Monthly Archives: February 2014

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Hoarders: A Series (Part 5)

And so, we have come to the final installment of this series. I’ve saved my most-used excuse for last. For my other favorite excuses, see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.


This explains the absolute mountain of knitting/sewing/craft NONSENSE that I have held onto for YEARS. These items were often obtained with the assistance of Excuse #2, but often it’s craft stuff that people have given me – “Oh, you knit? I have some yarn! Take it!”

The problem is, Jason also uses this excuse. That’s why we are hanging onto a iPod dock that doesn’t work, as well as scrap wood and metal, a stack of broken-down cardboard boxes, and two reams of oversized copy paper (11×17 and 8×17) that we found in a cabinet when we moved in. Because YOU NEVER KNOW.

It’s a plausible excuse. It seems downright reasonable….until you’re surrounded by stacks of impenetrable-but-possibly-useful junk.

Yes, in theory, the kids could use the oversized copy paper for art projects and wouldn’t that be adorable? But in reality, we’ve lived in our house for almost three years and they haven’t touched it. Same goes for the package of googly eyes that someone gave me 10 years ago. And the hardware to mount our 10-year-old TV to the wall (hint: it’s never going to happen). Eventually, you lose track of the things you “might use” and end up buying duplicates. This is no bueno.

My mantra has become: Everything has an expiration date. Obviously, we all have things that don’t get used frequently, like Christmas dishes or deviled egg trays, which are still useful. However, most of the “could be useful” stuff I hang onto does not fall into this category. It’s quite frankly selfish to keep things you “might” use, because most of the time there’s someone out there who WILL use them. Think of it this way – what’s the difference between getting rid of something and storing it indefinitely without so much as looking at it?

Not much.

As with valuables, it’s important to store smart. If you’re going to hang onto miscellaneous hardware, it helps to separate nails from screws from picture hangers. I use small mason jars for this purpose. We have one folder for all the various owners manuals we’ve accumulated, and every year or so I go through it to weed out manuals for appliances or gadgets that have died or been replaced.

One of our biggest problems is making sure that like items stay together. We have many cans of paint – spray paint, paint samples, quarts and gallons of paint. They’re currently distributed in multiple locations throughout the garage, with a few living in the house. They need to get corralled into one location where they can be easily accessed. If I want to level up to Advanced Paint Organization, I can follow this woman’s lead.

Writing this series has been very cathartic, and I appreciate the positive feedback I received for it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some closets to empty.




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Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Hoarders: A Series (Part 4)

If you’re just tuning in, catch up on Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.


OH HOLY GOD. I use this one All. The. Time. Variations include “But I bought it at an estate sale!” and “But I found it by the side of the road!” This excuse usually walks hand-in-hand with Excuse #1 and goes something like this: “Hmmm… I’ve always wanted to learn how to make candles. I could give them as gifts, or sell them on Etsy and make a tidy fortune. AND WHAT’S THIS? THE KIT IS 40% OFF? COME TO MAMA.”

This excuse requires a two-pronged attack.

First: if it’s still in the package six months after you bought it, get rid of it. Sell it on eBay or donate it to a thrift store. Make peace with the fact that you’re never going to have a thriving candle-making business on Etsy, and move on.

Second: this should probably be a no-brainer, but STOP BUYING THINGS JUST BECAUSE THEY’RE ON SALE. If you are standing before the clearance endcap at Target, reaching for the set of adorable Valentine’s Day dessert plates, slow your roll. Do you need 12 more plates that will be used once a year – if you even remember you have them? I have finally learned the fine art of window-shopping – I can walk into HomeGoods, or Target, or Shoe Station, and walk out completely empty-handed. It’s like my secret ninja power.

Many people use the “one in, one out” rule in their closets, and it works well in the rest of your house – if you bring something home, something else has to go. This is especially useful for my biggest vice of the pre-Kindle era – books. I used to ravage the clearance tables at Books a Million, and make pilgrimages to Chamblin’s, and never get rid of a single precious (preccccciousssss) book. Now the rule is – if I’ve read it, and Jason isn’t interested in reading it, out it goes. Chamblin’s will take books for store credit, which is a nice incentive.

