Category Archives: decluttering

Bigster’s room

I have been cleaning and decluttering Bigster’s room before she gets back from Hong Kong.

Well, more decluttering than cleaning.

I had to get Fraser to help me tonight.

See, my approach involved going through ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING that might have things that could be thrown out. Mostly, getting it out and sorting it in the middle of the floor.

It’s not quite as bad as it looks – at least, that’s what I tell myself. In those piles, there’s a box of stuff to go to the Trash & Treasure stall at school; a box of stuff to go to Otto’s room; a box of paper rubbish; two empty boxes; a bag of rubbish rubbish; and a box to go to the study. So that can get out of the room fairly easily. It’s just the rest of the stuff that still needs to be sorted.

She’s back on Tuesday, and her Hong Kong exchange sister arrives five days later, to share her room.

At least her bookshelves are reasonably under control – and this after I unpacked another 2 boxes of books into them! (The other bookshelf that you can see side-on is also 4′ wide and 6′ high – but it has lots of horizontal stacks of series books). We’re going to have to go through the shelves when she gets home to work out (a) what she hasn’t read yet; (b) what she isn’t going to read again; and (c) what could be passed on to her sister.

We’re taking Otto out tomorrow – she doesn’t often get the chance to go out with just the two of us – and then I aim to finish cleaning Biggie’s room. Our cleaner comes on Monday, which means the carpet will get a really good vacuum etc – but I need to get rid of the clutter first. Her method of tidying is to stack everything in front of the fireplace which, as you can see, tends to be problematic. I think one of the boxes that is there is still half-full from the last cleanup.

I did a big clean while Biggie was on school camp in July-ish, but didn’t do the decluttering bit or fully deal with the fireplace pile, so things have deteriorated since then. I’m hoping that by chucking out the old, broken and useless items, we’ll end up with a manageable amount of room – and with constant bookshelf access, which is the truly important thing in Bigster’s life.

The study corner is something I am conflicted about, as I’m a big believer in common areas for homework and study (and especially for computers). Sometimes, though, she wants to sit somewhere and write a letter or do some doodling, and her little desk is perfect for that sort of task.

I hope to post “After” photos on Monday night 🙂

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Posted by on October 16, 2010 in decluttering



By request, here are some photos from the building process.

And some that I took today, showing the (partially) finished product. We’ve focused on getting things ONTO shelves rather than on sorting them neatly by height, colour etc. (We save that for the games). And there are still little bits of unpacking left all over the place, so it is by no means pristine and ready to be shown.

Edit: My gallery settings do not seem to update. I will caption the captionless pictures using comments on the pages – click for detail.

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Posted by on October 11, 2010 in decluttering


Getting to the boxes

Clearing things up got a little further today, the last day of Fraser’s leave. I decided to unpack a box of science fiction books that has been in the corridor for a while.

First, though, I had to clear space on the corridor shelves, home of the science fiction and fantasy books, and dust them off. The bottom shelf, too short for paperbacks, still has miscellaneous books, but the remaining shelves are clear.

Next step was to unpack the box and vaguely – but not comprehensively – sort the books. I think each author’s books are together, but we certainly did not achieve alphabetisation.

The other book box in the corridor turned out to contain trashy novels which were to go behind the study door. This meant moving the books that were currently behind the door to the main shelves (anything not SFF) or into the corridor (SFF). And cleaning more shelves. And inventing new and cunning ways to double-stack.

It also meant listening to Fraser mock my books. See, the corridor, as I said, contains science fiction (mostly his) and fantasy (mostly mine). He is thinking of banishing the fantasy to “somewhere else” so that it does not POLLUTE! his pristine beautiful books. The book most singled out for his derision – possibly justifiably, I must admit – is called Catfantastic! and is a collection of short stories featuring cats. Or, as Fraser calls it, CAT PORN.

(Someone should perhaps tell my husband that there is probably such a thing as real CAT PORN —- but I digress.)

