Unclutter your refrigerator before Thanksgiving

If you host Thanksgiving at your home, then now is the time to start making room for all of the dishes that need to be stored in your refrigerator. Use up the items that are currently taking up space. My wife calls the process of clearing out the ingredients available in the refrigerator as “creative cooking.” It consists of not shopping for groceries for a week while concocting dishes from the ingredients that remain in the refrigerator and cupboards. Creative cooking also takes place at our house prior to long vacations.

While you clear out the space in your refrigerator it is freeing up valuable real estate for the turkey along with the side dishes that will reside in there while they wait to be prepared. This also allows for room in your refrigerator for the all important leftovers.

With just a little more than a week to go, clear out your fridge and give it a good cleaning. Let us know about some of your favorite “creative cooking” recipes in the comments. One of my favorites is a good old fashion stew using up meat and savory vegetables.

 

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

2008 Gift Giving Guide: Gifts of clutter

Although this post was published 10 years ago, it still makes us laugh. Over the years we have all received gifts that left us scratching our heads in puzzlement. As today is our usual Unitasker Wednesday post, we thought we would update and re-publish this because we all need a little laugh at this time of the year. Remember, we don’t want you to buy these items. We simply want you to have fun reading about all the awful gifts of clutter you wouldn’t really want to give or receive this year.

 

Stumped on what to buy your favorite co-worker or loved one? Consider giving the gift of clutter!

Small Kitchen Appliances

Your mother-in-law hates coffee? No matter. Buy her an espresso maker anyway. Get the deluxe version equipped with steamer and grinder. It’ll take up lots of counter space and you can use it when you visit. Heck, buy her two!

Knick Knacks

If you really want to yank the chain of the minimalist in your life, buy knick knack gifts. These small shelf stuffers fit any budget. You can get a $10 Statue of Liberty figurine. Inexpensive gifts not your style? Consider Everyday Objects‘ bone china replicas of a paper cups for only $100 per set.

Arcade-Style Video Games

Who needs smart phone apps when you can go retro and deliver a full size, 275-pound, 1981 replica Ms. Pac-man arcade game to an eager child or adult? Cram it into the living room of a tiny studio apartment for easy entertainment. A fun and educational experience on the history of video games can be had by all.

Obscure Art

Who says you can’t impose your own artistic tastes onto others? Let’s face it, some people in your life need your artful guidance. At big box stores, garage sales, or art galleries, look for bizarre sculptures, abstract paintings, or anything that would leave the recipient asking: “What is it?”

A Pile of Boulders

For your suburbia-dwelling friends, don’t forget the garden. Call your local rock quarry and have a truck dump off a pile of rocks on your friend’s driveway. They’ll have hours of fun trying to pick up the boulders, one-by-one, and finding the perfect garden spot for each to occupy.

Hard-to-Use Electronic Equipment

For the technically challenged on your list, give the gift of complex electronics that will end up tucked away on a garage shelf. Universal remotes that require setup on a computer and web access are an option. Challenge the recipient to sit with the manual until he or she figures out how to program it.

Giant Vases

In his post Too many flower vases, Matt asked: “So what can I do with all of these vases?” There is no need to get rid of them when you can let them collect dust in a cabinet! Add to your friends and family members’ collections with a giant vase to obstruct the entrance through any front door.

Really, the possibilities are endless when it comes to lovely clutter gifts. Large, small, expensive, cheap — clutter gifts span the world over and can easily provide a lifetime of dust, maintenance, and storage fees for your most treasured friends.

What is the most outrageous clutter gift you’ve ever received? Let us know about it in the comments.

2018 Gift Giving Guide: Consumable gifts

Consumable gifts when done correctly, can be some of the most appreciated presents we receive. When poorly executed, it can actually lead to more clutter. Here are some tips to choosing the best consumable gifts for the people on your list.

Food is first on the list when people think of consumables. After all, everyone eats — we just don’t all eat the same things. Consider the following:

  • Some food allergies are severe. Your intended recipient may not be allergic but if any of their family members have allergies, the item may never be consumed.
  • Dietary Restrictions. Low salt, low sugar, low fat, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan… Some are medical restrictions, some are faith-based restrictions, others are by choice. Whatever the reason, respect the limitations in your gift-giving.

Always read the label and the list of ingredients before purchasing and when in doubt, ask!

