scraptripalong full

Good heavens.  That Instagram.  It’s a breeding ground for quilt viruses.  And this one was a treasure to suffer through.  Thanks to Katy, Rita and Brenda, the #scrappytripalong sprang up between Christmas and New Year’s, and within three days of watching everyone’s photos roll past, I was sunk.  I’m may be a sucker, but I’m a sucker with a hot little quilt, y’all!

scrappytrip railing

Rather than go in true scrappy fashion and throw fabrics in willy-nilly (because my particular constitution makes it near impossible for me to shut down my brain long enough to truly avoid editing my selections), I started with a fat quarter bundle of Honey Child and then added in bits and pieces from my scrap bag and my stash in colors that went with those bright and happy hues.  Then, for good measure, I threw in a strip of Kona white every third fabric–I almost always choose a solid OTHER than white, but in this case, I thought it would look a bit like Granny squares in a good way, and figured, What’s the worst that can happen?

scrappytrip laid out

The hash tag folk on IG were all using the Scrappy Trips Around the World tutorial, which is strip-pieced.  It makes these blocks insanely addictive an quick to stitch up–to the degree that I meant to stop at 30 blocks and do a quilt that measured 60″ x 72″, but FORGOT TO STOP PIECING and ended up with 36 blocks.  At 72″ square, this is the largest quilt top I’ve made in a long while–I don’t think I’ve gone over 60″ x 60″ since I made the Chain Reaction quilt for our son.  And that was years ago!  Here are all the blocks laid out on the living room floor, just before I stitched the final one and plopped it in place.  I love the bright cheerfulness of these colors–really looks like me!

scrappytrip gods eye

When all the blocks go together, you can do any number of settings–I like the basic many trips setting, since I think it looks like those God’s Eye things we all made out of yarn at summer camp.  Remember those?  Can’t you totally see that in the center of each diamond here?

scrappytrip curved

I did throw in some darker fabrics here and there, and wonder if I should have avoided that.  They certainly stand out, but on the whole, don’t bother me–I just wonder if I would have liked the overall effect more with a more consistent value.  Which is why I’ll be doing another in ALL YELLOW.  Whipstitch rides again!

scrappytrip detail 3

I confess that I used not a single pin anywhere in the making of this quilt top.  Some of the seams don’t line up perfectly, but I don’t think any are off by more than 1/8″, if that much.  The tutorial tells you to iron all your seams to the side, facing one another, which I did.  I know a lot of my Instagram friends chose to press their seam allowances open, but with 1/4″ seams that always burns my fingers, and I love working with locking seams when it comes to putting a block together.  Pressing to the side following the tutorial instructions worked really well for me, and the majority of these seams line right up, even without pins.

scrappytrip detail 2

Before I can quilt it, I’ve got my two postage stamp quilts to finish.  I’ve GOT to get on those, since we’re making the big out-of-the-crib-into-the-toddler-bed switch in the next six weeks (eek! no more baby in the crib!!), and I’d like to have matching quilts for the girls when we do that.  But once those are finished, and my thread order arrives, I am so on quilting this–hopefully by Valentine’s Day or so?  At which point I can make the yellow one.  Oooh, I think I’ll call that one the Yellow Wonder.  Just planning ahead.

scrappytrip folded

Sewing Buddies OPEN for 2013!

sewing buddy icon

Can you believe it??  The FOURTH year we have done Sewing Buddies.  That’s crazy town!  I can hardly even think about how much has happened in those four years, and I am so excited to see another round of Sewing Buddies get paired up.  I very clearly remember sitting on a sofa we no longer have in a basement we no longer own reading through emails and matching up that very first group of Buddies–over 200 of them.  And every year since, I have had the pleasure and privilege of going through the process again with a new batch of folks, and then seeing where those relationships bloom.

Screen shot 2012-07-06 at 9.56.27 PM

The Sewing Buddy Project began in 2010 in response to an informal survey I sent out, asking people to examine what it is that prevents us from reaching our sewing goals, and looking for ways to surmount those obstacles and achieve Sewing Greatness in 2010.  Each year since then, we’ve worked on the same ideas and continued to build–and the most popular of those is the Sewing Buddy Project, the idea that a pen pal who loves sewing as much as you do will keep you motivated and on-task, and give you encouragement and inspiration to get the sewing done that you most want to do!  The Sewing Buddy Project has always been FREE, and is largely a service I provide to match people up to one another–where you go with your Buddy after that is totally up to the two of you!

Screen shot 2012-10-08 at 9.18.57 AM

Last year was the first year we did Sewing Buddy Challenges.  The idea behind the Sewing Buddy Challenges was that once each quarter, every three months, I would present a sewing task for Buddies to accept, using a theme or concept.  I wanted a way for us to build community that had a time frame and a deadline–there are lots of ways to jump in and get to know one another, but something that’s got a firm end date tends to get our creative juices going, right?  And what better way to get to know someone than by working with them!  The entries were posted to Flickr, and winners were chosen with prizes and everything.  This year, I had planned three, but we ended up doing only two–the first was amazingly awesome with tons of participation and excitement.

Screen shot 2012-06-15 at 3.56.01 PM

The second was a little more subdued, as we got into the summer months and our days got busy and sewing wasn’t always a top priority. Which is a shame, because I loved the idea behind it, and loved seeing the Sewing Buddy projects come in–all the sewn projects in the photos in this post were made by Sewing Buddies in 2012!  Something wasn’t quite gelling, though, which is fine–I think in any endeavor, the most important thing is to listen to feedback and work to make it better.  Sewing Buddies is a project that I truly believe is worth tweaking and making better.

So this year, I’m asking for those of you who want to sign up to be a Sewing Buddy in 2013 to suggest ideas for how we can all interact with one another this year.  As part of your comment, you’ll include ONE suggestion for a project, outreach, bee, challenge, ______along, or what-have-you that might be appropriate for the Sewing Buddies for this year!  See the two challenges from 2012 for ideas, but keep in mind that I’m looking for three really GREAT suggestions for the later months of 2013–I already have an idea for the first quarter, which we’ll roll out in February once all the Buddies are matched up.  I’ll select three suggestions from all the Buddy comments, and we’ll be on our way into a new year with new Buddies to inspire our sewing!


Additionally, I’m bringing back the Sewing Buddy Inspiration e-mails!  That’s right: all my 2013 Sewing Buddies will be added to the list to receive my Sewing Inspiration emails, and will receive a monthly message of stitchy motivation, right in their inbox, complete with ideas and techniques to help you really bring your A-game to the current quarter’s sewing challenge.  You have to participate to get the email, though.  Doesn’t that totally make you want to play along??


As in the past, it all begins with you throwing your name in the hat, so let’s get started!

