Reader question: Curbing golf club clutter?

A reader who identified herself as elrj sent us this question:

“My husband and I live in a charming one bedroom apartment in a converted historic townhouse. At first, it was a squeeze because the place doesn’t have much storage/closet space at all. But, with some re-arranging and advice from blogs like this, we have massaged our little home into a wonderfully live-able and entertain-able space. Then I bought a bike. Combined with his, they take up the entire hallway, and when you add the golf clubs (previously stored in the trunk of our car) we’ve got quite the sports-themed house. We have no yard/outside to chain them to, and we use them regularly. What do you do with such things in an efficiency?”

Storing sporting equipment in an efficiency can be a headache. When my husband and I first moved in together in our 850 sq. foot one bedroom, our lack of space was almost enough to convince me drop sports all together. I know your pain and understand it.

As far as your bikes are concerned, we’ve already published a couple posts on this topic on the site. The posts themselves have some strong ideas, but be sure to read the comments where many of our readers offer up terrific alternatives: Single hook bike solution and Bike storage solutions.

We’ve never discussed golf clubs on the site, though, so I want to spend the remainder of this post addressing that topic.

The first thing you’ll want to consider when looking to save space is getting new golf bags. My husband and I downsized from our behemoth traditional staff/cart style bags to new feather-weight backpack styles (similar to these: Mine, His) and have never looked back. My empty bag weighs less than four pounds and is about half of the footprint as my old bag. All of my clubs and materials fit easily in the bag, and it has the added bonus of being able to be hung up on a strong, wooden hanger in my closet. (I bungee cord the straps together to make certain they don’t slip off the hanger.)

Another idea is to contact the course where you play most often and see if they have on-site storage lockers. You’ll have to shell out a little money per month, but it gets your bags out of your house and you don’t have to worry about transporting your bag from home to course should you decide to ride your bike. If you don’t play golf more than a few times a year, though, this suggestion won’t be practical for you.

In fact, if you only play golf two or three times a year, I suggest that you get rid of the clubs. Renting a set of clubs for the few times you do play will be less stressful in the long run. With the money you get from selling your clubs, you can pay for three or four rentals. Again, I’m only making this suggestion if you rarely play and are just holding onto the clubs because of a sunk-cost fallacy.

If you do play often, can’t rent space at your course, and don’t have space in your closets to hang your clubs, you may want to consider: A wall-mounted golf bag and shoe organizer (pictured above) or a freestanding wood bag organizer. The wall-mounted system could turn your golf bags into a piece of interesting art, and the standing organizer could at least provide a permanent home for your bags.

I hope one of these ideas is helpful. Good luck!

 

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

What’s for dinner?

I think the question that every parent dreads is, “What’s for dinner?” But beyond creating a plan for the evening meal, you can save time and money by planning your entire menu. Menu planning will also help you achieve other goals such as eating healthier. Here are some tips to get you started.

Determine health requirements

Health requirements vary by individual. Size, age, and physical activity all factor into determining calorie requirements. Some people may prefer to consume all of their calories in three large meals per day. Others, especially children, may prefer to get up half of their daily calories in snacks between smaller-sized meals so it is important that these be healthy snacks.

Take a look at a healthy eating chart. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has links to food guides in many countries around the world. Many guides will provide nutritional information for infants, children, youths, pregnant and nursing women, etc.

Estimate how much everyone in your family needs to eat based on the food guide recommendations. For example, you may need to prepare five servings of fruits and vegetables per child but up to 10 servings per active teenager.

Note any dietary restrictions such as religious observances, allergies, or intolerances. (Download this interesting pdf explaining allergies, intolerances, and food labelling!) Many grocery stores are expanding their selections of allergen-free foods as well as Halal and Kosher foods.

If you have certain preferences make sure they are noted. Some children can be picky eaters and what they like or do not like can change on an almost daily basis but if there is anything that is a definite no-go, (I hate beets!) cross those recipes off your list.

Consider seeing a professional to help you get started. Your family health care plan may include a consultation with a nutritionist or dietitian. If so, take advantage of this to help plan your menu.

Go through your cookbooks

Browse through your cookbooks and pull out any recipes that your family loves. You may have meals that you prepare on a regular basis without recipes. If so, list out all the ingredients for those meals. Note any ingredients in any of the recipes you wish change. For example, you could add chopped carrots or celery to a spaghetti sauce or substitute milk for cream in a cheese sauce.

