Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Tidying Up Tuesday: Paper

I've been so excited to get to the papers stage of tidying up, mainly because this is how our papers are currently stored:

There are files in the long box with the hanging folders (the one with the apple sticker), two out of three of the plastic drawers, and papers in the accordion files stacked on top. I wanted to consolidate all the papers and get them off the dresser! 

I pulled everything into the living room to start. Our safe has important papers, with a hanging folder for everyone, except Amelia because the safe only came with four folders. So I added one for her papers. Only took me four years.

I started with the accordion folders, and did mine first. My folder for some reason became the storage place for the receipts for our flex spending account. I threw all of those from before 2018 away. Pretty much everything else from that folder got recycled. Ryan's accordion folder was stuffed with informational handouts from the insurance we had from his previous job. In 2011. Into the recycling they went.

As I found papers I knew I'd want to keep, I made piles on the floor and labeled them.

In the plastic drawers I found just about every single piece of sheet music I've ever sung. Most got recycled. I used the Genius Scan app to save the keepers. My sister did her papers last week, and she suggested I use Genius Scan. The app allowed me to take a photo of each page of music and batch the whole song together in a PDF. Amazing! So much easier than scanning each individual sheet, plus the added bonus of batching the sheets together. If you're organizing papers soon, I highly recommend this app.

Then I went through the plastic tub with the hanging folders. I got rid of old tax documents, manuals, and receipts that were so faded I couldn't read them anymore. The tub went from this:

to this:

Turns out we don't need such a large container for our hanging file folders. Once we decide where we're going to keep this, I may downgrade to a smaller one.

Finally, I decided on a new way to organize my "pending papers," or the ones I need to deal with instead of just save for when needed. Normally I keep them on my bedside table until they start falling off, at which point I remember that I need to deal with them. I bought a paper holder at the dollar store in my favorite color, and put it in the drawer of the bedside table.

I know, I know; the rest of the drawer is a mess. I'll deal with it when I do bedroom komono!

Next up: I'll be out of town next Tuesday. My mom is coming to visit, and she said she'd help with the komono, so I guess it'll be Mom's Choice. She'll have a lot of options to choose from....

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Tidying Up Tuesday: Kids' Books

First, as I promised last week, here is the finished photo of the bookshelves after Ryan added the ones he wanted to keep.

You can see the photo albums in the bottom left corner. I'm so happy those are out of the cupboard! Ryan's collection of Cottage Living magazines are on the bookshelves now, too, which freed up a lot of space on our kitchen island. I'm looking forward to filling that space when I do kitchen komono in a few weeks.

Also, highlight of my day: my sister texted me this afternoon as I was tidying up to tell me that she was going all KonMari on her clothes. She also did her books today. Two categories in one day! I was so impressed.

On to the kids' bookshelves!

I forgot to take a before photo of Amelia's bookshelf, probably because hers wasn't terribly messy. But here's a shot of the boys' shelves.

Sam uses the top of the bookshelf as a depository for all his random stuff. Actually, he uses ALL the shelves for his random stuff, as you can see from the photo. I took all of that off and piled it up for him to deal with when he got home from school.

Benjy stayed home from school today because he woke up with a fever, but it was one of those kid sicknesses where you give them an ibuprofen and thirty minutes later it's like nothing was ever wrong. So I decided Benjy was up to helping with the sorting.

My little helpers

I did the kids' books all together because I figured it was time to move a lot of the picture books over to Amelia's shelves. Unsurprisingly, Benjy and Amelia wanted to keep pretty much every single book. When they weren't looking, I pulled some of the more battered board books out of the keep pile. Amelia is outgrowing them, anyway. Benjy also identified some books he didn't want that I knew Sam would, so those went in their own pile for Sam to look through. He kept all but one or two of those (again, not a surprise).

Amelia's bookshelf: a lot more picture books, fewer board books (but still some)

The boys' bookshelf: No longer encumbered by non-book items! They even had room at the bottom for their composition notebooks full of their own comics.

Just like with the drawers, the kids were given a talking-to about expectations for how their bookshelves are to stay. Sam in particular was warned that the bookshelf is no longer a dumping ground for random things he wants to keep.

