Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

Tag: weekend project

A Usable Garage (Weekend Project)

There are two places I didn’t get to in my first round of de-owning: the garage and the cars. I specifically saved these two for warmer months and last weekend we were treated to perfect weather.

Project: Clean & organize the garage

Time Needed: An afternoon to a full weekend (depending on the size and junk-density of your garage).

Prep: Clear your driveway so it can be a staging area, grab several garbage bags, and have a push broom ready. Check with your garbage collector on what they’ll collect from the curb.

Like many Americans, our one-car garage (a luxury in our area) is so full of junk that it doesn’t have enough space for a car. We have bikes, a wagon, lawn mowers (yes, multiple lawn mowers), junk from two moves ago, giant old bags of grass seed, all manner of car-washing equipment and some grungy old tables, one of which is attached to the wall somehow. In the nearly three years we’ve lived in our house, I have never, ever cleaned the garage, except for a couple of sweeps with our push broom. There is a garage attic storage area that we’ve never explored. The only thing I knew was up there were two raccoon traps that the old owner used when raccoons wandered into the house via (thankfully removed) cat doors.

I really was motivated by the beautiful day. Here was a perfect activity that would keep me outside for hours and would have long-term benefits for the entire family.

The garage went from this…

garage before de-owning

…to this (these tables are fully detached on their way out)!

garage after de-owning

We ended up with a pile of garbage and a “maybe someone might want this” pile that included an old push mower and the raccoon traps. It’s amazing how much of the items we don’t use in the garage are really just pure junk. The best part is that now the garage is a room that I really want to use. We’ve already set-up shop painting new doors for our bedrooms. There is enough room for a car to fit (when we move the tables and doors) and I know exactly where everything is. I probably breathed in far more dust than I did in five years living in Arizona, but unless I contract hantavirus, it was completely worth it.

Good-Bye Garage Garbage!

Good-Bye Garage Garbage!

In fact, if this weekend will be just as nice as last weekend. I think I’m ready to start Round 2!

Have you cleaned out the garage recently? What did you throw out?

Decluttering the Scariest Room (Weekend Project)

I did it! After nearly three months of de-owning, I’ve finally finished every space in the house EXCEPT the basement storage room. I saved it for last because it looks like this:

Cleaning the Scariest Room

Storage & Craft Area

Cleaning the Scariest Room

Workshop & Exercise Area

It’s also holding the most memories, useless junk, and dust of any room in the house. My original goal was to get the clean sweep of the house done before the end of the year so I could realize the tax benefits of any donations I make. At this point, I definitely won’t finish, but this weekend, I felt like I needed to put in my best effort anyway.

I got halfway done with the room.

Cleaning the Scariest Room

Here are the steps I took to tackle this crazy mess.

Advice for Decluttering the Scariest Room

  1. Start with one shelf or drawer and move methodically from one end of the room to the other.
  2. Work in 90-minute cycles. I learned this trick by reading Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte. 90-minute cycles seem to line up with your body’s natural rhythms. If you work for 90 minutes, then take a short break, you’ll be able to work longer and have higher quality output.
  3. Make a list of things to come back to. If you have all the time in the world, don’t skip things. However, I am specifically looking for items to donate before the end of the year. That being said, I skipped my box of childhood photos (which I know I want to digitize later – perhaps I’ll throw a photo scanning party!) and my file cabinet (I can come back to that in a few weeks). I also left my husband’s keepsakes alone. He needs to go through those himself.
  4. Clean as you go. Once you’ve pulled everything off a shelf or out of a tub, take a minute to clean it. It made me feel much better to remove two years of dust.
  5. Label, so you’ll be able to find the stuff you still use (which should be most of what’s left) without making the room explode again.
  6. Involve hot chocolate. Everything is better with hot chocolate.

Next weekend, I’ll try to do the other half and get our final batch of stuff to Goodwill — just in time for a relaxing week with family and the New Year!

Declutter The Bathroom (Weekend Project)

Why is there so much stuff in the bathroom? I don’t spend a lot of time there and there aren’t a lot of places to store things (at least that’s true of our 1960s-era bathrooms).  When you declutter the bathroom, you not only find extra space in the room, you get extra time in the mornings – time usually spent searching around for the items you need.

Declutter The Bathroom

The bathroom is where a lot of samples, partially used beauty products, and bath toys lurk. We use a lot of disposable items (toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant) in the bathroom, but we don’t always use them up and dispose of them. That’s why my drawer looks like this…

Drawer with Clutter

…and the cabinet and tub look like this.

Under the Sink
Uncleaned Tub

I’m tackling my bathroom in two steps:

  1. Get rid of as much stuff as possible and organize it now.
  2. Future Project: Examine my morning and evening routines to see what else I can cut out of my life to give me even more time and space.

