Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends



Even for me, some jobs are just too daunting. There is something about the art closet, for example, that terrifies and mocks me. My own desk is another source of terror. (How ironic is that?) My children’s closets are rooms of mystery and wonder. The garage is, well, really big and definitely not all mine.

How do I manage? Just like the Beatles sang in 1967, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

The art closet is used primarily by Audra and me. Clara keeps her art supplies in her room (smart girl). Because the job is daunting to both of us, I set the timer for the 15 minutes, and we slammed the door behind us the moment that timer rings. Nonetheless, a few 15 minute sessions later, and a couple of “I’ll just decide about one item” later, and the closet, while not complete, is in much better shape.

When we remodeled, I packed everything from my desk into a laundry basket. Now that I have a desk, I have unpacked the crucial items, but the basket still seems full. What else could possibly be in there? Every time I look, I see a mixture of unneeded items and good stuff, but some how I just can’t bring myself to deal with it. Again, Audra to the rescue. She’s perfectly willing to help me out, and she loves to arrange and organize the drawers. All I have to do is ask.

The girls’ closets not only hold their clothes but also all manner of both treasurers and junk. How am I to know which is which? Fortunately for me, both of the girls seem to think that cleaning out their closets with my help is fun and not a chore at all. They look forward to moving their too-small clothes along to some other girl, knowing that they can’t ever get anything new (actually, typically used) until the closet is purged. While we’re in there, I generally pull out a few old art projects or other memorabilia for them to “nay or yea” as well.

As for the garage, I’m eager to get it decluttered. We have what is quite possibly the ugliest and most decrepit shed imaginable, and I have finally persuaded Dan that we need to shift all shed stuff into the garage and pull the shed down. He thinks it’s not all going to fit, but I know that it can. (The wheelbarrow and lawnmower would present a fit challenge if we had more than one car, but since we don’t, it should all be fine.) I promised that we could build another shed if we find we must have one, but I’m betting that after the adjustment period, we won’t miss it at all, and I can use the slab that it’s sitting on for something much more interesting. I have a raised fish pond in mind.

In every case, I am tackling my hard challenges with the help of someone else. While I’m using family members, I’ve also paid for help from Amy and Susan at The Clutter Consultants and gotten assistance my friend Holly, whom I, in turn, helped out. Not everyone is the right candidate to help, but many people are happy to assist. After all, cleaning and rooting through someone else’s stuff isn’t ever as daunting as cleaning your own. If you’ll repay the favor, that’s even better!

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter an Aspirational item. Something you aspire to getting around to using or trying one day.

Eco Tip For The Day

Buying a new pair of shoes and decluttering two pair in their place will reduce your clutter. However being satisfied with the shoes you own and wearing them until they are worn out is better for the environment.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. Cindy, I so agree with you. Having friends, or family, to help is great.

    I made a decision today. I am going to get rid of the majority of what I still have left in my scrapbook drawers. I am just over it. DONE, DONE, DONE. I think I have hit an all time low as far as interest in keeping it up. Once I have the 600 some card fronts/cards gone I will maybe buy a few things as needed if I need them. I may just quit sending cards for the most part by then.

    • I am clutching my heart with shock Deb! Fantastic for you! I suggested that we try to reduce the entirety of the art closet into a 9 drawer cabinet – you probably have at least one of these for our scrapbook supplies. While Clara (remember, she keeps her art supplies in her room) thought that was totally reasonable and doable, Audra was completely appalled!

      • Cindy, good luck getting Audra to reduce & consolidate. I’ve even decided to get rid of some of my rubber stamps. I’m just tired of it all.

    • Deb J – wow! I have avoided scrap booking since I first came across the idea, I just knew it would be a fatal addiction for me. All those pretties and precious. A friend of mine was a serious scrap booker for a while, until she realised the majority of the fun was shopping for the stuff. She realised that she spent very little time actually scrapbooking compared to browsing in the shops and looking online.
      My mum is the same with fabrics – she does sew a lot but she has enough fabric put away to cease all fabric shopping for several years.