Guidelines for 2013 Sewing Buddy Project participation:

  • Agree that you will leave no email from your Sewing Buddy un-answered.  A Sewing Buddy is a pen pal who loves to sew, and pen paling with your pen pal is the best way to get that all going–remember what Gramma said: to have a friend, you have to BE a friend.  Simply replying to each message as they go back and forth will build your commitment and resolve.  If your Sewing Buddy-ness goes no further than encouraging emails once a week, that’s awesome!  It will keep you on-track to meet some goals or to challenge yourself in a way you might not have otherwise.  If you both decide to start your own Flickr group or joint blog or do some mail exchanges, even better.  At a minimum, though, resolve to always answer your Buddy’s emails–any other participation in challenges or contests is completely voluntary.
  • Branch out and get a new Sewing Buddy, even if you’ve already been rocking it with your 2010 or 2011 or 2012 Buddy.  You can never have too many friends who sew!  You can keep your other Buddies and learn great stuff from a new one.  Isn’t friendship awesome?
  • Sewing Buddies can be at any skill level and do any type of sewing.  We welcome beginners, intermediates, advanced and lots of mixy types at in-between-y skill levels.  Don’t quilt?  Maybe your Buddy can help you learn!  Don’t sew garments?  Maybe the two of you will start together!  The only requirement is that you’re willing to communicate and interact with one another.  That’s it!
  • Sewing Buddies can be from anywhere in the world, as long as you’re willing to communicate in English.  We’ve had folks from Britain, Australia, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Canada, Austria, South Africa, New Zealand and a host of other nations participate, and you can, too!  I can’t promise you’ll get a Buddy who is geographically near to you, but isn’t that part of the fun, that discovery?  Hooray for international diplomacy!
  • Be on the lookout for contests, challenges, secret passwords, and even (gasp!) meet-ups designed just for Sewing Buddies!  We’ll have our quarterly sewing “activity”, TBA based on your suggestions, but there is plenty more that we can do–and I’ve taken suggestions and comments from past Sewing Buddies very seriously as I work to make this the coolest pen pal experience you’ve ever had!

That’s it!  I’ll begin matching names in the magic whirly-bin of Sewing Buddy Science on January 15, 2013.  Sign-ups will close February 1, 2013 at midnight.  Pairs will be notified no later than February 2, 2013 and the first Sewing Buddy activity will be announced the same day!

To participate in the 2013 Sewing Buddy Project:

  • To add your name to the list to be matched with a Buddy, simply leave a comment below–that’s it!  Include a working email address that you check (this will be captured when you leave your name, so it isn’t necessary to leave it in the body of your comment).
  • You’ll receive an email from me asking you to (1) confirm your participation and (2) name a favorite color and a number between 1 and 10.  I’ll also ask you to suggest an “activity” for Sewing Buddies to participate in during one quarter in 2013–these suggestions are wide open, and a have no bearing on what Buddy you get; they’re for research purposes only, I promise.  These emails will go out in batches beginning January 20; Buddies will be matched from within each batch.
  • I’ll use the responses to the emails I receive along with a super-scientific system here at the Whipstitch Labs to match you to the PERFECT Sewing Buddy based on a four-fold formula that’s much too complicated to write about here but that is really awesome and time-y wime-y space-y.
  • I’ll send an email to the both of you giving introductions in proper Victorian style (a lady never spends time with someone to whom she has not been properly introduced), and then like a mother whose chicks are leaving the nest, I’ll step back and watch as the friendship flourishes.
  • You and your Buddy will make the initial contact and see where it leads you!  Contests?  Maybe.  Inspiration?  Certainly.  Life-long friendship?  Golly, I hope so.

That’s it!  I’m really looking forward to hearing more from all of you this year, can am so pleased so many of you are looking to continue the Sewing Buddy love.  Hooray!

2013 Sewing E-courses!

new year sewing

Hooray!!  A whole new year has begun.  And I have an overwhelming sense of optimism this year.  I’m excited to see what comes and where it goes, and how I will fit into that picture.  Are you feeling it, too?  Because I keep hearing, from people close to me and from strangers, that we’re all ready for brighter days, and that this winter, we’re taking our cue from the world outside our windows: resting and rejuvenating and renewing ourselves beneath the surface, so that as the sun returns and the air becomes warm again, we can burst forth in the most vibrant and electric version of ourselves.

I think that’s what taking a class and learning something new is all about–truly, I don’t just say that from some cliche sales place.  The most marvelous thing about the internet is the way in which it has given us the means to explore and discover and learn on a near-constant basis, if we’re only looking for it.  Your teachers might be folks who are learning alongside you, or folks who have been experts longer than you’ve been alive, or something in between.  But always, I think, most of what it means to be human is to be looking for a place where we can grow and explore.

I’m beyond excited about my 2013 e-courses.  I’ve been teaching online since early 2010, and it has been such an incredibly rewarding and challenging and inspiring experience for me, so each year when I compile the list of classes I’d like to offer, I get a little bit buzzy about it!  I really sit down and look at what I’ve taught before and what I’ve been asked to offer, plus what else is available online and in person, and how my online classes can be a part of that but add something new.  I really think I’ve been able to do that in 2013 in a way that I haven’t in years past, and I’m so excited to share it all with you today!

ecourse button 2013

Announcing: the 2013 Whipstitch Sewing E-courses class list!  Read details and background below, and visit the e-course page for more details on dates and registration for the classes that interest you.  Feel free to leave a comment or email me directly if you have questions by writing deborah (at) whipstitchfabrics (dot) com!

Essential Sewing and Essential Quilting

essential sewing button

In past years, I have offered an Essential Sewing course–designed for those new to sewing or the self-taught looking for a more formal class–and an Essential Quilting class–a similar course to Essential Sewing, but focused on quilting and quilt-making skills from start to finish.  Because I limit how many classes I teach to seven per year, and because I liked to offer Essential Sewing twice each year plus Essential Quilting, that meant I could only offer four other e-course titles each year.  But I LOVE coming up with new classes and new projects and inviting back students who have taken courses with me before to learn something they haven’t tried before.  So this year, I’m mixing it up: Essential Sewing and Essential Quilting are going year-round! 

Both of these classes are now going to be offered on an a la carte, on-going basis rather than as a six-week series.  That means you can start whenever you like, take as long as you like, review the lessons as often as you like, and STILL be able to join any of my other online classes throughout the year as your skills catch up.  I really think this is going to be such a great option for so many folks who felt they needed to start with the Essential Sewing class, but found that the scheduling didn’t line up with their lives.  Same with Essential Quilting, where students really wanted to review lessons again and again as they became more skilled, seeking to really cement those foundational skills as they developed new ones–this option will allow you permanent access that never expires to all the content of these classes!

quilt ecourse button

Plus, not only do you get to access ALL the lessons forever, but you don’t lose the one-on-one element of the classes that I always loved the most.  The number of spaces available in each class for new students per quarter will be limited, allowing me to answer each of your questions and comments individually, so you’ll still get the attention you need and the answers you’re looking for, just for you.  And with a live chat every quarter for each class, you can even have real-time interaction with me and your classmates!  It’s the community that gets built in these classes that’s my favorite part, and I didn’t want to lose that–I think that the new format will enhance it, and I’m so excited to see new faces there!

For more details on the lessons, the projects and to register for these classes, visit the Essential Sewing and Essential Quilting pages.

Sewing with Knits

sewing knits button

Back by popular demand!  Sewing Knits without the Serger is a great class for working with these amazing fabrics that we all love to live in, but so few of us regularly sew.  I taught this class first in 2010 and again in 2011, but didn’t have room in my schedule in 2012–and so many of you let me know that you’d been eagerly waiting to see it appear on the schedule!  So after making arrangements to have the Essential Sewing & Essential Quilting classes go year-round, I’ve got time to add Sewing Knits back in, and I’m so excited to teach it FIRST this year.  I adore knit fabrics and love introducing folks to working with them, leading them to build their confidence.  We go over where to buy them–and what to buy–along with what needles, what thread, how to work with the pattern, how to adjust fit, and then make four projects that you’ll love to wear and make over and over again.  Patterns are included in the class, and are staples for any wardrobe!  Winter is such a great time to be thinking about working with soft knit fabrics, and the skills will be a delight in the summer when you’re looking for a quick project to satisfy.

