Bite 35: Declutter Your Wardrobe

You may have caught my post about buying e-books and helping out a family in need. As I mentioned, one of the e-books was Tsh Oxenreider’s One Bite at a Time. The book presents 52 bite-sized ideas that will help you to simplify your life.

I am starting with Project 35: Declutter Your Wardrobe (and focus on your outward appearance) mainly because I have been meaning to get this done for quite some time. With the coming of real fall weather, figuring out my wardrobe has become a necessity. What with a couple of winters spent pregnant and some additional time in “transition” clothing, it appears that my body has finally reached some sort of equilibrium. Unfortunately, this also coincides with the majority of my clothing being too summery, too beat up, or simply disintegrating. I submit Exhibit A: old, beloved shirt + exuberant washer = sadness.


The basic principle behind decluttering your wardrobe is that you get rid of (give away, store, etc, etc) all the clothing that doesn’t fit you properly. Thus you are left with only the items that you will actually wear, rather than a bunch of clothes that kind of fit. This process is easier if you spend a little time educating yourself about what kind of clothes work for you and what doesn’t. Forget about trends, just stick with what works. For example, I borrowed (and photocopied relevant sections of) my sister’s copy of The Science of Sexy, which breaks down your body type and gives you suggestions based on your measurements. As much as I would love to be an hourglass, I am a tall, medium rectangle. I need v-neck shirts (goodbye beloved crew-neck t-shirts!) and clothes that define my waist (thank you Spanx!).  I also know that I look good in purple and beige makes me look like death.

So, last Thursday afternoon my Mom watched the kids and I ventured into the bedroom to edit my clothing collection. It was surprisingly exhausting and took a lot longer than I had anticipated. But I did it. I weeded out the maternity clothes, the summer clothes, and the transition clothes. I put some clothing aside for alterations. I also ditched a bunch of stuff that just didn’t fit me anymore. This included a couple of items that I absolutely adored, including a heavenly white angora sweater and a beautiful blue sheath dress. I just can’t handle angora anymore and after three kids I am just not “hourglass” enough to pull off the sheath dress. Ah well, I am working on making sure they go to good homes. The dress may have an owner, but let me know if you are interested in the sweater.

Of course I forgot before photos, but the “after” picture of my tops should give you a good idea of how much my wardrobe has been reduced. I think I used to have about 5 empty hangers. (This evening Ben used some of the spares as bows and arrows and as a special skinning knife – we’ve been watching Edwardian Farm lately and I think he got that idea from the part about the leather tanner). Oh, and the stuff on the right is the sloppy-stay-at-home section.


I learned three things from this little experiment.

  1. I really do need to go shopping, otherwise I will be very cold this winter.
  2. Having only stuff that fits you in your wardrobe actually works! This Sunday was incredibly wet, so I needed something more protective than a skirt to wear to mass. I threw on a pair of grey dress pants, a black tank top, a grey blazer that I just recently purloined from my sister, a scarf, and a pair of black flats. And it worked! I should have worn a rain jacket, but I was comfortable and moderately stylish. It was a heck of a lot better than hunting around for a new outfit, trying seven things on, rejecting them all, and then ending up with the same thing I had worn three weeks in a row.
  3. Look at how much unwearable stuff I had in my wardrobe!! That is a lot of visual dead weight. Every time I went to get dressed I had to mentally discount whole sections of clothing. Better to just admit it doesn’t fit and get rid of it rather than holding on to a bunch of wishful thinking.

Hopefully this simplification will relieve stress not only for me but for Darren, who cringes visibly every time he sees me standing in the closet with a pensive look on my face.  And I’m looking forward to actually being excited to put an outfit together and being creative with clothes!


Most beautiful thing: Time Alone

Vincent van Gogh's Bedroom in Arles.

Some days you just need time to be alone. Sunday was one of those days.

John woke up five times on Saturday night with discomfort from teething and a cold.  He used the opportunity to scream as loudly as he could and then thrash about as Darren and I tried to calm him down.  Thank goodness for distractions like water, telephones, and old medicine bottles.  I know that this is nothing new when it comes to kids being sick and grouch, but I was pretty tired when 8:37 rolled around.  I woke up to find Darren and the kids almost ready for mass.  So, off they went while John and I relaxed, are breakfast, and watched an episode of “Edwardian Farm

By the mid-afternoon it was pretty clear that I needed a bit of space from the rambunctiousness of everyday life.  So, off went Darren and the kids to Krause Farm to find blueberries and play in the sand pit. And I had the house all to myself.

