The Ten-By-Five Challenge And Beyond

Okay. So, one of the secondary problems that resulted from both my kids having GERD is the disaster that kind of overtook the house and garden. Long story short, since pretty much all of my time and energy has been dedicated to taking care of the boys and their “issues” for the past 11 years, it has left me with very little to expend on anything else. Flash forward 11 years. Now that we are out of survival mode (thanks to the current relative good health of the boys), there is some major work needing to be done around here (flooring, painting, plumbing… deep cleaning). However, I have to organize the house enough to be able to get to that work, which requires a whole heck of a lot of downsizing and decluttering first!

Earlier this year, my friend Jules invited me to join her FB group dedicated to just that. The idea was that for one month, we’d each purge stuff in an exponential fashion – 1 item on day 1, 2 on day 2, and so on… so that by the end of the 30 Day Challenge, we would have gotten rid of 465 items each! It sounded perfect: gradually working up to bigger purges, the support of like-minded people, plus accountability in the group when we’d report in. BUT. Reality was a bit different. I did fairly well for the first week… and then got very stuck… and then ended up bailing entirely. Pretty much like everyone else in the group. By then I also wanted to spend my scant free time in the garden instead of inside, so… yeah. The “stuff” still hadn’t been dealt with (although, I did finally get rid of the high chair, so go me!)

30 Day Declutter Fail

Luckily, this autumn, my lovely friend Thyra offered to give me an assist. Thyra loves organizing. Like, loves loves. I believe she once told me that it was kind of like crack for her. 😉 Naturally, I gladly accepted. The idea was that once a week, she’d come over with her toddler while our big boys were at school. We’d have a nice chat over coffee, and while her little one played with the toys, we’d organize one small part of my home. In return, I’d trade her my sewing services. By the end of the school year, I’d be well on my way to having a better functioning/easier to work on house, and she’d have some better fitting clothes! Of course, trips and illnesses and wonky schedules etc. have played their part… but, guess what? The great purge and order has actually begun!

The Containers and Island Purge

The first week, we went through the “containers” cupboard and the kitchen island. Thyra encouraged me to be ruthless, gave me reasonable expectations for how much is “enough”, and was gentle with me if I told her that certain things had to stay. We got rid of quite a few items – things that were never/rarely used and all the containers that didn’t stack well were donated, things that were broken or poorly made were recycled/trashed, and things that just didn’t belong (“like goes with like” is very much her mantra) found a new home. She’s big on having “zones” that have only one single “purpose”. Weird. Suffice to say, having fresh eyes, experienced extra hands, and enthusiastic support were absolutely fantastic! In fact, the results of our first session were so inspirational that they jump started other projects…

The Dead Space Corner

Like reclaiming this “dead zone” in the bedroom – an awkward space between the wardrobe and the wall, too narrow and deep for just about anything useful. A flimsy tie rack had become the depository for gently worn shirts. It was removed and replaced with some sturdy IKEA shelving that miraculously fit – if I turned it sideways. Then the pants and sweaters which had been hanging on hooks behind the bedroom door were folded and shelved, and the shirts were hung on those hooks instead.  Ahhhh… much better!

Refitting The Crockery Shelves

Then I attacked the crockery shelves. I’ve been collecting stonewear and pottery for decades now, but storing these unique, non-uniform items is somewhat of a challenge. Pieces were precariously balanced on top of one another, on shelves that were just too far apart for easy/safe access. So. Because IKEA no longer makes these particular shelving units, I decided to steal some extra shelves from the unit upstairs, which had housed our books. With some careful measuring and drilling, I was able to add three extra shelves to the top of the kitchen unit, making it much more suitable for all of my wonderful pieces.

The New Crockery Shelves

Some things were donated. Certain items were relocated. And everything was grouped according to usage. Things are easy to reach for use and put back! Plus, with the leftover bottom shelves and sidewalls from the scavenged unit, I can now reconstruct a “skinny” shelving unit that will go next to our fireplace! Of course, this has left me with a bunch of books without a home…

Upstairs Bookshelves

But that’s what Thyra and I did during our second visit. We dissected our current layout, addressing how our needs just weren’t being met very well. Then we made a “plan” – not just for where the books would go, but for a slight reorganization of all of the living spaces. Next week, we start on my “office” – which has become more of a storage room than anything else (making it impossible to actually craft in there anyhow). It will become a dedicated “library” and “computer room”… and the crafts and toys and TV will all be shifted a bit… downsizing along the way… 😉 It’s ambitious, but inspirational at the same time. Speaking of toys…

The 10x5 Challenge

Thyra’s idea for a decluttering challenge was the “Ten By Five” challenge – every day for 5 days, each of us would have to find 10 things to get rid of (donate, trash, give to a friend). Meaning, 150 things gone by the end of the school week (my husband was away, so it was just the two boys and myself). It sounded doable, and was only a week long, so I found us each a big bucket and explained the “game” to the boys. After dinner every night we had “10×5 time” – which was way more challenging for the 11yo, as he hasn’t really been into “toys” for a couple of years now. But with some encouragement, and a little bit of patience, we well surpassed our 150 item goal!

Value Village Donations

Two big boxes of “stuff” plus three big garbage bags full of clothes, off to Value Village Donation Centre!

Purging My Sweaters

Including 30+ of my sweaters, hoodies, and jackets – some of which I’ve had since I was a teen. Plus a bunch of the boys too-small clothes. Ruthless has become my mantra, and I think it’s working well for me. 😉 AND, we can repeat the 10×5 challenge any other week we want – even next week, if I so decide! Or not. Depending on how life goes. So, yeah. Change is proving to be good. A little difficult to embrace without Thyra’s kick-start, but now that we have some momentum – look out! As new-agey as it sounds, the “energy” of these cleaned and organized spaces is SO much nicer that it encourages me to purge more. So, hurrah! With any luck, I’ll be able to get back to “creating” things (instead of well-functioning spaces) in a few short months. Wish me luck!!!

Utility Cart

(As a reward for all of my hard work this past couple of weeks, I got myself one of these carts from IKEA. I figure I can put at least some of my art/craft supplies in it, so that I can maybe create something while all the changes are going on… and my “office” gets packed up. I really do miss it.) P.S. I highly recommend the 10×5 Challenge! Give it a go and let me know how you do!!!

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