Free-up space in your bathroom by getting rid of nail polish

My mother has the most beautiful finger nails a woman could ever dream of having. They’re strong and straight and no one believes her when she says that they’re real. She doesn’t have professional manicures and, even though you won’t believe me, she doesn’t wear finger nail polish.

To let you in on a secret: My nails are not as beautiful as my mother’s, and I don’t wear finger nail polish either. I wouldn’t even know how to put it on if someone gave me a bottle.

I trim and file and put lotion on my cuticles so that my nails always look healthy, clean, and well-maintained. My mom might even buff hers a bit to make hers shiny. But, open up our bathroom cabinets, and you won’t find finger nail polish anywhere.

In my experience, people only notice someone else’s nails when they are dirty, unkempt, or have chipped paint on them. If you’re looking to free up some space in your bathroom cabinets, you might think about getting rid of your finger nail polish supply. In addition to giving you some space, it also has the bonus of saving you money on polish and polish remover. I also don’t experience stress about chipping my finger nail polish right before an important meeting.

If you decide to get rid of your finger nail polish, be sure to dispose of it properly. Remove the nail polish cap and allow it to become a solid (do this in a well-ventilated area, like on your front porch). Once it is a solid, it is safe to throw away in the trash. If you have an extensive finger nail polish collection, then take all of your polish to your local hazardous waste disposal facility. It is unsafe to dispose of liquid polish in your trash. Nail polish remover should also be disposed of at your local hazardous waste disposal facility.

 

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

Ten things to do in 10 minutes

I get frustrated when I work for eight hours straight and then finish the day feeling like I haven’t accomplished anything. It is as if I have been a hamster in a wheel, running nowhere. It’s times like these when I seek out small tasks that I can finish quickly to feel some sense of productivity. Often, too, small tasks are all that I can handle because I’m exhausted.

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, feel welcome to tackle one (or more) of the following 10 uncluttering tasks you can do in 10 minutes:

  • Organize your sock drawer. Get rid of socks that are hole-ridden, stained, or without mates.
  • Clean out the cupboard under your kitchen sink. I’m not sure why, but in my home this is where all of my “I don’t want to deal with this right now” kitchen items land.
  • Round up all of your pet’s toys. My cats like to swat their toys under dressers and into closets. Once a week, I walk around the house with a yard stick, retrieve all of their toys, and return them to their toy basket.
  • Sort through your magazines. Decide which ones can stay and which ones should go.
  • Clear out your “to be watched” list. Check your favorites list on your Amazon Video, Netflix, and other streaming services accounts. Delete the movies and TV series you’ll never watch.
  • Start a load of laundry. Laundry and I are in a constant battle, and usually Laundry is winning.
  • Sit in silence and do nothing. I often forget to take time out of my day just to sit, collect my thoughts, and relax. Uncluttering my mind is just as important as uncluttering my home.
  • Straighten out the trunk of your car. Right now, there is a stack of wood in the trunk of my car. I remember how it got there six months ago, but I don’t know why it is still in there. It needs to find a different home.
  • Pull all of the extra hangers out of your closets. Hangers are like tribbles. They seem to appear out of thin air. I put mine in a grocery sack, toss the sack into my car, and then drop them off at the dry cleaner’s the next time I’m running errands.
  • Post a Freecycle ad. Find one thing you’ve been meaning to get rid of in your home, and create a Freecycle post for it.

Feel welcome to drop suggestions for 10 minute projects into the comments section–we would love to hear your ideas.

 

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

Unitasker Wednesday: Half and half cupcake 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!

Although it is highly rated, I do not see the usefulness of this half and half cupcake maker.

It has dividers for all twelve cupcake cups in one unit. It is large and difficult to store. You would not want it to get bent or warped because then it wouldn’t fit into the pan correctly. Since it comes with its own cupcake pan, I suspect they work together as one unit and the divider portion may not work in other cupcake pans.

I’m still not sure why people want two flavours in one cupcake. Personally, if I want two different flavours, I’d eat two different cupcakes (not necessarily the same day — it is cake after all).

If you really feel you need a unitasker to make half and half cupcakes. Batter Babies cupcake dividers take up much less space and are likely easier to clean. You could also make your own using cardboard covered in waxed paper.

 

Helping kids develop organizing skills

My mother was a teacher for over 30 years. When I decided to have children, she gave me the book, Kids are worth it! by Barbara Coloroso. I learned a lot from that book, including how to help my kids (and my organizing clients’ children) develop their organizing talents and independent thinking skills.

Identify the problems

It is important to identify the organizing challenge and frame it correctly using positive, empowering language. Blame and accusations are counter-productive. Young children need help in identifying the issues while teenagers should be capable of figuring it out on their own. For example, if you want to help a younger child keep a playroom tidy, you might state, “You seem to be having some trouble finding [special toy]. Would you like some help organizing so you can find it when you need it?” With teenagers you might say, “The family sits down to supper at 6pm. You’ll need to create a plan so that your art supplies are cleared off the dining table by then.”