Do you want to try some new recipes? Go right ahead but ensure you give yourself lots of time to prepare that meal. I would also recommend that you only try one new recipe per week — just in case it turns out to be too much work to prepare or your family doesn’t like it. If the new recipe is a big success, feel free to incorporate it into your menu plan in the upcoming weeks.

Create a master grocery list

Make a master grocery list of all of the ingredients to all of the meals you have chosen including meals other than dinner. Remember to include snacks such as fresh fruit, granola bars, etc., and other foods not found within recipes (e.g., breakfast cereal).

I have found preparing a list in a spreadsheet helpful. Create one column for the food item, another for its category. You can then sort foods by their category. It will make it easier to do the grocery shopping.

Planning the plan

Check the calendar. Families have busy schedules so look at your calendar and decide which nights of the week you have time to cook. A 30-minute meal may be perfect for Wednesdays when you’ve got some time between getting home from work and taking the kids to music lessons. A crock-pot meal might be just the thing when you have a bit of extra time in the morning to throw ingredients into the slow cooker.

Choose recipes with common ingredients. Preparing several meals during the week that use the same ingredients will avoid wasted food. For example, you might want to prepare spaghetti sauce, stir-fry, and soup in the same week to use up the entire bunch of celery. An occasional Caesar cocktail/mocktail will help finish up those celery stalks too.

Prepare more than you need when you can. When you’re chopping fruit and vegetables for a meal, chop extra for lunches and snacks the next day. Cook twice as much and use it the next day. For example, bake extra chicken breasts to use in sandwiches or casseroles the next day. Cooking more than you need for dinner will allow you to use leftovers in lunches on the following day.

Time savers: Pre-cut fresh and frozen vegetables and packages of grated cheese might be a bit more expensive but they will save you meal preparation time. Use free time on the weekend to make soups, casseroles, or other freezer meals, slice and dice garlic and onions, and wash and chop lettuce and other salad ingredients.

ALWAYS have a back-up meal planned

Ensure you always have the ingredients for a 30-minute meal ready. This could be something as easy as mac and cheese or a store-bought frozen casserole. Because no matter how much you prepare, at some point, something will go wrong. You will come home from work to find the electricity was off and your crock-pot full of raw meat and vegetables has been sitting at room temperature all day or your casserole dish will explode sending shards of glass all over the oven. (Both have happened to me.)

If you have any meal planning tips, feel free to share them with readers in the comments section.

From the forums: best uncluttering ideas ever

I was recently browsing the Unclutterer forums when I found this gem of a thread: Your Best Decluttering Idea Ever. I went through and pulled a few great ideas submitted by Unclutterer readers. Take a look, and share your “best decluttering idea” in our Forum or in the comment section below.

Zora writes:

“Back when there were only cardboard jigsaw puzzles, I cut out the top of the box, to get the picture, and then put all the pieces in a sturdy plastic Ziploc bag. Matching labels on picture and bag. Instead of a stack of large, flimsy boxes, I had a jigsaw puzzle collection that fit into a drawer.”

Great idea! For more on storing puzzles and tabletop games, check out this post. If video games are more your thing, we’ve got you covered here.

Back on the forums, reader anitamojito writes:

“I set some limits with objects I have a weakness for, such as books…I am not buying another bookcase to accommodate my habit.”

It’s important to recognize that collections aren’t inherently bad. Once you’ve identified your gathering of like items a legitimate collection, you can get down to maintaining an enjoyable, vibrant and uncluttered collection.

Lastly, greymac writes:

“Well, for me my best ever (besides just getting started!) was to get rid of ALL of my unfinished projects. Some I trashed, some I gave away — like several of the needlework projects I was obviously NOT going to finish — and some I actually finished myself. I’m slowly getting better at limiting myself to only 3 or 4 projects at a time — and feel much more energy to attack my clutter than I felt when I had dozens of unfinished piles vying for my attention!”

Boy, this one hits home for me. For years, I lived with the clutter — physical and mental — of unfinished projects. Not only were the pieces lying around, the guilt I associated with each was constantly nagging at me.

The answer for me was to take a weekend, consider each one in turn and decide — honestly — if I was ever going to finish the project. If the answer was no, off it went.

