS cleaned it out the last time, but I know it would bless him if I can keep it clean!
    • Living room
    • Bedroom

5. Is there an area to declutter that would bless someone outside of your home? Declutter and give things away to people who actually need or want them!

For me:

    • Clothes
    • Baby stuff
    • Toys
    • Kitchen
    • Basement – Oh wait until you see more of my basement!

6. Is there an area that will save you money, or potentially help you earn money?

For me:

    • Coupons – sitting around in piles isn’t helping so much
    • Toys and other clutter that could be sold
    • Refrigerator/pantry (wasting food = wasting money)
    • Paper clutter  – This can keep me from paying late fees (Grrr!) or missing a check!

7. What can you accomplish in a short time to get a taste of success? Pick an area you can finish in 15 min. or less. Start small.

For me:

    • Cookbook shelf
    • Bathroom vanity
    • Kitchen counter
    • Pick one drawer or shelf in the kitchen or bedroom

After writing this out I think my next new project will be the kids’ rooms/clothes. That is driving me crazy, it will save me time, and it can bless others!

How do you decide where to start decluttering? Do any of these questions help you? What will you declutter next?


Filed under Declutter, How To, Motivation

How I sweep my really messy, cluttered floor

Like most kitchens, my kitchen gets a lot of traffic and is one of the most popular places to be in our home. With 3 kids, including a toddler, it gets messy and cluttered in an instant. As you might guess, I’m not on top of it as I should be, and either are the kids. We’re working on it!


When I think of the “classic” way to clean up and sweep a really messy floor, I think of these steps:

1.  Go around and pick up all of the clutter on the floor, putting everything away in its proper place. Throw away/recycle larger pieces of trash.

2.  Sweep.

This is what I used to try to do. Sort of. Every now and then-ish. Not often enough. The going around picking up things and putting them away part is really overwhelming when there is so.  much.  stuff.  all over the floor. Seriously.

But it does need to happen. Because the little crumbs, food and dirt need to go. Those things actually bother me more than the bigger clutter.

So one day, when I was somewhat frustrated with the situation and I really wanted to sweep the floor, I switched the steps. I just started sweeping. I swept up everything into a big pile. A really big pile. In some weird way, I felt empowered.

I remember that one of the things on the kitchen floor that day was a ride-on toy. I swept it into the pile, too. And I liked it.

The floor was cleaned up really quick, except for the one big pile, which I then sorted and dealt with. It’s been about a year that I’ve been doing it this way, and you know what? It works for me. For now, anyway. Of course the goal is not to have everything all over the floor to begin with. We are getting there, and I think my sweep piles are getting smaller!

Here are the steps I use for cleaning my messy, cluttered floors:

1. Sweep up everything on the floor that is not in its proper place. IF there are wet/sticky things, like banana, pick those up separately. Sticky-wet-messy things do not work well in this method. Trust me on this one.

This is my sweep pile. A nice big one. See? I got the ride-on toy in this one, too!

2. Sort. Put the toys together (or have your children come and “rescue” them from the pile), the books together, the kitchen stuff together, etc.  Toss or recycle the bigger trash.

Trash, toys, laundry

Little bits to sweep, books, kitchen items

3. Sweep up the little bits.

4. Put everything else in its proper place (I’m thinking maybe if I use the phrase “”proper place” enough, it will sink in and become second nature to me.)

So if you ever find yourself overwhelmed with a messy cluttered floor that needs cleaning up/sweeping, shake things up a bit and try this method.

I’m linking up for Works for Me Wednesday over at We are THAT Family.


Filed under Before and After, Cleaning, Clutter, Food Clutter, How To

How to clean out disgusting leftover food containers from the fridge -or- Ridiculous Procrastination

What you will need:

  • disgusting leftover food containers from cleaning out the fridge
  • determination/bravery
  • sink/dishwasher and soap
  • garbage disposal/ trash can/compost bin

Helpful and recommended:

  • the ability to breathe through your mouth instead of your nose
  • rubber gloves and scrub brush
  • nice smelling candle
  • open windows/doors
  • baking soda and/or lemon peels

The Steps

1. Prep work: Learn how to waste food.

2. Clean out the refrigerator and put all of the disgusting containers on the counter by the sink.

The reusable containers are mostly in the back in this picture and hold old (some very very old) leftover food.

3. Plan to clean them out. Sometime soon. If you really like them to be extra mega-mold-disgusting, procrastinate:

  • Try to wait until both the sink and the dishwasher are empty on a trash collection day, during nap time for little ones, when you are well rested and the laundry is done.
  • Secretly hope that someone else will clean out the containers for you.
  • If you have understanding friends coming over, just leave the containers there.
  • If you are having a family birthday party for your son, put the containers in a trash bag and hide them on the back deck.

I am not kidding.

4. When you are finished procrastinating, (For example, when a new babysitter is coming over on a nice warm day and you are afraid she will find the trash bag of disgusting moldy food containers on the deck) get out your supplies and your determination.

It does not matter if your candle is from the wrong season, just use it!

Can you feel the determination and bravery represented here?

5. Work quickly!  Breathing through only your mouth(to avoid the dreaded odors entering your nose), dump/wash/scrape the stinky moldy food into the disposal/trash/compost container.

6. Wash the containers well with soap and water, and/or run through the dishwasher. (Maybe even twice if there is a lingering odor. It happens.)

7. Wash the sink well, clean the disposal with baking soda and/or put lemon peels down it. Take out the trash or compost container.

8. Continue nice smelling candle and open windows/doors until necessary.

9. You did it! Good for you! Don’t let this happen again! DO NOT repeat!

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Filed under Cleaning, Food Waste, Funny(I hope), How To