I’m a strong starter

By Mir
August 12, 2008

Something has been niggling at me ever since yesterday, and I just have to get it out of the way before I can move on. I’m sorry, that’s just how I am. Ask anyone! And yet, the words “let it go” pass my husband’s lips so often, you’d think his 19 years of knowing me and my utter INABILITY to let it go were just a figment of my imagination.

Okay, so here it is: There were so many comments on yesterday’s post, and that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, but I would say that approximately HALF of you insisted that the clothing sorting is best done when the children are absent. And I just want to ask y’all, mom to mom, woman to woman: ARE YOU ON CRACK?? Or—okay, there could be another explanation—do you have life-sized cardboard cut-outs of your children? While I can (and sometimes do) spirit away disgusting clothing when I handle the laundry, an essential part of the Closet Cleanout is the TRYING ON. Sometimes my children grow several inches overnight, and sometimes the correct-length pants are too big around even with the buttonhole elastic cinched tight, and sometimes tween girls inexplicably develop HIPS. I’m just sayin’.

Phew. Thanks for letting me get that out. I was really baffled, all day yesterday. Are my children freaks? (Possibly. You know, now that his hair is shoulder-length, Monkey looks more like a mop every single day, in every possible way. A skinny mop with beautiful eyelashes and dimples.) Am I uncommonly bad at judging their sizes? (Probably.) Do I just buy stuff on clearance and put it in the closet and then take it out and really have no idea whether it’s going to fit yet? (Yes. Please see the previous question.)

I mean, I don’t have an issue with tops being too big—both kids often prefer that, anyway, and sleeves can always be rolled—but pants are the bane of my existence. And they’ve already exceeded the quota of small children running around with their underwear showing at the kids’ school, thanks. I just really require that things be tried on. But those of you who can accomplish all of this without the kids, rock on with your bad selves.


Despite my bitching about it (really, what DON’T I bitch about?) (shut up), something like the Closet Cleanout is the sort of thing I secretly love, because it’s a manageable, self-contained activity. It can be accomplished in less than an afternoon and I don’t need anyone’s help (well, other than the kids) and when it’s complete, I have something to show for it (clean closets!) and I feel productive.

Basically, I start it, and before I run into any obstacles or lose interest, it’s done. My kind of project!

I submit the following examples of things which are perhaps NOT my kind of project:

Laundry. Oh, I like to have clean clothes. Who doesn’t? But really, by the time I’ve sorted and washed and folded two or three loads, who has the time or energy to actually put that stuff away? I mean, I would, but I’ve got other things to do, man. I already WASHED it; am I supposed to do EVERYTHING around here??

Gardening. Remember all of those “check me out, I grew food!” posts? Oh yeah. I was rockin’ the garden. We were eating fresh and lovin’ it. Well, the jalapenos and banana peppers are slowing way down, and the tomatoes are nearly done, and it’s possible that I forgot to go water for a day. Or two. Maybe four; look, I don’t know, I WAS BUSY. And then all of my basil wilted and scorched and I am a BAD BAD BASIL MOMMY. I’m ashamed. Truly.

School. Hey, I popped right up at 6:00 for the first three days of school. I fixed breakfasts and packed lunches and smiled and encouraged. So maybe today (the fourth day) I turned off my alarm and fell back asleep. I think that’s… ummm… okay, fine, it’s PATHETIC, but did I mention the first three days when I was all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed? Oh, wait. I’m always bushy-tailed. Damn hair. Well, look, I got up and fixed breakfast and lunches today, too, I was just, um, a little sleepier and a little more harried. Sheesh.

The dining room. Um, please assume that the dining room project and the five billion steps in redoing the walls represents one of my finer moments in follow-through history. I mean, I did it. It’s done. Well, mostly. See, the ROOM ITSELF is lovely, and if I tallied up all of the hours I spent working in there I would need a very stiff drink, so REALLY, I count this one as a win. Um, except for the part where all of my china is STILL packed up from my move of over a year ago, because I need to buy a china cabinet. And I said that I was waiting until the new floor went in and the walls were done. And now the new floor is in and the walls are done and I seem to still be cabinet-less, somehow. Huh. That’s weird. Hey! Look over there—something SHINY!

