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Tag Archives: War on Clutter

The Little Things: Bag Dispenser

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Years ago, I made a bag dispenser from a tutorial which utilized a dishtowel. It didn’t specify the longest of all dishtowels, but the one with the best graphics in my collection made for a dispenser the size of a windsock. It got knocked down constantly, my husband did not like it (which says something, because he rarely makes a comment on these kind of things), and it was just annoying. When the ribbon “hook” snapped, that was that. Sure, it could have been easily repaired, but why?

Well, mostly because the alternative — stuffing the loose plastic bags into any corner of the hanging over-the-door baskets — was doubly annoying. And messy.

The dandy little version you see in the picture was made using a pattern from Stitch magazine, earmarked long ago and finally made after the great magazine clean-out. It only took me an afternoon, and is perfect for the job. Of course, the dimensions veer from the original pattern, because I changed the way I put the patchwork together, which meant math was involved, which of course meant that the dimensions would change. C’est la vie.

Are there bags in it? Why, yes there are, so it all ends well!

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Much Better

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As it turns out, there’s a certain amount of getting what you paid for when it comes to those cheap stacks of hand-towels on the end cap in Housewares. Eight years ago, when I was setting up housekeeping here, I grabbed a pack of white ones and figured they’d surely do the trick. Also, since they were white, they could easily be bleached and made good as new whenever I pleased.

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They could become crummy almost immediately, and cause me to want to tell guests to our powder room, “No, really — the towel is clean! I just changed it today!”  For the next eight years.

Then I came across this genius idea, and new I had the answer to my problem. Actually, two problems, the other being what to do with the faded chenille-like Shabby Chic bath towel that was losing its chic and heading straight for shabby.

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One short year later, I got down to it. Since it was a bath towel, rather than a beach towel, I was only able to get two generous hand towels out of it. The borders used up a piece of fabric that has been on my shelf FOREVER, just mocking me. You would laugh at the happiness these towels have brought me. Already, they have been completely streaked with markers [why won’t kids rinse their hands properly?!] — seemingly within hours of me hanging the first one — and came out of the wash pristine. They just feel so…fancy…compared to the old thin ones.

We’re nothing if not fancy.

Seriously — Out With the Old

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My mom gave me a lovely set of metal mixing bowls for Christmas. (Thanks again, Mom! And it’s an old photo — the tongs are no longer wrapped, although you know I do like to savor a gift fully before putting it into use.) Metal totally trumps plastic in a lot of ways, but the key to me is that it’s so much easier to clean when you’ve used any kind of grease. Have you tried washing a plastic bowl after eating buttery popcorn? Ugh! Drives me bonkers. Also, they look nice in an industrial way when used as serving bowls, especially considering that they’re replacing a bunch of mismatched green ones.

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I mean, they are all green, so they can be considered a “collection”, I guess? But they weren’t making me particularly happy. Yet, when it came time to swap them out for the shiny new ones…that was a little hard.

Might they come in handy some day?

Don’t I have some little smidgen of space in the pantry where they could be stashed? You know — in case of a bowl emergency?

What constitutes a bowl emergency?

Am I my own grandma? Because I hold onto things like someone raised in an orphanage during the Depression.

The Greens headed out the door to Goodwill this morning, along with a few other beautiful, perfectly good things. The load is lightening every day, friends!

Presto

Slowly but surely, I’ve set out to change or fix every thing about this house that’s not working for me. Superficially speaking — there are waaaay too many things that need fixing which I’m not equipped to take on. But the other stuff that’s been making me twitchy? Yeah, it’s time for it to go.

Have you ever noticed how much mental energy gets sapped by something that bugs you? Here’s an example, and it’s a really dumb one, but here it is:

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See that ridiculous tiny shelving thing in the corner? The one that doesn’t actually fit on the wall, and is way too short to make sense? Well, this is where I store napkins and tablecloths. It made sense at the time: The cube had been tossed out of another room, and it was convenient to have the linens right next to the table. Since it was out of the way, it didn’t really have to be perfect.

Unfortunately, it bothered me every time I came into the kitchen. Sometimes I didn’t even notice it was bothering me, but the way it cluttered up that corner aggravated me more than you would believe. It just made the whole space feel cluttered (which it usually is anyway, but this made it way worse.) Then, just the other day, a radical thought occurred to me:

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MOVE THE DARN THING!

Actually, it was more convoluted than that. I was trying to shoehorn a different cupboard from a different room [a story for another day] into this nook. In the process, I moved the recycling bin out of the space — and over into no man’s land, so that still needs to be addressed — and realized that this cube fit perfectly. And with the plant on top, there’s no way for me to crap it all up with stuff from the table!

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So much better.

What you can’t tell from this angle is that I also moved the table over closer to the door, which makes the space feel way roomier. That was a surprise, seeing as how it was only about a foot, but now the table is centered more on one of the overhead lights (which I hate, but that’s one of the “unfixables” for the moment) rather than the wall, and it feels much cleaner. Plus, Kevin no longer hits his head on the stupid swinging light, so he’s happy, too.

