Dealing with teenager’s clutter

As a father of a toddler, I can easily clean up the toys that she plays with and eventually leaves strewn about the room. I am not looking forward to her teenage years, however, if she turns out to be as messy during that stage as I was. I’m not exactly sure how I will deal with it, but maybe some of our readers can give me some pointers?

The reason I bring up teenagers and clutter is an old article I stumbled upon from Kevin Duggan of The Coloradoan. An excerpt:

Clutter is as natural to teens as acne and mood swings; it’s as aggravating to parents as gray hair and hearing loss. There lies the conflict.

My home is not immune to this problem. A tour at any time through my daughters’ bedrooms (and nearby rooms, for that matter) will reveal all manner of clothes worn or tried on in recent days strewn about the floor like so many pine needles in the forest.

There’s no telling which clothes are dirty and which were recently washed but never put away. Included in the ground cover are food wrappers, CDs, papers, books and every shoe they own. Prized possessions are mixed in with trash.

So do we have any readers who deal with teenagers and their inevitable clutter? Would any parents be willing to brag about strategies for helping to raise a clutter-free teen? Trust me, I’m all ears!

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2007.

Keeping holiday decorations uncluttered

Decorating for the holidays? If so, you may want to look over some of the tips below to guard against over cluttered decorations. Adding seasonal decorations to your home can increase your home’s clutter if you don’t take steps to remove items in preparation of the decorations.

Explore the tips and feel free to add your own in the comments section:

  • Replace everyday items: When decorating your home make sure you remove everyday items that are being replaced by holiday decorations. It is a good idea to place your everyday items in the boxes that usually hold your decorations. That way you know right where they are and you can easily put them back when removing you decorations after the holidays.
  • Don’t put all the presents under the tree: If you have family or friends that don’t come to visit, you should probably keep their presents in a bag in storage. So when you go to visit them you can simply grab the bag and head out the door to play Santa.
  • Donate or discard unused or broken decorations: Reader John sent us this suggestion last year. If a decoration isn’t being used, then it shouldn’t be stored for another year.
  • Beware of over decorating: Decorating for the holidays can go a bit far. If you go too crazy, then the decorations will lose their appeal and clutter up your space. Sensory overload is not a good thing when it comes to decorating.

 

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

Unitasker Wednesday: Silly scented products

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

During the holidays, people will be out enjoying parties a little more often. The police, (rightly so) will also be conducting more frequent roadside sobriety tests. Imagine that you have not had a drop of alcohol to drink. You are stopped at a roadside check and the officer asks you to roll down your window. Out wafts the smell of bourbon — from your car’s air freshener.

Yes, you too can have the smell of drunk driving without driving drunk. Just hang a few of these little bourbon scented trees around the inside of your car.

I might consider this for a bar or lounge area, but a car? No. Not really a good idea.

 

The Jimmy Dean sausage company holds a recipe exchange during the holiday season. Readers submit a recipe that uses Jimmy Dean sausages and they get to select one of the limited-edition keepsakes the company offers. This year, one of the keepsakes was sausage scented gift wrap.

I have a dog. Not one thing wrapped in sausage scented gift wrap would last more than 30 seconds. If any of the gift wrap was swallowed, it would be an expensive visit to the veterinarian.

For anyone who has pets, unscented and recyclable gift wrap would be the best option. You’ll have plenty of sausage scent when you cook sausages for breakfast Christmas morning.

Ask Unclutterer: Why is it so hard to let go?

Reader Trish sends in this question:

I grew up with a table with a center post. It came with extra leaves so we could expand it. We bought it second-hand and I have had for 40 years. Over the years, the legs have had to be screwed, or glued back on. I have been looking at center post tables for a while but couldn’t afford one. My son received a beautiful one and since he needs to move, he has offered it to me. I would love it! However, in order to get it, I have to throw my current table with its one loose leg into the garbage. Suddenly, that 40-year-old table is very beautiful and I have great sadness at the thought of tossing it out and have the garbage truck crush it to death. I am almost ready to back out of the deal. His wood center post table is beautiful and would be a great opportunity lost if I can’t detach my heart from my old broken table. HELP!!! I don’t understand why it so hard to let go.

