What to do with pajamas during the day?

I have never known what to do with my pajamas in the morning. They usually end up being folded and set on top of my dresser. The dresser location is functional, but it’s cluttered. Years of living with clothes strewn on my dresser left me wishing I had a place where my pajamas could live that wasn’t on top of a flat surface.

After a recent trip to the hardware store, I came home armed with a “S” hook to solve my problem. The hook fits over my closet’s clothing rod and provides an instant place for my pajamas during the day. I also have enough space in my closet that my pajamas don’t touch any of my clean clothes. My pajamas are out of sight, off a flat surface, and behind the closed door of my closet.

If I had children, I think that I would install more permanent hooks that screwed into the closet wall at a height convenient for them. This way, they would be able to hang up their own pajamas even if they couldn’t reach their clothing rod in their closet.

I know that some people will likely comment that pajamas should be stored either under your pillow or in your pillow case. I just can’t do this. I think about how I sweat on my pajamas during the night and am not comfortable with then storing them next to where I put my face when I sleep. The reality may be that it is more hygienic than I am imagining, but I can’t do it. It gives me the willies. For me, the “S” hook works perfectly.

 

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

Learn to safely wrap cords, cables, and hoses

The magazine Fine Homebuilding has an informative and season-appropriate tutorial on its website “Wrapping cords and hoses: Learn how to avoid twists and kinks that can cause damage.”

This advice is perfect for garden and air hoses and extension cords that are ready to be stored for the cold months. There are three methods described in the article: a looped bundle, a loose chain, and a reverse coil.

If the pictures in the article don’t provide you with enough information, check out the instructional video that accompanies the article.

 

 

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

 

When previous uncluttering can come back to haunt you

Once upon a time, my husband and I were filling out forms for a background check and the forms required that we list all of our previous addresses. My husband can count the number of his residences on his fingers and recite all of them from memory. It took him about two minutes to complete his portion of the forms.

It took me about an hour to remember all of my previous places of residence, and then another two hours to track down the information. To count my addresses I need to use my fingers, toes, and maybe an elbow, knee, and ear. For example, during the decade of the 1990s, I had 10 different residences. In the year 2000, I had three residences. It was my first year living in D.C. and I moved three times in a single year. In my defense, though, my first apartment that year had snakes in the ceiling. SNAKES!

I have purged all of my pay stubs and tax documents from before 1998, so the years from 1991 to 1998 were the most difficult for me to obtain. And, of course, these were the years I was in college when every fall meant a new dorm room or apartment. I also imagine that if I did have these documents, that my parents’ address would be listed on them as my “permanent” address, anyway. I searched my home for old address books (to no avail), emailed former roommates (one address was found this way), and called my mom (she produced another one). I even discovered an address on a ski lift receipt I had pasted to a page in a scrapbook.

I eventually found the remainder of my previous addresses in a box of old love letters I had forgotten I had saved. My husband was laughing as I transcribed information off the fronts of the envelopes.

“You should write about this on Unclutterer,” my husband said when his laughter had subsided enough that he could speak. “Advise your readers to hold onto their old love letters so that they’ll have a record of where they used to live.”

“I think it would be easier to recommend that they keep a list of their previous addresses,” I countered.

“Yes,” he agreed, “but these letters are hysterical! This one guy talks for an entire page about how your souls are connected by invisible forces, like bungee cords.”

“Old letters from you are in that box,” I reminded him. “I could write about them on Unclutterer.”

“The list idea you mentioned sounds like a good idea to me,” he said.

“I thought you would like it.”

When purging papers from your home or office, let me recommend that you keep a list in a file in your filing cabinet or on your computer of all your previous addresses and addresses of your former places of employment. Even if you don’t have a need for them now, things could change and you might one day need the information.

Now I’m off to either scan and purge or find a more preservation-friendly storage option for my old love letters … well, after my husband and I get a few more laughs from them. Let us know in the comments if you have ever been too eager with uncluttering and what lessons you can share with our readers!

 

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

Bare bones baby buying guide

Previously, I gave some advice for ways new parents can avoid becoming overwhelmed by baby-related clutter. Today, I want to discuss what I see to be the essential items that are always useful to new parents. Think of this as the bare-bones guide to stocking a nursery.

(Note: I don’t have any clothing, bibs, or blankets on this list because these are the items people will most likely give to you as gifts. If you’ve decided to go without a baby shower, then you’ll want to add a few of these to your acquisition list.)

