Techniques for taming pet fur tumbleweeds

Reader Jim sent us the following question:

OK, so I like your 30 minutes per day cleaning model…however, with a dog (big chocolate lab) that is constantly shedding, what tools, cleaning devises, ideas, etc., might I use to keep up with the seemingly endless dog-hair dust bunnies? Vacuuming works, but takes time to drag out the vacuum, and the broom just seems to move the hair around.

In my house, we call these gifts from our two cats “tumbleweeds.” I like your use of the word “bunnies,” though, since they do feel as if they are forever multiplying. I completely empathize with your situation and hope that I can help.

Here are a handful of strategies for dealing with pet fur tumbleweeds:

  1. Once a day, armed with a couple slightly damp paper towels, walk through your house and capture the worst offenders. If they’re large enough that you would see them and be stressed or embarrassed if a house guest were to immediately notice them, just scoop them up with the paper towel. This isn’t deep cleaning, this is just peace of mind. At most, this process should take you five minutes and is a great chore for a younger child.
  2. Bathe your pets regularly. When you bathe a pet, a good chunk of loose hair and dander goes down the drain with the water. Now, granted, this task is a bit more difficult with a cat. You have to start bathing the cat when it’s a kitten or you’ll never be able to give it a bath as an adult. We’ve been bathing our cats twice a month since they were first adopted from the shelter and now they just climb into the water. Use a pet-friendly shampoo (not human shampoo) and ask your vet for tips and breed-specific bathing frequency recommendations if you’re new to the pet-washing adventure.
  3. Keep a pet brush handy. When your pet curls up at your feet and wants some snuggles, give him a brush at least once a day. You’ll capture the fur before it can become a tumbleweed.
  4. Install reliable air filters in your heating/air conditioning system and replace them seasonally.
  5. If your pet routinely uses a bed, drape its bed with a fleece blanket. If there is a favorite spot where he likes to curl up, lay a fleece blanket in that location. Fleece blankets act like giant magnets for pet hair because of their inherent static nature. Roll up the blanket and throw it in the washer once a week, and for extra pull, dry it without a dryer sheet.
  6. Although you hate to do it, you should run the vacuum at least once a week. Don’t forget to vacuum under the couch, along baseboards, every stair, and closet floors where pet fur tumbleweeds like to hide.
  7. Feed your pet high-quality food. The healthier your pet’s diet, the healthier your pet and his coat. Talk to your vet about the best diet for your pet. Sometimes, switching to a healthier pet food will greatly reduce the amount your pet sheds.

Good luck! And, if ever in doubt about a technique, just ask your vet. He or she will be able to tell you if something is safe for your pet.

Photograph accompanying this post taken by Matt Niemi.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

Reader Question: I accidentally tossed my partner’s sentimental item. Help!

Unclutterer reader Rebecca wrote in with this dilemma:

I just read your post on Uncluttering and other people’s things as I was frantically googling how to ask for forgiveness when I’ve done just that. I just cleaned and uncluttered the house I share with my boyfriend. He was aware that I was doing a big overhaul, but I just realized that I tossed a red sheet that apparently belonged to his grandfather. I thought it was just an old sheet without the rest of the set. I am now dreading when he comes home and I have to tell him that I can’t find it. I will check the trash and stop at the charity shop tomorrow.

I am now very worried that this may create a rift in our relationship when it was truly an accident — one that I now know not to repeat! I was careless in my mission to clean house and clearly not thinking that I shouldn’t toss out any items without seeking permission. I am anxiety ridden! How do I ask for forgiveness in this instance?

Thanks for writing Rebecca. I can imagine how you feel right now. Believe me, I have been in your place before. A few years after my husband and I were married (almost 30 years ago now) I tossed out a few sentimental items of his. Like you, I had no idea the items were important. To me, they looked like clutter. Also, like you, my goal was to create a happy, relaxed, minimalist home.

Other people have made similar mistakes. See our posts about Accidents in Uncluttering and Regrets and Legacy Items. This recent news article about $50,000 in jewels being accidentally donated is eye-opening as well.

In my situation, I was very honest about what I had done and expressed my deepest regrets. If I had known, I never would have tossed the beloved items. I also explained what I had learned from the whole episode — never to toss anything unless given express permission. And in future, I would ensure that my partner had a chance to view items I accumulated before they went to trash/charity. Additionally, we created Legacy Boxes. Any items that we really wanted to keep, we put into our Legacy Boxes.

All the best of luck to you in this sticky situation. Remember, honesty is the best policy.

