Welcome 2013.  This is a year full of opportunity and promise, especially if we can finally let go of clutter.  If organizing clutter was one of your resolutions, you’re not alone.  It’s certainly one of mine, and there are LOTS of ideas out there for getting it done.

Fireworks and Happy New Year

Here’s to Finally Organizing your Clutter in 2013

It’s daunting, isn’t it?  You look at all the new stuff the holidays brought into your home and you wonder how on Earth you’ll ever find a place for it all!  Then you look at what you already had in your home and think “Why am I keeping all of this stuff?”  This is a great time to start “Spring Cleaning.”  Even if you have snow on the ground, it’s still a perfect opportunity to play IN/OUT.

Where to start Organizing?

I’d start with setting some priorities.  Where do you need clarity in your life?  Some of us need to clear physical clutter from our households:

  • junk drawers
  • closets
  • basements
  • storage lockers
  • toy boxes
  • wardrobes
  • medicine cabinets

And some of us need to clear clutter from our mind:

  • doubt
  • regret
  • fear
  • worry
  • resent
  • envy
  • indulgence

And then there’s the clutter affecting our health, like too much:

  • sugar
  • caffeine
  • fat
  • pre-processed
  • GMOs
  • unpronounceable chemicals

Yup.  There’s a lot to sabotage our organizing efforts, and sometimes it’s not where you expect it (like your coffee cup).  So you need to figure out what’s affecting you, and set some realistic goals.  It’s NOT realistic to say you’ll cut out all sugar.  It IS realistic to say you’ll only use 1 tablespoon of sugar in your coffee instead of getting the standard “double-double”.  A blanket statement, such as “I’m not going to worry about anything this year” sets you up for disappointment (and further mental clutter).  Try accepting you’ll worry, but find a way of dealing with it, like practicing deep breaths, or weekly yoga sessions.

Not Just Clutter Goals

As for cleaning the basement, that IS one of my goals in 2013.  Will and I tackle this every couple of months when we have a few spare hours without the kids around.  We usually remove several bags and boxes of stuff at a time, but next time we go down there whatever we left behind has bred MORE.  How does that happen anyway?

Cluttered Basement via notjustclutter.com

My Major Clutter Goal for 2013

We usually set a time limit on this project so we don’t exhaust ourselves.  If left alone while on one of my Virgo streaks, I might go an entire day purging and hauling without stopping to eat.  We also have a space limit…we can only fit so many bags and boxes in our car if we plan to take it all to a donation drop-off box.  We do sometimes wait for a charity pick-up drive, but sometimes I just want it OUT before I change my mind.

Most importantly, we focus on the big picture.  Our goal is to live in this space, not just have it as a stuff cemetery.  We want to put office space and a guest area in the basement, and that’s not going to happen if I don’t release my emotions from these belongings.

Getting My House AND Body In Order

Besides the house, I also need to organize my health.  I’m only 35, but I feel older.  I need to make sure I’m not adding unnecessary food into my diet.  If it doesn’t nourish my mind or body, I shouldn’t eat it.  So while I’m not cutting out all sugar/fat/caffeine, I’m committed to being more mindful of what I chose to eat.  I’ve also got to find a way to work some level of fitness into my lifestyle.

One of my Favourite Christmas Gifts

Will gave me a neat little gadget (we love gadets around here).  It’s called a FitBit One.  It’s essentially an amped up pedometer.  It counts my steps, as well as flights of stairs.  It also monitors my sleep, and helps give me an overview of how active I’ve been in a day.  Seeing the results is sobering…I’m far too sedentary.  My fitness goal is to work my way towards 10,000 steps in a day.  I won’t hit that mark daily having an office job, but I can aim for at least 5,000 to start.  That’s a reasonable goal.

Other Resources for Organizing Clutter

I follow a number of other blogs about organizing and hoarding.  Here are some great resources for finding inspiration to get yourself organized this year.  Don’t forget to leave your comments about your resolutions, and we’ll work together to stick to our plans.

Cleanliness is Next to What Now?