I think that having the kids help choose their books gives them some ownership over the project. I felt the same way about the drawers. Making Ben and Sam fold their own clothes and decide which clothes went where was really good for them. They are keeping their drawers neat. Hopefully they can do the same with their bookshelves.

Side note: I keep wanting to call them bookcases. I think that's a regional thing, because my grandma (who lives on the East Coast) referred to them as bookcases on the phone the other day. But no one out here ever says bookcases.

Next week: Paper. I am seriously so excited for this one.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Tidying Up Tuesday: Books

While watching Marie Kondo's Netflix show, I noticed that not a lot of airtime was spent on people organizing their books. I guess for most people organizing their books isn't a big dramatic thing? Well... for me it is.

Being a reader is a big part of my identity, and has been since I was a child. Owning lots of books is a huge part of who I am. I reread my books, so I've always said that I *needed* to keep all of them. But ever since I've gotten deeper into the writing world, more and more books pop up on my radar. My to-read list on Goodreads has almost two hundred and fifty books on it. I've noticed that as I've tried to stay on top of new books, I've been rereading my old books less frequently. What really makes me happy is reading new books, not necessarily owning many books. I tried to keep that in mind as I went through the bookshelves.

Here's a couple photos of the sorting piles:

I wish I took better photos so you could get a true sense of how many flipping books I had to go through.

I started with cookbooks; those were easy, because several of them I had never used. Then I went through magazines. Finally, I had to tackle the actual books. Something that helped me was having a plan for the books. I decided that some books would go to Goodwill, some to the library (donations that don't go into the stacks get used for the library's book sale fundraisers), and some would go to the Cathedral Home, which has programs for teens in need. I made boxes for each one, and as I sorted it was quick and easy to put the books in the correct boxes or my keep pile. I ended up with seven boxes of donation books.

Of course, I kept the books I love. It was easy to pick those out: the set of the Chronicles of Narnia I got as a kid, many of the Agatha Christie paperbacks my grandma handed down to me, my signed books. As I went through them I thought many times, "I should read that one again soon." And maybe now I will.

The best part, for me, was clearing enough space off the bookshelves to put our photo albums on display. My mom has made several gorgeous photo albums for us of our wedding and each of our kids' first year of life. They've been in a cupboard for years because it was a safe place for them. Now they are out and the kids can look at them whenever they want. Tidying really is about making space in your home for the things that truly bring you joy.

I don't have an after photo of the bookshelves yet; Ryan hasn't finished going through his books and putting them on the shelves. Hopefully I'll have one by next week!

Next project: the kids' bookshelves

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Bonus Tidying Up Tuesday: Ryan's Clothes

Since I've started my tidying mission, Ryan's been asking me when we're going to do his clothes. I told him we could do it whenever he wanted, and he hasn't taken me up on it. But on Tuesday, he ended up taking an unexpected day off work, and I needed a project, so we did his clothes!

The closet in our room, which has Ryan's stuff in it

When we moved in, we put two tension rods in the closet for Ryan to hang his clothes on. It was a quick fix so we could get unpacked, and we've never taken the time to actually fix up our closet.

Ryan's dresser. He has six fairly small drawers.

For privacy's sake I didn't take "before" pictures of Ryan's drawers. But suffice it to say that they were stuffed full. Ryan often drags his feet on putting away laundry that I've washed and folded for him because getting the laundry into the drawers is such a pain.

The pile. Our biggest by far.

Shoes to sort (I didn't want them on my bed)

It took almost four hours to go through Ryan's clothes, sort the keepers, and get everything back in place. Usually when Ryan or I has a project we do it on our own, and the other person keeps the kids out of the way. Getting to work on a project together was so nice. I got to explain all of Marie Kondo's tidying principles. Ryan got to share a lot of the memories behind his clothes as we sorted through them. Going through his clothing was a chance for us to have a long conversation, and I'm really glad we got to spend that time together. Also, the transformation was really dramatic!

Everything in this photo is garbage or headed to Goodwill or the consignment shop. Except the chair.

Ryan's "hang up clothes" now fit entirely on one tension rod. When he's done renovating our bathroom, our closet is going to get a makeover. We might even have room in there for my clothes, too!

