Project: Simplify ’11: Hot Spot #5 revealed

You guys have ROCKED it with the hot spots this past month. For four weeks, you’ve decluttered, cleaned, and organized your master bedroom closet, your paper piles, your kids’ toys or clothing, and your pantry and fridge.

I am so impressed with everyone’s’ enthusiasm, creativity, and determination. Your community spirit has kept me going here in my own home — there’s something motivating to know there are hundreds of you worldwide, doing the same thing each week.

Thank you for sharing your photos, your ideas, and your comments. It’s been a great series!

We’ve got one more hot spot left; the grand finale. Want to guess what it is?

Hot Spot #5

This week’s hot spot: whatever you want!

Yep, that’s right — you get to choose the final hot spot in your home. So many of you have shared via Facebook or Twitter what hot spot you want covered, and we can spend all year tackling everyone’s wish list. Not gonna happen (I’m ready to get back to writing about other stuff).

This way, you get to completely customize your Project: Simplify experience by tackling whatever area you feel like your home needs most. So now I don’t want to hear any, “I just did this area last month!” or “I just did this but didn’t take any photos!”

Hot Spot Ideas

You probably aren’t short of ideas on areas that need your special touch, but in case you need a little inspiration, here are just a few that come to mind:

  • under the bathroom counters
  • under the kitchen sink
  • junk drawers
  • the guest bedroom (is it your catch-all spot?)
  • laundry room
  • garage
  • back deck
  • inside your car
  • files on your computer
  • photo collection
  • book library
  • movie collection
  • attic
  • craft stations — your scrapbooking papers, sewing station, or woodworking tools, oh my
  • or catching up on hot spots 1 through 4

Here a few final thoughts on making your home work for you…

Create that family purpose statement.

Organizing is just organizing when you’re putting out fires. But when you create a family purpose statement, and therefore know the purpose of your home, organizing becomes a mission; an act of love.

If you want some inspiration, use chapter 3 of my book to craft your family purpose statement, or you can use Franklin Covey’s online tool.

Enjoy the process.

A simplified home is a journey, not a destination. Your home will get messy again. You’ll probably need to do some spring cleaning again next year (or sometime this fall). That’s okay. You live with human beings, so it’s inevitable.

The goal isn’t a museum-worthy home. It’s one that allows you to live intentionally, full of meaning. Enjoy the process of making your house a home.

Relationships are more important than things.

Don’t trample over your kids or spouse in order to have your home the way you want it. Place a higher value on your family, serving others, and meaningful relationships over a house that qualifies for Better Homes & Gardens.

Work quickly.

I’ve said it throughout this whole series — if it takes you forever to decide whether to keep something, it’s taking you too long. It’s not worth the mental agony deciding if the spoon collection from Great Grandma is worth keeping. Does it bless you? Do you see it contributing to your future? Is it beautiful or useful? Keep it. Is it collecting dust? Have you toyed with the idea of posting it on eBay or Craigslist just one too many times? Do you have absolutely no where to put it and you really don’t love it? Get rid of it.

And if you truly aren’t sure, put it in your “maybe” box. If you haven’t gotten it out in six months (and it’s not a holiday item), then you probably don’t find it beautiful or useful. Get rid of it.

This “work quickly” also applies to not biting off more than you can chew. Particularly this week, it might be tempting to tackle three hot spots — but completely finish one area before starting another. Otherwise, you’ll be left with three undone spots, and it might even be messier than when you started. Talk about discouraging.

One is plenty. If you’re able to do more, consider it gravy.

Focus on what you did get done, not on what’s still left.

We recovering perfectionists tend to notice what’s still on the to-do list, not what we’ve already crossed off. Celebrate your accomplishments! If you’re not as far along as you would hope come Friday, still be encouraged you got something done.

Actually, this is true about the entire Project: Simplify series. You may not have gotten as far as you would have liked. But did you do something? That’s better than nothing. And that’s progress. Good on you!

Finish by Friday

Do your best to finish by this Friday. Post your before-and-after photos either on the blog or on the Simple Living Flickr pool, and then come to Simple Mom to link up (I’ll provide a spot on that day’s post). Spend the weekend resting, relishing in your work, and oohing and ahhing over everyone’s accomplishments as you browse the links.