The outcome, after much mumbling and grumbling, is a semi-mixed collection of “our” books, partially alphabetised.

And a book of CAT PORN, hidden between two of Fraser’s Special Books.

Photo post to follow.

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Posted by on October 11, 2010 in decluttering


… and I still never remember to take them to the supermarket!

I washed a load of “green bags” today. Technically, they are all different colours – but they’re the nice big non-woven poly bags.

They say a lot of things about us:

  • We read The Age and have been known to go to museums and/or art galleries
  • We have holidayed in Lorne
  • We mostly shop at Coles
  • We support the Anti-cancer council and have participated in the Mother’s Day Classic
  • We flirt with concepts like “natural produce” (but see above re: mostly shop at Coles)
  • We have children (or have very strange taste in adorable bunnies and Fifi and the Flowertots for adults)

Mostly though, what they say to me is:

  • How the hell can one family have TWENTY ONE envirobags?

The really sad thing is, this is probably less than half of our supply. Sure, they’re good for carrying games – but there are some stacked beside the game shelves for that. And it’s good to have some in each car, now that we are a 2-car household after I successfully stole my dad’s Daewoo.

But not, perhaps, 21.

I hope our local Coles still has those recycling boxes to collect envirobags to turn into car tyres or wearable art or plastic currency notes or something.

Now to decide which ones to keep …

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Posted by on October 10, 2010 in decluttering, shopping


Study – finished (sort of)

New desk is IN. I got so excited about this (or possibly by the smell of varnish) that I sorted through 3 boxes of papers and chucked most of them out.

Found all the birthday cards I got for my 18th birthday. Surprisingly, and delightfully, I am still in some form of contact with more than half of those people. Many are ‘reconnects’ through Facebook. It was nice to read what they had written. For now, the cards are in the “Melissa memorabilia” box – but I suspect I will dump most of them at some point in the future. Other old Christmas cards etc were chucked – we found a pile that was clearly 1993. Not sure why that year was special – it wasn’t anymore.

Status of the Big Clean Out is that Fraser has one column of shelves that he is working through. This includes a 25 cm-thick pile of manila folders (empty) and a shelf of empty CD cases. He rescued some of them from the bin (BAD Melissa!).

This is what the 6 columns of (each approx 60 cm wide) shelves in the study have consisted of for the past um 10 years or so:

Lots of junk

old manila folders

old magazines

old CDs

Lots of junk

old manila folders

old magazines

old CDs

Lots of junk

old manila folders

old magazines

old CDs

Reference books

Lots of reference books that we never actually refer to

Crime fiction, mostly double-stacked Crime fiction and some science fiction. Mostly inaccessible due to door.
bottom shelf empty and inaccessible bottom shelf lots of books and inaccessible bottom shelf lots of books and inaccessible bottom shelf inaccessible due to junk on floor in front of shelves. Which is a shame because it has some of the useful reference books. Oops. bottom shelf inaccesible due to junk on floor in front of shelves bottom shelves inaccessible due to VERY IMPORTANT boxes of stationery stacked behind the door and blocking the bottom 2-3 shelves

This is how they look now:

Fraser’s VERY IMPORTANT stuff

old manila folders

old magazines

old CDs


Folders with family records


sorted CDs

old laptop

books – fiction – not sorted yet

1 shelf with a desk tray

Reference books (reduced to 2 shelves). Dumped some of the others, and moved others to relevant places on the main shelves.

