40 Days Tips and Tricks: The Basics

The idea of Forty Bags in Forty Days is to "cleanse" your house of all clutter during the forty days of Lent.  It is a manageable, easier way to do spring cleaning than all at once, especially since most of us have little ones that we need to care for all day.

The first step is to make a little schedule for yourself.  I use a simple piece of notebook paper.  (Here is a cute free printable schedule one of my blog readers made.)

I divide my house into forty areas.  My schedule might look like this:
Day 1: Master Bathroom Cabinet
Day 2: Master Bathroom Drawers
Day 3: Vanity Area
Day 4: Our Closet
Day 5: Master Bedroom
Day 6: Desk in Study
Day 7: Study
till I have 40 small manageable areas to work on each day.  Some days I can plow through four areas and buy myself some time, which allows me to skip a day when I just can't meet my goal.  (And remember last year I skipped this entire process because I had baby Janey and I had enough on my plate.)

There is no right way to purge your home, some work better in bursts, some work better in tiny chunks-do whatever is not stressful and works for you at this time of your life.

My Supplies:
Black garbage bags. You can use any kind you want-even small grocery bags, but I use black because kids can't see through them, and the size works well for me.

Sneaky purger that I am, I don't want my decisions questioned. No, I don't ransack my
children's bedrooms and throw away all of their beloved treasures, but it's better if that plastic
broken battery-hogging toy that my son hasn't touched in 5 years magically disappear without
rearing it's ugly head to be seen and desperately missed by all.

I also have Magic Erasers, paper towels (or rags), spray cleaner and my vacuum.

I wipe down counters, wipe out cabinets, shelves, and countertops while I'm purging. I go through packs of Magic Erasers. (I can do this because I only have one little one home all day-if you have a baby or babies, maybe just stick with the purge, and not with the spring clean.)

I keep in mind that my goal is to touch everything in the room or area that I am working on. If I
have boxes, clothes, books, toys...no matter what, I go through each item and make a decision to
keep, give away, throw away.

I figure out what I am going to do with the bags once full. I give books away to a local foundation that resells them, I pitch the garbage, I give the rest to Goodwill  because they have a drop-off station 2 minutes away. I don't do resale shops or garage sales, because for me, it's just too much work. I throw the Goodwill bags right into the back of my van, and make the run as soon as I get a chance.

I work really quickly. Obviously, the bigger and the more complicated the room, the longer it takes,
but I don't puzzle over decisions, or get distracted by other things...besides Patrick of course. I
don't answer my phone...my goal is to get the job done as quickly as possible.
I keep a visual in mind. How do you want I my house to look?  For me it's clean, sparse, and organized:

I always go back in my head to the first months we moved into this house. I had really wanted to start fresh. I had given away a lot of stuff from our old house...I purged like crazy when we moved. We had no closet or
storage space in our old 1840 house either...so when we settled into this house it was very simple, very
empty, very refreshing. I filled one drawer where there was now 5. The kids used just tiny bits of their
closets. Some rooms had just a few items of furniture. It was so easy to keep clean and I felt so energized
without so many belongings. Sometimes I get out my old photos from when we first moved in, and that
motivates me to bring my home back to where I loved it.

The other visual: What if I had to show my house in minutes as if we were selling it? I know this is hard core...but I learned my lesson once with my first house...we put off all these little projects that we wanted to do forever, lived with them forever, inconvenient and all, and when we went to sell our house, here we were running around getting it all done for SOMEONE else to live in and enjoy! Ridiculous!  I make a list of those little projects, and work on them later in the year.

So it helps me to think, even though we will never move, that is my ideal for this space/room to look like? Sometimes we get used to things and don't realize how cluttered up, or inconvenient they are. Trying a fresh eye...a "perspective buyer's eye" has helped me.


A Closet Clean Out And Senior Year

Isaac was home sick one day last week and I subtly persuaded him to clean out his closet.  I couldn't believe how much he outgrew just from one year.  I think we cleared out at least 1/2 of the clothes.  (Got a little head start on my Lenten purge!)