This week’s giveaway

Everyone who participates in this week’s hot spot — and then links to the before-and-after photos on her blog or the Flickr pool — is automatically entered to win this week’s giveaway! As I mentioned earlier, all the prizes are tools to help further simplify your life, not more “stuff.”

Adams Organizing

Elise Adams writes about life areas that can become enemies to our serenity — CHAOS (Clutter challenges, Home/routine chaos, Addictions, recovery and relapse prevention, Office and room organizing, and Struggles and stress) with specific tools and strategies designed to move us through these tight spots and back into calm, functioning, healthy lives.

Each week she is also on the Dr. Carol Show, addressing ‘Living in Recovery’ topics, offering the lessons she’s learned the hard way to others who may be struggling to find hope. She also speaks to conferences, schools, shelters about my own journey through addiction and dysfunction to a happy, healthy fulfilled life today.

Her greatest joy, however, is working directly, one-on-one with her clients; hearing their struggles and then offering them hope by targeting solutions directly at their specific situations, empowering them to progress toward their goals once again.  She’s not in the business of perfection–just steady, hope-filled progress.

Elise is giving one Project: Simplify hot spot #5 participant a custom-designed PRESCRIPTION for PROGRESS PACKAGE. This is a designed-just-for-you, change-your-life plan focused on helping you tackle one of the following areas:

  • C-clutter challenges
  • H-home/routine chaos
  • A-addictions, recovery and relapse prevention
  • O-office or room organizing
  • S-struggles and stress

In order for her to design your unique Prescription for Progress, this package includes:

  • a phone, chat or in-person assessment of your specific situation,
  • a written report detailing your situation, and her observations,
  • a custom-designed plan, including specific step-by-step strategies to help you move toward your goals, and
  • a follow-up session (again, on the phone, via online chat, or in-person) to ensure that she’s heard and addressed your specific situation.

Ready… Set… Go!

I hope you’re excited to tackle the one area that’s been bugging you since this series began. Now’s your chance! And I’m eager to see what you’ve done by this Friday.

I personally can’t decide whether I’ll focus on under the kitchen sink, the other side of my kids’ closet (it serves as miscellaneous storage), or my computer files. What do you think you’ll tackle?

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Hm, tempting to do computer files since that one is less strenuous…plus we got a new computer in Dec. and just transferred everything over. Pretty sure that the files I haven’t used since Dec. probably don’t need saved!

    But…under the bathroom sinks is pretty scary too…

  2. I see the commenter before me is also focused on computer files – this is definitely where I ‘start’ when I need to declutter something. Empty that downloads folder. File away the photoshop brushes, actions, swatches etc, ditch old documents no longer required. Perhaps not as physical an activity as cleaning out the bathroom cabinets – but definitely just as satisfying! Hmm, I think I’ll go on a roll and tackle the pantry cupboard next!

  3. Computerfiles are very tempting indeed. But I think I will “attack” the kids’ and my shoes! Our shoe-storage-area is underneath the stairs and always a mess…

  4. I’m excited too 🙂 It’s been great to participate with everyone all these weeks!

    I’m going to pick the baby’s room/closet. We’ve been stuffing our Winter coats in there along with over-flowing linens (with no linen closet it’s been a challenge finding a ‘home’ for our sheets and towels) PLUS I didn’t go through his clothes/msc. when I did the girls’ room earlier in the challenge.

    And I’m excited to be giving away the ‘prize’ for this weeks Before/After pictures participant! Your readers are the sweetest people, Tsh!

  5. Larissa says:

    Since I haven’t got a blog, I haven’t linked up to any of the ‘reveals’, however I have enjoyed participating in most of the hot spots. Since my daughter and I are currently residing with my parents, I couldn’t do last weeks’ fridge and pantry clean out (was preferred), so went through the bathroom cupboards (large space, cluttered and one that had needed to be done for months!) and my large desk area (actually 3 large dining-room table sized tables end to end) in the lounge. This week I’ll tackle the bedroom bookshelves (large room, multiple shelves with too much stuff and needing major cleaning, decluttering!!)