Rest of shelves are books – fiction – not sorted yet

Crime fiction, mostly double-stacked but accessible (I stack prolific authors in 1 horizontal pile, with titles that don’t fit there vertically in front) Crime fiction and some science fiction. Mostly inaccessible due to door.
bottom shelf used for stuff that we need to check if it works or not and then throw out if it doesn’t or put into operation if it does (eg old PC keyboard that I could use for my laptop) bottom shelf EMPTY! books – fiction – not sorted yet books – fiction – not sorted yet bottom shelf inaccesible due to to-be-sorted pile on floor in front of shelves bottom shelves inaccessible due to to-be-sorted pile on floor in front of shelves

And this is the Ultimate Plan:

Fraser’s VERY IMPORTANT stuff

Folders with family record

Important (sorted) CDs

Computer game manuals

Books – general fiction Books – crime fiction – double stacked if necessary Reference books (2 shelves)

Books – crime fiction – double stacked if necessary

Books – crime fiction – double stacked if necessary Books – trashy novels that I used to keep hidden in the bedroom. Double stacked by necessity.
bottom shelf computer cables box and maybe old laptop bottom shelf music CDs boxes bottom shelf either books or some other storagey item bottom shelf either books or some other storagey item bottom shelf either books or some other storagey item bottom shelf either books or some other storagey item

The sorting of books will take longer than the rest.There is another shelf that will probably be available for fiction, as well as others for non-fiction etc.

Meanwhile, Otto came into the study last night and complained in horror that my desk was messy! In fact, I was sorting old paperwork and her complaint was mostly about the big box of “this is going to the recycling bin” pages.

What keeps me going is the thought that there are still 30+ boxes in storage. Mostly full of books and paperwork. Ugh.

Learnings and Observations from this process so far:

  • Fraser and I have disagreements about the priority of books. I was prepared for him to not think my linguistics books and non-English books were not a priority (fair call, they are of interest to only 1 of us so they get shelved accordingly). What I was not prepared for was that travel books are not a priority (and should therefore be shelved out of reach) unlike books about TV shows.
  • See also the manila folder pile, above. His plan is now to take them to work, I think. Apparently that is his Sekrit Storage Place.
  • Computer game boxes take up a LOT of room. We are going to scan/photograph them for and then dump them, keeping manuals/reference charts and CDs. If they are games that will be played again, that is.
  • It is possible to get sick of going back to IKEA for storage stuff. And then for light globes that are not supplied in the box with the light. Grrrr.
  • Apparently the Godzilla money box is also a priority. It roars and eats buildings.
  • We really, REALLY need to unplug all the cables and work out what is required and what isn’t.
  • The term “rationalise the power boards” has been used in at least one conversation. Really. And not by me.
  • Sorting paperwork takes a LOT longer than sorting books.
  • The drawers I bought at IKEA? I bought them because they are kind of adorable. I have found a (good) use for them, but next time perhaps I should find the use before buying the adorable drawers.
  • It is possible for two people to take 5 minutes to decide which of three versions of Roget’s Thesaurus is a keeper. And then find a fourth that is clearly better than any of them.
  • We have some really fab books. Especially the non-fiction.
  • IKEA have fancy storage boxes that cost $19.99 for 2. They are pretty, but they also sell not-so-fancy plain brown storage boxes that cost $2.49 for 1. And are quite possibly sturdier, albeit smaller. Combination is good. And the cheaper, CD- and DVD- sized boxes are fabulous for oh so many things.
  • My dad’s old desk mat, circa 1973, unearthed in a box of stuff that came from my parents’ old home, is an exact match for the desk accessories I bought last week. Score!
  • Using four layers of varnish on my desk did not make it optical-mouse-friendly. Also, for those who do not read short updates elsewhere: never varnish a desk outside after 5pm, unless you want an artistic coating of dead bugs stuck to the varnish. Hence the unplanned 4th coat, after significant sanding.
  • Some IKEA desk lamps do not have replaceable bulbs. You use them until they stop working, then you throw them out. If I had known this, I would have got a different lamp.
  • My IKEA floor lamp, on the other hand, is officially Evil. And not just because the uplight bit uses a different globe than the reading light bit – but because Bigster and I spotted it in the Mayor’s office during a season 3 episode of Buffy. We snickered.
  • Two people can have a scary quantity of pre-stamped envelopes and stamps. Even – or perhaps especially – when one of them is philatelically challenged.
  • It is kind of nice to sit in the study with your partner during the evening, even if you are at opposite sides of the desks.
  • Investing in a small squishy ball might be a justifiable study-equipment expense for when said partner says silly things. Errm, as long as “said partner” is Fraser, not me.
  • Putting “Op Shop” boxes beside the front door so you have to manoeuvre around them to get outside? Still not enough to make us actually take the things to the Op Shop.
  • I buy lots of gifts for Fraser that I forget about or do not get around to giving him.

