The Pandemic Has Stolen A Lot From Us … And I Really Miss The Yard Sales

For the past few Saturdays this spring I have woken up and felt like there was something missing.

Now I know that anyone living in the world today can recite a mile long list of all of the obvious things that have been temporarily taken away. Some examples would be sending my kids to school, hugs from my parents, and celebrations for basically everyone and everything.

Yet as much as I yearn for those things and many others, I can rationalize the necessity for missing them. I know my duty right now is to hunker home with my family for the greater good of the human population. I know my kids will eventually go back to school, I will hug my parents again, and I will soon restart the task of juggling four different birthday parties every weekend.

However, as much as I know missing this one particular thing is irrational, it still is very real to me – because man oh man, do I miss yard sales!

Courtesy of Stacy Seltzer

For my family and me, springtime has become a standing tradition for yard sale hunting. Most Saturdays we would hit the road by 7:30 am, head to our favorite coffee shop, and then scour the internet for local garage sales, flea markets, and church rummage sales.

After, we would drive from house to house admiring and examining the crap someone else does not want, all the while hoping to find something in their pile of crap that we do want. Then we would pay the 50 cents or the two whole dollars for their child’s first bike or great aunt’s vintage vase, and throw it (safely) into the back of our car.

I have found few things in life that compare to the feeling of getting a massive bargain at a yard sale. It mixes the feelings of happiness, success and accomplishment all in one. Finding the perfect living room rocking chair for $10.00 has absolutely no equivalent on the internet. That feeling cannot be replicated on Amazon or Facebook Marketplace or even eBay – because believe me, I have tried.

Courtesy of Stacy Seltzer

Plus, my kids love it too! Every week we give them a set amount of money and they are asked to spend it wisely. It forces them to think through their purchases and learn the value of a dollar. We even make them donate old toys when the “new” toys are brought home, which as an added bonus makes them excited about giving other little kids new toys to play with.

And as many of my fellow yard sale shoppers know, it doesn’t end at just toys. I have bought furniture, jewelry, dinnerware, light fixtures, clothes and more. I even used to refurbish old chairs and turned a profit on them. It was literally a side business for me for a little while.

When my kids were babies, yards sales were where I got so many basic items at 1/100th of the retail cost. I scored a bouncy seat, a play mat, a pack-n-play, a baby slide, a train table, a ride-on tractor and a double stroller.

Courtesy of Stacy Seltzer

I once went to a community yard sale (which are typically the motherlode of finds), where a woman gave me her 10-year-old daughter’s entire life collection of shoes for $5.00. She just wanted them out of her house, and I was a willing shopper wanting to take them.

Yet my absolute favorite story was from last spring when my daughter was eyeballing a Razor Scooter, and a young girl (probably around 13) told her it was $15.00 – which unfortunately was way above her $5.00 budget.

Seeing my daughter’s hesitation and obvious disappointment, the girl’s Dad came over quickly and said, “We will take $2.00”.

Shocked, the man’s daughter turned and said, “But Dad, I have a lot of memories with that scooter.”

And his response was magical. He looked kindly at his daughter but sternly said, “The memories are in your head, not with the scooter. It will be $2.00”

Courtesy of Stacy Seltzer

You see, that is the beauty in yard sale shopping. You are taking something important that someone doesn’t have a use for anymore and giving it new life. It is the epitome of re-use and recycle, with little money involved. Most, if not all, of my yard sale “shopping sprees” total less than the two lattes and muffins we would have before we ventured out.

Yet as much as it is about the find and the deal, it is also very much about the experience.

It’s the excitement my kids have on Saturday mornings, talking fast about how they want to spend their money. It’s our favorite coffee shop where the barista knows our drinks and the pastry chef in the back always refers to my kids by name. It’s the interacting with other families, and finding the diamond-in-the-rough treasures together.

I remember the story behind almost every yard sale item we have bought as family. They represent a time in our lives I will never get back.

So I guess deep down I know what I really miss … I miss the memories.

I miss our Saturday morning ritual. I miss the time outside my house spent with my kids and my community … and if I am being honest, I miss the cheap finds too.

