How to spend less time ironing

A couple of months ago, fellow Unclutterer writer Alex wrote about how he uses the chore of ironing to practice active meditation. That works for Alex, but not for me. I do not like ironing. I find it tedious and annoying. It’s something I’d rather not do, but as my mother used to say, I don’t want to “… look like an unmade bed,”  so I try reduce the amount of ironing I have to do with a few simple tricks.

Now, I realize that ironing can’t be avoided entirely. Sometimes you must look neat, tidy and wrinkle-free (job interviews, important meetings, weddings, funerals, and so on). I’m not suggesting you should stop ironing entirely. But you’re an iron-phobic like me (or you’d like to spend less time performing this chore), this post is for you.

Step one: the dryer is your friend

Ironing removes wrinkles from clothes via a combination of heat, steam and pressure. We can harness two of the three with the dryer. When you can, get clothes out of the clothes dryer as soon as the drying cycle is completed and then fold or hang the clothes right away. The residual heat and weight of being folded/hung up will have a similar effect to ironing itself. Speaking of the dryer…

Step two: pay a lot of attention to the dryer

I said that the dryer is your friend. That’s true, but friendship requires give and take. To encourage wrinkle-free results, don’t over dry your clothes. If your machine has a permanent press cycle, use it, as that will inject some cooler air. Also, remove them promptly as mentioned above. If you can’t do that, it’s a good idea to get them out while still slightly damp, as removing all moisture and then letting the load sit in a heap encourages wrinkling. This brings us to the washer.

Step three: the washer is also your friend

Just like we did with the dryer, look for that permanent press cycle. Also, avoid over stuffing the washer. Not only does the weight off all that clothing put a strain on the machine’s inner workings, it results in a wadded, wrinkly mass. (It also puts strain on the fabrics which can reduce the life of your clothes.) Also, try not to wash heavy items like jeans with lighter ones like tops. The former will crease the latter.

…And the rest

Here are a few final tips for ironing less.

  • Fold your clothes carefully so you do not accidentally add more wrinkles.
  • Use good quality hangers to prevent wrinkle formation.
  • Avoid overstuffed drawers and closets.
  • Consider buying wrinkle-free clothes
  • Use products like wrinkle-releaser ( you can also make your own if you’re the DIY type ). I’ve never used either so I can’t recommend them, but I know they exist.

I’ve also read that you can use a hair dryer for quickie wrinkle removal, but I haven’t tested this either although Unclutterer writer Jacki assures me this works. (She’s not a big ironing fan either). She’s also used her daughter’s hair straightening iron to quickly press shirt collars and cuffs, and hung ball gowns and business suits in hotel bathrooms while running a steamy shower in order to remove wrinkles.

It’s true that I can’t avoid ironing entirely. There are certain settings that demand neat, well-pressed clothes. But if you’re like me, follow these few steps to reduce time spend engaged in this boring chore.

The power of writing it down

“Keep everything in your head or out of your head. In-between, you won’t trust either one.” ~ David Allen.

We’ve written about David Allen’s Getting Things Done several times at Unclutterer. In a nutshell, it’s a system of best practices around doing what you need to do. It’s easy to get “on the wagon” so to speak, and it’s just as easy to fall off. This weekend I spent five hours getting back on, and it’s been great.

Today, I have 86 open projects between work and home, and I feel great about every one. I haven’t made significant progress on any of them. Nor have I ticked off any major milestones or delegated the more repetitive tasks. What did was to get them out of my head and organize them into a system I trust.

As David Allen would say (and I’m paraphrasing here), your brain is not for storing to-dos, it’s for solving problems. When you ask it to do the former, it causes stress. If you’ve ever had a moment when you’ve thought, “Oh no! I need to do [x]!” when there was no chance of doing so, you’ll know it’s the worst. Getting tasks out of your head and into a trusted system can eliminate that feeling.