That is a great question Trish. Many of us have a hard time letting go of things. A number of years ago, scientist examined the brains of hoarders and non-hoarders. Researchers found greater activity in a certain part of the brain when hoarders were faced with a decision to dispose of their belongings.1 This same part of the brain is also associated with maintaining a sense of “me.”2

This is not to suggest that you, or any of our readers who have trouble disposing items are hoarders. But, I wonder… if we own an item for a long period of time, will we have conditioned our minds to believe the item is part of us? It certainly seems that way sometimes.

From your submission, it sounds like your table, or parts thereof, could still be put to good use. Have you considered hiring a carpenter to build something from the salvageable parts of the table? Perhaps you could turn the table top into picture frames. Collect a series of photos showing your family around the table at birthdays, holidays, or special events and put them in the frames. You might consider building a shelf or serving trays from the table as well.

If you decide to build something new from the old table, set a time limit. If you have not moved forward with the project in six months, then give yourself permission to let the table go. If you are resistant to having it go in the garbage, consider donating it to a trade school or wood working club where the wood could be re-purposed. You might be able to find someone in a Freecycle or Buy Nothing group that would be happy to have the table and you would know it is going to someone who will appreciate it.

If you decide to let your table go, consider the advice provided by Marie Kondo in her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up. Think of the lessons that the table taught you and all of the wonderful experiences you had while you owned it. Thank the table for its devoted service and send it on its way. I held a funeral for a pair of riding boots that I owned for 30 years. I know it sounds crazy, but it helped.

Allow yourself to feel all the feelings. You are human. It is just a “thing” but the memories around the thing are important so do not feel guilty for acknowledging that.

Thanks for your great question Trish. 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.”

  1. Tolin, David F., et al. “Neural Mechanisms of Decision Making in Hoarding Disorder.” Archives of General Psychiatry, vol. 69, no. 8, 2012, p. 832., doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.1980. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22868937
  2. McGonigal, Kelly. “Why It’s Hard to Let Go of Clutter.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 7 Aug. 2012, psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-science-willpower/201208/why-it-s-hard-let-go-clutter.

Too many flower vases

As I was looking for something in my kitchen, I came across a cupboard that was filled with multiple flower vases. Over the years, my wife and I have received a fair amount of mail ordered flowers and with every order there is always a glass vase included. Apparently, these vases all found their way into the same cupboard and now I’m trying to figure out what to do with them.

My first thought was to take them down to my local charity shop. However, I always remembered seeing an abundance of vases at thrift stores so I decided against that. I called a local florist to see if they would be interested in reusing some flower vases for their deliveries. They were not very receptive to the idea. Maybe they thought I would return them with some sort of flower killing disease.

I tried to figure out what I could use them for around the house other than storing loose change. I could use them for their purpose and display beautiful flowers each and every day, but buying flowers every week, especially in the colder seasons isn’t going to happen. I’d have to purchase quite a few bouquets just to put all the vases to use.

Dear readers, what can I do with all of these vases? Please leave some suggestions in the comments. I’m sure other readers have the same issue of flower vases taking up way too much storage space. Let’s get a collection of ideas brewing in the comments section.

 

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

Reader suggestion: Storing a George Foreman Grill

Reader Liz sent us the following solution for storing the removable plates and body of her George Foreman Grill:

I got the wonderful George Foreman grill with the changeable plates for Christmas a few years ago. I have since been struggling with how to store the 5 grill plates since they don’t stack conveniently and can get easily scratched. I live in an apartment, so storage space is hard to come by. After several disappointing online searches, I decided to create my own [storage solution]. I used a vertical, metal sorter (similar to this one) placed on top of a locker shelf (similar to this one) so I can store my Foreman grill underneath the plates. The file sorter that is holding the grill plates is coated in plastic so it won’t scratch the plates, which is vital!

In addition to being a great solution for a George Foreman Grill, it would be wonderful for waffle iron plates, lids for reusable storage containers, lids for pots and pans, and even baking pans and cookie sheets. Thank you for such a terrific suggestion, Liz!

 

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

Rolling along with my ZÜCA bag

A few years ago, an employee at ZÜCA, Inc., e-mailed me and asked if I had ever heard of their line of luggage. I hadn’t.

At that time, I was in a hate-hate relationship with my overnight bag. It was a multiple-pocket duffle bag that had the worst strap configuration known to man on it. When I got it, the bag was empty, and I had no idea how much pain the strap could inflict on my shoulder with even the smallest amount of weight in it.