For more details on the lessons, the projects and to register for the class, visit the Sewing Knits page!  This class begins January 28, 2013–spaces are limited, and it’s only offered once this year.  Just so you know, and stuff.

Sewing Clothing for Kids

sewing kids clothing button

The Sewing Clothing for Kids e-course has been such a fun, fun class to teach over the past few years.  It really appeals not just to moms and folks who want to sew for the little ones in their lives, but also to stitchers who don’t sew a lot of clothing and are looking for a place to get their feet wet with apparel that has a little less pressure than making a fitted dress for ourselves.  Because kids sizing and fit can be more forgiving, you’ve got a little more margin for error here, and that has made this class such a great place to cut your teeth on making garments!  Even if you’ve sewn clothing in the past, the class comes with piles of ideas for altering patterns to use them in new ways–like turning a button-front bodice into a button-back bodice on a girls dress, or swapping out buttons for a zipper on a reversible jacket–that there is plenty of inspiration for someone who is beyond the beginner level.  With eight great patterns for girls and boys in sizes 12 months through 6, there is something here for you no matter what your sewing goals might be!

For more information on the patterns and skills included in this class, including pictures of the projects, check out the Sewing Clothing for Kids e-course page.

Everyday Handbags

A new class this year, I am beyond excited about Everyday Handbags!  When I was writing Stitch Savvy, I really spent a lot of time thinking about what it is that we’re all looking for in the perfect bag, and what makes a hand-made bag go from simple to stupendous.  I think I’ve really put together a fantastic selection of go-anywhere bags for all occasions, from totable to danceable and plenty in between.  None of us is just a mom or just a worker or just a dreamer or just a woman–we’re a lot of things rolled together, and we want to be able to be all those things with the perfect handbag.  This five-week class is designed to walk you through making FIVE such bags, in fabrics from classic to fancy, so that you’re ready to tackle every day with the most appropriate accessory.

Everyday Handbags will begin registration in early March 2013.  Keep an eye on the e-courses page for more details!

Summer Dresses

Of all the classes I’m teaching online this year, Summer Dresses might be the one about which I am most excited.  Probably because I live in dresses in the summer–they’re so simple, just put it on and you’re dressed!  Mix up the fabric, the trim, and the details, and BAM!  You can take just a handful of patterns and you’ll be set for an entire season and beyond.  And if you’re living in a climate like mine, here in the Deep South, a handful of dresses can last you from April through October, no question.  So Summer Dresses is a class I’ve been dreaming of for a while, and I’m over the moon to offer it in 2013!  This five-week class comes with three original patterns and guides you through making the basic design PLUS plenty of variations along the way to make a really exciting wardrobe for the warmer months.  Won’t be warm where you when the class is offered?  Join us anyway, and sharpen your skills for the coming summer!

Summer Dresses will begin registration in early May 2013.  Keep an eye on the e-courses page for more details!

Four-Piece Wardrobe

fall wardrobe 2012

The Four-Piece Wardrobe e-course is such a great class to teach, and to take.  It’s based on the Patterns classes I’ve taught in person in Atlanta, and is designed to be an introduction to working with and mastering a commerical printed pattern for garment sewing.  That means we really walk through what pattern companies are out there, how they differ, how to choose a pattern, how to prepare it and work with it, and THEN we sew up four awesome garments, tackling lots of pattern-sewing skills along the way.  It’s always exciting to develop this skill alongside other folks who are learning the same thing, and this class has consistently been one of the best communities and experiences I could have asked for.  If you’ve finished Essential Sewing and are looking to make garments for adults, I can’t recommend highly enough taking this class next!

To learn more about the patterns we’re using in this class, and see images of the projects, check out the Four-Piece Wardrobe e-course page.

Slip Covers

slip covers button

Last year, I taught a Home Decor e-course.  Of all the projects we did in the class, the ones I loved the best were the slip covers, and I felt almost sad that we couldn’t do more of them.  Then I realized: we can!  This e-course is all about how to create slip covers from very, very simple–covering a pillow–to much more complex–covering a chair.  We go over how to plan your project, how to avoid as much math as possible, how to create a template or pattern for your fabric, and how to make your slip cover look as professional as possible.  By walking through covering pillows, an ottoman, a shaped stool, and two styles of chair, you’ll have the skills you need to tackle the furniture that’s been begging for new fabric–without a trip to the upholsterers!  Plenty of techniques and instruction on adding those little details that make a project look really professional, and lots of eye candy along the way.  Hooray for slip covers!

Slip Covers will begin registering in early August 2013.  Keep an eye on the e-courses page for more details!

Happy Handmade Holidays

holiday sewing class button

We have offered a Christmas Camp in years past at the shop, but most years I was so underwater with all the other things I felt hadtohadtohadto get done that I didn’t get to make all the projects the ladies were teaching.  This year, I resolved to change all that, and designed a Happy Handmade Holidays class, where we could ALL get our Christmas sewing done well before the holiday season took over our days.  And you know what? It was SO MUCH FUN.  I had my holiday sewing done AND my shopping done by the week of Thanksgiving, and the entire holiday experience was a zillion times more enjoyable as a result.  As the class drew to a close, it occurred to me that “holidays” is a pretty broad term, and there are lots of other holidays throughout the year that aren’t Christmas.  Wouldn’t it be cool if this online class evolved and expanded to include those, too?  Yes, yes it would.

So it is.  The Happy Handmade Holidays class currently hosts fourteen original Christmas projects, complete with video, audio, images and downloadable patterns.  You can register at any time to join in on the winter wonderland magic.  In October 2013, I’ll be ADDING to that content, and teaching a five-week series of fall holiday projects, including Harvest, Halloween and Thanksgiving!  The Christmas content will be there forever, we’ll add fall this coming fall, and each year after that, we’ll add another holiday “season” to the mix.  One registration gets you FOREVER access to this content, and you can join in the fun any time!  If you missed taking Happy Handmade Holidays this year, or if you just love yourself some Christmas, register now and you’ll get all the fall sewing projects when they roll out in October–along with the company and daily interaction of a five-week class full of other stitchers who love the holidays, too.

To see more details on this class or to register, visit the Happy Handmade Holidays e-course page!

Thanks for making 2012 so amazing, all of you.  I’m looking forward to seeing both new and familiar faces in my e-courses this year–with hopes that we’ll all get a little closer to our sewing dreams in 2013!

Closet Clean Out Project #4: Linen Closet

linen closet b n a

OK, for those of you who haven’t fallen asleep while I chronicle the scintillating closet cleaning project upon which I’ve embarked, another project complete!  I didn’t think I’d be this excited about getting this task done, but I honestly spent part of our New Year’s Eve celebration telling friends about it.  Which is completely lame.  And then they were all impressed, so the question is: not lame, or friends lame like me?  I’m actually hoping for the latter, because the thing we should all wish for this year is to find Our People, the ones who Get Us.  And I am nerdily enthusiastic about this geeky closet adventure.

