Don’t let bath toys consume your bathroom

I recently visited a home that had two children under the age of four. When I used their bathroom, I was overwhelmed by the crazy amount of bath toys. With bath toys, just like regular toys, you need to get rid of the old when they get worn out or when new ones are acquired.

My wife and I have yet to purchase a bath toy for our daughter (she is very young), but if you have a child you know how toys go. We have a small plastic tote not unlike the one you may have had back in your college days. The plastic tote holds all of my daughter’s bath supplies. Her soap, shampoo, and toys all fit into it. If we acquire a new toy there isn’t much room to work with, so we get rid of something old and keep the baby bath gear down to a minimum.


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

Not your average Murphy bed

A recent article in The New York Times led me to a fabulous Murphy bed producer called Zoom-Room:

This Murphy bed doesn’t fold down into the room, instead, it rolls upward and pushes into the cabinet. You’ll pay a pretty penny for one ($7K to $10K), but it’s so beautiful that it might be worth it in a small, urban efficiency or a dual-purpose home office. Be sure to check out all of the images here–they’re amazing!

Creative ways to curb cat clutter

I have two cats who are in the running for being the world’s most adorable kitties. (Okay, so I may be a little biased about this fact … but you have to admit that they’re at least a little cute sleeping in that photo?!) I love my two little fur balls and spoil them rotten, but I will admit that they come with a lot of stuff.

As I’ve discussed in the past, I subscribe to a mid-century modern/industrial design style in my home. My small house has hardwood floors and concrete and glass walls. There are virtually no knickknacks in my place, and cat accouterments are rare. Except for their litter box, food and water bowls, and collection of fur balls that have to be cleaned out of the corners every other day, it’s not obvious to people when they first come into my home that I even have cats.

Here are some of the ways that I hide their clutter:

  • Instead of a scratching post, I have a sisal rug on the floor of my office. Most scratching posts are covered in sisal, anyway, so it’s like a giant scratching mat for them.
  • Like a child, my cats have a toy box. The cats know that if they want to play with one of their toys that they can find it in their toy box. Once a week, I’ll walk through the house with a yard stick and fish out any toys that have been batted under dressers or cabinets and return them to the toy box. Also, throughout the course of the day, if I find an unused toy in the middle of the floor I’ll immediately toss it into the toy box.
  • My cats also have their own toiletry kit in the bathroom. I keep their nail trimmer, brush, and other grooming supplies in one labeled box in the bathroom storage area.

There are hundreds of ideas for keeping kitty clutter in check, but these are just a few that I employ in my home. I would love a well-ventilated kitty closet with a cat door to hide their litter box, but right now that is just a big wish. What do you do in your home to help keep pet items from becoming clutter?

File cabinet placement

Filing documents in my home has become a terrible chore that my wife and I loathe. The big problem is our filing cabinet. It is a beast of twisted metal and needs to be replaced as soon as possible. We have yet to get around to replacing it, but we would also like to relocate the file cabinet to a spot where we will actually use it and take advantage of its storage capabilities.

Currently, our file cabinet resides in our laundry room right next to the cat litter. Its not exactly the most welcoming place to do filing and organizing. So, we would like to get a new file cabinet that can be placed somewhere in our home, but doesn’t look like a file cabinet. With the new location we should utilize our file cabinet much more often and the piles on my desk and in the kitchen will hopefully be a thing of the past.

Where is your file cabinet? If it resides in a unpleasant or out of the way spot in your home, this may explain why you never utilize yours. Try and place it in a central locale where you can actually use the thing for filing instead of loathing the process altogether.

Twice yearly organization and safety chores

When I turn the clocks at the beginning and ending of daylight savings time, I complete a small checklist of home organization and safety activities:

  • The first item on my list is one that Energizer and the International Association of Fire Chiefs have been promoting for 20 years: “Change your clock, change your battery.” I start by changing all of the batteries in my home’s fire and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Next, I go through my pantry and toss expired food and spices.
  • Finally, I remove all garden hoses from outside spigots, drain all water from the hoses, and put them into winter storage in the fall. In the spring, I retrieve the hoses from storage and put them back outside on the spigots.

Do you have clock changing home organization and safety routines? If so, feel welcome to share them in the comments!

Workspace of the Week: Minimalist Desk

This week’s Workspace of the Week is Lucy’s 10 Lives’s minimalist desk.

This isn’t the most unclutered workspace I’ve ever seen, but there’s still something very charming about it. I like the symmetry bewteen the right side of her desk with the walls and the open desktop on the left for multi-purpose workspace. I find it comforting.

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.

Storing extension cords

I stumbled upon a suggestion in Stephanie Winston’s Best Organizing Tips that was so easy and inexpensive that I may have a crush on it. From page 141:

Are your extension cords all tangled up in a pile? Mary Ellen suggests winding each cord loosely and slipping it into a cardboard tube from paper towels or toilet tissue.

Love it!

Trim your wallet

When I decided to buy a smaller wallet (I went with the Slim Slimmy, by the way), my next step was cleaning out my old, oversized wallet.

When I first received the Slim Slimmy, I was skeptical that I would be able to keep everything I needed in such a scaled down space. With some very easy decisions, I was able to trim down what I carried and my pockets were immediately less cluttered. Here are the things I removed from my wallet:

Insurance cards: I was carrying around three insurance cards. Did I really need to have my vision and dental cards on me at all times? Not likely. I now only carry my main insurance card.

Blockbuster card: I never rent movies from there anymore (thank you, Netflix), so that was an easy choice.

Shopping cards: I had two grocery cards in my wallet. I removed both and added a smaller barcode to my key chain. I only shop at one of the grocery stores anyhow.