Give ownership and options

By giving the child ownership of the problem and letting them know you will be available to help, builds confidence. As a parent/caregiver, asking these questions will prompt useful answers for creating organizing solutions.

  • What is working? If something is working well, try not to change it. If the children are happy with all of the Lego pieces in one large bin, don’t suggest they separate it into various colours and types. With younger children you will likely have to ask them specific questions about specific things such as, “Do your dolls like living on this shelf?”
  • What is not working? By clearly identifying what is not working, you can take steps to fix it. For example, the kids need a large, flat space to do art and crafts and the heirloom dining table is off limits to paint, glue, and ink.
  • What are the most and least important tasks done in the space? What are the most and least used items in the space? These questions encourage kids to establish priorities. Once those are defined, decisions can be made about how better to use the space.
  • How do people and things move through the area? Do people need a clear path to walk across the room? Is there enough space to build the Lego Millennium Falcon?

R.S.V.P. solutions

In the Kids are worth it! book, Coloroso uses the acronym R.S.V.P. to determine if discipline techniques are appropriate. This acronym can also be used for organizing solutions.

R — Is it Reasonable? The organizing solution needs to make sense. Helping younger children choose their outfits for the next day is reasonable. Having a teenager do his/her own laundry and prepare their own school clothes the night before is also reasonable.

S — Is it Simple? The organizing solution should be easy to implement. Purchasing hanging shelves or toy bins is relatively simple as is tidying up for ten minutes at the end of the day. Renovating the house or hiring a cleaning service is not so simple.

V — Is it Valuable? It is important that the solution work as intended. It might take a little while for a student to get the hang of using a planner (either paper or electronic) but the end result will be worth the effort — having homework assignments submitted on time.

P — Is it Practical? If a child is always late for school because they are disorganized in the morning, a practical solution would be to prepare as much as possible the night before. Skipping school or having a parent drive the child to school every morning is not practical.

Children who create and implement their own R.S.V.P. organizing solutions, develops self-discipline and confidence. As they grow, they learn to recognize the value of uncluttering and organizing, setting them up to be productive adults.

Transforming inherited jewelry

In doing research for posts on inherited clutter, I discovered an artist who takes old costume jewelry that people never wear, modernizes and reworks it, and creates stylish, fashionable, new pieces of jewelry. Since outdated, costume jewelry is the majority of what I inherited when my maternal grandmother passed away, I find this process brilliant.

I wanted to learn more, so I contacted Sara Bradstreet, the artist I discovered who most deeply captivated my attention, for an interview. Thank you, Sara, for talking with me. (The necklace pictured on the right is a brooch she transformed.)

Unclutterer: What inspired you to become an artist who brings new life to old jewelry?

Sara: I wanted to create art with little waste and satisfy my desire to sniff out the diamond in the rough. With jewelry, there is little waste. I use most elements of the piece. Sometimes, I will buy a not-so-attractive necklace just for the clasp, or a bag of buttons for the few rhinestone buttons at the bottom — even things as random as old silverware find their way into my collection. I find much beauty and integrity in old things and hate to see beautiful gems in a dumpster.

Unclutterer: What types of pieces are best for this type of transformation?

Sara: There is a lot of room for variety here. Sometimes the most random pieces, when re-oriented with others, make the most interesting. I look for pieces that, with a little manipulation and solder, can turn from a brooch into a pendant or cuff link into a clasp. I like to use only quality silver and gold–I’m not into green necks–and use my sense of touch to bend and scratch and, oddly enough, I will even smell it to see if it is metal or simply painted plastic. I am not afraid to alter a collector’s item and am often feared by collectors.

Unclutterer: What should people consider before having their older jewelry reinvented?

Sara: Well, the jewelry won’t be the same anymore. The good news is that it will be out of your jewelry box, or that random box under your bed, and hopefully, around your neck. I hesitate to use pieces that have extreme sentimental value and like clients to be somewhat detached from the brooch being simply a brooch, but an element of something larger that will be worn again. When creating custom pieces for clients, I like to have a variety of pieces, multiple chains, found objects, etc. I may not use all of the different elements, but the more I have to chose from, the merrier.

Unclutterer: Some of our readers might be distraught with the idea of repurposing their grandmother’s brooch. What would you say to people with such hesitations?

Sara: I believe that what I do helps people to remember and, in ways, celebrate those who have passed away.

I agree with Sara that wearing and getting use from your jewelry is much more worthwhile than hoarding it in a box where it doesn’t see daylight. Also, if you decide that you aren’t interested in reinventing your old jewelry, but are still looking for ways for it to cease being clutter in your home, consider donating your pieces to artists like Sara.