Step 1: Assess and evaluate

This seemed like the worst of all the closets, by far.  I have arranged and re-arranged this one at least three times that I can think of since we moved into this house a year ago, and because of the alarming rate at which we go through sheets an towels, plus the disturbing number of linens we have, it always got out of control.  Look:

linen closet before

Just way too much stuff.  Plus, I mentioned before that there is space for another shelf on the upper level, but no shelf to fit there.  So my assessment of this space was that we needed to add a shelf and get rid of some things, and then arrange everything in a way that made sense–towels at eye level, sheets all together, pool towels tucked out of the way until pool season, spare pillows up high for when guests come.  Nothing too major, but it was going to take some time.

Step 2: Purge and empty

This wasn’t hard, but it took well over an hour to pull everything out, sort it into stacks (sheets, towels, non-sheet blankets, quilts, pillows, and non-linen things that still go in the linen closet, like footstool slip covers and kitchen towels).

linen during

I JUST DID THIS when we moved out of our old house, and again when we moved out of our rental house–how can it be that I needed to do it again?  I think going in slightly hungry and a little impatient made me less tolerant than I would have been otherwise.  I was pretty ruthless, even getting rid of a quilt or two that I had never really loved.

linen piles

I drafted my oldest in to help me by sorting through the things that we tossed out, and bagging those up.  She made the list that we used to itemize our donation, and the added side-effect was that I only really saw things one or two times, so no chance for pity or second thoughts.  Once I’d let it go, it was GONE.

linen empty

I don’t own a table saw, so I couldn’t cut down the shelf we have that could go on the upper brackets if it fit.  Instead, I figured I’d go ahead and start putting things away, and we’d burn that bridge when we got to it.  Having the whole thing empty for the first time in a long time was pretty nice, though, I won’t lie.  Since it’s situated along a narrow hall, anytime it overflows it’s pretty inconvenient.  See:

linen closet hall

It’s bad enough that the trim is still PINK.  ROSE PINK.  Circa 1984 rose pink.  But because the linen closet (on the right) and the coat closet (on the left) face one another and BOTH have bi-fold doors (that are PINK), if the linen closet isn’t tidy and there are towels and sheets spilling all over the floor, it’s a giant pain in the behind.  Plus, since this is our powder room, it means that any time the doorbell rings, I’m on my hands and knees shoving things into the shelves, making the whole situation that much worse.  Clearing this whole thing out was necessary.

linen bags

All told, we purged FOUR garbage bags full of linens from this closet, and moved a giant stack of kitchen things to the kitchen, where they belonged.  I think we ended up with about half of the original volume once we finished this job.

Step 3:  Re-design

If I had my druthers, I would paint the trim yesterday.  But we’re waiting until later in the spring to get that done throughout the entire house, so it wasn’t on my to-do list at this point.  Ditto the interior of the closet, which is the same dingy not-quite-white as the kids’ closets.  Plus, I have a bone-deep aversion to the bi-fold doors, in general.  In Fantasy House, I’d swap these out for the kind that are also bookshelves, like a secret passageway, because how cool are those??  In the real world here, where I’m cleaning on a schedule rather than doing major construction projects, we’re just going to re-load the shelves with whatever linens survived the Great Purge and call it a day.  I’ll tackle the other ideas another time.

Step 4: Organize and store

linen after 2

Nothing terribly exciting here, just putting stuff away.  You know, no biggie.

linen after

Can you tell that we ended up not needing the top shelf, after all?  Yeah.  Cutting down to half your original pile of linens will do that.  Top shelf: pillows for guests, spare blankets (almost ALL of the baby blankets are gone, with the exception of the ones we got as gifts, and a couple I made), and random non-linen things, like footstool covers (both from my new book, as it happens, and an electric heating pad I didn’t know we owned).  Second shelf: towels, including pool towels at the far right and then bath towels, sorted by color and stacked with their matching washcloths and hand towels.  I don’t think I’ve ever done that successfully before.  Third shelf, sheets, all sorted out with their pillowcases.  I thought about doing that thing Martha does, where she stores the sheets inside the pillowcase so they all stay together, but we have a number of sets where the pillowcases aren’t identical to the sheets, and it didn’t seem to make sense for us.  Plus, since we now have three sets or fewer for each bed (so at any time we can have one on the bed, one in the wash, and one in the closet), sorting and keeping them together is pretty easy!  Bottom level, spare quilts and smaller throw pillows, in a basket on the far left.

linen after 1

Totally boring way to spend your New Year’s Eve day, but what a relief to have it done!  Anyone else in dire need of sorting their linen closet?  Help me feel like I’m not alone, everyone!

Vital statistics:

  • total time invested: 2 hours
  • total donated bags: 4
  • total donated linens: I lost count at 45
  • total cost: $0!

Thanks, 2012! Whipstitch Named Best of Atlanta

Here’s to a great start to a new year, everyone!

best of atlanta 2013

Closet Clean Out Project #2 and #3: Boy’s and Girls’ Closets

boys before after

girls before after

I’ve got TWO for you today, because I was on a roll….and because I didn’t think either of these seemed that impressive on its own, so I figured I’d pump up the closet cleaning excitement by doing BOTH today, here at the end of the year.  It’s basically the opposite of what I did last week, but I’m high on a deadline.  Yeah, that’s right–I’m a rock-n-roll rebel.  You heard me.

Step 1: Evaluate and assess

Both of these closets suffered from the same issue: they had become dumping grounds for things that didn’t belong there.  In our boy’s closet, we were storing bits and pieces of puzzles and toys along with leftover supplies from painting his room and renovating the bathroom (old door handle, anyone?).  In the girls’ shared closet, our 6-year-old squirrel had filled empty boxes with bits and pieces of….good heavens, EVERYTHING from around the house.  In both cases, no major renovations were needed, just come emptying and organizing.


For the girls, the biggest issues were the floor (covered on the right here with edge-to-edge cardboard boxes stuffed with random junk) and the top shelf, which was literally overflowing with clothing–some of it outgrown, some of it not yet grown-into, and some of it “heirloom,” but not stored.  And I had no idea what was what.  I used to have a system where things were stored by size to hand down, so that each clear plastic bin had two sizes in it, and I could always find just what I needed when one of the children was ready to go “shopping” for the next round of clothes.  After the move, when things had been packed away with an eye toward efficiency rather than organization, that whole system broke down, and it turned into a shelf of piles.


For the boy, it’s those darn puzzles, mostly, but also the fact that he loooooooves to shove things into the corners of his closet (he’s a shover, too!), usually dirty clothes, random toys he’s trying to prevent his sisters from playing with, and assorted boxes and books.  Generally, if you’re looking for anything–his winter coat, his other shoe, his pajamas from last night–the best place to look is on the floor under the pile in the corner of his closet.  Because we also stored buckets of blocks and some of his train set on the floor, too, on either side of the toy box, it was hard to convince him that we didn’t want to keep things on the floor as a permanent storage solution.

Step 2: Purge and empty


Purging was the fun part.  In our boy’s room, it only took about 45 minutes to take things off the shelf, sort through them somewhat vaguely to determine where they actually belonged–the playroom or the garage or the trash–and then start all over.  He doesn’t have a ton of hanging garments, so this was a pretty quick clean-out.  We did generate a full garbage bag of donation items AND a full garbage bag of trash from just his closet, though, so looks can be deceiving.