New and improved sock drawer

Gym clothes


We are now completely done with organizing the clothes in our home. Next week is our books and magazines.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Tidying Up Tuesday: The Boys' Clothes

I've designated Tuesdays as tidying days, but with the boys in school, that would mean doing their tidying in the evenings. That's a busy time of day at our house, so instead I did their clothes this weekend. They had a half day on Friday, so we did Sam's clothes after lunch. I chose to do his first because he's older, and I knew he'd have some hand-me-downs for Ben.

Sam has two large drawers that slide under the boys' bunk bed. As you can see, the struggle with large drawers is that things get jumbled up together. Nothing stays in the right place when Sam is moving stuff around trying to find what he wants.

We put the pile on my bed.

Sam and the "keep pile"

Sam is nine, so he had a clear understanding of what we were doing. He enjoyed having a project to do with me. It was nice to spend time together. I taught him how to fold things correctly, and he caught on and was able to do it. When he surveyed his giant pile of clothes, he said, "Wow, I'm really spoiled, Mom. I have a lot of clothes." We talked about giving his unwanted clothes to Goodwill or his brother, and that made it easier for him to say goodbye to some of his clothes. Sam is a big-time hoarder (I dread doing the sentimental items part of his room), so getting him to part with anything is a big deal.

Shirts and pants

Pajamas, socks & underwear, and the ties the boys share

I bought those bins at the dollar store to help Sam keep his socks and underwear from sliding around in the drawer. We had an extra one, which stored the boys' ties perfectly. When Sam and I were done, I showed Benjy the clothes Sam didn't want, and allowed him to choose what he wanted to keep. He loved "shopping" through Sam's old clothes.

When Sam got dressed this morning, I asked him what he did with his pajamas. His response? "I folded them the special way and put them back with my other pajamas."


Saturday was Benjy's turn. Right before we got started, he got mad that his dad wasn't letting him play basketball, and when I told him it was time to tidy, he refused. I was patient (for the first time ever), and waited it out. In a few minutes, he got up on his own and helped make a giant pile. All three of my kids loved that part of tidying the most!

Benjy has an upright dresser with conventional-sized drawers, but he still mixes up his clothes while looking for what he wants.

"Look at all the clothes I have, Mom!"

Benjy told me at first that he wanted to keep all of his clothes. I was still able to get him to discard some things. He was excited to give some clothes to one of his friends who is younger than him. He didn't want to fold, but after I showed him how he gave it a try and decided it was fun. Benjy is like that. He has to decide for himself that he's into something. I let him choose which clothing went in which drawers, and he appreciated getting to choose.


Socks, underwear, swimsuits (yes I went back to the dollar store for more bins)

Pants and shorts

I have high hopes for the new drawers. Both boys were warned that if they messed up the drawers, we'd have to do this all over again. I also offered to help them if they weren't sure where to put things or if something got unfolded. I have loved my new drawers, and I hope the boys will, too. That will make it easier for them to keep their clothes in order.

Next week: My books. I'm a little terrified.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Tidying Up Tuesday: Amelia's Clothes

I have been LOVING the new layout of my drawers. I even showed them to my parents on FaceTime because I was so excited about it. And good news! My husband wants to go through his clothes, too! It's just a matter of finding the time. Maybe when he's finished renovating our bathroom.

This week's project: my four-year-old's clothes.

Her stuff tends to get jumbled up in her drawers as she tears them apart looking for the specific thing she wants. I'm hoping that with our new way of folding, she won't do that as much because she'll be able to see all of her clothes. But, she is only four, so I'm prepared to have to redo these drawers a few times.

Making the big clothes pile was a lot of fun!

We piled her things on my bed. 

Amelia had a lot of fun going through her clothes with me. She said YES to just about everything, even shirts I know she's never worn because they "aren't pink enough." Some of those yeses I honored, and some went into the donate pile when she wasn't looking. We also found several items that were clearly too small for her and for some reason had never been culled out of her clothes.

Her donate pile was much smaller than mine!

In the end, we took clothes to the consignment store, Goodwill, and the Laramie Foster Closet, which provides children's clothes to foster families that have an immediate need for clothing.

Refolding everything took a while. In the end, though, I got everything to fit. One of her drawers had extra blankets in it, so I emptied that out and used it for some summer clothes that I'd saved because they'll probably fit her next summer. That got the summer clothes out of two drawers in one of the plastic containers in her closet. My goal of eradicating the plastic drawers in my house is becoming closer to a reality.

