month of cleaning: hallway and sentimental items

February 09, 2022

Just in case you think this blog has been hijacked by a cleaning fanatic, Knitionary's first love will always be knitting, but Ms. Knitionary, that's me, has been bit by the deep cleaning bug and I'd like to share my progress with you. I hope I've got some great cleaning, organizing and motivational tips that will inspire you. This is my second post of this type, then I have one last post planned that includes the kitchen, then this blog will return to its normal gardening, entertaining and knitting posts that we all love.

If anything epitomizes out-of-sight, out-of-mind, it's these window seats in the hallway that leads to our bedroom. Window seats are pretty and fun to have, but the storage offered is not easy to use and therefore unpractical for things you need to access except rarely. Twenty years ago I filled them up with kid stuff and have rarely thought of them since.  When I decluttered last year I ignored them altogether, then last December I had an idea that I wanted to store my holiday decorations in one place and those window seats would be ideal. One quiet day before Christmas I opened them up and went down memory lane. I had stored old decorative pillows, Holly Hobby figurines, wall hangings, and precious baby clothes from kid's rooms. When I'm decluttering sentimental items I feel as though I’m two people with competing interests. On one hand I want to clear it all out because I know I'll love the end results, but on the other hand I want to hold on tightly to the memories each item brings. But as wise men say, if everything matters, then nothing matters. I know from past decluttering experience that by allowing myself to keep a few things, I can more easily let go of the majority. When I finished this job I heaved a huge congratulatory sigh of relief and gave myself an attagirl. Don't ever underestimate the value of self praise; these little triumphs need to be celebrated!

I don't want to minimize the fact that it's difficult to sort through sentimental items, especially if you are a sentimental person. If this is a stumbling block for you I hope you’ll google what professional organizers have to say on this subject.  It’s very possible to get yourself to a place where decluttering sentimental items is doable. It might take several rounds of decluttering, perhaps over several years. It's a journey, don't fret, trust and respect your end goal and you'll get there. 

I saved a few things from those window seats.  One was a set of tiny glass animals than once upon a time I, then my daughter, son and granddaughter played with. I'm looking forward to the day I can share the little box with my grandson. I also saved my baby doll and her handmade clothes, all tucked inside her battered metal travel trunk because I'm not yet ready to say goodbye to little Susie. I also found an old record player and story records. There is Woody Woodpecker and Pooh and dozens more, all very sweet and old fashioned with story records representing the 40s for Papa, the 70s for Auntie, and the 80s for Daddy. We gave it to Carter for Christmas and we're so happy that he loves it too. But back to the subject, in the days after Christmas I neatly fit in all the Christmas decorations, plus the few Halloween, Thanksgiving and Easter decorations that we still own. It all fit because my decorations had been drastically pruned.

The wreaths and trees are in the attic in these newly purchased tree bagsThe bags are pure genius and I no longer wrestle putting the dismantled tree back into the too small box. Now everything is easily accessible by me, and that is the big takeaway. I really want this house to be manageable by the two of us as much as possible.

The gallery wall is where we display our family photos. All pictures were taken down and the walls were dusted. The pictures were wiped and polished front and back and rehung. You'll be surprised how much dust you'll find on the BACK of pictures.

