Feng Shui Friday—Do you decant?

To find out how you can join the Feng Shui Friday challenge, click here.

via Design Sponge

I recently posted this image of the beautiful pantry of the Emerson, the founder of Emerson Fry (formerly emersonmade). It makes my heart go pitter patter with it's uniformity. However, I knew full well when I posted it that my own pantry would never look like this. The only way to have a pantry like this is to decant everything into beautiful (and probably expensive) containers. It's a case where practicality must outweigh beauty. I need a pantry with closed doors.

However, it brings up a good point. Is decanting practical?

I believe it is, at least in some cases. I'm giving it a try in my new kitchen:

I eliminated a lot of upper cabinets in favor of a more open feel and to accommodate a range hood and open shelves. That means this remaining upper cabinet must perform double duty. It is right above my baking/prep space, and also above my coffee maker/drink station. 

I chose to decant most of my baking ingredients. I also have my oils and vinegar in tall narrow cruets (the oils are kept on a shelf above the stove). So far this system seems to be working really well for me. 

So why decant?

Space, for one. Maximizing vertical area is key to efficiently utilizing cupboard space. See how my containers stack high and fill the space between the shelves? This is most easily achieve with uniform container sizes. Think of how difficult it would be to stack backing soda, baking powder, salt, etc. otherwise. 

Aesthetics, for another. Although my containers aren't nearly as pretty as Emerson's jars, I still open my cupboard to a nice and neat appearance. Everything is labeled so I can find things easily. I admired the OXO pop top containers for their square shape and easy open lids (plastic so they won't break as easily in my butter fingers), but at an average of $15 per container it would be a huge investment. I opted instead to buy this Rubbermaid set, 25 containers for $19! Plus, I can find individual containers almost anywhere to add to my set if needed. Much more cost-effective.

A tight seal ensures fresh ingredients. Some store packages simply don't seal well. (By the way, for easy measuring, I simply use the edge of the lid to level off the spoon. My mom takes this a step further and keeps a measuring spoon in the container with her most-frequently-used items.)

Some people decant for environmental reasons, although so far this doesn't fly with me. I still by the same packages of food and empty them into my own containers, tossing the store packaging. I have noticed the grocery store I usually shop at has a nice bulk food section, however. I can bring home many of these items in a simple plastic bag, or better yet, bring my own containers to the store to fill. 

A disadvantage to consider—I still have to keep the larger original containers for some of these things in another place (oils, flour, and sugar for instance). For the most success, choose a container that fits the size of the package you usually buy. Try to empty your containers completely before refilling to ensure your ingredients are as fresh as possible. Wash your containers occasionally before refilling—and dry them completely!

I still have pantry items, such as rice, pasta, and cereal to consider buying containers for. So I'm curious. How do you feel about decanting? Have you tried it, and is it worth it? 

Feng Shui Friday—What it takes to be an organized person

I knew once we started demolition for our kitchen remodel that staying organized would go out the window right along with the old carpet, and I said then that I would be discontuing my Feng Shui Friday for ahwile.

Well, a number of you have commented about following along with my Feng Shui series, and now that spring cleaning season is here, I'm happy to say that I am feeling motivated to pick it back up as well!

So to kick off a new season of organization and Feng Shui projects, I thought I would share a few of my thoughts on the matter.

via design sponge 

I often hear things like "You are so organized! I wish I had that gene!" This should be considered a compliment, I suppose, but it bothers me somewhat—and here's why. Organization doesn't come naturally or happen automatically. An organized person WORKS at being that way. 

I am by no means organized in every aspect of my life. Some areas I'm failing in right now include filing and paperwork (you don't even want to know), my garage, and my bathroom drawer to name a few. Don't get me wrong—I definitely aspire to get those areas under control and you'd better believe they are on my to do list. But it means I have lots of work to do.

So, how do you become an "organized person", since you aren't born that way? 

1. It takes motivation. You have to want to be that way. I want to be organized for two reasons—for form and for function. I love how an organized space looks, and I love how an organized space fuctions. Clutter grates on my nerves and makes everyday tasks take extra time. I do my best to pass this motivation on to my family and get them involved. Hopefully the tendancy to be organized will rub off on my kids. My husband is already a lost cause—ha.

2. It takes practice and experience. Most people don't automatically know how to get and stay organized. You have to learn strategies and techniques. For example: You've heard the adage "A place for everything and everything in its place". Everything must be given a home or it will float around as clutter. You have probably heard of employing a one in/one out strategy where you must get rid of something old as you add something new (to your closet, for example). Grouping like items together. Placing items at point of use. The importance of labeling. Maximizing space/height of shelves. These are all strategies that can be learned and improved with practice. We form good habits over time. I have picked these things up over time and I'm still working on the habit part. I've subscribed to Real Simple magazine since their very first issue. My eyes were opened! I read organizing blogs and have even taken an online class. I pin organization ideas on Pinterest, a few of which I've included in this post. I'm crazy like that. At my previous job I took a year-long intensive course on having lean processes and maximum efficiency, a big component of which was having an organized space. My point is, I wasn't born this way. I've developed this tendancy.

via the style files

3. It takes time. It has been almost 2 years since we moved to the farm and I am still figuring out the best place to put things. Getting organized definitely doesn't happen overnight. The thing is, staying organized takes time too. Many systems must be maintained on a regular schedule. We have to constantly take the time to purge what we don't need. It is good to employ systems that manage themselves as much as possible (automatic bill paying, for instance).

via apartment therapy

4. It takes discipline. I think all of us fall into the trap of thinking we need more than we do. It takes constant discipline to purge and to follow the systems we set up.