Of course, I did what any good mother would do, I cleaned up!  But here’s the thing.  I cleaned up by myself, in peace and quiet, with no one asking questions.  I was able to focus on a single task for more than two minutes at a stretch.  I took care of things the I wanted to take care of, not tasks forced upon me by the tyranny of the immediate.  It was luxury.

By the time Darren and the kids came home, I was refreshed and satisfied that I had got something done. Such a treat. And because I had missed mass in the morning, I got to go all by myself before dinner!  I saw some old friends after mass and I was even able to have an adult conversation without interruption.  Top it off with hamburgers for dinner and strawberries and cream for dessert, and that’s a pretty good evening.

All of this is thanks to Darren, who made me stay at home alone.  And he is right, I need to ask for a break more often.  So I will.


So, the new school year is a week old and it already feels like we are in the thick of it!  Last year I blogged about taking the time to establish a new school routine, and then I promptly came down with appendicitis a few days later and any sense of order was completely out the door.  This year my sister Emily got married on Labour Day weekend (check out the sneek peek of her photos here and here!  And yes, that is Darren holding John upside down), so naturally there was nothing resembling routine until the Tuesday morning when everyone went back to work/school.

Much like my attempted summer routine of getting ready before the kids woke up (which was moderately successful, I might add), this year I am trying to wake up earlier so that any lateness can be legitimately blamed on my offspring rather than on me.  I am trying to move everything ahead about half an hour, which means I need to get up between 6:00 and 6:30, depending on the day and what time I got to bed.  I think I am averaging about 6 hours of sleep, which is not too bad for having 3 kids.  We are also trying to get the kids into bed earlier so that they are less grouchy.  This is particularly important for Cate, who grew a lot this summer and who subsequently could get impressively … petulant.

Added to the mix is the fact that this year I am taking care of my niece for 2-3 days a week.  She is 6 weeks older than John, so I am getting a taste of what life would be like with twins.  I have already taken them shopping a few times with Cate and I receive very nice sympathetic smiles.  So far I have managed to get her down for a nap every day (knock on wood), but some days it takes a little longer than others.  It is so interesting to see the difference between her and John.  She is WAY ahead of him in terms of verbal development, but he is much more “chatty/babbly.” It will be fun to watch them grow up together.

I’m hoping that the next few weeks will really solidify the kids’ routines.  But what I need to work on is figuring out how to integrate time for myself into family life.  It has come home to me over the last month or so (while I have not been posting regularly) that I enjoy writing and I need to do it regularly.  I also need to exercise regularly.  And I will be taking on some independent design work over the next few weeks, so I need to map out some time for that as well. And while we made great headway on re-organizing the garage, I still haven’t finished going through my papers.

So to sum up, there is still a heck of a lot to do, but at least the regular routines of everyday life are starting to emerge from the brushwood. But I do need to take care of myself, otherwise I will burn out like I did last year.  Did you know I got burned out last year?  I just discovered it myself this summer.  But that is a different tale for a different time…

Secret Recycling Nerd

English: Recycle logoI have always been a bit of a recycling nerd.  When I was in elementary school the municipal government had a series of industrial recycling boxes located throughout the city.  There was one just down the road from our house. I remember taking all the recyclables (newspapers, cans, glass, and possibly plastic) down to the big green bin and dumping them in.  The crash that resulted from tossing the glass was particularly satisfying.  We may have even fought over that job.  Probably.

But my interest in recycling extended beyond the neighbourhood depot.  In grade seven we needed to raise money for out outdoor education program and so we did a couple of bottle drives.  As we were walking through the streets canvassing for empties I thought what a good idea it would be to get people to sign up for regularly scheduled pick ups.  Imagine the money we would make! (Imagine the inconvenience to our parents!)

I probably can’t take credit for our current system of weekly recycling pick-up, but I can at least say that I did think of it before it was implemented.  Regardless, it was only a few years later that I got a chance to see the weekly pick-up system in action.  My aunt and uncle live in Victoria.  I’m not certain of how the recycling program came about (and Google was less then helpful this morning), but I seem to recall that our province’s capital was one of the first municipalities in BC to implement a blue box curbside recycling program.  I remember being really impressed, and somewhat jealous.  All they had to do was put out their recycling with the trash – we had to lug ours down to the recycling bins!  It was a day of rejoicing for all lazy and well-meaning teenagers, myself included, when my hometown introduced their own blue bin program.

