A Knitter’s Guide to Decluttering

Or, as it is known in knitting parlance, decreasing.

There are several different decreases available to the knitter, and each one gives us a different idea for how to downsize and declutter.

K2tog (knit two together)
A simple decrease: if you have two the same, get rid of one. Or as John the Baptist put it,  whoever has two coats should give one to someone who has none (Luke 3:11). Martin of Tours went one better and divided by two despite starting with only one.

Wilwisheim StMartin 40-03This decrease also works if you have two things that, while different, can serve the same function. Chuck out your garlic crusher; keep a knife.

P2tog (purl two together)
This decrease works very much like the K2tog; except that you approach the stuff from a different angle. Change your perspective (whether physically or mentally) and see what looks unnecessary from there.

K3tog (or P3tog)
This decrease is also on the same principle as the K2tog, except you start with triplicates instead of duplicates. It can also be extended to quadruplicates or quintuplicates if you really have far too many of something.

Sl1, K1, psso (slip one, knit one, pass slipped stitch over)
This is a good decrease for those who enjoy rearranging their furniture: move things around and you will see your excess more clearly.

Daniel Hochsteiner
Why do I need more x than will fit in that shelf? Why have I kept that pile of y all these years? If I got rid of the z, then I could have my abc here to hand…

Sl1, K2tog, psso (slip one, knit two together, pass slipped stitch over)
This is a decrease that looks very complex and impressive, but is really just a combination of two of the preceding methods. Take it step by step and you will find you have made twice the reduction.

P2tog tbl (purl two together through back loops)
This is the decrease that looks impossible at first glance. I mean, how could I… I’d have to…. No, I don’t think I can. But give it a go (watch your tension), don’t give up, and you’ll be surprised at what you actually can do.

Drop stitch
This is an extreme form of decrease, to be sure. It will leave a hole, and may have spreading consequences… Drop-stitch shawl - corner…and yet for all that, it may produce a more beautiful result. Always providing, of course, that it is done intentionally.

What decreases do you use? Have I missed some? Please share in the comments!

Advertisements

Round 3: Knock-Out!

Or to relieve your feelings, kick-out (the Marquess of Queensberry need not apply. Nasty fellow).

Today we are going to be executing a purge in that room of waking hours, the living room. I have never understood why FlyLady puts the living room in the fifth week of the month with her zones, thus ensuring that it almost never gets a full week’s worth of attention.

SadHousewifeI don’t generally need a whole week each month to declutter and clean my bathroom, for example. The bathroom in the house we’re moving to is about 2×3 metres (if so much) and contains one bath, one basin (hanging on the wall) and one toilet. Storage is limited to a small cupboard built into the wall, and the windowsill. Of course, since that’s the only bathroom in the house, I could call it the “master bath” (Zone 4) and give the living room some more time and why didn’t I think of that before?

The living room in our new house will serve us for workspace (we both work at home), relaxation area, entertaining area and book storage. It is the largest room in the house. It needs to be. Half a week is not enough.

Today, however, we are going to have a stab at the stashes of stuff that build up in that most-used of rooms. What you have in your living room depends on what you use it for. Besides furniture you may have books, “media”, games, hobby stuff, paperwork, collections, magazines/newspapers, and items left on display such as photos, china and little decorative doodads. And that’s before we venture into any storage areas the room might have.

Fibber McGee and Molly closet photo 1948So feel free to adapt my suggestions to suit your own circumstances.

First up, the media. CDs, DVDs, LPs, videos, cassette tapes… Yep, I have all of these, although I must admit that the older a technology is the more likely it is that I have recently pruned it. That said, I’m sure there are a few items I could do without packing, moving and unpacking again. Let’s see what fifteen minutes can do.

I scored: one DVD, one video, 4 cassette cases (no idea what happened to their contents), 4 CDs and 10 LPs. Total of 20, and a relatively painless extraction at that. Phew – and onwards!

Next up: the books. Of which we have a great many. I haven’t counted them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they ran into the four digits. A large percentage of them were bought second-hand, which should make them easier to move on – but on the other hand also makes them easier to acquire, because they cost less. Still, there’s no use keeping a book you aren’t going to read again, unless it’s the sort you don’t really read as such, like a dictionary. I have read encyclopædia volumes in my time; I don’t think I’ve ever been quite desperate enough for reading material to embark on a cover-to-cover dictionary-a-thon.

Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynolds 2Fifteen minutes on the clock….. and five books pulled out of the shelves, including philosophy, Elizabethan plays and the poetry of Robert Browning. Running total 25. Even if you don’t prune much, going through your library book by book will at least serve to remind you of all the good books you’d forgotten you still had and would now like to read again.

For the third course, following the light media appetizer and the rather stodgier main course of books, I thought we would end with a delicate bibelot or two – what my grandmother called “dustcatchers.” Depending on the level of decoration you prefer, this may take less than fifteen minutes, even if you wander into every other room in the house, but it’s worth doing. We get so used to seeing things sitting there on the shelf or the mantelpiece or the little end table that we stop consciously seeing them, which is a complete waste. You can also look at things hanging on the walls – pictures, paintings, posters etc. I would, but I’ve already taken ours down and packed them.

Fifteen minutes of knick-knackery, doo-daddery and decorative items – go!