Last weekend, I sat down and wrote out all of the outstanding projects I need to work on. I define a project as anything that takes more than one step to complete so “draft an outline for volunteer orientation” and “get the oil changed in my car” are both treated as projects.

Once everything is written down, I organize it in a project management system I trust. For me, that system is Todoist (I’ve written about Todoist here before). It’s not the only solution, but it works well for me. I list the project and each step that must be done before the project can be marked as completed.

Once that’s done, I can look at the list of 86 open projects and feel on top of all of it. I know what needs to get done. I know the steps I have to take. I know exactly how to make progress on all of it — and I don’t worry about forgetting things! Finally, nothing feels better than clicking the little checkbox next to a completed task.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take the time to do a “mind dump” and get everything out of your head and into a trusted system, whether it be a piece of software or simply a list. It will help you feel good about all of your projects, no matter how many you have.

Managing kids’ screen time

When I was a kid in the 1980s, “screen time” wasn’t really a thing. Personal computers were rare, expensive things that few people had and were mainly for business. Telephones were “dumb” and tethered to the wall, and television offered 13 channels, many of which were snow.

What a difference 40 years makes!

Today, my kids have a staggering amount of media and entertainment available to them at all times. As a parent, I struggle with raising the first generation of kids to never know a day without the internet, pocket-sized computers, and on-demand entertainment. It’s not easy to manage but oh, so important to do so.

Research has demonstrated the dangers of unbridled screen time. A study recently conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that “…children [between the ages of] 8 to 18 spend, on average, close to 45 hours per week watching TV, playing video games, instant messaging, and listening to music online.” That’s more time — far more — than they spend in a classroom.

What’s the result of all this time spent staring at a glowing rectangle? As of this writing, it’s hard to say. Since this issue is so new, there haven’t been a lot of longitudinal studies conducted. But research is being done. A study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior suggests that sixth graders who abstained from screen time for a period of time were better able to read human emotions than those who did not.

So how can we stay on top of it? Organize a healthy “media diet” with the kids. Here are a few ideas.

First, be aware of what’s age-appropriate. Know what they’re watching, playing, and listening to. I know it sounds obvious, but new entertainment comes out so often, we as parents must actively stay up to date.

This doesn’t just go for content. While digital entertainment is being made for two-year-olds, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV or computer screens (including phones and tablets) for that age group at all.

Next, set family rules and stick to them. Our rule is this: two hours of screen time after dinner and that’s it. Of course, this is considering that all homework is done, lunches and snacks are prepared, and bags are packed up for the next morning. Both parents must be consistent with rule enforcement here. This leads me to the next tip.

No media in bedrooms. You can’t monitor your children when they’re in bed. If a phone or tablet is at hand, the temptation may be too great to pass up.

So far I’ve put all of the focus on the kids. That’s important, but phone-addicted parents need a reminder to put their devices down, too. A recent study noted that kids can feel unimportant when their parents spend so-called “quality time” looking at a phone . Face-to-face interaction is the way children learn.

I guess we could all do with a little less screen time. Manage the amount of time your kids — and you yourself — spend looking at a phone, tablet or computer screen.

Living with a small kitchen

Are you living in urban studio apartment with a galley kitchen or a dorm with a shared kitchenette? If so, this post is for you. Small kitchens can become very functional with just a few adjustments. I’m one who knows.

My family’s house has a small kitchen. When we first moved into the little summer cottage that would become our year-round home, the oven and refrigerator couldn’t be opened at the same time because the door of one would bang into the other. We’ve remodeled, but the space constraints are mostly the same. There is very little counter space, only a few cabinets, and we are a family of four. You can do the math on that one.

To make it work, we’ve had to prioritize about what we really need, efficiently store the items we keep, and eliminate anything we can live without. Here’s how we’ve made it work.

If the three most important things in real estate are location, location, location, the small kitchen mantra is prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. When storage and counter space are at a premium, every item must earn its right to be there. Go through your kitchen and decide if each item can stay or needs to go. Here’s an example.

