A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Tag: decluttering

In case of emergency…

I’m not ready to die.

True story.

So whenever possible, I like to avoid doing really risky or stupid things.

Most of the time.

This morning, however, I strayed from my usual play-it-safe-routine of coffee with Ann, Matt, and Al, and decided I’d live a little dangerously.

I was going to clean the top of my kitchen cabinets.

I know. Try to contain your jealousy.

Why is cabinet-top-cleaning dangerous? Because it’s greasy and dusty up there and when you are wearing only pa-jay-jays and slippers, you don’t have a lot of breast support or foot traction to nimbly maneuver from one counter top to the other.

More importantly, you’re probably wondering why I was going to tackle this project today of all days.

I mean, it’s the first day my kids all went back to school after winter break, PRAISE JEEEZUS. Even my middle-schooler couldn’t wait to get out of this house today. We were all a little stir crazy and I found myself holding my head in my hands yesterday and saying things to my husband like “Why didn’t we stop after one child?” and “I’m going to go upstairs and cry for a while, m’kay?”

But it’s January, which means it’s National Organization Month, in addition to National Stalking Awareness Month, National Dog Training Month, and National Bath Safety Month. Not making those up. It’s a mad mad world.

Anyway, my friend Lisa turned me onto a Decluttering Calendar that she’s going to follow. It gives specific bite-sized organizing tasks everyday for the whole year.

I thought I’d give it a try with her to see if maybe 2012 is the year I finally get my shit together.

“Declutter the top of your cabinets and dust” was actually the task for January 3rd. Yes, I’m a couple days behind. That’s okay. I’ll make it up later. (I hope.)

So there I was, in my slippers and flannel nightie, precariously perched like a dyslexic owl on the edge of my somewhat slick cooktop while holding a spray bottle, a rag, and a 22 quart copper pot that’s bigger than a prize-winning pumpkin… and it occurred to me, “If I fall, I could die.”

The only person home with me at the time was Bucket Head.

Honest to Pete.

Does this kid look like he’d be any good in a crisis?

In fact, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t even be able to find the phone, much less dial 911 on purpose.

And if by chance, after a bad fall, assuming my giant copper pot didn’t land on my head and crush it like a ripe melon, I was able to drag my broken body to the phone and dial for emergency help, did I really want a crew of hot young paramedics seeing me in my morning glory?

Nope. I did not.

I have my priorities, you know.

Sorry Gracie, my trusty feline sidekick, this task will have to wait until The Gatekeeper gets home. It will be a lot easier with a human partner anyway.

But while I was thinking such morbid thoughts, I decided it would be a good idea to make it easier for a stranger to help me in case of an emergency.

I had read a tip somewhere over the break that if you lock your smart phone with a passcode and there’s an accident, the rescue crew responding to your emergency won’t be able to access your phone’s address book and see who your “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) contact person is.

Oh snap.

That would be bad.

So I made this in Picasa, downloaded it to my iPhone, and saved it as my lock-screen.

You should totally do that too; with your own picture and emergency contact info, of course.

Alrighty kids, let’s be safe out there. And if you can’t be safe, at least put on some clean britches and a little lipstick.

Your friend,


© Copyright 2012, The Bearded Iris. All rights reserved.

Ask and ye shall receive.

“Ask and ye shall receive.”

I don’t know who said that, but hot damn if it ain’t the God’s honest truth.

(Kidding, I know who said that. It was Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, right?)

Earlier this week I was in a major funk about the state of my house and the fact that I had not finished any of my 52 Weeks of Organizing projects lately. I suspected that if I could just focus and complete something, it would help me tremendously. So I declared my intentions to the universe.

And lo and behold, help arrived.

My organizing guru, Laura, THE Org Junkie, heard my plea and responded with the just in time medicine I needed: a fabulous post titled Finish what you start. It is filled with such good advice that I don’t even mind her blaming ME for her being a little hard on all of us this week! (Sorry guys. It’s for our own good.)

Laura encouraged us to update and reprioritize our lists! Holy cheese! That is just the lightbulb I needed. My priorities HAVE shifted dramatically since I began this journey 24 weeks ago. Almost losing 14,000 digital photos can do that to a gal.