And the pièce de résistance:

The family room. (Are we seeing a trend, here…?) So, like any person who just spent my children’s college fund on hardwood floors and installation, I knew that the next logical step was to buy a rug to cover up said wood floors. (HAHA! Isn’t that funny? But I don’t want cold feet in the winter, plus I wanted a little bit of color in the middle, plus I’m a moron. So.) Look, it’s a pretty big room, and an area rug in the center would just be the perfect finishing touch, right?

First I did nothing. And then I started shopping. One day, I came home with some Wall Art. It gets capital letters when it’s made of metal and seems sort of fancy, even though I got it for pocket change at TJ Maxx. Shhhh, don’t tell. We still didn’t have a rug, but I made Otto hang up that there wall art. Because we are fancy.

But I still needed to find a rug.

So I showed Otto approximately thirty-seven different possible rugs online and he had opinions on maybe the first six and then just started seizing whenever I swiveled my computer screen in his general direction, the lightweight. I looked and looked and compared and contrasted and in a RARE FIT OF PRODUCTIVITY AND FOLLOW-THROUGH I went ahead and ordered a rug.

Now, I’d been shopping for a long time, and I felt really good about my purchase. I ordered a really nice hand-tufted wool rug (from here, actually, which has become one of my favorite places to get home stuff because their prices are dirt cheap but the stuff is actually nice) that cost me about a buck fifty. Well, no, okay, it cost a LITTLE more than that, but not much. And the only size they had left was 8.5 x 11, only it was still much cheaper than the smaller rugs I’d been looking at, so I went ahead and got it.

It was delivered a few weeks ago, and sat against the wall in the family room while I tried to remember to buy a rug pad. And then! One day! I bought a pad! But Otto was away and I had started measuring and I realized something. 8.5 x 11 is REALLY QUITE LARGE. So large, in fact, that I would need to move some of our furniture to properly place this rug. So I had to wait for Otto to return.

Otto came back and eventually we moved the furniture and started laying out the rug pad and the carpet itself. And that’s when I realized that this mammoth rug was possibly the dumbest thing I’d ever bought, as we ended up putting furniture over at least half of it. Wait. Maybe that was INTENTIONAL to protect the wood floor! Yeah, that’s it. Wow, I am so smart.

And so it came to pass that a few days ago Otto and I were sitting in the family room, admiring how the rug is nice and cushy and matches the copper wall, and how the wall art on the OPPOSITE wall also picks up the copper tones, and how the wood is so pretty and the room is really feeling nice and cozy and all.

“But we still need a clock for over there,” I suddenly remembered. Otto may have snorted at me.

For some reason, I just don’t think he’s holding his breath on that.


  1. Megan

    Dusting. Dusting dusting dusting. HATE dust but hate more that a day after I dust it’s dusty again and also hate that I have to moooooove everything and… and…

    Oh, and my need-to-finish bit at the moment is the entertainment armoire which I’ve shopped for for… gee… only a year now! But I’m almost there, really I am. Of course your post now reminds me that I really would like a nice rug for the living room…

  2. Leandra

    You know, a room is an ever evolving thing. It’s not truly ever finished. Tell Otto.

  3. Crisanne

    Laundry and the kitchen. I mean, could we just take a few days off from wearing clothes and using dishes??!!?? They kill me.

    And I must have my kids around for trying on things, though I do a pre-sort to weed out things that I’m either tired of seeing or know won’t fit but someone will insist on trying.

  4. Em

    Regarding the kids clothes, I do it based on numbers. If its winter and you are a 4, all of the 3’s and summer 4’s go away. It has to be that way for me. It isn’t the most efficient and I am sure they miss out on some wear of some clothes but I don’t want it being an ongoing project.

    Also, as someone who moved in Nov ’05 and STILL has nothing the walls of most of the rooms (only the kids’ rooms and the room my husband did), I don’t see what you’ve done wrong. You procrastinated a couple of weeks? You are still years ahead of some of us hard core avoiders. Good for you, I say! And everything matches? Bonus! Let’s not discuss the curtain situation, its a sore subject.

    When we moved, I fell in love with a coffee table that opened on a hinge (not the table top kind, it was more like a trunk but on short legs). It was $300. I waited until I had an extra $300 which didn’t happen and when I finally got sick of not having a coffee table and decided to just buy it already, it was discontinued and I haven’t been able to find anything similar enough. My whole life is a cautionary tale.