    • Good for you, Deb J!

  2. Great post, Cindy, and I absolutely love the first paragraph – so funny! Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. I’ve convinced my husband that we need to tackle the garage…wish me luck in getting him to get rid of stuff and not just reorganise the mess, he’s a “just in case we need it someday” kind of guy

    • Maybe you can ask him when he thinks he might need X and when he thinks he might need it again. Rearrangers can be a tough audience, especially if they think you’re in *their* space.

  4. Cindy – we had the ‘shed’ dilemna about this time last year. We didn’t have a shed and it live on the garage floor, amongst everything else that was piled up there. (Honestly, you couldn’t see the garage floor and it was a navigational feat to get aross it.) I didn’t like having the lawn mower and weed eater in there as I get hayfever and it would bring all that cut grass smell inside to say nothing of petrol cans etc. And it was another couple of things sitting on the floor of the garage adding to the problem.

    Adrian wanted to build a ginormous toolsheed – one worthy of a manly man – a lamborghini of tool sheeds. Everything possible was going to go in this toolshed. We looked at kitset ones, but Adrian scoffed at those, he could put on his toolbelt and build a man-cave. He had a location in mind, but it would mean moving my washing line – you don’t really mind, do you luv? Ah yes I would mind. A lot. And although we are tucked into a corner section of a cul-de-sac, no I don’t want it on the front lawn either and don’t even think of putting it in the deck area. So the process stalled at the planning stages for quite a while, meantime I was battling clutter in the garage clambering over fishing gear, weeders, lawn mowers etc.

    I managed to clear a bit of space but was about to start working on the ceiling storage above the garage at the same time so the tool-shed worthy stuff had to go. I got Adrian to bundle everything going into the toolshed in one area and I noticed that if we didn’t include the bikes (which the girls and I didn’t want in the tool shed anyway) the lawn mower, the weedeater, the outboard motor (dinghy size) and ice chest were the biggest items and everything else looked ‘much more’ because it was in an untidy pile and if he planned carefully where each item went, how compact could his toolshed be? He set to work designing his toolshed and ended up with a lock up cupboard with double doors that sits under the eaves at the end of the house. He built it out of scrap material he sourced from work and painted it so that it blended in with the house as much as possible. It is a master piece of organisation, everything has a place and everything is in its place – even a space for the things on his wishlist for this year.

    Overnight a pile of stuff moved out of the garage and it was wonderful. Adrian’s friends called around to admire the toolshed. It was deemed a great success. I am still surprised at how small it is but it keeps all the tools and fishing gear outside but still protected from the weather.

    • Apologies for my spelling – toolsheed should be toolshed

    • Wow Moni! It’s great that you ended up with a small shed instead of a monstrosity that probably would have started accruing junk just because it was a place Adrian could put it. Holding out worked.

      • Deb J – tool sheds seem to just pile everything against the wall until it gradually builds up layers of stuff to fill the whole thing. The beauty of this one is that it isn’t deep, probably only 60-70cm deep which is 23-27 inches. Even my friends were interested to look at it and one described it as the “tool shed equivalent of a tupperware pantry” which I had to explain to Adrian was high praise. The lawn mower does have to sit sideways which Adrian says is a teeny tiny nuisance as opposed to rolling it in or out of a convential toolshed, but he said that teeny tiny nuisance is over in 30 seconds and as our son mows the lawns so its his teeny tiny nuisance.

        • Moni, you are right. I wish we could get rid of the one in the back of our place but it is on a concrete pad and someone would have to use a crane to get it out because of the location of the houses.

          • Ladies, this is exactly why I have refused Ian’s many offers to have a greenhouse. The only difference between a greenhouse and a toolshed is that you can SEE all the junk stored in a greenhouse! It’s lovely to have a cold frame that will hold a bag of peat moss and my tomato plants and not much else.

