a year of living simply: week 16

Hi, everyone! Hope your Tuesday is off to a terrific start! I’m soaking up time with my fam and crossing my fingers we get some rain here in California this week.

It’s time for this week’s simplicity…

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to look ahead on the calendar and prepare for upcoming holidays and celebrations: Father’s Day, graduations, birthdays. I bought and wrapped presents for my brother’s graduation, my sweetheart’s graduation, my dad’s birthday {coming up at the end of the month} and Father’s Day. I also bought some cards, though I still have to write in them. I noticed that the whole process of shopping for gifts seemed much more enjoyable when I was doing it with plenty of time in advance.

clothes for goodwill

This week’s challenge is to clean out your closet! At the very least, try to get rid of one item. Make an honest assessment. If you haven’t worn something in the last six or eight months, are you really likely to wear it tomorrow or next week? Why not give the item to someone who might love it, and make room in your closet for only pieces that you truly LOVE? {One of my goals of this year of simplicity is to only keep pieces that I absolutely love and feel fantastic in!}

I think we all tend to overestimate the amount of clothing we need. Wouldn’t life be simpler if we had fewer options to choose from when we stand in front of our closets each morning? I was super inspired by the way Jen Hatmaker only dressed with seven pieces of closing for an entire month as part of her book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. And blogger Courtney Carver has written about how much she loves having a small capsule wardrobe — learn more at Project 333.   

Questions for the day:

  • What did you get a jump on this past week?
  • What is one item you can get rid of from your closet?

year of kindness challenge: week 2

Happy Monday, everyone! Hope your week is off to a marvelous start!

year of kindness button

How did last week go for you? Did you join me in the #yearofkindness challenge? I was surprised at how much FUN I had combing through my closets for items to donate! Never imagined I could enjoy cleaning/organizing so much. I’ve donated clothing in the past, but something about looking through my closet *specifically* for items to give to others made the endeavor feel different — waaaaay more rewarding. Maybe also because in the past I would purge items from my closet solely in order to make room for new items. Not this time! Simpler is better for this girl. Less clothing means I can better appreciate the items I do have!

I ended up packing up a small box of four bras in great condition to ship off to Free the Girls, a fantastic organization I featured in a post last summer.

bras to donate

I also brought a box of about a dozen clothing items — t-shirts, sweaters, pants, and a pair of shoes that never quite fit me right — to the local Goodwill.

donation box goodwill

It made me so happy to give these things away to others! An added bonus is that my closet feels neater and less cluttered.

And maybe it’s a coincidence, or maybe I’m just more attuned to kindness around me, but the karma was returning my way this past week! Just a couple examples:

  • I went to Starbucks on my way home one evening, about half an hour before they closed, and ordered a green tea {I’ve been battling a cold this week and am guzzling green tea like nobody’s business!} … I went to pay with a gift card I’d received for Christmas, but the barista just waved my card away, smiled, and gave me the tea for free! 
  • My super sweet friend Chidelia sent a box of delectable chocolate-covered strawberries. What a wonderful surprise to come home from school and find it waiting on the doorstep!

strawberries

  • My students are already participating in class, volunteering to read their writing when I ask for examples, and even laughed at my feeble attempts at humor, which is pretty much unheard of so early in the semester! {Normally it takes a few weeks to break down their shyness and get them “on my side.”}

I’m already jazzed up about this week! Okay, here’s the Week 2 Challenge: leave a stranger a nice note and quarters for the laundry machine. If you live in an apartment complex with a laundry facility {like I do} you can easily leave quarters and a note there. If not, go to a laundromat and leave a note and quarters on one or two of the machines there.

Take pictures and blog about your experience, or email me at dallaswoodburn <AT> gmail <DOT> com, and I’ll be delighted to link to and share your experiences in my post next week!

In joy & kindness,
Dallas

clear out your closet clutter!

In the coming weeks, one of my goals is to get my bedroom closet organized! {I confessed earlier that I am a huge culprit of hiding my messes away behind cabinets and closet doors … like under my kitchen sink}

Here’s a “before” picture:

My first step has been sorting through my clothes, jackets and shoes and clearing out stuff I no longer use or need. My rule: if it’s in season {i.e. summer weather clothes} and I haven’t worn it in three months, it goes in the “donation” box. If I decide after a week or so that I want to keep it, I can keep it — but in my experience, once something gets out of my closet and into the “donation” box, I never miss it.

{If you have clothes in good condition, you could always try selling them on Craigslist, but since most of my clothes would probably only go for a couple bucks I prefer to save time and go the donation route.}

A tried-and-true donation option is your local Goodwill or Salvation Army store. I’ve also rounded up some charities that are looking for specific items that might be waiting right there in your closet for a new purpose:

Blouses, Blazers, Suits, etc:

  • Dress for Success: “The mission of Dress for Success is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.”
  • Career Gear: “From its inception in 1999, Career Gear earned a reputation for helping men who are low income enter the workforce by providing business appropriate clothing. The basic offering of a suit was simple, but also powerful. For those men who were improving their work skills and employability, a clean, appropriate suit of clothing was another important tool in finding a job. To date, over 30,000 men have been served through the job readiness program.”

