52 Weeks To A Simplified Home: Project 12

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This week I finished the downstairs bathroom.

bathroom cabinet popcorn makerYou are probably thinking “is that a popcorn maker in the bathroom?”Why yes it is. Let me explain. I was short on kitchen cabinets for our small appliances, and then my husband put in these cabinets in the bathroom just off the kitchen. I wasn’t sure what to do with all the space, and then I saw an opportunity.

It might seem a bit weird to store a crock-pot, a roasting pan, a deep fryer and a popcorn maker in your bathroom, but it works for us and hey I am not ashamed to admit it “we are weird”.

seventh generation our families favorite cleanerFirst I took everything out of the cabinet and wiped it all down with our families favorite cleaner that you can get from ePantry (psst… get $10 of your first order using my referral link) . ePantry delivers cleaners right to my door at competitive prices, giving me one less excuse not to get my cleaning done.

upper bathroom doneThe upper cabinet didn’t end up looking all that different.

lower cabinetThe lower cabinet however is much more organized. The top shelf is now entirely open for clean towels. As you can see there are currently none. I have a tonne of laundry to catch up on.

I gave the paper towels their own basket and placed the car interior cleaners behind them. I know a lot of thrifty households don’t use paper towels, but I think my husband would hold a revolt if I stopped buying them much like the one he held when I tried to switch us over to 100% homemade cleaners, and since he likes to help me out by cleaning then I think I can make paper towels work in our budget. We do also use rags as much as possible.

What did you declutter this week?

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Grab the plan and declutter along with me.

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52 Weeks To A Simplified Home: Project 11

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I continued work in the downstairs bathroom this week. Next week will be the last week in this room before stepping into a 4th room for this year. I am thinking the next room will be the kitchen, but that could change.

bathroom drawerI decided to do the bathroom drawer and…..

bathroom shoe binThe bathroom shoe bin. Yes I know most people don’t have a basket for shoes in their bathroom. We do! It all started because I was in a hurry to pick up the house one day so a grabbed a laundry basket and threw everyone’s runners in the bathroom in a bin and then left it there. You see when the kids and I work out we tend to head straight to the shower shoes and all. So the bin became kind of handy. There really isn’t room for it though and it is kind of an eye sore so I am going to try and get rid of it.

bathroom junkIt really didn’t take long to clean up the 2 areas. In the end I ended up with an entire plastic grocery bag full of garbage.

bathroom drawer doneThe drawer now just holds, swim goggles, hair accessories and my husbands wrist band support . The goggles and wrist band might find a new home that makes more sense when I declutter the last area of the bathroom next week.

empty basketThe basket is 100% empty and has now been moved out of the bathroom. Hopefully it stays out.

What did you declutter this week?

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Our New Flexible Children’s Chore System

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If there is one thing I have learned in 19 years as a parent it is that schedules, routines, and systems all change with the seasons.

One such system that changes as the children age is chores. How much to pay for a chore. How many chores each child has. What the child is expected to do with their money and so forth.

I have known for a while now that our current system of a set chore chart for each child and a set allowance wasn’t working anymore.

My children are all older now and no longer home all day at the same time. My oldest just got his first job. My middle child attends a christian private school 2 days a week. My daughter is a social butterfly visiting with her friends when ever she gets the chance.

A flexible Children's chore system adaptable to changing daily life.

All the activities mean that sometimes during the day only one child is home. Other times no children are at home. Problem is chores need to be done whether the kids are home or not and that left my husband and I or another child picking up the slack for the child/children not home when the dishes needed doing or the laundry needed sorting. Which means we were doing chores other people were getting paid to do.

So in a moment of pure parent frustration born out of a child who was whining about sorting laundry because it wasn’t her chore, our chore system got  long over due update. One that I hope will last us through these final years as the children leave the nest (our youngest is now 12).

I made this system up in one afternoon, and based it on the sugar bowl system we use to use when the children were much younger and had been using still for irregular chores. This system is flexible. The chores are assigned on a day by day basis meaning those that are home get paid to do chores and those that are not home that day, miss out on earning money.