We got rid of the microwave oven after realizing all that it really offers is convenience. That is to say, it doesn’t accomplish anything that the stovetop and oven can’t do. It’s quicker, but getting rid of it freed up a couple cubic feet of space. We’re years into living without it now, and haven’t missed it one bit.

Think about the bulky items in your kitchen such as the juicer, mixer, and coffee pot. (I know, nobody is going to give up a coffee pot!) Is there a smaller version? Can an item be eliminated entirely?

Once you’ve culled the bulky items, consider the “must haves.” These are the things you can’t do without, like utensils, cutlery, plates, pots, and pans. For each item on this list purge down to only what’s necessary.

Next, adopt a zero tolerance policy for unitaskers. There is no room in a small kitchen for the Jumbo Jerky Works Gun. Seriously though, these things take up space and almost never get used. Don’t just take our word for it. Celebrity chef Alton Brown breaks down exactly why there’s no room in your kitchen for these things.

Here are a few other suggestions for living with a small kitchen.

  1. Stack up, not out. Like me, you’ll probably have more vertical space than horizontal.
  2. Store items near where they are used.
  3. Find things that work with your space, not against it. For example, a magnetic knife mount is much more efficient than a knife block when counter space is at a premium.
  4. Clean as you go. This is probably the best tip of the bunch. There just isn’t room to make a big mess, so clean up as you work.

Here’s hoping this was helpful. Tiny kitchen life can be cozy and fun if you’re doing it right.

Eliminating mid-station clutter

As I write this, there is an overflowing laundry basket behind me. I can’t see it. I can’t hear it or (for now, at least) smell it. But I can sense it. I know it’s there. It’s always there, eyeing me with its passive-aggressive glance. “Dave,” it says. “Daaaave! Look at all this laundry.”

No, I’m not going crazy, nor am I having a conversation with the laundry basket. I am, however, aware of what the laundry basket really is: a mid-station.

What is a mid-station?

Think of a train that leaves Boston for New York City but first stops in Hartford, Connecticut. Partway between its departure point and its final destination. That is the mid-station stop. If you wanted to, you could get off the train at Hartford, have some lunch, do some shopping, and then eventually continue to New York City.

The laundry basket is a mid-station stop — holding the dirty clothes before they get to the washing machine. The trouble is, laundry often gets stuck in the basket. Days go by and the pile gets higher and higher. It’s annoying, and this prompted me to find other mid-stations in my home and I found several.

The dish drainer is a classic mid-station. I’ll clean up after a meal, wash the dishes, and put them in the rack. A couple of days later, we’re all using the rack as if it were the cabinet.

We also have a collection of keys, backpacks, and lunch boxes that come in from work and school every day. In this case, the mid-station is the mudroom. The coats and backpacks have hooks and the keys have a small basket, yet these items often languish on the first flat surface inside the door, or on the floor itself.

What can be done about mid-stations?

Adopt new habits. I live with three other people and laundry builds up quickly. After just 72 hours there’s a mountain piled up. The solution that works for us is to do at least one load per day. If we do this, the clothes don’t pile up as much. Doing one load per day, is manageable, and a lot better than spending three or four hours on the weekend getting caught up.

As for the dishes, diligence is the answer here, too. Simply make it a part of the daily routine to empty the drainer and put the dishes, glasses, and utensils, away.

Continually reminding the guilty parties results in getting the coats and backpacks hung up properly in the mud room.

Eliminating mid-stations. I’ve read about people who’ve addressed mid-stations by eliminating them. In other words, laundry won’t pile up in baskets if there are no baskets. Likewise, there’s no “Leaning Tower of Dishes” to admire without a dish drainer to serve as the foundation. This is true but not often practical. When I was a kid, we didn’t have laundry baskets because my parents’ house had a laundry chute. We tossed the dirty clothes through a little door in the wall and they fell downstairs to the laundry room itself. Most homes don’t have laundry chutes these days.

If you can get away with eliminating a mid-station, give it a try. I don’t think I could do it.