For years we have been putting the recycling out with the trash, but this fall we will be adding a little something to the refuse: organic waste materials!  This means that any uneaten food, paper that has had food touch it (like pizza boxes), yard trimmings, etc, will all be picked up by a separate truck that – get this – runs on compressed natural gas (CNG) and emits 23% less carbon and 90% less air particulates than a regular diesel truck.  And on top of it all, the organic waste that these trucks pick up will be used to produce the fuel that makes then run.  Based on calculations done from the pilot program, diverting organic waste should reduce a household’s garbage by about 50%.

All of this sounds extremely cool, and I really hope it works as well as they say. If you can’t tell, I am very excited about all of this.  I even catch myself mentally sorting the organic waste from the garbage and thinking, “In October this won’t be going to the dump!” Now that’s nerdy.

Seven Dollar Smile

I am grateful for Costco. I once calculated that our membership pays for itself in the savings that we get from purchasing Harvest farmer sausages there rather than at any other grocery store. Seriously, at Costco they are $12 for eight and at Pricemart they are $7 for three. That’s roughly 50% cheaper. Consider this your shopping tip for the day!

The difficulty is that everything at Costco tends to be rather large, this also being the point of a bulk discount store. So when one purchases a two litre bottle of neutral grapeseed oil for a fabulous price and it doesn’t fit in one’s cupboard, one keeps the grapeseed oil on the counter beside the stove. And it looks pretty ugly after a while.

Enter the oil cruet. While I was at Home Outfitters picking up a wedding present I checked out the cruets and was surprised to learn that a basic cruet was only $2.99! You can get fancy ones that mix oil and vinegar for you, but all I needed was a basic cruet. Into the shopping cart it went. That night I washed them out and filled them up. I now have two cruets of oil (one grapeseed, one olive) as well as a bottle of balsamic vinegar sitting on a glass fish plate just to the left of my stove. And it looks SO much better. I got to use the olive oil cruet on Sunday night. It was extremely exciting!


I am continually amazed at how visual clutter just eats away at me. It sits there in the back of my brain, nagging away. And my brain just keeps plugging away at it until it arrives at a solution. I know that this probably takes up a lot of mental energy, but it is worth it. I get such a feeling of satisfaction when I come up with a solution that works. And the best thing is that I didn’t need to spend $30 to fix the problem. Just seven dollars, including tax.


Summer Routine

Yesterday was the last day of school for Benno. My sweet baby boy finished Grade Two and will start his final year of primary come September. I know people always say that time flies when you have kids, and it really does.

The end of the school year means no morning drive to school, no making lunches, no afternoon pickup, hooray! Yet I know from experience that if we do away with routine altogether, we will be in serious trouble. And by we, I mean me.


So, here is a list of things routines that will not be abandoned this summer.

1. All kids must do the morning routine before eating breakfast. Our morning routine consists of getting up, going to the bathroom, brushing teeth, and getting dressed. I know that technically you are supposed to brush your teeth after breakfast, but in our household, if we don’t do it right away, it generally has a pretty low chance of being done at all.

2. Eat breakfast by 10:00. This will give the kids enough time to horse around in the morning, but have them eating before it becomes ridiculously late.

3. Everyone clears their dishes.

4. Downstairs living areas must be totally clean before heading up to bed.

5. If you are too loud, you will get kicked outside, regardless of the weather.

Okay, now here are the rules for me:

1. Get up and into the shower by 7:00 at the latest. If I don’t shower before the kids are up, our ability to do anything decreases by about 90%.

2. Pray every morning. I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but on days when I take the time to pray, things generally go much more smoothly.

3. Keep my temper. For help with this, see #2.

4. Work on kitchen cleanliness. This is a very big challenge for me as my “office” is also in the kitchen.  If I can get a good system for keeping the dishes from multiplying like rabbits on the countertop and keeping papers organized I will be a very, very happy camper.

5. Carve out some sort of quiet time for myself every day.  Even if it is 5 minutes to put on clear nail polish or look at a magazine without interruption.

6. The long shot: teach my kids to wait their turn while I am on the phone or speaking to another adult.  Or maybe just a full course in delayed gratification.  My kids are generally pretty well-behaved, but they do tend to think that the world will come to an end if I don’t pay attention to them RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!  Very provoking when I am trying to have an important conversation on the phone.  Perhaps this will require more attention to point#2…

Do you  have any non-negotiable summer routines?

