Archives for Home Organization
I’m a big fan of labels. Labels tell everyone where things belong. Labels indicate that only items of a certain type belong in a certain place. Labels help you remember where you put stuff.
There are many different types of labels that can be used and each type has advantages and disadvantages. The following are things to consider when choosing labels for your next organizing project.
Permanent or Removable
Permanent labels are intended for one time use. Peeling off a permanent label will generally destroy the label or the object to which it is attached, or both. Address labels on paper envelopes are a good example of permanent labels.
Removable labels are made with a special adhesive that, rather than sticking to the surface of the object, sticks to the label, and leaves the surface clean. Removable labels do not damage the object to which they are attached and can often be re-used. Post-It Notes are a good example of removable labels.
The object to which a label is attached and the conditions in which it is used can influence whether or not the label is permanent or not. For example, an address label that is designed to be permanently attached to a paper envelope may be easily removed from a plastic bin. It may not even stick to the plastic bin if the conditions are cold or damp. Sometimes removable labels may end up permanently adhered to surfaces if they are left on for a long time or exposed to excessive heat or pressure.
Always evaluate the type of material that you need to adhere the label to prior to purchasing the labels. Consider how long the label will be left in place and what the storage conditions will be.
Handwritten or Computer Printed
If you’ve got terrible handwriting, it may be better to use a computer or label maker to create labels because then everyone can read it. However, it takes time to make labels on a computer but it is easy to print many copies of the same label. Some labels are meant to be only for laser printers and some for only inkjet printers so always confirm that you’ve got the right labels for your printer. Some types of printer ink runs in damp conditions or fades in bright light. In these harsh conditions, it may be better to use a plasticized label.
Label makers print clear, easy-to-read labels that can be used in a variety of conditions. However, they tend to be limited in the sizes and colours of labels. Most label makers do not have a wide variety of fonts.
If the label is permanent on the container but the contents change, dry erase or chalkboard labels might be the best to use for your needs. They are a good choice if you are creative and enjoy making handwritten labels. An alternative is the Identa-label system. It is comprised of transparent plastic pockets that hold index cards. You can use a computer to print the index cards or they can be hand written.
While copper labels would look lovely in the garden, they would not be appropriate in a home with small children or pets. Labels can be detached and chewed on or swallowed. Some types of key ring labels may contain parts that could injure children and animals, too. Tag labels with string can be wound around tiny fingers and paws and cause injury.
Colours and Sizes
Once you have taken the above information into consideration, the colour and sizes of labels seems to be limited only by your imagination.
Full page stickers allow you to print your own design or create multiple stickers of any shape, size, or colour.
Tamper-evident hologram warranty void stickers can be placed on bins or boxes to ensure they have not been tampered with. This would be ideal for valuable items sent via mail or courier service. They could also be placed on boxes of paperwork containing sensitive information during a move or in a storage facility.
Iron-on name-tags for clothing are great for identifying children’s clothing for school and camp but they can also be used for labeling the tablecloths you take to the family potluck dinners.
You can purchase pre-printed magnetic labels for toolboxes or create your own with dry-erase magnetic tape. Speaking of toolboxes, “Eye-Saver” big typeface socket labels have imperial and metric stickers in different colours so it is easy to tell which sockets are which.
TrueBlock labels completely hide everything they cover. They are great if you like to reuse shipping and file storage boxes. When you need to get people’s attention, high visibility labels would work well. If you need to see the label in the dark, Epson makes glow-in-the-dark labels for its label makers. You can write on glow in the dark tape to make your own labels.
Plant pot labels can be used to tell your house sitter how and when to water your plants during your vacation.
For holiday parties, reusable cup labels allow each child to have his or her own cup. If all goes as planned, there won’t be any sharing of germs. Adding allergy information to the cup label is a good idea, too. For the grown-ups, there are wine glass labels.
Labels are a wonderful thing, but when they have to be removed, label sticker remover comes in handy.
