From the archives…It can be a constant temptation – your night stand becomes a default home for odds and ends. Results – you have to look at clutter constantly, which actually can compromise your serenity. To stop the habit of dropping unnecessary stuff there, think of its surface as only for of-the-moment needs – the book you’re currently reading, the mug you’re drinking from, a pen and pad of paper for writing a note in the middle of the night. (BTW, that small action actually helps you “trick” your brain, so you can get back to sleep. Writing something down relaxes you.) Move mugs you’re done with to the kitchen, magazines to their real home (wherever that is), receipts to wherever you read mail and pay bills. Resist the temptation to drop something there, to deal with it later. This is a slippery slope! Remember – it always takes less time to put something in its rightful “home” the first time around, rather than to find homes for a pile of stuff later.
From the archives, here are some clever suggestions for using mason jar lids. As canning season is about to start and with jars available in many stores, these could be both timely and fun.
While you might use a jar to hold flowers or other contents,
• Use the ring of a lid to press circles for biscuits or sugar cookies.
• Make a quick fridge photo frame. Trim a photo, using the flat lid piece as a template. Glue the photo to the inside of the flat plate and place it inside the ring. Glue a small magnet to the back of the plate. Ba-da-bing!
• Is your muffin tin MIA? If so, place six jar rings (wide side down) on a cookie sheet. Set a paper baking cup in each, fill it with batter, then bake according to the recipe.
• For a different votive candle holder, apply glue to the edge of the flat piece and place inside the ring. Let dry and enjoy candle light!
From the archives, here are two clever ways to reuse items. A plastic squeeze water bottle can double as a salad dressing shaker. If you mix your own vinaigrette, this is a handy way to bring it along to work or on a picnic. Also, the spout can prevent over pouring. Another use – for picnicking, to bring along cut carrots and celery sticks. Yet another use – store your sunglasses. This could be especially useful in the car, placed in a cup holder. No more crushed shades!
Reluctant to toss or recycle a smoothie container? It could store a ball of string, with the end coming out the end. Another use – turned upside-down, its lid can serve as a funnel for pouring homemade salad dressing into a bottle. Next, two uses for when painting. For kids, pour paint into smoothie cups. A brush can rest securely through the hole without tipping, and the lid minimizes spills. You might tape the lid to the bottom, “just in case.” For grownups, if painting overhead on ceilings or trim, place a smoothie lid over a brush handle to protect your hand from any drips or dribbles.
Here’s one that’s good for picnics and other outdoor events, especially timely with the upcoming July Fourth holiday in mind.
Need a way to keep foods cold in a cooler? Instead of using ice, consider this cool alternative. (Oh – bad pun!) Wet a sponge, put it in a plastic sandwich bag (or two), then place it in the freezer. You might want two or three.
Benefits: once placed in the bottom of a cooler, it’s flat, which could keep food containers upright. Also, since it’s relatively “skinny,” it also can be slid down the side of the cooler, to further help in keeping food chilled.
Bonus points – if you need a wet sponge for clean-up at the end of your event, you’ll have one ready. Once back home, repeat the process. Wet the sponge, replace in the sandwich bag, then freeze it for the next time.
Also, unrelated, but fun to think about with this particular holiday – “he who drinks a fifth on the Fourth will not go forth on the fifth.” Ha!
Remove odors from garbage disposal – Cut up a couple of lemon slices into quarters, drop in, turn on the cold water, run the disposal for about 20 seconds. Odors gone! Once it has stopped churning, be sure to reach in and remove any rind pieces not ground up.
Remove lime scale from drain board and taps – Use half a lemon to rub over them. Leave a minute, rinse, and shine with a dry cloth.
Exfoliate and clean your feet – Mix up some lemon pulp and brown sugar, rub. Rinse and moisturize. This could be especially good to do as summer approaches and we may want to walk around barefooted!
Highlight your hair – This is much better for you and for the environment than commercial bleaches. Mix the juice of one lemon with one teaspoon salt, and comb it through your hair. Get out into the sun for a couple of hours. Note – don’t do this too often, as it will dry out your hair. How often, then? Depending on your hair, perhaps every couple of weeks.
Keep fruits from browning – Add lemon juice to freshly cut apples or pear slices to keep them from turning brown.
Repel weeds – Sprinkle lemon juice around areas in the garden to repel weeds, though not near plants you want to preserve.
Cat Pee Repellent – If your cat has a favorite chair or sofa that it likes to use as a litter box, make a lemon-water mix and lightly spray it on the spot. The cat won’t go there again.
Since it’s spring (or trying to be, here in rainy Vermont), here are some (not-necessarily-just-spring-cleaning) tips about items you can put in the dishwasher. Some will be surprising!
• Baseball hats: Set your dishwasher to the least warm temperature setting and be sure to turn off the drying cycle, which can damage hats. Forms to help hats keep their shape are available through some retail businesses, but that’s not necessary if you remove hats and reshape them for drying.
• Light switch covers: Once a year, unscrew them all for a good cleaning. Be sure to put the screws in a safe place so you don’t lose them.
• Hair brush: Use your fingers or a comb to pull out as much hair as possible, so the drain won’t get clogged.
• Flip flops: Wash away dirt and grime in a quick cycle.
• Plastic succulents: It can be nearly impossible to dust a fake succulent — especially where the leaves connect. Luckily the dishwasher can hit all those hard-to-get places.
• Sponges: You may have heard that you can microwave a sponge to sanitize it, but that actually is a fire hazard. A safer bet? Place it in the dishwasher with your regular load of dishes.
• Plastic toys: Did you know that plastic toys (that don’t use batteries) can be sanitized in the dishwasher?
