Well, it’s the last day of the year, and I’m happy to say we’ve got most of our Christmas clutter under control.  It’s taken daily cleaning, tidying, and purging over the past week but it feels good.

How big was the Christmas pile?

Historically, Christmas in my family means a MOUNTAIN of gifts. Not just one or two per person, but several gifts for everyone.  Full stockings, too.  The stuff of dreams for a kid, but as a child of a hoarder whom also happens to be a parent, I see things differently now.  It’s a lot of Christmas clutter.  Don’t get me wrong.  It was still a decent sized pile under the tree before my Mom and Sister added their contributions, and then there’s Santa, of course.  The sheer volume wasn’t all because of my compulsive shopping and hoarding mother.  I can’t blame it all on her, but her influence from my childhood certainly played a role.  I just can’t seem to break the cycle, even though I’ve tried.

Christmas Tree with lots of gifts

3 Separate Gift Piles

It took a couple hours to open everything Christmas morning.  My 2 year old, Quinn, almost had a meltdown about halfway through.  I think she was overwhelmed and stated “I don’t want to open any more presents.”  She made it though, but I thought for sure she was going to fall to the floor with exhaustion.  It would have been hard to find her again under the scraps of wrapping paper.

The Waste

And the paper!  Oh, the paper!!  It makes me ill to think of the wastefulness of wrapping paper.  I wish it was recyclable in my area.  I know there are other options, like reusable gift bags and boxes, or wrapping them in fabric.  I should do more of that next year.  I also said that last year.  In short, we filled 2 large garbage bags full of wrapping paper, and toy packaging.  The bane of toy packaging deserves its own post some day.

The Other Waist

Let’s not forget about the food clutter.  We had so many treats laying around, it was hard to resist grabbing one or two while walking past and eating mindlessly.

Stack of peanut butter cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies

I realized I wasn’t even enjoying some of the cookies…I was just eating them because they were there.  I feel a New Year’s Resolution comin’ on.

Don’t eat anything unless I truly love it and it nourishes my body or spirit.

Can you help hold me to that, readers?  Did you make a resolution regarding any sort of clutter in your life?

No Vacation from Cleaning

Prior to my Mom & Sister coming to stay with us, Will and I cleaned the whole house.  We tidied away whatever toys the kids had laying out around the living room, scrubbed bathrooms, stain-treated the carpet, emptied all the garbage cans, polished all the surfaces, and put holiday decorations up.  It’s all the stuff we normally do, but we go a little more hardcore for special occasions.  I don’t know why.  Within minutes of company arriving, their luggage, bags, coats, shoes, and purses are scattered everywhere.  Their dogs, their crates, and all their accessories crowd the hallways and entrances to rooms.  I love my family, and we enjoy having celebrating the holidays with them, but house guests certainly add to the Christmas clutter.

The next few days were spent shuffling things around to get meals prepared.  And we spent a lot of time cleaning the kitchen over and over with all the extra dirty dishes being generated.  This frustration over last Christmas was the main motivator for renovating our kitchen.  It was easier to spend time in the kitchen this year, but I’d still rather be playing with my kids and their new toys than do 3 loads of dishes a day.

Christmas Clutter Aftermath

To make room for the new stuff, Will & I took half a day while the kids were in day care to declutter.  We went through toy boxes and their closets.  We filled 6 boxes and 2 garbage bags of old, forgotten toys.  The car was PACKED when we drove to the charity boxes we normally go to when we’re not expecting the Diabetes Clothesline any time soon.  The charity box happened to be empty but we completely filled it with our car load.  It’s a weight off my shoulders every time we do this.

Now everything has pretty much been put away.  The cardboard boxes have been flattened for recycling.  The new clothes have been hung.  The new craft supplies have already been used or put away in the craft closet, and the toys have migrated to the kids rooms (mostly).  It sure feels good to have our home sorted out again.

What was Christmas like for you?  How did you spend it (if at all) with your hoarding relative or loved one?  Did you exchange gifts?  Did you do a big clean before AND after Christmas?  And…do you have any Clutter Resolutions?


I want to stay focused on organization and compulsive hoarding in this blog, but I wanted to deviate a little with this post. We have recently been totally consumed with a project here at home that made a BIG difference in our lifestyle and organization. We renovated our kitchen. It started about a month ago, and the final elements are pretty much finally in place now. Just have to install in a new floor.

Our old kitchen was cramped, and by renovating we opened up a much more efficient layout. And while we more than doubled our working space, what was more important was what happened while packing up the old kitchen. We dug out all the cupboards and drawers, the pantry and appliance closet, and made some tough decisions. If you’re anything like me, you probably have a pretty jammed junk drawer, right? When was the last time you went through it? When was the last time you needed even 50% of the stuff in there?

Our junk drawer had old birthday candles, expired pizza coupons, dead batteries, and countless other things that never belonged in that drawer. And really, how many bamboo skewers did we really think we’d ever use??

What’s in your junk drawer?

We also found we had duplicates of things, especially plastic containers. I’m happy to say we whittled that collection down for the charity box and now have a much more manageable set of containers WITH matching lids. That certainly makes getting lunches ready in the morning easier!

Empty it out!

Even if you’re not planning a full renovation, I highly recommend tackling your kitchen junk drawer. Take out EVERYTHING and put it on the counter. Have a box for charity and a bag for garbage handy. Consider each item and only put it back if you really need it. Maybe put similar items together in a zip bag, like spare batteries or clothes pins. Perhaps you find stuff that has a home somewhere else and just needs to be relocated. Suddenly, it’s not so junky anymore! Power through for 15 minutes, and you’ll have solid results.

