July 25, 2008

Crabbily Decluttering; Clutter Challenge

You know, one of the problems with tackling clutter is it gets SO MUCH WORSE before it gets better. Working on it makes me SEE it. Also, with toys: I'd like to be able to give away some of the toys that are perfectly good---but of course, pieces are all tangled up with other pieces, and some pieces are probably under the bureau, and ARRRRGGGG!! Forget it!!

I have been such a crab about it, you would not believe it. Snapping at people! Making sarcastic remarks! Doing something I hate when other people do it, which is to make exasperated noises and fling a project down, saying "ARRRRGGGG!! Forget it!!" BAD BEHAVIOR.

Also, it's pretty crabbifying to look at all the stuff going in the trash: all the stuff I thought the kids would like, all the little things I bought on a whim or after careful thought, all the presents---going right back out of the house. I realize that's The Way of Material Things (it's not like I imagined them playing for years with a straw doll), but it's depressing to see so much of it at once.

Speaking of material, let me set you to work on a Clutter Challenge. I make the kids' beds with bottom sheets and pillowcases only. The top sheets, brand-new and with factory folds, I keep in a stack in a closet. I probably have a dozen of them, or maybe more. It's perfectly good fabric!

If we DID go into a Depression Era, I could make clothing out of it! Or curtains! I'd just have to learn to sew! I'd be kicking myself so hard if I'd thrown out enormous pieces of beautiful, brand-new cloth. Some of them are such pretty patterns!

Or, I could use it to make reusable fabric wrapping paper: I bought fabric ribbon on 75-90% off last Christmas for this very purpose.

Or, we might want to use them as sheets again some day. Never mind that the bottom sheets are much more worn, and/or wearing out completely and getting thrown out.

Or, I could offer them to one of you---maybe someone who makes quilts and could use big pieces of fabric. But fabric is heavy to ship.

Or...what?


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39 comments:

nonsoccermom said...

I know what you mean about the clutter. It all seems so overwhelming!!

No suggestions on the flat sheets, but I have the same situation (because like his father, my son REFUSES to sleep under the flat sheet, preferring a blanket instead). So I'll be interested to see what others say...

Tina Miles said...

Save them for making tents? (We NEVER had enough sheets for tents it seemed growing up, so I save all top sheets for those in a sad knee-jerk response to my childhood)

Maybe "Picnic sheets" (instead of blankets or table cloths)?

Elizabeth said...

I always make a giant mess when I'm cleaning. What I really hate is when you tackle way too big of a cleaning project and it spills over into the hallway and then you realize it's time to make dinner but the hallway is full of crap that has to be dealt with and your husband is annoyed because you've made this giant pile of crap and you wish you had never begun the ridiculous project to begin with.
Sorry, I think I might have some issues you've awoken.
Um, sheets...are they patterned? You could sell them on Etsy if they qualify as vintage...?

Dr. Maureen said...

I HATE STUFF. Seriously, I frequently want to throw away ALL MY STUFF. Why do we even HAVE all this stuff? I am thwarted by the husband, however, who has a tendency to hold onto things. Well, compared to me, anyway.

At any rate, have you considered Freecycle? Because I know what you mean about throwing away perfectly good items that someone, somewhere, could use. I hate that even more than I hate having stuff. It can be a pain, but maybe someone out there will come PICK UP your sheets thus unburdening you of all responsibility!

Mommy Daisy said...

Oh the decluttering- I know me too. Then you get it all done, and you can relax. You know, for at least a few minutes, or until the kids/husband start making messes and leaving things all over again. Argh!

artemisia said...

Oh, I hear you. The sheer volume of stuff is depressing and creates so much anxiety.

But! Keep it up and this same week next month and there will be so. much. less.

It does feel like one step forward, two steps back most of the time, though.

Hang in there!

Nowheymama said...

I, too, have been going through stuff, and ditto Elizabeth on the irritated husband. I plan to borrow an idea from SouleMama and make a "puppet theater" (sheet thrown over a heavy-duty curtain rod hung in a doorway.) There, that takes care of one sheet...

JRay said...

You should consider turning your top sheets into bottom sheets. Just put them on the bed and tuck them under. At Bed Bath and Beyond I found tube shaped holders which hold sheets or mattress pads to the mattress...you could use those.

Since your bottom sheets are wearing out this will keep you from buying new ones...

Jess said...

My mom actually does use sheets as wrapping paper, sort of. If one of us is getting a big present (like when she gave me a luggage set), she just puts it at the back of the tree and covers it with a sheet.

-R- said...

I am turning my at-home office into a nursery, and so far have not done ANYTHING just because I dread the middle stage where it becomes a huge mess. The longer I put it off, the more I dread it.

I like the idea of turning the sheets into reusable gift bags. Are you or a friend going to be painting soon? You could use the sheets or give them to your friend to use as dropcloths.

Melissa H said...

or you could send the sheets to me and I could turn them into a picnic blanket and send them back to you...isn't that why they invented USPS flat rate boxes?

Melissa H said...

