Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring Cleaning, Decluttering, and Decorating.

The three topics in this post may not seem related, but I think you'll agree that they really are, once you have read this.

Spring Cleaning.

Being able to open the windows and let fresh air and sunshine stream in, seems to put people in the mood to “spring clean,” especially after a long, dark winter.  Along with doing some neglected deep cleaning, I am hoping to purge our home of some accumulated but unnecessary possessions this spring!

40 Bags in 40 Days

In a Declutter Challenge project called “40 bags in 40 days,” participants attempt to remove 40 trash bags full of unnecessary stuff from their homes over a 40 day period. I first found out about this from a blog called White House Black Shutters.  That blogger (Ann Marie) gave credit to the blog Clover Lane, as the place she first heard of this challenge. I have been unable to discover its actual origin, but this project is often associated with the 40 days of Lent.  It is an idea that has been in practice for a while; I found a post about it on the blog Simply Catholic, dating back to 2008.  One bag a day would really add up - and seems a lot easier to manage than my typical, unrealistic philosophy of “I’m going to declutter the whole house this weekend.”  Lent is almost over, but this project is applicable any time of year.  I’m in!

But wait - not so fast!

I'm going to be ruthless but cautious, when deciding what to discard!

Three of these beautifully painted hollow eggs were a high school graduation gift to me from a dear friend.  (I prefer not to calculate how many years I have treasured and enjoyed them!)

Many possessions can bog us down, and it is frequently advised that getting rid of items can have a liberating emotional affect.  Too much stuff is too much!  This is true, but my advice is be careful not to get too carried away.  Evaluate each item, for both its usefulness and sentimental value.  If it has both, and you have room to store it - it may be a good idea to keep it. This applies to most things, including childhood artwork.  

Be sure, however, that if you are keeping an item for sentimental reasons, the sentiment associated with it is a positive one!  I was given five beautiful hollow eggs as a graduation gift, hand painted by my friend.  Somewhere along the way, two of them became partially crushed.  I continued to save those anyway for years, and buried the crushed ends out of sight in the straw when I displayed them at Easter. One year, though, I realized that the guilt over not taking better care of them was weighing me down, and I threw the damaged ones away.  The value of the gift has not diminished - I still have three beautiful eggs as a reminder of that friendship - but none of the guilt.  Possessions should not make us feel guilty or unhappy!  

Childhood Artwork

Artwork made by our children, or even saved from our own childhood, can be precious but copious! Apply the rule in the previous paragraph, and ask yourself questions such as these:
  • Useful?  Is it something you could decorate with, learn from or teach with, pass on to a future generation? Does it have a use?
  • Sentimental? Probably all of your children's artwork is of sentimental value but which pieces evoke the strongest memory or emotion?
  • Room to store it?   Decide what would be a reasonable amount of space to devote to storing artwork, and decide if you want this item to take up some of that space.  Could you save just a photo of this project, and be just as happy?  Do you already have another similar piece, and is one enough?
Once you answer these questions, you will have a pretty good idea of what you should keep.

 Inexpensive yet Priceless Decorations

For years, long after artistic abilities improved, I have decorated using some of the art my children made when they were small.  I treasure the elementary school ceramics that grace the mantle in our living room.  My laundry room (where I spend a lot of time!) is a cheerful art gallery of grade school projects.  I packed away favorite seasonal school projects in the appropriate boxes of holiday decorations, and we enjoy displaying them during Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas each year.

Luckily, my children had the same teacher for 2nd grade, so I have one of these pretty eggs made by each of them!

Holiday decorations need not be expensive or take a lot of room to store, especially if you use and reuse items you already have.  In addition to my kids projects from the past, I often look around my house to see what I already own that might be useful.  For instance, without buying a thing, I created a bird feeder, to use as a Christmas decoration and Valentine's Day Decoration, with only minor alterations.  (Click on these links for instructions* on how I made the feeder and modified it.)   The egg “tree” pictured near the beginning of this post was decorated with Christmas lights and holly sprigs in December.

Our marble collection was the perfect filler for the "lollipop bouquets " I've been using as an Easter centerpiece.  

Sunshine, plants beginning to grow on the South side of our house, and a slight tinge of green in the grass (uncovered when the snow melted yesterday), made me decide to take a few of these photos outdoors today - even though the decorations pictured are usually inside!

I love the idea of cutting down on clutter, but carefully consider what you are discarding as you put it into one of your 40 trash bags!

What is taking up unnecessary space in your home?
Have you ever thrown out or given away something that you later regretted?

A word of gratitude to my mother-in-law, who over the years has provided us with many holiday decorations, such as the ceramic bunny basket and Easter figurines in these photos!

*10/4/14 NOTE: The links to the articles mentioned do not currently work, as the site they was published on is no longer in existence. I apologize for this inconvenience, and if they are republished, I will update the links. Updated: 11/11/2015  Here is a link to the republished instructions: An Easy Christmas Gift  - for the Birds!


  1. Great post. We can all use a little decluttering in our life. My husband is crazy about getting rid of things, and the boys and I are often looking for stuff he has given to Goodwill :) I use my laundry room to house some of my favorite arts & crafts and papers from when they were little. It makes me so happy to see them when I'm in doing laundry.

  2. I agree about being careful about what you get rid of.
    Like for me, my kids are 7 and 9, so if they grow out of any more clothing, I will not store them, I'll give them away.

    But something of sentimental value like your eggs, I'd definitely keep.

    If I have 40 bags of anything to give away in my house it would be mostly paper. We don't keep / have too much here.

    1. My husband would probably tell you that filing and tossing paperwork is one of my least proficient skills -- but I am working on that, and my guess is my bags would be a lot of paper too!


If you enjoyed this post, I would love it if you share it on your social media sites and with your friends!