This week’s Workspace of the Week is Elisabeth’s gorgeous graphic design space:
There are numerous things to love about Elisabeth’s space, but one of my favorite things is that the vast majority of storage is behind closed doors. If you have a job that requires a great amount of equipment, the equipment is likely not very attractive to have out on display. When you can put those items away (and, hopefully, you put them away in an organized manner) you reduce the number of visual distractions to bother you as you work. I also like the storage unit next to the desk that extends the work surface of the desk tops. This extension makes it easier to spread out all your necessary supplies and papers when in the process of working. Thank you, Elisabeth, for sharing your workspace with us.
Want to have your own workspace featured in Workspace of the Week? Submit a picture to the Unclutterer flickr pool. Check it out because we have a nice little community brewing there. Also, don’t forget that workspaces aren’t just desks. If you’re a cook, it’s a kitchen; if you’re a carpenter, it’s your workbench.
Today’s guest post is from my hometown friend Rebecca Bealmear. Lawyer by day and aspiring minimalist by night, she writes about her adventures in simple living, bicycling, and whatever captivates her attention on her personal blog Seven2seven8.com. She currently lives in St. Louis, Missouri. A big welcome to the lovely Rebecca. — Erin
For the past three years, I’ve joined up with the women on my husband’s side of the family for a once-a-year shopping trip. We often time it in the fall, to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday, and to get a head start on holiday shopping. And so, I found myself with my in-laws, at the Osage Beach outlets in Missouri this past October 26. This time, however, I didn’t feel like buying anything.
The funny thing about our tradition (and the point at which I became part of it), is that it coincides with the time I started to question all of the belongings I was holding onto in my home “just in case” they became useful or somehow morphed into what I really wanted or needed. This was especially true in my clothing closet — my tiny, circa-1939, approximately 10 square foot closet.
It was then my clothing projects began. I donated, but then I replaced more than I donated. I tried storing just a quarter of my huge wardrobe (full of inexpensive and trendy items) in my closet, with the remainder hanging on racks in my basement. And this worked, well, not at all. Then, it took a turn for the worse when I was bitten on the hip in February 2012 by a brown recluse spider that moved into a pair of pants I had been storing downstairs.
Suddenly, donating clothing I was not consistently wearing became so much easier.
Fast forward to today, and my wardrobe is easily a quarter (a sixth? an eighth?) the size it was a couple of years ago, and I have found a wardrobe system that really helps me evaluate the remaining items.
In February of 2013, I decided to try Courtney Carver’s Project 333. I tailored the challenge to the size of my current wardrobe, so I could reasonably cycle through almost all of my clothing in a year’s time (by dividing six rounds of 33 items across two months each). I have now completed four of my six rounds, and I am hooked, and I am changed.
I can no longer tolerate excess in my wardrobe or home, though I am still negotiating for myself what is “enough” and what is “excess.” I am simultaneously surprised, relieved, and horrified by the volume of items I have donated to charity organizations, and by the lack of sustainability I have learned is inherent in our fast-fashion culture. I struggle with ethical concerns raised by the toll rampant consumerism has taken on the lives of garment manufacturing factory employees in places like Rana Plaza, in Bangladesh, where the April collapse of a building (costing the lives of thousands of workers) has resulted in almost no improvement in conditions for workers — those who make the clothing we often wear just once or twice before discarding it for the next great deal.
This is how I found myself uninterested in purchasing clothing on my recent shopping trip with my in-laws, and strangely attached to some clothing in my own closet — specifically, four items that had disappointed me over various rounds of Project 333: (1) a white t-shirt, too sheer and becoming discolored; (2) a white button-up tunic, stained with bicycle-basket oil; (3) a white blouse with a lace panel, discolored from overuse; and (4) a chevron-striped blue skirt in a color I found difficult to wear and weirdly cheap-looking.
My solution? They had to dye.
