Category Archives: On Organizing and De-Cluttering

Organizing Kids’ Seasonal Clothes — and Saving $$ on Them, Too.

Do you Goodwill? Frequent Thrift Shops? Hop yard sales? Yes, yes, and yes? Do you (hardly almost) never shop regular retail for your kids’ clothes?

I’ve steered away from yard sales in recent years. I’ve also declared [many times] that I will never again have one myself! Every time I do anyway, my husband is like, “Didn’t you say you were never going to do this again?” But that’s another story…

But I have a Goodwill here that I love. And a Thrift Store, too. If you’ve been reading here for awhile you are quite aware of my love affair with second-hand shopping…

Spending Less

My challenge for myself in recent years is to not buy something just because it’s a good deal. So what if that cute paisley shirt with butterflies and sparkles that my daughter loves is only $1.25? Does she need another shirt? How full is her dresser? Her closet?

If you’re like me and you don’t have a season for clothes shopping for your kids but are constantly on the look-out for good deals as you happen upon them, it’s important that you have a plan. It’s important that you know what they actually need. Or you do end up buying that cute paisley shirt with the butterflies and sparkles only to discover that it won’t even fit in the drawer along with all the other cute shirts she already owns and come the end of the season you’re discovering clothes at the bottom of the drawer that she never even wore!

Ask me how I know this.

I recently read a quote from Mary Hunt where she talked about people misspeaking when they say they’re saving money because they’re buying something on sale. “This shirt was 80% off — I saved so much money!”

As she points out, we’re not saving money: we’re spending less.

Ooh, I puffy-heart Mary Hunt. She really gets to the crux of the matter, doesn’t she?

There’s a reason women love those free gifts that come with a purchase: we love to feel like we’re getting something for nothing!  And if something’s on sale, well, that’s close enough, right? We women can get real creative when it comes to crunching numbers in stores: “Hey, I saved $20 on these pants because they were on sale, so now I can get myself that cute sweater over there with the money I saved!” Never mind if we don’t need it; that’s not the point. It’s our duty to optimize a good deal.

So back to buying clothes for your kids. Sometimes, sometimes, it’s easier for moms to rein in spending on themselves, but when it comes to their kids? Well, they’re suckers. “It’s for the children.” Seriously. And there’s a reason that stores have so much more of a selection for girls’ clothes than for boys: we buy more for our daughters! It’s so fun! They’re so appreciative!

At least my daughter is. It is so fun to bring home some new finds just to see the look on her face. Sometimes she even gasps and covers her face, like she can’t even believe what she’s seeing.

And while many of these clothes she needs, yes — children do grow, after all — some of them? Not so much. I just know how much she’ll love them. And they’re such a good deal.

Saving Cents and Using Sense

But lately I’ve been trying to economize not just in cents, but also in sense.

  • How many clothes does my daughter need?
  • Is she really enjoying all that she owns?
  • Does she using everything she owns?
  • What precedent am I setting for her?

Storing Off-Season Clothing

A big part of this process is organizing what you already have. Buying clothes throughout the year requires storing off-season items. It’s important to have a system for this so you don’t stash something away and then forget that you have it.

I’ve usually used bins for this purpose. When I come home with clothing I’ve found for the kids for the next season, I stash them in the same bin. I like to keep these bins in their rooms, either in their closets or under their beds. (I’ve even been known to stick them in a corner with pretty material draped over them and — wa-la! — it’s a table!)  Otherwise, they get stashed in random corners around the house until I “get around” to putting them away in that obscure storage corner on the top shelf in the furnace room, or wherever. As long as they’re easily accessible, it’s good.  Eyesores, we can work around.

Ideally, I go through these bins every few months to refresh my memory on what I’ve gotten them. Typically, though, I’m not looking through them again until the weather starts changing. This sometimes causes me to have purchased more of the same type of clothing than I really needed to because I’d forgotten I already had a Spring jacket — or whatever — stashed in there at the bottom, but I’m slowly getting better about that.

I just went through Peter’s and Olivia’s clothes a couple of weeks ago, for instance. And I discovered that Olivia has plenty of long-sleeve shirts to start her out for the year. This information became vital the next time I was at the Thrift Store and saw a cute long-sleeve shirt I knew she’d love — but I passed. Yea for me!

That shirt was a good deal, mind you. But so were all the other shirts that she already owns.

As the season wears on (pun intended) kids will continue to grow, and I will continue to purge their clothes as they outgrow them. I will also continue to keep my eye out for good deals as I’m out and about; rarely do I ever go “clothes shopping” anymore, at least not for my little ones.