    • That is absolutely fantastic Moni. I’m hoping for the same thing, except I hope we discover we don’t need a shed at all.

      • Cindy – best of luck, just give some thought to where fuel for the lawn mower etc gets stored as the smell was quite strong even in a good fuel storage can. A friend did some research and for the unlikely event of a fire it should be stored away from other items such as LPG (I think you call propane) and gas appliances.

  5. I know that feeling of not wanting to deal with certain areas or things all too well! To be honest sometimes I’m glad when things break or get damaged or ruined because it means I can throw it away with more easily without having to do all that internal-battle stuff.

    • Jane W – I know what you mean. It takes all the ifs, buts and maybes out of the equation.

    • In my case, there’s not a lot in these areas that’s breakable. But I feel sort of disappointed when most things break because then the useful life is gone from them completely – not just for me but for everyone. Maybe that’s a question you could ask yourself when decluttering: “Is this soemthing that I would be pleased to see broken.” If the answer is yes, then you obviously don’t need / want / or value that item any more, and you can let it go to someone else.

      • Cindy – the last few “wahoo its broken” moments have been items which had made it thru the last few culls on the basis that it was still useful and obviously on its last legs so to speak. Just waiting for it to break so yes finally it was gone. Now that I think about it, these items weren’t replaced.

  6. Cindy – my girls sound similar – Courtney is the arty one and not naturally inclined to be organised, in fact her natural habitat would be a rats nest. Dayna is organised and her room always immaculate. If I send Courtney to her room to tidy up (which happens a lot) I’ll check in on her half an hour later and she’ll still be standing there with a sock in her hand looking bewildered. Dayna embraced decluttering and minimalism. Courtney admits that the fewer things she has the better but she still manages to live in a muddle.

    Cindy – any good ideas? Courtney has her assortment of art supplies, mainly pencils, drawing ones, pastels ones, water colour ones, chalk ones etc etc. They live in their flat tins. She likes to draw using the dining room table, better light and lots of room. Of course, eventually I ask her to move her stuff which annoys her. She currently uses a shoe box to store all her art supplies and would like something a bit more classy. She’d actually like a desk but we got rid of a students desk last year as everyone used it as dumping zone. And given how she keeps her room, I’m inclined to think it will happen again. I have suggested a nicer box, no. I’ve suggested a toolbox, no. I’ve suggested a tray that she can just load everything in and out of – even went as far as to offer to put anti-slip matting in the bottom. I took her to The Warehouse and showed her the organisers that scrap bookers use and got a look that I can only describe as “mum you are a Philistine”. She has a roll up pen/pencil holder too but I think she has more pens/pencils than what it can hold and she does seem to like to keep the ones that came in tins, in the tins. Does anyone have any other ideas?

    • Hi Moni. Sometimes when I get in a muddle I find I’m trying to find an answer when I haven’t really defined what the problem is. For example, if avoiding a horizontal dumping spot is the problem, an easel might provide a place for your daughter to draw in her own room and there would be no need to move her things back and forth. Otherwise, you might look into an artist’s portfolio case with compartments for papers and paints/pencils, etc. And then you lay down the law about the dining table!

    • Moni, If the desk it at risk of becoming dumping ground you could look at slant top tables,–Artist-Tables–m-253 as an example, If you have a window that can accommodate a fold down table top, or you could sit down with her and do an internet search for art supplies storage solutions and see if anything sparks her interest. There are lots of creative ideas, and some tool boxes can look classier with wrapping paper or paint makeovers. Hope this helps.

    • Hi Moni!

      Seems I don’t really get whether your problem is her being a little untidy or what “classy” organisational thing to buy.
      I am rather untidy myself (not dirty, but leave things out and about), and though I got better with less stuff, my desk will still “explode” regularly as do my sewing supplies…
      The key for me is in general: less stuff AND smallish working spaces. I do have a desk and love it, but I think some people would call it a children’s desk, as it’s rather small. There’s also just one sliding keyboard shelf, no other storage. On this shelf I put a little tray that covers half of it and that I can use for storing utensils or things in progress and besides it fits my laptop, when I don’t work, so the surface of that desk can be cleared completely and rather fast as well (even when there’s multi-layered clutter on it). I always struggled with desks and did best with rather small surfaces. There’s advantage in that only what you currently work on fits on that desk after all.

