Project: Simplify ’11: yard sale prep results

With a move date coming up soon, I’ve had boxes and bubble wrap on the brain. It’s meant that during Project: Simplify, my goal hasn’t necessarily been to make our home here work long-term — it’s been to make packing and starting a new home much easier.

So I confess: Part of the reason I made hot spot 5 a free-for-all is because I wanted the excuse to work on my upcoming yard sale. Yep, my focus has been on clearing out storage, decluttering all the little bits here and there, and handling everything in our home so that if it’s not in the yard sale, it’s because we want to keep it.

See, this spring cleaning process with Project: Simplify works for anybody, no matter your specific situation.

Did you just move? You can get started on the right foot by getting rid of things you don’t need before they make dents in the carpet.

About to head out, like us? I don’t have to tell you how helpful it is to not pack up things you don’t need.

Been in your home awhile, and have no plans of leaving?
Well, you know how the clutter can build when you least expect it.

Here’s my work this week, as I prepared for our yard sale.

“Mudroom” area, before:

We don’t really have a mudroom, it’s more what I call, “hooks in the wall as you enter through the back door into the kitchen.” With absolutely no storage here, we created our own storage with hooks from Ikea and a simple metal shelf that serves as Shoe Central.

If we were staying here longer term, I’d invest in a better shelving system — a bigger one, for sure. But we’re not, so I’m just waiting to see what our next place will be like.

I spring-ified the area by boxing up winter coats, scarves, and other cold weather paraphernalia. We haven’t needed those in about two months. All that’s left are what we need to head out the door right now — purse, nursing cover, diaper bag, bag-full-of-reusable-bags, swim gear, kids backpacks, picnic gear, and the gym bag.

We keep our everyday shoes here, since 90 percent of the time we grab these before anything else. We also take our shoes off when we come inside.

And you can witness just how small our place is by the pot rack above the hooks — this is definitely Catch-All Central.

And of course, I added a few items from here to the yard sale stash — a diaper bag, some shoes, and a winter jacket that fits nobody.

Books, before:

These weren’t too bad, I simply needed to reshelve most of them. But I did collect about 10 that I know I won’t read again and tossed them in the yard sale pile.

We keep our books out in the living room, for easy access. And because we don’t have room anywhere else.

Room for more books makes me happy. They’re one of the few things I don’t part with easily.

And if you’re curious, here’s our childrens’ book library, just on the other side of the living room.

I created simple alphabet dividers out of scrapbook paper, making it easy to reshelve in some semblance of order — as long as it’s in the general area, that works for us.

At our next place, I’ll probably create sturdier dividers out of paint stir sticks.

The rest of the yard sale stash

Overall, I mostly purged this week. We don’t have much stuff, but it’s amazing how easy it is to amass things in just one year. Since we plan to move back overseas eventually, we want to keep a tight rein on our belongings.

I had kept a few magazines when we went overseas, for some reason. I never look at these. Out they go.

And oh yes — I kept my Babysitter Club books in storage during our time abroad. I completely forgot about those. I loved them when I was 10, but yeah, they’re more or less twaddle. If you want them, come to my yard sale.

My stash from hot spot #1 is headed that direction, too. So are my maternity clothes and two action packers of kids’ clothes.

These are items prepped for the yard sale, as of 9:26 pm last night. There are two more of these boxes inside, and more are still coming.

Now it’s your turn!

You don’t have to publish as many photos, by any means. Just a simple before-and-after shot is great — as many or as few are perfect, but in order to link up, you do need at least one before and one after photo.

Share your progress by linking below. Click the blue button that says “Add your link,” and follow the instructions. Copy and paste your blog post’s URL (NOT your blog’s home page — it should look like this:, not like this:

If you don’t have a blog, no problem! Submit your photos to the Simple Living Flickr pool, and then come back to link to your ‘before’ photo below. Copy and paste the photo’s URL.

I will leave the link submission space open until the end of Project: Simplify — that’s this Sunday!. To be eligible for this week’s giveaway, you must submit your link before this Sunday, April 10 at noon CST.

And what is this week’s giveaway? Let me refresh your memory…

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.

I can’t wait to see what hot spots you’ve chosen! And whether you’ve done one hot spot or all five, you deserve a major pat on the back. Amazing work, everyone — I hope your homes are a bit saner and more relaxing after the past five weeks. Enjoy your weekend, and join me back on Monday for a fun giveaway!

