Thursday, January 29, 2015

Everything Under The Kitchen Sink

Hello, everyone! It's time to play What's Under Jill's Kitchen Sink?

(Theme music. Cheers and applause from the audience.)

So, some of you may remember that I was planning on cleaning out the cabinet under my kitchen sink. I know, I know, my life is wildly exciting and glamorous. Don't be jealous.

Well, I didn't get around to it the day that I mentioned it, but I decided to tackle it after dinner tonight. I can honestly say that I haven't really cleaned out from under the kitchen sink since we moved into the house 12 years ago. My husband, however, has cleaned it several times, as we have had some intermittent leaking pipe issues under there (so stop those gagging noises right now!). Still, over time, it has become a black hole filled with half-empty bottles of cleaners and insecticides, plastic bags, old flashlights, extension cords, and other things that I couldn't even remember.

Here is the BEFORE picture:

This picture doesn't do justice to the GIANT MESS THAT LIVES UNDER THE SINK. I pulled everything out into the floor, so that I could, you know, fully appreciate the mess.

Let's just take a look at some of the items that I discovered. Clockwise from the top, we have:

  • two boxes of baking soda
  • one box of kitchen garbage bags
  • one box of yard garbage bags
  • a yucky plastic bowl
  • a super-old tub of plant food
  • canned air
  • super-old bottle of plant pesticide
  • hangers for the towel warmer in the bath room
  • a plastic shelf from the refrigerator that we have never used
  • Swiffer Steamboost pads
  • drain snake
  • three almost empty bottles of insect spray
  • carburetor cleaner
  • a half-full, industrial-sized bottle of Mr. Clean
  • some miscellaneous canning supplies
  • my personal favorite - a license plate from Washington state (numbers blurred out in the pic)
  • my second favorite - a PAPER bag full of PLASTIC bags
  • more plastic bags
  • a really rusted and gross glass shelf from the refrigerator
  • a mop sponge pad for a mop we no longer own
  • a 6-outlet adapter/converter thing
  • three rolls shelf paper that were there when we moved in(!)
  • an old t-shirt (to use as cleaning rags)
  • two packages of plastic dropcloths
  • liners for a Litter Genie that we no longer own
  • a small bottle of camping soap that was mostly dried up
  • a broken sink sprayer hose
  • an empty disposable fire extinguisher
  • some disgusting old rope
  • a bunch of expired packages of wet wipes
  • various receipts, labels, etc.
  • other long-forgotten or unidentifiable things
Not pictured - dishwasher detergent, pet comb, and complete and unopened canning starter set (SCORE!)

Yes, all that was under the sink. Here, Fifi investigates the GIANT MESS.

I bagged up all the extra plastic grocery bags and took them out to the car immediately, so that we can recycle them next time we are at the grocery store.

Here are some of the things that got tossed into the trash. I made sure the fire extinguisher was fully discharged.

Not picture above in the "tossed" pile - the yucky glass refrigerator shelf. I considered donating it, but it was so rusty and gross - ick! I also recycled the plastic shelf. We've never used it, and honestly, I am not even sure how it fits in the fridge. Also, the license plate was disposed of properly according to Washington and Tennessee requirements. And I tossed all the expired wet wipes.

Only two items were selected for donation (most stuff got tossed or recycled).

I am keeping the canning stuff, but it was all quite dirty. I had to toss some of the lids and rings, but I am running all the jars, funnels, etc. through the dishwasher. I don't know if you can tell from the photo, but the woman on the box bears a strong resemblance to Amy Poehler.

Here is the freshly scrubbed cabinet. Notice how the previous home owners were kind enough to "floor" the bottom of the cabinet with vinyl flooring that matches the rest of the kitchen.

And here is the final result! I returned the garbage bags, dishwasher detergent, baking soda, Mr. Clean, Swiffer pads, cleaning rags, and a few plastic bags to the cabinet (the plastic bags are neatly contained in the P.F. Chang's bag. Yes, I know - plastic bags in paper bags - maybe that's a thing in our house). There was enough room left in the freshly cleaned cabinet that I was able to store the kitty litter, puppy pads, and cat box liners under there as well! These were previously "stored" on the other side of the kitchen, where they total blocked access to a lower cabinet.

