Sort through paper products.

Monday is Memorial Day.  While it is a solemn holiday, it is considered the kick-off to the barbecue and cook-out season.  So today, sort through your paper products.  Take inventory of your paper plates, plastic cups, plastic silverware, and paper napkins.  Don’t buy more this summer if you don’t need to.

I actually did this about a month before my preschooler’s birthday this year.  I realized that I had white plates, black plates, white and black damask plates, pink plates, and red plates, all from my preschooler’s previous birthday parties.  (I also had red Christmas-themed cups and plastic Solo cups and a slew of white paper napkins.)  And then I didn’t buy any paper products for her birthday this year because I had enough that matched the theme we went with.

One more thing:  If you can avoid using paper and plastic disposable products, please do so.  Not only are reusable products better for the environment than disposable products, but also you can save money over the life of the reusable products.  I bought some gorgeous melamine, dishwasher-safe plates and bowls earlier this year from Big Lots for $2.50 each, and I love them.

Time required:  Less than 5 minutes.

I had a miscarriage.

I’ve been quiet for a while.  My silence was certainly unplanned; my goal on January 1st was to blog every day.  But life happens.

In March, I discovered I was pregnant.  My husband and I hadn’t planned this pregnancy, but we were overjoyed.  The day after the two positive home pregnancy tests, I opted to take my daughter to her last dance lesson of the spring.  She and I both picked up bronchitis there.  (I do wish people would stay home when they are sick.  No dance lesson or Sunday school lesson is worth making other people sick.)  I went to the doctor, but my recovery took a while.  Unbeknownst to me, sometime during my sickness, my baby died.  I didn’t find out about the possible miscarriage–called a “missed miscarriage”–last week, and actually, it won’t be confirmed by my doctor until Thursday.  But I feel certain the missing heartbeat isn’t the result of a dating error on my part (uh, I’m pretty organized, folks, and I keep a pretty accurate calendar), and I believe the symptoms I’m having now are the miscarriage finally taking place rather than a subchorionic hemorrhage, which I was previously diagnosed with.

I’m devastated.  I’m depressed.  I’m self-blaming.  I’m also exhausted from sickness and this pregnancy.  I can’t tell you when I’ll start blogging again.  I’m sorting through old e-mails on my phone while watching old episodes of “Big Bang Theory” and “The Middle” and rewatching “Desperate Housewives.”  I want badly to feel well enough to work on scanning and shredding some paperwork.  Who am I kidding?  I want to feel well enough to make dinner again, although I’m so thankful for the friends who have brought meals.

I wanted to let you know why I’m not posting, but thank you for allowing me to grieve a bit here.  It may be a while before I post regularly.  I thank you for your understanding in the meantime.  I’ll be back.  I just need some time.

Donate items you no longer need/want.

It may not feel like it in your neck of the woods, but today is the first day of spring!  It’s time for spring cleaning.  But let’s start by getting some things out of our homes first!  Some people declutter but never actually get their items out the door.  We’re going to work on this very task this week.  Then next week, we’ll do a little spring cleaning!

Having donations boxes sitting in your garage for extended periods of time is a bad idea because you may ultimately decide you want to keep something you had already decided to donate.

So today, I urge you to donate those items that you decided to donate.  Get them out of the house.

We typically take the standard deductions on our taxes, but just in case we have a year in which itemizing is a good idea, I take pictures of everything donated, and I get receipts.  So the first thing I do when I finally donate items is to take pictures of everything I’m donating.  I don’t do anything fancy.  I just put the item on my dark walnut dining room table in natural light, and I take a picture with my iPhone or iPad.

Then I upload the pictures to my Dropbox account into a file named “Donations.”  I create a subfolder giving more details about the donation:  “Disabled American Veterans, donated 2017.02.21,” for example.  After I’ve uploaded the pictures to this subfolder, I delete them from my phone, and I delete the deleted pictures.  (I need all the space on my phone I can get!)  Why do I take pictures of the items?  First, I like to have a record just in case we ever get audited.  I really don’t know that the pictures help, but I feel better about having the pictures, especially if I’m donating a lot of stuff in a particular year (as I did the year we downsized from a three-bedroom house to a small two-bedroom apartment).  Second, I feel as though I am more easily able to part with items with sentimental value as long as I have a picture of the items.

If I donate something that could harm the person inventorying the donations, I make a note on the outside of the bag.  For example, I recently donated steak knives.  I placed them in Hefty freezer bags, then wrapped them in a reusable shopping bag, then put this note on the outside.

Finally, take your items to be donated, and get a donation receipt.  I scan the receipt when I return home, then put it with my current-year tax paperwork.