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.

Encouragement for living simpler, right in your inbox.

We share our stories as we simplify our lives - no guilt-trips, just love.

(no spam, promise. we hate it, too.)


  1. Okay…so I didn’t follow through on the pantry/fridge clean out, but I did clean out our garage/playroom. Feels great! Thanks for the inspiration!!! 🙂

  2. It felt really good to get back after missing last week.

  3. Thank you for the inspiration this past month. I feel like my house is cleaner than it’s ever been.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Do actually have most of the Babysitters Club series still? I wished I had saved all of mine – I know they aren’t exactly Pulitzer material, but I’d like to think my daughter would some day have enjoyed them as much as I did. Unfortunately I live in Australia, so don’t think I’ll be making it to your garage sale. However, if you’ve got the full series and would take a “bulk” rate for them (and wouldn’t mind sending them to my mother’s in WI, I’d obviously pay postage and handling (i.e. your time) I’d be interested!

    • Oh my goodness, I’d love for you to have them, but I “only” have the first 27 books. I think there’s over a hundred or something. So it wouldn’t be the complete set. If you’re interested in those, I may be up for that — no pressure, though. Let me know. 🙂

  5. Silly me put my name as the title of my link. oops.
    Oh well my laundry room is neater and I’ve got one adorable helper. 🙂

  6. Shelly :) says:

    I loved the Babysitters Club Series! Well that and the Boxcar Children. 🙂

    • I read both series too! My old BBSitters Club books are in my parents basement somewhere. They’ll practically be written in ancient lingo by the time my daughter (2 1/2) gets to reading them. I hope she does read them though 🙂

  7. I am not done yet but the boys were great helpers with sorting out their toys. We still need to organize things that they do decide to keep. But I really need to start on my tax tomorrow. Hopefully, it wouldn’t take too long and I may finish with this task in time.

    BTW, thank you for the alphabet dividers idea. But I think I will need full-sized ones so that my kids wouldn’t just push them onto the bottom. I wonder if cereal boxes could work…

    • We used to use video cassette boxes in school for bookcase dividers, you just add a sheet of paper under the plastic cover. it could also work with DVD boxes if you have any spare.

  8. Chose my work bag for my last hot spot – oh, boy, did that need clearing out! Photos are at Now I’m looking forward to seeing what other areas people picked.

    What a great five weeks’ work – thanks once again, Tsh!

  9. Awesome job! I have really enjoyed these challenges:-)

  10. I’m not officially taking part in the challenge because I’m just too sick at the moment but I loved this post. Very inspiring! I’m definitely tackling our mud room today. Thanks!

  11. OH MI GOSH! I remember those Babysitter Club books! I heard they were making a come back… maybe? I probably still have mine stashed away somewhere… in my parents’ basement. Oooh how I would love to dig them out again. Maybe one day, when I have a girl, and I’m not on the other side of the world.

  12. I have the whole series of babysitter club at home in Norway. I am keeping them for my girls to read later. My oldest would probably be able to read them now, but she has to learn more Norwegian first. Yes the babysitter books came out in Norway too, they were my favorites when I was around 10 years old.

  13. Cluttered Mama says:

    My best friend & I were just discussing BSC the other day!! Stacy & her lucky fedoras, Claudia’s Mimi, MaryAnne getting the hot guy… Those books actually inspired my 1st entrepreneurial venture– a thriving babysitting business when I was 10 (yes, in the 80s people let 10 year olds babysit for them!).

    Anyways, getting the linen closet done was great. I keep walking by and peering into it! I have to rachet up our decluttering this week, as I’ve just learned that my sister-in-law is having a garage sale next week, and by golly, I’m gonna sell some stuff!!! I guess “Hot Spot 6” is declutter the house & prep for yard sale!!

  14. Love all the Babysitter Club memories you guys are conjuring up!

  15. Oh my, I simply must know what the blue and brown fabric is in your yard sale basket. I could make something fantastic out of it! I’m in love with those colors. If you wouldn’t mind selling it to me on eBay or similar, I’d make you an offer!

    • Hmm, I think you’re referring to one of my reusable bags (the one in the laundry basket?). If that’s the case, then it’s honestly not for sale 🙂 — I just have stuff in it for taking downstairs to the main yard sale area.