I decided to check out a ZÜCA bag and see if it might be a nice alternative. I’m glad that I did, because the ZÜCA bag is my new best friend for when I need to travel for a week or less.

These are the reasons why I think the ZÜCA bag is great:

  • The wheels. They maneuver better than any luggage with wheels that I’ve ever test driven. Plus, you can order customized ones that look like roller skate or skateboard wheels.
  • The built-in chair. The aluminum frame on the bag allows you to be able to use the piece of luggage as a chair. Often times, at the airport, I find myself waiting in lines. Now, I just sit while I wait.
  • The TSA-compliant zipper pouch. The pouch has a specialized pocket right inside the bag so that I can easily grab it when heading through security and then pop it back into place after putting on my shoes.
  • The laptop pocket. Actually, I’m pretty sure ZÜCA didn’t imagine the side pocket to be a laptop pocket, but mine fits right inside of it. When going through security at the airport, I just slide it out of the pocket without having to unzip or unsnap anything. I have to be careful, however, if I store my bag in the overhead compartment to either take my laptop out of the pocket or store my bag laptop-side on top.
  • The insert bags. I don’t always use each and every one of the insert bags, but I use most of them. I put my shoes and belts in one, my shirts in another, etc. They keep shoe crud from getting on my clothing.
  • The washable exterior. If the ZÜCA bag gets dirty, you can remove the bag from the frame and wash it. It’s also water resistant, so if it rains, your stuff is nice and dry inside. Also, if you decide you want something snazzy, you can change the bag to a different pattern the company sells.

My only problem with the bag is that I have yet to find a way to store a suit coat without it getting wrinkled. My assumption is that this is a failing of mine, and not a problem with the bag design. However, if the bag had a suit pouch that would wrap around the insert bags, I wouldn’t have a concern at all.

Also, the bag isn’t cheap. It retails for close to $300. A quick search through some other luggage websites finds that the price is comparable to similar bags of its size. I believe the price is worth it, though, especially for people who travel a lot for business. If you’re in the market for a new piece of carry-on luggage that holds up to a week’s worth of clothes in an incredibly organized manner, you definitely need to check out the ZÜCA bag.

 

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

2018 Gift Giving Guide: Wrap Up

This post summarizes our 12th Annual Holiday Gift Giving Guide. We hope this tradition has inspired you to give uncluttered presents this season and throughout the coming year.

For more inspiration, visit our previous Gift Giving Guides: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

From the Unclutterer staff, we wish you a relaxing and clutter-free holiday season!

Free pass to return or re-gift presents

Gift giving is an art. Some people have an amazing talent at picking out the perfect something. I, however, am not blessed with such a skill. Every now and again I’ll hit one out of the park, but those occasions are rare. I think that it’s my disdain for crowded shopping centers that fuels my ineptitude.

Regardless of the reason, my gifts are often received with a strange facial expression and the question, “What is it?” I’ll never forget the gift I got for my sister-in-law that drew the response, “This is such an interesting … uh … watering can?” It was a purse.

When I give a gift, I want the gift to be exactly what the recipient wants. I want it to be loved. I also want the gift to not end up as clutter or to cause stress. To avoid giving the imperfect gift or to cause stress, I’ve decided to follow David Seah’s suggestion in his post “Print Your Own ‘Re-Gift Receipts’” and create my own re-gift receipts to accompany my future gifts.

I’m not going to write mine up exactly like he has, but the principle is the same: a guilt-free return policy. It seems to be such a nice way to let people know that you will in no way be offended if they decide to return your gift.

Be sure to check out Seah’s template at the bottom of the post to save yourself time creating your re-gift receipts.

 

This post has been updated since its publication in 2008.

2018 Gift Giving Guide: Online giving

Many people live far away from family and friends and may not have the chance to get together over the holidays. Even if people do travel, they are likely limited in the baggage they can carry. This is why online giving might be the perfect gift option. Here are some online gift suggestions.

Amazon Prime

If you know someone who would like to order from Amazon but cannot justify the shipping charges, give the gift of Amazon Prime. Not only will they enjoy free two-day shipping on millions of items, they will have access to thousands of movies and TV shows with Prime Video, be able to stream millions of songs, and get free Kindle e-books. You have the choice of purchasing a 3-month or 12-month subscription.