Our New Children’s Chore System

monoply money

I am all about simple, so I knew we needed a simple way to keep track of work done as it was done so that I knew how much I owed them at the end of the month.

I knew the simplest thing to do would be to switch to an automatic pay system. As in you do the chore you get paid instantly. However, I like making payment for chores as close to real life as possible. I don’t know about you but I know my husband doesn’t get cash at the end of each work day.

I also prefer paying my children in a lump sum at the end of the month because I find it easier to teach them how to tithe and save for bigger purchases. It is possible to take the .50 cents you just earned from emptying the dish washer and put .05 cents aside for tithe , save .30 cents and put .15 cents in your spending but time consuming. My children do several chores a day and I didn’t want that much change in the house at one time.

Which is where the picture of the Junior Monopoly board game comes into play.  I wanted the problem fixed right now! I wasn’t about to run to the store and buy fake money. Nor did I want to make up a bunch of paper slips like last time, since the kids earn a lot more chore money now then they use to and writing all those slips out would cramp any hand.

making chore moneySo I grabbed the money out of the Junior Monopoly game and photocopied it and then broke out our laminator and  laminated it. I assumed that since this is only for personal use, and I owned the Junior Monopoly game I used that I wouldn’t be breaking any laws to photocopy it and use it in our families chore system.

photo copied quartersThe Junior Monopoly only has $1, $2, $3, $4 and $5 and I wanted to do a half dollar too. I thought about cutting a bunch of the $1 in 1/2 but then thought I could just photocopy quarters instead.

large paper cutter slicing chore money in halfI then cut the laminated sheets of money in half with our large full sized paper cutter.

small paper cutter for chore moneyI then used my smaller creative memories paper cutter to cut out the rest of the money.

our pay slips for our new chore system

I put all the money slips into separate bags and placed them all in a zippered pencil case.

The rule is each child is to report to mom or dad when their chore is done and ready for inspection. If upon inspection a parent sees something that isn’t done right the child must correct it without whining. If you whine, you don’t get paid.

Once the chore is done right the child gets their pay slip which they put in their pay envelopes.

Our chore cards The children pick out a certain number each day and exchange them for payment when done

For the chore cards I didn’t get as fancy as I did with the money slips. I used simple index cards and wrote what the chore was across the top. Then below I wrote any further instructions (such as cleaning toilet means cleaning around base, both sides of seat and the bowl) .  I then wrote in the price.

chore envelopes they hold the chore payment slips until the end of the month when they have pay day.

To keep the pay slips all in one place until the end of the month when my children get their pay day, I wrote each child’s name on an envelope and placed it in an empty container.

What chore system do you currently use at your house?

7 ways to raise a thrifty child (button)Here are 7 ways we are raising our children to be thrifty

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52 Weeks To A Simplified Home: Project 10

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I am 10 weeks into 52 Weeks To A Simplified Home and I have to be honest every single week I struggle to get started with the area I am decluttering.  However week after week I love the results, and those make me glad I did it each and every week.

I ….don’t…like…to…clean. Not one bit. But as Ruth says in her book  Living Well Spending Less: 12 Secrets To The Good Life, cleaning is part of being an adult.  I am an adult so whether I like it or not I must clean.

Our messy bathroom counterThis week I decided to do the counter of our main floor bathroom. The mess on this counter has bothered me for months. When the mess started it was just a hair dryer in that white bin. As you can see the mess grew.

clearing the bathroom counterI decided the best way to start with this mess was to clear off the entire counter, mirror and all. After the area was all cleared off I wiped it down with our families favorite Seventh Generation All Purpose cleaner that we get through ePantry (start your account with $10 towards your first purchase when you go through my referral link) .

all the bathroom counter stuffI then took the time to go through ever single item that was on the counter. I filled an entire plastic grocery bag with garbage.

I found a few smaller stackable containers to put the rest of the items in. I placed them in those containers and put them in the area under the sink that I freed up last week.

clean mirrorThe first item I put back on the counter was the mirror. I gave it a good cleaning with the Seventh Generation glass cleaner I ordered from ePanty a while back. I really like the way it worked; best part no harsh fumes.  Cleaner fumes often trigger my migraines.

clean bathroom countersI put back just the essentials and am very pleased with all the empty counter space.