Editor’s note: Just before publication we heard back from Rebecca.

Thank you so much for the thoughtful and helpful reply! Luckily, I recovered the sheet, still a hard lesson was learned.

Have any of our readers encountered this problem? How did you handle it?

Do you have a question relating to organizing, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject as “Ask Unclutterer.”

Review: Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo

Over the last few days, I watched the entire season of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix. After years of watching home organizing shows (in three different countries in two different languages), Tidying Up ranks very high on my preference list. There are a few issues I have with the KonMari method though. Here is my perspective about the show.

Kondo respects the families and their home. At the beginning of each episode, she “greets the house” by kneeling on the floor for a few minutes. Personally, I find it a bit daft but this gives her clients time to focus on their vision of what they want their new organized life to be. This centres them and prepares them for the upcoming tasks.

During the show, the clients do everything themselves. There does not appear to be a team or crew of organizers to help. The families sort through their own stuff. They decide what to keep (things that “spark joy”) what and what goes (things that don’t “spark joy”). We see them taking their own stuff to donation centres too.

One of my favourite things about Tidying Up is that there is no “stuff shaming.” Kondo does not make the family members cry because they have too much stuff or they are not treating their stuff well-enough. She just keeps smiling and reminds them of their end goal. When the clients are unsure about keeping an item, Kondo does not judge. She tells them to keep it because they can always look at it later and change their mind. All of the professional organizers I know work this way with their clients.

Tidying Up also has realistic timelines. In one episode, the final reveal was on Day 42 — six weeks after Kondo’s first visit. This allows families to carefully evaluate their decisions about which items truly “spark joy.” This is much more representative of the work that professional organizers do.

I admit that I was pleasantly surprised when, in one episode, Kondo brought in an empty shoebox — a plain old shoebox — and told children to use it to organize their clothes. Because, she said, that when they were ready to buy a dresser, they would know how much space they needed. No shopping for containers and bins. No expensive furniture brought in by the show’s sponsors. Just respect for the clients, their needs, and their budget.

The big reveal at the end of each show is the closest to reality TV that I’ve seen. There were mismatched hangers in closets. Shoeboxes on shelves holding (nicely) folded clothes. No renovations, no painting, no staging — just families proud of the work they accomplished.

Where Kondo sparks joy: Clothes

tshirts folded Konmari methodKondo’s method for folding clothes is amazing. I’ve used her method with my own clothes. Everything looks beautiful. The clothes take up much less space. I think it is a bit corny to “communicate my affection” to my clothes by running my hands over each item. However, it removes all the wrinkles and helps me notice if there are stains or damage to the clothing.

Where Kondo sparks controversy: Books

Unclutterer’s Twitter timeline was abuzz with bibliophiles stressed out that Kondo was telling everyone to get rid of any books that did not “spark joy.” She may have said that. She also said, “Books are the reflection of our thoughts and values.” She wants people to ask, “Will having these books be beneficial to your life going forward?”

In other words, Kondo thinks people should keep books that they have enjoyed and still want to enjoy, and they should keep books that they have found useful and will likely still find useful in the future.

Where Kondo fizzles out: Paper

I find Kondo’s method of sorting paper too simplistic. She says there are three categories:

  • Pending — Documents to act on such as bills and correspondence.
  • Important — Documents to keep permanently such as contracts and insurance forms.
  • Miscellaneous — Documents that you refer to often such as recipes from a magazine.

In the short-term this is a quick way to separate what you need to deal with now, and what can be stored for later. In the long-term, this is a formula for cluttered, over-stuffed filing cabinets.

There are many important documents that you need to keep for an extended period of time but do not need to keep permanently. People need to develop a routine for dealing with their papers on a regular basis. See the Unclutterer series on Records and Information Management to get not only your paperwork, but your electronic documents sorted, uncluttered, and organized once and for all.

 

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo does not reveal any new or unique organizing techniques. However, it is an enjoyable show to watch. Kondo’s cheerful attitude and positive energy spreads to the families she helps.

We would love our readers to share their thoughts about the show. Chime in with a comment and let us know what you think.

Productivity and organizing insights found in Lean systems

In October 2008, The Wall Street Journal ran the article “Neatness Counts at Kyocera and at Others in the 5S Club.” The article explores a typical day for Kyocera employee Jay Scovie, whose job it is to patrol offices to make sure they are sorted, straightened, shined, standardized and sustained masterpieces of uncluttered glory:

Kyocera’s version of 5S, which it calls “Perfect 5S,” not only calls for organization in the workplace, but aesthetic uniformity. Sweaters can’t hang on the backs of chairs, personal items can’t be stowed beneath desks and the only decorations allowed on cabinets are official company plaques or certificates.

