Pet hair gets everywhere

Photo by Mircea Iancu from Pexels

My home has been cat free for eight months now. It wasn’t by choice. Our two cats passed away within a year of each other and we are waiting until our daughter is a bit older to get a new kitten. I definitely miss having a cat, but one thing I don’t miss is cleaning up cat hair all the time. It is a never-ending task!

We are currently awaiting the possibility of cat-sitting for my in-laws when they travel to Florida for the winter. My daughter will absolutely be thrilled with this, and I must admit that I’m excited to have a cat in the house again. After my initial excitement, the next thing I thought of was the return of cat hair. It is definitely a negative aspect of owning a pet. Dogs aren’t much better in this regard, so I’ll include them in this post. My mom spent many hours vacuuming up black hair from her carpets from the Labrador they had years ago.

Here are some tips I came across recently when looking for solutions:

Grooming: Brushing your pet regularly will decrease the amount of hair that ends up on the floor and furniture. You may also look into a corner comb.

Furniture and Floors: Vacuuming regularly is a must. It doesn’t matter if you groom regularly, the hair will find its way to the floor and furniture. You may want to instill a no furniture rule for your pet to curb furniture fur.

Clothing: The lint roller is a necessary evil if you plan to exit the house hair free. Also, don’t leave clothes out  on the floor. Most cats love to lie on clothing left on the floor.

Erin’s post on Taming pet fur tumbleweeds. The Furminator de-shedding tool will definitely be something we purchase.

How about you? What do you do to keep pet hair from taking over your home?

 

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

Unitasker Wednesday: Chef vs. Gadget

A big thank you to reader Celeste who sent us this video where a chef competes against unitasker gadgets.

The video shows that a chef knife wins spectacularly over the unitaskery avocado cutter and corn cob peeler. There was a tie between the chef knife and herb cutter (only for the green onions). If you already have a knife, sharpen up your cutting skills and skip buying the herb cutter?

The rapid egg cooker and the microwave pasta cooker, both unitaskers, won against the chef. How did they do that? They saved time — and likely saved energy. The rapid egg cooker does not require an entire pot of water to be boiled on the stove. The pasta cooker uses the microwave to boil water which is much faster and more energy efficient than the stove top. Both the pasta cooker and rapid egg cooker might be useful for students living in dorms who only have access to a microwave and an electrical outlet.

Thanks again Celeste! It’s a great video.

 

Note: Our post links to a microwave pasta cooker with higher Amazon reviews than the one shown in the video.

Wine storage

Most wine is consumed within a few weeks of purchase and often within a day of purchase. Some people are wine collectors and store wines for long-term aging. Here are a few ways to store your wine.

For storing a few bottles of wine on a countertop or shelf, the VonShef rack’s geometric design has a retro minimalist look. The gentle curves in the Oenophilia Bali Wine Rack were inspired by ocean waves. Sleek and chic, the Butterfly wine rack is made from light-weight wood and stores eight bottles of wine.

 

These free-standing stackable bamboo wine racks hold 12 bottles each. They can be placed on a counter, shelf, or it can be used in a wine cellar. They do not require any tools to assemble. An alternative to wood racks is this 24-bottle chrome rack. It is light-weight and inexpensive.

 

 

In smaller homes counter/shelf space and floor space often cannot be spared to store wine. This wall-mounted rack stores six bottles of wine in minimal space. If you need somewhere to store your stemware too, this wine shelf has a built-in stemware rack.

 

 

 

If dinner parties are the only time you have wine, the Monkey Mat is your best choice. Simply roll it out on the counter and stack the wine on it. When the wine is gone, roll up the mat and stick it in a drawer — or use it to store bottled water in your fridge. It is a multi-tasker!

Whichever rack you choose, keep your wine away from temperature fluctuations, light, and humidity. Do not place racks where they will be exposed to direct sunlight, furnace or air conditioning vents, or in damp basements.

If you are thinking about building a wine collection and storing wine for long-term aging, investing in a dual-zone wine fridge will protect your investment.

Cheers!

Preparing your car for a road trip

Today we welcome John Walton, author of the British travel blog Voyagers, to give us incredibly useful tips for auto travel. Welcome, John!

This holiday season, with prices at the pumps lower but airline prices not really dropping, many of us are taking to the road instead of to the skies. But is your car, truck, or SUV ready for the trip over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house?