Posted by on October 6, 2010 in decluttering, house



I have been twittering a lot about our study lately. I thought perhaps the time has come to share some pictures.

Here is what the study used to look like, in theory.

Very clean and tidy room

The bookshelves along the South (bottom) wall are built-in, white melamine. Six rises, each about 60cm wide, with variable height shelves. They go all the way to the roof. As you can see, they were blocked by the desk to the point that we really couldn’t use a third of them – which had lots of old paperwork sort of jammed in. Not a good look.

The desk is an old one of Fraser’s family’s, with a drawer unit to either side of a central gap for sitting. Great if you have a big office and are entertaining clients, but not much use if you have two people wanting desk space at once. The filing cabinets were also hand-me-downs from our respective families, and the two bookshelves were 6′ tall with five evenly-spaced fixed shelves.

Here is what it had come to look like, in practice.

Lots of boxes everywhereThere is a reason why I am not uploading a photograph here.

The study got a lot worse earlier this year when we moved rooms around and, in particular, when we moved Otto into the old spare room. Stuff that was in there – another of the pine bookshelves, as well as the poker machine Fraser was given for his 18th birthday – had nowhere to go but the study. So we had boxes everywhere. The room was even less usable.

The shelves were blocked at the bottom by the boxes. In the lower right hand corner of the picture, they were blocked by the desk. Accessible parts of our “good” built-in shelves were being used to hold piles and piles of paper, including old magazines dating back to the 1980s. Meanwhile we had nowhere for our books and even the games were overflowing into the study. It had reached the stage where the children were banned from taking friends into the room as I was scared something might fall – and if it did, we might see a domino effect.

And here’s my new plan.I used the IKEA home designer tool, which is excellent except that it does not allow you to add any non-IKEA furniture . I had to improvise a bit to get things laid out to even an approximate scale. I’ve replicated it in VISIO because that is more manipulable, if less full-featured.

I was a bit nervous about this layout, especially about hanging the bookshelves out from the wall, but we needed the storage space. Here are the pictures from the IKEA home design tool (remember, the existing desk is kind of wrong). I had to use a tall cabinet to represent the poker machine, and a combination of desk, gap and drawer unit for Fraser’s old desk. And wall to represent the built-in bookshelves. Ah, it’s all wrong 🙂

In that second photo, you can see that it is a little cramped – well, a little tight, anyway. The room is actually a little bigger than it looks, though, as the poker machine is against a fireplace that is set back a bit from the wall, giving us a whole 15cm extra to manoeuvre. That’s critical space, that is.

So far, it’s working. My new desk isn’t in yet – we’re waiting till we’re done unpacking – but we seem to have plenty of room. That’s helped by the amount of stuff that we’ve been chucking out. We were averaging 1 box out for every three we unpacked. Old papers (I even bought myself a shredder to cope with it all), duplicate books, redundant magazines. Old “records” that really weren’t needed. And omg so many CDs!

We spent nearly an hour yesterday just matching up computer games with their boxes, cases and manuals. Urgs. I think we are going to toss out most of the boxes in a week or so, too (F wants to scan them for first).

We will never have a lean, streamlined home, but at least we have got rid of some of the crap.

And the KASSET boxes from IKEA are our friends. We have oh so many and then some, and even need some more. Also the amazing leg of my desk, which is actually a storage unit all in itself and currently holds stationery, printer paper and Important Files.