Armed with one box of Rit Dye in Denim Blue, a large stockpot, and the four items to dye, I set out to improve the items in my closet. These are the items before:
And these are the items after dyeing, rinsing, washing, and drying:
I am pleased with the results. The practical life of each garment has been extended, and they each have a different personality in the new blue versus the original shade. And, if I ultimately donate a garment, it might actually find its way into another person’s closet now, instead of landing in a rag heap or landfill – a much better fate than the tops would have met, had I donated them in their stained or discolored states.
The box of Rit Dye cost about $3 and since I already owned the clothing, it was free. I’d recommend getting some rubber gloves to protect your hands. I simply followed the provided instructions, which were very well-written. I dyed the skirt first for 20 minutes, then all three shirts together for another 20. Once finished, I rinsed the clothing well, and ran them, alone, through a heavy-duty wash cycle with a generous amount of detergent, then dried them.
No shopping, no landfills, no waste. I’ve deemed it a success!
I recently admitted that I need a bulletin board in my home office. They really are supremely handy. Bulletin boards can serve several purposes (often more than one at a time) and come in a variety of materials and sizes.
The problem was that a quick online search resulted in several options that were, honestly, pretty ugly. Plain cork board and thin, one-inch plywood borders reminded me of the sad, half-abandoned classroom bulletin boards of my youth. I just didn’t want that hanging in my office, where I’d see it every day.
But before we get to the design options, the first step is to identify what role a new bulletin board will play.
I knew I couldn’t make a successful purchase until I clearly defined what I role I expected my board to play. I came up with several options:
- Decorative. My daughter has a small bulletin board in her bedroom, which she uses to display photos, mementos, and other paper-based keepsakes. It’s all fun and no business. Some “files” partially cover others and the contents don’t change very often. Occasionally something is added, but rarely anything is taken away.
- Reference. Unlike a decorative board, reference boards are more orderly and purposefully organized. The idea is to store oft-referenced material right out in the open for easy use.
- Communication hub. For many of us, I’d bet the family refrigerator fills this role. As I’ve said before, this is a tempting but ultimately ineffective practice. Still, I see the appeal of a public communication hub. When I was a college student, it was a common practice to put a dry erase board on the door to one’s dorm room (note: this was long before texting and smartphones existed). Today, it’s a great idea for busy families.
- Short-term memory. I maintain a form of this with 3″ x 5″ index cards. There’s always a stack on my desk and I’m always grabbing them throughout the day to jot down something I need to remember but can’t attend to when it arrives. Again, I see the appeal of a larger version of this hanging on a wall, especially when processing all of that incoming “stuff” at the end of the day.
- Combination. Of course, it’s quite possible for a bulletin board to meet any combination of the above listed needs. A communication hub with pictures from that summer at the lake? Sure. A reference board with a corner dedicated to quickie tasks? Absolutely.
Knowing your needs can help you choose the type of board to buy, as some materials are better suited to one function over another.
Types based on purpose
- Decorative. In this case, boards with felt straps are a great choice. The straps keep you from having to poke pin holes in treasured mementos. Find one that looks great, as looks are a big part of the experience here.
- Reference. Unlike a decorative bulletin board, this one has strictly utilitarian needs. Find something that will stand up to wear-and-tear as you’ll be moving things around a lot. It needn’t be ugly, of course, but aesthetics ins’t your primary concern.
- Communication hub. For this bulletin board to work, it’s got to be easy to use. Having a bulletin board with a dry erase board is a great option, as is a DIY chalkboard paint option. You might also want to consider a magnetic and push pin board, so kids can quickly attach notes from school to it, for example.
- Short-term memory. Dry erase or chalkboard paint combined with a heavy-duty push pin board is again the way to go here. This is for temporary storage of information that is captured quickly, and then purged when no longer necessary.
And, of course, there are boards that combine all four. Find the one that best suits your plans and go for it. As for me, I want something that will give me an overview of what needs to be done for the week: articles due, school stuff for the kids, un-missable calendar events. A magnetic board will work, but I’m going with something that can accept push pins. My current plan is to buy large sections of cork board and cover it with old, decorative burlap sacks we have with vintage farming graphics. I’ll wrap the result in a nice, painted frame. That way I won’t feel badly about putting pins into it and it won’t look terrible on the wall.