The other point I want to make here is delegation. My kids, my wife and I all share chores. Many hands make for short work, as the saying goes.

If you’ve identified any mid-stations in your home, share your solution (or struggle) in the comments below. Let’s see what we can do about this common problem.

Pack and organize for a convention

Taking the time to prepare for a conference – either for work or fun – will significantly affect what you get out of it. Here are a few tips to make sure you enjoy the big show.

A single point of failure

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people sit down at very expensive conferences with only one pen. If it breaks or runs out of ink, you are out of luck. When I was an IT professional, we called this a “single point of failure,” and it’s not good. Identify the potential points of failure in your conference supplies and double up on:

  • Pens and paper
  • Phone/tablet charger and cables
  • Money

I have a good reason for keeping cash on hand at a convention. A few years ago I was in San Francisco for a conference and needed some quick cash for a last-minute event. I sprinted to the only ATM I could see only to find it was out of service. Right then, I wished that I had stuffed fifty dollars in my wallet before leaving home.

What to wear

Professional conferences often require more formal attire than a show attended for fun. For example, you’ll need business casual outfits for the workshops in your field, while the Star Trek T-shirt you’ve had since the 90s is perfectly appropriate for the science fiction convention.

Regardless of the type of convention, comfortable shoes are essential. You’re going to be on your feet, maybe for hours. If I’m at a fun, casual event, I’ll wear sneakers. Otherwise, I wear my beloved OluKai shoes, as they’re the most comfortable pair I’ve ever owned. Plus they slip on and off, which is great for getting through security at the airport.

I also dress in layers, as it’s almost impossible to predict how warm or cold a convention center or hotel ball room might be.

Gear

No matter what kind of show I’m attending, I always have a battery case for my phone. When I’m at a show I’m taking photos, communicating with colleagues, and sharing on social media. After several hours, my phone is ready to give out. Mophie makes a huge variety of battery cases for several models. I’ve used them for years and have only good things to say.

If the show you’re attending has an official convention app, install it. These often contain itineraries, maps, a description of events, and so on. With that said, also grab a paper program if you can. Remember that whole “single point of failure” thing?

Lastly, I always bring a bag. If the show is a more professional one, I bring a nice-looking messenger bag. If not, I’ll throw on a backpack. It’s nice to be able to throw a bag over your shoulder so you have both hands free to shake hands with colleagues, pick up corporate literature, or take photos of your favorite celebrities.

Many venues restrict certain items (e.g. professional cameras, pocket knives, etc.) so always check the policies before attending. There will often be a bag check upon entry, so factor that time into your day.

Meetings with friends and colleagues

One of the best things about many conventions, is that you get a chance to see people from across the country and from around the world. Before you leave home, connect with as many friends and colleagues as you can and schedule meetings, lunches, and dinners. Add these events your calendar. Conventions tend to be crowded. You may need to connect with your colleagues to designate a specific meeting place so include their contact information in your meeting reminders.

Good luck and have fun.

Organize big and little tasks at work

I recently started a new job in a field that I left about 20 years ago. It’s been like getting back on a (rusty) bike. I know how to do what I need to do, but it’s been a while since I’ve done it. Today, I’m about five months in and finally enjoying some job satisfaction, much of which comes from managing the big projects and the little tasks.

The big projects are easy, because they become little tasks. That is, the right kind of little tasks. For example, let’s say I have to write a proposal. If I were to concentrate on “write a proposal,” I’d get stressed. There’s a lot to do. However, when the project is broken down into small, easy-to-manage chunks it becomes much easier. Day one becomes “Research one aspect of the proposal.” Sure, I can do that!

These little tasks that you define, control, and push towards a goal are gratifying. However, I want to talk today about the annoying tasks — the repetitive, inefficient, inescapable tasks. Those tasks can be annoying, yet when well-managed, they can significantly increase job satisfaction.