Martha Stewart Living

5. It takes space to be, and to stay organized. This means we need to either create more space or have less stuff. Simple as that. We need to be able to see everything. It is the stuff in the back recesses of our closets and cupboards that cause the most trouble. 

 

So lest you think it is hopeless because you weren't born with that "organization gene", I'm here to say no more excuses! Let's get organized together this summer! I'll share my projects if you'll share yours.  (Sorry to be so bossy. I get it from my 9-year-old.)

Feng Shui Friday—organize your hand-me-downs

To find out how you can join the Feng Shui Friday challenge, click here.

Image from Ashley Ann Photography. Isn't this a great idea?

I'm am bringing today's Feng Shui Friday challenge back to the basics of organizing. Lately, I have been plagued by the chore of staying on top of my kid's clothing. As you can imagine, with 3 kids of the same gender, I have accumulated a lot of girl's clothes. Keeping all three closets organized with only the appropriate sizes has not been my forte.

Last week I tackled the chore of sorting through every box and bin of clothes I have saved over the past 9 years. This is what I was left with:

1) Two garbage bags of clothes to toss—clothes that were either stained or damaged. Obviously when I have packed up outgrown clothes I have not been careful about sorting them. This must change.

2) Two bins to donate to Goodwill.

3) Two bags to sell to the local "Once Upon a Child" consignment shop. I had pre sorted out the best brands and clothes in the best condition to sell, and I left with $52 in my pocket, even though they purchased less than half of it. It was definitely worth doing! I just added the rest to my Goodwill donation.

This is what I kept:

A bin for each size (and a separate one for shoes), each clearly labeled, sits in my storage room. These are my new rules for keeping it tidy:

1) Keep only ONE bin per size. This is key. If I keep more than this I will surely forget there is more and miss something. The job of switching out sizes and seasons becomes too big, and it is easier to go out and buy something new than sort through all the clothes to find something that works. If I keep more than one bin I'm likely keeping clothes that are either outdated, ugly, or stained, and quite frankly, my kids just don't need that many clothes.

2) If you don't like it now, you won't like it in 2 years. Don't keep it. (Even if it was a gift.)

3) If your first kid doesn't wear it, your next one probably won't either. And your younger kids deserve new underwear, socks, and shoes that aren't all scuffed up.

4) Between Christmas, birthdays, and generous grandparents, my kids always have new clothes. If you are afraid to get rid of old clothes for fear they won't have enough to wear, don't be. Clothes have a way of multiplying. And you will want to buy them a few new things of their own. Trust me. 

5) Buy the best quality clothing you can afford. After going through my kid's clothes its clear to me that the splurges were usually worth it—especially if they last for 2 or 3 kids. I shop a lot at Old Navy and Target, but I noticed it was the few splurges at Gap and other higher-end stores that made it into my keep piles.

6) Organize your kid's closets at the beginning of every season and go through the next size of clothes. Don't wait until 2 months into winter and realize you had a coat tucked away somewhere and could have saved $40 on the new one you just bought.

 

So, those are my tips. Have any of you struggled with keeping your hand-me-downs organized? If so, how do you cope? I'd love to hear your own tips and tricks!

Feng Shui Friday—Paint your front door

TGIF, my friends—and that means it is time for a new Feng Shui Friday Challenge. This is a fun one I think.

To find out how you can join the Feng Shui Friday challenge, click here.

Today's Challenge—Paint your front door (or clean and tidy up your entry)

According to Feng Shui principles, your front door is the main source for energy flowing into your home, so it makes sense that you would want it to be neat and tidy, attractive, and functioning well. Improving the appeal of your front entry would be a high priority if you were selling your house. Why not make it just as attractive for yourself and your guests while you are living in it?

Feng Shui experts recommend red for your front door because red stands for vitality, energy, success, and prosperity. But if red doesn't go with your home, don't worry. Pick another color—or, at the very least, make sure it is crisp and clean. 

Do any of you have a colorful front door? If not, are you up for a challenge?

Here is my rather sad front entry:

Beleive me, it has looked even worse. This summer I at least decluttered and planted some flowers in pots to flank the front door. Now the flowers are fading from the cold weather, and I've added some pumpkins that are awaiting the carving treatment. But let's talk about that front door. I'm not actually going to paint it. Yet.