As a child, I had an eccentric uncle who collected clocks. Every room had at least five or six, all ticking away. As you could imagine, the end of daylight saving time was an adventure. Uncle Mike would start adjusting their time one week in advance. Each day he’d change a handful of clocks, and leave the rest for the following day. It drove my poor aunt crazy. “For one week each year,” she’d say, “I have no idea what time it is.”
If you’re in the U.S., don’t let the change from daylight saving time (DST) this weekend stress you out (even if you collect clocks). With some careful preparation, you can get through it relatively unscathed.
Most people dislike the change to their sleeping habits that comes with the return to standard time. According to WebMD, it’s best to ease into it. Nicholas Rummo, MD, director of the Center for Sleep at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., recommends going to sleep a little bit earlier each night leading up to the changeover. For example, going to sleep 10 minutes earlier each night for six nights will help quite a bit.
This is especially helpful for the kids, who often struggle with the change. In fact, this is the same thing my wife and I do as we make the transition from summer vacation to the school year. It works pretty well.
WebMD also suggests exposing yourself to sunlight as early as you can. Have breakfast near a window or even walk outdoors for a bit, if you can. This will help reset your internal clock.
Back to the kids. The time change can be difficult for school-age children, and downright miserable for toddlers (and their parents). One thing you can do to ease the pain for everyone is stick to an established routine. Dr. Jodi Mindell, author of Sleeping Through the Night, believes this is the way to go. “You want to stick by the clock and stick to the bedtime rules,” she said. “Another piece that is key is wake them up at their normal times–don’t let them sleep later to ‘make up’ for lost sleep from the night before.”
But really, the best advice I can give here is be prepared. The kids are going to get less sleep then they’re used to, so try to be patient and prepared.
Besides sleeping changes, what else is there to do? First of all, confirm that your clocks — both electronic and analog — make the change. Some will do so automatically, like your cable box, computer, smartphone or tablet. Others will need a little help. I always forget about the clock in the car (as well as how to change it). Our microwave oven also spends a few days displaying the wrong time.
Also, this is a good time to make sure your home’s smoke detectors are working and replace batteries in your flashlights. The end of DST also marks the start of hurricane season here in New England, so I make a review of our storm food and related supplies each October/early November.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say, “Happy Halloween!”
I think almost every home has a drawer with random keys and locks in it. For many, the locks may be without keys or combinations and the keys are to known and unknown locks.
The first step in organising keys and locks is to gather them all in one place. I suggest using a small, lidded bin, such as a shoebox. Place all the locks and keys in the bin. You may have lockable cabinets or doors that require keys. Of course, you can’t put furniture into the shoebox but you can make a list of furniture that require keys and put the list in the shoebox, too.
Purchase a few key tags and write what the key is for on the key tag right away and attach the tag to the key. If padlocks are not in use, put the hasp through the key ring with the keys and lock it. This will keep the correct keys with the correct lock. Just remove one of the keys from the keyring to unlock the lock.
If you have combination locks, write down the combination on a key tag with a description of the combination lock and/or its serial number. If the locks are simple, such as suitcase locks with only 3 or 4 numbers, you may be able to fiddle with it enough to determine the combination. Some rotary dial combination locks have serial numbers and you can get the combination by contacting the manufacturer. If the combination lock is not in use, put the hasp through the key tag on which you wrote the combination. You’ll never worry about trying to remember the combination.
Store keys that are used frequently close to where they are used. For example, you might keep a key to your garden shed on a hook, just inside the back door. Extra house keys should be labelled and stored in a key cabinet.
Keep mismatched keys and locks in the labeled shoebox for a few months just in case their mates turn up somewhere else. It is also helpful to ask family members and coworkers if they have seen any keys or locks “hiding” anywhere. You may find someone else is in possession of the little key you were looking for. Ask them, too, if one of the keys you can’t identify may be a spare key to their home you never labeled. If you’ve determined that the keys and locks are never going to find their mates, feel free to dispose of them.