Cord Control

You know that spaghetti of a mess that you get when you just have too many computer cords? Well, I did something about ours. I don’t have a “before” photo, but suffice to say it’s a good thing we have a large monitor that can hide a lot of cords. Well, sort of hide. It is probably more accurate to say “partially obstruct”.

I have seen various options for hiding all your cords (like this one from Ikea), but the basic idea is the same wherever you look: a box with holes in which all the horrible spaghetti is hidden from view. Not wanting to spend $15, I repurposed an old shoe box. I just cut two holes in the side, reinforced the holes with duct tape, and started threading computer cords.

Here is the newly organized corner. Can you spot the box?


A close up.


The inside. I am SO glad this is not visible anymore.


Close up of the hole I cut in the side.


In other news, I broke out the glue gun and fixed Benno’s flipper and Cate’s tiara. I also reattached the skull of the sabre tooth tiger which had broken off after an unfortunate fall. He now grins down at me from the top of the receipt box.


Preparing for summer

Cultus Lake DocksDid you ever have a brilliant idea, only to turn around and see that someone else had that same brilliant idea and had already acted on it? That is my experience with this Simple Mom post. For those of you with not enough time to read the whole post, it basically advocates pre-packing for a variety of activities: beach, picnic, pool, etc.

I actually did something of this sort this past winter. We have an old diaper bag that was a disappointing purchase (started to fall apart within six months). I tend to hold on to things, so the irritating, broken diaper bag became a winter emergency bag. It sat in the truck of the car filled with a couple of diapers, John’s stroller snuggle thing, and a set of hat and mitts for each member of the family. It ended up saving our bacon a couple of times, and I’m glad I put it together.

Earlier this month I was thinking that I need to do something similar for the summertime. I am planning on getting some sort of portable bin and filling it with summertime outside things, such as sunscreen, towels, hats, and blankets. The kids will be out in the backyard a lot this summer and it would be good to have everything at hand, rather than running through the house like a madwoman every time we want to go to the outside.

[Incidentally, this happened to me earlier thus week. It was Fun Day at Benno’s school and I had to run upstairs multiple times just because all the summer supplies were in odd places. I was also reminded that just because you remembered sunscreen doesn’t mean that it will automatically keep you from being burnt. You have to apply it to your body. Ooops. ]

So, the plan for the next little while (I have learned that setting fast deadlines at this stage in my life is not always a great idea) is to put together a backyard box, a pool bag, and a picnic bag. That way when the kids are whiny and fussy this summer I can get us out the door quickly and into some cooling body of water without going off the deep end myself.

Classic movies: A love story

Okay, look up at the top of the screen. See it? Right next to the “About” and “Guidebook”? You got it! “Nostalgia!”

When I was a kid our family did not have a television. That’s right, we didn’t own a television until I was 12 years old. Even after we got a TV we never had cable, we just watched movies and the Sunday night line-up on CBC with the bunny ears (Disney then Road to Avonlea. Oh yeah, and there was Danger Bay – set in Vancouver, so we saw a lot of places that we knew, like the Vancouver Aquarium).

Anyways, because we didn’t have cable (something that my own family now does without, much to the bewilderment of cable company representatives) and barely had television, we rented a lot of movies. And because my parents were careful about what we watched, we rented a lot of old movies. Our family has even developed a verbal shorthand that references all of our favourite movies. With the demise of video stores, a lot of these old movies are being lost, particularly the Disney “live action” movies, which I have started to dig up. Happily, you can still find a lot of these on the internet.

So, mostly for the sake of my kids, I thought it would be a good idea to gather all of these old movies into one place. That way, whenever we want to watch something new (to them, that is) we can just go and check out my list! (Darling siblings, if you have any suggestions, let me know!)

What were your favourite movies when you were a kid?

Clothes shuffle

During the past few weeks the temperature spiked to 25 degrees. Ahhhhh….aaahhhhhuuuhhhh…uh oh. Where are the shorts?

Luckily Ben, Cate, Darren, and my summer clothing was close at hand. Thankfully, most of my shorts from two years ago (before I got pregnant with John) fit me again, which should cut down on the summer shopping I need to do for myself (although I desperately need some new shirts!)

However, John was a different matter.  All his summer stuff is packed away in our basement, which means its time for a clothing shuffle!

Late last week I went through Cate’s stuff and exhumed the “too small” drawer in John’s room.  I was left with this.  Note the lovely but too-small red velvet Christmas dress.  *sigh*  I think we may need to have another girl.


And here is the pile of summer clothes waiting to be integrated into John’s dresser.


Hmmm….must get on that… more to follow.