Teenagers Require a Different System

Because I have a teenager, I know this system with the little kids will not be the one I use forever. In fact, our teenager being responsible for budgeting for his own clothing out of his allowance has been working amazingly well so far. Unfortunately, it also entails “clothes shopping”, as I rarely trust myself to buy things on the fly for him; nor am I looking on a regular basis. He will come to me every now and then with great urgency in an accusatory tone, “I need underwear!” As though I have known this for months and months and have refused to take him shopping despite his persistent pleas. I am still practicing the phrase, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” But I don’t think he has it memorized yet.

Every now and then I will come home with some random t-shirt that I found at the thrift store for 35 cents or something ridiculous, and I give it to my son with great ceremony and tell him it is a gift and he can thank me later. These shirts are rarely good for anything other than “night shirts” for Conner, but he is appreciative nonetheless. It’s amazing how that happens when you start having to buy things for yourself…

Kids and Clothing Choices

I do think it’s important that children have a say in the clothing that they wear, which is one reason why I think our system with Conner is working so well: he would rather have fewer items that cost a little more instead of more clothes that he doesn’t like as much. Quality over quantity. And he defines quality. This is a valuable, discerning skill to develop. And he has no one to argue over the particulars with but himself and his pocketbook.

I am planning on going through Olivia’s clothing with Olivia very soon. Her tastes have been changing. For instance, no longer does she favor dresses over absolutely anything else. *sniff* In fact, last summer she had one pair of shorts to her name: I had always focused on buying summer dresses for her as she had always preferred those in the past. But by this August we noticed that she was starting to wear Conner’s old boxers that I had kept in her drawer as an option to wear at nighttime. Yea. She was dressing herself in boys’ underwear.

So I’ll be keeping my eye out for deals on girls’ shorts for her to wear next summer. Ahem. I’ve already found one pair. I think it put me back a quarter. Yes, at the Thrift Store. Along with several Spring and summer shirts for next year, all going in the bins. The whole stash cost me less than $5. *sigh* I’m going to miss my Thrift Store.

In the meantime, I am very interested in having her tell me with her own words what items in her drawers she likes and what she doesn’t. My little girl is a pleaser, she is. When you give her something she’ll tell you she loves it — and she probably means it at the time. But when you press her later to give an opinion, a different one might appear. At seven — going on eight *gulp* — she’s old enough now to start having a say on what she’d prefer to wear, within reason. And there’s no sense me bringing home — or keeping in her drawer — anything that doesn’t fit within her preferences. We are too privileged in this country, with too many worthy clothing options, to keep things we don’t like. Better to pass them along to someone who can use them — or better yet, to not acquire them in the first place. I am very grateful to have the choices we have.

What is your working method for buying and storing your children’s clothing? Do you find yourself ever forgetting items you have stored away? Or buying items that ended up  never being worn? Or do you strictly shop for clothing as it is needed? Please share in the comments — whether your methods have worked or not. We can all learn from successes and failures, don’t you know. 😉

Project Organize: Master Bath Storage

When my daughter was sick last month I looked all over for the thermometer and couldn’t find it. I’d finally had enough: it was time to clean out the nether regions of my bathroom. I wasn’t even exactly sure I’d find it in there, but it was as good of a place to start as any.

Thankfully, it was.  In fact, it was hidden right in here somewhere. Can you guess where?

Vanity Before:

Neither could I.

I began by emptying out the whole thing.

It’s amazing how much crap stuff fits into such a small space.

I didn’t stop there, but turned my attention to the areas under the sinks.

Under Sinks Before:

Okay, so not horrible at a glance? But completely unorganized. I didn’t know where anything was. And it was dirty, too.

So I took all that stuff out and overflowed a large container.

Can I say again? It’s amazing how much crap stuff fits into such a small space.

This container sat in a very convenient spot in the middle of the family room for several days. It was supposed to be in my face and impossible to ignore. Unfortunately, it turned into a fixture that everyone started walking around and ignoring like it was a table or a dirty pile of laundry. Until one day my daughter said out of the blue,

“I can’t believe we’re moving right after second grade.”

Um, she’s in the first grade now? And why, pray tell, is my poor, sweet little military brat daughter already thinking about our next move?

“Oh, I was just looking at that, and it made me think of moving.” She nonchalantly gestured at the container of crap stuff.

I wish I’d taken a picture of what I got rid of, but I didn’t think of it. I was probably obsessing over my daughter’s future therapy sessions.

After I cleaned everything out and re-purposed a few containers…

Aw. Much better.

