Make finding first aid items easier

Currently, my family has band-aids in the kitchen, various ointments throughout the house, and no central place for all things first-aid related. Our first-aid supplies are not organized at all. We don’t have a kit and we don’t even have a proper box for storage.

I think that it’s a good idea not to wait until you have a cut or scrap to organize your first-aid kit (which is what has happened recently to me). Organize it now and save yourself a lot of frustration when you really need to find a band-aid or some hydrogen peroxide.

You can opt for the pre-packaged solution or you can simply gather all of your supplies and place them into a childproof cabinet or storage space. Regardless of what you decide, make sure all of your supplies are in good condition and be sure to check the expiration dates. A couple months ago, Unclutterer featured a post on clearing clutter from your medicine chest. That post can give you pointers on what to keep, what to throw away, and how to properly dispose of old medications. (Erin wanted me to remind you NOT to flush old medications down the toilet!)

Once you have all of your items ready, make sure to store the first-aid kit in an area where it is easy for adults to access but out of reach of children. Don’t store it in a place where it’s too difficult for you to get to it. When you have a cut or burn you will want semi-easy access to your kit.

Accommodate guests with space saving solutions

House guests come and go, but the bed that is seldom used for them stays in your home all the time. If you don’t want to set aside a room to become a guest room, why not pick up an inflatable bed? They are easy to stow away when the guests aren’t around and they serve their purpose as needed. I know everyone has a horror story of sleeping on a terrible inflatable bed, but do some shopping around and find a good quality temporary bed that can serve your guests well.

If the inflatable bed isn’t for you, you may want to look into a sleeper sofa. Again, there are definitely some horrible sleeper sofas out there, but you must do some research and shop around. You don’t want your guests ruing the the day they stayed at your place.

Again, you really have to go out and find these things yourself. Research which beds are comfortable and reliable. If you settle for the cheapest option, you may not have any guests to accommodate after a few stays on a terrible mattress.

MIT designs clutter detector

Have you ever been in a rental car and wasted time trying to figure out how to open the trunk from the driver’s seat or turn on the headlights? Have you been in a restaurant with a menu that has so many words and typefaces on a page that you have to concentrate intensely to decide what you want to order?

A team of engineers at MIT believes that these frustrations are caused by visual clutter. In response, they have designed a visual clutter detector to identify when bad design hampers a person’s ability to understand information, causes confusion, or interrupts concentration. The clutter detector is “a breakthrough that could help everyone from fighter pilots to Web site designers.”

A PC World article discusses the clutter detector’s methodology:

… clutter is perceived differently by different people, so coming up with a universal measure of what’s hard or easy to pick out in a display is challenging. The model takes into account such factors as color, data and contrast.

Visual clutter is obviously different from physical clutter, but if you rid your view of clutter then you rid yourself of distractions. Check out the article and the underlying research (available for .zip download here) for more details.

Wireless speakers for rear surround

I know that audiophiles will scoff at the idea of outfitting their home theater with these inexpensive Acoustic Research wireless speakers, but for those of us who don’t want to drop an arm and a leg on speakers, these are a decent, uncluttered solution.

Yes, they definitely have their drawbacks. However, each speaker can be powered with 8 C batteries or you can choose to plug them in via an AC adapter. The AC adapter does add a wire, but one wire is a better alternative to two twenty-foot speaker wires running through your room. If you live in an apartment and you don’t have the option of wiring your den for sound, this is definitely an option.

You also can use the speakers out on your deck or patio. Acoustic Research claims the range on these speakers reaches up to 300 feet. (Which might mean more like 200 feet.) Either way, the speakers seem to have more than enough range to accommodate your next outdoor get-together.

100 reasons to get rid of it

I don’t subscribe to Martha Stewart Living or its spinoff Blueprint, but I get their newsletters by e-mail. I’m always amazed by Ms. Stewart and her staff’s creativity. Yesterday’s e-mail newsletter included a link to the article “100 Reasons to Get Rid of It.”

The article is, as its title implies, a list of 100 reasons to get rid of extraneous stuff in your home. Well, that’s not fully accurate … around number 84 it takes a strange diversion … but, by number 87 it seems to be back on track. I think that number 100 is my favorite reason, and number 50 is a close second.

Check out the list if you’re looking for uncluttering inspiration.

Wine Wedge solves need for traditional wine rack

A big “thank you” to our friends at Serious Eats for pointing us toward the new Wine Wedge. These two little rubber wedges allow you to have a wine rack of any size, whenever you need one. Retailing at $9.95 for the pair (available online from Firebox), the Wine Wedge also can be used for soda cans or other round containers. This is an inexpensive way to store wine without a cumbersome rack–perfect for a small space.

The New York Times gave the Wine Wedge what can only be considered a positive review:

The Wedge may not look very robust, but it works surprisingly well.