"Teens at the Beach". I especially love this photo circa 1945. My mother, front row, third from the right, grew up in a small farming community just east of Ventura Beach in Southern California. I showed her this picture just weeks before she died, and she looked at it wistfully and said, "Oh, we had so much fun in those days." My mother maintained these friendships throughout her life. I grew up knowing most of these women from visiting her hometown several times a month. I'd like to share one story I shared at my mother's memorial service. Mother lived on a small ranch just outside of town. When she was 13 she naturally knew how to drive because knowing how to drive a tractor and pickup truck was essential on a ranch. By this time her six older brothers had left home to either attend college or enter the armed forces. When my grandfather was busy on the ranch, there was no one to take my grandmother and great aunt into town for shopping, tea parties, etc. and they felt very isolated. My grandfather asked the sheriff in town if little Ruthie couldn't drive the women into town once a week, saying, "I know you need to have a driver's license nowadays, but can you make an exception? Now with the boys gone, my women are stuck at home and have no way to get into town." The sheriff said yes, as long as little Ruthie would not abuse the privilege and only drive her mother and aunt into town and no other capers. The deal was made and Ruthie promised. The very next day, my 13 year old mother took the pickup, piled a dozen plus kids into the truck bed, one was a friend's little sister and only 6, and headed to the beach. A farmer was driving into town and saw Ruthie on the road. When he reached town he looked for the sheriff and said, "I saw Ruthie Johnson driving her daddy's truck towards the beach with a pile of kids in the back. I didn't know she was old enough to drive." Busted. The sheriff called the sheriff in the next little town, the town she would pass through before reaching the beach, and asked him to look out for a young blonde girl driving a pile of kids in a blue Ford pickup, flag her down and send her home. 

Growing up I spent many Sundays at grandad's house; by now he was widowed and had moved into town. When mother's car was in front, people would stop by and the house would fill with old friends talking about their crazy small-town childhood capers and this story was told most often. Everyone loved telling it and I never tired of hearing it. 

Thank you for allowing me that little trip down memory lane, but now it's time to get back to the main reason for this post, decluttering and deep cleaning! The drawers at the end of the hall nearest our bedroom above, store my shawls, purses, hats, totes and gloves. Shoe boxes are my organizers here and every item gets their own box. Several times over the years I have asked my shoe store for empty boxes. They lead me to the back room where there is a wall of beautiful boxes and they allow me to take anything I want! You'll see I use them throughout the house. Not too much to do here, but it still took one full morning to empty, vacuum, wipe down, then do a bit of pruning by donating unworn shawls.

Just sayin', I know it's no great feat to store things neatly when your home has a lot of storage space like this old house, but I hope my organizing and motivational tips help even if your storage space is scarce.

Entry ways (or foyers) are tricky aren't they? It's the first place guests enter so you want to keep it neat, but it's the first place the family enters too, things get dumped, and it never stays neat. We are just two people here now, but I still had a devil of a time keeping this area tidy. The top drawer of this entry way chest below has always been the catch-all for keys and sunglasses and paraphernalia and was always in a jumble. I finally purchased a set of 21 little plastic organizing bins. Now each item has its own place, and the best thing is, my husband loves them and will use them. If an item doesn't have its own cubby, it doesn't belong. That means it has a home elsewhere and should be put there now!  This set of little plastic boxes is a total game changer in this room. BTW, I was dreading like you cannot believe taking apart this dresser because of, you know, spiders and all, but surprise, not too terribly bad! I was pretty happy only to find a few little dead critters. But you'll never get me to understand how dust settles on the undersides of things. I tore this baby apart and washed the dickens out of it.

Something new in 2020 is the giant mask organizer on the right. I cannot wait until those things are history.

Keys, glasses, sunscreen, everything has a home.
This set has 21 bins and I've found uses for them all over the house.

Also in the entry is a little closet, below, that was guilty of holding items that didn't belong. I was able to relocate them and do a bit of pruning too; after a half dozen coats went to a shelter the small closet was easy to empty and wash down. To make this closet more functional, I hung a hanging closet organizer for hats, umbrellas, etc.--anything we might need when we walk out the door. 

We especially love the cubby that holds a very special zip lock baggie, below, packed with quiet activities Carter can play with at the table when we take him to a restaurant. No more scrambling around at the last minute, it's right in the closet by the door. I try to update it every so often and Carter looks forward to sitting down in the restaurant and opening his crafty bag.

I might as well throw in the dining room while I'm at it. These eighty year old drawers above are heavy and difficult to open. After the big declutter of 2020, I left them mostly empty. Then recently I had the brilliant idea that I could store my linens here. I have a huge collection of linens that might be considered a problem if you didn't know me, but you do know me and therefore know how much I love to entertain. I NEED these linens for goodness sake, but I'm not going to even tell you how many drawers I filled. But first I had to see what I could do about making the drawers easier to open. I used this drawer lubricant on each drawer and while it has definitely helped make them glide easier, they are still heavy. We also used the lubricant on our more modern drawers that have metal tracks with plastic rollers and it is great for that too. For storage, all my napkins are ironed and folded and placed into boxes that fit in the drawers, but my tablecloths are not ironed as I prefer to iron them right before use; they are folded and rolled. It's easy to see my collection and make my choice.