Organizing Made Fun: Resolution Challenges

Ask Anna: cleaning, organizing, decorating

Disclaimer: I was not requested by FitBit to review their product, and I have not received any compensation by them.  I simply loved this gift and thought I’d share in case anyone else has a similar fitness goal for 2013.


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?


My eldest daughter, Maddie, has been sneezing up a storm. I figured this was a good time to give her bedroom a good deep clean and clear out the dust. When I gently suggested she give away some of her stuffed animals, I was met with great resistance. It’s time I start teaching my children about compulsive hoarding.

How To Start

It started by clearing out all the random stuff that’s been shoved under her bed. It brought up a lot of dust but also helped us find some little toys we thought were lost forever. The pile was a real mixture of things…board games, doll clothes, books, trinkets, and so on. I explained we needed to organize these into piles and put them away. Then I left Maddie to it while I worked on Quinn’s outgrown baby clothes in the next room.

After a few minutes, Maddie called out “Mom, I don’t know what to do with all this.”

It hit me that she probably had no idea how to sort through this random pile and make general categories. It’s one thing to sort by colour, or by size, but when you’re only 7, sorting by purpose is a little confusing.

So, we sat together and I pointed out how board games don’t get stored with books, and doll clothes have their own container. It was starting to make sense when I showed her we actually DO HAVE a place for everything…it’s just that I’d always done the sorting for her in the past. What a disservice I’ve done for her!

Once that pile got sorted out, it was time to look at all the stuffed animals she keeps on her bed. There’s about a dozen stuffies, and she wants them ALL on her bed. I’m thinking they’re a treasure trove of dust and it’s time to simplify.

I held up a stuffed cat. “What do you think about this? Can we give to charity?” With wide eyes, Maddie grabbed the cat and clutched it to her chest. “But I love this!”

Everything Can’t be special

We went back and forth like that with a few other stuffies, and I finally said “You can’t love all of these the same. Surely some are more important than others!” And I think deep down she knows that too, but when faced with the scary thought of parting with any of them, they were elevated to Must Haves.

I was at a loss.  I tried to explain that sometimes we have to make tough decisions.  That the memories we have can be kept in our heads and we don’t need to keep every thing just to remember.  That if everything is special, it really means nothing is.

So far, I’ve been keeping the family’s dirty little secret from my children.  Maddie doesn’t know the reason we never visit her grandmothers house is because there’s no room.  She has no idea that compulsive hoarding even exists!  But I needed to show her, so…

I grabbed the laptop, launched notjustclutter.com and called up the photos from my Visiting a Compulsive Hoarders Home post.  I didn’t tell her I took the photos.  I didn’t tell her it was Meema’s house.  I didn’t even call it compulsive hoarding.  But I showed her how little space there was to move around.  How you couldn’t see the couch.  I pointed out the piles were taller than her head, and there was no room at the dining table for eating.  I showed her how food was piled on the kitchen floor with no sense of organized categories.

And everything I pointed out, she met with a rationalization.  She had a modified action for everything I said that would allow her to cope with that appalling environment.  In short, she didn’t think it was that bad.

Will My daughter become a hoarder, too?

Obviously, I’m failing.  Not only have I lost my mother behind her hoard, but I’ve not done enough to develop the right skills for my first daughter.  I can see this will be an on-going attempt to teach her how to organize, how to detach emotion from objects, how to truly value certain things and treat them with greater respect, and how to actually clean a home.  I’m open to your ideas, so please share your tips for guiding my children away from a future in hoarding.


Well, that didn’t last long.  Time for an update on the Case of the Silent Phone. Mom has already lost her new cell phone.  She got it at the end of April, and now it’s lost in her pile of possessions.  Apparently, it’s been lost for 2 weeks already, AND it’s the second time she’s lost it.  I can’t say I’m surprised.  I knew from the start it was going to be difficult for her.  She’s got hoarded piles on every surface and no where to create a dedicated space for it.