In the girls’ closet, purging was mostly about sorting through outgrown clothing.  We still have a very few things from my oldest that were worth saving for our 6-year-old to grow into, and of course we have plenty of things from the 6-year-old to pass along to the 2.5-year-old.  Plus, there were things here that weren’t worth keeping or had become redundant as they were passed down, and others that I thought were too precious to donate, but when faced with a task like this in a short timeframe and working slightly hungry and fending off the children with one foot while on a stool, you have far less pity and sentimentality.  Which helped me pack up TWO full garbage bags of donation items from this closet.


The biggest purging task in this closet was the floor, with its wall-to-wall boxes of junk.  Most of the things in these boxes are the missing pieces from toys that are stored in other parts of the house.  Things we’ve been hunting for.  Toys we’ve tossed out because we didn’t have that one essential piece which we now have, because it was squirreled away in the closet.  Most of these things got moved–boxes and all–to the playroom, where they’ll be a whole other task of sorting and organizing and donating.  The boxes I’m planning to cover with fabric and use to organize the toys that survive that purge; I thought I’d need them in this closet, but as it turns out, I had plenty of storage solutions!


Along the way, I purged items from the kids’ existing wardrobes, both their hanging things and the drawers in their dressers.  Note if you’re considering your own closet cleaning-a-thon: it spreads, the cleaning does.  Now I’ve added not just their dressers but the playroom to the list.  Stop me before I organize the Tupperware.

Anyway, the littlest one especially had a ton of things that she had outgrown, and since she’s Number Last of our children, those all went to Goodwill.  All the kids had things in their dressers that they no longer wore or fit or needed, though, so we had another bag of things from there.  If you’re counting, that’s FOUR donated bags just from the three younger children:


Step 3: Re-design

I would lovelovelove to paint the interiors of these closets, like NOBODY’S business.  They’re still the original builder’s-crappy-not-quite-white-icky-browny-yellowy color they must have been for the past 50 years, and it makes me cringe.  But I’m making choices here, people, and I knew that if I committed to painting these closets AND clearing them out, that there was no way on Earth it was getting done this week.  So let’s just diagnose that they NEED to be painted (and that the bar arrangement in the girls’ closet is ridiculous, I swear I think whoever designed these closets was a novice), and we’ll have to add that to the To Do list.  I made no other changes to the overall closet than purging and replacing.  I re-used baskets and storage containers from other places in the house to contain the kids’ things, and that was that.

Step 4: Organize and store

So, this is the fun part.  The boy’s closet, after clearing and re-organizing:


New rule: NOTHING GOES ON THE FLOOR.  It was the old old rule, from before we had four kids and it was easier to enforce, and now it’s the NEW old rule, because nothing makes a closet feel roomier and cleaner than having nothing on the floor to clutter it up.  So the bucket of blocks that used to be to the left of his toy box is now on the shelf above.  All the puzzles have moved out to the playroom.  The Barbie car is actually his sister’s, but it makes frequent appearances in Thomas the Train epics in this room, so it’s on the closet shelf, too, along with some small nylon baskets we picked up at Ikea for smaller toys.


His clothes have been purged and arranged, with short sleeve shirts together, long sleeve shirts together, jackets on the end where he can get to them and put them away on his own.  You’ll notice there’s nothing on the floor!  I also kept the spare hangers to an absolute minimum–we have a lifetime’s supply of extra hangers in another room, and most of those will be donated, as well.  No one needs 6000+ hangers, and since we now have a fraction of the clothing, we sure as heck don’t want to keep them.


Because he has the fewest things in his closet and doesn’t share it with anyone, he gets to store the “heirloom” things that have been handed down by my mother-in-law, like the sweater from my husband’s kindergarten or the children’s Christening gown.  He’ll get over it.


In the girls’ closet, there’s a similar subtle-but-exciting effect–if you’re a raging dork like me and spend your New Year’s Eve getting excited about organizing your kids’ closets:


The giant pile of clothing from the shelf is gone, and has been replaced by the OLD system, which is back, baby!  One bin for each girl, labeled with her initial and the sizes in the bin–sizes 4-6 for the little one, and sizes 8-10 for the elder.  Bonus!  I had been lamenting that the littlest didn’t have ANY winter pants, and score!  I found FIVE pair for her in the pile while I was sorting clothing out.  So not only did I clean off the shelf, I saved myself some money AND time by not needing to get her new things.  Woot!  A double-double-whammy, y’all.


On the other shelf, which I realize is totally jacked up because it’s balanced on top of this one, and one of the brackets has come a little loose and you can see the original un-primed wallboard beneath it, we’ve stored the puppets and the puppet theatre.  The kids play with it on a semi-regular basis, especially when they’re all home from school for vacation, but that means a lot of the puppets get mixed in with the other stuffed animals and we have trouble finding them when they want to put on a show.  Now they’re all back in the basket that was purchased for that purpose, and up on the shelf where we can keep track of them.  Above that are some of my vintage (as in, from when I was a kid) toys that are a bit too fragile to be played with, but that make nice eye candy.


I’m delighted to have found so many clothes for the girls to grow into.  And like the other closets, this one was a nice lesson in knowing what you have so you don’t duplicate it.  I can look at a glance now and tell where the gaps are in their wardrobes, what things get worn to shreds and what gets neglected, and how to better arrange their things to rotate through the stuff they like best.  It’s pretty clear they both love dresses and skirts, and that I prefer them in pants–I guess we’ll all work that out later in therapy.

IMG_5760And look! Nothing on the floor!!  All the boxes are gone, off to the playroom to wait being recovered in fabric and filled with toys that have all their pieces.  It’s like closet heaven.

Step 5:  Maintain

This will be tough, since they’re KIDS.  I think we’re going to have some kind of training seminar about where toys go to help them out.  On the bright side, my 6-year-old is actually a little anal about things like that, so she’ll be a big help.  And the two littler ones don’t mind doing anything so long as they’re not the only ones doing it.  Once again I am reminded that the children are always watching, and that our biggest challenge as parents is to MODEL behavior for them.  Because they’re going to do just what we do, whether it’s what we say we want them to do or not–like at the end of Lord of the Flies, where the kid says, “What went wrong?  We just did what the grown-ups would have done.  What went wrong?”  Sigh.

Happy New Year, y’all!  I don’t think I’ll meet my goal of getting the coat closet done before tonight, like I’d planned, but I’ll carry through and finish it on New Year’s Day, just so I can have this whole task accomplished.  It feels GOOD, I can tell you that.  Has anyone else tackled cleaning out part of the house here at the turn of the year?  I’d love to hear about it!  And if you see places where I could make improvements, seriously, I’m not sensitive–fire away, I’ll take all the help I can get!

Closet Clean-Out Project #1.5: The Master Bedroom

master closet large aft

Alright, picking up where we left off!  This is Day 1.5, because I pulled a double on the first day and it nearly killed me, so I’m pacing myself in an effort to make it through these five spaces–the master closets (2), the girls’ closet, the boy’s closet, the linen closet and the coat closet in the hall–by New Year’s Day.  I’ve already got a massive pile of things to donate waiting in the (freeeeezing cold) garage, and I want to make one enormous trip and be done with the whole thing at once.  (Funny story: you know how I know I’m not the only doing this?  Last year, on December 31, the local Goodwill wasn’t taking donations inside like they usually do–they had ordered a tractor trailer to be pulled up out front of the store, and were hosting a drive-through donations line, because they had too many coming in on New Year’s Eve to take them the usual way.  Totally true.)