Let's talk about the great paper purge from the previous post. There was a lot of interest in this subject because like me, many of you are also drowning in paper. I'm happy to report that I'm done. DONE! And when I handled that last piece of paper, I swear I could hear harps playing and the faint rustle of angel's wings. Peace washed over me like a river and I'm not exaggerating. A job that had been weighing on my mind for a decade was finally finished. Every piece of paper that was once stored in two tall file cabinets has been assigned a new home. Ninety percent is gone forever and the rest is filed into two half-filled file drawers in our shared desk. If you would like to tackle your paper but feel overwhelmed or intimidated, try not to set an unrealistic goal that will worry you; instead, place an expectation on yourself that you'll work on it regularly. Set a timer for 30 minutes several times a week, or schedule one day a month to go through it, whatever will work for you.  Bit by bit, you WILL get through it. It took years to accumulate and will take some time to get it sorted.

Going forward I have a system in play to keep our paper more manageable. FYI, I implemented these paper saving tips long before I got rid of the file cabinet mess.

--Most of, and soon all of our monthly bills arrive digitally, which I pay online, and most of those are automatically scheduled. 

--When I bring paper into the house, mostly mail, I walk by the recycling bin and toss what we don't need  before it even has a chance to enter the house.

--I read all my favorite magazines for free on the free library app, Libby.

I've just started implementing the following:

--I LOVE my Police ID roller. It's been so easy to bring into my weekly habit. I love using it and I'll never shred again. 

--I'm scanning or taking pictures of our birth certificates, vaccination records, etc. and saving them to my preferred digital storage to have as a backup or in some cases such as warranties, get rid of the originals altogether.

Thank you for staying with me on this and for your encouragement! I always love to hear what you're up to and really appreciate your comments. Kristen

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  1. I meant to comment on your last post but forgot. Add me to the list of those who are enjoying your organizing posts!

    1. Aww thank you Chris. I really appreciate your comment. Kristen

  2. I'm also a long time reader who never comments, but I had to let you know how much I appreciate your cleaning posts. I find it very inspirational as you had hoped. You have given me the courage and the push to go through our two file cabinets that we never open!!

    Can't wait for you kitchen post!

    A devoted reader from NY

    1. Thank you so much NY! I'm glad I've inspired you re. those file cabinets. I cannot tell you how happy I am that it's done. I waited too long! Kristen

  3. You’ve inspired me to start cleaning out all my closets and cabinets!
    Thank you.

  4. Congratulations on cleaning and decluttering. We have boxes of magazines we kept. We will never look through them again, so it is time to sort out and get rid of. We are unfortunately, rat packs.
    Joan,Marion and Marilyn

    1. I hear you girls. I rat packed all my Martha Stewart magazines. I had collected them from day one. When I decided to get rid of them, I spent hours going through each one, ripped out articles I wanted to save, filed them, and well, you know what happened to those files. I never looked at them again and now they are gone for good. The things we save!!! Finally, I realized I am truly and firmly in the digital age and know that anything I want to find is at my fingertips on the keyboard, not in a file cabinet.

  5. You give such great tips. I have order so many things you refer too and they are just great. Today I ordered the plastic bins. Thank you

    1. Thank you Debbie. I think you will love those little bins. I'm so happy I bought them. Kristen

  6. Really really enjoy reading your organize posts and garden and knits and sewing and reusing! You are so inspirational. I am a constant reader from Italy. Thank you so much for writing these.

    1. Thank you Ada. It's lovely to know I have a reader in Italy! Kristen

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  8. Kristen
    I too have a 30 plus year old kitchen. White cabinets and chocolate walls.
    So happy to see yours, it’s beautiful, don’t change a thing!!

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