Category Archives: decluttering

Big Plans – the Sunday report

I slept late today, and then I read a weepy book in bed. Meanwhile, Fraser had been busy building a little IKEA Hajdeby shelving unit. These are basically the poor man’s Expedit, as they are not double-sided and aren’t finished as nicely – but they were on special a month or so ago for $25 each, so I got 2 with the idea of putting them near the back door. This was not part of Phase 1, 2 OR 3 but a whole nother project.

I’ve put a cut here as there are many photos behind it, and because most of you won’t be interested in the super ultra nitty-gritty of furniture and empty rooms etc. Click if you want to see it all. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on January 31, 2010 in decluttering, house


The latest Big Plan

One of the wonderful things about our time in Germany was that it gave me time for reflection. Instead of dreaming about being in other places, I would often think about home, and about the things I wanted to do there.

Specifically, about my frustration that we just didn’t have enough storage for our games, and that the girls were stuck sharing a room (and squabbling about it Every Night).

With that distance came some clarity, too – I could see things that I missed when I was at home and in the midst of them. And so, slowly, a Plan emerged.

In the dining room, we’d get rid of the ugly old buffet unit and replace it with shelving for our games. We wouldn’t need the huge bookshelf that blocks our French doors, although we might have a half-height sideboard there. We’d have new shelving built for our DVDs, so that they didn’t occupy “my half” of the massive bookshelf in the study – giving me room for my books and also the ability to actually SEE what DVDs we own.

The real break-through was the spare room – a big room. We don’t get a lot of guests but the ones we do we don’t want to lose – so we weren’t willing to lose the spare sofa bed. It wouldn’t fit in the study, so we needed to keep a spare room – and I’d been sticking on that thought for yeaaaars.

I woke, literally, at 2am one German night, with a New Plan in my head. I admit, it was complicated, but bear with me:

For starters, we’d move everything out of the spare room. When I say “everything”, you need to understand the scale of what I am talking about – I wish I’d taken photos of the room as it contained:

  • approx. 60 boxes of games and of books
  • 1 Queen-sized futon sofa bed
  • 2 3′ wide x 6′ high bookshelves
  • 1 4′ wide x 6′ high bookshelf
  • 1 3′ wide x 6′ high cupboard with doors
  • our wine rack
  • a poker machine
  • a picnic basket
  • spare quilts & linen for the aforementioned spare bed
  • a nest of coffee tables
  • various other things – you begin to get the picture, I think.

Next, we’d redecorate the spare room.

To understand this, you need to understand two things.

1. Otto loves pink.

1.5. So do I, so I am sympathetic to this.

2. We cannot take ALL our games out of that room, as there isn’t room in the rest of the house for them. Trust me, I calculated linear meters of storage space when I worked out what shelves to put in the dining room. Then I divided it by expected boardgame width. I am sorry to say that this is true.

My solution to #2 was to build a room divider about 1.2m inside the door – she has the rest of the room, but we have that first section (which also includes the pull-down attic ladder). There’s even one you can buy from IKEA. Yes, I worked out it will hold an expected 125 games plus whatever sits on top. Tragic, I agree.

My solution to #1 was to pay someone to paint the room pink. Also tragic.

So the next part of this was clear: Move Otto into the spare room.

But what of the spare room bed, I hear you ask (because my friends are nothing if not picky).

Well that is the beauty of this plan: the spare room bed moves into the Bigster’s room. On the (<10) nights when we have overnight guests, she has to sleep on a mattress in Otto’s room. But the rest of the time, she has a sofa for friends to visit, and a room to herself. Win-Win.

Now this would all have been OK if I could have left things there, but of course they had to get more complicated. And so I bring you to Phase 2.

This is a simpler phase. Its requirements are to move the Bigster’s bed, get her a new wardrobe, get rid of her old furniture (each piece of which weighs about 1.8 tonnes), move her little writing desk into her room, and buy her some new shelving for her Special Things. Then move the spare bed into the room. An afternoon’s work, surely….

Like all good plans (and appealing to Fraser’s love of Power Grid), there is a Phase 3 as well. That involves rotating the desk, adding another one, losing a filing cabinet, building a bookshelf corner and improving access to the shelving in the study.