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Packrat, Now Is Your Time To Shine

You know who you are. Your attic is full. You keep all the things. You hoard clothes in case you change sizes (why buy a new wardrobe each time?). You can’t bear to let go of old toys, outgrown books. You, my friend, are the person with the full set of encyclopedias and the piles of National Geographics. You keep the toilet paper rolls. You might need those milk jugs. Those flower pots could come in handy. Old boxes? You’re on it. If it arrived at your house, it probably stayed there. Some people have looked askance and made comments about the KonMari method. But you are a proud packrat.

And now, my packrat friends, now is your time to shine.

The Packrat Rules The Pandemic Art

You’re trapped in a small space, for an indefinite amount of time, with small or not-so-small children. You need help. You need amusement. You need … art supplies. And during a pandemic, all the things become possible art supplies. Those paints you bought on discount three years ago when the craft store went out of business are suddenly sent from heaven above. The toilet paper rolls become stamps. Old potato ends also become stamps. The ends of old glassware become stamps. You can stamp all the things.

You can also glitter, glitter, glitter, because you saved all that accursed glitter. It may be accursed, but it’s yours. And goddamn if you didn’t store it on a shelf. You can pour it over glue (you bought gallons of glue on sale during school supply season, didn’t you? Of course you did.). You can make sensory bottles. You can pour it into slime. You can make glitter-sand/dirt sensory bins. Oh, the magic of glitter! Only a packrat knows, and yes you’ll be finding glitter everywhere to infinity and beyond, but desperate times and all that.

Didn’t you inherit that bucket of buttons from your grandmother? Button art, bitchachos. 

Remember all those old clothes? Cut out fabric scraps for collages. For doll clothes. For superhero capes. You don’t need special sewing for T-shirt fabric. It won’t unravel. Cut one-inch tabs, tie them to each other, and make enormous blankets.

Keep ’em busy. Keep ’em creating.

Packrat, You Rule The Yard

Dirt + anything = immediate fun. You can regrow plenty of vegetables using kitchen scraps. You have dirt. You have, presumably, wine glasses, unused vases, extra cups, unused mugs … the list goes on. You can even use those wine bottles you keep emptying. All those people who purged their lives? They got rid of those Things That Did Not Bring Them Joy. Well, they’re certainly bringing you joy now when your kids watch the veggies grow!

Got some old seeds? Stick ’em in the ground and see what happens. Who’s joyful now, packrat friends and neighbors?

Oh yeah, and you can paint all those sticks littering the yard, wrap them with all the yarn you swore you’d crochet into something miraculous one day, and hang shit from them. It’s called conceptual art. Maybe use some of those seashells you’ve been hoarding?

Reuse the camping equipment you haven’t touched since before you got married. Those old canoes become awesome imaginary toys, so drag ’em on out. Your kids don’t care if that old tent has some holes. Plus there’s some lightweight pots and pans in there, so you can either let them play with them in the yard, or add them to the play kitchen.

Use The Old Clothes For All The Things

You don’t want to take them to Goodwill. You never know what you’ll need them for. Bag them. Hoard them. Love them.

Cut them up for toilet paper if you run out. Cut them up for rags if you get sparse on paper towels. Better yet, cut them up, use your old canister of bleach wipes, and saturate. Now you have more bleach wipes. Make doll clothes. Make collages. Order a needle and thread and start quilting (you can do a straight stitch, right? You can totally do a straight stitch). Patch your kids’ clothes — it’s not like you can go to Target and buy more jeans, and no one cares if your kids’ clothes have patches.

You are saving the Earth. You’re also keeping busy. You are a champion packrat, friend.

Old Jugs Are Gold

Old jugs/plastic containers become all the things. Cut the tops off. They are now shovels the kids can use to dig up the backyard. Cut the tops off and poke holes in the bottom: they are now flower pots they can use to grow those aforementioned veggies. They become scoops for dog food. They can become measuring cups. You can let the littlest among you use them to scoop and dump, scoop and dump, because that’s what life is all about when you’re two years old. A packrat knows this. A packrat probably already has a stack of them in their garage.

Everything Is A Collage

If you’re a packrat, you’re down with the collage thing. Old bottle caps? Make a trash collage. Old magazines? Collage. All of the above? Found object collage. Old books? Word collage and/or fake ransom notes (if you ever want to see your iPad again …). Cut pictures from their old books, paste them to cardboard, and cut them out as nostalgia. Cut out pieces of their old baby clothes and make a collage of memories. The list goes on and on, and is limited only by your imagination and what you’ve happened to hoard.