Anyone want to take bets on how long these drawers look like this?

Next week: Sam's clothes

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Tidying Up Tuesday: My Clothes

Today was the first day of tidying, so I started with my clothes. I figured it'd be easier than starting with my kids' stuff, because no one else needs to give input on my clothes. I'd be flying solo.

I have clothes in three places: a dresser in my bedroom, a plastic three-drawer cart in my closet, and my daughter's closet. Amelia's closet is the biggest in the house by far, and yet she's the smallest and the only one who doesn't share a room with anyone else. So my husband's clothes hang in our closet, and mine go in Amelia's room.

I did a few things to prepare for tackling my clothes. Yesterday I made sure I washed everything of mine that was in the hamper, so I wouldn't miss anything today. I also made sure the clothes I wore yesterday were things I knew I'd be keeping, so I wouldn't have to retrieve them from the hamper to sort them. Same with the clothes I wore to exercise this morning. I was not into the idea of putting dirty clothes on my bed.

Here's my pile:

Remy is not amused

It might not look too big in the photo, but I think that's because my dresses and skirts were on top and they covered a lot of the smaller items. And yes, those are two wedding dresses piled up on the side. It's a long story.*

*no it isn't; I was engaged before Ryan and I started dating, and I broke things off before the wedding but after buying a dress. And I wasn't going to wear a tainted dress to marry Ryan.

I went through the pile and tried to spark joy with my clothing. Some of it clearly did, like a shirt with owls on it that my sister gave me ten years ago, and a t-shirt that says Reading is For Awesome People. Other items were meh, but I had to keep them for practical reasons (like the undershirts I use to layer). Some thing actively sparked hate, like the nylons I haven't worn in years because they suck. Those went in the trash. I also found a ton of maternity/nursing stuff in the plastic drawers that I finally felt like I could get rid of.

After I went through everything, I had to put it all back. Good news! I no longer need to put anything in the plastic drawers! My hanging things are still in Amelia's closet. Maybe I can convince Ryan to sort through his clothes, and then rearrange our closet so both of our stuff can fit in it. A girl can dream. The hardest work was fitting things in my dresser. I decided to reconceptualize where things in the drawers went, to fit everything in. I'm really please with how it turned out. Completing this project (except for taking the clothes to donate) took about two hours.

Pants drawer: jeans and other ankle-length pants; leggings and exercise pants; shorts. THEY ALL FIT WHEN YOU FOLD THEM KONMARI-STYLE

Pajama drawer: Pajama tops; pajama bottoms; sports bras and swimsuit

Because I don't buy a lot of clothes, and because I'd gone through my clothes two years ago, I anticipated that I wouldn't get rid of very many things. I was wrong.

That's a laundry basket overflowing with clothing I no longer wanted.

Our local consignment shop only lets you give 25 items a week, so I picked out the 25 best ones and took them in to the store. They also took the hangers I no longer needed. The rest of the clothes I gave to Goodwill. I did throw some things away, like the nylons and some undershirts that were pretty ratty. All in all I got rid of around 60 items of clothing. Plus, I am finally going to deal with the extra wedding dress I've been carting around for 11 years. On that note, do you need a wedding dress?

Next week: Amelia's clothes

Monday, January 7, 2019

Tidying Up Tuesday

Have you seen Netflix's new show Tidying Up With Marie Kondo? It is my new favorite thing. I especially love that Netflix chose to air it at the beginning of January. For me, January is a month of hope, where I resolve to take control of my life and change the things that make me unhappy. Do I stick with those changes all year? Not always, but for January, at least, things are magical. It also doesn't hurt that my birthday is at the end of the month!

I read Marie Kondo's bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up almost two years ago. I found a lot of good in the book, including several principles that I have managed to follow consistently since then. This includes the idea that it's easier to clean up if things have a clear place that they belong, a principle that made cleaning my kids' rooms easier. I have also embraced storage totes in my life. And finally, when deciding whether or not to part with an item, I find it easy to tell myself that if I haven't used it in years, I don't need to hang on to it. If I suddenly need it five years from now, chances are I'll be able to replace it.

