Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What's In Your Tree?

Christmas decorating for me has always been pulling out all the ornaments and decorations that people have given me over the years. I buy lights and the Christmas tree and the rest is a hodge podge of sentimental things. Every item has a story. I had so much fun and a few tears remembering all the people who gave them to me, and of course my Mother, who several years ago gave me many of them from my childhood.

This year was no different, except that I got ambitious and made my own wreaths. I was only planning to do one but my over-achieving competitive husband wanted to do three. We compromised at two and this is what we ended up with after a long but very fun evening of wreath making.




This beauty is the one that I made. It's not as full as I would have liked but we ran out of branches. If you have never made one, it's pretty easy and very inexpensive. I'm a wanna-be crafty person but my desire to keep things simple sometimes interferes with the final product. If it gets too expensive I start to think that I should just buy one that is already made and professional. I would give you a tutorial but I think you'd be better off finding someone that really knows what they are doing. I can tell you that all you need is a wreath wire, which costs a few dollars, some wire to secure some of the branches and all the stuff you want to decorate it.


I got one clump of berries and cut them off, some cardinals and a bow with a bell. The branches are from the Christmas tree. I grabbed them as they cut them off to trim the trunk for us. Next time I'll grab extra if there is any because you can use it all over the house to decorate. It doesn't need water and lasts a long time. This wreath in total costs less than $10. It's so welcoming and smells wonderful when you come through the door.


The other wreath that G and his brother worked on was bigger and skinnier. G is nothing if not an engineer and their joke was that they must "secure the branches". They were so secure that the wreath ended up super skinny. I stashed some smaller pieces into the wire to add some bushiness. It's our Charlie Brown Christmas Wreath!

We got our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. As soon as I saw it was from the Blue Ridge Mountains, I was sold. It was like a little piece of home. Can you spot all those Williams Sonoma boxes under the tree! I can't wait to see what they are! Did you notice that we also have five stockings this year? That is because G's brother, his wife and 11 year old son that are still living with us. Christmas is going to be a little bigger this year.


I've already decided that the day after Christmas I will be shopping for decorations for next year. Even though I love all my hodge podge things, I felt it was time to step it up to some things more reflective of my style. Target, West Elm and Crate and Barrel are definitely on my to do list for that day of shopping craziness. I'll also be reorganizing all the Christmas ornaments so that they are not only protected but easy to pack and unpack every year. Maybe the Container Store will have something that I can afford for Christmas ornament organization in the after Christmas sale.

What is your Christmas style? Are you a keep it simple person or do you go all out with Santa soap in the bathroom and a full set of Christmas dishes? Do you use sentimental ornaments or a designer tree with matching balls?

I hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas with all your loved ones in person or in spirit. Remember that the day is a celebration of Jesus coming to this world to eventually die on a cross as a sacrifice for all of us. I hope that this new year brings many blessings as well as clutter-free and organized lives for all of us!

P.S. And for something totally off topic, since I'm showing you a picture of our fireplace, I want to take a little poll. Should we paint the bricks white and as Gustavo warns "lose the brick color forever"? Or, should we leave it as is?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Luxury is Space in Your Closet


I'm at Starbuck's getting half-caffeinated and extremely sugared up with this Caramel Brule Latte and wanted to report on a new challenge for decluttering. Bonjour Madame mentioned to me after my last post that there was a 100 Things Challenge going around the blogworld in November. I almost passed it up because I missed it but decided that it's never too late!

After she mentioned it in my comments section, I was so inspired that we started cleaning out our closet right away. I don't need much coaxing to declutter! The items added up quickly at first and for a couple days was in a holding pattern at 70 things. I'm happy to report that we have gone beyond 100 things now and are ready to start over again.

Our to-go bags included everything from clothes, tupperware with lids that don't seal, makeup I don't use, etc. Yesterday I threw some things out of my gym makeup bag. An easy place to declutter was G's overnight bag. I think I'm the only one who cleans it out because there were many expired medicines in there. Maybe I cheated, but I counted things I threw in the trash that I had been keeping. My secret confession is that I have my old positive pregnancy tests, just because those two lines were so special. As soon as I get those two lines again, I will throw the old ones away, I promise!

I think that this challenge is like peeling back layers of an onion. At first you start pitching things that are easy to let go and then you have to go to the next level, which is harder and exposes more of your clutter tendencies. That next level doesn't mean that I'm done, it just means that some things may need more consideration. Would I get rid of more clothes if I knew someone in particular needed them? I definitely would. On my list to go through next, besides magazines (still), are books, a few more lipsticks and socks.