What to Throw Out

I like to go into a space with a plan and these questions helped me decide what to keep and what to pitch.

  1. Do I use this every day?
    If this isn’t part of my daily routine, it doesn’t belong in the bathroom.  Consider throwing it out or moving it to a closet.
  2. Do I need this?
    Is this really enhancing my life?  Would my life be better without it?
  3. Is this too big for the space?
    If you still need and use the item every day, but it’s too big for your bathroom space, find a smaller container and use the larger container to refill it.


I cleaned out and organized everything in the bathroom except my husband’s drawer. Now I can actually find my hair dryer in the mornings and the kids’ toys are in one specific bucket – out of sight.

Clean & Organized Cabinet

Clean & Organized Cabinet!

Clean & Organized Drawer

Clean & Organized Drawer!

The most surprising thing I was storing was a very large and completely empty bottle of bubble bath.

Clutter No Longer in my Bathroom

Clutter No Longer in my Bathroom

I’d love to put our toothbrushes out of sight too, but am afraid they’ll just touch each other or get dirty. Luckily, a few people have solved this problem by creating a nice toothbrush holder for inside the cabinets. That will be another fun future project.

All-in-all, I’m pretty happy with my newly-de-owned and organized bathroom. It’s been over three weeks and everything is still organized!

Kids’ Art (Weekend Project)

I officially have a problem. I can’t bring myself to get rid of my kids’ art. When my oldest daughter first learned to hold a crayon, I saved page after page of her art, mostly consisting of a few lines, possibly in two different colors jutting haphazardly across a page. I put everything in a folder and kept it. A year later, I looked back and realized how ridiculous this was. By then, she was drawing small figures and the hundreds (literally) of pages of her early drawings just didn’t seem that special anymore. I wonder if I would feel differently if I’d saved one special drawing instead.

Post-photos art pile

My Mound of Kid Art

My daughter finished her first year of preschool last year and, again, I saved every art project that was sent home. Maybe it was because she’d had an incredibly talented teacher who did amazing, creative projects, but the real reason was probably that I was a bit sentimental and indecisive. I couldn’t bring myself to make any choices on which masterpieces I should keep or pitch.

How to Declutter Kids’ Art

In came some amazing advice from an audio book I read quite a while ago called It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh. He points out sentimental objects are hard to throw away because of the memories they evoke. It’s the memory you want to keep, not the object, so take a picture.

Years later I read about a mom who used ArtKive to take pictures of all of her kids’ art projects and created a photo book. Then she threw away the projects. It’s brilliant, saves space, and keeps the memories.

Have a Goal

So, this weekend I took pictures of everything and set aside a small pile of art to keep. My goal was to save just five pieces of art. It was surprisingly easy to recognize my favorites. They were cute and represented an important stage in my daughter’s development or, in the case of the bear drawing, the good laugh we had when we realized we might be sharing a little too much information about how nature works (she’s the daughter of a Park Ranger, so there’s a little pride behind that).


I set out to create a book, but realized that was unnecessary. I’ll save the photos on a thumb drive instead. Knowing they’re preserved allowed me to pitch, without regret, the physical copies and create a new empty spot on my craft table.

When & How to Purge

Waiting until the end of the year gave me a chance to review everything at once. If you have space out of sight to keep a growing pile of art, I’d recommend this method again. However, a better way to approach the problem throughout the year is to keep your five favorite pieces at all times. Each time a new piece shows up, compare it to your favorite five and if it’s not better, throw it out (perhaps after temporarily displaying it for a specific period of time). If it surpasses the existing five, replace one of them with the new piece.

Other Ideas

There are a lot of other ideas for using and getting rid of your kids’ art. Check out this article by Sherri Reed or read about it in Joshua Becker’s book Clutterfree with Kids.

Weekend Project: Cleaning the Smallest Closet

Throwing away ten things a day is really eye-opening. In two weeks, I’ve thrown away far more than 140 items. Still, it seems like I’m continually chipping away at the tip of an iceberg. It’s time to start systematically going through the house to create minimalist-approved zones.

I could have started with a single drawer, but I had a couple of hours last weekend and took on a slightly bigger project: our linen closet. My daughter and I went shelf by shelf and made decisions quickly. The whole closet took us less than an hour to sort, clean, and reorganize.

Linen Closet Before & After

Before & After

Mission accomplished! It doesn’t look like a lot changed until you concentrate on what’s NOT there. I removed a stack of items to donate…

Linen closet - donations

….a surprisingly large pile of garbage…

Linen closet garbage

…and a stack of old sheets and towels. Part of me wants to get rid of them right now, but since old sheets and towels have so many uses, I put them in a box downstairs with the date on them. In a year, if I haven’t touched them, then we’ll throw them out.

Should these have a second life?

This is the smallest closet in the house, but I feel like we’ve made a big difference. Plus, it got me energized for the next project!

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