What did you declutter this week?

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How To Maximize Your Carry On Luggage Space

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My son had the chance to go on a week long mission trip with Back to Back Ministries through the small christian private school he attends 2 days a week. The first email about flying instructions stated a $25 fee for checked luggage I immediately decided “I refuse to pay for a service that use to be free, so carry-on it is.”

How to maximize your carry on luggage space I can't believe what fit in this bag!Then I read the included packing list in detail and began to doubt myself. The list suggested 2 outfits a day due to the hot and sweaty conditions. Also on the list was a twin sheet set, beach towel, swim trunks, notebook and bible, snacks, flashlight, batteries, hat, socks, work shoes, flip flops, sunscreen, soap, shampoo, deodorant, underwear, anti nausea pills, imodium, ibuprofen, wet wipes, hand sanitizer and of course snacks.

Since he was going for an entire week, that meant he needed 12 outfits. In the end with my son’s agreement I packed 12 t-shirts, 12 pairs of boxer shorts and 8 pairs of shorts . We both figured he could change the things closest to his body after working and reuse the shorts for the rest of the day.

If my son were not such a picky eater, snacks would have been unessential, but I couldn’t let the boy who likes roughly 20 different food items completely starve, so we ended up packing 12 granola bars and 12 snack sized containers of fish crackers.

My son is also extremely heat intolerant and gets dehydrated quickly so I packed 24 sticks of Gatorade so that he could have 2 sticks a day to put in his purified water and make sure he keeps up his electrolytes.

I knew I only had a backpack that he could consider a personal item and the black carry on bag seen in the photo above to fit that all in. So I used some of my husband’s tricks for compact packing and then came up with a few of my own.

How to Maximize Your Carry On Luggage Space

1. Purchase good quality zip lock bags

I know from past experience that packing clothes in zip lock bags takes up less space and keeps them clean until the child wears them. The second half of that tip comes in handy when you send younger kids to summer camp.

The key to this step is use good quality zip lock bags. I have used and liked the Aldi brand and the Ziploc brand.

2. Roll or fold the clothes to fit the bag.

Here is how I fit the t-shirt and boxer shorts in their bags

folding t-shirts step oneI placed a pair of folded in half boxer shorts inside a folded in half t-shirt. If my 14 year old ever reads this I am sure he is not going to like me talking about his boxers so much, but hey at least there are not photos of them. (but you do get to see my foot in this picture :) ).

t-shirt one foldI then folded the top down to mid way down.

folded again t-shirtI folded the bottom over the top for the final fold.

putting t-shirt in bagI then slipped the t-shirt into the gallon sized Ziploc bag. You will notice it matches the width of the bag almost perfectly. My son is an adult large (he is almost 6 feet at 14 yrs of age), so depending on the size you are packing you might have to play around with your folding to achieve the width.

how to get the air out of a ziploc bag when using it for packingI then harnessed the power of my behind and sat on the Ziploc bag to get out all the air. While sitting on it I sealed it. I left all the space at the top so that the bag could fit upright in the carry on. By having the bags upright I could squeeze more in.

t-shirt packed as small as possible for carry onThe result is a vacuum sealed bag effect without the vacuum seal machine. The Ziploc bag does seem to regain a bit of air over time, so I did all of the t-shirts and shorts at the same time so that I could get them squeezed in while they were at their smallest.

rolled in shorts to fit in carry onFor shorts I simply rolled them up and then…

2 pair of shorts packed for carry onplaced 2 in a bag one on top of the other and used my bottom air vacuum technique to get them as small as possible.

 3. For items that don’t fit in zip lock bags roll them to fit remaining space

The twin sized sheets and beach towel did not fit in zip lock bags so I simply rolled them to fit down the space beside the bags. This left me with one small square space at end where I put in his quart sized bag of personal items like shampoo and soap, as well as a small travel sized flashlight and batteries.

The carry on also had two front pockets. I used one to hold his bible and notebook and the other to hold his bandana and socks.

I was also able to get a few of the snacks in the bag as well.