 

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

The tried and true Swiss Army Knife

We often discuss unitaskers but today I want to talk about multi-taskers. The classic Victorinox Swiss Army Ranger Pocket Knife measures in at 3.5 inches and weighs a minuscule 4.8 ounces as it packs a whopping 20 different tools including:

  • Large and small knife blade
  • Corkscrew
  • Can opener
  • Bottle opener
  • Cap lifter
  • Screwdriver
  • Wire stripper
  • Reamer, punch
  • Multi-purpose hook
  • Nail file
  • Nail cleaner
  • Scissors
  • Metal file
  • Fine screwdriver
  • Wood saw
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezers
  • Key ring (ok, so this isn’t really a tool)

You can’t take it on an airplane, but around your house it has endless possibilities. This is the gold standard of multi-taskers. You can get a left-handed version here. A Leatherman Multitool is the only multi-tasker that plays in the same league. Go get your MacGyver on!

 

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

Everyday things: Are you buying quality or quantity?

In April 2005, the article “101 New Uses for Everyday Things” appeared on the Real Simple Magazine website. Although the article is old, its underlying premise is still valid: Items you already own can serve multiple purposes and save you from having to buy even more stuff.

For example, if you own olive oil, do you also need to own wood polish?

Knowing about the potential of what you already have on hand can keep you from acquiring even more things. What are some everyday things in your home that can serve double-duty? Let us hear your suggestions in the comments.

 

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

Unitasker Wednesday: Cooler Brightz

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

Do you want to show off your decorating skills to your picnic and barbeque guests? Cooler Brightz can help! Your guests will be able to find their drinks at night when your cooler is lit with a string of waterproof 30 micro-LED lights. Available in six different colours, Cooler Brightz will stay illuminated for more than 24 hours using just three AA batteries (not included).

The Amazon reviews of Cooler Brightz are not very favourable and my first impression was that it should fall into the unitasker category.

But…

I’ve been camping. Trying to hold a flashlight in one hand while rummaging in a cooler filled with ice water is not easy — especially when you want to keep the lid closed as much as possible. Why not consider using lights that will also serve another purpose?

These remote-controlled, submersible lights could light up your cooler or be used in an aquarium, bathtub, vase of flowers, or even outdoors in the rain. For the same function but a more romantic look, check out these waterproof, flameless tea lights.

If you really want a cooler light, opt for this higher quality Coleman Cold Glow Cooler Light which is much brighter, lasts longer, and the batteries are included.

Organizing cosmetics for college

Our youngest daughter leaves for college in August. Moving belongings from home to a dorm room halfway across the country is a challenge. We have only seen photos of the dorm room and we still have some questions about storage space. According to the dorm’s private Facebook group, the bathroom vanity is almost non-existent and there is no storage area in the bathroom for cosmetics or hair accessories.

Currently, our daughter keeps these items in drawers in our bathroom. She uses a sectioned organizer in one drawer and a set of storage trays in the other drawer. This system works well at home but it definitely will not work in her dorm room. Also, she will want to take her cosmetics and hair supplies with her when visiting her brother or grandparents on an occasional weekend or traveling home for longer holidays.

In tackling this challenge, our first step was to unclutter. Our daughter went through her things and discarded all of the items she no longer needed or wanted. Some items, such as the black nail polish, were given to friends. Broken hair clips and worn out hair elastics, expired cosmetics and toiletries went into the garbage. Make-up and hair brushes were cleaned and dried. She also invested in silicone make-up applicators because they are easier to keep clean than sponges.

Once the uncluttering was complete, we took a look at what items remained. We also thought about what needed to be transported and how often. She needs to transport all items in one unit so she doesn’t have to keep running back and forth between the bathroom and her dorm room and be able to get her items from home to school and back on an airplane. The items should also be easily accessible because she will need them on a daily basis.

After some deliberation, we settled on a train case. It is sturdy, lockable, and easy to transport. The wide opening allows access to all the items. It can sit on a counter or the floor. Apparently, it can be open, closed, and carried without smudging wet nail polish. All of her items fit inside and there is extra space for storing small bottles of shampoo and other toiletries. Along with a backpack, it would be all she needs for a weekend away.

This organizing dilemma has been solved for us but I’d love to hear cosmetics organizing solutions from our readers.

Family heirlooms: Give them away at milestone celebrations

The distribution of family heirlooms is a little creepy in my book: someone dies and I get a present. I like presents, don’t misunderstand, I just wish that a family member didn’t have to die for me to get it.

My grandmother is aware of my aversion to these inheritance practices, and so gave me her set of silver as a wedding present. When she gave it to me, she told me the story about the silver and how she worked to make money to buy it, piece by piece, during the 1930s. Had she waited to give it to me after her death, I likely would have had another set already and would have never known the delightful story of how she purchased it. Now, when I use it, I think about her, that wonderful day, and her generous gift.

My advice is to give family heirlooms away at appropriate milestone celebrations. Grandfather’s college ring should be given to a grandchild on his or her graduation with a note about it and a photo of grandfather wearing it. The rocking chair you used in your daughter’s nursery should be passed on to her the day she brings her first child home. When you give her the chair, include a page from your diary when you talked about rocking her to sleep in it and a photo of her in your arms. Don’t hoard your treasured heirlooms, instead give them away at appropriate times with heart-felt explanations of why they are valued.

 

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