First I am going to replace the door. I know, I know, some people would kill for an authentic mid-century door like this. Replacing it with a similar door would cost lots of cash. What you can't see here though is that there are holes in the door (I've actually seen bees flying in and out of the holes!) and it doesn't seal well. In fact, you can see daylight through the cracks on the inside, and dust and straw even blows in through them if the wind blows from the east. Also, the sidelight windows are sratched and foggy between the glass.

Eventually, we are going to be changing the trim color back to it's original brown (although a bit darker). The house will go from this:

to this (a quick Photoshop hack):

I think the contrast of the darker brown makes the light brick color look so much better and much more modern. (By the way, we are not only replacing the front door, but all the exterior doors on the house, including the garage door.)

Back to the front door. This is (another Photoshop hack on a poor quality photo, but it gives you an idea) what I am thinking for a front door style and color:

What do you think? It is a lot of glass, but out here on the farm privacy isn't as much of a concern. And the light coming through on the inside will be so nice. The paint-chipped steps need some serious attention also. At the very least a new paint job, but even better a faux concrete treatment or tile. 

While I do love the idea of adding a few pops of red (via a couple of Adirondack chairs on the deck and a porch swing, perhaps), I'm not sure I am game for putting it on my front door. But this is what it would look like, just for kicks:

We are still in the middle of the door shopping process, so nothing is final about the style of this door. The width is wider than standard, so we may need to get creative. Just for fun, here are a few more front door looks I am attracted to:  (The top image in this post and each of the following images are from Houzz.)


 

 

Which do you like? I'd love to hear about your own front door adventures. Happy Friday!

Feng Shui Friday—wash your windows

Hello and hurray! It's Friday! (Fridays are the one day I don't have to go anywhere these days—except to and from the bus stop, so I LOVE them.) I think it is time for a new Feng Shui Challenge, don't you? Don't worry, this one is highly practical and fairly obvious: Wash your Windows (#18 in the book 27 Things to Feng Shui Your Home)

Dirty windows stop your vision from seeing the view beyond. It's not hard to relate this in a figurative sense. Cloudy vision keeps you from looking beyond yourself into the world around you. Likewise, dirty windows keep the sun from shining into your home, thus blocking the energy/chi that flows into your home. 

When we built our home in Utah, we moved in next door to a professional window washer. Yes, Dave actually washed windows for a living and he was very good at it. Since he offered to wash our windows in exchange for dinner and a movie out (double date), we took him up on it—multiple times. In fact, I'm pretty sure I never once washed my own windows during the 5 years we lived there. They just didn't get dirty very often in the city.

Now on the farm, dirty windows are hard to ignore.

Between pets' noses, baby's sticky hands, and the dust and grit that is ever present on the farm, my windows do not stay clean for long. And so, I have had to learn to do this job which, I'm afraid, isn't my favorite. I've had to come up with a system that works for me.

These are my tools:

A bucket of hot, soapy water: I use Dawn dish soap. And the hottest water possible. Wash the inside windows first (less dirty) and then the outside. My outside windows are always covered in spider webs in the corners, so my water gets pretty gross by the time I'm finished. 

A good scrubber: Mine comes off the handle and I can toss it in the wash. 

A good squeegee: Squeegee quality and technique is everything, I'm telling you. Neighbor Dave could work the squeegee like I've never seen—so fast and no streaks. He could do our entire house, inside and out, in about an hour. It takes me about an hour to do just my main living areas. (The bedrooms don't get done very often!) 

A long handle: I prefer not to use the handle for better control, but outside there are just places I can't reach without it.

A micro fiber cloth: I use this to wipe the excess water from the sills and clean the window frames if needed. 

Rubber gloves: Fold the edges back into a cuff to catch the drips.

Newspaper and Windex: Follow up with this for a streak-free shine. If you care about that. My windows are old and imperfect anyway, so I embrace the streaks and do the best job I can do with the squeegee. They'll get dirty again anyway, right?

Ah, much better. I love having clean windows. Though now you can see all the chipped paint on the deck, the sad railing, the half-done landscaping job, the weeds, and the dry dry grass that hasn't seen a lick of rain lately and hasn't been watered either. And this door leaks like a sieve (despite the extra weather stripping we've added and our pets have proceeded to chew up) and needs replaced badly.

Gotta go. I have too much work to do!

Feng Shui Friday—organize your . . . refrigerator?

Have you ever thought of adding a little Feng Shui to your refrigerator? I have. And so has my favorite organization guru Benita Larsson, as evidenced by her Pinterest boards. She has pinned the following images:

Source: Shine Yahoo!

Source: cleanandscentsibleSource: bhg.comSource: goodbyehousehellohome

 

 

I haven't taken things quite this far, but I have attempted to group dairy on one shelf, leftovers on one shelf, condiments in the door, etc. I definitely haven't gone so far as to label everything. Maybe if I did my family would start following my system. Hmm?

I was teasing my mom the other night when I was searching for some salad dressing and jam for dinner and ended up throwing away half of the (expired) jars in her door. I well remember my Grandma (her mom) having two very packed refrigerators full of leftovers packed in old cool whip and butter containers. Unfortunately, if I let my refrigerator get too full I end up growing science experiments and throwing it out anyway. I have to be able to see everything or it won't get used. I'm fortunate also to have an extra refrigerator down the hall to make this possible. 