The first step is to get organized. List the little tasks and administrative duties that must be done. Perhaps it’s daily email triage or short summary reports that are due every Friday. I like to move important information out of email and into Todoist. Whatever those tasks are for you, keep listing until you’ve got all the tasks written down.

Next, set aside the right time to devote to them. I say the right time because that’s important. Some of my tasks don’t take a lot of time or energy so I reserve them for the end of the work day, when I’m running low on both. This way I reserve my creative energy earlier in the day for dealing with the big stuff.

But the biggest benefit is that I can complete many of these small tasks in a short period of time. It’s tremendously rewarding to mark something as complete. These tasks are quick and easy, so you get the joy of four, five, even ten in a row! It’s a great feeling and can help increase your overall job satisfaction.

Try to identify the minor hassles in your day-to-day work, and set aside a block of time that’s dedicated to addressing them. You’ll find it is a very rewarding practice.

The organized nightstand

Over the years we’ve written many articles about maintaining an organized bedroom. Today I’ll talk about the faithful nightstand. Other than your bed, the nightstand is likely the piece of bedroom furniture you’ll use most often. Everything from your phone to your current novel rests on this little table, and it can get cluttered. Here’s how to pick a nightstand that’s going to work for you, and keep it tidy in the process.

Drawer or no drawer?

I’m anti-drawer fan when it comes to nightstands. I had a nice old desk next to my bed for years. It had a drawer that I filled with appropriate things: tissues for when I was feeling sick, a book, wallet and keys, and so on. Then I started to put other things in there such as greeting cards, books of stamps, little notebooks, batteries, headphones, small paperback books, and so on.

I’d purge the drawer and start again, only to get the same result. The nightstand drawer became my go-to destination for those “Where do I put this?” items. So, I eliminated the nightstand with the drawer and I haven’t looked back.

Incidentally, if you’re looking to reclaim a junk drawer, we’ve got you covered.

Light source

This is one area I still need to update. Currently I’ve got a small desk lamp on my nightstand. It’s great but the base takes up a too much space. A clip-on model would save space and every little bit counts.

Containers

Many of the items on my nightstand are small, like my keys, pocket flashlight, pocket knife, notebook, wallet, and pens (my Everyday Carry). To keep these bits and bobs from making a mess I use a Sturdy Brothers Catch All. It looks great and keeps all of that stuff together.

Everything else

What else is permitted on my nightstand? My Kindle is there, and my phone, which I use as an alarm clock. Often times I’ll put a bottle of water there as I like to take a drink when I first wake up but that’s it.

I realize that different needs will necessitate more or less on a person’s nightstand, as well as the features of the furniture itself. Please chime in. How do you keep your nightstand organized?

Clutter and productivity

A few years ago, we pointed out a study conducted by the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute which demonstrates how a cluttered environment can negatively affect productivity:

“Multiple stimuli present in the visual field at the same time compete for neural representation by mutually suppressing their evoked activity throughout visual cortex, providing a neural correlate for the limited processing capacity of the visual system.”

In other words, having lots of “stuff” in your visual field can make it difficult to achieve the focus needed for meaningful work.

It’s a compelling finding and one that I relate to. How often have I delayed the start of a project because my desk is a mess? Many. This is anecdotal of course, but I don’t believe that’s always a function of procrastination. After tidying up, I feel like, “Ahh, now I can work.”

Of course, I don’t want to work in a spartan, decor-free room, either. So what do I keep around my work space? Here’s a quick tour of the few items that I allow in my immediate work space.

Desk

On my desk you’ll find the expected. A computer, keyboard and mouse. There’s a coffee mug fill of pens. The mug has sentimental value to me, as I bought it while on a family vacation. Seeing it makes me smile. Next you’ll find a stack of 3×5 index cards and a desktop “inbox,” much like this one.

Lastly, there’s a coaster for the odd drink (tea, etc.). Notably absent: photos. I know many people feel motivated or happy when looking at photos of loved ones. I understand that, but those images make me wish I was with them and not at work! So no family photos for me.