You’ve got this, my packrat friend. You have the tools. You have the talent. Your house has been waiting for this moment, preparing, prepping for the day when it must become self-isolated and you must entertain small children on a shoestring (you have extra ones of those, right? Cat’s cradle, dude). Go forth, friends, and use what you’ve got. What brings you joy? All the things bring you joy. Trash is treasure. Old things are new. Reuse and recycle.

You are winning at stay-at-home life right now.

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15 Beautiful Hanging Swing Beds

Beautiful outdoor home decor inspiration for hanging porch swing beds. Creative swing bed ideas for your home or garden. This is definitely outdoor entertaining at it’s best! 15 Beautiful Outdoor Hanging Swing Beds I absolutely love porches and am totally hooked on Swing Beds and Hanging Porch Beds! Swing Beds are my new obsession. I […]

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I Have My Own Cleaning Business—Why Vinegar Is My Secret Weapon

For many years, my full-time job and passion was my cleaning business. I closed the business to stay home and raise babies, but now that all three of my kids are in school, I have added residential cleaning back to my list of part-time jobs. I have always prided myself on providing trustworthy and quality work. I am also proud to tell people that I only use eco-friendly cleaning supplies and products. I am adamant about it, actually. I care too much about the planet, myself, and my kids to use toxic chemicals when much safer and equally-effective options are available. Even though my job description has shifted over the years, one thing has remained the same: Vinegar is my secret weapon.

Vinegar is a safe, inexpensive, and versatile cleaning agent and something most of us already have in the pantry. There are lots of vinegars to choose from, but the one best suited for cleaning and the one I am referring to throughout this article is white vinegar because it is the most acidic and makes it a potent cleaner. In fact, full-strength vinegar may be too strong for some surfaces, so diluting it with water or using apple cider vinegar is the way to go. For an even more acidic cleaner, use cleaning vinegar. It has 20% more acid than regular white vinegar. A simple water/vinegar mix will effectively clean most surfaces in your house.

Use caution on some surfaces. Granite, soapstone, and marble countertops, untreated grout, and stone floors do not mix well with vinegar. The acid can cause pitting and loss of shine. However, vinegar is magic and works in more situations than not.

Bathroom

A simple solution of two parts vinegar, one part water in a spray bottle makes a great multi-purpose cleaner you can use anywhere in the house. But in the bathroom, mirrors, tubs, showers, glass, and tile can be cleaned with this solution. Because vinegar is so acidic, it is great at eating soap scum and brines left by hard water. I have even had luck getting stains from tub crayons off of shower walks. Spraying your shower after each use will help prevent mold and mildew growth too. For really tough jobs in the shower or tub, I have made sprays with a mixture that was one part plant-based liquid dish soap and one part vinegar. Adding lemon oil will make your vinegar cleaning solution smell better and work harder because the oil is also antibacterial and antiviral.

Kitchen

Bring your multi-purpose cleaner into the kitchen and clean counters, appliances, and sinks. Vinegar is great at cutting grease and sticky surfaces—like stickers or jelly left on the wall. However, vinegar doesn’t react well to egg-based messes; adding it will make the spill stickier. Use hot water and a cloth to remove the mess, then use vinegar to clean the surface. Vinegar also freshens stinky drains and cleans the inside of dishwashers.

Pro tip: to get your stainless steel surfaces to shine, dab a cloth with vegetable oil, use it to wipe off finger prints and smudges, then wipe the surface clean with another end of the cloth that has been dipped in vinegar. Let dry and enjoy until your kids appear and run their hands all over everything. Oh, and lean in close: your coffee pot is likely growing mold, so wash your pot and run vinegar through your machine to break down scale build up and knock out mold.

Cleaning Supply Bucket Kitchen Counter
Shopify Partners/Burst

Laundry

I am going to go out on a limb, but I have a feeling you have forgotten to put your laundry in the dryer until the next day or that your kids piss on things. I am also going to guess that if you are a wine drinker, you have slopped it on yourself. Vinegar deodorizes mildew towels, stinky gym clothes, and pee-soaked sheets and clothing. It is also a natural fabric softener, so skip the expensive dryer sheets and add up to a cup of vinegar to the final rinse cycle. Vinegar can be used as a substitute for bleach, too, if you want to brighten white cotton socks, shirts, or underwear. Grass and armpit stains are acidic and dissolve when sprayed with vinegar. A paste of baking soda and vinegar can remove red wine stains too. But the more delicate the fabric, the more caution you should use.