      Here’s the bag, if you’re curious.

  16. Thanks so much for hosting these project link ups. It’s so much fun to see what others are doing and to be able to share what I’m doing as well. You have been such an inspiration in helping me to get my act together and simplify my life. I just bought your book and started reading it last night. It’s so thought provoking. Thanks for all you do!

    Tiffany @ The Nest Effect

  17. So nice to see that others have kept their BSC books. I have all mine and all my other series books I read (SVT, SVH, Pen Pals, and others). I tucked them in a large tote and just can’t bear to part with them. I think the same way, that my daughter can read them when she’s older. At least that’s the excuse I can use now!

    And thank you for the paint stir stick for organizing books. What a great idea!

  18. Here are several things that simplified my life this week:
    – Cleaned inside the fridge.
    – Put away winter coats, hats, boots, etc.
    – Finished sewing projects that covered the dining room table and put away all the things used for those.
    – Dug out the last few baby things (breast pump, changing table) I’ll need here in a couple weeks.
    Feels good!!

  19. Tsh, what’s on board for the next weeks? I’m in a good schedule from doing these weekly clear-outs! I’m going to miss the routine! You must come up with another weekly for us! Now I have to say I’m really surprised you have kept so many books. They are so heavy for moving. I have cleared all except a dozen books – I had one that has been moving with me for 10yrs! My rule for hub & me is read it and send it, and from now on we borrow from the library. Good luck with the yard sale!

    • I totally understand about keeping books. we have a limit, we only keep what will fit in two short ikea bookcases. They don’t take long to pack up and its nice to come back to some things again and again, like seeing an old friend, as well as the reference type books that get dipped into every now and then. I probably have about as many reference books as novels now, novels are easier to get rid of in my case, and if I don’t enjoy a book it doesn’t go back on the shelf it goes onto the donate pile. I’m resistant to e-readers much as I like the idea of space saving, I guess I’m a bit of a bibliophile. We’ve moved 3 times in the last 5 years and have pretty much kept to that limit all that time. I have less control of the kids books, we have a lot of those and I can’t resist buying more, but I will get rid of some periodically as and when my youngest outgrows them.

      • I think it is all about what is important to you. For me, my degrees are in literature, so I think of my books as old friends. Some I need for work, some I keep because I love them. Others– usually my “junk reading” (like Bridget Jones’ Diary or Jemima J as opposed to Shakespeare or Faulkner) I pass along unless I SUPER loved the book. Books are one of the few things that I will never get rid of.

    • As far as the coming weeks — I’m honestly going to take a little break! I’m speaking this Friday, and then I’ve got the yard sale the next day. There will be new content here (look for a good giveaway tomorrow), a couple interviews with authors who have good books coming out, and some other fun stuff on the horizon. If you’re in the mood to keep going, you can use my book’s part two section about a 10-room purging process using a simple declutter, clean, and organize system.

      About the books — we didn’t have libraries where we lived overseas, much less access to a lot of English books. Books are really important to me, particularly with young children in the home. I feel like ready access to a lot of books fosters a lifetime love of both reading and learning. If we were somewhere with a library, I would have relied heavily on it. But since we weren’t, it was pretty much up to us to bring the library to us.

      We’ve hardly bought one book since we’ve been back in the U.S., and we go to the library all the time. But I feel like our children’s books are so quality, there’s no need to get rid of them if we’d just keep checking the same ones out.

  20. I loved The Babysitter’s Club when I was growing up, have to admit. 😀 haha!

  21. I’m happy I got home from vacation in time to participate in the final hot spot!

    This is our art room, previously known as “catch-all”:

  22. I was eying some of your books too! Since my kids are all grown I have shed a few! I see The Big Snow! Loved that one! And we have the very same Chronicles of Narnia! That is a keeper!

  23. Thank you so much for the inspiration for this project…I am not “done” but I’m much closer. I look forward to that peaceful feeling of having a less cluttered home!

    For me the challenge going forward will be to think about what I allow into the home in the first place and to try and take care of things as they come (especially thinking of all of the paper clutter- definitely my biggest challenge). I will need to be more intentional about this.

    I really appreciate all of the thought you put into this project for us!

  24. Love that you have yard sale-ing down to a science. I am about this close to hauling everything stacked in our room to the thrift store.

    The idea of alphabetizing the kids books is great. Ours are grouped but not alphabetized.