Dresses:

  • DonateMyDress: “The first national campaign designed to encourage girls around the country to donate their prom and special occasion dresses to those who cannot afford them for prom, sweet 16, quinceañera or formals. The site features a directory of local dress drive organizations across the U.S. that will enable girls to easily find out where in their local markets they can donate or receive a dress.”
  • The Fairy Godmother Project: “Help students in the Houston area who cannot afford to purchase a prom dress or tux. Each year we provide hundreds of students in the Houston area with free prom, graduation and Homecoming dresses and tuxedos. We collect donations year-round.”
  • Ever After Gowns: “A Minnesota based 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation dedicated to supporting Twin Cities-area young women by providing them with new and gently used formal gowns, shoes, and accessories to be worn to their high school prom. Our clients receive all the attire and accessories free of charge. The ‘Ever After Experience’ is not just about getting a free dress, we aim to provide a warm, friendly environment where each guest feels like a princess”

Shoes:

  • Give Running: “Give Running teaches youth, through running, the character traits and skills that serve as a foundation for success in all aspects of life. We share our love for running as well as the many benefits and opportunities running fosters — such as improved health, self-confidence, and new friendships — by collecting, cleaning, and then donating new and used running and athletic shoes to disadvantaged youth in developing countries and local inner-city communities. Together, we can make a world of difference to deserving youth from Los Angeles to Haiti to Africa by giving them a chance to lace ’em up and empowering them to take a step forward — and never stop running!”
  • The Fairy Godmother Project: dress shoes, heels, flats, etc.
  • Dress for Success: dress shoes, heels, flats, etc.

Bras:

  • Free The Girls: “When you donate a bra, you give a former slave a job. It is that simple. We work alongside safe houses around the world that rescue women from sex trafficking and provide rehabilitation services. Your donation helps survivors of human trafficking make a living selling used clothing while they recover and build their new life. We accept gently used bras of all sizes and styles, including athletic bras, nursing bras, and camisoles.”
  • Bras for a Cause: “We have an ongoing bra donation recycle program. We are a distribution center that sends out bras to shelters, breast cancer survivor support groups, charities and others all over the world all year long. Now you can recycle and find a home for your bras. No matter the size, type or condition we can find a place for them.”
  • The Bra Recyclers: “We are a textile recycling company focused on doing our part to recycle and reuse bras (textiles) that unnecessarily go to landfills. We have created and support a network of Bra Recycling Ambassadors who assist us in providing deserving women with used or unused bras as they transition back to self-sufficiency.”

Clearing out your closet clutter AND helping others? Doesn’t get much better than that!

Do you know of any charities that should be added to the list? Please let me know! Happy organizing!

-Dallas

under-the-sink organization & plastic bag recycling

Before I started this blog, I was a big hide-my-mess person. I would shove all the extra stuff I didn’t know what to do with into closets and dresser drawers. Then, I’d feel better, because while my place wasn’t exactly organized, at least it appeared that way from the outside.

The problem with this strategy? It’s only a temporary fix. Any time I would open up an overflowing closet or dig through a stuffed-to-the-brim drawer trying to find something, all the stress I had slapped a Band-Aid over by shoving my mess out of sight came barreling back into my life with full force.

In starting this blog, not only am I trying to organize on a budget, I’m also trying to organize honestly and thoroughly, from the inside-out. And that means tackling the hidden places I might otherwise prefer to ignore. Like: the space under my kitchen sink.

Umm… yeah.

Every time I had to reach under there to get a trash bag or cleaning supplies or dishwashing soap, I felt depressed. I would grab what I needed and quickly shut the cabinet up again. And then wash my hands, because it just felt grimy under there. {Ironic for a place I store cleaning supplies, huh?}

Finally, I decided it was time to tackle this problem area for good! My first step was taking everything out and giving the space a good wipe-down. I tossed some crusty sponges, raggedy dishtowels, and empty cleaning bottles that I found way in the back. Then I consolidated products, like my multiple three-quarters-empty bottles of Windex was poured into one bottle.

The biggest mess-factor was the barrage of plastic bags I’d saved to use as trash bags for small trash cans, to bring my lunch to school, etc. I try to bring reusable bags to the grocery store, but every so often I forget. Over the past year or so I’ve accumulated quite a few, and they were completely taking over the entire cabinet!

Yikes!

Then Mike found this really neat bag holder for me, and it made all the difference! This one is from the company simplyhuman, but there are many other similar versions available.

All I had to do was gather up the plastic bags and cram them into the container, and then hang the container up on the back of the cupboard door. It fit perfectly!

In all, the project only took about 15 minutes, and now I feel even more motivated to clean! It’s an all-around win. I’m feeling more inspired than ever to tackle the other hidden messes in the closets around my apartment. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on my progress!

Hope you’re having a great week —
❤ Dallas

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Time spent: 15 minutes
Cost: $12.00

the linen closet

The linen closet isn’t the most glamorous of spaces, but it’s an important one. Mine has become even more important since my introduction to freezing cold Indiana winters, because it’s where all my blankets live! {And I have a LOT of blankets!}

But my linen closet had become a jumbled mess.

As a result, many of my blankets and towels have stopped living in my closet and are more likely to be flung haphazardly across this poor chair:

Every time I passed this chair it made me feel bad. I knew it was time to do something about it!

My first step was clearing out the closet and deciding how to organize each shelf. I chose to put extra sheets, pillowcases, and not-much-used blankets on the very top shelf. I folded them all neatly and stacked them up on the shelf.

Next, I designated the middle shelf for towels. I have always just folded and stacked my towels, but I’ve read on some other organization blogs that rolling your towels can keep them more accessible, better organized, and also save space! So that’s what I did. I made one section for my big bath towels, another section for hand towels and kitchen towels.

On the third shelf, I folded and stacked the blankets I use more often — the ones that are in hiding now that the weather is getting warmer, but that I will definitely want to pull out again next November when the snow returns!

Here is what my newly organized closet looks like:

Hooray! I’m so happy about it that I’m leaving the door open today, and every time I pass it, I can’t help but smile.

What organizing projects are you working on this week?

Happy Wednesday,
Dallas

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Cost: $0.00
Time: 15 minutes