I did the first step, Clothing, two years ago, and really enjoyed the results. I do fold my clothes differently now. Having the clothing stand up makes it so easy to see what is what, instead of having to dig through clothing stacked on top of each other. However, I only did my clothes. I didn't touch my kids' stuff. Why? I don't know. I lost steam, I guess.

The next step is Books, and I remember thinking two years ago that I would never get rid of my books, and that KonMari lady clearly did not respect books enough. Watching the Netflix show has really brought me around, though. When you deliberately choose what items to keep in your home, you feel better about what surrounds you. Unfortunately, two years ago, I allowed the thought of keeping all my books no matter what to be the thing that stopped me from tidying up the rest of my home.

We bought this house three and a half years ago. It's a fixer-upper; livable, but we've altered literally every room in the house. My husband tore down walls, built new walls, ripped out appliances, and even raised a sunken living room. In sum, our home is in a constant state of flux. Instead of dealing with the clutter and lack of organization, I've told myself for so long that this is the way things are, and I just have to deal with it. But that's not true at all. I can do something about the clutter and disorganization of my home.

It's January, and I'm feeling ready to change. I'm taking that energy and am going to use it to KonMari my entire home. I plan on chronicling it here, even though this is ostensibly a writing blog. Every Tuesday I plan on tackling the clutter, KonMari style. Tomorrow is my own clothing. Wish me luck!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

New Year's Writing Resolutions

New Year's Eve is one of my favorite holidays--there's something satisfying to me about closing the door on a year and looking forward to a new one. I love making New Year's resolutions. I am not great about keeping them after January, but I am great about not beating myself up about that fact.

This holiday season, however, has been exhausting. I've had strep throat and a sinus infection (not at the same time, thankfully), which didn't help. There were things going on at my kids' school and at church that I had to get through. One of my cousins got married in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I had some extra travel thrown in there. I saw a thread on Twitter about it being okay not to make resolutions for 2019 if you feel like just surviving is all you can do, and that really resonated with me. While I love the promise of a new year, and usually try to capitalize on that, I don't want making resolutions to feel like one more thing on an endless to-do list.

So we'll see how exhausted I feel on December 31st. Maybe I'll resolve to make improvements in my life. Maybe I'll resolve to be okay with just keeping my head above water. Whatever you may choose to do, I hope it brings you happiness and a sense of purpose.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Getting back into things

I quit NaNo because I got strep throat a few days before Thanksgiving. With family in town for the holiday on top of everything else, I just missed too many days to be able to make up the deficit. I was upset at first, because I didn't win last year, and really wanted a win this year to... I don't know, prove to myself that I was able to write a new book?

In the end, I decided I was okay with it, because I hadn't really wanted to start a new book in November. I wanted to work on the edits for the Ghost Girls book. So when I stopped writing for NaNo, I told myself I would work even harder on Ghost Girls.

And then I didn't. I gave myself permission to not write. I read a lot. I worked on Christmas stuff. But today I finally felt the itch to get back to it. And it was glorious. I hope the itch lasts. Because I really love this book.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Fun Announcement!

I'm teaching a class at the Storymakers writing conference next May!

I went to my first Storymakers as a baby writer, and fell in love with the camaraderie of being surrounded by fellow writers, the amazing agents and instructors that appear, and if I'm being 100% honest, getting a weekend away from being MOM. I took a couple of years off when my youngest was born, and now I attend every year. I always come home with new skills I'm eager to try, and at least one new friend.

After the last Storymakers, I stopped by one of my grad school classmates' homes on my way out. We were talking about what I'd been doing all weekend, and I mentioned some of the classes I took, including one on poisons taught by Gregg Luke, a pharmacist and author. My friend and her husband said, "You could teach a class like that, for genetics!" And thus the idea was born. I pitched the class to the conference organizers, and a few weeks ago was informed that they'd like me to teach the class!

I would highly recommend the Storymakers conference even if I weren't presenting. The faculty and special guests are top-notch. The atmosphere is inclusive and supportive. If you're considering attending a writing conference in 2019, you should definitely check it out: http://ldstorymakersconference.com. While many of the organizers and attendees are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the conference does not have a religious angle and all are welcome to attend. I'd love to see you there!