Incidentally, a similar practice can help you with “app clutter” on your smartphone. Much like unfinished projects, long-neglected apps simply sit on your phone and do nothing. Here’s a good way to identify those you actually want and those you don’t.

  1. Move all of your apps off of the home screen. Yes, all of them.
  2. As you use an app over the course of a week, move it to back to the home screen. You can even devise an order to identify which you used most often.
  3. At the end of the week, give those that never made it back a good look. Do you really need it on your phone?

A big thanks to everyone who contributed to the forum discussions. If you’ve got a single, fantastic uncluttering idea, please share it below.

Conquer kid clutter

Having a 20-month old is a bit like taking care of a drunk friend. They don’t really know what they are doing, but they are having fun while they do it. My daughter is getting into the “terrible twos” a bit early, so hopefully they’ll end early.

One thing that seems to get worse as she gets older is the toy accumulation. I’ve mentioned this problem in some prior posts and I must say that my wife and I continue to struggle with it. I’m always on the lookout for new ways of curbing clutter that is kid specific. Years ago I read an article in the Detroit News that had a long list of kid specific clutter tips such as:

  • Divide and conquer:
    Big toy boxes make it too easy for toys to get jumbled together. Better: a bin for Lego, another for action figures, another for dollhouse furniture, etc.
  • Toss the flimsy crayon boxes:
    Same goes for the marker and colored-pencil boxes. Instead, put drawing tools into lidded boxes or bins. And don’t bother saving every free crayon you’ve collected from restaurant visits. Teachers say most younger kids just grab the top two or three anyway.
  • Craft supplies:
    Keep a vinyl tablecloth with the art supplies. It’ll be on hand to protect the table or rug (skip disposable ones: not sturdy enough).

These tips aren’t earth shattering, but they are helpful. The accumulation of toys is the hardest thing to get under control, in my opinion. Forces beyond our control are at work. These forces, often grandparents, are unrelenting. Be vigilant in your removal of old and unused toys, and your toy clutter will stay manageable.

 

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

Beating midwinter blues with vacation planning

Here in the northern hemisphere, we are in the midst of midwinter blues. At this point in the year the cold and lack of sunshine has started to get me down and without a single break work-wise until Easter, the horizon is indeed bleak.

So, it’s time to cheer myself up — and nothing makes me happier than doing some planning, specifically summer vacation planning.

This year for the first time in a while, my husband and I may actually have the time and money to take a major vacation. In the past few years, we’ve had to book our vacation at the last minute and take what was available.

Being able to organize a longer trip in advance is like heaven for me. Before getting married when I traveled with friends, I would be The Organizer, coming up with the most interesting train routes, looking for quaint places to stay, and finding those off-the-map places that really make a trip memorable.

I’ve never done it, however, with an actual vacation planner in front of me. I just tend to make notes in a document on my computer. Out of curiosity, this time round, I may pick up a planner and see if it helps in any way, because there’s always something I forget and sometimes it is the thing that makes the difference between a good holiday and a great one.

With or without a vacation planner, this is my process for dreaming up ideal holidays:

  • Decide the maximum budget. There’s no point in looking at holidays in the Maldives if we aren’t going to spend more than a thousand euros each.
  • Come to an agreement on what type of vacation we want. If my husband is thinking sun and sand and I start planning a train tour of eastern Europe, no one will end up happy.
  • Look at dates. For us, this is usually what delays planning. My husband often doesn’t know when he has free time in the summer, so in my midwinter plans I need to be flexible about when we can take a trip.
  • Dream. I say dream because it makes me stretch and imagine possibilities that aren’t typical. For example, renting a camper and driving down the center of Italy.
  • Come up with a variety of options. The fun in vacation planning is letting the brain go in various directions at once. Plus having several different destinations means we can spend cold, wet Sunday afternoons discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Since this is only the planning stage, there is no need to make any firm decisions, which is the best part for me. The excitement of what’s possible doesn’t have to end (until the spring when we start firming up our plans).

When it comes to that firm planning stage, I will take a good look at vacation planners. And for that I’ll turn to you: any recommendations on vacation planners (either in print or digital)?tag=unclutterer-20

A double win: uncluttering and helping others

I recently saw a touching story about a previously homeless family that found housing but lacked any home furnishings — until a local charity helped them out. (Click the link to see the short video, including before and after photos.)

