on de-cluttering to move

Having moved quite a few times in my life (four times to the other side of the world where taking much with me was an issue) plus having been put in charge of moving people out of their longest place of residence twice in one year, I’ve had to go through this process way more than I’d have liked to.

I guess I’m kinda an expert at it. At least I consider myself an expert when it comes to moving myself and my own stuff. Its a lot harder when the stuff belongs to someone else… well easier AND harder. I have no sentimental attachment to someone else’s stuff so its easy for me to pare things down, but I need to take their feelings of attachment into consideration while being practical. Easier said than done at times.

When I’m the one moving or de-cluttering the rules are easy. These rules apply to moving someone else just as well, but the choice on what to keep isn’t mine alone. I can basically distill it down two basic rules:

A. Throw out anything that’s expired or broken.

B. Donate anything that doesn’t fit, you don’t wear, use or need (ie have too much of).

So without further ado, here’s:

Zefi’s Guide to De-cluttering

1. One room at a time, one area at a time.

Don’t get overwhelmed, cause trust me, looking at a whole house that needs emptying is hugely overwhelming. Start one spot at a time. I always start where packing won’t affect my every day life. For example, I start with bookcases. Give away, donate any books, cds, videos, dvds etc that you no longer want. For decorative items use the ‘does it bring me joy’ method. If it doesn’t, out it goes.

As you move from room to room, wardrobe to cabinet, etc anything that is important and moving with you should go into a box, labelled, to take to your new place. Select a corner where you can start stacking ready to go boxes so they are easy to gather when the time comes.

I’ve always began packing way ahead of the moving date when possible so that by the time the removalists (or three friends with a wheelbarrow) arrive I have everything ready to go, even down to the boxes which go in my car and which I’ll need to make the new place livable straight away: coffee, milk, bedding, toothbrush etc

2. Wardrobes, clothes, linens etc

We all have clothes in our wardrobes that we don’t need or even wear. Especially given our current covid restricted lifestyles. Starting with one wardrobe at a time, one drawer at a time, go through with one thing in mind: do I wear this? Anything that doesn’t fit should go. Anything you like but never wear cause it doesn’t sit right or makes your butt look big should go. Frayed underwear – out. Bras with dodgey underwires – out. Socks with stretched elastic – out. Anything with shoulder pads – out. Ok, sure, keep a few skinny clothes in case you lose that weight, and a few fat clothes for those off days, some old t-shirts to wear when painting, but generally you don’t need 50+ jumpers and tops, 4 bathrobes, 6 jackets and coats, work outfits from our previous career and clothes you bought on holiday and never wore since.

Linen and towels are another thing most of us have too much of. How many sheet sets do you need per bed? I think 3 for each bed is more than enough. Maybe 2 for the spare bed. One to have on the bed now, one in the laundry basket waiting for the perfect drying day, and one in the cupboard as a spare just in case. Get rid of old sets and keep the ones you love the most.

Towels we want more than 3 of, but we don’t need to keep any ratty looking or stained ones. Pick the best, maybe even the matching ones, and toss the rest. Donate them to our local dog groomer or animal shelter.

Blankets, doonas, throws and things like that, I guess you know what you need and what you use. Be ruthless. Donate what you don’t need. There are plenty of places that will happily take warm blankets.

3. Cupboards, cabinets and other hidey places

Hall cupboards, bedside tables, cabinets, sideboards, etc. These places are usually crammed full of stuff. Again tackle these one at a time, starting with those you use the least. Chances are there are things in those places you forgot you owned, and fact is, if you forgot you owned them you probably don’t need them. Start there. Toss out old remotes you no longer have the TV for, chargers for old phones, anything that no longer works. Toss out old business cards and anything that’s no longer valid. Gather photos, photoframes and albums and deal with them separately. Those are a whole ‘nother story which goes under ‘sentimental value items’.

4. Bathroom

My favourite room to declutter cause its the easiest. First thing you do is toss out anything that’s expired. Go through your medicine cabinet and throw out expired pills etc. Ditto with your make up, hair care and body care products. Throw out old sample packs, remants of body washes and conditioners. Give away perfume you don’t use or just throw it away.

Seriously, if you’ve never done this you have no idea how freeing it is. I’m not saying be wasteful, give away things of value, but things not being used are wasted anyway and you don’t need the clutter.

Look at old brushes, curling irons, hair dryers, etc. Anything you no longer use, you no longer need. It should go. Same with anything that doesn’t work. Once that’s all gone you can pick and chose what you keep from what’s left.

5. Kitchen

A daunting job on its own but one I find easy enough. Even though this will most likely be the last room you tackle if you’re moving, you only need to leave out the basics you need daily. Start with the pantry and throw away any food items which have expired. Do the same in the fridge. That alone will make you feel brand new!