Remember, also, to carry only the keys you need with you. Separate the keys you carry with you into groups such as home, car, office, or cottage. Put each set on a different ring. Clip the key groups you need together with a carabineer when you leave the house to reduce the clutter in purses and pockets.
We wrote about actor Vincent Kartheiser and his obsession with minimalism in our 2010 article “Celebrity minimalist: Vincent Kartheiser.” Back then, he was just beginning construction on his new home and admitted to using his neighbor’s bathroom because he threw out his toilet.
Three years later, construction on Kartheiser’s space is complete and the beautiful renovations are featured in the article “The Tiny Hollywood Home of Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser” in Dwell magazine’s November 2013 issue.
In the article’s accompanying slideshow, it is this picture of Kartheiser pulling his bed down from the ceiling that took my breath away:
Image credit: Dwell’s Joe Pugliese
The bed on pulleys with 300 pound counterweights is sheer genius, and the headboard (a large piece of redwood) is on a lever so it can fold down during the day to serve as a desk or sideboard. Another small-space idea that caught my attention in the article is his outdoor coffee table that is also a fire pit. The sliding closet doors that become a privacy wall for the bathroom is a nice touch, too.
Technically a one-room cabin at just 500 sq feet, Kartheiser remade the home and outdoor courtyard with builder Funn Roberts. It doesn’t say it directly, but the article seems to imply Kartheiser even shares this tiny space with his fiancée, actress Alexis Bledel.
As the seasons change, it’s time to switch out the clothes. It’s a labor-intensive process that not many people like, honestly, but some early preparation can make the process a bit smoother. In the northern hemisphere, we’re currently moving from warmer weather to cooler temperatures, but the following advice applies for those of you in the southern hemisphere moving into warmer months.
Before you buy any storage containers, plastic bags, or similar items, get your hands on a label maker. It’s the most useful tool for this project. We have one of these handheld models because its easy to carry around. When you get to the bin stage, you’ll want the label maker to label whose clothes are in which bin and to note the contents (“Jane’s winter clothes,” “Dave’s sweaters,” etc.).
My wife and I have tried two brands of vacuum bags, and neither have worked for us. Despite following the instructions to the letter, both brands began filling with air within a matter of weeks, defeating their purpose entirely. If you’ve had good luck with a particular brand, please let me know.
For us, the answer is large, plastic bins. You can find these at home supply stores, some hardware stores and big-brand DIY stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s. Make sure the lids seal tightly and that they’ll work with your storage method before buying (stackable, side-by-side and so on).
Before placing clothes inside, ensure that they’re thoroughly clean. Locking your shirts in a sealed bin with some insect larvae you didn’t notice in September means you’ve created an all-you-can-eat bug buffet for little critters. Check the bins themselves for the same thing. If you are using plastic bags, ensure that no moisture is inside and there’s no chance of condensation. Throw in a few cedar balls and/or natural herbal moth repellent sachets for a little more protection. Do not store clothes in thin plastic dry cleaning bags for long periods of time as the plastic can decay and ruin your items.
Here’s a lesson I learned the hard way: a hanger is not a good long-term solution. When I was living on my own as a bright-eyed 20 year old, I kept several sweaters hanging all summer. Once fall arrived, they all had hanger-induced bumps on the shoulders that would not go away. If you don’t have any other option, fold the items and hang them in their folded state over the straight bar of the hanger and then group the hangers inside a garment bag made to repel moths and other fabric-eating insects.
When stacking heavy objects like sweaters in a bin, put them at the bottom of the pile. That way they won’t crush lighter items, allow air flow, and prevent mustiness. Finally, check on your clothes once a month to make sure that none of the aforementioned problems have cropped up.
