Unitasker Wednesday: The Prepdeck

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

Reader Pete brought today’s product, The Prepdeck to our attention.

The Prepdeck is designed to organize and unclutter your kitchen work surfaces. It includes a fold-out cutting board, 15 containers in four sizes, a storage compartment for knives and utensils, an accessory drawer with prep tools (grater, slicer, juicer, etc.) and a removable trash compartment for collecting scraps.

The Prepdeck is large and cleaning all those little parts would be a challenge! As Reader Pete put it, “I shudder to think of the potential for cross-contamination, especially if you’re a meat-eater.”

In other words, Prepdeck duplicates everything that your kitchen already has, all of which can be easily cleaned in the dishwasher. Not to mention the fact that the little containers have to be stored in the fridge individually while the Prepdeck remains unused taking up almost all of your counter space.

Here is the thing though…

I just finish setting up my youngest kid at college. The Prepdeck would be very helpful. The cutting board would be easier to clean and sanitize than the chipped and stained countertops in the dorm kitchen. Having a small compartment for collecting scraps means they wouldn’t fall on the floor and attract pests. The Prepdeck’s little containers hold just enough for one person and are small enough to be stored in the fridge in her room. She could fill up the containers at home on the weekends and have enough fresh fruits and veggies for the week. Being able to store all of her own kitchen tools in one spot would be beneficial as well.

Actually, for anyone living in a dorm, small apartment, or RV, and doesn’t already have kitchen tools, the Prepdeck would be the way to go.

Should we call it a large, cumbersome, multi-tasking unitasker? I’ll leave it to our readers to decide.

Reader Question: Moving to New Zealand

Reader Charlee writes in with this question:

I’m having difficulty finding helpful information on moving overseas permanently. Most articles are about temporary moves and what you should store in the US or take with you depending on the length of your stay. The majority of those are for military families.

My husband is from New Zealand. We’re planning to move there within the next 2-3 years. We’ve been hard core uncluttering our home of 15 years, and are planning an enormous sale soon of stuff we don’t want now, then another shortly before the move to get rid of the remainder — the stuff we’ll use until we move. Do you have any advice about moving permanently to the other side of the planet?

This is a great question Charlee — not just for moving from one side of the planet to the other but even across the continent.

The first step is to investigate the country you’re moving to. Your husband is from New Zealand so I would assume that you have visited there a few times over the course of your marriage and are probably very familiar with how people live, what their homes are like, and what the cost of living is. If you don’t know, check out websites written by expats. Social media sites can also be a good resource. You can learn a lot from following journalists, businesses, and social services (health care, police, etc.) on Twitter.

Here are a few things that might not be so evident to our readers.

Vehicles

In New Zealand, they drive right-hand drive vehicles on the left-hand side of the road. A North American vehicle would probably need modifications to meet New Zealand’s auto standards. You would likely need special auto insurance and/or special licencing. Additionally, it would be very difficult to sell your vehicle (even for parts) when the time came. You might not even want a car in your new location if you are living downtown in a large city and auto fuel and parking fees are more expensive than a bus pass.

Recommendation: Sell the car before you leave even if you have to use a rental a car for a month before you move.

Electrical items

The electrical power grid in New Zealand is 230/240V and 50Hz. In North America, it is 110V and 60Hz. You can get a “step-up” transformer however, they are designed for short-term use and will cause your electrical devices to wear out very quickly. However, some lamps and lighting can be re-wired so if you have an antique or very expensive lamp, ask an electrician if it would be possible and feasible to re-wire. Computers, laptops, tablets, and phones can work on both 110V and 240V. Check your systems. You might only need to purchase a new power converter.

Recommendation: Sell or give away anything that plugs in and does not work on 240V/50Hz power.