Then you can start tackling the cupboards. Throw away any chipped or stained cups, glasses or dishes. Get rid of any plastic containers that are stained, cracked or have lost their lid. You don’t need dirty old tea towels. No one needs a million empty jars or empty take away containers. Most of that can be donated or recycled.

Then there’s the utensil drawer, you know the one with the mess of ladles, spatulas etc. I once read a suggestion on how to deal with this drawer if you’re too chicken to just go through it cold turkey. Get a cardboard box and put it on the counter. Empty the drawer contents into the box. Every time you use an item from the box, put it back in the drawer. Get rid of everything that’s still in the box 1-2 months later.

6. Garage, sheds and other places

Follow the same two basic rules. If its expired, broken or you don’t use it, get rid of it. Chances are whatever you’ve got in storage out in the garage or shed isn’t something you need – if you needed it it wouldn’t be out in the shed, in a box gathering dust on a top shelf. For the things in the shed that you DO use, box them up and label them for the move.

7. Sentimental stuff

Of course this is the sticky bit. Those boxes of things which belonged to your parents, children, your own childhood etc. We all hold onto things for from our past and its hard to let it go most of the time.

I’ve gone through my own stuff many times over the years. And as I’ve gone through them again and again, I find I’m ready to part with things now that I’d held onto in years past. This time round I finally threw out all correspondance except that from family, mainly my dad. All my other letters (and I had TONS) are gone. I no longer need to hold onto letters from people I corresponded with who I lost touch with years ago.

What I suggest is to get rid of what you can and keep what you absolutely can’t part with. You don’t have to keep every teddy bear you ever owned for instance, keep your favourite(s) and rehome the rest. Gather all your photos and put them in boxes. Maybe down the track you can have them scanned, but if you’re like me, you’ll still want to hold on the prints. And if you’re like my mom and aunt, you’ll have a million framed photos on every wall and every flat surface in the house. My plan for this is to go through all frames and photos, select what to keep framed or re-frame and create gallery wall areas for mom in the new apartment, then put the rest in photo albums for her. AFTER I sort through all the other stuff in the house.

There is so much stuff. Which I plan to reduce by at least half.

Then again I am ruthless. I’ve had to be since I’ve had to sell or give away almost everything I owned at least twice in my life. Its not easy. I am a collector of stuff. I collect things I like and I collect things for creative purposes. Its not easy for me to give up holding onto things I WILL use one day, so I try to compromise. I keep less of everything so I have room for the things I need to create.

Hope this is helpful to anyone facing this daunting task.


grade school autographs

One of the best (and worst) things about packing up a house you/your family has lived in for 50 years is finding things you held onto, thinking you’d value them so you couldn’t get rid of them.

Well, I’ve found a ton of stuff. Some mine, some my brother’s, a ton of mom’s. Not so many of Dad’s things.

Among my things was a little autograph book from when I finished Junior High – Ursuline School in Athens.

The poor little book was falling apart but I photographed the autographs for posterity. A lot of these people I don’t remember or have lost touch with over the years, some I’m lucky enough to still have in my life.

One thing I always say is that I never win things. As in luck. I have won lots in my life, but always for work I’ve done. This was the second thing I won in my life – an essay competition.

That same year I won a drawing competition for an animal welfare society with a poster showing a puppy who just wanted a loving home. We never got the poster back. Mom still laments its loss.

The stack in my old bedroom.

Today was another day of packing and stacking. Well emptying cupboards and piling up things for mom to sort through. I am trying to be ruthless but you know mothers… I have to make sure I’m not giving away anything she wants to keep. So I piles tuff for her to check out. And only toss out what is obviously not worth keeping.


labels on cubbies

The other day I finally got around to making up some labels for the little boxes and cubblies I store odds and ends in. You may remember the hotel key box I made little drawers for, and the little boxes I bought from a bargain store in Athens. The idea being that I’d get my bits and pieces out of the suitcases in my bedroom and into spots that I could get at them easily (without having to lug suitcases out and dig through tons of stuff).

I basically wanted something similar to the cheap little cubby drawers I had in Australia. They were SO handy, so cute. Its one of the things I regret not keeping, but at the time I thought “they’re just chipboard and cardboard… why ship them to Greece?” … Well… cause you can’t get them here, that’s why! sigh…

The idea was great, till I realised I now have too many little drawers to memorise where things were. Its pretty time consuming to open every single little drawer to find what I’m looking for.

So I made up labels in an old typewriter font on my computer, printed them on plain white paper… glued the paper onto a thin sheet of cardboard, stained them with a used tea bag, then cut them into small tags. I then used a single hole punch to enable me to hang them off the drawers. I needed to be able to change tags when/if I changed contents of a drawer, but also didn’t want to hide the old magazines glued on the little cubby drawers.