    Tsh, thankyou for this Project:Simplify! And thankyou for your blog. I’ve only been a ‘reader’ for just over a month and a half, but am thoroughly enjoying your words – even reading back further. 🙂

  6. I think this week I’m going to do the baby’s closet. we don’t use it for his day-to-day storage but for longer term storage, hand-me-down clothes and anything else that doesn’t have a home elsewhere like photos. I packed it all up a couple of months ago when we were intending to move, but the plans have changed and we have another three years in this house so it needs to be done. not moving has been a little bit bittersweet, we had great hopes for moving, but were sad to be leaving this area as it has been a lovely place to live and we have had a lot of support here. just getting used to the fact that we are staying, and need to make this house work as a home more longterm

  7. Computer files is tempting, I do need to do that. But I think maybe I’ll do my living room shelves. We got a whole bunch of cube shelves with our Christmas money and have only filled them partially and haphazardly. I think I’ll assign stuff to every shelf to get them filled up and help make tidying easier.

  8. During the week for children’s toys and/or clothes, I tackled my toddler girl’s clothing. I intended to use this coming week, spring break for the boys, to focus on their things.

    Their toys are my first target because they are literally everywhere. My plan was to have them search everywhere around the house and get every pieces of them together and then sort them out. I really just want to keep the things that can last and that my girl would enjoy as she grows. I also hope I can find someone to watch my girl for us, so we could actually get something done before she takes the toys somewhere else again!

    Thank you for the reminder to focus on what got done and enjoy family time during the process. I still wish I could keep the momentum and work on the other areas afterwards.

  9. loved this series, thanks. I didn’t really join in because everything is still up in the air from moving house, but I did clean out my hanging closet and I’ve turned all my hangers around so no doubt more will be going! I hope you do this every year as a spring cleaning thing.

  10. I was just thinking I needed to declutter my EMAIL – there is some serious messiness in there. I keep my phone email files nice and cleaned up but my computer email is ridiculous. I am thinking I will delete delete DELETE! ..and finish my painting project that I started when I was “simplifying” my bathroom last week! 🙂

  11. I need to declutter my whole house – after a recent move I’m still in recovery mode.

  12. I am on for the laundry room!!!!!!

  13. I didn’t do last weeks because I was prepping to have my living room completely repainted and redecorated this week! So, I might do last week’s challenge. But my bathroom closets are pretty awful. I wonder if I can get both the kitchen and the closets done while the gals are working in the living room this week?

  14. Gosh!! I don’t know what to pick!!!

  15. I do tend to declutter often (i love to organize, sickness I know) I think I will focus on going from room to room and getting rid of excess before the next donation pickup in my neighborhood next week. Already have 4 bags plus no longer used laundry hampers, toy storage, etc.

  16. I did the cabinets under my sink. Amazing the junk I had under there! Looks so much better!
    I have a large sideboard that used to hold crafts and games in the cabinets below. My kids are all grown and the grandkids don’t do any of that really, when they come over. I want to celar it out and use it to store family photos (which are not gone completely through, but I am making progress!) I just don’t think they need to be in my bedroom closet anymore, lol!
    Thanks for these challenges!

  17. Ugh so many spots, so little time. The bath room cupboards and sink have been calling my name for awhile. It will definitely make really good before and after pics!

  18. So excited about this! Definitely my sewing area… I already started it last night and was planning on doing it regardless of what this week’s hot spot was. Now I can dedicate my full efforts to it! Thanks Tsh!

  19. I will try to cull my childhood memorabilia by half. The past is taking too much space in my office! need to make room for the present and the future! So I will take pictures of drawings, scan away, and shred a lot of letters… That has needed to be done for ages…
    Thank you so much for this project, it’s been so much fun!!

  20. Jennifer says:

    Ugh, our laundry room/storage room combo has become a catch all that you can’t even walk thru, too many things tossed in at the last minute without being put away in their proper place, while I love that we have this space once we installed a door to close off the laundry, we now are less careful about keeping it tidy because we can just close the door!
    This has been a great project, I can’t say I’m on top of all of the previous hot spots but I’m getting there!!!

  21. Hmm…They all sound like things that need to be done. I may finish the 10 boxes of paperwork/school/art. Or maybe the sewing room really needs to be done so I can actually sew again. Or maybe….

  22. Woo HOO! I was hoping you’d pick the linen closet this week, and lo and behold… I get to pick it. It is a mess, as a result of being a “we’ll get to it…” home improvement project coupled with wasted/tough to access space, and I have been wanting to fix it up for a while. It seems like it is the space in our home that most quickly devolves into chaos– despite my best efforts!