The Larger Master Closet

master large fish center

Step 1: Evaluate and assess

Let me begin by pointing out that it is insanely difficult to take photos inside a closet.  I’ve done my best on these, but give me some rope on my photos skillz today.  Had to bust out the fish-eye lens on a couple just to get some perspective that was useful for you.

This closet was installed by one of the former owner’s many wives (he had five, not at the same time).  I love that it has so many nooks and so much space, but the shelves themselves aren’t terribly high quality–in fact, on the left, you can see that these are organizer shelves plopped on top of the original shelving installed in 1968.  Beggars and choosers, though, and unless we gut the master bathroom and closet (which is on the fantasy list but won’t be happening any time soon), we’re delighted to have the chance to make the best of this one.

The issue in here was really that we moved in on a rainy day, and had big boxes and piles of things that we didn’t really know what to do with.  Because this closet had so many shelves, a lot of those things got shoved on shelves and left there–for a YEAR.  We never adjusted the shelving, or quite frankly even considered that it needed adjusting–we simply slapped our hangers on the rods and called it a day.

master closet shelves

You can see in this “before” photo that a lot of electronics–including baby monitors, cases, extension cords and the like–got pushed into these shallow shelves and left to get dusty.  Below those, I have my skirts and pants, because the rod was low and that’s what was most logical to put there.  Then the tall shelves got our knits (if you are hanging up your knits, including Polo shirts, sweater dresses or dressy knit tops, STOP IT NOW–Martha would be furious), plus my growing collection of scarves.  The highest hang rod, to the left here, gets my husband’s suits for work.

master before

In this “before” shot, you can see my dresses, which are stuffed into the slightly higher hang rod toward the back–this is one of those spots where the closet design breaks down, because we have lots of “lost” corners that don’t make a ton of sense.  But my task wasn’t to re-design the whole closet system, since we’re still hoping one day it won’t be ours any longer, but rather to use it more wisely.  This weird little corner is actually what gave me the most inspiration–because one day, I realized it was ADJUSTABLE.  I know, right?  Why did I have my dresses shoved in a corner, some of them trailing the ground, off where I don’t see them (and consequently don’t wear them), but there’s a bizarre enormous SPACE above them that could totally be put to other use?

The evaluation was that the closet needed to be emptied, the shelves and rods adjusted to reflect OUR things (rather than the belongings of the people who used to live here), and then some storage solutions found for the itty-bitty stuff, like scarves and belts.  Plus, the random boxes and piles needed to GO.

Step 2:  Purge and empty

master large purge

Emptying this closet was actually kinda fun, because as I was taking things out, I kept getting ideas for how we could re-arrange things and make it prettier and more useful.  Here, I’ve emptied most of the knits from the shelves, putting all those things on the bed to sort and re-fold, and you can see I have already moved the bar for the dresses and shifted those over.  Because once I realized I could, it was like an itch that hadtohadtohadto be scratched.  The laundry–which often as not isn’t in a basket, because the basket is busy holding all the socks that haven’t been matched up–is still on the floor, but I’ve already brought in a thrifted basket that I picked up sure it would be perfect for something.  And wouldn’t you know?  It’s a perfect fit!  And a great solution for belts and scarves, where it can work like a drawer right in the center of those shelves without us having to do a major construction project.

Step 3:  Re-design

Lots of the shelves got re-arranged in here, to make more sense for us.  Rods got adjusted and moved around, and ALL the things on top of the shelving were removed to other homes (like the basement or hall coat closet, which is where they really belonged to begin with).  The left hand side of the closet didn’t get much attention in the re-design stage–it’s mostly a long, low hang rod which is used for my husband’s shirts and pants, and a shoe organizer above. I’m not convinced it’s the most efficient use of the space–that’s a lot of shoe storage–but it seems to work for our belongings.  So that side got left alone, and my attention was focused on shifting things on the right side, instead.

large master fish

Over the long haul, I think we’d love to have someone else’s eyes come in and tell us how to use this space more efficiently–like that corner back where the one tall shoe organizer meets the hang rod, making about 24″ of rod totally inaccessible and wasting a whole chunk of square footage.  You can see it in the image above–see how the shelving is at right angles to the shelf supporting the shoes, at the left?  And how the depth of the shelving creates a weird pocket of wasted space there?  Rubbermaid has a virtual closet design tool, but it doesn’t really make suggestions for how to organize the space better than it already is.  Ikea has a series of room planners, but none of them seem to make much in the way of innovative suggestions, either.  Does anyone know of a better closet design tool that might offer inspiration and ideas for HOW to use the space, rather than simply what products to put there?

Step 4:  Organize and store

Putting things back in was tedious, but not hard–I did stop halfway through and make an emergency trip to Target for a basket, but other than that, everything we needed was on hand.

master aft 3

My husband’s Polo shirts are folded, along with his sweaters–in categories like Dressy Casual and Weekend and Sporty.  My scarves and belts are in their new basket-drawer.  My sweaters are all folded, in categories like Cardigan, Not Cardigan and Dressy Date Night.

master aft 5

My husband got a new basket for his belts and shoe horn, along with the shoe bags he keeps around for…travel, I guess?  I’ve never actually seen him use them, but he sure does like them, so they’re in the basket, too.  Shoe shelves got re-arranged to make room for the basket, as well as to make space for boots–no reason to have one of my pairs of boots lying on its side when the shelves can just be moved, and yet they’d been like that for months.  The art is on trial display–I don’t love this piece here, but I think there should be some piece of art in that spot.  Just have to find the right one.

master aft 7

Below my sweaters, I incorporated a vintage train case in which I store my stockings and tights (in order to make room for my undies and socks in my dresser drawer), along with slips and things.  These shelves also got moved around, to make sure that not only was there space for everything but that it also looked pretty and planned, and not as though I’d just shoved things places.

master aft 8

The four shelves above the hang rod that used to be stuffed with wires and plugs are now two shelves, with a basket for costume jewelry and a wooden box for keepsakes and nicer jewelry.

master aft 4

My husband’s suits stayed where they were, but the weird open wasted shelf above the hang rod in the corner went away, and the two shelves there now house his hats and outdoor gear.  My skirts are in a higher position than they were before, but still lower than the dresses, giving a nice sense of levels on this side.  And I happened to have a bunch of matching wooden skirt hangers leftover from when I used to manufacture clothing, and it makes all the difference–sort of a boutique feel over in the skirt department now, which I really like.

large master fish

Not a ton of changes on the left, except that I ditched piles of clothing I didn’t wear, including some things I’d made but never hemmed or finished–and realistically never would.  I did put my short-rod garments back into order according to my length-of-garment-length-of-sleeve-weight-of-fabric system, which gave me enormous nerd joy.  And I rotated my shoes so that my summery shoes are higher up and my wintery shoes are lower down, which makes a lot more sense seasonally.