I didn’t hear from her for our regular Sunday chat, but thought maybe she was just sleeping.  Then I called on the anniversary of Dad’s death to let her know I was thinking of her, and figured maybe she was just feeling low and wanted to be alone with her grief.  It makes a whole lotta sense now that I know the cell phone is lost.

At least, I got to see her today.  She told me she just can’t imagine how she lost the phone.  And how she lost another important piece of paperwork she’d filled out and promptly lost.

Redecorating

Then we got to chatting about the carpet in her house and how much she’d LOVE to replace it with hardwood.  Uh huh.  I know the carpet IS hideous.  I lived with it, too.  It was great when I accidentally smushed Play-Doh into it as a child and no one was ever able to tell; maybe you’re familiar with it, too, if you remember the 70s.  But now, there’s probably only 1% of the carpet showing in all the house.

Extreme Makeover

She did admit her house needs a lot of work.  Ha.  Let me repeat that.  HA!  And that the best thing to happen would be for the house to be struck by lightning.  Yup.  That’s what she wishes for.  For her house and home of 33 years to go up in a big ball of flames.  Can you imagine?  My childhood memories in a pile of ash.

Lynn said to her “You’d never make it out in time.”

Mom got that thin smile she effects on when conversation takes this kind of turn, and smugly insisted “Oh yes I would. No problem at all.  I’d just tuck the dog under my arm and away I’d go.”

Sigh.  How do you answer that when you know it simply isn’t true?

And, how would I even know, when she has no way of calling to tell me?


It’s been about 5 years since I last visited my childhood home.  It’s a compulsive hoarders home now, thanks to Mom’s mental disorder.  Lynn and I snuck in while Mom was out and did a tiny purge of her hoard.  You’d never even be able to tell we’d spent 2 hours working on a 4×4 foot area just putting spare papers in recycling bins.  We removed 4 bags of trash and yet, it didn’t make a dent in her hoard.

How bad could it be?

I took photos while we were there of the general state of things.  Given so many years have passed without anyone else stepping inside, I can only imagine how high the stacks are.  Oddly enough, I found the CD of photos as I cleared out my basement decluttering my own junk.

Merely Existing

I knew the photos were going to be bad, but they still took me by surprise when I loaded them up on my computer.  If you’ve never seen photos from inside a compulsive hoarders house before, brace yourself.  I know you’ll probably wonder how could anyone live like this?  I don’t know if you can call it “living”, actually.  I think having to survive in such a space is reducing to merely “existing.”

A view of a living room of a compulsive hoarder

A view of a living room of a compulsive hoarder

 

The dining room of a compulsive hoarder

It’s hard to tell, but this is a dining room.

This was my home once.  I lived here with my sister through all my childhood, and only left when I went away to college.  I have good memories of birthday parties, Christmas mornings, and watching Sunday morning classic movies on PBS.  And I’m willing to bet there are physical remnants of all my memories still left inside that hoard.

Now, we stay with Lynn when we visit my hometown.  Mom comes over to Lynn’s house to sit with us for a while and we make thin small talk.  I’m curious to try to get over to my old home while Mom is out again.  I probably won’t get in because neither Lynn nor I have a spare key.  But I want to see how the old place is holding up…or quite likely, falling apart.  On the other hand, do I want an even worse mental image of my home if I should see it in such disrepair?  It’s like when you visit an ailing relative in the hospital right before they die, and they’re frail and forgetful…they’re not the vibrant and fascinating person you remember anymore.

I do want to know how my Mom is existing, though.  It’s important to me to understand what her daily life is like.  No matter the mental disorder, it pains me to think of her living in such conditions.  I wish I knew how to make it better…and I wish she actually wanted it better, too.


Ever wonder about a compulsive hoarders vehicle?  Is everything packed away in the house, or does it spill out?  When the hoarding reaches a higher degree, it can’t be contained.  Here is Mom’s van.  Her compulsive hoarding follows her every where she goes.

A hoarders van is packed to the ceiling.