Anyway, here is my own little refrigerator tip:

Every day during the summer we make lunches for Tom to take out to the field. I got tired of going through the daily routine of grabbing the mayo and mustard from the door, the meat and cheese from the drawer, the lettuce from the other drawer, and so on. I decided to make this little sandwich tray that holds all the necessary fixin's:

I just grab it along with the loaf of bread and go to town. Its a simple thing but it really makes the job easier! The tray is just an upside down pan lid. Next summer I am going to take this a step further and make a basket with preportioned carrots, fruit, and cookies. 

My girls eat mostly hot lunch, but if you pack a lot of school lunches, this could make your life so much easier. Happy Feng Shui Friday!

Feng Shui Friday—Add pink to enhance your love life

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 Challenge #26: Add pink to enhance your love life

Number 26 in the book 27 Things To Feng Shui Your Home (as promised I'm not going in order!) suggests adding pink to the "Love and Relationships" corner of your home.

How do you find the Love and Relationships corner? I'm glad you asked. Stand at your front door and imagine your house divided into a grid of 9 squares. The upper right corner is the Love and Relationship corner (according to what is called a Bagua Map.)

Step 1: Declutter this area and make sure it is a comfortable place to be.

Step 2: Add some pink. I'm not saying you have to paint your walls pink. This can be subtle, such as adding some artwork with a touch of pink, or even a peice of pink paper tucked into a drawer.

Feng Shui My Way:

In my house the Love and Relationships corner is the Master bedroom. How appropriate—huzzah!

 In a house with 6 girls (if you count the pets), there is no shortage of pink. But this is what I like to do. Occasionally, when I'm shopping at Sam's Club (or Costco), I like to pick up their big, inexpensive bundles of flowers. Next time, make them pink! Bring them home and separate them into smaller vases so you can enjoy them throughout your home. Especially in the "love" area of your house if you so desire.

 So, does it work? Ahem.... that's for me know and for you to find out. Happy Friday!

Feng Shui Friday—entry organization

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My entry way is a problem area. I'm sure I am not alone. Especially in households with more than two members. The backpacks, coats, and shoes coming in and library books, garbage, and mail going out barely scratch the surface of the problem that is called Stuff That Lives At My Front Door.

I have a long term plan for my entry area the involves removing a couple of closets and adding a bench and hooks (a landing strip/mud room of sorts), but I needed a shorter term solution to save my sanity.

Enter an inexpensive hook rack from Target, an unsused Ikea side table that was on it's way to the thrift store, and a wire basket.

It is too small to be perfect, but it helps tremendously and gives me confidence that my long term plan is the right one.

The hooks provide an easy-to-reach place for my kids to hang their jackets. The table holds purses, diaper bags, etc. for guests or myself. The wire basket holds coupons, library books, outgoing mail, bank deposits, etc. Its nothing fancy, but its functional.


In the basement we had a similar problem spot. Once we got the swing set put together, the girls began using the door in the basement to access the lower yard, leaving a pile in their wake. Utilizing a bench from our old entry in Utah, and a Pottery Barn train rack that was a Christmas gift from my Mom a few years back, I was able to create another entry area. 


Right now it contains running-through-sprinkler gear and other summer toys. In the winter it will hold backpacks and winter coats. 

Have you tackled any organizing projects of your own lately? How about entry way organization? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Feng Shui Friday

To find out how you can join the Feng Shui Friday challenge, click here.

Well, its been over a month since my last Feng Shui Friday post. I think its because I haven't felt very inspired to get rid of my just-in-case items. Let's face it. I live over an hour from the nearest warehouse store and stocking up "just-in-case" is just a way of life for us.

So, moving on. I need to remember my own advice to Feng Shui "my way", as in make Feng Shui work for me rather than the other way around.

What I need the most and why I started this in the first place is ORGANIZATION. I have lots of organizing projects on my to-do list, so I will just share a little one with you today.

I have a cabinet in our living room that houses my piano, guitar, and flute music, as well as a few photo albums. It was looking a lot messy before (left) and it was hard to find anything when I wanted to play.

 

 

The solution was simple (After, right.) During our last visit to Utah I picked up some magazine files at IKEA. I organized my music by category and added labels. (Sorry about the glass glare. Not the best photos. And don't the curtains and carpet add so much??)

 

I also have several binders that house copies of my favorite songs. Every time I wanted to play from one I had to open each one to find the genre I was looking for.  I can't believe I lived without labels this long. I simply used Hodgepodge Hardware from Stampin' Up! that I had on hand, and glued them to the spine of each one.

I also had some linen albums in my stash, so I switched out a few miscellaneous photo albums for a more uniform look and added labels to these as well.

Simple things like this make me happy. Now it is so easy to find what I am looking for and the shelf looks much more put together in my living room. I have a few more magazine files on my shopping list as I was a little short—and I like to have room for overflow. I hope to raise 3 little musicians so I know there will be lots of additions to our music library!