Floors

A little goes a long way with hardwood and laminate floors. No more than half a cup to each gallon of hot water is necessary to get your floors clean. And if you don’t want the vinegar smell, add a couple of drops of peppermint oil, lavender, or lemon oil. I personally love the smell of tea tree oil.

Clogged Drains

I refuse to buy those chemical solutions meant to unclog pipes. They are expensive and I have yet to find one that actually works. I feel like I am dumping money down the drain. Literally. An alternative is to do this: pour a pot of boiling water down the clogged or slow draining pipe. Then add a mix that contains one cup water, one cup vinegar, and one cup baking soda. Cover the drain and let everything sit for ten minutes. Follow up with another pot of boiling water. If this doesn’t work, I like to pull things apart; I will remove the drain plug and snake the drain from the top to pull out hair and gunk. I have also turned off the water supply and have unscrewed the U pipe under the sink. Be sure a bowl is under this to catch small leaks and be prepared for grossness. I find it satisfying. You may not.

Skip the fancy and expensive store-bought cleaning products filled with oil-based and toxic promises and get yourself some simple, but powerful white vinegar.

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Your Home Improvement Project Can Wait — It’s Not ‘Essential’

I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but that home improvement project you are planning to tackle since you finally have a lot of time on your hands?

If it requires a trip to a home improvement warehouse store, it needs to wait.

I totally understand how frustrating that is. Like you, when I first heard how long we would be confined to our home, I planned on taking advantage of my husband’s reduced hours to knock out some of the projects we’d put on the back burner.

I wasn’t planning a shopping spree or anything, but I figured when we ran out for groceries, I could send my husband into a home improvement store to grab just what we needed for one project at a time. We could still limit ourselves to one trip per week as recommended. We’d stay in our own home the rest of the time.

That would be responsible, right?

Turns out, I was wrong.

Trips to the home improvement store are actually not essential for most of us, most of the time.

I know this feels like the perfect time. I have a mile-long list of projects we keep meaning to get around to doing. There are three outdoor light fixtures on the front of my house that I’ve wanted to replace for two years. My husband has been promising to paint our sons’ bedroom since one of them colored on the wall six months ago.

We are halfway through a kitchen remodel. My kitchen functions as-is, but I am dying to see the gorgeous tile backsplash I have planned.

As much as I wish it could be, now is not the time. We all have to forego non-essential trips for a while. Even those of us who are really, really desperate to see how the tile will look with our new countertops.

Part of the reason I thought this would be okay was because I thought the stores would be close to empty. I was so disappointed when I realized how crowded home improvement stores still are, even in the midst of this pandemic.

Last weekend, I found out firsthand.

I knew my kitchen and my paint and my porch chandelier weren’t essential. I gave up on those weeks ago. But when my husband pulled our lawnmower out of the shed for the first time this season to find that the belt needed to be replaced, I thought that might be important enough to warrant a visit to the store. We have little kids and a dog, and they need a safe place to play outside. I thought I could just send my man quickly into the store to grab the part while the kids and I waited in the car for a change of scenery. “A store that doesn’t sell food will be a ghost town,” I thought.

I was totally wrong. The store was packed! The parking lot at our local branch was as full as a normal Saturday. People were walking in and out in close proximity, laughing, stopping to look at things.

Did nobody get the memo about this global freaking health crisis!? We have to do better as a species, y’all.

Needless to say, we did not go inside. My husband ordered the part instead. We are still waiting for it be delivered, and our grass is knee high on our preschooler. But it’s better for our grass to be too tall for an extra week than it is to ignore the guidelines for helping to keep COVID-19 from overwhelming our healthcare system.

We could have thrown caution to the wind and played the odds. My family is comprised of young, healthy people. COVID-19 might pass through our family without incident — but it might not. Nobody is invincible.

We have to go out for food and my husband has to work, so we can’t eliminate every single risk. But it’s irresponsible and completely selfish for anyone — even a young family like mine — to even consider putting ourselves at risk for something like a lawnmower belt.