  5. suburbancorrespondent

    I think people meant not having the kids around until you had made a pile of clothes that need to be tried on. That way, you can get rid of outgrown favorites without all the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

  6. Heidi D

    I’m with you on the jeans.
    I’m not sure why it took me until my son was seven (this was last year) to discover that Target has jeans with the adjustable waist (I think they’re by Wrangler) But now that I have, that’s ALL I’m buying for my very skinny boy, who seems to keep growing throughout the year and the jeans I bought just a MONTH ago are now too short.
    But if I were to buy a bigger size to allow for length, the waist would be huge. So I buy a size 10 slim and adjust the waist until it fits (we tried belts and that’s a whole new problem). And they’re reasonably priced at about $8-$12 over here.

  7. laurie

    didn’t comment yesterday BUT I would have been with the 50% who does it with NO KIDS. I forfeit the perfect fit for the FITS. (that is a great sentence!) I can’t even throw my child’s toothbrush away without her taking it out of the garbage and then hiding it behind the bookshelf.

  8. Otto

    I will gladly studiously study every proposed rug, wall ornament or floor sample you propose as soon as you sit with me as we decide on the next tread pattern, rubber compound and DOT ratings for a set of car tires we might buy.



  9. Mandee

    I hate laundry with the heat of 10,000 suns.

    And I was cursing myself this weekend for not getting a runner down just inside my front door as soon as I refinished my floors. It’s such a well worn path that I think I’m now going to have to replace a couple of boards. Anybody got a source for narrow heart pine planks from the ’30’s? I think the rug is a great call.

  10. Karen

    It takes me months and months to make choices when it comes to room decor and finishes. You go girl, you have hard wood, rugs and wall hangings. I’m still trying to decide on a paint color and what style of this will be.

  11. Kate

    The problem I have with the closet thing is, my girls fall instantly in LOVE with too-small clothes they’d never shown an ounce of interest in. But, all I usually have to do is point them towards something shiny and they move on. Worst. Job. Ever. In my opinion, of course.

  12. Holly

    Starting projects. Yeah, I’m great at that. Finishing? Now that’s a different story – no where NEAR as exciting as planning/beginning a project. Finishing requires cleaning up and boring stuff like that. SO much more fun to take a sledgehammer to a wall than to clean up the dust! :-)

  13. Melisa

    My pet peeve is the kitchen island/junk magnet. I clear it every day and do you know what? That sneaky junk finds its way back to the kitchen and SITS right on that counter again. And mocks me.

  14. TC

    I do make the kids ATTEND Closet Cleanout, and I DO make N try the clothes on (which is why it takes a week of doing it one section at a time–and many, many bribes–because for SOME REASON 7-year-old boys don’t LIKE trying clothes on. What is UP with that?). But my just-about-to-turn-11-year-old Em? Every time she leaves the house in a shirt that’s too tight across her…oh, let’s face it, she now has…breasts, I get an extremely sharp pain right in my midsection. Every time she puts on a pair of shorts that rides up too high or accentuates her backside, there goes that pain again! So, when it’s time to do her clothes, all I do is have her hold up each item, and I wait for the pain. Pain? Goodbye item. No pain? Good until the spring Closet Cleanout! Easy!

  15. Katherine

    I make the kids try on pants, but I do a presort. I compare the lengths of pants and sort them into similar length piles – usually ends up with 3 or 4 piles. I have kid try on a pair from a middle pile. If it fits, then anything in pile(s) of shorter pants are obviously too short. Then, depending on how correct/long/short that pair is I have the boy try on a few more pairs. Usually 5 or 6 pairs is all either of my kids will stand to try on, so I do the best I can with that and instruct them on where to put pants that are too big (back in box in closet) or small (in hall so I can sort to donate/consign). It does often mean that there will be 1 or 2 pairs that are not a good fit still, but rarely more than that.

  16. Katie in MA

    Ooh, Mir, you’ve got him! All you have to do is sit there for a few hours, nod, agree with everything he says, throw in a comment or two, and then distract him (I’ll leave those details up to you). ;) Then you’ve got him as your Personal Assistant for Home Decoration for years!