If you have tackled any organization projects of your own lately, do share and leave a comment below. Happy Friday!

Feng Shui Friday—Challenge #6: Get rid of just-in-case items

Click here to find out how you can join the Feng Shui My Way Challenge!

If you have decided like I have that having an organized and peaceful house is imperative, you can join me on by tackling these little challenges. You can start anytime, and you can do any of the previous challenges at any time. If you do, I ask that you leave me a comment and let me know how it went. Let's encourage each other!

Challenge #6: Get rid of "just-in-case" items

In a nutshell, you should not be hanging on to items just in case something happens that is really completely in your control anyway. Sometimes we are afraid the worst will happen, and we almost encourage or allow that thing to happen because we plan for it, "just in case".

I have to admit I haven't completely figured out the "my way" part of this challenge yet (as in how this applies to me). I will have to give it some thought. But here are a few examples:

We have a snow shovel "just in case" it snows. A, this outcome is out of my control. B, we live in Montana so it is ridiculous to get rid of a snow shovel. Bad example.

Let's try another one. Keeping your fat clothes "just in case" you gain weight back is acknowledging that it could happen and giving yourself an out if it does. This outcome is within your control. Deny even the possibility and get rid of those clothes!

Not inviting company over for Sunday dinner "just in case" I don't get my house clean. It is much better to motivate myself for a positive result and invite them ahead of time! Wait. That doesn't apply to clutter, but you get the drift.

Do you have any just-in-case items to get rid of? All I can think of right now is a few "skinny clothes", and that is motivation for a positive result, so I'm not sure if that qualifies. A Feng Shui expert would probably tell me to get rid of them. Oh, and hanging on to my baby stuff just in case I accidentally get pregnant. Hey, it's happened before. Right after I got rid of a bunch of baby stuff, in fact. :)

Let me know if you have any more ideas. I'll see you back here next week to let you know if I had any success. Happy purging!

Feng Shui Friday—Challenge #5: Get rid of unwanted gifts

Click here to find out how you can join the Feng Shui My Way Challenge!

Happy Friday, my friends. Did you have fun getting rid of those unwanted gifts that you have kept in the back of your closet for way to long? Or worse, out on your coffee table even though it makes you cringe because it isn't really you? Did you take this opportunity to purge them? Or did your guilt get the best of you?

I added a few things to my donation pile. Here they are:

AS IF! I don't know who stops by to read my blog and I am NOT going to parade all my unwanted gifts here at the risk of offending someone. But in my quest to declutter and simplify my life, these things are decidely UNWANTED, and its time for them to go.

You know, it really is okay to display unwanted gifts for a short time. We aren't out to offend those we love who were so kind to think of us. But I'm sure those we love would not want us to be burdened with something we don't like forever. So after the grace period is over, let it go, baby. Let it go.

(Pst. If you want to tell me about your purging experiences, I promise I won't tell anyone. You can even sign your comment "anonymous" if you want.)

Check back next Friday for a new Feng Shui My Way challenge!

 

Feng Shui Friday—Challenge #5: Get rid of unwanted gifts (and contest results!)

Click here to find out how you can join the Feng Shui My Way Challenge!

I am aware that it is now Saturday. We had a busy couple of days with special cousin company (more on that later), and I spent too much time in the kitchen to get a post up. Better late than never, I suppose.

First off, I owe you some contest results! If you participated in the last challenge and cleaned out your basement or made a pile of things to donate, you will appreciate how much effort it takes. And if you are still working on it, good on you. Congratulations to our winner, Jolene! Here is her pile:

The best part of her entry was the e-mail she followed up with afterwards:

I took my stuff to the second hand store and thought it was only fair to report that I brought home a bunch of stuff too!!  haha!!
 
Check out these vintage nursing clogs - I love them!
 
later!

 

I laughed out loud because don't we all have that problem? But thanks for the full disclosure, Jolene, and your nursing clogs are super fun and unique. Your book will be in the mail soon!

 

And now for a new challenge:

Challenge #5: Get rid of unwanted gifts.

Depending on how heavy a conscience you have, this challenge should be pretty easy. Do you have any unwanted gifts or that you have

a) stuffed in a closet?

b) displayed with distaste or regret?

c) displayed only when the gift giver comes for a visit?

Now is the time to toss them out, along with the guilt that comes with them. The goal is to love everything in your home and to have nothing around that drains your positive energy. Go for it! (I won't tell if you don't tell.)

Have a great weekend!

 

Feng Shui Friday—Challenge #4 Results: Clean out the basement (its a contest!)

Click here to find out how you can join the Feng Shui My Way Challenge!

Challenge #3: Clean out your basement storage areas.

So, how are you doing? Have you cleared out any clutter?

I should clarify: Your clutter doesn't have to all come from your basement. Not everyone has a basement, but most of us have clutter. And if you do have a basement, you don't have to clear the entire thing out during this challenge. The idea is to make PROGRESS IN GETTING ORGANIZED.