Packed to the Ceiling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s packed to the gills.  If she were ever in a car accident, even a minor one, I’m sure she’d be crushed by the projectiles.  And be projectiles, I mean the following (but not limited to):

  • at least 9 packs of Bounty dryer bars
  • an open box of laundry detergent powder
  • a dog crate (with dog)
  • a domed cake carrier with uneaten cupcakes from last year (I SO wish I was exaggerating)
  • case of bottled water
  • a multitude of junk food boxes, bags, and wrappers
  • full bags of laundry
  • lots of shopping bags from thrift stores
  • gifts given to Mom destined to never make it into the house
  • boxes of stuff given to her by other people clearing out their clutter

I snuck out and took these photos with my phone while she visited this past weekend.  Mom would be SO furious if she knew I did that, but I wanted to show you how extensive her compulsive hoarding, fueled by compulsive shopping, really goes.  She drives around like this alllll the time.  I can only imagine the impact it has on her gas mileage, and wear & tear on her brakes, tires, and shocks.

No leg room for passengers in compulsive hoarders van

No leg room for passengers

Is it stuffy in here?

Then there’s the air quality.  Lynn refuses drive in the van with Mom any more.  There’s no leg room.  Debris has to be swept off the seat.  I’m sure even finding the seat belt is difficult.  How does Mom see out her windows?  Carpooling?  Forget it!  And, what’s that smell?

Shoehorn Tight

I helped Mom put the dogs crate back in the van.  The wall of stuff is so tightly packed it held its shape when we slide open the door.  There was a niche carved out for the dog crate and I really had to put my shoulder to it to get it in.  We closed the door and it didn’t latch, so we opened it up again and if there was ever a use for an industrial sized shoehorn, this was it.  Finally, we wedged the crate in another inch, and got the door to fully close.

Waving Goodbye

A final kiss, a last minute scramble for scrap paper to write directions, a missed moment of hesitation if I should say “something”, and then off she goes.  A jumbled tonne lumbering down the street on the way home.  To her nest.  To her comfort zone.  And to my dismay.


My little blog about compulsive hoarding is a pretty niche topic.  It’s not likely to have a lot of people stumble across Not Just Clutter, but I’d sure like to think I’m writing for humans.

I’ve noticed a get a lot of comments, especially after posting Our Ikea Kitchen Renovation Experience.  I hope some are really from people who’ve read my posts and been moved enough to leave a few genuine words of their own.  But I thought I’d share a few that amused me in their obviousness.  Turns out, Louis Vuitton loves to read about compulsive hoarders!  Who knew!?

Anyway, these have been clogging up my comments queue waiting to be sorted through.  I decided to deal with this digital kind of clutter in a big batch today and thought I’d share some of the ones I didn’t approve but just made me chuckle anyway.

Goofy Comments

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Oh, Internet, how you slay me!  To the spambot programmers, I implore you to improve your grammer and spelling.  Basic sentence structure wouldn’t hurt either.

To those who actually read Not Just Clutter because you’re interested in compulsive hoarding, hoarders, or basic home organization, feel free to send me your thoughts!  This is a safe place and I’m happy to answer any questions about life with a hoarder as best I can.


My eldest daughter, Maddie, turns 7.  We’re having a cooking party at a grocery store.  The store facilitates everything from set up to clean up, and I think that’s AWESOME!

Last year, we did a cereal themed party at home, and it was also awesome, but much more exhausting for me!  LOL

No matter how we do the party, I always struggle with lootbags.  I guess I feel like they’re a waste.  An obligation.  And I don’t like them.  There, I said it.  Yup, I’m a bit of a grinch like that.

I don’t think they’re necessary and I wish they weren’t the social norm.  I don’t want to buy more plastic bags, and fill them with little plastic trinkets, tiny erasers and pencils, and the ever present Ring Pop only to have them tossed in the trash or add to the clutter at someone elses home.  I know people who give out loot bags mean well.  I get that some kids are totally thrilled to get that extra treat as they leave a party.  But I come from a home where over-consumerism is an issue and I don’t want to continue the trend for my daughters.

Are you’re looking for better options for “lootbags” for your children’s parties?  I have some suggestions, and I’d love to see your suggestions in the comments.