One more thing:  Talk to the person taking donations and ask about items that the thrift store doesn’t want.  For example, one of the thrift stores closest to my home does not accept more than five books at a time because they have so many.  (I broke up my John Grisham collection into several donations a couple of years ago for this reason.)  At least in my area, even ragged clothes can be used; Goodwill shreds them, and the Navy buys them for use as rags on the ships here.  So I donate items liberally.  But do keep in mind that items such as irreparably broken toys and puzzles with missing pieces are best sent to the trash.

Time required:  Less than an hour including driving time, but the time required depends on how many items you are taking to be donated and where the donation center is in relation to your home.

Organize your scarves.

You should have sorted through your scarves yesterday.  Today, you’ll need to organize them.  Maybe you just have one and you have a hook on your closet door to store it on.  But if you’re like me and you have more than a few scarves, you’ll need another way to organize them.  As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m cheap, so I tried just hanging them on a hanger for years.  They were constantly falling off even non-slip hangers.  I ultimately bought two scarf organizer hangers on clearance for around $5 from Burlington Coat Factory, and now all of my scarves are organized in one visible place–and I can move the hanger to the back of the closet during the summer.

If you’d like some different ideas for organizing your scarves, check out my Pinterest board on the topic:

Time required:  I spent quite a bit of time in stores searching for a good organizer, but just five minutes organizing the scarves after I found it.  Your mileage may vary, obviously, depending on the number of scarves you have and how you decide to store and organize them.

Sort through your scarves.

I’m sure that some of you have no scarves, but even though I lived in Florida for most of my life, I have a lot of them.  However, I typically look back in the spring and realize that I did not wear all of them during the winter season.  So in the interest of decluttering, I will need to donate or sell the ones I do not wear.  This is one of the harder decluttering tasks for me because I truly love my scarves.  But if I don’t wear them, they are simply wasting space.

So today, spend some time decluttering your scarves if you have them.

Time required:  Five minutes.  And yes, I did decide to donate one scarf.  My uncle’s ex-wife bought it for me when I was in high school, she has been particularly vicious to him since their separation and subsequent divorce–oh, and it’s too short.  🙂

Organize and store your jewelry.

Now that you have sorted through your jewelry, you should figure out a way to store it.  I bought a jewelry storage center at Marshalls about five ago for around $35, more than what I wanted to spend (secret:  I’m cheap), but well worth it.  The one I have holds bracelets, necklaces, rings, earrings, and watches, so it’s multi-functional.  If you are in the market to purchase a jewelry organizer, I would suggest looking at Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Ross, and Bealls for decently priced organizers, but you might also see if your local craft boutique carries refinished vintage jewelry boxes.

If you’re looking for a less expensive or a do-it-yourself option, check out my new Pinterest board about how to organize your jewelry!  (Again, this board is on my new Simplify. Declutter. Organize Pinterest profile for my new blog.)

If you have mostly rings, you could try a ring display case.  Rings can also go in a ring dish, which can be something as simple as a $1.99 dipping bowl from Target or Pier 1.  If you have a lot of necklaces and bracelets, you will need something different, obviously, something that will not allow these to become tangled.  You can also combine these ideas and use, for example, the mug holder to hold bracelets and necklaces and dishes to hold your rings.

Time required:  I organized my jewelry into my organizer five years ago.  I spent about an hour on this task, and thanks to how complete my own organizer is, it has stayed organized!  Your mileage will vary.  Obviously, if you decide to build your own jewelry organizer–especially one of those beautiful wooden ones!–you will spend a great deal more time on this task.

 

 

Sort through your jewelry.

By now, you should be finished or nearly finished sorting through your clothing.  The task for the next few days is to sort through your jewelry.

If you have sentimental jewelry that you have no intention of wearing, I would recommend putting it in a safe or safe deposit box along with a note of the jewelry’s significance.  Otherwise, if you have jewelry you haven’t worn in ages, consider donating it to the local thrift store.  If you have damaged jewelry (I have a pearl necklace with a broken clasp, for example), get it repaired.

One note:  I’ve simplified my worries in the last couple of years by focusing on wearing jewelry that doesn’t feel irreplaceable.  For example, the “diamond” earrings and pendant I wear on a daily basis don’t contain real diamonds.  I’m content now with lab-created sapphires and emeralds because I don’t worry about losing them in public.  I still wear my diamond engagement ring, but other than that, most of my “public” jewelry was $50 or less.

Time required:  An hour or so for me, mainly because I have a hard time parting with items with a sentimental attachment, such as the myriad pieces of jewelry I received over the years for participating in various weddings.