Upon completion of this project, I dragged my family into the kitchen to admire the beauty and elegance of the new sparkling clean under-sink cabinet. They were so impressed that they hoisted me on their shoulders and carried me around the kitchen nodded politely.

Now your turn. Have you ever experienced inordinate satisfaction from a simple decluttering project? Please share in the comments area below.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


We don't get a lot of snow in Middle Tennessee. But Friday night before I went to bed, I noticed that it was snowing very prettily outside, large fluffy flakes that were sticking to the trees and fences. When I woke up Saturday morning, I was delighted to see some remaining snow on the ground. Since snow is pretty rare around here, and it was melting fast as the day warmed up (ahead of the Zoo Run Run), I decided to take a few pictures. The eaves and branches were already dripping with sparkling drops of melting snow. It was very still out, and the remaining snow laying quietly on everything.

The branches of the rose bushes had a fluffy blanket of sparkly snow. You can tell how still it was by the amount of snow piled on such thin branches.

The bluebird box with it's cap of snow looked snug, and picturesque against the fence.

The crepe mrytles were glittering with little ice crystals.

And here comes Simon the Wonder Cat, picking his way through the snow! He went directly from the back door, around the house to the front door, so I guess he wasn't really interested in exploring the cold, wet yard.

The privet along the north side of the house looked like someone had taken one of those snow blowers that they use for Christmas trees to it.

And don't worry! Simon made it to the front porch with only slight dampening!

He nearly knocked me over going back into the house. I guess he was not as enamored of the snow as I was.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Zoo Run Run 2015

Saturday was this year's Zoo Run Run 5K at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere. The whole family signed up this year to run and see the animals, and of course, support the zoo. The weather turned out great, sunny and about 50 degrees, perfect for running and seeing awesome animals.

There seemed to be a lot more people this year that when we ran two years ago. I guess the nice weather brought everyone out. I had my iPhone with me, so I could to take pictures without carrying a separate camera (like I did a couple of years ago - what a pain!).

My first "Ooo, aaahh!" was this handsome white tiger, perched atop his rock.

Not too much farther along were two mountain lions. The male was pacing and posturing, but I liked what I am thinking was the female, peeking over the rocks. Can you find her? Look for the ears!

No? Look closer. She was looking right at me. Probably thinking, "Who is that crazy lady talking kitty talk to a mountain lion? Maybe I should eat her. Sigh. I wish we could chase the runners, that would make the race so much more fun for us."

The flamingos are always a crowd favorite with their splash of tropical color against the dreary winter landscape.

And check out this shy red kangaroo, silhouetted against the setting sun.

These fuzzy pigs? boars? not sure ... were adorable.

The super-happy zoo mascot high-fived me with his hoof as I finished the race.

And here is Dharma, who finished well ahead of me and her father, enjoying the post-race eats!

If you are a runner in the Middle Tennessee area, consider signing up for the Zoo Run Run next year. The race generally starts around three in the afternoon, so you don't have to get up early, and you get to see lots of great animals, since the runners have the zoo all to themselves.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Today I Am ...

My new favorite blog that I have discovered is Katy Wolk-Stanley's The Non-Consumer Advocate. Among other things, Katy advocates buying used rather than new whenever possible and has inspired countless others to do the same. Her blog is wonderful, and I have been thoroughly enough reading all the back posts.

On type of post that Katy does, that I am going to try today, is the "Today I Am ..." post, where she talks about things she will do today, and how she manages to work frugality and green living into each aspect. I love this posts, as they give me all kinds of little ideas that I can try. While my "Today I Am" post won't be as inspiring as hers, I thought I would give it a whirl anyway. So, without further ado,

Today I Am ...

  • Home with my daughter who is sick, and enjoying the quiet house, since my husband is at school
  • Enjoying having the windows open and the heat off during this rare burst of warm January weather
  • Doing laundry, like sheets and towels, to hang out on the line to dry, taking advantage of the fresh air and sunshine. I am also monitoring my detergent usage, since I think I have been using way too much!

  • Planning on cleaning out from under the kitchen sink so that I can make room for some things that currently have no home
  • Watching Friends on Netflix when my husband gets home from school. We are up to Season 4, and I am enjoying the episodes so much more in order, rather than all the hit or miss re-runs that have played for the last 10 years
  • Hoping to go for a run later
  • Wondering what that weird sound is in our neighborhood. It sounds like an alien playing the pipe organ!