Cost of the move

I am assuming that you will be paying for your own move (as opposed to an employer paying for it). If this is the case, calculate the cost of the move. Most moving companies use volume to calculate the cost. For example, it might cost $6,000 USD to move 1000 cubic feet (a small 3-bedroom house). This works out to $6 USD per cubic foot. If that old sofa in your basement takes up 65 cubic feet, it costs $390 USD to move. (Check out this household goods volume calculator.) Is that old sofa worth $390 USD? Would it be better to buy a new sofa on arrival? Consider that you will have to pay import duties on the current value of all imported items.

Recommendation: Do not pay more to move goods than the goods are worth — with the exception of sentimental items.

Import restrictions

Depending on the country to which you are moving, some items are not allowed to be imported. Usually these consist of hunting trophies, food and agricultural products, unfinished wood, alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and ammunition. Some children’s toys, furniture, and craft items may not be permitted if they do not meet the country’s safety standards. Medications that are over-the-counter in one country, may be restricted because they require a prescription in another country.

Recommendation: Check importation restrictions via Customs Services of the country you are moving to. Consider selling or giving away restricted items before you move. If you are keeping restricted items, start the process for ensuring these can be imported when the time comes.

Documentation

Managing your “stuff” is pretty straight-forward compared to the amount of documentation you have to keep track of for an international move.

Vital Records

Ensure you have original copies of all your important documents including birth certificates (long form with birth location and parents’ names), marriage licences, divorce decrees, passports, wills, powers of attorney, etc. It will be difficult to get them replaced once you move. Carry these documents with you but make a copy of each and store them in a secure cloud location.

Insurance and licencing

Contact your auto and home insurance companies. Ask them to provide proof of insurance for as far back as you can go. You may need to contact previous insurance companies as well. Try to get at least 10 years of positive history. This will help you get insurance in your new country.

Obtain a driving licence abstract from your State. This will show how long you have been a licenced driver and your past driving infractions. Getting 10 years of history will help with your auto insurance. Depending on your new country, you still might be required to pass a driving test.

Health records

Contact all of your medical, dental, and other health providers and obtain a complete health record. Often it will be provided on a password-protected CD. If it is on paper, scan it, and keep a copy in secure cloud storage. Check the vaccination requirements of your new country and get your shots before you go as it might take a while before you can access their health care system. This is especially important for children who may require specific vaccinations before they can attend school.

Pay for legal and financial advice

I cannot stress this enough — pay for professional advice from a lawyer and an international tax accountant (not your Cousin Vinny who “knows a guy”). There are legal and tax ramifications when moving money from one country to another. The laws are complex and depend on your specific situation (citizen, resident, immigrant, visa holder, etc.). The last thing you want is to get arrested at the airport by the IRS for tax evasion when you return to the US for a family reunion! These will be initially expensive appointments but you will sleep better at night knowing that you are operating within the law.

Your wills, living wills, powers of attorney, etc., although valid when created in the US, should be re-done in the new country to adhere to their laws. Should anything unfortunate happen, you will not waste time in courts to be able to access finances or determining a proper care plan.

There is much more we could add about document management and moving in general so check out these other Unclutterer posts that might be helpful.

We hope that we’ve given you some good information here Charlee and our readers often chime in with incredibly useful advice so please keep your eye on the comments section.

Creative ways to get rid of clutter

Two of my dear friends moved from Washington DC to California. At their going away party, they gave gifts to all of the attendees — literal parting gifts.

In the parking lot of their apartment complex after the party, my husband and I decided to open our gifts. Both boxes were filled to the brim with ephemera. My box included: 3 yen, a knitted mitten Christmas tree ornament, 4 ticket stubs, a scratched CD, a bright pink magnet in the shape of a button, and about a pound more stuff. My husband’s box held: a broken Palm Pilot, a cracked copy of Microsoft Excel, a sticker that said “I used to be punk rock,” and two handfuls of other random trinkets.

The next day, I called my friends to find out about these special packages. They explained that as they were packing their lives for the move, there were items in their apartment that they knew they should throw out but couldn’t get themselves to do it.