I use a grocery list app to keep track of things that I want to keep an eye out for, such as perfect leopard flats or reasonably-priced twin sheet sets. If it’s not on the list, I don’t buy it – even if it’s on sale.


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Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Hoarders: A Series (Part 3)

Happy Friday! Let’s talk about my junk. Follow the links for Part 1 and Part 2 of this absolutely fascinating look into my bad hoarding habits.

Blank-002This excuse recently came up between Jason and I during a conversation regarding our wedding bands from our first marriages, which we have held onto despite the fact that our first marriages were total crap. We’ve hung onto them because they’re gold (shiny! expensive!) and it seems wasteful to just toss them. Last week, Tyler asked for mine so he could pretend it was the One Ring and wear it around his neck. I let him, but only if he promised to travel to the heart of Mount Doom and cast it into the fire. ANYWAY.

It seems like everyone has a few things, or more than a few, that “might be worth something.” Maybe we believe that we’ll end up on Antiques Roadshow with a piece that elicits a jaw-dropping appraisal. How many baseball card collections are gathering dust in attics because they “might be worth something”? I know we have one!

Many times, our idea of an item’s value comes from two sources – 1) I paid a lot of money for it, and 2) it’s interesting/old/has a good story.

Neither of those things actually determines the value of an item.

Repeat after me: It’s only worth what someone will pay for it. Repeat that again. Many of us learned this humbling lesson during the recent housing market crash.

I’ve started listing things for sale on eBay and Craigslist, to hold myself accountable to this mantra. If it goes through three listing cycles without any interest, it’s going to Goodwill. It doesn’t matter how much I paid for those Nine West heels I wore once – if no one will buy them, they’re effectively worth $0.

Harsh, but true.

Some of the things I was certain would sell – like the funky antique metal bed I’ve had since 2002 – have been listed and re-listed with no interest. Some of the things I thought might end up in the trash, like a cheap-o wine cart from Target, sold within minutes. You just never know.

Next up, excuse #2: It was on SAAAAALE. This one gets me every time.



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Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Hoarders: A Series (Part 2)

Another day, another excuse to hang onto Stuff. For part one, please go here.

Excuse 4

I still have gifts people gave me for my high school graduation, such as a jewelry roll that I still use when I travel. I also still have gifts people gave me for high school graduation, such as stationary that now has the wrong initials on it. I have gifts – still packaged! – that people gave me when Tyler was born. Tyler is TEN.

Um, yeah. Ridiculous.

Kidding aside, this may be the most difficult excuse for me to overcome. For one thing, I have a very good memory – with few exceptions, I can name the giver and occasion for almost every gift in my house. I secretly fear that if I get rid of a gift, somehow the giver will know. And will judge me.

As I try to work around this excuse, I ask myself, Self, would you buy this for your home if you saw it on sale today? If the answer is no, then it needs to move along. There is no shame in regifting – so long as it’s honestly done. Let’s say someone gives you a scarf – it’s pretty, but it doesn’t compliment your coloring or style. However, it would look fantastic on your friend. Give it to her. Done. Don’t wait for Christmas; don’t pretend you shopped for it, just give it.  Other options include taking it back to the store for a refund/credit, or sending it to Goodwill. Yes, it’s hard – but so is storing items you don’t want, for an indefinite period of time, because you MIGHT hurt someone’s feelings.

This rule will cover most non-sentimental gifts, but what about the items – gifts or not – that tug your heartstrings?

For example, all four of my grandparents, as well as my father, are dead. Every birthday card, every letter, every gift I ever received from them Means Something, because there won’t be any more.

Likewise, I have a tendency to hang onto all of Tyler’s work, be it art work or school work or an adorable doodle of the dogs he made in a waiting room that one time. Childhood is short – I can already feel his drawing to a close – and I won’t find it nearly as cute when he’s switched from drawing Epic Ninja Battles to taking selfies on Instagram.