Oh, and I do the same thing, use only bottom sheets, but my sheets are kinda ugly and not worth picnic blanketizing

Jen said...

you could totally make curtains without sewing too! you just need a roll of stitch-witchery and a good, hot iron and you're in business.

saving some for picnicking and/or camping and/or firework-watching is also a good idea.

Meredith said...

Maybe you could donate them to a shelter? They could use them for bedding, I am sure. Maybe your kids' teachers could use them at school?

I know how hard it is to declutter. I just had an epiphany last year - all these things that I didn't use! It became worth it to have a neat home and begin throwing things out or giving them away. Just last week I filled two garbage bags with stuffed animals. It was sad to see all those friendly faces stuffed into a bag, but I had to do it.

mmh said...

I also have the same dilemma with top sheets. The reader who suggested turning them into bottom sheets suggested the same idea I had... There must be someone out there who knows how to sew that kind of thing and can provide easy instructions on how to add elestic to the flat sheets to make bottom ones, right? I splurged on a really cute sheet set for my son from Pottery Barn Kids - my mom was helping out and turned the bottom sheet pink! I couldn't believe it b/c they cost an arm and a leg. Turning the top sheet into a bottom one would be SO great!

Chraycee said...

How about donating them to the salvation army, or a battered woman's shelter or something? A church? An orphanage? (do those exist anymore?)

Or you can use them as bottom sheets - just tuck them in all the way around the bed.

Or safety pin them together and let the kids flap them out in the yard like a big parachute....I guess you could use that stuff that you iron over to make fabric stick together if you wanted a more permanent quilted effect parachute thingy. (I am not very crafty so I don't know what it's called).

Sarah said...

I think using it to wrap presents is a great idea, though you'd want to hem the edges, I think. When I had an extra top sheet, I gave it to the kids and they used it to make forts with. Hours of entertainment and easy to wash!

Karen said...

I hear ya' on the clutter sista! I was going to tackle one project a week this summer. Good intentions-I hadz dem.

As for the top sheets, my daughter's bed is made the same way and I sewed the top sheets to make curtains. But she has two sets of the same sheets. If you could figure out how to sew elastic on the top sheets you could make them bottom sheets too.

Susanica said...

Hi Swistle. Since Susanne's from Germany we do our bedding the way everyone there does it which is to use a bottom sheet, but then instead of a top sheet, you either buy or make a sort of slipcover for your blanket. It's the same material as a sheet--just sewn basically into a bag. The bottom just folds over and tucks in like those sandwich bags that don't seal with a ziplock.

You just turn your little slipcover inside out, grab the corners of your blanket and get it all in there while turning it right side in.

They are so comfortable and handy. Making the bed just involves throwing your covered blanket back on the bed and smoothing it.

Oh and their pillows are like 3 times bigger than U.S. ones and so fluffy. They have matching slipcover like pillowcases. What do you think of this idea? -Monica

Sally said...

Oh, I hate clutter too. I used to not hate it and I kept everything. Then in the space of less than a year, I got married, moved three states away into a tiny apartment and had twins. Freecycle is awesome. Once, I swear, I posted that I had an old iron with something gross on it that wouldn't come off and ruined everything I tried to iron and someone came to pick it up THE SAME DAY. Same thing with a pile of old jewel cases. Maybe it's just the crazies around here, but I have found that people will take anything. Also, if you're not sure if its going to go, but hate to throw it away, post a group of things together with at least one awesome item in there and say that whoever takes it has to take it all.

Jen said...

ooh, what about those handy mitten clips? that might be easier than sewing elastic into flat sheets...

Astarte said...

Hey - you could use all those sheets to make a tent city for us all to live in once the Bumpy Mouse Bubonic Plague wipes out 99% of civilization and renders our current housing uninhabitable! :)

Or, you could use them to let the kids make a tent city in the living room on rainy days.

Janet said...

I am struggling with the clutter issue myself, but try to trick myself every day into getting rid of one small pile of stuff.

My suggestion for the sheets is to set aside five or six of your favorite ones, and donate the rest of them. This forces you to get rid of at least half of them.

And then, if six months later you haven't done anything with the others, give them away too.

The barrier you have to get past is the resistance to "throwing things away." If you take baby steps, pretty soon it gets easier to do. I guarantee you won't miss any of the stuff.

EMama said...

I"m voting for the wrapping paper idea. I gave up wrapping paper under the guise of going green, but really a lot of it is laziness. Don't get me wrong, I heart the earth and all that. Sheets are great for wrapping - and reuseable!

**My parents and little brother just went to Germany for a month and they're going to stop by Austria and do the Sound of Music tour. So while I am being eaten up with jealousy, I think my MOM should have had this problem, because then they could make play-clothes for the tour out of old sheets.

Swistle said...

Yes, we use Freecycle all the time! It's awesome.

I don't think the top sheets are big enough to tuck on both ends.

Omaha Mama said...

Good for you for trying. It's okay to be a little crabby about it. I have been thinking of a post myself, about the money (lots) I waste on stuff. I always realize this when decluttering. When will I stop buying crap that we aren't going to use?

Bethtastic said...