Myths abound in the organising world. Don’t let yourself fall for these five common tales:
- Sticking to a rigid meal plan for the whole week will save time. What if you’ve planned a 5-course meal on Wednesday then have an emergency orthodontist appointment at 4:00pm? Generally a meal plan will save time but keep the ingredients for a few healthy, easy-to-prepare meals in your pantry at all times. This way, you can eat what you want, when you want.
- I only need to touch it once when I am organising something. Many jobs may have to be broken down into smaller tasks (divide and conquer) so they are not so overwhelming. For example, if you have lots of photos that need to be organised, the first step might be to separate them by year into boxes. Step two would be sorting within each box. You’re going to touch things more than once.
- Using the latest technology will save time. This may be true if you’re a techno-wiz, but it does take time to learn the new technology and new gadgets can be expensive. Ask yourself if you are willing to invest the time and money in a product so it can actually help you.
- Organising is easy and I can do it myself. While you may be able to clear some of your clutter yourself, you may have too much emotional attachment to your own belongings and may need someone with no biases to help you. I often ask my sister for help with my wardrobe or else I would still be wearing the clothes I had in high school. Many people work better with accountability partners.
- My house should look like the ones in the magazines. The homes in magazines are staged for pictures. Life is never picture perfect. Daily living is messy and over the course of a day it’s not going to look like a museum installation.
As a parent with an infant at home, I haven’t been getting much sleep. Oddly, though, I’m incredibly happy to be exhausted. Even when she’s screaming at 2:00 in the morning for a bottle and a diaper change, I’m smiling. We waited so long for her and having her in our family is an incredible blessing.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the exhaustion is taking its toll, however. I wrote an email to my mom, never hit send, and then wondered for a few days why she didn’t respond — all the while the drafted email was just sitting on my computer’s desktop, staring me in the face. Clean laundry is hanging out on the bed in our guest room, waiting to be put away. And, those of us in the house with teeth, well, we have eaten more pizza for dinner in the last month than we had in the previous six months combined.
Thankfully, I know this exhaustion will pass as our daughter gets older. She’ll start sleeping through the night and I’ll stop trying to open the front door of the house with the car key. In the meantime, there are steps I’ve been taking to keep things from spinning out of control that I thought might be able to help other new parents as well as anyone going through a major life event or bout of exhaustion.
Embrace chaos in the minor priorities
I have an infant, a four year old, a full-time job, and numerous other responsibilities to care for right now, and very little energy. The energy I have is going toward the things that must be done, and pretty much zero energy is being spent on other things. I’ve resigned from a committee I was serving on that I enjoyed but that my participation isn’t essential to the success of the committee. I haven’t made my bed in the last month except for the two times I’ve changed the sheets. My pile of filing and scanning is three inches high. When my energy levels return, I’ll resume taking care of the minor priorities in my life. Until then, oh well …
If you are unclear as to which priorities in your life are major and which are minor, take a few minutes to list them. What deserves your attention right now? What doesn’t? Be honest with yourself and remember you’re only human and you lack super powers.
Hire, accept, and ask for help
My mother-in-law stayed with us the first week after our daughter was born. A cleaning crew has come to the house twice to clean the toilets and floors and to dust. Next week, I’ll be hiring the neighbor boys to rake the leaves in the yard and do the last mowing of the season. I can’t do it all and I’m not about to let pride or having things done my way get in the way of my family’s sanity.
Also, it’s a good idea to remind yourself that people cannot read your mind. If you need help, you have to ask for it. If someone offers to bring your family dinner, you have to respond to the person who made the offer that you think this is a great idea and then provide them a date, time, and information about any food allergies. Now is not the time to be polite for the sake of being polite and decline the offer if you actually would like the help. If you are overwhelmed by a project at work and everything else going on at home, you need to tell your coworkers/boss that you are overwhelmed and ask for help to rectify the situation. Don’t just wish for someone to help you, ask for help if you need it.