You might want to opt for specialty foods that your recipients would not normally purchase themselves. I always get my husband imported lemon curd for the holidays. It is something his British granny used to make every year and try as I might, I have never mastered the recipe.

Students starting out on their own may appreciate a spice starter kit with free refills for five years. For the coffee lover, perhaps a three month coffee sampler subscription would be appreciated. The gourmet chef on your list might enjoy pure Spanish saffron. There are many gourmet international food options to choose from.

Although not nearly so glamourous as international gourmet food, other consumables that might be well received include:

Take the time to get to know your recipient’s preferences and use your imagination to create the perfect consumable (and clutter free) gift.

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: Charitable gifts

Today begins our annual Holiday Gift Giving Guide. Over the next few days, we will share numerous articles on uncluttered giving that can be used this season. Most of these ideas also will apply to gift giving throughout the year, irrespective of the occasion.

In an article in the New York Times, Peter Post, great-grandson of etiquette expert Emily Post, states that donating to a charity in lieu of a tangible gift can be very meaningful — if it is done the right way. It is important to always think of the recipient instead of yourself when making the donation to a charity. What one person may consider a worthy cause might not resonate with someone else. A charitable donation gift should not be a way for the giver to advocate their ideals.

Two great websites that can help you choose a charity that will resonate with the recipient are Charity Watch and Charity Navigator. They both list organizations that funnel the majority of their donations into programs instead of administration.

Other local charities include:

  • Food banks
  • Hospital foundations
  • Library foundations
  • Homeless shelters
  • Art centres
  • Theatre groups
  • Historical society archives
  • Multi-cultural groups

Donations to charities as gifts may not suit family festivities, but your business could donate to a charity instead of sending clients the usual box of chocolates. Workplaces could skip the “Secret Santa” gift exchange and ask everyone to donate a bag of groceries to the local food bank instead.

If you do choose to donate to a charity, take the time to send or give the recipient a card. I like these blank greeting cards where I add my own holiday design and the logo of the charity as well as write a personalized note inside the card.

Have you donated to a charity in someone’s name? Would you do it again? Have the gifts been well received? Share your experiences in the comments.

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.

What to do with pajamas during the day?

I have never known what to do with my pajamas in the morning. They usually end up being folded and set on top of my dresser. The dresser location is functional, but it’s cluttered. Years of living with clothes strewn on my dresser left me wishing I had a place where my pajamas could live that wasn’t on top of a flat surface.

After a recent trip to the hardware store, I came home armed with a “S” hook to solve my problem. The hook fits over my closet’s clothing rod and provides an instant place for my pajamas during the day. I also have enough space in my closet that my pajamas don’t touch any of my clean clothes. My pajamas are out of sight, off a flat surface, and behind the closed door of my closet.

If I had children, I think that I would install more permanent hooks that screwed into the closet wall at a height convenient for them. This way, they would be able to hang up their own pajamas even if they couldn’t reach their clothing rod in their closet.

I know that some people will likely comment that pajamas should be stored either under your pillow or in your pillow case. I just can’t do this. I think about how I sweat on my pajamas during the night and am not comfortable with then storing them next to where I put my face when I sleep. The reality may be that it is more hygienic than I am imagining, but I can’t do it. It gives me the willies. For me, the “S” hook works perfectly.

 

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

Interesting way to hide powercords

Power cords are a necessary evil that ruin the aesthetic of almost any room in your home. Finding ways to hide them and get them into a manageable arrangement is always a struggle. One option is to use the “J” shaped cable organizer but they are only available in white or black which doesn’t always go with the décor. Nail-in cable clips are easy to install and can neatly hold cables against the wall but again, who wants to see that bright orange extension cord?

This rather unique and interesting way to hide your wire clutter I found over at the Boiler design site:

The Picket Fence adapts to older homes and cleanly manages the electrical necessities of the occupants. The baseboards have a certain thickness to them, typically much thicker than an electrical cord. By sticking these pickets onto the baseboard, a space is created between the wall and the picket points. This space serves as a track for routing all of the wires cleanly around the room. They can go wherever they like and double back as much as they need to, all concealed behind a picket fence. Because of the gaps between the individual pickets, a plug can jump out wherever it is needed.

Obviously this design isn’t for everyone, but I think it is creative and lends itself to different interpretations.

 

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

It came from your clutter: homemade bagpipes

In this edition of “It came from your clutter,” something that came from my family’s clutter — a sheep stomach and tubes of wood fashioned into bagpipes.