We have a group of ladies in our church called "The Comforters". They take sheets (even old ones with holes) and blankes, and make pieced tie quilts to send to refugee camps all over the world. It's awesome - I take all our old/unused sheets to them and they work wonders. Once each year on Lutheran World Missions Sunday the quilts are all over our church, hanging and draped on the back of pews... I love to see our unused stuff go to such a great purpose...

Maybe there's a church in your area that does the same? Or maybe you go to a church with a group of people who want to start a similar missions project?

Erin said...

Probably NOT what your looking for, but I'd keep them. It's likely that someday the kids may want them on their beds. Sheets are expensive and (I think) you can buy fitted sheets only. I think. In which case you'd save yourself a load of cash down the line.

Pann said...

I'm decluttering too! Misery loves company!

I threw out stuff today, which depressed me. But other stuff I've freecycled. One easy way I've found to get rid of stuff is to put it out on the curb. that way some stuff goes to other people who (think they) want it.

Re:sheets. ... so your kids just sleep with a blanket and no sheet?

Interesting idea. You could in fact use the flat sheets as bottom sheets.

CARRIE said...

Donate the sheets to a local quilting group at a church. They make quilts and raffle them off at church picnics.

Black Sheeped said...

I use top sheets as impromptu covers for my favorite armchair (my grandma's). The cats love that chair, and the top sheets draped over it prevent it from becoming hair covered/puked upon. I also use old sheets to cover plants when it's going to frost in the spring and fall, outside. I've used old sheets to make costumes. You can cover the back seats of cars with them to protect the seats from dog hair (or, I presume, children spills). Sheets are excellent for making indoor tents on boring afternoons. You can use them as table covers in the correct settings (I use a couple of red sheets as table covers at art fairs), sew them together and stuff them to make dog beds. Some thrift stores sell fabric, and unused sheets would count. You could save a few for future sleep-overs or company on couches (twin size is the appropriate size for couch guests, or for pairing with a single sleeping bag). You could make an APRON or SMOCKS for your children. SMOCKS. I save fabrics to cut up and use in art. We keep a few crappy sheets in the trunk of the car. They have come in incredibly handy for bringing home fragile items/stuffing around purchases to keep them still/lining the truck to prevent potting soil or messy things from wrecking trunk. I also pretend they would count as part of an "emergency kit" or that I could shred them to make bandages? In case of...accidental camping injuries? I don't know. But! Put a few in each vehicle's trunk. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT. If only because they are awesome for getting home awkward purchases safely.

andrea said...

I only had one suggestion, but then I was overwhelmed by black sheeped's incredible number of ideas.
Mine? Is just to donate them to an animal shelter. They always need blankets and old towels and I have no doubt they could make good use of sheets, too. Why don't you use top sheets? We use them to stop the doona cover/blanket getting dirty as quickly (ie. they're a barrier between body + cover/blanket). And I get hot in bed and wouldn't be able to stand the feel of blanket right on my skin. And I when I'm too hot for a doona or blanket, I feel too strangely "naked" and insecure to not have ANYTHING covering me, and then I love me a lovely, soft top sheet.

Anyway. Totally with you on the decluttering. I've started to get extremely anxious whenever I look around our living room (toys. clutter. absolute madness) and our bedroom cupboard and am planning a frenzy of decluttering involving lots of lists and lots of new storage boxes and baskets.

Swistle said...

Andrea- We do use a top sheet on our own bed, but on the kids' beds just the bottom sheet and a vellux blanket (which washes and dries easily). It's much less overwhelming when there are five kid beds to change---especially top bunks.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering why you don't use the top sheets, aside from saving them for making clothes during this depression. With the great deals you find at Target, and all the things you have bought ahead, I doubt your children will need handmade clothes. Just a thought. I live in an equally cluttered home. Haven't gotten around to the decluttering, but I'm only on #4 kid right now.

MH said...

Ideas for the sheets- a homeless shelter? A shelter for battered women? An escape ladder???

Swistle said...

Anonymous- I don't use the top sheets because it makes things easier. The top sheets were always getting tangled, and they're hard to tuck in on top bunks. I found it made a huge psychological difference in how I felt about changing sheets if I only had to do the bottom sheet and the pillowcase. Then we use vellux blankets as covers: they wash easily and dry quickly.

nicole said...

We also do not sleep with the flat sheets. I keep them all in storage bags, in case we ever use them. When my parents visit and have to sleep on the air mattress or couch (all that we've got, no guest room) they like to have a flat sheet. Also, my kids do like to pull them out for "tents" or "forts." That is all we use them for though, so I really have the same problem you do and no solution. I just wanted to make you feel like you were not alone.

Anonymous said...

my grandma rips them into 1 inch strips and then crochets (sorry bad speeling) them into rag rugs. They are super cute and easy to do, especially to teach a younger kid!

Anonymous said...

I know people already suggested donating the sheets to shelters, but I just wanted to specify a different kind: maybe an animal shelter/humane society?

By the way, I love your clutter posts. I love reading about clutter and seeing before and after photos! Too bad I'm not as fond of actually decluttering!!! I'd rather live vicariously through you!