Eight-year-old Daerye Neely and mom Dionna Neely walked into their new home in Detroit to find a wonderful surprise – a furnished home decorated for free by charity Humble Design after the co-founders heard about the Neelys’ story of hardship.

Since I’m always looking for good places for people to donate the gently used items they no longer want or need, I wanted to know more — so I started investigating.

Humble Design is “a non-profit helping families transitioning out of homeless shelters by providing furnishings and design services. We turn their empty house into a clean, dignified, and welcoming home.” And given that mission, it takes a wide range of donations: furniture, rugs, artwork, linens, towels, books, toys (excluding stuffed animals), TVs, dish sets, silverware, mugs, and more. Pick-up services are available for large furniture items, although only in certain areas — and there’s a wait list.

I’ve written about furniture banks before, and many of these accept more than just furniture. For example, see the listing for the Furniture Bank serving greater Toronto, Canada. Furniture banks, working with partner agencies, provide a great service for “the previously homeless, unemployed and working poor, battered women and children in retreat, immigrants, individuals with mental or physical disabilities, victims of a fire, robbery, and natural disasters, etc.” And these items are provided at little or no cost.

Organizations like Humble Design don’t identify as furniture banks, but they seem to provide somewhat comparable services. Other charities that seem similar to Humble Design include:

All of these organizations have specific wish lists and standard donation guidelines. None of them want items with stains, odors, rips, or any other major wear. Linens and towels should be washed before donating.

If you have household furnishings to donate — especially furniture, which many organizations don’t handle — furniture banks and organizations like Humble Design are good to keep in mind.

How many salad dressings are enough?

Salad DressingNot to pick on my mother or mother-in-law, but they both have an odd habit of collecting salad dressing in their refrigerators. The salad dressings may start out neatly lined up on the refrigerator’s door, but they somehow end up in the back of the main shelves never to see the light of day before they expire. With a quick inventory of my refrigerator, I count two dressings. For our family, that is reasonable. If you’d like the choice of six to ten dressings, go to a restaurant. Stocking your fridge full of dressing is overkill.

It doesn’t take a lot of time to do an inventory of your food supply. You may be a bit embarrassed when you find out how much you actually have in you fridge, but there is an easy way to curb your inventory. Stop buying more dressing. (Heck, make your own.) Before you head to the grocery store take stock of what you need and make a list. If you have more than one dressing per household occupant, then you most likely don’t need any more. So when you head out to buy groceries you may want to skip the salad dressing aisle.

I guess taking aim at salad dressings isn’t fair. I’m sure there are many condiments that can be purchased in over abundance. The main thing to take from this post is to make a shopping list when heading to the grocery store. Making a list and sticking to it will help curb your appetite for more food.

 

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

Overcoming procrastination

At the end of last year, I finally did a business-related task I’d been procrastinating on for ages. It was a non-trivial project, but I’d been thinking “I really should do this” for way too long. It felt so good to finally have it completed!

And starting the first week in January I finally started using my Waterpik flosser. I had that thing sitting on my bathroom counter for three months before I read the instructions and began using it. Taking better care of myself was one of my goals for 2018, and this was a nice first step. My dental hygienist can stop bugging me about this, finally. Why did I wait so long?

But procrastination is something almost all of us fight at times. Sometimes we procrastinate for months over something that winds up taking just a few minutes. Laurie Voss tweeted about putting off a phone call for three months that took only three minutes when he finally did it. I relate to that!

I’m very good about taking care of things that are time-critical. But many things on my lists have no real urgency about them. Still, getting them done would have a positive impact on my life.

As I’ve been thinking about the simple to-dos and larger projects that seem to linger on my lists, I’ve decided I’m going to try this approach: Each week, I’ll do one thing I’ve been procrastinating about tackling. If I get inspired and do more than one, that’s great — but one is my minimum.

My lists include substantial projects (get my many boxes of old slides scanned), much smaller things (follow the instructions for fixing my shredder, which has stopped turning off automatically), and things in the middle (update a 400-line spreadsheet listing places to donate and recycle various items). Some of my to-dos are even fun, like seeing some current movies and reading books on my to-be-read shelf. (I mostly read digital books, but in some cases I enjoy having a physical copy.)