  23. I’m one of those who hasn’t gotten as far as I had hoped at the beginning of this journey (short-notice deployment to the Pacific in response to Japan events for my husband changed many things!) but it’s been a great one nonetheless! I’m beginning to see my home and my possessions through different eyes, which is a start. DH and I have also begun planting seeds for conversations about our family’s purpose (and our individual missions/purpose/plan) for further discussion when he returns.

    Thanks for a great book, a great blog, and creating space to reflect on the journey of living more simply and intentionally.

    Be blessed,

  24. I liked the challenges because I didn’t have to think about what project to work on when I get home at night. Now that you have taken that away from me 🙂 I’m afraid I have so many options I might not do anything. Not really, I have enjoyed the community of these challenges as much as anything so I can’t wait to see all the different projects people pick this week.

  25. The first things that come to mind are: putting away the winter/snow clothes that are still out, finishing the last few pages of scrabooking I want done before the baby arrives or floors in bathrooms! Thanks for reminding us to just DO one!

  26. Ooh! Good one. I was planning to hit the rest of the house after the project was over. This week I think I’ll focus on the garage. The weather is nice and I need to tidy up the mess created from winter. Sweep the floors, hang up the shoves, organize the shelf. Then if that goes well (or it gets chilly again), I’ll tackle the coat closet and laundry cabinets.

  27. I am laughing over your one project at a time. I currently have at least 4 organizing projects in all stages of progress. In the meantime the house looks as if someone came through and tore everything off the shelves in a fit of rage. I am in the middle of painting the boys room, organizing the file system in the school room(where my boys are sleeping for now), removing the furniture for the girls room to paint, and working on the basement. I really wanted to follow along with your series and tackle each hot spot but apparently I prefer chaos while working. Perhaps with this week being choose your own, I will finish one of my projects. One can hope. 🙂

  28. Okay…this week I’m “really in”…. 🙂
    Last week I thought I’d get to the pantry/refridge, but it didn’t happen.

  29. I need to finish my kitchen organizing project started last week. There is also the bathroom cabinet that could use a little TLC… thanks for allowing us to catch-up this week, wish there could be more hot spots to keep us going!

  30. Jennie G says:

    My home office. I never did the paper clutter week and that’s what I need the most!

  31. AH! I need structure, someone to tell me where to clean, my brain is short-circuiting! Its like the college essay where the prof. gives no outline and my mind is EMPTY. 🙂 I’m actually really excited about this, I’ll have to think long and hard about this one….

  32. Oh boy! This week I’ll tackle my study corner of the spare room. My desk is crammed with “stuff” that just seems to get moved from one side to the other; my filing tray is so full I can no longer push it into it’s slot; and I even have baskets and bags of “stuff” (like sewing projects, scrapbooking supplies, mementos etc) UNDER my desk… This project has been on my “to do” list for weeks, now I have an incentive to get it done YAY 🙂

  33. Taletha says:

    Hmm… I think this week will be bathroom cabinets and then maybe tackle the bookcases and end table in the office.

  34. struggling with what to pick….I think I will feel most accomplished if I get the bathroom vanities (all 3) and the bathroom closet done. It is hard to do with a 17 month old underfoot (the 4 year old is good at keeping busy) but I am ready for the challenge 🙂 This whole process has been wonderful! Thank you Tsh 🙂

  35. I am going to do my front hall closet and laundry room!

    Warrior MAMA Lisa

  36. Hmmmm, I will let my husband tackle the computer stuff, and I will focus on working on organizing all of my teaching supplies. We live in a small apartment (no extra closet space), and I want to find a way to store all of my papers/games/activities so that it looks beautiful and is easy to access. Any good ideas out there?

  37. I am tackling the junk drawers – we have too many!

  38. Hmm.. I think I’ll tackle my pantry. It’s so disorganized.

  39. Mine is the kitchen. It is always a battle to keep the counters free of mail, toys and other random “non kitchen items” Loving the encouragment. Guess I need to go clean! 🙂

  40. I’m getting a new bed delivered next week! Totally stoked to finally finish organizing my room once I figure out where to put the bed!

  41. I think I’ll do the front entry this week, its time to start thinking about putting away the winter gear and bringing out the spring stuff.. an overhaul is definitely in order there! =)

  42. I just wanted to say thanks for this series! I have been so inspired, I’ve already tackled our bathroom cabinets! And, my wonderful husband cleaned everything off of the surfaces in our bedroom and cleaned them all! Nothing sexier than an organizing husband ; ) I am itching to clean out our basement. Soooo much stuff stored down there that we don’t need. Happy organizing, everyone!