But I never would have thought to update my list! What a great idea!

Iris' Original 52 Weeks of Organizing List

When I look back at my original list, it really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me anymore. I think it needs a major overhaul. So that’s something I’ll be working on next week.

This week, however, as promised, I focused on my office desk, the office floor, and my new computer. And I actually accomplished something! Staying focused in one room made a huge difference. (The rest of my house looks like shit, but I don’t care…I’m on a mission, ya’ll!)

But before I can show you my progress, first I have to show you something shocking!

"One of these things is not like the other one. One of these things just doesn't belong. Can you tell which thing is doing its own thing? Now, before I finish my song."

Ooops, not that one.

In the process of organizing some of my photos, I came across this old picture of my home office/den in 2004:

Pretty tidy, wouldn’t you say? This picture was taken about a year after we moved to this house. That was before we had a dog, or a third tornado child.

Fast forward a few years…

Look at the dog's face! Even he can't stand it here. And do you see what Mini-Me is doing in the background? Tossing my paperwork into the air. Nice.

Hello chaos. I’m Iris. Nice to meetcha.

That was Autumn, 2008. We had recently added hardwood floors and French doors. We painted the hallway and the home office. Like you can even tell with all that clutter in the way. Let’s face it, no amount of buttercream frosting can hide the fact that the cake underneath is made of crap.


You would think that finding $1463 worth of free money in that room would have motivated me to keep it more organized.

Uh, nope.

That really happened, by the way. One thousand, four hundred, sixty-three dollars. Fo shizzle.

It was January 2009, not long after that picture above with the three kids and the dog was taken.

You know how January goes… new year, new resolutions. I was bound and determined to get our home office under control. So I started moving piles around and putting like with like. That’s when I found a stack of unopened envelopes from my health insurance company. Thinking they were just monthly statements, I had never opened them. Smooth move, Ex-Lax.

So one night I sat in front of the TV and started going through that stack one envelope at a time. Sure enough, they weren’t statements. They were reimbursement checks! And they were 9 months old and about to expire. If I had not found them when I did, all that money would have been lost.

That, by the way, was what got me on the Oprah show in March of that year. Well my voice anyway, and a bunch of pictures of me, my family, and my messy messy house. Ahhhh, good times.

But here we are two years later, and I haven’t really made a ton of progress on that home office since then. Here’s a picture I took about a week ago:

"Honey call 911! We've been robbed! Oh wait...nevermind."

Lord have mercy! Every time I come home to this I think I’ve been burglarized. Only I haven’t. The thief is ME and I’m robbing myself and my family of a better life. That’s crazy.

But I’m proud to say that I am a woman of my word and I cleared that messy floor this week:

Keep your eyes on the floor... ignore the bookshelves.

I followed Laura’s advice and put a big basket by the door to gather all the items that didn’t belong in my office. Still haven’t put that stuff where it really belongs, but baby steps, right? We’re going for progress, not perfection.

Now I’ve got stacks of organized, manageable piles around the perimeter of the room that I plan to tackle one by one over the next few weeks: medical papers, warranties, kids’ artwork, things to frame, the recipe pile, etc. I’ve also got to organize that bookshelf so it doesn’t look so messy. I always wanted to paint it or stain it too, but for now, I’ll settle for tidy.

I’m feeling much less overwhelmed! I CAN do this. One little pile at a time.

Special thanks again to Laura the Org Junkie for all her support and expertise! I’ve definitely made more progress in the past week than I’ve made in the past two years! Thank you, Laura!

Can’t wait to show you all my progress next week. I’m going to stick with this room until it is complete! Come back next week and see!

Enthusiastically yours,


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.

The Art of Simplifying, Simplified.

It’s week # 10 in Org Junkie’s 52 Weeks of Organizing challenge. This week Org Junkie’s topic is “Tips for Cluttered Surfaces.” As always, her tips are fabulous. Go have a look-see when you get a chance.

Cluttered surfaces are definitely a big problem for me. Here’s one of my worst hot spots: the kitchen island. Oy vay!