So it’s all good, so far. We’ve unpacked all the boxes that we stored in Bigster’s room for the week, and just have a few to go from Otto’s room. Then we can move the old air conditioner out (I’m hoping for a big project before the end of the year, so we can buy a split system and get rid of the big ugly portable one), sort the last box of memorabilia into our own boxes (still need to get those) and move my desk in. With a few shelves to spare, even.

Oh yeah.

And the **THIRTY TWO BOXES** that are still in storage.


I need another week off.

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Posted by on September 27, 2010 in decluttering, house


Sunday late

Achieved today, after earlier posting:

  • Finished shelves etc for Bigster’s wardrobe
  • Tidied kids’ room
  • Deloused both children (again) – this is the tedious, clog-up-the-hair-with-conditioner and go through it with a fine tooth comb kind of delousing, rather than the throw-all-the-chemicals-you-can-at-it. Except that for the Bigster, I did use the pink hairspray that allegedly makes nits glow fluorescent pink. Now my hands and her scalp are a rather fine shade of fuchsia. Memo to self: Next time, use gloves. I have 2 client meetings tomorrow. This could be embarassing.
  • Sorted laundry and put it away. Memo to self: In future, only buy children 3 changes of clothes, to be washed on alternate days.
  • Got out both children’s school bags. At least we could find them.
  • OMG I forgot to find them hats!
  • Laundry, laundry, laundry. When I had children, a friend told me that I could resist all I wanted, but some day I would discover that a parent’s life really revolves around the washing machine. I have since succumbed.
  • Cleaned the living room. The girls have been Being Naughty in there while Fraser and I worked. It was a disaster. It is now less disastrous and ready for our cleaner, who comes tomorrow. When she is here, it is OK if I have tidied and OK if I have not – but if I have half-tidied then the tidied things get mixed in with the untidied things and it is all a Big Old Disaster. Memo to self: Put clothes away in the morning.
  • Grocery shopping. Including School Food Supplies. Ran into someone from the creche both girls attended, which was fun. Also ran into the mum of one of Otto’s friends. Also fun. We had both left our kids with our husbands while we got the better end of the deal did the grocery shopping.
  • Moved more stuff onto shelves and cupboards. Still not enough, though. I am starting to feel cautiously optimistic that there will be almost enough space – that what we are doing will actually make a difference.
  • Washed fruit & veggies ready for school lunches this week and packed little packs of fruit. Stupid rubbish-free lunches. Grrr. I am convinced that we now contribute more to landfill than we used to, by the time all the lost little plastic containers are counted.
  • Re-bagged all the op shop stuff and loaded it into the car. It may sit there for a week, it may get dropped off tomorrow. Either way, it is now out of my house.

Fraser has also been very very very busy:

  • Built 3 Benno CD/DVD towers. We wanted to check what they would look like where we want to put them. Answer: Very fine indeed. We also wanted to calculate how many DVDs we can expect to store on each. Because linear meters are important. (Answer: around 80, which means up to 480 across the 6 shelving units. I don’t think we have that many DVDs, which is a good thing. More room for card games!
  • Cleared stuff out of the girls’ room. Including big sheets of cardboard etc. There used to be a place where you could drop off waste cardboard for recycling, but I think now we are restricted to what our kerbside recycling will take. Unless Fraser starts taking bags of folded cardboard in to work every day, we estimate that it will take us about 35 years to get rid of the current boxes in addition to our regular recycling.
  • Cleared all the wine and booze off the big wall unit thingo and put it away. As in, in cupboards away, not “put it away”
  • Collected dirty laundry. Ugh.
  • Chopped carrots for school lunches.

We don’t feel as much further ahead as I had expected to by now.  My brother is coming round tomorrow evening to help move bookshelves etc outside. I am hoping that the big wall unit thingo will also be ready to go.

Mostly, though, I am ready for bed.


Posted by on January 31, 2010 in decluttering, house