Audible

Audio books are a great gift for commuters or anyone that would like a hands-free reading option. An Audible subscription allows the user 30 days of free membership. Afterwards, the user can choose three audiobooks each month two of which are Audible Originals. Books can be switched out at any time and if the membership expires, the user gets to keep the audiobooks forever.

Magazines

Print magazines can pile up quickly. Consider these Kindle options as gifts:

There magazines for everyone on your gift list whether they have an interest in quilting, car racing, home and garden, or business and finance.

Newspapers

Most national and international newspapers have their top stories free online but in-depth stories and editorials often requires a subscription. A subscription to the LA Times might be appreciated by someone from the west coast now living in the east. The Washington Post offers two options, a regular subscription which provides unlimited access to the newspaper, and a premium subscription which includes unlimited downloads of top-rated e-books authored by their journalists. Many regional and local newspapers offer online or digital subscriptions as well.

Online Services

Gift Cards

When you live far away from friends and family and do not see them frequently, it can be difficult to know their preferences. This is where gift cards can come in handy. Amazon offers a selection of gift cards for anything on Amazon or for specific items such as travel services to pet care to electronics.

If you have received online gifts, what were your favourites? Share your experiences to inspire our readers.

 

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

2018 Gift Giving Guide: The big gift

Some families draw names for the holidays and each person receives one “big” gift instead of many smaller gifts from different people. If this describes your family, consider some of these pricier organizing items.

Back in 2007, we suggested that the Fujitsu ScanSnap would be an ideal gift for someone who struggles with paper clutter. We still stand behind that statement. Technology has improved over the last 11 years. The ScanSnap iX500 model will work with both Mac and PC and connect via wi-fi to tablets and smartphones. You can create searchable multi-page PDFs and sort your files into appropriate folders based on relevant keywords. The duplex function allows both sides of the page to be scanned quickly. This might be the ultimate organizational gift for someone who needs to scan business cards, photos, documents, or hand-written notes.

In 2008, our ultimate gift idea was the Kindle. We still believe that for any book lover, it is an excellent gift. Couple your Kindle selection with a subscription to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited and your recipient will have access to thousands of books for free.

The Amazon Echo with added “smart” light bulb might an appreciated gift. I have one in my home and when my hands are full, it is really nice to shout, “Please turn on the basement lights!” Some people may not find any organizational benefit to having these devices and they could pose a security risk to your home. Consider including expert set-up services with the gift to ensure the security risks are minimized.

Maybe not as much fun as an electronic device, a stylish filing cabinet might be a great organizational gift for someone who needs a place to keep documents in order and secure. Add some multi-colour, hanging file folders to help the recipient get started.

We would be remiss in our duties if we did not at least mention a label maker. This Brady BBP37 Industrial Colour Sign and Label Printer is the ultimate in big gifts and at a whopping $3000, the ultimate in big price tags. However, if you need long-lasting, industrial grade labels to withstand harsh outdoor conditions, this is the label maker to get. But seriously, for everyday use, the Brother Compact Labeler with Carrying Case is a much better (and more reasonably priced) choice. Consider adding a package of labels in assorted colours too.

What has been the best organizing gift you have received? Share with our readers to provide some holiday inspiration.

 

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Unitasker Wednesday: The impact of unitaskers

Almost every week we publish a post about a unitasker. Unitaskers generally serve only one function (uni-task) and whose function could easily be replaced by another item that you already have.

Some unitaskers are useful if they improve safety, or save time, effort, or money. Occasionally we have featured items that would have no benefit to most people but be very useful to someone with special needs (e.g., Staybowlizer, electric corkscrew). From time to time, we feature items that are beyond extravagant such as a $1500 silver coffee can.

We have also featured some gag gifts like the Turn & Churn (which is just an empty box) and the flying, screaming, sling-shot monkey. We tell our readers that we do not want them to buy these items, but to laugh at their ridiculousness.

This article by George Monbiot nicely explains the economic and environmental impact of unitasker and gag gifts. It is entitled The Gift of Death, but Death to Unitaskers would also be an appropriate title.

This holiday season, we may be tempted to purchase a unitasker or “gag gift” for someone that seems to have everything already. It might trigger a belly laugh when it is opened and perhaps a few minutes of enjoyment during the next few days. But in the long run, the item will just gather dust in the recipient’s home until it ends up in a thrift shop (maybe) and finally the landfill. Please dear readers, reconsider your gift of clutter. The best present is your presence.