We went through Ikea for our renovation. Ikea has not asked me to do this post…I’m not being compensated by Ikea, and 100% of what I say here is based on my own personal experience and opinion.

We still have to replace the floor and paint the ceiling, but otherwise are good to go!

Here’s what we had before…this is from our house inspection when we bought the place. What you can’t see just to the left in this photo is an eat-in area. We use our dining room for all meals, so we had cobbled together additional storage and counter space by adding a buffet and table pushed against the walls. It looked cluttered, clumsy, and was awkward to get to while working in the kitchen.

We took everything out and started from scratch with just about everything coming from Ikea.

white Stat Ikea kitchen

We had visited Ikea in December and got a good idea of what we wanted. Then we worked on our plans using the Ikea kitchen planner software. We learned it works better in Internet Explorer than it does in Google Chrome. I also read a lot on the Ikea Fans forum: http://www.ikeafans.com/forums/kitchen-planning/

We contacted several of their suggested installers and picked one we felt most comfortable with. He came and measured our space, and gave us better direction and advice for finessing our design.

Then we coordinated with him, our electrician, and Habitat to make a schedule. My husband and I went to Ikea to place our order on Thursday, everything was delivered Friday. Habitat for Humanity came on Friday to remove the old kitchen for free. Electrician came to do some plug moving and adding, etc. We removed the tile back splash and bulk head over the weekend.

Our installer arrived Monday and finished the drywalling from the bulkhead. He also had to fix a plumbing issue the Habitat guys caused when they removed the sink cabinet. He didn’t get to building any cabs until Tuesday.
We went with Stat cupboards, oak Numerar counters except for the island, and used Ikea handles for everything except the Jadite knobs on my glass front cabs. Speaking of which, the glass fronted doors are from the Lidingo (I “think”) line, not Stat.

Our installer was amazing and really meticulous. Everything fits perfectly, even with unsquare walls. He didn’t rush and took his time…it was about 7 days of solid work for him, but I was very impressed.

Farmhouse Ikea sink: I love this. It’s bigger than the stainless steel sink we used to have and fits a large frying pan on the bottom for soaking. The faucet was from Rona a few years ago. Pendent light is from Lowes or Rona.

Ikea farmhouse sink

Fully extendable Ikea blind corner carousel: we have 2 sets of these.  Both levels swivel out and pull forward.

blind corner kitchen storage solution

blind corner kitchen storage solution

Floor to Ceiling Pantry Before:
floor to ceiling pantry

And After with Ikea pull out shelves

floor to ceiling pantry with pull out shelves

floor to ceiling pantry with pull out shelves

Stove area was moved almost 2 feet to the right…it was previously right by the sink and didn’t leave any room for someone to do cooking and someone else to do cleaning at the same time.  We replaced the range hood with a stainless steel model from Home Depot.  The white stove was the previous owners, and the black stove is ours.  We’ll eventually change it for an induction cooktop.  We also moved the fridge.  It used to be just to the right of the stove…now it’s on the other side of the room.

Before

After
herringbone tile back splash

Numerar Countertops: these have to be oiled often for the first little while and then less as time passes.  If they should happen to stain, we can sand it away.  They grow warmer in tone the more they’re oiled and used.  We had such little counter space before, this is very luxurious for us.  The school house lights are from Rona.  I’m glad to have the microwave OFF the counter, and the wine rack is handy.

wood counter tops

Jadite Knobs I bought from an Etsy vendor: http://www.etsy.com/shop/prettyware

jadite cabinet knobs

And now for the island.  We had originally planned to put the same wood on the island, but when we put in our order, that size was not available and no hint as to when it would be coming in.  So we started looking at other options.  I didn’t really want granite, but I priced out copper, soapstone, and concrete.  Concrete won, and I found a local vendor to custom create this for us.  I wanted something with a worn, aged look.

concrete counter

concrete counter

concrete counter

Here you see the inlaid cutting board.  We’re also planning on getting a piece of marble to fit the same spot for chocolate and pastry work.

concrete counter with cutting board inlay

I was also very happy with my tile guy.  He quoted a great price to do the backsplash and there’s 45 square feet there!  It’s a complicated pattern to make consistent and it involves a LOT of extra cutting but close inspection shows he knew his stuff! Tiles were .24 cents each.

herringbone back splash

Overall, we spent under $15,000.

The only real hiccup was with Ikea delivery.  There was a large cover panel which did not arrive with our order and our installer needed it to move forward.  He pointed it out as soon as he noticed and it took several calls back and forth with Ikea to get it delivered in good time as to not stall the whole schedule.  I didn’t feel the Ikea store manager made a good effort to contact me and keep me in the loop about this, and trying to get a hold of anyone from the store on the phone was impossible.  You can only reach their call centre in Montreal.  BUT it did get resolved, installation continued, and I’m now delighted with our new kitchen.

It’s made sharing the space with our children a real joy.  It’s so fun to have proper space to work with them at the island baking cookies, and not be crowded.  Once we have the floor in, we’ll finally invite our friends in for a meal and we can’t wait to let the party end up in the kitchen.

If anyone else is considering an Ikea kitchen, I definitely recommend it.  And if you’re in west GTA, I can recommend some vendors who won’t disappoint.