Buy 12 get the 13th free cards: Ok, I get my haircut at a discount joint up the street. Is it that much of a deal that I carry that card everywhere I go? It really isn’t even a good deal. I basically saved about 8% on my haircuts over a year and a half. Why was I carrying that thing in my wallet? I’m sure you carry around one of these cards for sandwiches, bagels, or coffee. Figure out the savings and it probably isn’t worth carrying around everywhere you go.

Pictures: I had a wedding picture and a picture of my daughter in my wallet. They both never saw the light of day, so it wasn’t worth transferring into my new wallet.

Memories: I had a ticket stub from a museum in Amsterdam and a visit to the Empire State Building from a high school trip. I’m not sure why I still had them, but they obviously didn’t make the transfer.

Just a quick scan of what I had in my wallet and the transition to a much smaller and sleeker wallet was made so much easier.

Unitasker Wednesday: The Panini Press

Panini PressPanini style sandwiches are, in my opinion, very delicious. Is there a way that I could recreate the panini in the comfort of my own kitchen? The Breville Ikon Panini Press does just that, but at 15 1/2″ x 12″ x 6 1/2″ high is it worth the space that it hogs up?

If you desire a panini to the point that you can’t stand it and you don’t want to part with the $100 and the cupboard space, you can probably survive by using items that you already have in your kitchen. Here is an easy step-by-step process to make a panini without a oversized panini press.

** Unitasker Wednesday posts humorously poke fun at the single-use items that seem to find their way into our homes.

Learning time management can help your uncluttering efforts

When I was a high school teacher, I tried to teach my students valuable life lessons in addition to the English curriculum. Time management was a non-academic lesson I focused on year after year. I would ask for students to set deadlines for research, outlines, drafts and final papers and projects. My students were then evaluated on their abilities to meet their own deadlines, in addition to being evaluated on the content of their work. Failure to meet a deadline would result in a conversation with me about why they missed the set mark and how they planned to get back on schedule. I served as a coach to help them improve their time management skills.

By the end of the year, students could set their own scope, deadlines, and methodologies for assignments. Surprisingly, they would meet their requirements and, in almost every case, these requirements were more stringent than I would have imposed if I would have created them. In fact, I can’t recall a single student missing his or her final project deadline.

What I learned from my experience teaching time management is that anyone can learn it. Time management isn’t a talent reserved for only an elite few. Students from all different backgrounds and skill sets could master it, and they were only teenagers.

Clutter and time management are closely linked. If you have a tendency to say “I’ll get to that later” and procrastinate, then you’re more likely to find patches of clutter in your home. Mastering time management can help you to get your clutter problems under control and free you from stress. And, as I’ve learned through years of experience, anyone can learn time management.

If you struggle with time management, consider checking out the following websites from the LifeRemix network that often discuss time management techniques:

Additionally, if you haven’t read David Allen’s Getting Things Done, you may want to start with it. There is an audio version of the book available through Audible if you don’t want to bring another book into your home to clutter up your bookshelf. The better you are at time management, the more likely your home is to be clutter free and remain that way.

Cut it off!

I have hair that does its job and is relatively healthy. The problem is, however, that I hate to do my hair and loathe storing hair stuff. In high school, I had naturally curly locks, which I’d style with my fingers and head out the door with a wet head. This carefree system doesn’t work any longer since my natural curls are totally gone in some places, only waves in other locations, and curly still around my temples. Now, to keep from looking like an unkempt eccentric with combination curly-wavy-straight hair, I have to do it.

For most of my non-curly adult life, I have worn my hair long and just thrown it into a ponytail. Wearing a ponytail has one big disadvantage, though, which is the headache. No matter how loosely or tightly you wear your ponytail, you’ll eventually get a ponytail headache from oddly pulling a single hair into the ponytail holder. Also, a second disadvantage is that you can’t change your mind about your ponytail mid-day because you have that strange crease in your hair. Another big disadvantage is all of the styling stuff you have to keep for those rare days when it’s inappropriate to wear a ponytail.

This week, I decided I’d had enough and I cut my hair off super short. I don’t mean Susan Powter circa 1993 short. It’s more like Victoria Beckham’s short do. And, so far, it’s proven to be quite a drastic and improved change: less shampoo, less drying time, and less styling time.

I still need a hairdryer and a brush, but gone is my need for rollers, curling irons, straightening irons, conditioner, ponytail holders, barrettes, bobby pins, headbands, and hairspray. Cutting my hair literally freed half of my need for storage space in the bathroom.

My hairdryer, single canister of styling gel, and brush now live in an unused flower pot under my sink. I don’t need anything else. Three hair doodads, and that’s it. So, if you’re looking to get rid of some of your bathroom clutter and time involved with doing your hair, consider cutting your hair short. If you have naturally curly or straight hair, you might even be able to get rid of your hairdryer (and, I might secretly envy you). You’ll save money by buying less shampoo and styling gel, and you may even be able to get by without conditioner. Short hair is definitely an uncluttered solution.

Sound bar with a little extra

Back in June, I pointed out a couple of sound bar options from Polk Audio and Yamaha. Philips now has an interesting addition to this category of surround sound alternatives with the Philips AmbiSound Home Theater Sound Bar.

The Philips version includes an integrated upscaling DVD player. It is a bit larger than the Yamaha and Polk systems, but it does multitask by adding the DVD player (which isn’t HD or BluRay). On the negative side is the iPod dock that is included is not integrated into the unit which adds to the space that is needed to house the unit. If you are in the market for a surround sound system, but you don’t want to deal with all the wires you may want to check out this Philips, Yamaha, or Polk system. Each of them are relatively compact and if you go with the Philips it offers a bit more.