Jason hangs onto sentimental stuff, too. He has a tupperware container of weightlifting chalk from the mid-1990s, his trumpet from high school, and a large acrylic block engraved with a poem that his mom created for his wedding. His first wedding. A-HEM. We have yearbooks and trophies and awards and diplomas. Look how smart we used to be!

I have a strategy for editing these items.

I plan to make good use of my scanner for college essays, newspaper articles, and other papers. I also plan to treat these valuables like valuables. I should protect paper and textiles from light and heat. I should organize the kids’ artwork by year and put it in one location. I should be a bit ruthless with schoolwork – do I really need every spelling test he’s ever taken? – and use a scanner for these papers, too.

I hope that attempting to store these items properly will lead me to look at them with a more critical eye. We’ll see how it goes!



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Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Hoarders: A Series (Part 1)

One of my ongoing resolutions is to Keep Less Stuff, and it’s especially pressing now that we no longer have a junk storage guest room.

It’s haaaaard.

I’ve noticed that, whether I’m debating the merits of a kitchen gadget or a pair of shoes, I hear the same five or so excuses come out of my mouth. So, for the next two weeks, I’m going to share my top excuses, with examples, and then share how I’m working towards overcoming them.

In summary, my top five excuses are:


I have settled on some ground rules that apply to all categories of this junk. First off, if it’s broken, ripped, stained, or otherwise not functional, get rid of it. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Second, everything has an expiration date. If you haven’t used that tortilla press in 3 years, let it go. If you haven’t “done something” with that fabulous shutter you picked up off the side of the road six months ago, it needs to go.

Let’s start from the bottom, shall we?

Excuse 5

I’m talking about the t-shirt you got for running that 5K, that mug you got at your company’s annual conference, or the pens the bank was handing out. Magnets. Water bottles. I will add “dumpster diving treasures” because I am GUILTY AS CHARGED of picking up crap off the side of the road and shoving it in my garage until inspiration strikes.

The kids have about a million t-shirts that fall into this category. Most of them are easy to give up, but some have paired up with Excuse #4 and insist on hanging around indefinitely.

Perfect example: Amy has been my friend since the first week of our freshman year of college. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s a friendship old enough to drive a car. When Tyler was little, she gave him this shirt.


At the time, he slept in it because it was huge. Gradually he could wear it as a regular shirt, and now he has outgrown it. It’s survived two purges so far, but when we went through his dresser this weekend, he handed it over with a very heavy sigh.

He was donating at least 10 other shirts to Goodwill, so I gave myself 24 hours to “do something” with this one. Yesterday I turned it into a throw pillow for his bed:


I told Amy, and she said that she was also recycling t-shirts this weekend. She turned six old shirts into reusable shopping bags using this tutorial.

When I finally parted with my high school/college t-shirt collection about five years ago, I photographed the front and back of each shirt, and then sent them to Goodwill. I haven’t missed them. And, to be quite honest, it’s not like I spend a bunch of time looking at the pictures, either.

Of course, the best way to avoid dealing with an excess of free stuff is not to pick it up in the first place. If you aren’t in need of a water bottle, don’t grab one. If your koozie collection is already impressive, don’t adopt more. If you have fifteen pens in your purse, you can probably live without one from your pest control company. And for the love of pete, there’s a reason people put their broken furniture by the side of the road. It’s BROKEN. LEAVE IT.

Go forth and declutter!


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I don’t like Valentine’s Day. I bet that’s a huge surprise. Chocolate gives me migraines and flowers seem like a waste of money.

I’m not against romance. But my idea of romance is very different from Hallmark’s.

So tonight, instead of fighting for a table at a mid-priced chain restaurant, we’ll be having dinner at home, as a family…. just like we do every other night. I’m making arroz con pollo and a salad – can you feel the love? – and after that, we’re going to Costco. And if a cheesecake happens to fall in our cart, so be it.

Now that’s romantic.



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Done and Done: Instagram Photo Frame

Back in January, I started a photo project to get my pictures off of the computer and into real life. On Saturday, I finished it.

The first two steps were addressed in the previous post.