What are you doing today?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Declutter Holiday!

This weekend, we went visit my parents in East Tennessee. My dad retired from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and they live just outside the Oak Ridge city limits. Now, as you may recall from previous posts, Oak Ridge is the location of the nearest Holiday Bureau! So you know what that means ... DONATION TIME!

We have been gathering toys, holiday decorations, stuffed animals, and so forth for several months now with the anticipation of taking them to the Holiday Bureau. We had two plastic totes of Christmas ornaments, a black plastic bag of more Christmas ornaments, two small Christmas trees, a plastic tote of holiday lights and yard decorations, a black plastic bag of stuffed animals, a plastic tote completely filled with my Groovy Girls, a plastic tote of my daughter toys, several holiday-themed tins (the kind popcorn comes in), and an eight-place setting of holiday tableware, including serving bowl, salt and peppers shakers, sugar and creamer, and a butter dish. (There are probably some other things that I am forgetting.)

When we loaded the car, it was literally stuffed with the donations! The trunk was full, we packed things around my daughter in the backseat, and I had to hold our suitcase on my lap because there was no room for it anywhere else. My husband was the only one who had a little room, since he was driving.

I had planned to take pictures of the giant pile of stuff that we were donating, but I forgot before we loaded it into the car. We arrived at the Holiday Bureau, I was so excited, that I forgot again, but take my word for it - it was a lot of stuff. The folks at the Holiday Bureau were so helpful unloading everything, and so nice and sweet, assuring me that my Groovy Girls would make some little girl very happy, and that all our donations were much appreciated. It was a wonderful experience, and I can't recommend the Holiday Bureau enough. They do wonderful work in the community!

After dropping off the donations, we spent a lovely weekend with my parents. I have made a resolution to myself to get all the stuff that my parents have been "holding onto for me" out of their house. They have plenty of room, and their house is quite large, but I am a grown woman and there is no reason why my clutter should be cluttering their house! My mom told me that there were six boxes in the basement of my stuff, so I spent Saturday afternoon going through them. The boxes included letters from friends that I have lost touch with (or sadly don't even remember!), newspaper clippings, school awards, schoolwork, high school memorabilia, college memorabilia, and old bills and cancelled checks from the early 90s. I also found a pristine $2 bill, postcards from Yugoslavia from the 1970s (with stamps), and a cool "friendship sheet" from my pen-pal days as a kid. (Friendship sheets were so neat, for those of you who probably don't know what they are. You started the sheet, sent it to a pen-pal, they sent it to one of their other pen-pals, and so on, until it was full. Then the last person sent it back to you. My friendship sheet had been to Denmark, England, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Poland, Spain, and several states, before coming home to me.)

To deal with the boxes, I made four piles - shred, recycle, trash, and keep. At the end of the afternoon, there were only two and a half small boxes left. I packed them up neatly, and put them back in my parents' basement for now. We don't yet have a place to put them at our house until we clear out some more stuff. My plans are to scrapbook the newspaper clippings, ticket stubs that I saved, memorabilia, and that kind of thing. Some of the things, I am not sure what to do with, and others I will likely get rid of when I go through them again.

On Sunday, we went to a wonderful service at the First Methodist Church in Oak Ridge, where we also ran into some friends from when I was a kid. Then we spent the afternoon playing board games before heading home. It was a wonderful weekend, in which I got to do many of my favorite things - spend time with my family, play board games, and declutter.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

We Had a Blue Christmas!

This year, rather than Christmas gifts, we asked our parents to get us tickets to see Blue Man Group. This was easier for our parents (no running to stores, finding the right size, wrapping gifts, etc.) and we got exactly what we wanted, which was to go see Blue Man Group! We had seen them a couple of years ago, and absolutely loved the show - I highly recommend it - and really wanted to go see them again, but have been rather strapped for funds lately, so our parents gift was extremely appreciated.