Step 5: Maintain

I’ve got to break my shoving ways, dude.  That’s the only way this closet will stay looking as pretty as it does now.  If I can avoid that, I’m golden.  The other nice benefit from doing this space, along with my dresser drawers, is realizing where I have gaps in my wardrobe and where I should devote my sewing time.  For example, I have over half a dozen A-line skirts in various fabrics, but only one winter dress.  No need to waste fabric making another skirt–but I should probably bust out some wool and get to work on some nicer dresses with sleeves.

I think the boldest lesson from these two spaces is that less really CAN be more–although that is frequently contrary to my overly-verbal philosophy.  We reduced the number of shelves in this closet by 5 and eliminated dozens of garments, and yet we’re likely to use and wear more of these things than we would have previously.  Totally worth the time and effort.

Vital stats:

  • total time invested (2 closets): 6 hours
  • total donated bags: 4.5
  • total donated garments: 78
  • total donated shoes: 7 pair
  • total cost (2 closets): $11

Next up: either the linen closet or the girls’ closet, depending on how strong I feel after naptime is over.  Brace yourselves.

Closet Clean-Out Project #1: the Master Bedroom

Well, we’re only one day into this thing, but so far, so good! Some before-and-afters for y’all:
master closet small aft

The small closet in the master, which houses my dresser along with less-frequently-used items like dressy clothes and my husband’s uniforms.

master closet large aftThe larger master closet, which needed a great deal more work and planning than the small one.  The angle isn’t perfect in these before-and-after shots, but you get the general idea.

I mentioned that I’d broken down the process of gutting and organizing these closets into five steps:

  1. evaluate and assess
  2. purge and empty
  3. re-design
  4. organize and store
  5. maintain

I’m sure there are any number of how-to books on the market that say largely the same thing–this isn’t rocket surgery, after all.  It’s cleaning out the closet.  But to me, having a kind of road map helped me be more deliberate and conscious of what I was doing, helped me to avoid working solely on instinct so that I can be consistent as I work through each room and project, and gives me some guidelines to follow if I find myself waffling on a decision.  So let’s break down these TWO closets–I pulled a double!–using the steps that I made up myself, which means it’s not exactly a statistically significant analysis, but hey!  It’s fun to look at someone who’s in way worse shape than you, right?  Which explains the tacky talk show craze of the early 90s.

Smaller Master Closet

master closet small aft

Step 1: Evaluate and assess

We certainly feel grateful to have this smaller, “extra” closet in our room.  This house was built in 1968, well before the his-and-hers closet movement, so we’re not entirely sure why we have it, but we sure as shootin’ are gonna use it. Cleaning this one out didn’t take a whole mess of work–it wasn’t necessary to make many changes, just to focus on tidying.  The space is adequate for our needs, so we aren’t looking for additional hanging bar space or anything like that.  I suppose if I wanted to really get in and move things around I’d eliminate the hang rod and place two smaller rods perpendicular to the closet opening, one left and one right, so that we wouldn’t have a bar going across the opening.  But I don’t mind the bar enough to get in and do something significant here when the existing space is working for us.  My evaluation was that we just needed to CLEAN it out, rather than actually re-arrange it.

small beforeStep 2: Purge and empty

First, every single item from the top of the dresser came out and went on the bed.  There was a ton of stuff UNDER all these “folded” clothes–vintage children’s books that are too fragile for the children to play with, a matryshoka doll that we got at the estate sale for this house, tons of coins from other countries brought back from our travels, shark teeth, baby teeth, a vinyl copy of Cinderella.  Yeah.  ALL of it came out and we started with a clean top.  Next, the drawers were emptied, right on top of the giant pile of clothes on the bed.  That way, I could sort through each of the “categories” and re-fold before putting things away.  I’m efficient, y’all.  I have a plan.

image via Instagram

As I folded, I sorted out the things I didn’t want to keep/that weren’t nice any longer/that didn’t fit/that I knew for a stone cold fact I hadn’t worn in the past year.  I also edited out anything that was no longer age-appropriate (just because one can wear short-shorts doesn’t mean one should wear short-shorts–particularly if you bought them when you got your first real job out of college 15 years ago).  All those things went into garbage bags to be donated (after being catalogued*).  At this point, all the drawers and the dresser top were empty; I left the shelves for later.

Step 3:  Re-design

I opted not to re-design the space entirely, although I did scooch the dresser over and re-center it between the doors.  I also determined NOT to use the dresser top for storage of any kind, but rather to reserve it for display.

master closet detail

Step 4:  Organize and store

The dresser top got back the small wooden container full of baby teeth and foreign coins, along with the half of a Megalodon tooth I personally unearthed a few years ago on one of the Georgia barrier islands (it’s a funny story–I’ll tell you sometime, remind me).  I also put the wooden puzzles I was given as a child when I lived in Germany–one or two small pieces are in a box in the boy’s room, so those will turn up as we work through all the other closets.

At this point, the shelves were purged, too.  They actually didn’t have as much on them as it looked–mostly suitcases and my Bernina embroidery module, and lots of empty, wasted space at the far left and right, above the hanging clothes.  I pushed the suitcases off to the far sides, and removed all the books and hanging clothes bags and random bits of curtain hardware–all of those have other homes now.

I stood back and realized there was a LOT of empty space above the dresser, which I didn’t like.  Not only was it not terribly appealing, it was just begging to have CRAP plopped on it in the very near future.  I really would love to find a gorgeous art glass bowl of alarming proportions to put on the shelf between the suitcases and directly above the dresser, but I have been working to spend as close to nothing on this project as possible, so I opted to rescue some Ikea boxes from the basement and add those, instead.  Bonus: they double as concealed storage for any little bits and pieces that don’t have homes.

master closet small aftThe wall space directly above the dresser was barren, too, but I was reading a comment from Karen who pointed out that she has piles of art floating around and no wall to place it on–me, too! This print, by Matte Stephens, was down in the basement, crying for a home.  It’s not matted or framed, just propped up on a piece of cardboard for now, but I love-love-love how the colors work with this room and how it pulls the “closet” away from being just a closet and makes it a space I actually want to spend time in and maintain.

Which brings us to:

Step 5: Maintain

Should be pretty straight-forward for this closet.  I’ve tried to supply myself with some analysis of the things I discarded so that I can avoid falling into the same habits.  Like, Don’t buy knit tees at Target, they only wear out and get donated.  Or, You have more long-sleeved tee shirts than you think, and clearly that 3/4 sleeve thing has run its course, since you tossed all those tops out.  Also, I need more stretchy exercise pants, and they’d better go all the way to my shoes with a break, because the short ones did NOT make the cut.  This closet seems to be less about changing my storage habits than about updating my shopping habits–which was an unexpected insight from this project.

This is now officially, BTW, the longest how-I-cleaned-my-closet post EVER.  So I think I’ll break off and save the larger closet for tomorrow. Plus, I’m pooped!  This took long enough that I’m not sure I can tackle another today, so making this two posts is just as well.  Vital stats:

  • total time invested (2 closets): 6 hours
  • total donated bags: 4.5
  • total donated garments: 78
  • total donated shoes: 7 pair
  • total cost (2 closets): $11

*Under current tax guidelines, donations up to $500 do not need to be itemized; donations of $500 and over MUST be itemized, giving both a detailed description and a dollar value for EACH item in the donation.  We use the cheat sheet from ItsDeductible (a TurboTax product) to make the whole thing easier–their dollar values are also usually higher than the ones I would assign, but do note that tax law no longer allows you to donate ANY item that can’t be described as being in “good” condition–“fair” condition items are no longer deductible.