It’s wonderful to find quality storage solutions that take up very little space and cost very little money. Three cheers for the London-based firm Bluw and their uncluttered design.

Netflix for books

As a dedicated unclutterer, I love Netflix. Why fill your home with DVD boxes when you can have every movie ever made at your disposal just as long as you’re willing to wait a couple days for it? Sure, there are going to be those titles that you absolutely love and will want to own to watch over and over, but most of the time movies are one-time consumables you don’t need to hang on to.

That said, I’m so excited about Book Swim, a new service that promises to do for books what Netflix has done for DVDs. You pay a monthly fee, come up with a list of books, get three in the mail (no postage fees either way), return them when you’re done (no late fees) and get the next one in your queue. How awesome is that?

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It sounds like a great way to sample books you might not otherwise pick up. They have plans from 3 books out at a time for $19.99 a month, to 11 books for $35.99. Sure, the library is always another great option, but this is so convenient for busy folks. One feature I dig: If you really love a book you can just keep it and pay them for it. I’m not sure how great their selection is, but I plan to get a subscription and report back with details. Anyone out there already a Book Swim member?

Unitasker Wednesday: Panda poo souvenirs

To begin, we’re not certain that this is a real news story. If it is accurate, however, then we do believe that we may have found the unitasker to crown all unitaskers:

The panda poo souvenir!

Let everyone know that you are serious about liking pandas. Don’t be satisfied with a measly t-shirt or a baseball hat with “I Love Pandas!” printed on it. A plushy stuffed animal definitely can’t show the world your true feelings. No, you have to go above and beyond what fair-weather panda fans do. You need hand-crafted artwork made of panda feces to really make your statement. You won’t care that it smells up your house and causes sickness in small children and the elderly. Little things like this won’t hold you back. Profess your love for pandas in the best way possible. Stand proud with your poo!

Link and photo courtesy of Metro UK.

**Unitasker Wednesday posts humorously poke fun at the single-use items that seem to find their way into our homes. In this case, we deeply hope that this does not come within 30 miles of where you live.

August wrap up

Let’s take a few moments to remember some of the things that made August 2007 a great month at Unclutterer.com.

August’s most popular posts:

Additional highlights:

  • Broke the top 3,100 blogs on the internet according to our rank on Technorati (a rank improvement of almost 2,000 positions since July)
  • Reader question: What should I store in a fireproof box? had more than 134 del.icio.us saves–our monthly high for a single post
  • Our average number of comments per post finally broke into the double digits! Keep on commenting!
  • More than 175 people joined our new Unclutterer flickr group. There are 58 photos uploaded to the group already, and we look forward to seeing your additions!

Reader question: Best way to organize baseball caps?

We at Unclutterer hope that all of our readers had a wonderful Labor Day holiday and didn’t miss hearing from us while we also took a few days off from work. To get back into the swing of things, I thought that we would tackle a question from a reader. Christian asks:

Dear Unclutterer, I have quite a few baseball caps. There are some that I could toss or donate right now. Others I might want to store away for really messy work days when I don’t want to ruin a good hat. But do you have any tips for organizing the rest of my hats that I wear occasionally?

Christian, I hope that since you wrote your e-mail to us that you have tossed or donated the hats that you didn’t wear on a regular basis. If you haven’t, then let me recommend getting rid of your extra hats as your first step in your hat organization process.

I grew up in a farming community where most of the men wore a single baseball hat for years at a time. I’m also fairly certain that most of them only had one baseball hat. Maybe there was a hat “on deck” in case something happened to their favorite one, but they definitely didn’t have enough baseball hats to need a hat organizer. Noting this, my second piece of advice is to evaluate why you want to own many hats that you only wear occasionally? Can you part with more than you initially thought possible?

Maybe you will ultimately decide that you want to keep two cotton hats for summer wear and two wool ones for winter. Or, maybe you want two with logos of your favorite baseball team and two with logos of your favorite football team. Regardless of your choosing method, I can’t see why you would ever need more than four baseball hats. If someone can explain to me a valid reason, I may change my tune, but my experience shows me otherwise.

I have two baseball hats (a fitted wool one and an adjustable cotton one), and I keep both of them in a single, clear, plastic, shoe box. The plastic box keeps dust from collecting on them, and my husband stores his hats in the same bin. If, however, you decide that collecting baseball hats is your obsession and find my four-hat maximum laughable, then I suggest buying something like a cap rack. A cap rack attaches over the top of a door and allows you to view the front panel of each of your hats. You’ll need to dust your hats every once in a while, but this method seems to be the most efficient use of space for a large baseball hat collection.

Christian, we wish you much success in your hat organization pursuits. Let us know what you end up doing with your hats, and check the comments section to see if other readers have suggestions for alternate storage solutions.