Even I am not crazy enough to imagine attacking Phase 3 for a few months.

When we got home, I rang a builder (the guy we used for Fraser’s house) to see whether he could do the painting and also send round a handyman to attach bookshelves to walls and do other random jobs. He came and quoted (a good price) but said he couldn’t do it till February. That was annoying, because we’d already moved big furniture off to storage and sent off the bajillion boxes (I know I said 60 but bajillion sounds better) as well. Oh well, it left us with lots of time to move everything …

Then my work got busy and that didn’t matter so much … and then I emailed him, last Wednesday, to say Can you do the work still?

And he replied Yes I sure can, how about the middle of next week?

And I replied, Wow fabulous that will be great.

And then I thought about it.

How we had to clear the bookshelves and cupboards in the spare room, and take other stuff up to storage.

How we had to clean the girls’ room, because after 8 weeks at home their tidy room was not anymore.

How we had to empty out the massive buffet thing AND the sideboard and get them and all the shelves and cupboards out of the house.

How we had to actually BUY the stuff from IKEA so that it could be installed

How we had to build most of the furniture because it is cheaper that way and because some of it needs to be built by 2 people anyway.

How we really had to do some of it in stages so that the next step could occur.

And I realised (not for the first time) that I am an idiot.

Since then, we have

  • cleared out 3 bookshelves in the spare roomm
  • taken 18 or so more boxes to storage
  • moved a bookshelf into the study (and filled it) – after first emptying it. We think we put it in that corner when we moved here in 1996.
  • been shopping at IKEA
  • been to a friend’s wedding
  • cleaned children’s bedroom
  • moved boxes, plastic tubs and chest of drawers out of children’s bedroomm
  • deloused children (ewwww)
  • sent Fraser and Biggie to the after-party for aforementioned wedding (me, Otto and the nits stayed home)
  • built 2 wardrobes and installed drawers. Yay cordless drill!
  • cleared out the linen cupboard (threw out/op shopped about half of it. It is tragic that my kids STILL have 4 sheet sets each)
  • moved the food from the food cupboard into the linen cupboard
  • cleaned the food cupboard
  • moved all the dinnerware from the buffet to the old food cupboard
  • moved all the glassware from the buffet into my china cabinet
  • thrown out some dinnerware (well, wrapped it to go to the op shop)
  • blogged about it all instead of going to bed.

I am going to remedy that last point now. Stay tuned for more exciting updates of our not-quite-a-renovation — what do you call this stuff? A refurbishment? An IKEA habit gone made?


Posted by on January 30, 2010 in decluttering, house


Skippedidoodah Skippediay

So, there was a skip. At my house. With a few of mum’s things down the bottom, but not many.

Friday night, all we did was padlock it.

Saturday, I workworkworked all morning and finally got to mum and dad’s at 12.30 or so (three cheers for Fraser, who took the girls to the German School Excursion all by himself). Then we went out to buy them some new furniture, as they had had their sofa and armchairs carted away earlier in the week.

Now, dad has a fabulous armchair. It is a recliner, very big and comfy, made by Moran. We paid over $1500 for it as a gift for his 60th birthday, 18 years ago. He loves it, but lately he has trouble getting up from it.

So after we looked at the sofa that mum likes, I asked the salesman whether he had any OMGElectricChairs – and he did, and even though they are a bit ugly, we found one that literally gets dad onto his feet and into a standing position before he has to leave the chair. And it reclines, too.

Result: 2 Electric Recliners (sooner or later mum will find it helpful) and a rather nice bronzey green sofa. (Actually, it looks a bit like ours, but it is not ridiculously pale-coloured).

They are to be delivered on Monday, which I think is foolish. Plan for now is that they will go into the garage initially, as we have to meet the interior designer at 4pm. 

Now I am considering whether we want to take dad’s Moran recliner, especially as I want to get rid of The Stinky Chair (TM).

Anyway. Skip.

Well, meanwhile, we have filled it. Including one carload from mum and dad’s, but the rest was ours. Fraser was a trooper and did most of it, I took about 15 minutes out from work today (when it became clear that the Bigster was well and truly stuck) to go out, direct, and clean out the shed.