There are actually 6 shorts, and 11 shirts & boxers in the black carry on bag. I will show you what I did with the last 2 pairs of shorts and t-shirt and a few other items.

back pack as personal item for carry onI packed the last t-shirt and 2 pairs of shorts in this backpack. I probably could have squeezed it in to the carry on but I was sending these things with a very absent minded 14 year old and I just had this fear of him walking onto the flight with the backpack slung over his shoulder and the carry on left by itself next to the chair he was sitting on while he waited for the flight. Rather than leave him with just the clothes on his back I made sure he would have at least a spare outfit should this happen.

In this backpack I also packed his water bottle (empty for refilling at filtered water station) His anti-nausea pills (he gets travel sick). The other over the counter items the mission recommended . His wallet and passport. Chewing gum to pop his ears. Tissues for bleeding noses (I get them almost every time I fly and I didn’t know if he would or not). Wet wipes for his hands. Plus a few other travel papers he needed.

The shirt on the front you see in the photo was his group travel shirt that he put on just before he left.

I am pretty happy with how I was able to fit things in. I think I could have even taking things smaller if I didn’t divide up his snacks into one days worth per zip lock bag. However, knowing that my son is a picky eater I wanted to help him to ration out his snacks to last the week (whether that worked or not only time will tell :) ).

Road Trip Packing To The Max (small)See how our family of 5 makes use of every square inch of our SUV for road trips.

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52 Weeks To A Simplified Home: Project 9

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Now that the dinning room is done I have decided to move on to the downstairs bathroom.

bathroom cupboardI chose to start on the cabinets below the sink. It was quite a jumble of products down there.

product pileI took everything out of both cupboards and cleaned the spilled super washing soda off the bottom of the cabinet ( that is the white stuff you see in the photo. I love super washing soda for natural cleaning, it cleans gunk off of doors and does an amazing job on walls. It also does wonders on mustard and grass stains.

bathroom cabinet doneI divided the products up into two piles, cleaning products and personal products. I made one cabinet a cleaning supply cupboard and the other cabinet now holds our personal product stash.

You might notice that the cabinets in this bathroom are unstained and that is because my husband got about 80% done on this bathroom and then moved on to another project, leaving the cabinets without trim. I have been waiting for him to get back to it and finish the trim so I can stain them. Not thinking it will happen soon though. Oh well he is a great help around the house and he doesn’t have a lot of extra time on his hands so it can wait.

What did you declutter this week?

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52 Weeks To A Simplified Home: Project 8

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I  procrastinated on doing this week’s project leaving it until just yesterday. Problem was yesterday seemed already packed and I woke up in a grouchy mood, meaning I really had to push myself to get the work done.

side table I decided to do the one last area of the dinning room that needed decluttering. I call this our side board. It is really just a $7 yard sale find I had my son repaint. I am not sure what the pieces original purpose was but it fits in this spot of our dinning room perfectly

We use it mainly to store some photo albums, the kids Nintendo DS systems that they don’t use except for when we go camping (yeah we don’t rough it when we camp) and my husband’s paper piles.

Just like I use the top of the dresser in the dinning room as my home office, my husband uses several baskets on this piece of furniture as his home office. Not ideal but it works.

empty side boardFirst I emptied out the entire cabinet. Then I gave it a good dusting. I also pulled it away from the wall and cleaned behind it.

I then went through the contents. I didn’t add much to the giveaway pile. I did have a pile of small tools to put downstairs and a pile of cleaners to put in the bathroom. The end result is not impressive, mostly because a lot of the paper stuff is my husband’s and he wasn’t home when  I did this so I got rid of 100% pure junk only, like receipts for take out meals, and left the rest of the stuff for him to go through.

side board doneI guess it does look somewhat neater and I do now have an entire empty shelf. I am thinking of finding a basket that would fit in the empty shelf so my husbands paperwork could go in there instead of the one on top of the cabinet. That would free up space for a framed print to be displayed. I really do prefer display items only on top of furniture.

Oh and if you are wonder what is in those three sugar bowls those are my children’s pay slips for chores.

What did you declutter this week?

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52 Weeks To A Simplified Home: Project 7

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This week I realized that thanks to my husband pitching in and decluttering a few areas of the house on his own (I love my cleaning man) I was ahead of schedule.