“We had bizarre emotional attachments to all of the objects in the boxes,” one of the two explained. “We couldn’t throw the stuff away, so we wrapped it up to give to you and the others.”

“You know we all just tossed or recycled the stuff in the boxes, right?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied. “But giving the stuff away as gifts was the only way we could get rid of it.”

“I get it,” I said, not really getting it at all.

A few days later, the idea started to resonate with me. Whatever it took to get the clutter out of their future home was a good idea to me. Seeing as I had no attachment to any of the objects in my gift box, I tossed and recycled the stuff immediately. A few conversations with other friends from the party, and I found that they did the same. The stuff had been dealt with and was out of my moving friends’ lives. The process of uncluttering was unconventional, but effective.

Have you encountered or tried a non-traditional uncluttering method? What do you think of my friends’ ephemera boxes as a method of getting rid of clutter — especially clutter with a misplaced emotional pull to keep? Any suggestions for how to say goodbye to clutter in a creative way? We would love to read your ideas in the comments!

 

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

Weekend Project: Trash can clean up

If you’re anything like me, you rarely, if ever, think about the trash cans. Maybe if one tips over you’ll think about it, but, for the most part, they’re mentally invisible.

Earlier this week, however, I noticed that my outdoor trash can was stinky. I have no idea what foul thing crawled in there and died, but “maliciously odorous” would aptly explain its stench.

I thought that I’m likely not the only one in such smelly circumstances, and came up with the idea to make a weekend project out of cleaning my cans. So, if you’re looking for a weekend project idea, maybe a trash can clean up is for you, too?

Gather up all of your trash cans (indoor and outdoor) and set them in a paved location near a drain (or take them to a self-service car wash if convenient). Squirt a bit of dishwashing detergent into each can, and then fill the bottoms with a few inches of water. Let the cans soak for at least 15 minutes, give them a good scrub with a long handled brush, and then dump out the water. Rinse them well, let them dry in the weekend sun, and then put them back in place.

Your nose will most certainly thank you!

 

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

Reader question: Clothes closet organization

Reader Lisa Z. sent us the following question:

I am OCD, and I thrive on order. I have crazy organization of my closet, which includes organizing all my shirts first by sleeve length (all sleeveless shirts together, all regular-sleeved shirts together, all 3/4 and long-sleeved shirts together, and all t-shirts together), then by color (1st white, then light grey, then to darker grey, then starting with lightest red going to darkest red through the colors of the rainbow). I have four sets of rainbows in my closet, although I have gone back and forth between one rainbow sorted by sleeve length (which didn’t last long). I have 14 pairs of blue jean pants. I know; the first thing you’re going to tell me is that I shouldn’t have THAT MANY pairs of jeans. That is in addition to the number of skirts, shorts, and other-colored pants I own. But I sort even my jeans in order from lightest shade of blue to darkest shade of blue. The question: Do you think this is a waste of time, or do you recommend sorting clothes this way to find exactly what you’re looking for in a snap? It has always worked for me, but I am just barely starting to catch on to the possibility that this might be a waste of time… Thanks so much and keep up the great work on the blog!

Lisa, I don’t have OCD, and I organize my closet in a very similar manner. My exception to this is that I store my jeans and t-shirts folded in a dresser instead of hanging in my closet. My t-shirts are in piles of tank tops, short sleeves, and long sleeves in my drawer.

I’m also a stickler about all of my shirts facing the same way on the hanger.

Organizing my closet this way allows me to quickly match outfits, easily get dressed in the dark, and my husband doesn’t complain about having to share a closet with me. It may be overkill, but it works.

How about our readership? How do you organize your clothes in your closet?

 

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

Unitasker Wednesday: Robot Eating Lollipop Holder

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

All of us who eat lollipops have had the same conundrum — what do we do with the half-eaten ones? We can’t just set them down on the arm of the sofa or on the kitchen counter. What are we to do?

robot shaped lollipop holderIntroducing… The Robot Eating Lollipop Holder!

