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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!

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.


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.


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


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.


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!


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:


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:



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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

That Wasn’t Supposed to Happen

When I mentioned our Olympic fever, I did not mean that we were literally running fevers. Yet — by Tuesday — that’s exactly what the girl was doing, and her brother briefly joined in on the fun the next day.

Thankfully, it was just a virus and the fever was pretty much all there was to it, and being cooped up together the rest of the week was the worst of it. I can handle that. Not what I had planned for our week of fun, but no biggie.

And when I decided to use all of this great indoor time to really get down and dirty and superclean the house, I didn’t set out on a mission to vacuum behind the dryer. What started out as a very passive washing machine cleaning (which worked impressively well) led to an urge to clean the rest of the area, which meant getting the shop vac and trying to clean the dryer vent. That, in turn, is what paved the road to me knocking the dryer off of one of its legs, causing me to have to pull it away from the wall. All fine and good until we had to move it back into position…and we got a little too close to the wall…and then I smelled gas.

Yep. We managed to put a crack in the hose and had to call out the gas company. And here are the lessons we learned from that little exercise:

  1. Stay off the dryer
  2. Deep cleaning is overrated
  3. When the lady of the house says she smells a gas leak, go ahead and get out. The nose knows!

This week, we’re moving on. Today, it’s time to start the great school clothes shopping extravaganza; the boy is first up. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I could just throw a stack of shorts and a stack of shirts into the basket and call it a day. Now, there’s all kinds of weird sizing and “opinions” to take into consideration. And did I mention that neither one of my kids really loves to shop? Here’s hoping that he and I can get it done in one fell swoop — I have high hopes!

In other news, I finally sat down and SEWED SOMETHING over the weekend. I’m back, baby! Then I spent the rest of the weekend pulling stacks of fabric and adding in projects and basically going a little nuts. That wasn’t supposed to happen, either, but it always does. A little break may have been for the best.

Lots to do, people!

What I Did In My Free Time

This year, both of the kiddos are old enough to attend my mom’s much anticipated annual event: Grandma Camp!

For five magical mornings, the two of them and their cousin spend the morning at Grandma’s house having all kinds of fun and lunch. Oh, how we all love Grandma Camp! (Actually, I half want to attend myself — they get to have so much fun!) That left me with a few precious hours to myself every day, which felt kind of like an embarrassment of riches.

Unfortunately, I don’t do all that well with blocks of free time. I’m prone to wander around kind of aimlessly, wondering what to do first. On top of that, I’m also tempted to cram in bunches of errands, since just about anything can be done more quickly and inexpensively without “helpers”. And — last but not least — what about just relaxing and reading a good book? That’s lots of fun, too, you know.

As luck would have it, it has poured down rain every day this week. That cut down on the errand running, that’s for sure. Since I made a commitment to try to clean up our work room this week, I made myself put down the book and get with it.

I don’t know why I do this to myself. As far back as I can remember, though, I have always allowed my workspaces to get super crowded. Everything gets spread out, and I end up trying to write or cut or cook in eight square inches of space; it’s ridiculous. Part of that has to do with my tendency to drop things wherever, and then simply leave them there until they’re needed again — obviously not best practices. Anyway, you can see why I haven’t been in much of a mood to sew, even when I did have a spare minute.

But now?

The only question is what to make first. So much better, right? Especially after I completely cleared the sewing table. Hey, take a look at the “before” shot again. See that tray of papers, to the left and behind the lamp? That’s on the sewing table. I had a tray of papers sitting at my elbow every time I sat down to sew. Hardly a model of efficiency for a left-handed person. See what I mean about crowding? You think I’d have moved it the first time or two that I sent it flying, but that would make too much sense. Besides, the where factor was kind of a problem. Get rid of enough stuff, and the “where” starts presenting itself!

Of course, I haven’t cleared out nearly enough stuff, but that’s a different matter. With this area, it’s definitely a process. We’re getting there, though!

The sheer number of unfinished projects is back to an overwhelming level, too. As I was clearing out bins and piles, though, I came across a couple of really small tasks. Why not just go ahead and finish them? Instead of transferring the sure-to-become-mangled fabric strips to yet another pile, why not just sit down for a few minutes and whip up a bracelet?

And — while I’m at it — how long is it really going to take to make facecloths out of the kids’ old flannel pjs?

Not that long. Certainly not long enough to warrant the six months of procrastination I’d already allowed.

Finally, the third and final apron may just be for me (and it’s a Christmas one, at that), but it’s taking up valuable real estate on the ironing board.

Aww yeahhh. See you in December, my friend.

It took me the majority of two mornings to get the room squared away, but it was totally worth it! Now, hopefully, I can find time to actually have some fun in here — I can’t wait!


[Actually, I did wait: I’ve managed to cram quite a few more things in here and there this week, but none of it was sewing-related. You’ll see.]


Starting Small. Really, Really Small.

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You know what? I’d probably get a lot more done if I spent less time stumbling across cool new-to-me blogs. Know what else? I can’t stop! There are so many inspiring people hiding in plain sight. Right now, one of the things that has me all twitchy is Jules’ William Morris Project. Oh boy! I wanna play!

I’ll tell you Secret #1: It took me a week to actually sit down and put pen to paper to make my list. Like it’s a binding contract? I don’t know — maybe I just didn’t want to come across one more “this time for sure” list two years from now. Well, I’m all about trying again, so The List was made and this girl is ready to tackle it!

But, one mustn’t rush, so I chose something super manageable (if somewhat embarrassing.)

It may sound strange, but I don’t spend a whole lot of time in my son’s room. Usually, I’m either there to wake up, tuck in, or put away laundry; there’s always a purpose. Truth be told, though, it doesn’t take long for the unusual to become very…not unusual? Not exactly normal, but nothing that would draw my attention, either.

All this to say: Yesterday, I decided to take matters in hand and box up The Boy’s Christmas decorations. Now, I know that I’d mentioned it to him several times since New Year’s Day, but never really cared enough to be the enforcer. Then, the other day, we had bedtime stories in his room instead of ours. Halfway through the first chapter, my eye came to rest on his Santa Snoopy lights strung across the wall. And — glance to the left — yep! There’s the tree on the desk.

Son! It’s really time to take down the lights and the tree.

Aww,  Momma — not yet!

But if not now, then when? So, without further ado, I [miracles of miracles!] remembered to stop in while he was in school and boxed it all up. That was yesterday; to my knowledge, he hasn’t even noticed. The rest of the room is slated for a little updating this summer, but I already feel better about the state of affairs around here.

We’re doing things!