If you’re like me, your car is normally pretty clean, but this time of year there’s stuff in it that you don’t need. (I live at Land’s End in Cornwall. That free tourist map of Scotland isn’t much use, so I can take a digital picture of it and throw the paper version away.)

Loose objects in your car can be more than just an eyesore. They’re potentially lethal projectiles if you have to stop suddenly. So use those little nets, compartments, and pockets wisely. Embarrassing holiday incidents shouldn’t include a coffee flask to the back of the head.

Often, a messy car results from not having anywhere to put things away. When I downsized to a smart in 2008 it took me a while to figure out where to put my iPhone, water, and coffee. My tiny car doesn’t really have enough nooks and crannies, so I buckled a daypack-sized backpack into the passenger’s side seat belt so my stuff isn’t going anywhere if I have to slam on the brakes.

Take a look around your local auto supply store for things that would be helpful. Beware the temptation to acquire things just because they are  unique, though! You almost certainly don’t need a Purple Petal Mirror Muff, but one of those four-port USB chargers  could be a great investment.

If you’re going far, make sure that everybody in the car has something to keep them entertained. Before you leave on your trip is the time to load your gadgets with your favorite music or that thirteen-hour set of The Lord of the Rings.

Lastly, and perhaps most important of all, be sure your vehicle is mechanically prepared for the season — whether you’re below freezing in Norway or Nebraska or sunning yourself in Argentina or Australia. Make sure you are comfortable driving in the weather conditions. Invest in a car emergency kit. Check your local automobile association’s website for tips appropriate to your region — and remember to check for your destination too, if you’re traveling!

Happy travels and happy holidays!

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

Dealing with teenager’s clutter

As a father of a toddler, I can easily clean up the toys that she plays with and eventually leaves strewn about the room. I am not looking forward to her teenage years, however, if she turns out to be as messy during that stage as I was. I’m not exactly sure how I will deal with it, but maybe some of our readers can give me some pointers?

The reason I bring up teenagers and clutter is an old article I stumbled upon from Kevin Duggan of The Coloradoan. An excerpt:

Clutter is as natural to teens as acne and mood swings; it’s as aggravating to parents as gray hair and hearing loss. There lies the conflict.

My home is not immune to this problem. A tour at any time through my daughters’ bedrooms (and nearby rooms, for that matter) will reveal all manner of clothes worn or tried on in recent days strewn about the floor like so many pine needles in the forest.

There’s no telling which clothes are dirty and which were recently washed but never put away. Included in the ground cover are food wrappers, CDs, papers, books and every shoe they own. Prized possessions are mixed in with trash.

So do we have any readers who deal with teenagers and their inevitable clutter? Would any parents be willing to brag about strategies for helping to raise a clutter-free teen? Trust me, I’m all ears!

 

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

Keeping holiday decorations uncluttered

Decorating for the holidays? If so, you may want to look over some of the tips below to guard against over cluttered decorations. Adding seasonal decorations to your home can increase your home’s clutter if you don’t take steps to remove items in preparation of the decorations.

Explore the tips and feel free to add your own in the comments section:

  • Replace everyday items: When decorating your home make sure you remove everyday items that are being replaced by holiday decorations. It is a good idea to place your everyday items in the boxes that usually hold your decorations. That way you know right where they are and you can easily put them back when removing you decorations after the holidays.
  • Don’t put all the presents under the tree: If you have family or friends that don’t come to visit, you should probably keep their presents in a bag in storage. So when you go to visit them you can simply grab the bag and head out the door to play Santa.
  • Donate or discard unused or broken decorations: Reader John sent us this suggestion last year. If a decoration isn’t being used, then it shouldn’t be stored for another year.
  • Beware of over decorating: Decorating for the holidays can go a bit far. If you go too crazy, then the decorations will lose their appeal and clutter up your space. Sensory overload is not a good thing when it comes to decorating.

 

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

Unitasker Wednesday: Silly scented products

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

During the holidays, people will be out enjoying parties a little more often. The police, (rightly so) will also be conducting more frequent roadside sobriety tests. Imagine that you have not had a drop of alcohol to drink. You are stopped at a roadside check and the officer asks you to roll down your window. Out wafts the smell of bourbon — from your car’s air freshener.