I have an inbox for each of my children that is collecting stuff I want to keep or remember for later, but don’t have the time to process right this moment. For my daughter, I’ve been writing important milestones on notecards and tossing the notecards in the box to eventually be recorded in her baby book. “Rolled over unassisted first time 10/16″ is on one of the cards, for example. Yes, I could just write the information into the baby book now, but getting out and putting the book away each time I want to record something isn’t going to happen. Writing on a note card is more my speed. It’s all about the bare minimum right now.
On the television show Holmes on Homes, host Mike Holmes often points out that other people’s work has been done to “minimum code.” He means the contractor or plumber or whomever only did the work the law required, and nothing else. This phrase has made its way into our family’s regular dialog when we want to refer to doing something as easily as possible, and nothing more. Minimum code is now how we make lunch and dinner — a protein and a vegetable. Minimum code is how we take care of the car — put gas in it when the tank is low. Minimum code is how we maintain the house — put stuff away after using it, but let a cleaning crew take care of the rest. Be realistic about what you will do and simplify tasks to minimal code.
Now is not the time to become commissioner of the softball league or volunteer to spearhead the silent auction for the annual PTA fundraiser. It’s also not a good time to make a major life decision. Get through this period of exhaustion and then start adding new things to your life and contemplating your next move. This wave is temporary and you just need to ride it out.
Obviously, the advice doesn’t stop here. Please feel welcome to share valuable lessons you have learned from being ridiculously exhausted in the post’s comment section. I’m certainly looking for even more ways to reduce stress and streamline processes right now and I know there are many readers out there who could benefit as well.
“That’s the whole meaning of life, isn’t it? Trying to find a place for your stuff.” — George Carlin
This week I thought I’d revisit the eternal question of, “what to do with all this stuff?” This time, I’ve paired the four major categories of stuff — actions, projects, reference and trash -– with suggestions of technology to use in taming each category.
The two-minute drill
If you can do something in less than two minutes, do it right then and there. Do not file it or add it to that great to-do app that you love. Don’t even bother to write it down. Just do it and it’s done. If you’ve got time or ambition, move the criteria up to five minutes. Otherwise, stay at two.
Tech to employ: A simple timer will do here. All you need is to set aside 10 minutes (or whatever you have) to do nothing but run two-minute drills. Focus Booster is a great option. It’s free and runs in a web browser. If you prefer to download an application, there’s one available for the Mac and Windows.
Actions are the verbs of your project. Call Janie. Put the kids’ lunches in their bags. That’s the key here, really. An action is observable, it is something you do. “Call Janie” is a great action. It’s short and describes exactly what must be done. “Figure out the dinner party” is not. That’s a project. “Brainstorm the dinner party” is an action, and a great first step, in fact. Get into the habit of breaking things down into small, achievable steps.
Tech to employ: Where do actions go? That’s a great question, and the answer is varied and wide. As I said in my very first post for Unclutterer, I don’t store actions in my email software. Instead, I use OmniFocus for the Mac. It’s a stellar project manager that’s served me well for years.
Another great option is Wunderlist, as it’s not restricted to the Mac. Wunderlist is a full-featured project and task-manager that works in a browser as well as on the Mac, Windows, iOS, Android and even the Amazon Kindle. There are free and paid versions available. The important thing here isn’t the solution you use, but the act of getting your actions into a reliable, accessible system you trust.
I use David Allen’s definition of a project: anything that takes more than two action steps to complete. This means that some things we don’t think of as projects do, in fact, qualify. “Get 2014 budget approved” and “buy new windshield wipers” are both projects, and equally important as far as your brain is concerned. All your brain knows is, “I’ve said I’m going to do this thing, so I better do it.” Unfortunately, your brain does not excel at storing projects and their associated tasks and reference information. It’s best to get that out of your head and into a trusted system.
Tech to employ: You can’t go wrong with OmniFocus or Wunderlist, as mentioned above. But don’t think that computer software is the only option here. A reliable notebook — appropriately marked up — is a great solution if that works for you.