I feel efficient 🙂

Even more so, because over the last 3 weeks or so I have been auctioning old books etc on eBay. So far, I have sold $350 of items. Not bad for about 4-5 hours’ work 🙂

There is one more thing that I want to get rid of, though. See, a couple of years ago, our old VCR died. And I went and bought a new VCR. Then I realised that we couldn’t program the TV to see the new VCR because we’d lost the remote control that is the only way to program our TV. So we jerry-rigged the old VCR to work, then we tuned IT in to the new VCR and basically daisychained the two of them together.

I found the TV remote control a month or so ago, when we gutted the sofa. Technically, we could change that setup – but it was going to be too much hassle to bother.

Then, last week, the VCR (the “new” VCR) started eating tapes. So I went out and bought a new one – which is a combo VCR and DVD player – because that was all you could get.

I looked at our entertainment unit and smiled. Not only could we get rid of BOTH VCRs (and associated remote controls), we could get rid of the DVD player and ITS remote control too. Whee! Down to two remote controls (and the one for the speakers – oops), at least until we go crazy and buy a set-top box.

Only it turns out that Fraser won’t let me throw out the DVD player, because it still works. Even though we have a new one, and we can’t watch two DVDs at once.

I should have expected this. After all, it was only a month ago that we finally got rid of the Beta VCR – and it hadn’t worked since before we started dating in 1992.

Oh yeah – and one more thing.

We got a flat!

It’s kinda small, but looks very nice. My friend is going to go and do an inspection asap, just to check it out.

It’s in Wuppertal, which is right next to Düsseldorf. And I found German language classes for children just nearby.

For a non-religious person, I am very superstitious. I firmly believe that something will come up – and it did, with remarkably little fuss.


Back to work now. Procrastination break over.


Cleaning up … after cleaning up?

So, yesterday Fraser and I tackled the Huge Mountain Of Chaos in the bedroom. There used to be a couple of things there, but our cleaner tidies things into piles. Specifically, ONTO piles – so it just got bigger and bigger and bigger.

It is now no longer.

There are four garbage bags of clothes in my parents’ car (which I have borrowed), waiting for me to drop them off for charity. 

Fraser took 3 loads of papers to the paper mill yesterday.

The bins are full and there are bags of rubbish stacked outside (not a great welcome for our exchange student who arrives today).

And at 11ish last night, we had to go clean up our room to put away all the stuff we had tidied and sorted … and then left on the bed for later.


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Posted by on April 26, 2009 in decluttering, house


Clearing out the study

Did more clearing in the study after I got home last night (late – was doing usability testing till 8pm). Fraser worked on it as well, which was great – just having company makes boring tasks go so much faster.

We have 3 more huge boxes of papers to go, as well as one box of paper “to be shredded”. Whee! 

I also threw out all the original research I did during the year I was in Austria. Then I had a crisis and retrieved it from the bins. I did, however, chuck out duplicates and notes, so it’s down to one smallish plastic box instead of one huge cardboard box stuffed completely full. So that’s progress, right?

Actually, it was surprisingly interesting stuff.

Other Very Important Things that I had kept: 

  • Translations of my academic record (for when I was admitted to uni in Austria)
  • A big pile of pay slips from the job I left in 2000 (tossed – being a Role Model, see)
  • Otto’s birthday card to the Bigster, when she was a big 5 months old
  • Lots of Calvin & Hobbes cartoons, clipped from the paper
  • My Bridge System Cards from the year I was on the state Youth team
  • The list of things I packed to take to hospital when Otto was born
  • My very first ever health insurance membership book (20 years later, I still have the same membership number)
  • Original copies of my qualifications, including my HSC (school leaving exams) and – potentially more usefully – my Oberstufenpruefung exam from the Goethe-Institut
  • A play programme from the 1960s, when my mother was active in amateur theatre, as well as some press clippings about her plays (this is clearly a folder of my parents’ memorabilia that somehow got mixed up with my stuff).