First up, print photos. I used Snapfish’s “Deco Prints,” and I recommend them. The paper is pleasantly thick and matte.

Second, buy big picture frame, preferably at Goodwill (for the street cred).

Jason primed and painted the frame using leftovers from Kate the Chicken’s room.


I really liked the beading on the inner edge, but didn’t feel like it stood out enough.


So I glazed just the inner edge, using leftovers from Tyler’s headboard.


After that, we stapled chicken wire to the back of the frame. Pro-tip – staple thin strips of cardboard over the edges of the chicken wire to keep it from slicing and dicing your walls.


Next there was a long and slightly-embarrassing interlude where we laid out 50 of the prints and arranged them. And re-arranged them. And re-arranged them. Finally, I hung the prints on the chicken wire using itty-bitty clothespins.

Family room: Before (snooooozefest)


Family room: After (Shazam!)



It’s art! And it’s colorful! And I love it.


So, because I’m le cheap, let me break down the costs:

Giant frame: $20 at Goodwill
Prints: $25 at Snapfish
Chicken Wire (technically “poultry netting”): $7 at Home Depot
Tiny Clothespins: $1.80 at Hobby Lobby
Paint: Leftover/free

$54 is a LOT for me to spend on a project, but I spread the cost over a couple of months. Plus, I can re-use the frame with different prints, or Christmas cards, or kids’ artwork, or whatever.

I think I may like this version better than my original inspiration. Shhhh. Don’t tell.



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Nursery Progress: Art!

I promise, I’ll stop talking about the Impending Arrival of Kate the Chicken soon. Soonish.

Anyway, last weekend, while Jason was busy painting the nursery walls, I had the kids make art. I want them to feel included in this process, and to be excited about it.


I bought a stack of five 16 x 20 canvases from Michaels for 40% off. I think they ended up being $10. I then bought craft paints in colors pulled from the nursery – a pear green, a buttery yellow, a deep teal, a navy blue, and a raspberry pink. The paints and brushes were $7.00.


Because I am a bit of a control freak, I had to leave the house while they were painting.

They had been discussing their plans for several hours before I left, so I had some idea what they were planning.


When I returned, they were mostly finished.

Hollyn chose to make a graphic statement with her artwork:


Jensen painted a very pretty cherry blossom branch on a navy background:


And Tyler stuck to his own particular idiom and made a coat of arms:


I am very pleased that each of the kids put a lot of thought and effort into their work, and that each canvas reflects its maker. I can’t wait to hang them in the nursery.


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WIWW: Grayscale

Yeay: we have now returned to our regularly-scheduled Florida “winter.”

Boo: Most of my maternity clothes are long-sleeved sweaters.

pleated poppy

It’s okay. My office is still nice and chilly.


This was Monday. I was feeling pretty monochrome – it was a gray day – and I only have four pairs of pants that fit. Three of them were in the wash.

Also, because it’s Monday I wore my favorite necklace:


It has taken me a long time to embrace the resurgence of gold jewelry. I’ve even (gasp!) mixed gold and silver on occasion. Crazy, I know.

Have a lovely week!

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Nursery Progress: Farewell, Beige

Over the weekend we painted the nursery. And when I say “we painted the nursery,” I mean “Jason worked his tail off while I assisted with taping and cutting in, then left to go to a baby shower.” Bless him. He’s such a good person.

So here’s a before shot, featuring the Beigeness of It All:


We started by taping the ceiling and trim. BORING. But NECESSARY.


There was more trim than I remembered.


Then we cut in. And I “helped.”


And FINALLY, it was time to roll. This was taken after one coat. It needed two.


While I was gone, Jason did the whole second coat by himself, then put the furniture back where it belonged. Yesterday, we added a glider we’re borrowing from a friend.



I am in love with the color. It’s sooooo sooooooothing. I’m usually a fan of bolder colors, but this room is kind of cave-like to begin with, and the lighter color really helps. (I mean, unless you like caves. I don’t know your life.)

Next up: Artwork on the Cheap. Followed by Curtains on the Cheap.



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