We also need to leave those stores accessible to people who can’t avoid shopping there. The world hasn’t truly stopped due to this virus. Some people have to be brave and do their best to safely carry out their essential duties. The rest of us have a duty to step aside right now and make it safer for essential workers to get in and quickly out of stores that carry the things they need to do their jobs.

It’s even more important in my local area. Tornadoes ripped through our town just a month ago, shortly before the rest of our lives changed drastically because of COVID-19. Hundreds of people lost their houses, and they can’t find shelter in the place they called home. They are displaced and their lives are upended. Many of them are now facing the prospect of job changes and financial uncertainty, too. They have to continue to attempt to rebuild their homes and their lives in the midst of this additional crisis.

The construction crews need supplies to make that happen. They need us to step aside and make sure they can get their materials without fighting a crowd.

Of course, there are exceptions. Use good judgement. I’m not suggesting that if your refrigerator stops working, you forego safe food storage. If your pipes burst, you’re going to need to run out and get the supplies to repair the leak. Some trips are completely essential. Those are still okay. Keep them short, wash your hands, wear a mask, and practice safe distancing. Keep an eye on the latest guidelines and follow them — but get what you need.

But if you’re just itching to complete your backsplash (like me), plant some flowers, or transform your master bedroom in the Midwest into a seaside oasis with a coat of paint in a shade with a name like “Honolulu Breeze,” you need to just … not.

Your home improvement project can, and should, wait. It’s time to hunker down, venturing out only for work, food, and emergencies, and do your part to flatten the curve.

Millions of lives depend on it.

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How Do I Clean The House During a Pandemic?

It’s hard enough to keep a house clean, but spring cleaning has a whole new meaning during a worldwide pandemic. While the coronavirus is said to be most effectively passed through airborne respiratory droplets transferred from person to person via coughing and sneezing, the virus is also capable of living on hard surfaces like glass and counters for up to 72 hours and on cardboard or fabrics for up to 24 hours. The likelihood of transmitting the virus from inanimate objects to humans is low, but it is possible.

The good news is that the strength of the virus decreases over time, and by the time the virus is touched its potency is less dangerous. Surface-to-person infection would also require someone to transfer a potent level of the virus from a surface directly into their nose or breathe it into their mouth. The most important ways to keep ourselves safe is to limit contact with others, stay home if you are sick, and wash your hands frequently. The CDC and EPA also provide suggestions for ways to clean and disinfect your home.

There is a difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing. Cleaning removes dirt and grime. Sanitizing kills 99% of germs and reduces contamination of germs to safe levels. Disinfecting kills all germs on a surface. Not all cleaning products disinfect all types of germs, but you need to clean before you can disinfect, otherwise you are not getting to the surface (or root) of the problem.

Common EPA-registered disinfectants that are capable of destroying hard-to-kill viruses like rhinovirus and norovirus will also kill coronavirus. But it’s important to remember that you need to follow manufacturer instructions for the disinfectant to be effective. You may need to spray the disinfectant onto the surface and let is stand for up to ten minutes to truly do its job. And DO NOT mix chemicals, especially with ammonia; wear gloves and open doors or windows for proper ventilation.

Then why is simple soap and water all I need to clean my hands, then? Not to get too geeky, but the coronavirus is essentially what Palli Thordarson, a chemistry professor at the University of New South Wales, calls “nano-sized grease balls.” The virus is surrounded by fat and protein, which is broken down by soap. Once the virus’ outside layer is pulled apart, it becomes soluble in water and washes down the drain. But to do this effectively, folks need to take the full 20 seconds to scrub their hands. The CDC recommends washing hands first if the option is available. If hand sanitizer is the only option, it must contain at least 60% alcohol to do the trick.

Back to your kitchen and bathrooms.

A basic soap and water or vinegar and water spray will effectively clean most non-porous surfaces. While vinegar is capable of killing bacteria, it will not kill coronavirus. Nor will most of our green cleaners. Companies like 7th Generation and Mrs. Myers do offer disinfecting sprays, but they are not listed in EPA’s Emerging Viral Pathogen list. And before you get any ideas, tea tree oil, essential oils, nor vodka will kill COVID-19 either. Use these products to clean, but not disinfect, your home.