Vanity After:
Under Sinks After:
For those of you Type-A’s super-analyzing, you might have noticed we’re having a wee-bit of trouble with our cupboard doors. Comes from having little urchins using them to scamper their way up to the sinks.

(You might also notice they do have a stool right there for them to use.)

The Thing About Storage Space

We’ve never, ever had this much space in our home before, storage or otherwise. Two sinks just in one bathroom? With storage underneath? And a vanity?

  • The problem with so much space is you can so easily fill it up without thinking or being mindful of what you even have even more.
  • The advantage of so much space is that you can spread out and finally take inventory of what you really have and cull out anything that isn’t functional or enjoyable. In other words — de-clutter.


I have already gone through so much of our stuff since we moved here, but I am determined to get through the rest of it before it’s time to move again. Precisely because I don’t want it to be necessary to have so much space again just to hold stuff! Stay tuned for future progress as I conquer it. I’d love to hear how you’re overcoming clutter and stuff-itis in your home as well. I’m going to need all the motivation I can get.

Do You Consign?

I just figured out that I made about $257.10 last year in consignments at the thrift store. Not as good as the year before, when I made over $400. But that year we had just moved here and I was finally getting rid of various baby paraphernalia: crib; portacrib; as well as some furniture — you know, all the big stuff.

I go to the thrift store on base — Wright-Patterson — to consign. When we moved to Ohio, I was inordinately pleased to find such a good consignment store on base. It ain’t always so, believe you me. The turnover’s high, the inventory is eclectic, and some of those ladies have been working there for 30 years! Oh, yes, it’s true.

They run a tight ship that spins like a top. It’s hopping in there most days, I tell you what. They only take things in season and they limit you to 16 items at a time, one consignment a week. Their consignment hours are fairly limited — but hey, they’re all volunteers in there, so they can do what they want.

I didn’t get there as much last year: Their hours didn’t jive with my schedule. This year I plan to go every week so long as I have stuff to take in. So far, it’s just been one trip — but they’ve only been open two weeks into the new year. I didn’t make it the second week because the garage door fixer guy called at the last minute and I ran out of time. I plan to take this pile in in a couple of days.

It’s a pretty typical representation (until we get ready to move again, and I do a major purge): clothes my kids have outgrown; toys I’m tired of looking at my kids don’t want anymore; even some long-lost craft projects I know I will never get to. After 2+ years here, I feel like I’m finally approaching the bottom of the abyss.

I do give stuff away to goodwill as well: mainly things that I know won’t turn over well (or they won’t even accept) at the thrift store.

For many people, consigning things like this would be too much of a pain — ack, paperwork! Yes, donating things outright does earn you a tax deduction. But for us, itemizing has never made a difference with our taxes anyway, so it’s all a wash.

What doesn’t sell within the five-week time frame is considered a donation and goes into their clearance section. Some simply donate outright instead of consign, so their things go into the clearance section as well. I have found many steals in the back of that store, for $1 or less.

How about you? Do you consign? or donate? Or pass things directly to a friend/family member that needs them? Do you shop consignment stores? (Are you a second-hand junkie like me?) :)

A Very Not-So-Merry Messy Room

My 6yo is a sweet, helpful little girl with a service-oriented spirit.


She’ll offer to unload the with the dishes

She readily helps me with dinner.readily helps in the kitchen

She’ll even strike a pose and hold it until my point-and-shoot decides to cooperate.acrobatics 2

But good Lord Almighty in Heaven above, the child will not clean her room.messy room

This is a normal state of affairs. It’s a ridiculous mess of clothes and bedding (and books) and a random array of tiny pieces of makeup, hair accessories and doll paraphernalia (and books) that little girls seem to leave in their wake like so much the cloud of dirt and dust that follows Pig-Pen wherever he goes.

We’ve tried everything, but nothing seems to make her take this seriously.not working

Obviously, we have some work to do.

We are on a learning curve with this child who is definitely wired differently from her older brother. And from her younger brother as well, if I dare make that supposition at this early date.

As an example, I just ran up and took a (blurry) photo of her older brother’s room. Completely unedited. This, also, is a normal state of affairs.Conner's room

Conner is 14 going on 40, grumpy old soul that he often is; he’ll sooner be yelling at “the kids” to pick up their messes as not. I don’t have to bug him about his room. He’ll even dust it (though not well).


Soon after I took that photo of Olivia’s room she finally got it into her head to pick it up. I think she just got tired of hearing, “Not until you pick up your room,” every time she asked me for something.after picking up

Not bad..

Just give it five minutes.

Are your kids neat-freaks? Pig-Pens? What works for you to get them to clean up their own room? (If anything?;)

Cleanliness is so overrated.