We also worked on something I am SO excited about.  When Isaac was just in grade school I started saving a few special t-shirts here and there-from sports, races, schools, dances, special events.  My friend Jane makes these awesome t-shirt quilts which are perfect for sentimental gifts-particularly graduation.  I was going to make it a surprise and pick out the t-shirts on my own, and them realized I had NO idea which ones would have the most meaning.  I ended up telling him about it, and he easily picked out the dozen that meant that most to him. When he had all 12 of them laid out on the bed, I teared up.  This is becoming one of those teary years I think.  I packed them up and shipped them off.

Jane will work her magic and I can't wait to see the finished product.
Here is an example of one of her finished quilts.  


Inspirational Service

Two falls ago I attended a retreat put on by Power of Moms.  I loved it. I met friends I will have for life during those few fast days.  One of the mothers I met I just instantly felt a connection to.  (I know, that sounds like a quote from that super queer Bachelor show! Ick, sorry.)  Her name was Allyson and she was this vibrant, energetic, confident, beautiful (no I am no exaggerating) mother of six.  I didn't have enough time to ask her the 150 questions I wanted to, but I knew if I had that chance, we could talk forever.  I pretty much felt like that with everyone I met that weekend.

Anyways, Allyson sent me the link to her blog soon after we left and although she is not a consistent blogger by any means, within two posts suddenly her and her entire family was in Thailand, volunteering every day, all day in orphanages.  I wasn't a bit surprised either.  She seemed like the type of girl that when she sets her mind to something-watch out.  She chronicled her entire trip there and the photos and stories were wonderful.

I read every post with envy.  And awe.  Awe at her bravery.  Awe at the fact that she didn't just talk about wanting to do some incredible service project with her family, that she didn't do what I think is easy-find every excuse NOT to go-(because you can always find excuses for just about anything can't you?) but she DID it.  All the planning, the money, the inconvenience, the medical stuff, the passports, the long flights, the car travel, the time change, the children's ages....all the hurdles...she did it.

I think she posted twice in the year since her family was back at home and then I found this in my email box last week:

Dear friends and family,
      Sorry I am late sending this out to everyone!  Lots of you have been so kind to wish us well and ask for the blog.  Here it is www.carefreetimelessness.blogspot.com .  We are 10 days into our 4 month adventure.  To fill in some of you who may not know the details, we have checked our kids out of school for the rest of the year to do some humanitarian work. Let me tell you, I have a whole new appreciation for mom's who home school :)  Let's just say we are still in the "adjusting" phase.  We are traveling with the --- family who has 5 children, so we are quite the spectacle traveling around with 11 children and 4 adults!
      We are in Cambodia right now helping in an orphanage.  We are in the middle of building them chicken coops so they have a way to get more protein in their diet with the meat and the eggs.  Man can not live on rice alone :)  It has been truly amazing to be here.  The Cambodians have captured my heart.
       We then are going to Thailand to go back to the 2 orphanages we helped with last year for a month.  Their website is www.homelifethailand.com Sam is doing his Eagle Project there, helping them build a new type of greenhouse because the rain continually washes out their gardens.  Thanks to all who contributed funds to that!  He was able to raise the money needed.  We are so grateful to all of you.  Then we are on to India to volunteer at a boarding school for children whose parents have leprosy.  It is called Rising Star Outreach.  The parents have all been cured of leprosy, they just have residual problems from the disease.  We will be helping their parents as well as the children in the school.  To finish the trip off we go to a small village in Spain to help in an impoverished elderly community.  Hopefully we will all survive each other!!  Anyway, we love you all and hope life is being good to you!   
 XOXO, Allyson and crew

You can read Allyson's blog here-I pretty much cry at every blog post she writes.  There are some pretty profound things she says in there...I can't help myself.  

Don't forget you have a chance to create and enter your own recipe into Chef Boyardee's Make It Boyardeelicious Recipe Contest ending March 11, 2011.