      If you’re just searching for a classy replacement for a shoebox, maybe have a look for some cute vintage suitcase (of the small kind – it may also be a box for hats or a case for an instrument originally). I know from experience that things you like for the looks are more easily to be kept tidy 😉 A vintage or upcycled sewing box might also be a good option. Usually those already have compartments. I myself kept art supplies in one. There are many different kinds, with small or big compartments. There are also real wooden “art supply boxes”, but also many other different kinds of boxes, e.g. shoeshine boxes (very handy!).
      Maybe just have a look at some attic or shed of an elderly person.

      • Sanna – I love seeing her drawing, I wish I had that kind of ability – the joke in the family is that I can’t even drawer Mr Potato Head. Sometimes we just eat at the breakfast bar or coffee table to avoid her having to pack up, as certain nights of the week we come and go in shifts it works out ok. But sometimes someone else needs the table ie my other daughter is doing textiles at school and needs to set up her stuff or if a sit down meal is required or she appears to be finished a project that’s when she needs to pack up.

        I was told by a friend that if your child takes art for their levels at High School, forget seeing your dining room table for the 2nd half of the year, so I am prepared for that.

        Classy. I guess the shoe box got started because one day we had to pack her up in a hurry and practical me that was what I had to hand. I can see how a visual person could find that a bit……hmmmm. To me a shoe box was free and did the job but wasn’t really intended as a long term solution but as it solved the problem I didn’t really think about it again. I will suggest your ideas to her and see what she thinks.

    • Both Clara and Audra have their favorite supplies in something like a divided tool box. Have you taken her to a really nice art supply store, so she can see the options in person? I can’t imagine a shoe box would be preferable to a nice supply box, Moni.

      • Cindy today it is a stat holiday here, when the shops open at 11 I might take her up to The Warehouse and look at a divided tool box. I’m thinking we could decorate the outside as Adrian is a signwriter and we can scan some of Courtney’s work and turn them into adhesive labels. I hope she likes the idea.

        The last time we went to the art supply shop together we didn’t see any holders except for the roll up variety but we were on a time schedule and her money was taken up with whatever was bought that day, so we left quickly so as not to be tempted………

  7. I don’t have a “go to” partner on the decluttering front, but I feel like everyone here and this great site are my decluttering partners and they are never far away. My children and husband, although reluctant at times, are my decluttering partners too.

  8. If you think scrapbooking is bad as far as gathering clutter, try being a mixed media artist!

    I’m ordinarily very uncluttered, but we have someone sharing our house with us now, so all my art supplies have had to get jammed into this little office/art room (spare bedroom).

    Sometimes I feel claustrophobic, and get the urge to just dump all of it, but when I want to create art, it’s good to have my stacks of magazines, old books, and other art supplies at hand.

    I don’t think I’ll be getting my real art space back anytime soon, so I just might get tired enough of it to get rid of everything.

  9. Love the shed/ garage comments – we have this ‘discussion’ in our house a lot too – our garage is a garage and a half size and we have a reasonable sized shed – so lots of space for 2 peoples stuff! The garage tends to be OHs domain and the shed ( cos I’m the gardener) mine. Conversation often goes- I wish I had a bigger garage. No you don’t, you just need to clear out some stuff. This needs to go in the shed – it’s spare. No it doesn’t get it out of there. My shed is leaking, please help me fix it. Ah, let’s just get a new bigger shed, I can put x, y and z in it! No ,please just fix the one we have, oh ok. , lol
    No action on that yet though 🙁 but there is some windsurfing kit listed on fleabag this week – yay.