Looking around though I realized that instead of moving on to another area I really needed to spend my time cleaning up some mess that our weekend away had made, as well as a busy week.

our weekend getaway messWe went on a night away just the two of us thanks  to a Christmas gift from my husband’s parents, and gift cards earned on Black Friday. When we got home we just dumped our stuff and went running into the week. Several days later our pile was still here! Embarrassing.

mess in the dining roomThis mess was created by 2 weeks of dumping the groceries out of bags and boxes and then never getting around to putting the bags and boxes away. Oh and tools are from a project my husband is working on for our church.

againThis pile really got to me. I just cleaned this area 2 weeks ago! The kids have a bad habit of piling stuff here from the dining room table when I tell then to set the table for dinner.

I got to admit I looked at all the mess and was a bit overwhelmed especially since I had so much on my to do list the day I decided to tackle this.

timer on my ipodI decided the best way to motivate myself to get the work done was to set a timer and see how fast I could get it done.

timer all done

In just over 16 minutes all three areas were decluttered . I promise I didn’t cheat either. All the things in the piles went to their proper homes.

decluttered couch

jacks tools

dinning room table decluttered againMuch better. Oh and if you wondering why I left that one box of tools in the middle picture, well my husband is still currently working on that project every night in the TV room off the dinning room and so I decided it was best to leave it handy for him and just re-box it up so it all fit in one box.

What did you declutter this week? 

If you need encouragement to help reach your simplified home goal, or another goal you have set for the year check out the Snail Pacing Goal Achievers Facebook group.

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What I Have Learned So Far From 52 Weeks To A Simplified Home

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I am just over 6 weeks into my goal of decluttering one area of my home for every single week of 2015. I am loving all the people who have joined in the challenge with me and are active over in the Snail Pacing Goal Achievers facebook group.

Not all the members of the group are working on decluttering as I made it open to anyone working on a goal in 2015, but most are and the support has been great.

6 things I have learned about decluttering since starting my year long journey to a simplified home

With so much of  the year ahead of me, I am surprised by all the project has taught me already.

6 Things 52 Weeks To A Simplified Home Has Taught Me So Far

1. Rooms seem much larger, brighter and cleaner when you have less stuff.

For about a good week after I finished decluttering the last area of the library, I couldn’t come down the staircase of our home without saying “wow I can’t believe how much bigger this room looks”.

I know it should be a no-brainer less stuff of course equals more space, but for some reason it shocked me just how much more space we would gain.

2. It is quicker to pick up a room when it is clutter free.

Before decluttering the library I use to spend at least 10 minutes a day tidying it up  and then throw my hands up and say “good enough for the friends I keep” and moved on to tidying up another room .  After decluttering  I can clean up the whole room including straightening the shelves of the built in bookcase in 2 to 3 minutes tops.

3. Decluttering doesn’t really take that long.

Before I took the time to break down every inch of our home into 52 different areas, I was overwhelmed by the idea of a full house declutter. I would read books swearing a whole house declutter job could be done in a weekend and feel mentally frozen by that revelation. “Where on earth do I start?”

Having a plan and the knowledge that this week I just have to concentrate on this area, has really help me see that decluttering doesn’t take as long as you might think. All the projects I have done so far have taken me under an hour with some taking less than 30 minutes.

Will I ever take on a full house top to bottom declutter project? Nope, I did it once when we moved from British Columbia to Indiana and although it worked great to get our house sold much faster than expected it is overwhelming and exhausting. I would only recommend it to those wishing to get their homes ready for realtor showings.

6 weeks in and I am thinking, this 52 week to a simplified home project is going to be a year after year goal. I much prefer doing things at a snail pacing rate.

4. A great decluttering session starts with a good decluttering routine

A few weeks in I got a good decluttering routine going. It goes like this

  1. Asses the area and decide the best way to attack it (for example do I empty the area out all at once or one drawer or box at a time)
  2. Grab the recycle bin, a garbage bag, a box for giveaways and a box for things that go else where.
  3. Clear out area (as much as I am doing at one time)
  4. Clean cleared area
  5. Go through stuff, recycling, giving away and placing items in other places box.
  6. Put what is left back in area.
  7. Put recycling and trash away, put things to give away in my husbands truck (more on this in the next point)
  8. Finally take the box of stuff that belongs elsewhere and put the contents away.
  9. Step back and take in the progress I made.