  25. I am so happy to have participated in the challenges over the past five weeks. WOW! What a difference…from the very first week of cleaning out my closet (which is still as orderly as when I finished that week) to organizing all the homeschool curricula and books this week, I am relieved and feel a sense of peace when I look at the areas that I’ve done so far.

    My goal is to keep working on de-cluttering and simplifying my home, and tackling at least one new project or area each week. Hopefully, by the end of the year my home will reflect a much more simplified and organized life!

    It’s amazing how caretaking for aging parents and two daughters who have special needs can affect one’s home. I put so many things “on hold” while I’ve dealt with other issues that have needed my attention. No more…I need to make sure that my home is organized and calm…otherwise I’m not going to feel that way!

  26. I have to admit the thought of having a yard sale is fun, but we live in such a tiny place that I didn’t really want to keep anything extra around long enough to have enough stuff for a yard sale. So I make a giveaway box or bag and fill it full, then I donate it to a local organization that will give my stuff to someone who really needs it. We’ll be moving to a bigger house soon, and I think I will just keep giving away the stuff we don’t need. If we have a larger item that we would like to make a little cash on we try to find a buyer for it, before it sits around too long.

  27. Loved that you had last child in the woods by Richard Louv on your shelf. I think its one of those books everyone should read.

  28. Thanks for this challenge! Even though he is deployed, my husband loved seeing via pictures the corner of our bedroom I was able to declutter, and it’s set the perfect tone in our home for getting ready for his return next week.

    Thanks, Tsh!

    • That’s awesome! And I’m glad to hear you’ll have him back soon. Tell him thank you for serving our country for me.

  29. Thanks again for hosing the Project Simplify! It was a lot of fun! I managed to tidy up the corner of the garage this week and I feel so good that the winter shovels and such have a new place to hang. 🙂

  30. I considered myself done on this last hot spot. I just want to thank you once again for having Project Simplify. I first found your book and site from

    Within a week or so, you announced Project Simplify. It gave me just the push to get me started! I hope I could keep the momentum going and finish off other (still many) hot spots in my home and start living simpler. For me, it may be a longer process, given how long I have been messy, but this project and your book has certainly led me to the right direction. Thank you!

    (If anyone who is reading my comment and is interested in helping out a fellow messy person, please stop by my blog and check back on me)

  31. I love the idea of the children’s library. Right now my son is about to be crowded out of his own (admittedly quite small) room due to all the books. We’re not passing along the “baby” ones yet because we’ve got a new baby in the house!
    As soon as we finish loading the last of the CDs onto the computer and then onto the ipod we’re going to move the kid’s bookshelf into the living room with the ‘grownup’ bookshelf 🙂

  32. Hi Tsh! I know I’m a little late but better late than never : ) I worked out our bigges problem area while also tackling my closet and our daughters closet, with some front porch thrown in! Thank you for the encouragement!


  33. i’m still holding onto my babysitters’ club and boxcar children books. have purged many others as of late, though. love the bookshelves.

  34. Enjoyed reading your ideas…especially alphabetizing books..such a simple idea. I’m like you – 5 full bookshelves & I rarely part with them. I actually have a few boxes of books…small boxes…that I am willing to part with. I actually came up with the silliest idea tonight that seemed too simple to have taken so long to put in place. My art room/corner is built outside the house, with a wonderful table my hubby built & two huge windows that someone was throwing away. We enclosed an old deck beside the house into my art room and my library! Hooray…but all the old stuff ended up crammed in my art room – rendering it useless!! No sooner than the last donation drop-off or yard sale – one of my kiddos would be handing me a pile of clothes they couldn’t wear, toys they’d grown tired of…and I’d feel a sense of panic because I had no place to put them. SO…the mud room – that was created in the middle of the house and the deck conversion we did – ok…well…hubby did it…was a mudroom without much storage. He added a few shelves to this room…and presto…I have a place to keep things to get rid of…and it’s already on the way to the driveway. Now – instead of trying to create places to store things – I have a place to keep things I don’t need – and when the shelves are full – it’s time for a yard sale. MUCH better than avoiding getting rid of stuff because I don’t know where to keep it until the next yard sale….woohoo…very happy….and now – I have a science project awaiting to do in my newly emptied art room!!! Thanks for your site – I am enjoying the ideas!

Add Your Thoughts