Remember, this is a contest!

You have until Friday, April 15 at 8 AM to send me picture of your pile of donation items and e-mail it to me at joellynclark at yahoo dot com. The biggest pile will receive a copy of either Pioneer Woman's new book Black Heels to Tractor Wheels. or 27 Things to Feng Shui Your Life (Be sure to send your address with your e-mail!) Leave a comment on this post to tell me which book you would like to win or include it with your e-mail.

O.K., so now for my results.

Here is my pile all ready to load in the car to go to Goodwill. I have to wait until my next trip to Great Falls (without too many passengers) so I can take out my back row of seats and make room for it all.

Big pile, huh? Don't worry, I can't win this challenge. :) And to be fair, a lot of this stuff isn't really mine. There is quite a bit that belonged to my Grandpa and was here when we came. But it is still clutter and I can't even tell you how good it feels to get rid of things and free up space.

And this isn't my first load like this. It most definitely won't be my last. I still have more closets to clean out and this (my garage):

In case any of you have the illusion that I am a super organized person, here is a big dose of reality.

Someday when the weather is warm I will be tackling this space. It would be nice to be able to park in the garage. What a concept!

But since this started as a basement challenge, I thought I would show you that, too. Since our basement has been under construction, it has been through various stages of disarray. For a long time our storage room was packed to the gills with our basement furniture. Now since our flooring is in we have moved the furniture all back out and our storage room has become a work space for the last few projects.

Currently we are staining the cabinets for the bathroom in there. (Photos coming soon!) When we finally finish the last of the basement projects and convert this back into a storage room, I will be sure to post pictures of everything organized neatly on shelves and labeled. (Don't hold your breath.) But here's to progress, right?

 

P.S. I wanted to mention something about those donation items. Don't forget to write them off on your taxes! It really is worth it. They are a pain to itemize, so here is what I do. I lay everything out and snap photos. Nothing fancy—just snapshots of several items together laid out on the bed or floor. I keep a folder on my computer called "2011 Donations" and then we can refer back to that when when we are doing our taxes. Quicken makes it simple to itemize them. Works like a charm!

P.P.S. It is a coincidence that the contest deadline lines up with the tax deadline. If you haven't done your taxes yet, I will understand if your donation piles are a little smaller. But just think: next year you will have more deductions!

Feng Shui Friday—Challenge #4 Clean out the basement (its a contest!)

Click here to find out how you can join the Feng Shui My Way Challenge!

Challenge #3: Clean out the basement

Need I say more?

O.K. I realize for many of us this is a huge chore. So let me break it down. Clutter is the biggest enemy of Feng Shui, and much of it congregates in the basement (or the garage, or a storage room, etc.) Storage is a necessary evil, yes. But this week, let's evaluate the items we are storing and decide whether or not we really need to keep them. This is the stuff that goes from storage room to storage room when you move. Wouldn't it feel good to let go of some extra weight?

Then, let's see who can create the biggest pile to donate! Take a picture of your pile and e-mail it to me at joellynclark at yahoo dot com. The biggest pile will receive a copy of either Pioneer Woman's new book Black Heels to Tractor Wheels. or 27 Things to Feng Shui Your Life (Be sure to send your address with your e-mail!) Leave a comment on next Friday's results post to tell me which book you would like to win.

See you next Friday!

Feng Shui Friday—Challenge #3 Clear out old pictures

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This week has just flown by, and I can hardly believe it is Friday again and time for another Feng Shui My Way Challenge:

Challenge #3: Clear out old pictures

The book 27 Things To Feng Shui Your Home warns that keeping old photos around can stir up old negative emotions and wear us down. Now, I am one to treasure old photos like nobody's business, so my first impulse was to dismiss this one. Why deny your past? Not all memories are good, but at least they teach us something. At the same time, when I look through old photos and find relationships and weddings that have dissolved, photos of myself that I don't like, and so on, its true that they stir up negative emotions. I'm going to have to give some thought to this.

The "My Way" part of this challenge is this:

#1: We should all have a good system for keeping our photos organized, both printed and digital. I take a lot of photos, and if I don't keep them organized as I import them, they would be a huge mess. Next week I will show you how I organize my photos and how I back them up to ensure they won't be lost forever in the event of a computer failure. I'm also going to take this week as an opportunity to catch up on my archiving process.

#2: The second part of this challenge is to update the photos you have displayed in picture frames. I haven't hung very many photos in this house yet, but I know the frames I have still packed away in boxes are quite outdated. I am going to make an effort to print some new images to replace them with as I hang them. (I'm not talking about the nostalgic ones. Of course I'm going to keep photos of my late grandparents, our wedding photos, etc. I'm talking about current family photos, school portraits, and the like.)