  17. Fiona

    I’m a bad basil mommy too.

    I remember the horror / agony of the closet clean out. As the oldest of 4 kids who out grew the hand-me-down chain… well I got to schlep the bags from the attic, and see my favorite clothes passed down over and over. Oh and fight tooth and nail that “These jeans are NOT too tight! I LIKE them that way”

    Happy hunting for the clock!

  18. Deputy's Wife

    I marched myself right over to that rug place. Because I have been looking for a rug for over a year. Yes, a year. I have issues when committing to something like this. Thanks for pointing me there. They have nice rugs at nice prices!

    Also, I so agree with you on the clothes thing. I think the kid needs to be there to clean out closets.

  19. Randi

    Wait – I’m backing up to Otto’s comment about treads and tires…dude…it doesn’t snow down there, right?! So what do you need to worry so much about treads for?!

    Try living in Vermont – you learn a LOT about treads then!

  20. Vicki

    I think Otto’s comment is priceless! He makes a good point.

    I have the opposite problem. My hubby has to have his opinion about everything that comes into the house. He drives me nuts. I can’t buy anything decorative without his approval first. Of course, on most things we have the same taste so it goes pretty easy. Its just the damn deerhead that I can’t stand…ICK!!

  21. Linda

    Otto is funny! I would love to be a fly on the wall at your place. What a hoot?!

    And…I am with you, Mir. I make my kids attend the closet cleanout session. It is a lot of crying, whining, yelling, and laughing. I devote one entire Saturday afternoon to clearing out drawers/closets once a year. My mother did it to me, so alas…I too must carry on the torture! heh heh

  22. Astrogirl426

    Dearest Mir,

    Might I make a tiny suggestion? There are two options here. Option One: Take Otto up on his offer, making sure that beforehand, you consume approximately 3 large margaritas (in my case, 3 large glasses of wine). Trust me, after that, studying tread patterns and rubber compound will be So. Much. Fun.

    Option Two: Play dirty. 3 minutes into the discussion of aforementioned tire characteristics, look deep into his eyes, lean in close, and say, in your throatiest voice, “Honey, you’re so sexy when you talk treadware ratings.” I guarantee all discussion of tires will stop for at least an hour. More if he’s good .

    Oh, and… studiously study? Boy, they’ll let just about anyone be a professor at that college, hmmm? lol

  23. Tj

    My garden is full of weeds, and my pretty little flowers are wilted – not my falt I swear, damn this sunny California weather! On top of that, our house is trashed. We’ve been here for going on 4months and we’re still not fully unpacked. Yeah, I’d say I’m in the same boat.

  24. Damsel

    I’ve repeatedly threatened to those for whom I wash clothes that one day we shall all walk around NAKED for a couple of hours just so I can know what it feels like to have laundry DONE. *sigh*

    And… PICTURES of said rug/wall/Wall Art… please!?!?

  25. Jackie@agsoccermom

    Otto is so funny. But wait I bought the car tires last. But it was ok, cuz the hubster took the daughter shopping for clothes. I hate shopping and they love it. I also don’t do closet clean out. I give daughter a bag and she fills it up. Son just grows out of it and I dispose of it with the laundry method. If he can’t find a favorite item, it must be in the laundry I tell him.

  26. Terri

    Why, yes, I am on crack, thanks for asking. Because my childrens’ closets contain not only clothing that they’ve outgrown over the past season but also tubs of hand-me-downs that I have to go through before shopping. Several years ago I organized them into color-coded tubs according to gender, but they tend to migrate.

    I am SO organized that said tubs are still in MY room waiting to be put back into the daughter’s closet after the LAST seasonal switch-out. Yes, that was a mere 5 months ago, but what can I say, it’s been a busy year. I try to go through first without the kids and weed out all the items I know are too small, and then have the kids try on pants, dresses and items which are in my “unsure” pile. That’s the plan, at least.

    As for home-improvement projects, I still have my list of incomplete projects from last August. Sadly, most are still on that list. I wish I could blame it all on my busier-than-usual year, but there’s no point. I’m a hopeless procrastinator.

    Good luck! Maybe when you finish yours, you can come finish mine!