The CDC recommends frequently cleaning and disinfecting high contact surfaces. These are door knobs, light switches, faucets, desks, keyboards, remote controls, and phones. Electronics should not be doused in liquid, but a disinfecting wipe or damp cloth soaked in 70% alcohol solution can do the trick; dry with a soft cloth. Wipe down counters, sinks, toilets, and bathrooms often. Multi-purpose cleaners from Lysol, Clorox, and Purell will kill the coronavirus if used properly. However, these solutions can cause skin and lung irritation — so again, use gloves and open a window if you can while using the products.

Thankfully we do have DIY options that are less harsh. There are common household items that can be used to disinfect your home that contain fewer chemicals and could be less toxic to our bodies. This is great news for other reasons: it’s hard to find Lysol and Clorox products on the shelves these days and Amazon is struggling to keep up with delivering the essentials.

The CDC recommends diluting bleach to make a bleach solution. They suggest 1/3 cup of bleach for every gallon of water. Alcohol solutions that are made up of at least 70% alcohol will do the job too; most rubbing alcohols are 70% isopropyl alcohol, but be sure to check the label. Don’t be shy about soaking the surface and leaving it wet for 30-60 seconds. If the bleach or alcohol solution is not left on long enough, it won’t kill harmful bacteria and viruses left on surfaces. Hydrogen peroxide — most are 3% solutions — is also an effective disinfectant, and can be used directly out of the container.

Some folks are nervous about bringing packages, mail, and bags into the house from delivery services. The United States Postal Service, with the CDC and WHO, have not found evidence of coronavirus being transmitted via mail. It can live on porous materials for up to 24 hours, so if you are worried about a package, keep it in the garage or porch for a day or wipe it down with a disinfecting wipe. Or remove what you need from the package, recycle or throw away the waste, and then wash your hands and disinfect the floor or counter that held the package.

Your reusable bags should be washed regularly, and clothing can be washed according to manufacturer’s suggestions. For laundry you think may be contaminated, the CDC recommends washing it in the warmest possible setting that is appropriate for the material. Don’t shake dirty laundry, wash your hands after starting a load, and disinfect laundry bins and bags.

Our homes are still the safest place to be. We just need to be more thorough and vigilant about cleaning and disinfecting high-traffic areas. No need to dip everything in bleach, but you should wash your hands more often than you think is necessary. Hopefully, that’s something you’re already doing anyway.

The post How Do I Clean The House During a Pandemic? appeared first on Scary Mommy.

How to Make Hand Sanitizer

When there is no hand sanitizer to be found what can you do? Make your own! It’s very easy to make DIY Hand Sanitizer at home. I’ll show you how to make homemade hand sanitizer with only three ingredients. How to Make Hand Sanitizer When you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, hand […]

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I’m Dreaming Of A Clutter-Free Christmas

Each holiday season, along with trimming our tree and baking cookies, our family practices another tradition: clearing out all the clutter. In preparation of the annual barrage of toys that will inevitably descend on our house from our generous and well meaning family (despite our pleas for gifting experiences rather than things), we need to make room.

This purge historically took place under the cover of night while the children were nestled all snug in their beds. My husband and I would manically box up the unused and unloved toys and ready them for donation. Our children would wake none the wiser, not missing any of the discarded play things. However, last year was the inaugural year of my kids participating in the pre-Christmas clutter clearing, and we weren’t sure how they would take it.

To my surprise, my own Christmas miracle occurred when they embraced the idea of parting with their current toys knowing they would be replaced by new ones from Santa (and my bogus back pocket threat, “if Santa sees you have too many toys he may not leave you any new ones,” went unused).

Eugene Zhyvchik/Unsplash

Our clutter clearing ritual is a three step process that happens over the weekend following Thanksgiving.

First, we set the example. My husband and I phase out our own excess, explaining our actions to our kids as we clear things out left and right.

Second, the setup. We prep our kids with the instructions that they’ll be sorting through their toys and “giving them away to a new home where someone will love them again and play with them every day, just like you used to.” We make sure that we emphasize how fortunate they are to have so many toys, and remind them that Santa and our relatives will be bringing them new toys that we have to make room for. We also point out that they are one year older now and there are many toys they’ve outgrown.