#3: Think about how you display your photos for others to see. This is where the greatest joy comes from. For me, this blog is a big part of my sharing, but I was recently reminded that I haven't been very good about printing photos for my extended family. My mother-in-law's mantle is severely outdated. Also, I am terrible about getting photos into scrapbooks or albums. The last scrapbook I did was of Abby's first year. I have decided to go digital with my albums, but I have yet to print even one book. Even though it is a project that would be so much for me to work on, it falls to the bottom of my to-do list and I may never get around to it if I don't carve out some time every week to start making progress.

So, join the "picture" challenge with me this week, and tell me how you've done! Good luck.

Feng Shui Friday—Challenge #2 Keep doorways clear

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Happy Friday! Did any of you have a chance to meet Challenge #2 and clear your doorways? Friday came around really fast for me this week, so I was very glad this week's challenge was a little easier than cleaning out my closet.

The hallway/doorway leading to our garage has been driving me CRAZY. This is what it looked like:

Yes, that is a big dog and dog bed taking up most of the hallway. I also had this to contend with:

 

Tom would always come in from working outside and shed his work clothes and boots right inside the door. I'm trying to train him to hang them on the hook in the garage, right outside the door. Still trying.

I have a long term plan for this problem that includes removing the closets you see in the top photo. I will leave an area next to the refrigerator for the dog bed and hooks for Tom's long work clothes. Then, in the rest of the space, I want to have a long bench and hooks to function as a landing strip for our coats, diaper bags, backpacks, etc.

That is all well and good, but who knows how far off the "long term" plan will be. So, to ease my frustration, I came up with a great solution.

First, I removed the bottom two drawers in the built-ins. They weren't holding much more than a few paper bags and empty plastic jugs.

Then, we removed the drawer glides and hammered out the divider between the two drawers.

And we were left with a great new cubby for the dog bed!

Ideally, we would find a different place for the food and water bowls too, but baby steps, my friend. When the weather is warmer I think those can go out in the garage.... along with the dog, I hope. She is pretty spoiled and I don't know if I have the heart to kick her out, but she sheds SOOOO MUCH!!!! I'm pulling my hair out trying to keep her hair vacuumed up. But pulling my own hair out is sort of counter-productive. :) But I digress.

Mia wasted no time trying out her new bed and is just delighted with it, as am I. No more stepping tripping over the dog bed every time I leave the house!

Because of the carpeting deadline in the basement i didn't clean out any closets this week like I wanted to. But the two in this hallway are on my list. Have you been cleaning out your closets? Or clearing your doorways? Do share!

Feng Shui Friday—Challenge #2 Keep doorways clear

Click here to find out how you can join the Feng Shui My Way Challenge!

Hello! It's Friday, which means it is time for our next Feng Shui Friday challenge! Last week we tackled cleaning out our closets—no small task—so this week you will be happy to know we have a less-grueling challenge.

Challenge #2: Keep Doorways Clear

The book 27 Things To Feng Shui Your Home tells us that our doorways are like "mouths" to our homes in which we breathe and circulate energy. True. But if you don't want to look at it that deep, I know I don't like to walk around my house tripping over things.

I have a least one problem area in my house: the door leading from my house to the garage. I am constantly stepping over a dog bed and Tom's work clothes that seem to always land in a heap by the door, and it drives me nuts. I will tell you about my solutions to this problem (and any others I find) next Friday. I hope you will tell me about your experiences too.

Oh, and since this is a fairly simple challenge, feel free to still work on those closet projects and tell me about those too! I am hoping to tackle another closet this week also. Good luck!

Feng Shui Friday—Challenge #1 Closet Cleanout

Click here to find out how you can join the Feng Shui My Way Challenge!

Happy Friday, my friends! Last week I wrote about the first Feng Shui My Way Challenge—Cleaning out your closet. Any closet. I picked my bedroom closet. (And its a good thing I had a deadline for this project, because I waited until yesterday to start it. I think this challenge is going good motivation to tackle some projects that I would otherwise put off indefinitely!)

This is what I started with:

I had 2 bins of clothes on my bedroom floor that I hadn't completely emptied when we moved. Much of it was winter clothes, so I was often digging through it to find things. (Please try to ignore the white dog hair all over these clothes. It is driving me nutso!)

My closet itself wasn't terrible, but it was overfull and still contained a lot of summer clothes.

When I was done it was so much better; much less crowded, and seasonally appropriate. One little trick to share with you: see my boot collection up on top? This Christmas I collected all my empty wrapping paper rolls, cut them in half, and stuffed them inside my tall boots to help them stand up and keep their shape. Something beefier would work better, but for now, this helps tremendously.

Here is the cupboard next to my closet:

I also cleaned out the drawers below it and even emptied an extra drawer for Tom to use.

This project seemd like torture. Not the work itself—that was relatively easy—but the getting rid of things. I have to admit I wasn't as strict as I wish I would have been on purging. When I acquired most of these clothes I had a professional desk job that paid me well, and I wanted to look the part. I spent good money on them, so it made it harder to part with them—even though heels, dress pants, and fancy work clothes no longer fit my lifestyle. I cut myself some slack and will get rid of more things over time.

This is how I tackled the project:

I completely cleared the closet first. See? Here it is looking completely bare.