Kitchen island "hot spot," earlier today.

Kitchen island "hot spot," one month ago.

Kitchen island "hot spot," three years ago.

This spot is truly a black hole. The minute I get it cleared off, people start piling stuff back up on it… like it has a mysterious gravitational pull.

Clearly we need a better system, but that will have to be a project for another week. First I have to do some research, and wouldn’t you know it, Org Junkie has all kinds of ideas for how to create a command center and get your paper piles off the counter! Sweet! I love that woman.

I did spend some time today clearing this spot and going through the mound of paper. Amazing what you can find under all that CRAP!

Ooops! Too bad this was at the BOTTOM of the pile. Looks like Bucket Head is learning to count with Cheerios at preschool.

It’s a miracle we don’t have bugs. Also surprising that Ike (the devil dog) didn’t find that Cheerio art and wolf it down. He was probably too busy noshing in the litter box.

So that is my next mission, creating a command center. A few feet away from that cluttered kitchen island is a built in desk that is also always mounded with CRAP. It would be the perfect place for a command center! Wanna see it? You know you do. Doesn’t looking at all my messiness make you feel SO much better about your own house?

Location of my future Command Center!

Another view... that's Nature Boy on his laptop.

You are welcome; I’m happy to help boost your self esteem at my expense. Stay tuned for the “after” pics when I have my spiffy new Command Center up and running… one of these days.

It’s been a rough week, what with Mardi Gras, and my hangover on Ash Wednesday, and my subsequent alcohol withdrawal because of Lent. But in spite of all that, there is one thing I accomplished this week that I’m dying to share with you.

This week I was inspired by two of my new Internet friends, Martha and Megan.

Martha is one of my separated-at-birth-sisters in the 52 Weeks Challenge. She put up a photo recently in a post about cleaning up her desk in which I noticed not one, but TWO decorative signs extolling the virtues of simplifying.

Oh shite, I thought to myself. I have one of those:

What is this, a Cracker Barrel?

And then I thought about Megan. She is on a quest to simplify her life by getting rid of something from her house everyday for a year. I’ve been stalking her for a week now, and let me tell you, she is fearless. She’s tossing things left and right, and not even horrible things. In other words, she is making some ruthless decisions about what gets to stay and what has to go. It’s a good thing I don’t live in her neighborhood, because I would gladly take most of her cast-offs, they are that good.

But anyhoo, I started eyeballing that “SIMPLIFY” sign and thinking, you know… I don’t really like that thing. I bought it a few years ago thinking it would help to inspire me on my quest for a clutter-free home. It obviously hasn’t helped. And since I don’t love it, it is clutter, and it has got to go! Buh-bye!

Sometimes LESS really is MORE!

Ahhhh. That is so much better! Isn’t it?

You probably have no idea how hard this was for me. We’re talkin’ borderline hoarder here, people. But it is like a switch has suddenly been flipped and I can finally see the light!

So thank you, Org Junkie, for the continued guidance; and thank you, Martha and Megan, for inspiring me to let go of that not-so-simple SIMPLIFY sign. I am hopeful this is just the start of a lifetime of letting go.

with gratitude and optimism,


PS: if you are just joining us and want to get caught up on all of my previous 52 Weeks projects, click here.

© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.


Laundry Room Highs and Lows

It’s week # 9 in Org Junkie’s 52 Weeks of Organizing challenge. This week the topic is “What is your good enough?” God help us. This is going to be cathartic.

If you are just joining us and want to get caught up on all my previous projects, click here.

Ever since I revamped my laundry system a few weeks ago and stopped sorting laundry, I’ve been itching to organize my awful laundry room. Ultimate goal: for my 11 year old son to start washing his own clothes. But there was no way I wanted him farting around in my messy laundry room, mixing bleach with ammonia, or putting too much soap in the washer like that dumb-ass Bobby Brady.