Better Loot

Individual potted plants: small clay pots, a cup of soil, and a flat of little flowers from any garden centre makes a pretty parting gift.  The clay pots could be personalized ahead of time, or be part of the activites during the party.  Alternatively, include the soil in a little bag and give a pack of seeds so the guest can experience planting themselves and watch a flower grow from scratch.

Bubbles: one container of bubbles per child is enough, and is consumable without taking up much space.  Personalize with curly ribbon if you’d like.

Sidewalk Chalk: tie 3 pieces with ribbon

Candy Kebabs: make a skewer per child, with mixed gummy candy from the bulk food section…maybe better for kids older than 5.

Chocolate Suckers: a mold from the candy making section at the bulk food store or craft store, Merken’s chocolate wafers melted in a double boiler, and sucker sticks make a fun treat, and are pretty easy to make and customize.  An alternative would be to dip long pretzel sticks or licorice sticks in chocolate, then amp up with colourful candy sprinkles or nonpareils.

Custom Spoons: for Maddie’s cereal themed birthday, I glued letter beads to spoons so each child had one with their name on it.  And they got to take home Chinese take out boxes (from a party store) filled with their choice of fun cereal mix.

Gift Cards: one of Maddie’s friends gave out $5 gift cards to Dairy Queen.  I thought that was brilliant.  A fun treat to enjoy later, and I personally love any excuse to visit Dairy Queen.  Gift cards for other places would be great…maybe you have a local treat shop you could help support?

Comic books: These shouldn’t cost more than $5, but give the kids something fun and colourful to read on the ride home.

Colouring Book and Crayons: These are much more useful than a tiny notebook with matching unsharpened pencil.  We go through a lot of crayons in our house.

Donations to Charity: Give a donation to a meaningful cause in lieu of lootbags and give a card to the child instead.

Photos: Set up a silly backdrop and some goofy props for kids to dress up.  Take their photo and use a printer to make prints on the spot so kids can take a memory home with them.  Another good idea is to take a photo of your birthday child with the gift they received from each guest, and send that photo with the thank you card to the guest.  What little kid wouldn’t love fun mail addressed to them?

Beaded Bracelets: Make this part of the party activities and kill two birds with one stone.

Playdough: The brand name stuff isn’t that expensive, but you can also make this really cheaply yourself in all sorts of colours with ingredients you probably already have at home.

Baked Goods: This might be harder if there are allergy concerns with your party guests, but there are recipes out there to accommodate this.  But what little kid wouldn’t love to have a little stack of homemade cookies to call their own?  You could do these with a theme using sugar cookies and cookie cutters.

Labels: Mabel’s Labels do $5 loot bags, and they offer free shipping in Canada.

Mini-Figures: Lego and Playmobil have these little sealed mystery packs you can get with different little figures inside.  You assemble them and they fit with your existing Lego or Playmobil sets.  They’re cute even if you don’t have more…my girls love to play with “mini” things and stuff like this seems to stay in regular play rotation.

Advent Calendar: This is seasonal, of course, but if you’ve got a party in November, Advent calendars are often available for .99 cents and up.  The chocolate in them is usually pretty terrible (I’m a bit of a chocolate snob), but kids love the daily anticipation of opening the doors.

Crazy Carpet: Also seasonal, these in expensive sleds make for a fun outdoor activity.  If snow play isn’t your thing, spread these out on table or floor surfaces when doing a messy craft for easy clean up.

Treasure Chest: Decorate a box, suitcase, bin or whatever suit your decor/theme.  Fill it with any of the above OR with little toys your child is ready to let go (I’m thinking MacDonalds toys, etc) and let the guest choose something on the way out.  Obviously, don’t put anything worn out or broken in there, but this is a way of cycling out things your child is done with to a new home.

Books: Chapters, or other discount department stores often have childrens books on sale for a couple of dollars.  Let the guest choose, or wrap it up for a mystery reveal once they get home.

Upcycled Crayons: Have lots of broken bits of crayons at home?  Melt them down into fun shapes.  One of my favourite blogs has a great tutorial.

