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.
She found De-clutter me! online. Renee left a somewhat anxious-sounding voicemail message. She mentioned family visitors and having been ill. Two rooms needed help. I called back, we chatted and scheduled a “double session” day – three morning hours, a break, then three more hours in the afternoon.
She called at 7.00 on the scheduled morning. She was ill, including with a fever of 101. We rescheduled and I urged her not to worry. Better to concentrate on feeling better, and we’d get it all done soon.
I arrived on a Saturday morning that was changing from rainy to glorious. She lives in a sweet second-floor apartment within a farmhouse surrounded by gorgeous gardens. Her landlady has a good eye, and is a talented gardener. Farther afield are some 150 acres of the family farm.
We strategized. She wanted to clear the guest room, moving some items to the storage room. (There’s no basement or attic space.) First, we would have to conquer the clutter in the storage room. We hauled from the garage two shelving units, discussing how they would best use space in the room, while allowing air flow from its two windows. We placed on them holiday decorations and wrapping, a printer and scanner, photos, winter clothes, and various other items. With the center of the room clear, she may even be able to do yoga there!
We brought some items from the guest room across the hall, then worked on it. We cleared floor space and the bed.
It was a very good start. She will be able to confidently welcome her visiting family. Tired, though smiling broadly and hugging me as I leaving, she called me an angel. Aw, shucks…
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.
Ann and I continued, and mostly finished, emptying and transforming Bill’s office. It will become a guest room.
The room’s closet was chock full of boxes, office supplies, tools, three-ring binders, more financial records, and other varied items. We cleared it, separating items to be tossed, recycled, shredded and donated.
Next, we finished emptying a bookcase, which had held framed family photos, and many books. In an earlier session, we had placed some of them in a bookcase backing up to the big desk. We completed that task.
Moving around the room, we finished clearing off the desk. At last report, Ann said that someone from her church might want it. Once it’s gone, and the carpet has been cleaned, the room will be more ready to become the planned guest room.
When all was done, I showed Ann the saved photo of how the room looked from the hallway before we started working. A big bonus, she now could look at the room from outside without feeling overwhelmed about how it needed to be changed. That accomplished, she now could do the fun part – choose furniture and accent colors to go with its warm brown walls.
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.
Emma contacted me in mid-December, asking about a possible Christmas present for her wife Megan. Their basement was cluttered with some of the usual stuff. It also had excess tools. Could I help Megan decide about duplicates? Could I ask if she really needed five hammers? If needed, could I approach the task with tough love?
After a series of back-and-forth emails, they decided to hire De-clutter Me! The holidays and their aftermath took over, then Megan went to visit family in South Africa for three weeks in February. We finally settled on a Saturday morning in the early spring. Christmas in April – what a hoot!
We first focused on the tool bench. Working top to bottom, we cleared its upper and lower shelves, work surface, peg board and two drawers.
We next turned to shelves along the back wall of the basement. First clearing the floor in front, we then moved some things around and eliminated (what another client has called) “visual noise.”
Our time used up, Megan felt good, and excited to continue on her own in the afternoon. Would I return if she got stuck or needed more help? Of course! In a few months’ time, would I come to her office to help with reducing the piles of paper? Of course!
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.