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I’m working on one last add-on project from last year, which has also been zapping me mentally. But! I think I can finish it this week, and then there are so very many things I’d like to get cracking on. Too many! Clearly, I need a good system for attacking them as well; working on that, too. Also, I’ve been baking with the kids. There’s more to that story, also. Oddly enough, it’s all interrelated.

Keep It Going Full Steam

It would seem like my main two goals (on the making front, that is) would work together well. Number one is to use up what I have; the second is to not put a project aside until it’s finished. Decide on something, prep it, and crank it out.

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Oh, but, whoops! These squares have been sitting on my sewing table for at least a week, probably two. (Probably more, but really that’s beside the point.) Also, there’s a similar one sitting on the shelf all cut and ready to go, and that’s not even mentioning the denim one that’s sitting half on the table and half in a box below. In fairness, that one is in limbo because I ran out of materials, and not at all because I ran out of interest after cutting the first fifty-six squares from the legs of old jeans. Nooo….

You can see where this is all heading. Backward, and quickly. So, today, I decided to fight the urge to start on a brand new and exciting quilt in favor of finishing a half-done one. (Let’s not talk about its companion, please. It’ll get its turn soon enough.) And now it’s all done but the snipping, ready to be put away for next year. A small but significant victory in the war on…myself? Yeah, that’s about right.

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A couple of nights ago, I was in a sad state and just poured my heart into a post about some of the ways in which I’ve missed my dad over the six years he’s been gone. Then I woke up this morning — the anniversary of his death — and realized that the writing was really enough for me, and that the story didn’t need to go any further than my drafts folder. It can be summed up thusly:

I love my dad. I miss my dad, especially when there’s a particularly good game (it never did matter which sport) or concert on TV.

I don’t like March, but I try to make the best of it.

I can’t believe a day will come when I’ll stop missing my dad, or when I’ll stop dreading March.

No good month filled with terrible memories March.

Better Late Than Never

One of my chief goals this year is to make a whole bunch of stuff, thereby creating a whole lot of room. Never mind the fact that a whole lot of mess will also come with that. You gotta break some eggs to make an omelet! When I was cleaning up the girl’s room this week, I came across the giant bag of her old receiving blankets (stuffed in with the bag holding the ones that belonged to her brother.) Since my mom made all of them, I just couldn’t bear to chuck ’em once they outgrew the need for them. Besides, they’re so cute! So, I knew that I’d need to figure out a project for them eventually, probably a quilt.

Well, say — why not a rag quilt? They’re easy, they take up lots of flannel, and — best of all! — they don’t require a lot of quilting, basting or binding. The potential for actual completion was skyrocketing by the minute.

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I have to tell you, though, that rag quilts aren’t my usual style; I tend to preferred a more modern, tailored look. Same goes for scrappy, random patchwork. After completing this quilt, though (which only took me three days, and it would’ve been less had some people not been clamoring for food and clean clothes), I am a total fan! Not only do I love the way it turned out, but it is the coziest thing you will ever find. I totally wanted to keep it for myself. As you can imagine, the boy of the house was immediately asking about his, so I’ll make that the next up, but then I think I might have to make my own. And maybe then some more later, after I get over what will surely be a bit of burn out. (They’re not the most exciting project, what with all the cutting and stacking and endless joining. But so quick! It’s almost irresistible!)

Project notes: I ended up cutting 9″ blocks from the flannel to make the best use of fabric from the blankets, so the batting ended up being 7″ squares. Miracles of miracles, I only ended up being one blanket short.

Funny story about the one for me: I picked out a few flannels today, just because I couldn’t help myself. After looking at the stack, I realized that I’d have to cut a whole lot of yardage to make up the whole thing. Not that big of a deal, but it seemed like a shame. Oh, but wait! I was milling around and decided to peek further into the unfinished project tub [more on that later], and discovered a bag of nine-inch blocks that I’d cut a few years ago for a quilt that never was. And the fabrics? The same colors as the flannels in my stack. YAHTZEE!

Of course, there were only 46 (!), and I need 48, so…you know, I’ll have to find another quarter-yard of fabric to make up the difference. Whatever will I do?

Hibernation is Underrated

I know I said that things were going to be happening around here, but probably not before my long winter’s nap.

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Oh, we’ve been to the library, and I’m ready to settle in for a nice long while. The Long Winter was yesterday’s treat; I finished it this morning. The rest are books that I’m “screening” for potential 2013 gifts. How can I make good recommendations if I haven’t read them? It’s my duty!

Actually, though, I sewed something yesterday (but there aren’t any pictures. It’s no big loss, trust me.) In the process of re-organizing the sewing area, I peeked into the bin that holds all of the clothes we’ve weeded out that may be good candidates for re-fashioning. In there was a skirt that I’d intended to cut down for Bridget last year, but never got around to it. Why must I make such a gigantic project out of every single thing? If it requires any sort of figuring, it just doesn’t get done quickly. Well, I yanked it out, measured the girl, and had a “new” skirt for her in less than an hour. There! A small but significant step in the right direction.