One thing that bugs me about the article is that it doesn’t explain that the rigid aesthetic standards Kyocera implements are not part of the 5S system. Rules prohibiting a sweater on the back of a chair are unique to Kyocera’s “Perfect” 5S processes and not the standard 5S efficiency program.

As an unclutterer and a fan of productivity improving methods, I’m always disheartened when I see extreme examples of efficiency improvement systems discussed as if they are the norm instead of the exception. Programs that strive to increase productivity in the workplace are usually worthwhile systems that increase morale and creative thinking, instead of stifle it. This 2014 article in Harvard Business Review indicates that employees perform better when they can control their space.

If you work for a company with more than 150 employees, you probably are already familiar with at least one Lean system (“Lean” is the buzzword in the business world to mean a program that trims the fat — unnecessary and wasteful processes, methods, systems, etc.). If you’re unfamiliar with Lean systems on the whole, or are only familiar with one specific program, you might be interested in learning more about them. Even if you don’t implement the full systems, simply knowing about their methods can help to improve the way you do your work. I have definitely gained many helpful tips and tricks studying their processes.

There are numerous Lean systems, and each has a different area of expertise. Some can be used together, some are branches of pre-existing systems, while others are stand-alone programs. Different programs fall in and out of fashion, and these are a number of the current heavy hitters and resources that decently explain them:

What are your thoughts on Lean systems? Do you find that they contain useful productivity and organizing insights?

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

Positives from downsizing our home

homeI recently had a friend drop by my house. Prior to his visit, my wife, daughter, and I executed our pre-visitor clean sweep. While we were walking through the house helping my daughter locate all of her toys, I realized for the first time how much simpler our smaller home is to maintain in comparison to our last house.

I mentioned my revelation to my wife after we completed our quick clean up and she mentioned how much she used to hate cleaning our prior home. (Our previous home was roughly one third larger than our current one.)

Since we downsized, we have discovered the following things:

Energy costs: We have saved about 50 percent on home energy costs per month since the move. (Our old home was not well insulated, so the size wasn’t the only culprit to the high energy costs.)

Mortgage: While smaller doesn’t always mean cheaper, in our case we cut our mortgage payment by 30 percent and we also save 75 percent on our homeowner’s insurance. Our prior home was older and larger, while our current home is smaller and recently updated.

Maintenance: As I mentioned above, the cleaning time for our home has been decreased significantly.

While the positives are great, I do have a couple things that I miss about our old home: more room for entertaining and a nice master bathroom. Those two luxuries are worth being sacrificed, however, for all of the other benefits found in our current home. We have less clutter, fewer possessions in general, genuinely like this place more, and we’re saving a lot of money.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2009.

Book review: The Power of Less

Editor’s note: Although this post was originally published in 2009, we felt that information in The Power of Less is still relevant today.

Leo Babauta, who writes the inspiring blog ZenHabits, took his productivity and efficiency advice to the printed page in his book The Power of Less. Published in 2009, it is a 170-page guide to shedding the non-essential elements from your life and work so that you can do and achieve more.

His advice is based on six principles, two of which are initially discussed on pages 5 and 6 of his book:

Principle 1: By setting limitations, we must choose the essential. So in everything you do, learn to set limitations.

Principle 2: By choosing the essential, we create great impact with minimal resources. Always choose the essential to maximize your time and energy.

He uses the analogy of the haiku to illustrate these principles:

The haiku, as you may know, is usually a nature-related poem of just seventeen syllables, written in three lines (five syllables, then seven, then five). A poet writing a haiku must work with those limitations, must express an entire idea or image in only that number of syllables … He can quickly whip out seventeen syllables and have a completed haiku in a short amount of time; or he can carefully choose only the essential words and images needed to convey his idea. And this second choice is what creates some of the most powerful poetry in such a limited form — choosing only the essential.

He has four other principles, but these first two are really the heart of his system. In my opinion, he accurately explains that if you are going to be productive and efficient in all that you do, you have to make choices. You cannot do everything that comes your way, and you have to make difficult decisions about what filters into your life and what doesn’t.

On page 23 he aptly summarizes why you would want to adopt his system:

Simplifying isn’t meant to leave your life empty — it’s meant to leave space in your life for what you really want to do.

I completely agree with his message, and I think it will resonate well with most Unclutterer readers. If you are looking for sound advice on how to improve your productivity, The Power of Less will help you to be more efficient in all your dealings.