The Great Closet Clean-Out

I cannot believe I am about to show you what I am about to show you.  I feel an extraordinary sense of shame over what these photos reveal, but I also know that I don’t want to live a lie any longer, and the best way to rip off the band-aid is fast and firm.

So, with great humility/humiliation, I present to you the interior of my closets:


I suspect that each of us has a storage-and-organization personality.  And it turns out that I’m a shover.  As in, when I need to store something and I don’t want to spend the time to store it properly, I have a tendency to just SHOVE IT ON IN wherever it will fit.  Now, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m not tidy or organized–I’ve got enough pride to swallow without over-doing it.  I am, actually, a little uptight about organizing things (all my CDs, back when anyone had such a thing, were in alphabetical and chronological order, in that order; I used to organize my books by height, tallest to shortest from the sides of the bookcase, so they made a V in the middle; my closets, before children, were all organized by length of garment and length of sleeve; and my fondest desire is to put in wall-to-wall bookshelves in our basement so I can have a little library–complete with Dewey decimal stickers).  I am also, though, pretty black-or-white in most areas of my life: if you’re not going to do a thing properly, I don’t see much point in doing it at all.  Come strong or don’t come at all is our family motto.

As I planned for Christmas, though, I had that sense that I think a lot of us have as we prepare to bring a whole bunch of new stuff into our homes: Where are we going to put it?  Do we even need all this stuff?  Am I just re-buying things we already have that I can’t find because I don’t know where I put them and all the storage areas are so cluttered and disastrous that I don’t even want to try looking in the first place?  My husband and I are both pretty ruthless about getting rid of things–and we’ve moved TWICE in the past 18 months, keep in mind.  It’s not that we’re hanging on to a bunch of things we don’t need, literal emotional baggage.  It’s that we don’t have HOMES for those places, despite the fact that we feel we’ve culled the collection pretty firmly.  Even so, we could stand to get rid of some stuff, and a lot of our things are disorganized and stacked up.

Let me give you some examples.

master closet smallThis is the smaller of the two closets in the master bedroom.  We’re pretty sure this was the original closet, and the mid-sized walk-in was added in the 80s when they did a Dynasty-style renovation on the bathroom.  We don’t need two closets, and neither of us wanted to NOT have the larger one, so we share the walk-in for most of our clothes.  Instead of taking up valuable floor and wall space with my dresser, we’ve put it inside the closet, with my husband’s military uniforms on one side and our formal wear on the other, tucked away since they don’t get used regularly.  But see that stack of clothes on top of the dresser?  Those are my clothes.  All (mostly) folded and out of the wash, and they SHOULD be in the drawers.  Know what’s in the drawers?  Almost NOTHING.  They’re practically empty–I just haven’t sorted all the clothing into the appropriate categories in order to put them away.

boy closetThis is the closet in our son’s room.  Mostly neat, right?  Except you don’t see how very many empty and unnecessary hangers are here in this closet, off to the right.  And that pile of things on the shelf?

boy closet shelfThose all got put there the day we moved in ONE YEAR AGO.  And haven’t been touched since.  I know–I can hear some of you saying, “Then get rid of them, you obviously don’t need them!”  Which would be true, except I know what those are: they’re the trays and pieces to our puzzles, which we have been wanting to play with for months, but didn’t have or want to take the time to rescue from this oblivion.

girls closetThis is the closet the two little girls share with one another.  Not too bad–except the row of cardboard boxes on the floor to the right that are FILLED with lonely socks, random books, orphan shoes, and summer clothes that didn’t make it into drawers.  The kids like to play in here, and often when they do, toys and things don’t exactly get back where they began.  And the giant pile of clothing on top of the shelf?  Those are all clothes that the six-year-old has outgrown that are waiting for the 2.5-year-old to grow into.  I don’t honestly think we’re hoarders, and I don’t think I misunderstand the principle of getting rid of things you don’t need to keep–I just haven’t invested the time in taking care of the task that needed to be done.

linen closetThe very worst offender is here: the linen closet.  It sits directly across a narrow hall leading to the bathroom from the coat closet, and they both tend to be scary.  The coat closet isn’t too bad, by comparison, but the linen closet looks as though it vomited most of the time.  We’ve got brackets at the very top that could support another shelf, but for some reason, there is no shelf to go up there, and we’re most assuredly one shelf short in this closet.  I’ve re-organized this thing TWICE in the last year, and still we can’t stay on top of it, and frequently stack clean sheets, towels and blankets on the floor in front of the doors rather than wrestle with the half-filled shelves and their pathetic misshapen stacks to try and shove another pile of clean laundry inside.

I have wanted to put this together as a series on organizing and unloading unnecessary things–particularly here at the end of year, when we can still get 2012 tax write-offs for donations to charity.  Perfect time to do it!  I thought I’d get it all done before Christmas, but it’s that whole Ado-Annie-all-or-nothing thing again: I couldn’t give it my whole attention while also preparing for the holidays, so it just didn’t get done.

I have a week between now and New Year’s Eve, and I am determined to make NO MORE excuses.  I’m doing this thing in REAL TIME, baby: I’ll start with the master closet today, and blog my results tomorrow. I’m not a fan of accountability in general–who wants to have their friends watching all the time to make sure they do something they don’t really want to do?–but in this case, I suspect I’ll start strong out of the gate and then poop out fairly quickly, so if I don’t commit to a course of action, I’m worried I’ll procrastinate this one right into December 2013.

To make the whole thing more logical and organized (hey!), I’ve broken down the process into five stages:

  1. evaluate and assess
  2. purge and empty
  3. re-design
  4. organize and store
  5. maintain

Along the way, I’m hoping to take absolute piles of things off to the Goodwill to donate–and get a receipt, of course, to capitalize on those 2012 tax opportunities.  Wanna ride along with me?  Maybe it’ll inspire you to get your own organization task taken care of–whether it’s the closet or the tupperware cabinet–or maybe it’ll just give me that awful accountability.  If nothing else, it’s a lovely train wreck for you to watch this week while we wait for the year to turn!

I’m off RIGHT THIS SECOND to work on the larger of the two master closets.  Tell me, what’s the worst storage area in your house, and what have you been thinking ought to be done about it that you just haven’t gotten around to?  I’d love to hear some ideas as I toil away!

Signed Copies of Stitch Savvy Now Shipping!

This arrived on my doorstep this morning:

Screen shot 2012-12-20 at 3.37.05 PM

That’s FOUR cases of Stitch Savvy, newly from the printers.  Woot!!  If you pre-ordered on Amazon, it should be shipping out in the next couple of days–BUT if you want to order a signed copy from me, I’ll ship out in the next 24 hours, in the hopes that it will get to you before Christmas morning!

Grab an autographed copy of Stitch Savvy, my brand-new book–eeek, I have another book!! Whoo-hoo!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you who have been along with me as I put this one together. I really love it, and think it’s so, so beautiful–but it was a ton of work to write, and I don’t know that I could have powered through without all my friends, both in person and along the World Wide Internet Webs. So, my humble gratitude to all of you for seeing me through on this–and thank you to any one of you who picked up a copy of the last book or who will read this one! I truly hope you love it.

Am off to eat Christmas cookies and dance in celebration!!