We made a night of it with dinner at Edley's Bar-B-Q, our new favorite barbeque spot. Then, we went to Dunkin' Donuts for hot cocoa, and then to the show. And after the show, we got to meet the Blue Men themselves! Here is my daughter being somewhat surprised by one of the Blue Men:

This will forever be my best memory for the 2014 - 2015 holiday season!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Unraveling the new year

The new year is just over a week old, and I return to work on Monday. I have been on vacation since January 1. I like to take time off the first week of the new year, to look back over the previous year and evaluate my accomplishments and my failures, to plan ahead for the year to come, and to just relax, reflect, and rejuvenate. Also, people tend to be cranky at work during the first week of the new year - everyone has gone on a diet and all there is a conspicuous LACK of Christmas goodies in the kitchen. I give everyone a week to settle down into their routines, then I quietly slip back into my office the second week of the year.

During this year's break, I had planned to get some major decluttering done. Unfortunately, the first several days of my vacation, I had a cold accompanied by several (or one long) migraines. Needless to say, I have not gotten a whole lot accomplished, but that's OK. I tacked a couple of small but tough decluttering tasks. One of these was going through my collection of Groovy Girl dolls. I have been putting this off for quite a while, because all these little smiling dolls make me so happy. For those of you not familiar with the Groovy Girls (by Manhattan Toy Company), here is a picture of Groovy Girl Kelsey:

Now, interestingly enough, I am not a doll person at all. I didn't play with dolls growing up - I preferred Legos, Lincoln Logs, and Tinker Toys. My daughter got Kelsey as a present on her first birthday. She played with her quite a bit, but I just fell in love with her sweet little smiling face. Over time, Kelsey's "friends" came to "live" with us as well. Every time we would go the store, one of Kelsey's friends would come home with us. But they didn't "live" in my daughter's room; they lived in my room. I even built a special shelf to keep them on. They quickly outgrew the shelf, and have been on top of my chiffarobe for some time now, though I have not added to the collection in years. I noticed a couple of months ago that they were covered with dust, to the point that you could barely see them. It made me sad and ashamed to think how I had neglected them after the joy they had brought to me. So this week, I removed all the dolls and place them in a laundry basket. I thought that I had about twenty, but I was shocked to discover it was closer to fifty! Some of them, I don't even remember getting! Many still had the tags on them. I took them all to the dryer, and ran them through on air dry with a dryer sheet to get the dust off. Then, I went through and cleaned any the were stained or dirty. Finally, I picked up each one and decided if I wanted to keep it or not. I used Marie Kondo's litmus test: "Does this spark joy?" I told myself I would keep five or six, but I ended up keeping ten. I realize ten is not very "minimal", but it's quite a bit better than fifty! The rest, clean and smiling, are in a black plastic garbage bag to be donated to the Holiday Bureau (placing them in a closed black plastic garbage bag for about a month will kill any dust mites, according to the Holiday Bureau.) The ones that I kept, I placed carefully on the now clean shelf, with a promise to appreciate them and keep them clean. Now, I can see ten little smiling faces in my room, rather than a pile of dust.

So even thought I didn't cart ten tons of junk to the curb this week, I did get some small, important tasks accomplished. For those of you who have decided to simplify your home and your life in 2015, here are a list of articles that I have found to be useful:

D is for Decluttering from Brooke McAlary's "Slow Your Home" blog

Getting Your Brain Back from Mr. Money Mustache's blog H is for Home, Not House from Brooke McAlary's "Slow Your Home" blog - this one really spoke to me!

2014 in 2014 Declutter Challenge Month by Month Guidebook from Brooke McAlary's "Slow Your Home" blog - she is preparing a 2015 version as we speak

Unraveling the new year by Susannah Conway at

The last of these is a workbook to help people determine their "word" for the year. This word will be used to keep you on track with your goals and the path you have set for yourself. I haven't had a chance to work through the book completely yet, but I have selected my 2015 word: LESS. I occasionally have moments of enlightenment, usually when I am running, or looking out the window at the sunset. During these moments, I feel happy, at peace, totally content. I am not worried about tomorrow, or replaying the day in my head. I am in the moment. I want to have more moments like that in 2015. And to achieve those moments, I need less - less clutter, less stress, less debt, less junk food, less stuff, less distractions, less of all the things that drag me down and keep me from having those golden contentment moments. With less of these things in my life, I hope to find that at the end of 2015, there will be room for more of the things that I truly value: time with my family, running, my music, charity, and fixing up our wonderful Blue Heaven.