Baby Essentials:

  • Portable crib with bassinet attachment. I recommend using a portable playpen with bassinet attachment with a portable bassinet attachment instead of a traditional crib. You can take this with you when you visit the grandparents, you can wheel it next to your bed when the child is sick so that you can keep a watchful eye, and you can do a hundred other things with it that you can’t do with a permanently located crib. Oh, and you’ll likely want two pair of corresponding sheets.
  • Convertible car seat. Buy new, and get a “permanent” convertible seat that can be both back and forward facing as your child grows. I do not recommend buying a separate infant car seat because then you have to purchase a second car seat when the child gets too big for the infant seat. Also, I don’t like the models that snap in and out for dual use between the car and a stroller. Their unused parts are bothersome to store, they are more expensive over the long term, and I’ve found the safety ratings are usually higher on the permanent models. I know some people swear by the snap-in-and-out models, though, so use what is best for you.
  • Stroller. I recommend buying the safest you can find that will grow with your child. I do not recommend getting a frame that snaps in an infant carrier for its seat for the reasons I mentioned in the car-seat entry. If you plan on taking paved trail walks with your child, strongly consider getting a sturdy exercise stroller with good maneuverability. These types of strollers are also great in the snow and slush. Some of my friends are foregoing the stroller and only using a sling/backpack carrier, but by the time their kids are two years old, I think they’ll want the stroller.
  • High chair or booster seat (based on preference). We’ve recently discussed this topic in detail on Unclutterer. The comments to the linked post are very informative.
  • Food service items. These may include a breast pump and assemblies (if applicable), bottles, and formula (if applicable). Make sure that the bottles have age- and purpose-specific nipples so that they serve your child’s growing needs. Also, you will probably want a baby bottle parts cage for the top rack of your dishwasher (you can buy one or make one out of two clean plastic berry baskets and twist ties). This will keep your bottle nipples and sealant rings from flying about the top shelf of your dishwasher. If you don’t own a dishwasher, then boil all parts of the bottle. Also, if you don’t have a dishwasher, you’ll probably want a bottle cleaning brush.
  • Diapers and wipes. Whether you choose to use disposable or cloth, you need them before the baby arrives. Even if you go the disposable route, you will also want cloth diapers and wipes on hand for burping rags and spills. If you use cloth diapers and wipes, you will probably want a diaper disposal system or a trash can with a lid.
  • Home safety items. These may include baby gate, window stops, drawer locks, knob covers, electrical outlet covers, fire ladder (if not on the ground floor) and baby monitor.
  • Hygiene items. Baby nail clippers and/or emery boards, baby-safe body wash and shampoo, and a nasal aspirator.
  • Health items. Baby digital thermometer, a baby pain reliever/fever reducer, gripe water (if your baby has colic), pure lanolin (for mommy, if breastfeeding), and a diaper rash cream.

Additional considerations:

  • Child carrier. You might consider a front/backpack or sling, especially if you’ll often be in spaces where a stroller is cumbersome. The packs that range from infant to toddler will give you the most bang for your buck.
  • Comfortable chair. You probably already have one, but if you don’t, you’ll want someplace comfortable where you can sit for more than half an hour.
  • Electric fan. A 2008 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics reported that a fan in an infants’ room reduces the risk of SIDS by 72 percent. If you don’t already have a fan, it might be worth it to get one.
  • Diaper service. New parents have enough to do, and outsourcing the washing of stinky diapers to a service sounds like a sane idea to me. I’ve often considered this as a gift I can give to new parents.

My friend Krystal also recommends checking out the Baby and Kids pages on Craigslist to find out what you won’t need. The items most available are often the clutter-prone items.

Consumer Reports recommends buying new car seats, cribs, baby gates, strollers, and breast pumps since you don’t know the history of used items. The rest of the items on this list, excluding the consumable hygiene and health items, are great to find on the cheap over Craigslist or Freecycle. Do check the Consumer Product Safety Commission for recalled products before making any purchases.

Finally, by no means is this list the law. Think of it as a reference and as nothing more. Once you have your baby home, you may discover that he or she loves the neighbor’s bouncy seat and so you’ll want to bring one into your home, too. For some people, this will be all they have, and for others it will be a starting point.

 

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

Reader Question: How control pre-baby clutter?

Reader Zoe recently sent us the following question:

I’m expecting my first baby in December and I’m already worried about the impending cloud of clutter. My husband is unfortunately not devoted to uncluttering like I am, so I suspect there will be struggles even between the two of us, not to mention the grandparents! I would love to see a post from you guys about how to deal with/prevent baby clutter before the baby even arrives. Has anyone created a list of baby clutter rules, for instance?