Henry Treffry Dunn Rossetti and Dunton at 16 Cheyne Walk

I collected one clock (deceased), one origami crane (pink), one origami elephant (ditto), a vase full of peacock feathers, a small plastic dome with tiny flowers in it, a harmonica, a somewhat decorative box and a silver candlestick (badly tarnished). Total of 8; grand total 32 – more than the previous two weeks put together!

Putting them all together, though, I get 13 + 16 + 32 = 61! Sixty-one fewer items than I possessed a few short weeks ago, and all done in nine sets of fifteen minutes. For the statistically minded among you, that’s 135 minutes, or just over 2.2 minutes per item removed. So if you have five minutes to spare to consider your possessions, you can expect to find a couple to get rid of. Ten minutes, four items. Fifteen minutes, six items. Half an hour, twelve. A whole hour? Eighteen and a cup of tea.

All this is completely theoretical, of course – one person’s brief experience is hardly enough to base a rule on, even a rule of thumb (everyone’s thumb is different – ask Bertillon). But it’s worth remembering that even a short snatch of time can make a permanent difference. There are sixty-one things that I didn’t like or didn’t want or didn’t use (or all of the above) which took up space in my house and never paid rent or contributed anything – they just were. And now they aren’t, and I feel good about that.

so happy smiling cat

Round 2

Yes, it’s round 2 of the fling-along, and today I encourage you to throw in the towel!

Towel Day - Dont Panic - Douglas Adams - The Hitchhikers Guide to the GalaxyWhich is to say, today we are going to look at rooms involving towels, i.e. water-related rooms: the bathroom, kitchen and laundry. More than look at them, we are going to leap on them unawares and rifle through their pockets for loose stuff. Beginning with the bathroom.

Depending on your personality, worldview etc, your bathroom may be crowded with every cosmetic aid known to man (or woman), or it might be home to nothing more cluttery than a stash of toilet paper. Whatever the case, it’s worth going through the room – flat surfaces as well as storage spaces – to see if there’s anything that can be dispensed with. Bottles of hair stuff you know you’re never going to finish, expired medications from the medicine kit – whatever it is, biff it out.

If you finish under 15 minutes, you qualify for the next round can have a rummage through the linen cupboard or wherever you keep your towels, flannels etc and fling out anything that is no longer of use. Tip: flannels make great rags, and towels no longer fit for human consumption can be used to dry off wet pets as they come in from the great outdoors (or donated to an animal shelter for bedding).

Happy Towel Day By Bianca the Cat 1Ready with a timer? Fifteen minutes: on your marks, get set – go!

I thought our bathroom was pretty clutter-free, but I came away with two old mostly-empty perfume bottles, one sunblock ditto, a comb (bought as part of a set and surplus to requirements), three expired medications and a couple of pieces of recycling, including an empty liquid soap dispenser. Also a bathmat from my fossick through the linen cupboard, itself recently denuded of two single sheets, two single duvets, a duvet-cover with matching pillowcase and a single electric blanket. (We have no single bed.) Score: call it 6.

Next up: the kitchen. Again, it depends on what kind of person you are whether you can immediately think of half a dozen things in your cupboards you don’t need, or would be hard-put to it to think of a single thing in your kitchen that you don’t use. If you find yourself with time to spare, have a look through your pantry for items past their use-by date (not to be confused with the best-before date), bulging tins, groves of leafy potatoes etc etc.

Messy kitchenOr you may find that you can spend fifteen minutes just clearing off the benches. Like me. (Blush.) I collected a stack of recycling, put a few things away, and put a few more things in the bin. To donate: one squeezy bottle, one bud vase (originally a salt shaker) and a pair of salt-and-pepper shakers (once emptied of ageing contents). I also need to decide what to do with a large bottle of fish sauce which has passed its date but a) is still unopened and b) contains about as much salt as the laws of chemistry permit a liquid to do. Call it 4, running total 10. Decidedly, I will be spending more fifteen minuteses in the kitchen over the next few days!

Last up, the laundry. You may not have a separate laundry – it may be part of your kitchen, or your bathroom, or the business down the road. (Try not to declutter a laundromat unless you own it – may easily lead to misunderstandings.) It may be a cupboard just large enough for a washer (and maybe dryer) or it may be a hangar of a lumber-room which happens to have a washer in it (somewhere…). If nothing else comes to hand, you can always clean out the lint trap and fish the half-pegs out of the peg-bag/basket/apron.

Ready? Allons-y!

Where is the Vim? Project 3665(2) Day 50Result: some recycling (including a quantity of batteries waiting to be taken for a trip), some rubbish (including a bag of things I sorted out the last time I cleared out the laundry – you should have seen it when I started!), and a remarkable number of things not in their proper places. (What is it with pegs??) Also a number of items which I not only do not want or use, but cannot even identify – possibly from earlier ages of the house. There were a few things which could be donated: a placemat, a sock hanger, a medicine-measuring cup, and a small assortment of toy mice.

Call it 6 again; running total 16 – thus beating last week’s record by 3 items! Should I go with the Olympic theme and say PR? I’d take a lap of honour, but my cup of tea isn’t big enough. On the other hand, I still haven’t dealt with all the things which I purged last week (the shame!) so perhaps I should postpone the victorious cuppa until those are out of the way – and there’s a motive if ever there was one!

Do feel free to share your own progress, PRs or problems (what do I do with the fish sauce?) in the comments. See you again next week for the third and last round!