  43. I’m finishing up getting things out of the house from weeks 1 and 3, and more paper clutter sorting! I really love your final thoughts in this post. It was just what I needed to hear! Thank you!

  44. I wiped out the fridge this morning! Finally. 🙂 So nice to open it and see it all clean.

    I’m going to still try to get the winter clothing put away, too!

  45. I have been following this series since you started and have longed to tackle these projects myself but with my full time day job as a teacher and then a full time night job as a mom to my 7 month old, lack of time prevented me from accomplishing anything. Luckily, with my teacher schedule I will be off for a couple months this summer and plan to do my own project simplify at that time. I’ll return to Simple Mom to get my weekly assignment…makes me excited for summer!

  46. I am currently working (in very short bursts of time) in the attic. Lots of stuff that hasn’t been touched in a while up that way–like the boys’ baby clothes, which are making their way to Goodwill tomorrow.

    Time flies!

  47. Even though, this is the very busiest time of year for me work-wise, I took on the decluttering boot camp challenge because my favorite green cleaning products company, Better Life ( offered up weekly prizes and a year’s supply of product as a grand prize for posting before and after photos on their FB page as well. I recently downshifted (quitting one job) so I’ve been looking for ways to save, and this looked like a great two-birds-one-stone kind of deal. It turned out to be such a productive and gratifying experience that I felt I had to reflect on and appreciate you Tsh for how much I accomplished and changed through the process.

    As I tackled each aspect of the boot camp, I realized that my perception of how much time and energy certain projects would take were dramatically longer (and therefore overwhelming) compared to how fast I actually knocked them out. In addition to the weekly hot spots, I accomplished so much more – knocking many nagging items off my to do list that seemed like easy add-ons to the task at hand. In the process, I gained a new found confidence and contentment in my ability to manage my home. So the clutter is clear and the house is clean. I also:

    * Moved my work-from-home office from the kitchen to the basement where I can look out on my garden and keep up with the laundry each day (instead of snacking).
    * Moved my bread maker out of the pantry on to the counter so I can use it weekly instead of buying bread.
    * Let go of oodles of things we don’t need or want. Sold a bunch to pay for our pool pass and other fun things this summer. This was a good lesson in generosity, thrift, and delayed gratification for my kids.
    * Organized a huge stack of recipes so that I can start the eat locally/seasonally/conveniently/affordablly blog that people have been urging me to do.
    * Restrung the clothesline that broke over the winter, and converted my laundry room from my nemesis to my friend. This makes it possible to start cloth diapering again.
    * After moving a year and a half ago, we just now got the real garden in and hung up artwork so we finally feel moved in. Un-hung art and unused garden supplies were part of my clutter.
    * Made lots of sewing repairs and stashed away lots of things destined to be repurposed in crafty ways.
    * Participated in a consignment sale and am preparing for our city-wide garage sale in a couple of weeks.
    * Organized my electronic files. (I am an e-hoarder).
    * Got a lot more efficient at my paying job (adjunct teaching) because I was spending more time on all the other things above.
    * Have a cleaner house everyday because now that everything has a place, all family members are more mindful of where things go.

    Through it all, I focused on my two mantras: “Less stress and more joy,” and “Use what you have to make what you need.” I feel like a got a whole house makeover even though I literally spent nothing – actually made money from the experience. More importantly, with less clutter and more organization, I have a lot less stress and a lot more joyful time spent with my kids. My to-do list is much shorter, and not at all intimidating anymore. And most importantly, I’m much closer to my personal goals of simplicity and self-reliance. Many, many thanks to you for motivating me to do this project, because now my reality is starting to be much closer to my vision of how I want my life to be.

    Oh yeah – and I’m pretty sure I won a year’s supply of Better Life cleaning products ( because I was the only soul smart enough to stick with it for 5 weeks. The name of the product line has never been truer.

    Here’s a link to all my before and after pics.

  48. Well my real-life got in the way of linking up in time 🙁 I did the project but just didn’t have the opportunity to write my blog post in time, so here it is for anyone who may be interested to have a peek:

  49. ok, I know I´m late, but just take a look!

    this has been a awesome project and I am very happy to have joined it. Thank you!

    Sanne from Germany , wife to “Almanzo” , mother of six

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