Wall

To the left of my desk is a bulletin board with quick-reference material. I’ve written about my love of bulletin boards before. Mine stores phone numbers I need to know, policies that must be public and a few other similar items.

Computer screen

I like a tidy computer desktop as well. For me, that means the wallpaper must be either a solid color or depicting a simple image. Also, I can’t handle a screen littered with icons. I know that many people like to keep icons representing oft-used documents and applications on the desktop, and I can respect that. I just prefer folders.

There’s a quick look. For me, visual clutter definitely interferes with my ability to focus on work. With that in mind, these are the few items I’m glad to have around. How about you?

Unitasker Wednesday: Boot Sandals

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

The classic American TV commercial celebrated the accidental combination of chocolate and peanut butter. The result was “two great things that taste great together.”

That’s not what happens when you combine boots and sandals.

Redneck Boot Sandals combine cowboy boots and sandals into a single article of footwear. On their own, sandals are great. Cowboy boots are very nice as well. Together, however, we have a problem.

Let me note that I am not a fashion guru. I throw on some jeans, a T-shirt, and a baseball cap and call it a day. It’s even worse where footwear is concerned. I’ve got sneakers, a pair of shoes for work, and winter boots. So take my fashion advice with a grain of salt.

While boot sandals are cute as a novelty, I won’t be buying a pair. How about you?

Car accessories that are worth the investment

Frugality is a big part of the uncluttered lifestyle. When I say “frugal,” I mean thrifty and never wasteful. That said, there are certain things I’m willing to spend a little extra money on. While changing a flat tire in the snow last week, a few automotive options came to mind. Here’s a list of auto accessories that I think are worth the expense.

Jack

A compact, portable floor jack is worth the cost. This aluminum, 1.5 ton model from Pittsburgh Automotive could be just what you need. For starters, it’s so much easier to use than the scissor jack that probably shipped with your car. Consider that you’ll have to turn the nut on the scissor model 25–30 times before your car is elevated to an adequate height, while a floor jack will get in there in about five pumps. Likewise, a floor jack will slowly and safely lower your car within a few seconds, while the scissor jack requires 25–30 more twists, this time counter-clockwise.

There are some cons to consider as well. First, it’s heavy. At 31 pounds it’s heavier than your scissor jack. It’s also big; the compact model I’m suggesting is 23 x 10 x 7 inches (the handle can be removed so it’ll fit in your trunk). Lastly, it’s more expensive than the “free” jack that comes with the car.

I fell in love with the portable floor jack the night I was struggling to lift our Mazda. After many minutes of effortful turning, the jack itself slipped and the car came down upon it, crushing it. I called AAA and a worker arrived with a portable floor jack. He had my car raised and the tire off in about 90 seconds. That’s when I was sold.

Spare tire

Speaking of tires, I like to have a full-sized spare. Here in North America, it’s a good purchase decision. But that isn’t the case everywhere. I know that in Europe, for example, many cars don’t come with spares at all – not even a “donut” (half-sized spare) because there are service centers all over the place. In that case I would recommend paying extra for the donut.

Here in the States we get the half-sized spare, or donut. It’s meant to be a temporary fix that gets you to a service station. You shouldn’t exceed 45 m.p.h. with those things and they really aren’t the safest. Since a flat can strike at any time, and service stations are often few and far between here in the U.S., you could be stuck with the donut for several days. I recommend getting a spare rim for your car (find a local junk yard to save some money) and a good quality tire. Your local tire shop will gladly put the tire on the rim for you. Yes, it takes up more room than the donut, is heavier and expensive, but as far as safety and convenience are concerned, it’s well worth it.

Floor mats

Next, I’ll recommend heavy-duty floor mats, if you live in the right region. Here in New England, we have Sand Season, Snow Season and Slush Season. They’d be overkill in Texas, for example but if you experience winter, read on.