For the large projects, I won’t try to do the whole thing in one week — I’ll just take the next meaningful step. For example, the first step on dealing with my slides would be going through the first few trays of slides to decide if they are all ones I want to have scanned.

I also know that making a public declaration of intent is a good way to make sure I really overcome my procrastination. So here’s my declaration — I’ll report back later this year to let you know how things went.

Book Review: Remodelista: the organized home

Remodelista: the organized home is a beautiful book. As the tagline states, the book has “simple, stylish storage ideas for all over the house.”

The book is divided into three sections. In the first section, they describe their organizing philosophy which is similar to ours at Unclutterer; eliminate what you do not use and love, designate a home for all items, look for organizing solutions with what you already own, and buy less but when you buy, aim for better quality.

The second section of the book takes readers room by room providing ideas on how to organize and store almost everything and anything. Many of the systems can be adapted for different styles of living whether that be a small apartment or a large family home. Detailed photographs of the designs show not just order and storage, but beauty and serenity. The muted neutral colour palette used throughout the book highlights utilitarianism with elegance.

There are several lists of resources in the third section of the book. There is a list of alternatives to plastic for those that wish to use to sustainable products and a guide to donating, selling, or otherwise off-loading unwanted goods. A list of favourite suppliers is also provided for those who wish to purchase the items used in the designs.

If you’re in the mood to be inspired by minimalism with style, I suggest you take a look through Remodelista: the organized home.

Unitasker Wednesday: FoldiMate

Our first unitasker of 2018, brought to our attention by reader Sonja, touts itself as the first practical and affordable laundry folding robot. The FoldiMate folds shirts, pants, towels, and virtually anything that will fit inside of it.

You just hang a dry article of clothing on the clips, it is drawn into the machine and within a few minutes, your laundry is neatly folded, treated, and even de-wrinkled! Just watch the video of this machine at work — ZOOM clothes go in the top and BAM they are folded and stacked neatly at the bottom.

Now, here’s the reality check. I timed myself folding a load of laundry the other day. It took me two minutes and the majority of time was used to match socks, not to fold shirts, trousers, or towels. So, I wouldn’t save much time if I had to stand there and feed in each item one by one. Perhaps if I was running a hotel or fitness centre and had to launder dozens of towels every day, this machine might pay for itself. But, with the FoldiMate’s price tag of nearly $1000 USD, I’d have to run a business because I couldn’t justify that cost for my family when everyone who lives here can (and should) fold their own laundry.

The website says the FoldiMate is “closet-ready.” For reference, FoldiMate is almost as big as a dishwasher. If you have a walk-in closet (I don’t) with an electrical outlet (I don’t) then perhaps you’d consider it closet-ready (I don’t).

This is, indeed, a unitasker. It is large and expensive and it does only one thing, folds clothes — or does it?

Quickly unclutter any room in your house

It’s January, but here at Chez Dave we’re already thinking about storing the winter clothes (hats, gloves, etc.), and tools (shovels, ice scrapers, etc.) and pulling out the spring items. It’s an unenviable task but one that can’t be avoided. It’s also a good time to take stock of what we own and identify what can stay and what should go. That process is made so much easier by asking one simple question: If I went shopping today, would I buy this?

Before putting something into storage or taking it out, just pause. Hold an item up and honestly ask the question. If you were standing in a store with that item right now, would you pay full price to bring it home? If the answer is yes, then you’ve found a keeper. If not, then you have a reason to consider your relationship with that item. Is it actually something you want or need?

You can apply this simple technique to any room of the house and nearly every item (not the pets, please):

Kitchen

  • Tools (any unitaskers there?)
  • Plates
  • Flatware
  • Serving bowls
  • Dish towels

Workshop

  • Tape measure
  • Stud finder
  • Hammer
  • Wrenches

You get the idea. If any items are non-functional, obsolete, rarely used, etc., put them aside and consider if they really have a place in your home. Good luck and happy purging.

Gadget ‘gas station’

Anthro, an office furniture company, has a product for sale that appeals to both my techie and minimalist sensibilities. The eNook is a “gas station for your gadgets that has channels for you to plug in and charge all your gear.”

Not only does this look like a fantastic docking station, but could easily be used as a fold-away desk. In its compact state, it sticks out only 7″ from the wall. In my mind, this would be perfect in a studio apartment for a traveling consultant or in a busy family’s kitchen.

 

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