New crayons made from melted broken bits

Source: Make it and Love it

Pumpkins: These would be fun from late September to the start of November.  They come in mini-sizes and you could decorate them at the party, pre-personalize them with the child’s name, or give them a little packet of something to decorate them at home, like stickers, rhinestones, permanent markers, or a small squeeze bottle of glitter glue.

Sand Toys: A bucket and shovel works in summer or winter.  They come in fun shapes, too, like little castles.  I see these on sale all the time.

Beach Towels: These come in all sorts of fun colours or themes.  Licensed characters like Dora or Spiderman (or even Justin Bieber) are available and would be a fun but useful thing to give a child.  Even if you don’t go to the beach, this is the kind of thing you pull out for backyard picnics, living room tents, and after a playdate at the splash pad.  Look for these at the end of the season to get deals.

No Plastic Bags: If you need to contain your gift in a bag, skip the plastic and try these options instead.  Brown paper lunch bags, mini canvas or nylon bags from the dollar store, or home sewn cloth bags in awesome fabric (easy peasy) are easily customized with stickers, stamps, markers, bingo daubers, glitter glue, or paint.  Dollar stores also often carry little boxes or baskets that might work well and are reusable.

Water Bottle: Keep kids hydrated with a bottle in a fun design.  Sometimes you can find them with names on them, but there’s a wide range of styles out there.  My favourite bottles are Contigo.

Reuseable Sandwich Wraps/Bags: These come in fun fabrics and last long after the party is over.  Your guest will be able to enjoy them every time they have sandwiches for lunch, and their parents will appreciate not having to buy and toss plastic zip bags.  We have a wrap from this vendor and it’s wonderful.  GoSewEco

Guitar Eco Friendly Snack Bag

Source: GoSewEco Etsy Store

Hula Hoops and Soccer Balls: I’ve seen these go on sale at Old Navy for just a few dollars.  They are fun, and encourage physical activity.

Pack of Playing Cards: I’ve seen multi packs of decks of cards for games like Go Fish, Old Maid, and Snap.  I like getting new sets of these because we’re always losing cards from old sets, which makes them useless.

T-Shirts: Using fabric paint pens or tye-dye, make decorating t-shirts part of the activities.  It keeps guests focused for a while and gives them a great take-away.  Custom t-shirts could also be useful if you’ve got a big crowd and you’re at a public venue…having all the guests in one colour of t-shirt helps you keep visual track of them better.  Or do different colours for teams during treasure hunts, or outdoor games.

Sunglasses: Maybe a little more expensive than $5 per child, but they’re appreciated by parents since this item is often lost and repeatedly replaced.  Be sure to only get 100% UVB/UVA protective glasses…anything less actually can put sensitive eyes at risk to sun damage.

There’s so many more options.  I bet you have great ideas, too.  What were your favourite loot bags you ever received as a child?  What do you appreciate as an adult?

 


I dreamt I was in my Mother’s house.

When someone’s compulsive hoarding is so extensive it invades someone else’s dreams, you know it’s significant.

In this dream, I go to my Mom’s house to take photos.  I want to collect images not just for notjustclutter.com, but to really see how she’s living.  Maybe if she sees the photos she’d realize there’s a problem. I’m also a photographer, so it’s in my nature to want to visually document the legacy my Mother is hoarding. In the dream, I need to take the photos in secret, so I sneak in.

And not in the standard dressed-all-in-black-in-a-svelte-catsuit sneaky way.  No.  In this dream, I’m also trying to navigate a bicycle along the goat paths.  Don’t ask me why.  I don’t love riding bicycles.  The dusty stationary bike over there in the corner agrees.  But anyway, here I am, struggling with my trusty Nikon around my neck and a mountain bike.