You can also check out Leo’s guest post on Unclutterer “Creating a minimalist workspace.”

 

Unitasker Wednesday: Luxe Makeup Brush Cleaner with USB Charging Station

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

There is a great article in Allure magazine that tells us we should clean our make-up brushes at least weekly. They also provide the following tips on how to clean your brushes:

Follow these seven steps for cleaner, good-as-new brushes and blenders.

  1. Wet the bristles with lukewarm water.
  2. Place a drop of makeup brush cleanser or [mild] soap into the palm of your hand.
  3. Gently massage the tips of the bristles in your palm.
  4. Rinse the bristles.
  5. Squeeze out the excess moisture with a clean towel.
  6. Reshape the brush head.
  7. Let the brush dry with its bristles hanging off the edge of a counter, thereby allowing it to dry in the correct shape. Never let your brushes dry on a towel — the bristles can become mildewed.

The experts at Allure also states that brushes should not be dried vertically. Because the bristles are glued to the handle, soap/detergent and water can cause the glue to breakdown and the bristles will start to fall off.

With brush cleaning so simple, I can’t imagine why anyone would need the Luxe Makeup Brush Cleaner with USB Charging Station. It is just a pile of clutter — the device, its charging base and cable, eight rubber collars to fit various brush sizes, and a special bowl to wash your brushes. It is a whole lot of non-recyclable material.

If you really want to spin your brushes to clean them, get a glass (that you already have), fill it with cleaning solution, and spin the brush handle between the palms of your hands while the bristles are submerged in the water. No extra plastic. No batteries to charge. No clutter at all.

Ask Unclutterer: Dealing with gift-giving grandparents

Reader Sarah submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

We have a 3-month-old child who is just delightful. He has everything he could need or want at this young age! We had a conversation with both sets of his grandparents prior to Christmas explaining that he has everything he could want, but if they felt the need to buy for him then a book or two or some clothes would be sufficient. However, both sets of grandparents bought a heap of toys and clothes and books! It was very generous of them, but this is not something I want to see become a habit. We have trouble with storage as it is, so I would really only prefer one or two items to be given at holidays and birthdays. How do I have this conversation with our loved ones?

Thanks for a great question Sarah. You mention that you already had a conversation with the grandparents and they didn’t seem to understand your request. You are not alone in your dilemma. At this time of year, Unclutterer receives several inquiries about dealing with generous extended family members.

The short answer, is that I do not know how you should have this conversation with your loved ones. I do not know them or your relationship with them. I will provide several suggestions below perhaps one will work for you in this situation.

If you are having trouble knowing how and where to start a conversation you may wish to read Crucial Conversations. Unclutterer Alex reviewed the book and says it is a must read for anyone who is intimidated by discussing potentially sensitive topics. The book may also help you communicate your wishes without the conversation becoming emotionally charged.

Read Editor-at-Large, Erin Doland’s post on receiving unwanted gifts. You may find that it is easier emotionally and on family relationships to re-gift and donate than it is to keep having the same conversation every year.

Unclutterer Jeri has some great tips for dealing with unwanted gifts. Although the post deals mainly with gifts from friends, her advice applies to gifts from family members as well.

As Erin mentioned in her post, grandparents want to give. Rather than saying “no gifts” consider providing alternatives. For example, babies and toddlers don’t need a lot of “things” but eventually, that child might need tuition for college. Asking the grandparents to contribute to a college fund might be an option for your family. (Investing $100/year for 17 years can result in $3000). Grandparents could write a special memory or life advice in a card each year and the cards could be presented on the child’s first day of college.

We would love to hear our readers’ suggestions on how they deal with this issue. Please feel free to leave advice for Sarah in the comments below.

Thanks for your contribution Sarah. We hope that this post gives you the information you’re looking for.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject as “Ask Unclutterer.”

Happy 12th Anniversary to Unclutterer

On January 6, 2007, we published our first blog post with our manifesto of simple living. It’s hard to believe it was 12 years ago but here we are, still promoting smart consumerism and avoiding distractions that prevent us from enjoying a modern, luxurious life.

Here are some highlights as we approach our “teen years”:

  • We’ve published over 4600 posts and received almost 75,000 comments.
  • Our first Unitasker Wednesday was published in May 2007 and since then we’ve featured almost 500 unitaskers.
  • The Forum was opened in November 2009 to allow fellow unclutterers to connect with each other and share ideas and resources. There are over 2000 topics and over 63,000 replies on our Forum.
  • Unclutter Your Life in One Week was published in November 2009.
  • Never Too Busy to Cure Clutter was published in January 2016.