Back in the early 1990s, my husband was deployed to the former Yugoslavia as a UN Peacekeeper. Because he learned to play the bagpipes in military college, he took his set of pipes with him on the deployment. Music has a way of bringing people together and being so loud, the Great Highland bagpipes can be heard by people far and wide. My husband explained the history of bagpipes and how they used to be made with animal skins (modern bagpipes are made with synthetic materials) and the chanter and drones were made with wood.

My husband must have made a positive impression on the local community because at the end of his six-month tour of duty, the people gifted him a set of bagpipes they had made themselves. This “decorative” set of pipes moved with us from duty station to duty station for over fifteen years.

One summer, we started noticing a strange smell coming from the corner of the living room near the shelving unit. I thought perhaps it was a dead mouse because it had that sort of stink. It was the bagpipes. The sheep stomach had started to decay and rot.

We took one last photo of these handmade bagpipes from war-torn former Yugoslavia, said good-bye, and tossed them in the trash. My husband will always have the fondest memories of the people he met there — and of course this photo.

Do you have something unique or bizarre you have found in your clutter that you would like to share with our readers? Please send them to us through our Contact page, we would love to see your discovered oddities!

Perfect time to organize your garage

Autumn is my favorite time of year. The temperature is just right for me, the leaves are beautiful, and Halloween and Thanksgiving are always fun. Fall also reminds me of the time of year when my mother would predictably ask her three sons to clean the garage. Cleaning out the garage consisted of moving everything in the garage into the driveway and then sweeping and hosing off the garage floor. After we let the floor dry we moved everything back into the garage. It was always a dreaded task that wasted perfect backyard football weather.

The silly thing about the chore was that we hardly ever threw anything away or donated stuff to charity. I can still remember wheeling the wagon filled with old baseball equipment out to the yard and then right back into the garage again. Figuring out what needs to be trashed or donated is the first step to organizing your garage. With the car taking up so much real estate, you need to be organized with the space you do have at your disposal.

Using the walls for storage is key. You could easily go for the quick and cheap project with some strategically placed heavy duty hooks or you could go the storage system route. It probably depends on how much stuff you have or how much you actually use your garage.

A guest post by Lauren Halagarda has some excellent tips that should help you out immensely. The garage is one of the most common areas for clutter to accumulate and it needs to be kept under control before the car no longer fits into its spot.

 

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

Learn to safely wrap cords, cables, and hoses

The magazine Fine Homebuilding has an informative and season-appropriate tutorial on its website “Wrapping cords and hoses: Learn how to avoid twists and kinks that can cause damage.”

This advice is perfect for garden and air hoses and extension cords that are ready to be stored for the cold months. There are three methods described in the article: a looped bundle, a loose chain, and a reverse coil.

If the pictures in the article don’t provide you with enough information, check out the instructional video that accompanies the article.

 

 

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

 

The Puj Tub

I was a bit weary of giving my daughter her bath when she was just a little one, but I eventually got used to bath time. We had your run-of-the-mill plastic baby bathtub at the time, and we also had a dedicated bathroom for giving our daughter her baths. We lived in a larger house then, and the baby bathtub wasn’t much of a nuisance since she had a dedicated bathroom.

Since we no longer need the baby tub, we don’t have a storage issue now that we are in a smaller home. However, I am intrigued by the Puj Tub as a solution to small-space baby bathing. It fits any standard sink, and lays or hangs flat for easy storage when not in use. There is no need to worry about where to store the large unforgiving plastic baby tub with the Puj Tub. The sink is a perfect place to bathe an infant, especially for a new mom who may have difficulty leaning over a large bathtub or lifting a plastic baby bathtub that is full of water.

We would love to hear from readers who have tried the Puj Tub. Leave us a comment and share your experiences.

 

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

Unitasker Wednesday: Chef’n Sweet Spot Ice Cream Sandwich Maker

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

When I was in college, I had the opportunity to work with a professor who was doing ice cream research and as a student project, we got to use an industrial ice cream sandwich maker similar to the one in this video. What I learned from working on this machine is that the wafer parts of the sandwich are hard so they do not break as they feed through the machine. The ice cream is cold but soft so that it can be easily pumped through the machine and fill the sandwiches. Once the sandwiches are wrapped, they go into a freezer at -30ºC (about -22ºF). The freezer is this cold to keep the texture of the ice cream smooth by preventing the formation of large ice crystals.