Just place your half-eaten lolly in the hands of this large plastic robot-looking device, push the button and the hands put the lolly inside the robot’s head. The lolly stays fresh and clean. There is a note from the manufacturer to say that the lid may not open if lollipops are stuck to it so you may need to rinse the device with hot water. That is just fine because after each lolly, you’ll have to wash the device anyway.

I’m sure many people would find it challenging to get a small piece of plastic wrap and cover the lolly to keep it fresh even though it would be easier, and better for the environment to keep a small piece of plastic wrap in your pocket rather than this large device.

Thanks to reader Roxanne wrote in to share this week’s unitasker with the comment, “Seriously, who thinks up these things?”

Well, Roxanne, we don’t know who thinks them up, but an idea is one thing, so seriously, who agreed that this was worthy of production?

Reader question: Letting go of books

Reader Heather wrote in to ask advice about letting go of some of her books.

I read a lot (up to four books a day) and I have a number of books that I read over and over from select authors. I also have an advanced degree and am going back to school soon. I have novels, books about writing, poetry, birds, science, and art. I never know when I’ll be up all night or stuck at home for several days. I have been reading through Gutenberg.org, but that limits me to books for which the copyright has expired.

I have three regular sized bookshelves and one double sized bookshelf. I know I need to get rid of at least one bookshelf, or all the books on the floor in stacks, or both. My one-bedroom apartment is cluttered with books, birds, plants, and art supplies. It depresses me and it’s hard to take care of. I’m pecking away but often my chronic health problems interfere so it’s hard. Can you offer any suggestions?

Thanks for the great question Heather. Many bibliophiles have difficulty getting rid of books — myself included. I grow so attached to some novels that getting rid of them would be like throwing away my best friends. However, there is only so much space we have to store books that tough decisions (and yes indeed, they are tough) must be made.

Unclutterer has a great article about what books to let go. These include books you won’t ever read, books you won’t read again, and books you don’t like. Below, I’ve included a few more unconventional ways of uncluttering. Perhaps you will find one or more helpful.

Evacuate your home. Pretend you have been ordered to evacuate. You can take only the books you can fit into three smaller moving boxes and you only have 30 minutes to choose your favourites. Set a timer with an alarm and start boxing up your favourite books. When you are done, the books in the boxes are those you will definitely keep and everything else is negotiable. This tactic makes you react on instinct and not overthink your decisions. It doesn’t work for everyone, but if you might want to give it a go and see what you discover. It is a similar process to asking yourself if the book sparks joy.” However, with many book lovers (myself included), every book sparks joy so giving yourself this evacuation challenge might help.

Worst-case scenario. Ask yourself what would be the worst possible thing that could happen if you got rid of the book. Would you lose important information that would be difficult to find elsewhere? Would part of your family heritage be lost? If so, then the book is a keeper. Everything else that you could find in a library or on the internet, is negotiable. If the book is essential for working on a current, active project, then the book is a keeper. Convenience is important too. Once the project is complete though, the book becomes eligible for elimination.

Book Custodian. Are you looking after the books as if you were a librarian? Do you practice proper book storage and cleaning techniques? Are you able to keep up with repairs any books might need? Are your books organized in a way that you can find exactly what you need when you need it? Consider letting go of books that you don’t feel compelled to take care of.

Gamify it. In this technique, have a friend pull a book off the shelf at random and tell you only one significant detail of the book such as the title or author’s name. You have to tell your friend all about the book. For fiction, you could provide a brief summary of the plot. For non-fiction, provide some facts within the book. If you can’t provide details, the book leaves your home. If you haven’t yet read the book, the friend puts it in a separate “to read” pile and comes back in a month or so. If you haven’t read the book by then, it goes.

Here are a few other Unclutterer articles about books that you might find helpful.

Thanks for your great question Heather. 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.”