After going through all my things I feel so spoiled and even greedy with all those unopened presents under the tree. I have so much and I'm sure you all do as well. It's a reminder that I want to have a simplified life and exercises like this are necessary to accomplish that. It also helps to see some things we may already have and make some goals to abstain from purchases for awhile. I've already given a moratorium for a couple of years on all perfume purchases for gifts because I have so much.

Why don't you join me on your own 100 Things Challenge? You can do it over the holidays while you are off work and get in those end of year donations and tax deductions! Tell me what's in your to-go bag? Send me a link if you post it on your blog.

Image from here.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Clutter: A disorderly heap or assemblage

I'm at home cooking a pot of soup for dinner and feeling really overwhelmed. I recently hosted a cookie exchange in our home and had to make it presentable for a party and that is when I realized that I need to do some de-cluttering and reorganizing. It doesn't take long for things to start multiplying and getting out of control. Since my sweet Mother passed away, I integrated many of her things into our house which made less space for my stuff. Now that Christmas is coming, I already feel less able to breathe thinking about buying even more.

Magazines have been my nemesis and my delight for as long as I can remember. I used to love receiving a new magazine in the mail, not turning each fresh page until I had devoured every last word. I had stopped subscribing to anything except Domino (RIP Domino!) when along came a letter saying I would lose my skymiles unless I used them. With this threat in hand what could I do with all those miles except order about 7 new subscriptions.

What is it about throwing out unread magazines that strikes me in the "don't waste" nerve? I must read them before giving them away. And then, what about throwing them away? Well, I feel that I am throwing away information that someone else can use. Another element is the magazines that I won't throw away because I use them for reference, like decorating magazines. Oh, and then I have the stack of pages that I have ripped out of magazines for inspiration. Sigh. I used to have them all organized in a binder but gave that binder away because my styles had changed. Something needs to be done about this. Obviously I have issues, no pun intended!



Here is my secret stash of magazine clutter

That's not all my magazines though! I have more in the closet upstairs that I decided a long time ago to keep. I will be going through those after this Mt. Everest is conquered.

It's not only magazines that are making me feel overwhelmed though. It's just things laying around that don't have a home. Because I made room for my Mom's things, I feel like I don't have enough open space for new things. I don't know what this means in feng shui, but I feel a little stifled. One of the main ways I manage to stay organized is having a place where everything "lives". This is where proper use of organizing materials comes in. It doesn't work to just take all the extra stuff and put it in a bin. There needs to be a purpose and a plan for the things you own. Besides that, those organizing things can also be a visual clutter.

Mail can be a definite clutter problem in many homes but I feel like I have that mostly in control. I do look through all the catalogs that come in the mail but don't have a problem throwing them in the recycling fairly quickly. After all, it's all online for me to see again if I have the need. I usually flip through things I want to read while watching TV because it doesn't take my full focus and attention. My mail gets opened, thrown away or paid immediately. I can't risk not paying a bill on time because it's in a stack of clutter somewhere. I pay online when possible so that I don't even get the bill. I file away the statement part of the bill with the check number and date that I paid it.

There are so many places for the excess to multiply quickly. The bathroom can get filled with old potion bottles that didn't work for you. I haven't bought any new shampoo, conditioner, face cleanser and many more things for over a year. I inherited all of my Mother's personal items and I'm enjoying using them but even before that I had a goal to use everything up. It's fun to get rid of those bottles, finally!

The kitchen can become packed and non-functional too when you have too many gadgets. I am so tempted by kitchen items but I analyze what I really need because I don't have a lot of storage space. I almost asked for a mini Cuisinart chopper for Christmas until I realized that my Braun multiquick attachment does the same thing. I admit I do have a lot of kitchen things already thanks to generous wedding gifts!

My first instinct today was to run to Ikea or The Container Store to buy something to make myself feel more organized. I managed to pull myself back and tell myself that I need to go through what I have before organizing clutter. Putting those magazines in a bin in the garage won't help the problem. I must go through them and let them go. I don't have any problem giving them away, it 's just doing it before I read them! My drawers are also getting full and it's not nice to keep shoving things in there. A little clutter problem that would be easy to solve is corralling all the remote controls. I hate seeing them on my tables!


Remote controls are NOT chic!

So what's in your to clean out and organize list? I'm going to start with the pile of magazines and resolve to not subscribe to any more. The truth is that I don't find them relevant to my life any more. There was a time when I pored over them thinking they offered me wisdom but now it's like reading the same thing over and over every month. I just think,"who cares about that?" I'm sure that I am not alone in that thought and that is why so many blog readers have replaced the reading audience of magazines.

I think it's a great time of year to clear out or organize what you have been putting off. We will be getting so many new things and it's time to part with the old, or bless someone else with your things. What's your clutter nemesis? Are you a magazine hoarder like me, or is it jewelry or lipstick? The confessional is open, let me hear about your secret stashes!

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