Several years ago I purchased these Weather Tech mats for our little Volvo and I love them. Unlike other heavy-duty mats, these are designed for the specific make, model and production year of various vehicles, so they absolutely fit and stay in place. Ours endure summer beach sand, autumn mud and frozen winter nastiness easily. To clean, simply snap them out and hose them off. They aren’t cheap – you’ll pay about a hundred dollars – but I’ve had the same set in my car since 2008 and they look great.

Other suggestions

Here are a few more quickies. An auto-dimming rear-view mirror is a nice upgrade, especially now that so many cars seem to have those weird blue headlights that seek out your retinas and burn them to cinders. This “car cup” charger for long road trips when everyone wants to be fully juiced.

I’ve debated recommending factory-installed GPS with myself and I still don’t have a definitive answer. That’s mostly because I’ve never experienced it. I just used my phone, which is portable and reliable. I bring it into a rental car, for example. Of course, not everyone has a smartphone with GPS capability, so I’ll leave this one hanging. Perhaps some testing is in order.

Lastly, let’s talk about road-side assistance services like AAA, CAA National, OnStar, etc. They day you need help (especially when you’re far from home) is the day you’ll recognize their value.

Remember, “frugal” doesn’t mean “cheap.” It means nothing is wasted, including your money. While these add-ons are expensive, I think they’re worthwhile investments. Let me know if you agree.

Organizing pet clutter

I have two dogs that I love dearly, Batgirl and The Bug. But boy, do they bring on the clutter — toys, leashes, food, treat bags, beds, shredded toys, slobbery tennis balls, and my favorite, fur — lots and lots of fur. If you’re a pet lover, I suspect this sounds familiar. Fear not! Your furry friend need not be a source of incessant clutter. In this article, I’ll share tips for keeping pet clutter under control and out of sight.

Let’s start with something simple: food. This will be easy or difficult to stash away, depending on the pet. A small container of fish food, for example, is easier to store out of sight than a ten pound bag of dog food. For that reason, I’ll focus on the latter.

While Bug loves his food, I don’t love the unsightly bag that his kibble comes in. To keep it stored away yet accessible, I needed a nice looking bin. The answer was one of these “half barrels” as it fits my home’s decor and is something I don’t mind looking at. It easily accommodates a large bag of dog food plus a bag or two of treats. If you have a spare cabinet that you’re willing to dedicate to pet food, even better. Just make sure it’s convenient for you, but not your pet, to access.

With that sorted, let’s move on to toys. My dogs are worse than toddlers when it comes to carpeting the floor with a huge mass of toys in various states of ruin. Pets are super cute and we love buying toys for them but the more they have, the more we must pick up, so we limit the number of toys they have. We have a small basket that sits on the floor that holds the half-dozen toys they have access to. Occasionally we go through the collection of toys and get rid of anything that’s badly damaged or potentially harmful. For example, that stiff rubber chew toy can get quite misshapen and potentially scratch their gums. Throw those toys away.

Leashes and harnesses are the next thing on the list. I bought a dedicated hook to hold these items and I installed it on the wall right next to the back door. That way it’s out of sight yet very convenient when I need it. You don’t want a dog who needs to “go” waiting around while you hunt for the leash, trust me.

Now, a controversial subject — pet clothes. I don’t like them. Yes, Fido looks super adorable in that little sweater. Perhaps he’s prone to cold and genuinely needs that doggie argyle. In that case, I understand. Keep him comfortable and warm. But the goofy outfit that’s meant only to delight Fido’s human is not my cup of tea. If your pet actually requires clothing, find a convenient, safe place to store it. Preferably near the leash.

Finally, the items you don’t use daily like a carrier, shampoo, outdoor toys, and so on could all live in one location. Perhaps a large plastic storage bin, or a shelf in the basement or garage, clearly labeled.

Pets are members of the family with all that entails, including the clutter. It doesn’t take much to gain control of it, and it’s just as easy to let it get out of hand. Set up a few stations, buy some nice storage containers, and enjoy your pets even more.