We would like to thank all of the regular and guest writers that have contributed to Unclutterer over the years but most of all, we’d like to thank YOU, our readers, for your continued comments, ideas, and support, and encouragement.

Hiring a professional organizer


Since January is the National Association of Professional Organizer’s Get Organized and Be Productive Month, I’ve asked Geralin Thomas of Metropolitan Organizing in Cary, North Carolina, to share her insights with us on how to hire a professional organizer. For many of us, having someone coach us through the uncluttering process can be very beneficial.

If you decide to hire a professional organizer, start by looking for someone who is diplomatic, empathetic, willing to listen, non-judgmental, creative, patient, and trustworthy. Also, to ensure that the professional organizer follows ethical business practices, check your local Better Business Bureau reports and look for someone who is involved a professional organization like the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) in the US. For professional organizing associations in other parts of the world, check the International Federation of Professional Organizing Associations (IFPOA).

It is okay to interview different organizing and productivity professionals to get a feel for who matches best with your personality. Below is a menu of questions you might consider asking when hiring someone:

  1. What are your areas of expertise? (Some possible answers may include: garages, clients with ADHD, time management, wardrobes and closets, financial matters, computer-related challenges, speaking, coaching, writing, estate liquidation, downsizing for seniors, home staging, relocation, etc.)
  2. Are you certified? Insured? (Certification is optional and not required. NAPO has many well-qualified organizers that are not certified for a variety of reasons.)
  3. Do you attend conferences or teleclasses to stay abreast of current organizing trends and techniques?
  4. Do you have local references?
  5. Do you belong to any professional organizations? (I would not hire a professional organizer who is not involved in some type of professional group or organization. To me, a professional affiliation demonstrates not only a commitment to the field but an additional way to check out that person among other business-minded individuals.)
  6. How long have you been in business? How many clients / hours have you worked?
  7. What hours do you work? What days of the week are you available? (Make sure that this person’s availability is a good match for your availability.)
  8. Do you bring the necessary supplies, or do I purchase them separately?
  9. If you purchase supplies or materials at a discount, do you “up charge” or charge an hourly shopping fee?
  10. Do you make arrangements to take away donations, consignments, and trash? If so, do you charge a fee for this service?
  11. Do you work alone or do you have a team of employees or subcontractors, if necessary?
  12. Do you have advertising on your car? (Ask this only if you do not want co-workers or neighbors to know you are hiring a professional organizer.)
  13. Do you take photographs? Will they be on your website?
  14. What is your cancellation policy?
  15. How do you charge? Of course, I don’t need to tell you to inquire about fees but there are many options available, including hourly, by the project, or bulk rates. There may be a minimum number of hours required per booking, too, so ask about that.

Remember that professional organizers and productivity consultants are not housekeepers, therapists, decorators, or nurses unless they specifically tell you that their credentials include these jobs.

NAPO defines Professional Organizer and Productivity Consultant as follows:

Professional Organizer: supports evaluation, decision-making, and action around objects, space, and data; helping clients achieve desired outcomes regarding function, order, and clarity.

Productivity Consultant: supports evaluation, decision-making, and action around time, energy, and resources; helping clients achieve desired outcomes regarding goals, effectiveness, and priorities.

If you have ADHD or any other type of chronic organizing challenge, the Institute for Challenging Disorganization is the place to find a qualified organizer.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2009.

January is Get Organized and Be Productive Month

The National Association of Professional Organizers has once again declared January Get Organized and Be Productive Month!

We love the idea of starting off the year on the right foot, and we hope that you get in on the organizing spirit. NAPO has many events scheduled across the country as part of their Get Organized and Be Productive Month.

Also, Amazon is interested in helping you get organized in January with a number of good deals on storage solutions and organizing books.

Do you have plans to get organized in January? Let us know about your plans in the comments. You can help inspire all of us.

 

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2009.

Happy New Year 2019

happy 2019

Before we launch into a brand-new year, here are our most popular posts from 2018.

Creating a minimalist workspace — from Zen Habits

Ask Unclutterer: Where can I donate stuffed animals?

What to do if you are organized and your partner isn’t

Ten things to do in 10 minutes

10 tips to beat clutter in less than five minutes

The Real Cost of Financial Clutter on the Road to a Remarkable Life

Understanding how you process information to help you get organized, part I

All-in-one washer/dryer

No more wire hangers!

Organizing is knowing what you want

We wish all of our readers the happiest, most organized and productive 2019.