Yes, you too can have the smell of drunk driving without driving drunk. Just hang a few of these little bourbon scented trees around the inside of your car.

I might consider this for a bar or lounge area, but a car? No. Not really a good idea.

 

The Jimmy Dean sausage company holds a recipe exchange during the holiday season. Readers submit a recipe that uses Jimmy Dean sausages and they get to select one of the limited-edition keepsakes the company offers. This year, one of the keepsakes was sausage scented gift wrap.

I have a dog. Not one thing wrapped in sausage scented gift wrap would last more than 30 seconds. If any of the gift wrap was swallowed, it would be an expensive visit to the veterinarian.

For anyone who has pets, unscented and recyclable gift wrap would be the best option. You’ll have plenty of sausage scent when you cook sausages for breakfast Christmas morning.

Ask Unclutterer: Why is it so hard to let go?

Reader Trish sends in this question:

I grew up with a table with a center post. It came with extra leaves so we could expand it. We bought it second-hand and I have had for 40 years. Over the years, the legs have had to be screwed, or glued back on. I have been looking at center post tables for a while but couldn’t afford one. My son received a beautiful one and since he needs to move, he has offered it to me. I would love it! However, in order to get it, I have to throw my current table with its one loose leg into the garbage. Suddenly, that 40-year-old table is very beautiful and I have great sadness at the thought of tossing it out and have the garbage truck crush it to death. I am almost ready to back out of the deal. His wood center post table is beautiful and would be a great opportunity lost if I can’t detach my heart from my old broken table. HELP!!! I don’t understand why it so hard to let go.

That is a great question Trish. Many of us have a hard time letting go of things. A number of years ago, scientist examined the brains of hoarders and non-hoarders. Researchers found greater activity in a certain part of the brain when hoarders were faced with a decision to dispose of their belongings.1 This same part of the brain is also associated with maintaining a sense of “me.”2

This is not to suggest that you, or any of our readers who have trouble disposing items are hoarders. But, I wonder… if we own an item for a long period of time, will we have conditioned our minds to believe the item is part of us? It certainly seems that way sometimes.

From your submission, it sounds like your table, or parts thereof, could still be put to good use. Have you considered hiring a carpenter to build something from the salvageable parts of the table? Perhaps you could turn the table top into picture frames. Collect a series of photos showing your family around the table at birthdays, holidays, or special events and put them in the frames. You might consider building a shelf or serving trays from the table as well.

If you decide to build something new from the old table, set a time limit. If you have not moved forward with the project in six months, then give yourself permission to let the table go. If you are resistant to having it go in the garbage, consider donating it to a trade school or wood working club where the wood could be re-purposed. You might be able to find someone in a Freecycle or Buy Nothing group that would be happy to have the table and you would know it is going to someone who will appreciate it.

If you decide to let your table go, consider the advice provided by Marie Kondo in her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up. Think of the lessons that the table taught you and all of the wonderful experiences you had while you owned it. Thank the table for its devoted service and send it on its way. I held a funeral for a pair of riding boots that I owned for 30 years. I know it sounds crazy, but it helped.

Allow yourself to feel all the feelings. You are human. It is just a “thing” but the memories around the thing are important so do not feel guilty for acknowledging that.

Thanks for your great question Trish. 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.”

  1. Tolin, David F., et al. “Neural Mechanisms of Decision Making in Hoarding Disorder.” Archives of General Psychiatry, vol. 69, no. 8, 2012, p. 832., doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.1980. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22868937
  2. McGonigal, Kelly. “Why It’s Hard to Let Go of Clutter.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 7 Aug. 2012, psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-science-willpower/201208/why-it-s-hard-let-go-clutter.

Too many flower vases

As I was looking for something in my kitchen, I came across a cupboard that was filled with multiple flower vases. Over the years, my wife and I have received a fair amount of mail ordered flowers and with every order there is always a glass vase included. Apparently, these vases all found their way into the same cupboard and now I’m trying to figure out what to do with them.

My first thought was to take them down to my local charity shop. However, I always remembered seeing an abundance of vases at thrift stores so I decided against that. I called a local florist to see if they would be interested in reusing some flower vases for their deliveries. They were not very receptive to the idea. Maybe they thought I would return them with some sort of flower killing disease.