My intention was to replace those clip thingies with a traditional closet rod. But then I discovered the rods we bought were too long and would need to be cut down. So, the clips remain until my hubby has time to cut the bar and install it.

I sorted all the clothes into piles on my bed:

What didn't go in my closet ended up here:

The bin on the left is full of clothes that don't fit right now. I know you aren't supposed to do this, but I'm sorry—I paid good money for these and I intend to wear them again! My post-baby nursing-momma body can't wear them, but it isn't like I have to lose 50 pounds. Its attainable, and so I will store them until I accomplish this goal. At least they aren't taking space in my closet and making me feel bad every day whe I look at them.

The second bin is summer clothes to store in another closet. I have them all on hangers so they can be swapped out easily in warmer weather.

The bin on the right is clothes and shoes to donate. A good start!

And one more bonus. (Do I get extra credit?) I was on a roll so I organized Tom's closet too. (No before pictures, but trust me—it wasn't pretty.)

I didn't purge anything—I'll leave that up to him—but it is so much neater and hopefully will encourage him to put his clothes away instead of in piles in front of his closet. Yahoo!

The author of 27 Things To Feng Shui Your Home says "Clearing clutter creates space for something new to come in, and what is new can be empowering". Shopping, anyone????? I kid, but as I was going through this process I did reveal a few gaps in my wardrobe and made a list of things that I can concentrate on looking for when I do have a rare moment to shop.

I have so many closets in my home that need this treatment that I am thinking of tackling a different closet every other week (in between my other Feng Shui challenges). If I do I will share it with you.

I hope you will take the Feng Shui challenge and clean out a closet of your own! If you do, leave me a comment below. I will be back next Friday with a new challenge!

Feng Shui Friday

The new year is filled with magazine articles about organization, sales on storage containers of all shapes and sizes, and blogs about getting your life back in order after the holidays. January is a great time to clean out the cobwebs and start afresh. Or, if you're like me, Jaunary is for recovering from the holidays, and FEBRUARY is the time to dig your heels in and start the big clean-out.

Actually, I am a big organizer (at heart) year-round. I daydream about perfectly organized closets and cupboards. In reality, I struggle to acheive it. It takes time to go through everything and get rid of things. Especially after a move and with kids to clean up after on a daily basis.

I have always been intrigued with the concepts of Feng Shui, so I decided to buy an inexpensive little book I once read about on some long-forgotton source: 27 Things to Feng Shui Your Home.

I don't prescribe to the deeper philosophies and religion behind Feng Shui, but at a very basic level, I believe that having an organized space brings peace and positive energy to your home. Having too much clutter wears me down. When I lose track of something it nags at me until I relocate it. Searching through piles to find something is time consuming and frustrating. Thus, getting organized is a mission I will be on for a long time.

I decided it would be fun to use this book as a guide to tackle projects throughout the year. Organization is only part of Feng Shui, however, so many of the items have to do with space clearing and adding positive energy to your home. Some of the 27 things are practical (clean your windows), some a bit more absract (add pink to enhance your love life?). Some I may repeat and some I may skip. In any case, I will find a way to apply them to my home in a practical manner that works for me. That is why it is Feng Shui My Way. If you want to join in, you can apply the projects in a way that suits YOU.

Every other Friday I will post a new Feng Shui My Way assignment. Each Friday in between I will share the project I chose to tackle and invite you to leave a comment about your own experience. You can post the button below on your blog if you would like to follow this project and post about your projects each week!

Use the following URL (/feng-shui-my-way/) to link the button back to the permanent Feng Shui home page on my site (accessible in the menu at the top of this site or by clicking on the Feng Shui My Way button on the right.) There I will keep the information written above and a link to all projects added to date.

 

And now for the first assignment:

#1: CLEAN OUT YOUR CLOSET

You can choose to clean out any closet, but you should start with the one that is most personal to you. In my case, this is my bedroom closet. That is enough for me to tackle in one week, but if you are particulary ambitious you can move on to other closets, cabinets, or drawers in your house. This is one assignment that is likely to repeated!

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”

-William Morris

You have heard the saying above, and it is a great guideline to follow as you are cleaning out your closet. My bedroom closet is much smaller than it used to be, as I wrote about here. Half of my clothes are in bins still, and since I haven't completely swapped out my summer clothes for winter clothes, I am often digging through the bins to get what I need. What a mess. My wardrobe needs are also drastically different here on the farm than when I had a desk job. High heels and dress pants are suddenly highly impractical. I think I may have a hard time getting rid of some of the nice clothes from my past, but I certainly don't need them anymore. I am going to pull everything out of my closet and only put back the things that I really love and feel great in, and that fit my lifestyle now. I would love to pare it down enough to fit everything in my closet, but most likely I will store my summer clothes in another spot.

Here are a few links to get you started:

20 Ways to Organize Your Bedroom Closet

Organize Your Closet with 5 Simple Questions

and Dream Closets to Make you Drool!

 

I do hope you will join me and share your projects. I'll see you back here next Friday with the results!