I’m liking my little dangly tags. I put them on everything. Well, ok, not everything, there are still some drawers with nothing in them and some without tags cause I forgot to make a tag for that particular drawer…

But I’m getting there. That’s the take away I’m holding onto for this. I did something constructive.

Cause lord knows I needed to feel I achieved something some days. Every time I try to do something most of the time I get knocked back to square one. For instance:

I went to get money out of the bank for mom and discovered I hadn’t activated the card I got for her. Back to the start on that. A visit to the bank is necessary.

I went to pay my rates and found I need to change my PIN. All very well and thankyouverymuch greek bank for forcing people to change their pins every month… but when you can’t get it done easily on your phone using the app cause you need to go into a bank, log onto web banking (but haven’t set it up) or whatever… yep. Back to the drawing board on that too. A visit to the bank necessary.

I went to apply for a new greek passport. I need stuff I haven’t got. Still waiting on getting all that sorted.

I went to book a new ticket to Denmark (the trip that seems will never happen) cause they cancelled my flight, only to discover I needed to apply for a voucher. Did that. Got it. Now I’m not sure I’m going, or if I am, when…


Is it any wonder I need the occasional win?


cheap cubbies makeover

Here I am. Still alive.

And barely crafting.

I’ve done a few small things lately, and one not so small and pretty stupid. But more about that later.

Here is one of my small projects. I bought 4 of these little babies from Kmart, but a smaller version with 9 drawers.

They’re just mdf and cardboard. Cheap.

I thought they’d make perfect storage for all the little crap things I like to keep around. Like buttons, crystals, beads, small found objects.
You know. The kind of stuff that fills small containers which collect in larger boxes or fill drawers and cupboards and when you need something, you know you have one but you can’t find it anywhere cause you’re sure it was in a small plastic jar with a red lid, but where did I put it, I was sure it was in the box under my desk…
Or is that just me?
ANYWAY, the little cabinets have to be glued together and painted. I picked one of my miss-tint sample paint pots for the cabinet colours, a kind of warm grey. It goes with both the tones of scrapbook paper I also bought for the drawers.

One set of cubbies are already full, the other is still waiting for me to get around to it. They’ll live in the office where they’ll (theoretically) make looking for things easier.

Here’s a closeup of a tin and wire fish made by Wayne. Cute isn’t it?

So, back to the stupid big thing I did? Well a couple of weeks ago I decided I was sick and tired of the swamp in the back corner of our yard and knew that if I dug a trench I could redirect the water from the yard.

It seemed easy enough. The ground was really soft due to all the rain…

But afterwards I was sore.

I’m still sore.

Every time I think I’m better I’ll do something – like get some wood for the fire, pick up a bag, get a cup of tea, get up – and the pain is back. I’m walking like a bent old woman.

Meanwhile Wayne is in hospital. He’s had spinal surgery. It went well but he’s out of action for a while and I’m keeping busy. I have all the animals to take care of, work, hospital visits. If I wasn’t sore I’d be taking advantage of his absence to remodel the bathroom or paint the living room.


So I amuse myself with small things, like these drawers.

At least they’re handy.


small things big impact – the bathroom gets cleaned out

Day 8 – breathing space in the bathroom
Nothing much to show for today… but I did clean the bathroom. Its been months. Seriously. I’d clean the sink and shower but things just piled up on all the surfaces… today I went in there and gave it a good clean and tidy. I even went through the medicine cabinet and my makeup and tossed out anything that was old and not used.
Except for my perfume. I don’t use it often but I do love it when I do.
Since our bathroom is a disgrace, I’m only sharing tiny bits of it at once cause its like the funniest joke in the world (according to Monty Pythons Flying circus). You can only be shown one bit at a time for your own safety.
Above are my wire ducks. Love those things. They hold soap bars on the middle shelf I put up a couple of years ago.

The bottom shelf holds two wire baskets I got from… you guessed it! A tip shop! They hold hand towels and bathmats.

Or they do when I do the washing…

The top shelf holds my collection of bottles. Most of them are old bottles I dug up from a corner of my yard in Fentonbury.

Below the shelves, in the corner the bathtub used to be in, is a big square basket I’m using as our laundry basket. I lined it (badly) with some grain sacks. One day I’ll get some ticking and do a better job.

A little air plant lives in a tiny galvanised planter given to my by a friend. The fat pig is a Chinese good luck symbol.

At least that’s what I was told.

I have quite a few old tins in the bathroom, and a few enamel mugs. The tins are purely decorative but I use the mugs. I also use the old wooden caddy to keep stuff looking tidy. (It only works till we use the bathroom next).

Wayne keeps his stuff in the old timber medicine cabinet I refinished years ago.

The rest of the little tin collection sits on top of the medicine cabinet. This cabinet was in the office (which was a bedroom back then) when we bought the house. How odd.

All in all, I feel better about our ugly bathroom. I threw out a bag of stuff and its much less cluttered.