The gift that keeps on giving…

Just a few of the perfectly good items I'm passing on to friends this week!

Sometimes getting started on the spring cleaning is a challenge. If it’s been a few years (decades?) since you did any sort of decluttering, it is even more terrifying daunting. It’s so hard to let go of things, especially if they have sentimental value. And you might not yet be ready to hang on to the happy memory while at the same time letting go of the item associated with that memory.

What if you started by doing a friend (or two, or three) a huge favor? Do you have baby things sitting in boxes even though you know you are done having children? Do you have enough books to give each of your good friends something to read over the summer holidays? Do you have books that would be better used on the shelves of your child’s library? Do you have trousers that aren’t quite right for you, but would look great on your pal? Did you come across some old photos that you could easily scan into your digital filing system, email to the other people in the photo, and then discard?

I know you do, because just about everyone does. So why not start your spring cleaning by passing on some of the items that are contributing to your clutter? Your friends will get a kick out of the impromptu gift and you will make some space, while at the same time getting the ball rolling for some additional purging. Read more

Going Paperless

a photo of a five-drawer filing system
A picture (or in this case, a scan) is worth a thousand file folders...

This winter I finished a project I started in June of 2010 and posted what I thought was this innocuous little picture of what is left of my paper-based filling system–a tiny set of file drawers that fits next to my desk and is small enough to fit in a suitcase–on Facebook. It set off a lively discussion that continued right into the next morning at school drop-off and I realized that a blog post was in order. It’s a sad fact of life that expat life, no matter how amazing, is unpredictable. And moving your entire life to a new country is never easy. It’s even more difficult, however, when your filing system resembles the Library of Congress in size and complexity.

Last year I wrote about decluttering your child’s artwork and about the huge purge we did in anticipation of our international move, but now I want to focus specifically on how I moved my filing to a paperless system.

  1. Choose your tool
  2. Start with the present
  3. Purge & scan
  4. Maintenance Tips

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Decluttering Your Child’s Artwork

Some paintings created by my son Gabriel
I particularly like the colors in these two paintings by my son, Gabriel
I talked a bit in my post, Letting Go, about our recent attempts at getting rid of things that we don’t love, need, use. What if you love something, but it exists in such tremendous quantities that something has to be done about it? Christmas ornaments come to mind, but I’ll save that for a different post because what I want to talk about is my children’s artwork.

Let’s say we don’t put a crayon into our child’s hand until they are a year old (it was earlier than that for us!). That means that, when I began my decluttering adventure, I found roughly 8 years’ worth of artwork (combined total for two children) in a giant stack in my basement. We do craft projects nearly every day, and they spent part of every day of their preschool lives doing craft as well, so you can see how quickly that can multiply. Each piece is unique, captures their developmental milestones in visual format, and, especially now that my son writes “To Mommy” on almost every piece, is very difficult to let go.

And yet, I could not justify taking a three-foot stack of kids’ artwork to Helsinki with us. What to do, what to do? I turned to the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mantra for help with this tricky situation! Read more

Letting Go

The Joy of Less
One of the many books that inspired us to let go!
I’ve been absent from the blogging world for almost six months, but once again, I’m back! You can read more about why I’ve been gone on ChezArtz, but suffice it to say we’ve been busy. The turmoil of job insecurity and an upcoming trans-Atlantic move helped us begin the process of evaluating the choices we’ve made and the stuff we’ve accumulated in over 13 years together and start letting it go.

It wasn’t a pretty picture. Not only had a rather misplaced fear of not having enough money led me to work at a job that I didn’t love for the first five years of parenthood–years that I had always intended to spend at home with the children, but a fear of not having enough space for our growing family spurred us to buy a home that we now realize has more room than we could possibly need. Don’t get me wrong, I love our house. We built it, chose every detail of it, and still think it’s awesome. But it came with a price–a mortgage that kept us feeling like I needed to work when we both knew what was best for our family was to stay home. Read more