Markus Spiske/Stocksnap

Lastly, the purge. We begin by having them choose between two similar items. Once the favorite is picked, we put it up against another and so on until we are left with a few loved items from each toy category and fewer items overall. For smaller items, like their Hot Wheels, we line them up and have them each pick out a predetermined number of favorites. As they sort, we recycle or throw out toys that have missing pieces, or are broken, or are simply plastic junk. The entire process takes my kids forever and a day as they meticulously sort through the drawers and cubbies of trucks, trains, tractors and planes, but in the end they are left with fewer, truly treasured toys.

The timing of this clutter clearing is crucial. Since they’re looking forward to what they’ll find under our tree, their anticipation ousts any push back or separation anxiety that we might encounter any other time of the year. Once the boxes are filled, we donate them with a “ceremony,” thanking the toys for letting us play with them and wishing them well on their journeys to a new, loving child. Having my kids participate in the clearing has also helped to erase the guilt I felt when previously discarding their toys without their knowledge. An added benefit is that we have a fresh start to the new year with the clutter clearing behind us.

My overall hope is that this process is teaching our kids the counterculture that more “things” don’t equal more happiness and that joy can often be found in giving to others. After all, ’tis the season.

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Decluttering Should Come With A Disclaimer And Here’s Why

Over 10 years ago, I was strolling through Target with three toddlers and saw a pink, heart shaped cake pan in the dollar spot. I’d scored big time.

We went home and I put my kids down for a nap and made my mom’s famous chocolate cake and it was stunning. Not to mention my kids thought I was a genius, wondering how I’d managed to make such a perfectly shaped heart out of chocolate no less. I felt glorious.

Ever since then, I’ve taken that same pan out once a year and made some type of treat around Valentine’s Day for my family, and it’s brought me great joy.

Instagram Photo

But I have to admit I forgot about the joy after binge-watching the Marie Kondo series on Netflix. You know, the one that has almost everyone on earth purging so they can have more space and live their best life?

Well, after seeing how happy everyone was on the show after getting rid of their over half their stuff, I decided that was the kind of joy I needed in my life, and I told myself there was no more room in my life for sentimental bullshit.

Alas, I was wrong.

The decluttering movement should come with a disclaimer letting us know we may get carried away and throw out some beloved or irreplaceable or fucking expensive items in the heat of the purging moment.

GIPHY.COM

The other day I’d forgotten about my smug, tidy, minimalist ways and was frantically look for my heart-shaped pan as I tossed around my perfectly stacked Tupperware (because fuck being tidy when I can’t find something) thinking it would be at the bottom of the stack.

As I was crouched down, searching my mom brain about when I’d last seen it, it hit me: I’d thrown it away. Like, thrown it away in the garbage can while going all Marie Kondo in my kitchen one Saturday afternoon after watching her show and losing my soul.

It all came rushing back: I’d held it up, looked at all the stains, noticed a crack in the side, and decided my kids had grown out of the tradition of heart-shaped goodies and I no longer needed my old, floppy pan.

But I was wrong. Why had I done this?

Clearly I wasn’t thinking straight and was on such a high from getting rid of all my shit, I didn’t realize I was throwing away precious traditions and emotions and years of memories in the trash.

I’m not alone, either. A friend told me she and her husband were cleaning their house out and got rid of a box of electrical stuff. Then the following week they realized the box of “junk” contained a $50 cord to one of their devices, and they desperately needed it.

Another friend of mine from college let me know she’d thrown out her college sweatshirt and told herself she’d buy a new one. Then a week later we discovered our Alma mater would be closing in May. Now that sweatshirt is more valuable to her than ever — it  holds all the good stuff. Stuff we can go blind to when we are on a roll tossing shit out to make our lives better and more efficient.

The thing is, after cleansing our homes and minds, so many of us are now spending time looking for that special sweater we actually threw out. Our partners are racking their brains wondering where the hell they put their baseball card collection from high school, and I know damn well this whole purging movement has caused some strife in relationships.

It tastes like regret and feels lonely. Kind of like when you let that person go who was a little too nice, was always there for you, and never cared if you stunk up the bathroom, because you thought life would be better without all that comfort.

It seems to be a general rule: As soon as you get rid of something you think you no longer need in your life, like your old golf shoes, your bestie asks you to go away for a glorious golfing weekend they won. And then you are left wanting your old item back like you never have before and it’s not fair.