Look, can I be honest? I frickin’ hate my laundry room. I truly could not hate it more if it were located over an Indian burial ground and haunted by poltergeists. It’s small, dark, cluttered, and worst of all, ordinary. It has no natural light, old nasty linoleum floors, and energy inefficient top loading appliances that were purchased at the end of the last century. And, this room is a passageway between my garage and my kitchen, so I’m forced to look at it all the stinkin’ time.

I’ve tried to spruce it up little by little over the 7 years that we’ve lived here… a coat of leftover paint, some hooks, a set of really nice shelves my sweet Stepdad and I almost killed each other installing, a few cute baskets here and there. But all these little improvements are like putting a band-aid on a gushing hatchet wound. In other words… ain’t working. I still hate it.

I’ve always fantasized about one of those fancy schmancy laundry rooms with custom cabinetry, a built in ironing board, a spotless counter top for folding, gleaming glass canisters filled with organic plant based detergents… the works. You know — the kind of laundry room Martha Stewart would go to prison for.

But instead, what I have is this:

BEFORE: Cramped, cluttered, and ordinary laundry room.

Ugh. So very far from perfect, wouldn’t you agree?

But let’s face it – I’m not going to get that fantasy laundry room any time soon. So I would be wise to stop comparing and start decluttering. In the immortal words of Elvis, “a little less talk, a little more action.” Let’s do this, shall we?

Remember the PROCESS? (Plan, Remove, Organize, Containerize, Evaluate, Solve, Smile)

1.) Plan. Eh, f#ck it. I’m not a planner. I’m just gonna dive right in.

2.) Remove everything from the space. Check:

WOW! Looks so much better already, doesn’t it?! Decent bones, at least. Okay, I take that back, but at least my water supply hoses are made of braided steel instead of rubber. So there’s one good thing.

This would be a good time to paint the room the robin’s egg blue I’ve been coveting, but my husband said “NO WAY, JOSÉ,” since I have so many other unfinished renovating, crafting, and personal hygiene projects in the works. I swear, sometimes that man is about as much fun as a dead baby bunny on Easter morning.

In case you’re wondering where I put all that stuff… well so much for the clean dining room from last week:

BEFORE: decluttered dining room.

DURING: cluttered dining room revisited.

That’s okay. Just more motivation for me to keep moving and git-r-done.

3.) Organize. Once everything was in the dining room, I put like with like, and tossed (or recycled) a bunch of CRAP like a dozen cardboard toilet paper tubes I was saving for a craft we’ll never do.

4.) Containerize. Whatever I didn’t toss/recycle, I consolidated. Then I moved a box of pet supplies to the garage to preserve the valuable real estate I had created with all the purging.

Time to put stuff back into the laundry room!

And THAT is when it hit me: the less I put back in, the more organized and spacious the room would appear! I used containers to create boundaries, just like Org Junkie says. Turns out I don’t need a bigger laundry room… I just need less stuff. Talk about an “Aha Moment.”

And speaking of containers… I started thinking, what would oneshabbychick do to corral all her fabric softeners and stain removers? Her stuff is sooooo pretty and easy on the eye. Ooooh, I know…. she’d find something fabulous on the cheap at Goodwill and spray paint it Ivory or Navajo white. So I did just that. Check it out, my little Lookie-Lous:

BEFORE: ugly metal bin from Goodwill.

AFTER: same thing, but with satin ivory spray paint.












5. ) Evaluate.

AFTER: Iris' laundry room shelves.


AFTER: Iris' laundry room make-under.

6.) Solve. This is obviously a work in progress. I’ll keep you posted as I get used to the new decluttered space and discover if there are any problems that still need to be solved.

I am going to have my artsy pregnant friend Mama Cloud make me some pretty labels for the baskets so my kids and husband can find things. She has the most beautiful handwriting and needs something to take her mind off the ring of fire she’s going to experience in about 6 weeks.

7.) Smile. Can’t. Too tired. And all those spray paint fumes have me a little high. But I surely am grateful for the “Aha Moments” I experienced in this project and I’m looking forward to purging more stuff in my other rooms.

It may not be the perfect laundry room of my dreams, but it’s a hell of a lot better than it was last week. Maybe uncluttered is good enough for me.

Until we meet again!


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.

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