No sooner do I get back from my trip to Chicago then our washer goes kaput. Lots and lots of water — NOT INSIDE THE WASHER.Not good. Especially when you’re right in the middle of trying to catch up on your laundry. I’m really not too keen on washing clothes in the bathtub; I’d rather my kids wear dirty socks for awhile. (And I’m pretty sure that’s what my 14yo has been doing.) (Though I’m in complete denial.) Unfortunately, the remaining laundry continued to sit smack dab in the middle of a giant tornado. When the washer broke, it stole away any motivation I might have mustered up to do anything about the mess that surrounded it. This was particularly bad considering my parents were coming to visit.

We have an awesome, incredible basement. Perfect for the kids to run around in and destroy while I look the other way. The problem, however, is that this basement also serves as the guests’ bedroom. And this morning? Right before my parents were due to arrive? This was the scene:


Conner even amused himself with a funny picture he took with his DSi.

Pretty clever, actually. Maybe we should have made our own book. Then I could have hired someone else to take care of this mess.

Instead I gathered up the kids and threatened bodily harm even though I ended up picking it up myself anyway we all worked together to quickly put the basement back into tip-top shape.


Not too bad, if I do say so myself.

And that corner? With all the laundry? Just to remind you…


Now it’s a nice little oasis for my mom:


Of course, I just hid all the laundry away…

I was surprised to learn that our washer and dryer are included in our Home Warranty. We’ll still pay $70 for the service call on Monday, but the repair and any parts needed should be covered.

Hopefully the washer is reparable. It ain’t exactly a spring chicken. I don’t know how much longer I can go on ignoring my teenager’s dirty socks.

Do You Wear Everything in Your Closet?

With the advent of cooler weather, I thought it time to assess my winter wear. Standard SAHM fare. Plenty of tops, to be sure. I have more sweaters in my wardrobe, too.
In fact, I’m not convinced it’s not too many clothes; I’m kind of a wear-my-favorites over-and-over kind of gal. So I thought I’d try the old reverse hangar trick: start all your clothes hanging “backwards,” and after you wear it rehang it forwards. At the end of the season, it’s easy to tell what you never wore — and easy to know what to get rid of. (At least, that’s the idea.)

My goal is to only keep clothes that I love to wear and clothes that love me back. I’ve slowly purged many articles of clothing that I’ve been carrying around for years. Many items no longer fit as my body shape has changed (ahem) the last couple of years…

I do most of my shopping at Goodwill and the Thrift Store. I am very lucky that this area has so many good second-hand stores, ones that are particular about their inventory. But it can be very easy to justify picking up some great-quality, name-brand clothing when you’re finding them at $2-$5 a pop. I am steadily learning to be more and more discerning about how I spend every single dollar: just because it’s a great deal doesn’t mean it belongs on my body — or in my closet.

Project Organize: Game Cupboard Drawers

Do you have any scary drawers? You know, the ones so loaded with junk you wouldn’t even venture to stick your hand too far in there because you’re really not sure what you might touch?

We have several of those, but I decided to start small — I focused on the two drawers in our “game cupboard.” Our junk cupboard, really, if you went by these…

BEFORE:A few years ago, in another place (in a galaxy far, far away), my two youngest children discovered these drawers and decided their purpose in life was to empty them of all their contents and strew the items to the farthest reaches of our home. At first I attempted to clean up after them and reorganize. But after several repeat performances, I gave up and just threw things back into the drawers, willy-nilly.

Funny, it wasn’t quite so much for them to empty them out after that.

I started by dumping all of the contents from the two drawers into a container.I then went through every. little. piece.I put together puzzles to check for missing pieces. I counted out every deck of cards to make sure you could still play 52-card pickup. I redistributed items to better homes. I threw away senseless junk, recycling when possible. (The Hubs is “supervising.”)

Three hours later, the fruits of my labor.

AFTER:Almost immediately, a card-game marathon commenced: Go Fish; Old Maid; Crazy Eights. Good times.
Shirts are optional. Picking up? No longer.

For more “Itch to Pitch” visit The Happy Housewife.

Project Organize: Dresser Top Clutter

I took a hard look at our Master Bedroom…

The dresser top is a constant eyesore.

(My 6yo likes to “give” me stuffed animals.)

(She also gets upset if I try to “give” them back.)

But the stuff has been spilling over…

BEFORE:When we lived in Italy, we splurged and got ourselves some new bedroom furniture. New to us anyway — it’s actually very old, antique (sorry, redundant?) furniture originally from the Napoli region, over 100 years old with original Carrara marble tops. The Hubs uses the dresser, while I have a matching wardrobe. Which means I also use the dresser top. It’s a shame to cover it up like this!