As I’m moving through the house, I feel confident that I’ll be able to hide pretty quickly should Mom come along.  Piles are at least shoulder height.  I’m so preoccupied with hauling the bicycle over a stack of vintage lace pattern books and cases of RC Cola, I don’t hear her coming down the hall.  Suddenly, I sense her on the other side of the door while I cower in the chaos I once called my childhood room and it’s too late to hide.  Everything is just too jam packed.  The door begins to move.  It doesn’t exactly swing open, but nudges against a jagged wicker doll bassinet.  My heart is racing.  When she finds me here I’ll never be forgiven for invading her space.  She’ll disown me and play the “I once beat CANCER card, let me have my things” card.

I hold my breath.

 

 

And wake up.


Every 6 weeks or so, our town has large item trash removal.  That means you can put out up to 3 larger items that don’t fit in normal trash.  Pressboard furniture, rolls of carpet, and things like that.  We often forget when these days are and always think afterwards “Geez, we shoulda put out XYZ.”

This time, we remembered at the last minute.  The weather was beautiful, the kids were playing in the front yard, and we took a good look in our garage.  We’ve known for a looooong time we need to clean it out.  We’ve never parked a car in it, and it’s an obstacle course of lawn mowers, bicycles, boxes of stuff that didn’t sell at our last garage sale, and bits of wood leftover from past projects.  Writing this blog has made me more determined not to be a victim of stuff, so I hardened my heart a little to clear some space.

I knew if we put out some stuff, they would come.  You know…the curbside scavengers, the dumpster divers, the scrap metal collectors, the roadside rescuers.  Our town has a healthy bunch you can count on, slowly cruising the residential streets in pick up trucks looking for treasure.

Our town offers metal appliance pick up, too.  You have to call and arrange a time, but they pick it up for free and dispose of it properly.  We put out an unwanted stove and scheduled a pick up, but someone else scooped it within the hour.  The town never even had a chance!

So I was comfortable knowing that anything I put out wasn’t going to really end up in a land fill.  And if it wasn’t picked up by bed time, I probably would have pulled it back in the house.

Out went the 80s style metal bed frame.

Out went the wood directors chairs with flaking paint and stained canvas seats.

Out went the umbrella stroller with the wonky wheel.  Our youngest child is happier walking anyway, and when we got this stroller it was already second hand.  (Bonus: when we unfolded the stroller to put by the road, we found our missing camera!)

I set the chairs and stroller up so people would see them easily as they drove by, and then went in for dinner.

An hour later, the metal bed frame was gone.  The other items were gone by bed time.

I’m SO glad those items got picked up.  Hopefully they’ve found an appreciative owner.  And we’ve reclaimed space in our garage!  Now we need to get rid of the bits of wood still kicking around, organize the various yard toys, put up hooks to hang the bikes/trikes/sleds, and take those boxes of unsold books to a shelter or get the Diabetes Clothesline to pick them up.

THEN we’ll finally have a clear garage.  Baby steps, right?

It feels so fantastic to finally have those items gone!  Why was I hanging on to them?  Lots of reasons, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, too.

Guilt

My parents bought me the metal bed frame for Christmas the first year I lived on my own.  It was my first queen size, and had 4 posters.  It felt so grown up and mature.  And when I married, we continued using the bed until about 2 years ago.  There was nothing wrong with the bed, but it was no longer our style after we brought a good quality wood bed with a classic design.  I tried selling it online and at our garage sale, but since no one even looked at it, I’m guessing it’s no one else’s style either.

Good Crafty Intentions

The director’s chairs fit my personality.  I work in the television industry, and I loved the quirkiness of having these chairs.  They’ve been shuffled from the basement to the garage countless times, waiting for me to strip them down and refinish them.  I was going to sew new backs and seats for them.  I just never got around to it, and really…I don’t need any more chairs, especially those with pinchy hinges.

Nostalgia

My baby isn’t a baby anymore.  It’s liberating to move baby items along, but it’s also sad.  I’ll never have an infant to push along again.  She’s a toddler now, and marches to her own drummer.  I respect that, but I miss the early days, too.

That said, I’m sure looking forward to the future. There will come a day where I have a place for everything and everything in its place. When I can employ any space for its properly designated use. Where I can acknowledge my life’s value in my actions, not my belongings.

Already I feel more free.