And that’s just (mostly) the stuff I kept … 🙂

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Posted by on April 22, 2009 in decluttering, house


Important calculations

This was a real conversation. Really real. About me clearing out the spare room.

Me: Blah blah blah and I even found and tossed some old payslips.

Fraser: I keep all of mine at work. Ha! You can’t get to them.

Me: But … why?

Fraser: Because, if you throw them out, how can you calculate EXACTLY HOW MUCH MONEY YOU HAVE EVER EARNED IN YOUR WHOLE LIFE?


The doubly scary thing? He thinks I wish I’d thought of it first.


Posted by on April 18, 2009 in decluttering, house



One of the things I have been thinking about a lot in the last few days is furniture. Specifically, the need to BUY NEW FURNITURE TO SUIT YOUR NEW HOME rather than just moving all your old junk in willy-nilly (which is what we did).

Fraser and I are talking about ways to better accommodate our Stuff, and I do think that a furniture change is necessary. For example, we can reorganise the study and make room for 120cm of 200cm high bookshelves – which can only help – at the same time freeing up access to about 1.5 metres of existing bookshelves. OMG that’s 2.7 metres more shelving – life-changing!

That’s just reorganising, but there’s more – Fraser has a lovely old blackwood desk. It’s big and sturdy and solid, and it has drawers on either side of it. There’s a spot in the middle where a Very Important Person can sit.

Only problem is, we have 2 computers on the desk. And there’s not room for 2 people to work there because there is only room for one set of legs under the desk. What we need to do is replace the desk with a workbench to accommodate 2 or even 3 people – and a workbench that’s not ninety-something centimetres deep, because the back section is just wasted.

That’s for Fraser to think about and decide on. I doubt he’ll be able to bring himself to get rid of the desk, but it really would be the sensible option.

Another case in point is my china cabinet. It’s Victorian and mahogany and very very pretty. Inside, it has lots of very, very pretty things. Meanwhile, fifty or more of our games languish on the floor in the corridor, constantly getting in the way of everyone. 

Coincidentally, a set of shelves where the china cabinet is would hold, ooo, about eighty games.

This is where I get to be the big person and force myself to part with treasures. I rang an auction house yesterday and arranged to send them photos so they can give me a price estimate, then I will get their removal guy to come and pick it up and take it away. It’s lovely, and it’s special to me, but it’s not the right furniture for our stuff or for our home. And meanwhile, off will go the dinner set that lives in the base of it, as well as the set of cake plates. Don’t need ’em, we have another nice dinner set and really, when do we ever have time for dinner parties anyway? I’m getting rid of Stuff that doesn’t work to make room for Stuff that will.

Of course, this all ties in with my parents’ situation.

They realise that they will need to downsize, and they will need to get rid of most of their furniture. I flagged interest in a lovely cedar chest of drawers and also potentially in their blackwood dining room cabinets – Fraser and I have a super-ugly cabinet that mum got at auction years ago for $35. I want to get rid of it, he thinks it’s useful. Now we potentially have a compromise solution which happens to (a) look nicer and (b) hold more Stuff.

It’s just a shame we don’t have anywhere for their blackwood dining table. It could do with resurfacing, and it’s got that distinctive ’70s feel about it, but it has a fabulous extension leaf to seat 12 comfortably, and it’s a great size. Our dining table has been in Fraser’s family for aeons, though, so it wouldn’t be right to rid ourselves of it.

See, I do have some limits.

I think the girls’ bedroom furniture is going to be disposed of, though. Mum bought it for – well, I think she bought it when I was pregnant with the Bigster. It’s lovely, but they’ve outgrown it, and it’s not terribly practical. Also, if I get rid of it, I can get mum’s nice cedar chest of drawers. 🙂

I’m not sure that this is what my Professional Organiser wants (she threatened to sack me on Tuesday, feeling that there’s little to show that she’s been here – a fair point but, when you consider that the kids have been home for 2 weeks and our cleaner has been on holiday for that time, probably overstated) – but I do feel that it makes sense to think about whether our furniture really suits our lifestyle and, if not, to get rid of it and/or replace it with something that does.

Especially if it holds more Stuff.


Posted by on April 17, 2009 in decluttering, house