After learning all of this information, I cannot understand why someone would go through the trouble of making ice cream sandwiches at home. However, the Chef’n Sweet Spot Ice Cream Sandwich Maker will allow you to do just that — go through an awful lot of trouble to make sub-par ice cream sandwiches.

I thought perhaps this piece of clutter might be useful if you were allergic to dairy products or needed to make gluten-free ice cream sandwiches but one look in the freezer compartments at my local grocery store and I found dairy-free, gluten-free, nut and peanut free ice cream sandwich options in several different flavours. So you do not actually need the Chef’n Sweet Spot Ice Cream Sandwich Maker to help you cope with allergies.

The Chef’n Sweet Spot Ice Cream Sandwich Maker is supposed to be easy to use but it is still a lot of work. First of all, you have to bake your own wafers in the silicone top and bottom of the mould and wait until they cool. Next, soften ice cream until it is spreadable and fill the tray you have placed on one set of wafers. Then, very carefully put the lid containing the other set of wafers on the top. Finally, freeze the contraption for at least an hour. (I hope your home freezer is at -30ºC). When you take them out of the freezer, gently remove the sandwiches from the mould. Congratulations. You now have messy ice cream sandwiches.

Unless you enjoy making work for yourself, bypass this clutter maker.

Reader Question: Organizing medications

Reader Deborah wrote to us to ask for some help with her situation:

We are overrun with pill bottles and medicines of all kinds — bottles, jars, tubes, etc. of prescriptions, headache pills, cold pills, skin creams, vitamins, and more. Years ago, I got a new cabinet to put next to my sink and it’s now overflowing too. You pull out the bottle you want and others fall out too. How do you corral these?

Dealing with dozens of little bottles that fall over all the time can be frustrating! Here at Unclutterer we’ve got some advice on how to corral these small containers.

Step one is to unclutter. It’s time to dispose of all of the medications and toiletries you no longer need or use. Gather everything up and spread it out on your counter or dining table to see what you have. Collect all of the prescriptions that are no longer used and any expired over-the-counter-medications and vitamins. Ideally, place them into a sealed bag or bucket out of the reach of children and pets until you can dispose of them properly. Check your toiletries such as face creams and cosmetics for expiry dates and dispose of any that are expired.

Now it is time to organize what is left — the items that you are currently using.

You have not specified exactly where you would like to store your medications (pharmacists say that the bathroom medicine cabinet is one of the worst places to store medications) so there are several alternatives listed here.

If several people in your home are using prescription medications, you may want to store each person’s bottles in small, different coloured baskets. It will be very easy to see whose medications are whose. Unless the vials are full of liquid, lay them down flat. They are less likely to tip over and you will still be able to see the labels.

Another option is to use a three-drawer desk organizer. Assign each person their own drawer and lay the vials flat inside. This unit does take up some counter space but it could be easily put on a closet shelf — out of the reach of children.

If you have liquid medications, you could use a turntable. One with high sides and interior dividers will prevent the bottles from falling over when it spins. The dividers would keep everyone’s medication separated and you could easily label each section. You would need counter space or a shelf at least 12-inches deep for this item.

Stackable, transparent storage bins with hinged lids would work for storing vials containing both liquids and solids. Again, each person could have their own bin or you could arrange the medications by category such as, “headache & pain relief” and “cough & cold.” This type of container is nice. Because the lids are hinged, they won’t get separated from the containers and lost or end up in a big pile at the bottom of the cupboard.

If you are limited in counter and shelf space, spice racks can be mounted to walls or the interior of cupboard doors. They are ideal for holding small bottles and vials. A spice rack with several shelves would work if you have multiple bottles of the same height. If some bottles are taller, opt for single spice shelves so you can mount them further apart to accommodate the various sized bottles.

If you travel frequently, consider storing your medications in a transportable, lockable, travel bag. It will keep everything in its place when you are at home and you can just zipper it closed and put it in your suitcase when you are ready to leave.

If you are having difficulty keeping tubes of medication, cosmetics, or even toothpaste from getting lost and tossed around in your cupboard, check out this idea to keep tubes of paint organized. You need not use nails on a piece of plywood in your bathroom, just attach a binder clip to the end of the tube and hang it from a small Command hook on the wall or inside a cupboard door.

Thanks for your great question Deborah. 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.”