So go ahead, purge away, but just remember as soon as you get rid of that waffle iron you haven’t used in two  years, chances are you’ll wake up on a Sunday morning with a mad craving for waffles and hate everybody.

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Warning: Shopping For Furniture Just Might Destroy Your Marriage

My wife and I recently sold a house, and bought a new house, and somehow that all resulted in us having money for a new bedroom set. I set a little bit aside to pay for delivery and assembly because as cliché as this statement has become, furniture assembly instructions really should come with marriage counseling. I learned that the hard way a few years ago.

This was the first time in our 14 years together that we’d ever actually had money to shop for furniture for a whole room. Most of our previous bedroom set had been a hodgepodge of particleboard and laminate outfits along with Rubbermaid style plastic something or others with drawers made from rigid plastic.

We were both excited to go shopping, which was naive, because that act of actually shopping, the decisions, the picking this over that, were a wonderful test of our marriage.

We argued over the size of the bed. Mel wanted a king. I wanted a queen.

We argued over the color of the wood. I wanted dark. Mel wanted redwood.

We argued in the car, at the store, in the kitchen, and… well… you get the idea.

Once the set was actually purchased and delivered, neither of us were 100% happy with the outcome, which basically means our bedroom set sits in our room like a constant reminder of an unsavory experience.

But hey, that’s compromise… right?

Turns out, our experience furniture shopping isn’t unique. Online furniture brand Article recently conducted a survey of 2,000 Americans to better understanding the struggle that is furniture shopping, and they found that decision-making, particularly around expensive items like furniture, puts a serious strain on relationships.

According to their findings, each year the average couple will have around 72 disagreements about decor style, purchasing decisions, and furniture purchases. I’m with you, that seems like a lot of arguments considering there are only 365 days in a year. If those 72 arguments happened on different days, that means the average couple spends 20% of their year arguing over decor and furniture. Let that sink in.

Article broke down those 72 arguments based on location just so you can have a better idea of what to expect. According to their calculations, eight of those arguments will occur at the store, which makes sense while also making me never want to work in a furniture store. Fifteen arguments happen inside of the home in question, which isn’t surprising. In fact, I assumed this number would be higher.

Ten fights will happen in front of a friend or family member. This is where you ask your mother to back you up on why your partner’s taste is garbage.

Four fights will happen… on an airplane. I’ll be honest, this one lost me.

And the remaining 35 fights were pretty spread out, but were most likely to occur in a movie theatre, library, or amusement park. I can see the headline now “Wife Shoves Husband Off Rollercoaster Over Coffee Table Selection.”

Obviously, arguing about furniture happens in some unexpected places, but what are people doing to deal with this? Well, that’s mixed, too. 15% of Americans avoid going to the furniture store with their partner because the visit always leaves them feeling grumpy (well… obviously). 21% described shopping with their partner as “annoying,” while a whopping 58% simply don’t offer their opinion, staving off fights altogether, and leaving one spouse (let’s be real, it’s probably the wife) with the full emotional labor of decorating the house while also doing ALL the other things.

Article rubbed some dirt in it to find out what exactly these fights were about, and found that budget, furniture styles, and color selection were the leading causes.

Please keep in mind that this is an upper-middle-class to upper-class issue. Until Mel and I actually had money for that bedroom set, we never once fought over furniture. Most of the time we just went to better-off family members homes and asked, “Are you throwing that out? Because I could use it.” It wasn’t about choice; it was about what was free. However, if you are in the throes of it with your spouse over your home decor, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone.

Usually I’d try to end with some sort of advice on how to make this whole process a little less stressful. And sure, Article did try to give some tips about how decorating is about making your house a home, and they tried to quantify that experience in hopes of simplifying it. But honestly, I didn’t really buy it (however you can read it for yourself if you’d like). As for forgoing decorating arguments, I frankly don’t think there’s a way around it, and I’m sorry. Making a house into a home is kind of a big deal, and just like any big deal, people are going to argue about it. That’s natural. But what I can say that might help is to realize it will happen, and then mentally prepare yourself with this mantra: I still love you even though your taste in furniture makes me want to claw your eyes out.

See how easy that was? Now you are mentally prepared to go shopping.

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