The hardest part is step 8 and 9, by then I just want to admire my decluttered space, but I force myself to deal with the items no longer going in the space first.

5. Get rid of the giveaway box right away.

If you let the giveaway box sit in your home too long, you or the kids, or you hubby will become tempted to take the item out because “surely you could use it some where” or “well my aunt so and so did give it to me” or……….(put in your excuse here).

The longer the box sits there the more excuses that you create to keep it.Since I am the worst one at this in our home, I am trying to be very disciplined about marching the giveaway box right to my husband’s truck the first minute he is home, and having him drop it off so I can’t try and sneak things out of the pile before I place it in the drop off box at the thrift store.

6. Decluttering is contagious.

Since I started this project I am noticing that my cleaning husband who usually just cleans around clutter is actually going through piles and dealing with the items in them. He has taken 2 or 3 boxes worth of stuff to the thrift store that he found while tidying up that he figured we no longer needed. He did ask me to check the boxes to make sure he wasn’t giving away something I wanted to keep, and I can honestly to say, I didn’t keep a thing out of those boxes.

I am loving this as it means less work for me as the year goes on.

If you have been joining along what have you learned so far about decluttering?

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52 Weeks To A Simplified Home: Project 6

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Six weeks into this project already. I have to admit some weeks I don’t mind posting photos of my mess at all since it seems pretty normal. But then there are weeks like today, where I feel slightly embarrassed by my mess. However perhaps embarrassment is needed if I am ever to cure myself of my piling habits.

my sports gear messThis is the dresser where I store all my workout clothes, and my workout gear. It is in my dining room of all places. Why? Because I use to workout early and my husband use to worked late, so to avoid waking him up we both agreed to moving my workout stuff to the dining room and that is where it has stayed for years and years.

Why a dresser full of workout gear. Well I do live in Indiana where it has been said that you can start your day in a winter parka and end it in a tank top and shorts. Because of the moody weather, I have workout clothes for rainy days, snowy days, cold days and hot days. I also have workout gear for running, biking and swimming.

Why all the mess of papers on top of the dresser? We don’t have an office in our home, so the top of the dresser is my filling cabinet. This is one thing I plan to change by the end of this 52 week challenge. I am hoping by tossing out the unnecessary I can make room for an office space somewhere that is big enough to hold all our papers and office supplies.

The junk beside the dresser. More office supplies, and more workout gear and …….a lot of other stuff that shouldn’t be there.

dresser drawers.I started the declutter process by putting the drawers on the living room floor. I then emptied out the drawers one at a time. I vacuumed dust out of each one and placed only the items I really use back in the drawers and discarded the other items.

dresser drawers all cleanFrom exploding to lots of room. That looks so much better doesn’t it.

recycling and giveawayBy the time I was done I had half a ThredUp box full of recycling and half a Zulily box full of things to go to the thrift store. Online cloth shopping has more perks than great deals it also gives you free decluttering materials :).

trash from dresserI also filled up half a kitchen trash bag with trash. YIKES!

I forgot to take a picture of me decluttering the top of the dresser, but I did pretty much the same thing. I cleared it all off and emptied the containers one by one.

dresser all doneIn the end the area still looks somewhat cluttered but it is the best I can do until I move on to other areas of the home and find better spots for some of the things that are here. Which is another lesson I am learning in this challenge;to make the best use of the space we have. We have only one closet on the main floor of the home and when I get to it I hope to put it to better use to store things that we don’t need others looking at while having dinner at our home, such as sports gear.

Join the 52 Weeks To A Simplified Home challenge and then join the Snail Pacing Goal Achievers Facebook group where share your progress and get encouragement.

52 weeks to a simplified homefree printable plan (small)

Coupons To Help You Declutter & Clean Your Home


$1.00 off ONE Tide Detergent 40oz or larger

$0.25 off ONE Dawn product

$1.00 off any two Ziploc brand bags