I tried to figure out what I could use them for around the house other than storing loose change. I could use them for their purpose and display beautiful flowers each and every day, but buying flowers every week, especially in the colder seasons isn’t going to happen. I’d have to purchase quite a few bouquets just to put all the vases to use.

Dear readers, what can I do with all of these vases? Please leave some suggestions in the comments. I’m sure other readers have the same issue of flower vases taking up way too much storage space. Let’s get a collection of ideas brewing in the comments section.

 

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

Reader suggestion: Storing a George Foreman Grill

Reader Liz sent us the following solution for storing the removable plates and body of her George Foreman Grill:

I got the wonderful George Foreman grill with the changeable plates for Christmas a few years ago. I have since been struggling with how to store the 5 grill plates since they don’t stack conveniently and can get easily scratched. I live in an apartment, so storage space is hard to come by. After several disappointing online searches, I decided to create my own [storage solution]. I used a vertical, metal sorter (similar to this one) placed on top of a locker shelf (similar to this one) so I can store my Foreman grill underneath the plates. The file sorter that is holding the grill plates is coated in plastic so it won’t scratch the plates, which is vital!

In addition to being a great solution for a George Foreman Grill, it would be wonderful for waffle iron plates, lids for reusable storage containers, lids for pots and pans, and even baking pans and cookie sheets. Thank you for such a terrific suggestion, Liz!

 

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

Rolling along with my ZÜCA bag

A few years ago, an employee at ZÜCA, Inc., e-mailed me and asked if I had ever heard of their line of luggage. I hadn’t.

At that time, I was in a hate-hate relationship with my overnight bag. It was a multiple-pocket duffle bag that had the worst strap configuration known to man on it. When I got it, the bag was empty, and I had no idea how much pain the strap could inflict on my shoulder with even the smallest amount of weight in it.

I decided to check out a ZÜCA bag and see if it might be a nice alternative. I’m glad that I did, because the ZÜCA bag is my new best friend for when I need to travel for a week or less.

These are the reasons why I think the ZÜCA bag is great:

  • The wheels. They maneuver better than any luggage with wheels that I’ve ever test driven. Plus, you can order customized ones that look like roller skate or skateboard wheels.
  • The built-in chair. The aluminum frame on the bag allows you to be able to use the piece of luggage as a chair. Often times, at the airport, I find myself waiting in lines. Now, I just sit while I wait.
  • The TSA-compliant zipper pouch. The pouch has a specialized pocket right inside the bag so that I can easily grab it when heading through security and then pop it back into place after putting on my shoes.
  • The laptop pocket. Actually, I’m pretty sure ZÜCA didn’t imagine the side pocket to be a laptop pocket, but mine fits right inside of it. When going through security at the airport, I just slide it out of the pocket without having to unzip or unsnap anything. I have to be careful, however, if I store my bag in the overhead compartment to either take my laptop out of the pocket or store my bag laptop-side on top.
  • The insert bags. I don’t always use each and every one of the insert bags, but I use most of them. I put my shoes and belts in one, my shirts in another, etc. They keep shoe crud from getting on my clothing.
  • The washable exterior. If the ZÜCA bag gets dirty, you can remove the bag from the frame and wash it. It’s also water resistant, so if it rains, your stuff is nice and dry inside. Also, if you decide you want something snazzy, you can change the bag to a different pattern the company sells.

My only problem with the bag is that I have yet to find a way to store a suit coat without it getting wrinkled. My assumption is that this is a failing of mine, and not a problem with the bag design. However, if the bag had a suit pouch that would wrap around the insert bags, I wouldn’t have a concern at all.

Also, the bag isn’t cheap. It retails for close to $300. A quick search through some other luggage websites finds that the price is comparable to similar bags of its size. I believe the price is worth it, though, especially for people who travel a lot for business. If you’re in the market for a new piece of carry-on luggage that holds up to a week’s worth of clothes in an incredibly organized manner, you definitely need to check out the ZÜCA bag.

 

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

2018 Gift Giving Guide: Wrap Up

This post summarizes our 12th Annual Holiday Gift Giving Guide. We hope this tradition has inspired you to give uncluttered presents this season and throughout the coming year.

For more inspiration, visit our previous Gift Giving Guides: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

From the Unclutterer staff, we wish you a relaxing and clutter-free holiday season!