• Silicone oven mitts: All things silicone can go in the dishwasher, which means your mitts can get a bath.
• Refrigerator shelves: You could take these out and scrub them by hand, or you can more easily wash them in the dishwasher. Smaller shelves will fit standing up (like your plates), but a bigger shelf might need to lay across the rack.
• Ceramic cabinet hardware: These knobs are notorious for collecting germs. Also, if they have textured patterns, the grooves might collect even more unwanted “friends.” Instead of scrubbing them with a toothbrush, unscrew and place them in the utensil holder of the dishwasher.
A few days ago, I came across excellent tips in a file. Here’s a sampling from the archives.
Since clutter tends to expand to fill the space “allowed” for it, move items from your junk drawer into the smallest drawer in the room. Keep miscellaneous storage bins small to keep them from overtaking your rooms and closets.
Creating a to-do list is a great first step, to get things off your mind and onto paper. The second step is crucial – schedule appointments with yourself to actually accomplish the written tasks. Checking them off, or crossing them out, can be surprisingly satisfying. Try it. You might like it!
When dealing with paper, have as few file categories as possible. Instead of, say, a file for paid cable bills, consolidate all paid bills into a file for the year. The more streamlined system also will keep your drawers less crowded.
As previously suggested, collect bills that are tax-related in a file for the year’s taxes. They could include child care, education, medical bills. Also add to the file – charitable donations, online purchases for paying state sales tax. (Yup – I’m honest about that!) Keeping a file of tax-related information, and adding to it all year, might help to make filing your taxes a bit less “taxing.”
Do you forget your lunch? Leave grocery lists on the counter? (I can’t count the number of times I’ve done that…) Solution – place your car keys on top. You likely won’t get far without them.
While oiling a favorite wooden spatula this morning, I thought to write a Timely Tip about it. I prefer it to silicone, since wooden utensils won’t scratch pots and pans. Wood also won’t leach chemicals or chemically react with hot food. Here are some care suggestions for your wood utensils and/or cutting boards.
¥ DON’T put wood utensils or cutting boards into the dishwasher. The intense steam and extended time in hot water will crack the wood.
¥ DON’T let the utensils sit in water to soak for extended periods of time.
¥ DO wash the utensils in hot, soapy water fairly quickly after use.
¥ DO pat the utensils dry with a cloth and let air dry.
¥ DO rub with a slice of lemon and let air dry if any strong flavors have seeped into the wood.
¥ DO apply mineral oil to the wood to prevent it from drying out and cracking. If you’ve not done it before (if old or new), do it once a week for a month, then once a month for a year, then yearly for life. You likely can find inexpensive mineral oil at your local hardware store. I pour a bit onto cutting boards, then spread using paper towels. For utensils, a bit on paper towels, then rubbed around does the trick. Everything will look great, and nice patterns may emerge that you hadn’t seen before.
We all know that being happy at home isn’t just about filling it with objects we love. You can find new satisfaction there by adding a few simple practices to your routine and, before you know it, these habits will refresh your life, both inside and outside your walls.
From starting your day off on the right foot, to carving out “me time,” to taking care of chores in the moment — it’s the little things in life that go a long way. The best part is that they are so easy to do you can start adding them today!
1. Wake up early – even if you don’t have to.
2. Make your bed right away – for a tidy start to the day.
3. Fuel up with a real breakfast.
4. Wash, dry and put away dishes – or place them in the dishwasher – as soon as you’re done with them.
5. Carve out a bit of “alone time” for yourself.
6. Especially effective during the winter, lift your spirits and add some beauty to your home by buying fresh flowers, even if just a relatively inexpensive bouquet from the grocery store. Maybe split it up and place some flowers in each room. To keep them fresh for as long as possible, change the water daily and snip the stem bottoms on the bias, so their cells can best absorb the fresh water. I often get them at a well-known national discount grocery store. They usually last for two weeks!
7. Take a walk, to keep your body and mind active.
8. Read something every day.
9. Share your home with others.
Here’s a nifty suggestion just read online. Happy to pass it along.
If you’re always surrounded by seemingly endless piles of clutter — old catalogs and magazines, empty envelopes, the recycling and more — you might benefit from a shortcut to help conquer your clutter. This simple solution might not seem like much, but it could be just the trick.
Keep a small trash can, recycling bin or container in every room of your home. That might seem like a lot of trash cans, perhaps even unnecessarily so. Maybe de-cluttering and keeping your life free of unneeded things is more about making the process as uncomplicated and stress-free as possible. Maybe you let clutter stack up around the house because you can’t get into the habit of bringing stuff to the trash can or recycling bin. (Or maybe you get distracted on your way to toss things.) Maybe you skip getting to tasks you need to start because you’ve got to get over the hump about tossing them out.
Is it not trash or recycling that’s cluttering your life? If so, then you might use this suggestion in a slightly different way. Place “back home” baskets in each room. They’re containers where you might put items that don’t belong there, to be brought back to their rightful places later on. Example – you find your car keys in your pocket while in your bedroom. Into a basket they might go, until they’re back to your back pack, purse, wall hook, or other “home” where they normally “live.”
If your goal is to reduce the amount of stuff you have, period, this idea could work with “out boxes,” where you might put items to toss, donate, or give away to others, presuming that you don’t add to their clutter.
The trick for making this work (and to avoid the containers becoming clutter piles themselves) is to schedule a consistent time each week to deal with each bin, back-home basket or outbox. That way, they won’t become added clutter. Bonus points – you’ll smile and maybe feel that you’ve accomplished something. You will have!