  27. Nancy R

    Otto, my husband’s reponse would be, “That’s ‘design’.” He claims to take care of all things that fall under ‘function’.

    And then I say, “Yeah, but you have to live with it too.”

    Mir, how cold does it actually get in Georgia? Can they live in shorts or capri’s year-round?

  28. tuney

    Mir, you amaze me with your productivity. I just cleaned out my freezer and found stuff dated…oh, wait. The health dept might come see me if I put it in print. Never mind.

    Mandee, there’s a little place near me in south GA that buys old houses and barns and mills the lumber. I am sure you could find what you need in a place like that. If you’re interested, lemme know.

    Nancy R, it does indeed get chilly in GA… in the teens at night sometimes. Granted, it doesn’t LAST long, but winter does visit. :)

  29. David

    Hear, hear, Otto! =)

  30. Ani

    Took me four years to put anything on the windows and walls. And then? We only did it because we were SELLING the house (and we are STILL selling the house, and we live in another state now).

  31. Barbara

    And I am in the crowd that was thinking – that’s my life! while reading about the great-annual-sift of children’s clothes. I’ll bet the ones who make the clothing decisions without the children are over-controllers. I’m just sayin’….

  32. Claudious

    Projects I most start in my home, unpacking, it’s been almost a year and there are still far too many boxes still full.

  33. Andrea

    I also hate laundry. But what is it about this time of year because all I want to do is get rid of all my stuff. I want to have less clutter and really be a minimalist. But, alas, I have too much CRAP for that. My kids have way too many toys – yet when I sit down to purge them – it is me who has the attachment to them … oh he played with this for 2 minutes last week and he may want to do it again in the next 3 months so how can we get rid of this? I feel this way several times a year – it is as if I am pregnant and have that nesting feeling…yet I am not pregnant, nor that huge amount of energy you get to make sure it all gets done when you are pregnant. So there I sit – in the middle of my clutter, wishing upon all hopes that either (1) my husband hires some organizer to come and help deal with it or (2) I magically get picked for some reality show that cleans up your clutter and redoes your house in the process! Yeah – I don’t think either of that will happen. So I think I will just complain about it for a while.

    And for the Closet Clean-up. Right now i do it without the children but like you – I love doing it. My kids are much younger (4 1/2 and 9 mos) so really I can tell if it will fit by sight. I do like your method and hope I will remember it when the kids get older.

  34. yasmara

    Someone above mentioned sorting pants by similar lengths. That’s basically what I do with my 3 year old – I find a pair of pants (or a shirt) that fits him and then measure everything else against it. Old stuff that’s shorter/smaller goes in the save-for-younger-brother bin and new stuff that’s only a little bigger gets put in the drawers. New stuff that’s a lot bigger goes back into the storage bin in the closet. Voila – kid has only tried on two or three items of clothing but I’ve sorted everything.

  35. Jenine

    What I do when I’m trying to winnow out kids’ clothes (with the kids absent, please) is to have one well-fitting outfit as reference point. I notice that those new pants are fitting K just right, so I set them out. I measure all the other pants by the well-fitting pair, weeding out the little ones. Good luck with all your future sorting / home project pursuits.

  36. BooMom

    I weed ’em out like Yasmara and Jenine. Boy stand still long enough to try ON clothes?? Pffft – not happenin’.

  37. alala

    My particular weak spot is any chore that my kids can come along and undo WHILE I’M STILL DOING IT. Which is pretty much all of them, so I think I’ll give up housework. That should free up plenty of time for drinking.

  38. Lori - another?

    I love laundry! Sitting and sorting, pushing buttons on the new Duet that holds 16 pairs of jeans and a week’s worth of towels, and then watching tv while stacking up neat, folded piles of clothes… Oh yeah, until I decide that each child should be able to put their own piles in drawers, because I SORTED! WASHED! DRIED! FOLDED! And do I have to do everything around here? However, my 9 & 5 year olds have to wait til Dad loses patience before closets get cleaned. I’m too much like Andrea–isn’t that the pink puppy from Aunt Betsy? And that plastic purse has Tinkerbell on it! And so on…

  39. Lisa

    I just returned from a trip and there is laundry everywhere! Blah!

    Kids MUST be present on closet clean out day! And it goes the same way in my home. With the exception of people walking in. It is pure torture.

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