AFTER:Much better! Just don’t look too closely at the pile next to the dresser. That’s some future Goodwill inventory that I will schlep out there (And a future Itch to Pitch post?). Very soon. Small moves, Ellie.

(And don’t worry about my daughter; the stuffed animals now perch very happily on my nightstand.)

For more de-cluttering projects and motivation visit
The Happy Housewife‘s Itch to Pitch.

Project Organize: Kid’s Closet and Dress-Up Schtuff

I tackled several areas in my house this week on my “Itch to Pitch” de-cluttering mission. Unfortunately, many projects were started, but not all were finished…

Can you relate? You go to clean up one area, only to find things that belong in another area. So you go to put them away and totally get distracted by the clutter in that area. So you go to put those things away and get caught up in yet another area…

You get the idea.

I did finish a couple of specific, smaller areas. Just so I could take After Photos for this post.

See how handy blogs can be?

The kids and I tackled Olivia’s dress-up stuff and the closet in her room. She had a bench at the end of her bed that stored all the dress-up paraphernalia…

We went through each piece one. by. one. If either Olivia or Peter wanted to keep it, we did.

(Yes, Peter dresses up, too.)(And yes, he likes the dresses just as much as Olivia does.)(Yes and yes, their 13yo brother shakes his head and tells him he will regret it someday.)

We ended up with this Keep Pile…And this much to purge, ready to go to the Thrift Store/Goodwill.
Now that area looks more like this…

Then there was her closet, starting with her upper shelves…


Not horrible. But I would literally throw things up onto those top shelves, to be dealt with “later”.

It is now later!


And down below in her closet looked like this…


With her dress-up paraphernalia now stored in her closet, it now looks like this…


*For more
Itch to Pitch posts, visit The Happy Housewife!

Preserving Preschool Art Memories — and getting rid of the paper clutter

When my oldest son Conner was in preschool, he came home with tons and tons of beautiful “creations” that we used to hang up all over his room.

Tip — Best wall decor around: hang up your kids’ artwork. It costs you nothing extra and they love it. When Conner was three we lived in an apartment and had very few material possessions and even less disposable income. I covered his room with his colorful preschool paintings. People used to comment on how great his room looked. And it did! Very bright and comfy.Anyhoo — those “creations” eventually got stored away. Ten years and four moves later, I got an idea (from Oprah, yes I must admit) (but it was Peter Walsh on Oprah. Remember “Clean Sweep”?) of what to finally do with this container full of artwork that hadn’t even been opened for at least two moves.

(I know this because of the various movers’ stickers on the tape that sealed it shut. You military readers will know what I’m talking about.)

Conner and I pulled the container out from under his bed, and lo and behold! Those papers were pretty crisp. Our cat sure loved the crinkly crinkliness of them and immediately made himself comfortable.

Really, not a good idea to keep artwork — especially painted artwork — unless you have a plan to preserve it in storage. It could be that the three years we spent living in the desert especially dried them out, but if I had waited much longer to do this project it would have been a struggle to lay them out properly to get the pictures I needed for the photo book

Which I made online using digital photos that I took of each piece of art work. I also used a photo of Conner creating one of his “masterpieces” to put on the cover.

Book Cover
I used Snapfish, but I’m sure Shutterfly would work just as well. The main difference I have noticed between the two is that Snapfish photo books enable you to print a caption on the binder, whereas Shutterfly’s do not.

Book BinderI was also able to choose a photo for the back cover — you may notice it’s the finished version of the one he was painting in the front cover photo!

Back Cover It may be a little small here for you to see, but I love the connection between the progression of the front and back photos.

Okay, so maybe it doesn’t take much to get me excited.

You have a plethora of choices online for designing the layout of the photos. But for artwork, I recommend three at the most on one page. Here are some samples from inside Conner’s book:

Inside PagesThis 20-page book costs about $20 plus shipping and handling. Keep an eye out for specials, such as free shipping or half off photo books, which Snapfish and Shutterfly will both advertise if you register on their sites. Prices for books will vary depending on the size (this book is an 811), how many pages you include, and what type of cover you choose: suede; leather; etc.

The best part? Now we have a book that we can keep out to share and page through and enjoy. Conner especially loves that he has his very own art book that he will be able to treasure forever.

We did recycle all the paper. But now I am hearing that painted paper is not recyclable? Anyone know anything about that?

For more decluttering projects, visit Happy Housewife and her Itch to Pitch series! She’s even giving away prizes. I won last week’s! W00t for me!