I’m also a fan of David Seah’s Task Progress Tracker. It’s a great-looking piece of paper that lets you list all of the actions that are related to a given project, and even track just how long you spend on each.
A lot of my stuff doesn’t require any action, but might be useful in the future. These types of items are reference material. Again, I don’t let this information sit in email.
Tech to employ: For me, the answer to reference (or “cold storage,” as I call it) is Evernote. This virtual filing cabinet holds everything I’ll want to review some day. It’s available on almost every device I own, so stored data is with me all the time. I love it.
Finally, a lot of our stuff is garbage. If you deem something to be truly unnecessary, ditch it. You don’t need it. Stuff that sits around with no purpose or function is the very definition of clutter.
Tech to employ: A trash can and steely resolve.
At work, you may be required to perform certain tasks that could cause personal injury, such as in an industrial or construction setting. Your employer is responsible for providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to perform these tasks if they are required of you. However, at home, we must take responsibility for having our own personal protective equipment. We need PPE that fits properly, is suitable for the conditions of the job, and offers the right level of protection. In order for it to be used, PPE must be easy to find and easy to access. PPE will not protect you from all foreseeable hazards, but it may help you reduce the risk of injury.
Basic Personal Protective Equipment
Eye Protection – Safety glasses, goggles, face shield to be worn when handling household cleaning products, pool chemicals, and when working in areas where particles might fall into the eyes.
Head Protection – Hard hat to be worn anytime there is a risk of items falling from overhead such as decluttering attics, upper cabinets and while doing yard work such as cutting tree branches.
Hair Protection – Hair elastics or baseball cap to keep long hair from being tangled in machinery and away from flames or chemicals.
Respiratory Protection – Dust masks or respirators to be worn anywhere dust, mould spores, and germs are airborne.
Hand Protection – A variety of gloves in different materials including:
- Dish-type gloves for protection from prolonged contact with harsh soaps, detergents, basic household chemicals
- Disposable gloves for protection from germs and household chemicals.
- Cut resistant gloves for protection when working with knives and sharp blades, scrap metal
- Leather gloves for protection from dirt, debris
Foot Protection – Shoes/Boots with protective toecaps, reinforced shank and non-slip sole to be worn when there is a risk of falling objects, cutting or punctures to the feet.
Clothing Protection – Overalls, aprons or disposable coveralls to be worn when there is risk of damage or contamination to clothing.
Storage and Maintenance
PPE must be properly looked after and stored when not in use, in a dry, clean location. If it is reusable (e.g. goggles, hard hat) it must be cleaned according to the manufacturer’s instructions and kept in good condition. If it is disposable (e.g. dust masks, earplugs) it should be discarded immediately after use.
Store your PPE where you use it. You may wish to have several locations to store your PPE. You can have an apron, gloves, goggles and hair elastics where you store your cleaning products such as your laundry room or kitchen. Goggles can be wrapped in a soft cloth or put in an old sock to keep them from getting scratched. Reusable gloves should be allowed to dry before being stored in a bin. Aprons may require washing before being stored and can be hung on a simple hook.
Many types of disposable gloves come in cardboard boxes. If these boxes are stored in a cupboard under a sink, they can accidentally get wet if the sink leaks. Store the gloves in another location or place the box in a zipper-seal bag.
PPE can be stored in your garage or workshop. Earmuffs and hard hats can be hung on hooks in a cool, dry area away from direct sunlight. Disposable earplugs, hair elastics, disposable gloves and dust masks need to be stored in dust-proof containers. Plastic zipper-seal bags or small plastic bins work well.
Leather and other non-disposable gloves should be cleaned after use and allowed to dry before being stored away. A simple mitten-boot dryer hanging from the wall or on the workbench is ideal to store these essential safety items yet still have them available when they are needed.
Check your PPE regularly for signs of wear and tear. Replace broken and worn items and restock disposable items regularly.
If you have younger children, purchase smaller-sized PPE for them and place it in a specially labelled container. They are never too young to start learning how to protect themselves from injury.