I currently have several close friends who are pregnant and all of them have asked me versions of this question continuously over the course of the past few months. So, to put it mildly, I have given this question a great deal of thought.

First things first, if you’re blessed to have generous friends and family, you need to accept that people will want to give you things. If you beg and plead with people not to give you things, they will either ignore you or get mad at you. It’s best just to come to terms with the fact that there will be stuff — and that it will probably be lots and lots of stuff.

This doesn’t mean that you need to throw in the towel and sit idly by while your home fills with baby clutter. You can be proactive and keep clutter out of your home with just a few actions on your part.

  1. Create a wish list and gift registry. There are practical things that you will need when the baby comes: diapers, a car seat, a stroller and crib, for example. Research through Consumer Reports the safest products, learn about product features through reviews on websites with active communities. Be an informed consumer and create a list of essential products that fit your needs and create a gift registry. When your family or friends ask you what you need, show them your list. Let them know about the research you’ve done and why you have picked the specific products on your list. Explain to your family and friends that these are the items you need, and people will gravitate toward them.
  2. Buy as you need, not in anticipation. Beyond the bare bones items, avoid buying (or acquiring through Freecycle or Craigslist) anything until you need it. People with children will give you a constant stream of advice that begins with the phrase, “You just HAVE to have …” Until your child arrives and you grow to understand his or her preferences, you won’t have any idea if your child really has to have specific things. Your neighbor’s child may have loved the vibrating child carrier, but yours might hate it. Their must-have items may very well be clutter in your home. Also, don’t buy any clothes or toys ahead of time, you’ll very likely receive lots of these as gifts.
  3. Don’t agree to a shower/gender reveal party or only agree to one with a theme. You don’t have to have a party. If you don’t want one, then don’t have one. If you’re okay with the idea of having one or have a super-excited family member chomping at the bit to throw you one, then ask for the party to have a theme. Guests can bring their favorite childhood books or everyone can bring a pack of diapers. If you’re adopting, have a shower where you ask guests to bring gifts for the orphanage or foster care services, and give the presents to children who haven’t yet found homes. I’ve also heard of pamper the parents parties being a huge hit for keeping baby clutter at bay.
  4. Return unwanted items for wanted items. Products you don’t want that were purchased in stores can be returned. There is no law saying that you have to keep something you don’t want. Build up a store credit to help you purchase the items you really need.
  5. Donate unwanted items to charity or sell on Craigslist or eBay. If you receive four blankets, give two away to someone who needs/wants them.
  6. Don’t open items until you need them. It will be a lot easier to return items in their original packaging if you haven’t opened, assembled, and then dismantled the boxes.
  7. Immediately store items for when your child is older. You’ll inevitably receive items that you want to keep but that your child can’t play with or wear until he or she is older. Have inboxes ready to go in your nursery for these pieces. A plastic box labeled “clothes” and another labeled “toys” will provide you with space to immediately store these items out of the way.

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

Reader question: How to store earrings?

Reader Laure sent us the following question:

Do you or any of your readers have a suggestion for storing earrings so that they are (preferably) not visible at all (i.e., in a dresser drawer or someplace else) or at least displayed elegantly in a way that takes up minimal space and doesn’t add to a visual sense of clutter? Thanks!

This is a great question, Laure! A 40-compartment tray would be great for earrings and the matching trays for your other jewelry would work well too. I use a tool chest as my jewelry box and the trays would sit in the drawers nicely.

I think that egg cartons or ice cube trays could serve the same function. You could line the egg carton or ice cube tray with fabric if you wanted to protect your jewelry and make the trays look more sophisticated.

I think it is best to put your jewelry in a drawer for protection. It’s a lot more difficult to lose a valuable earring if it’s not out where someone could accidentally bump it.

Thank you, Laure, for your question. I hope our answer was helpful!

 

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

How high should you go?

I instinctively follow this rule when stacking things in my home:

If items are alike in every way, stack as high as the shelving and item itself safely allow. If items are different, stack only three high.

Dinner plates, towels, and rolls of toilet paper get stacked as high as the cabinets in my home will let me. (Dinner plates=8, towels=5, toilet paper=4) If I need any of these items, I just grab from the top of the stack because they’re all the same.

Pots and pans, board games, and sweaters, on the other hand, stop at three in a stack. I do this because I know that if I remove the lowest item I will take the time to properly replace the two on top of it. If there are five varied items in a stack and I need the fourth item, I may put everything back in order a few times, but inevitably the stack will become a mess.

I don’t know why this is the case, or how I came to make this realization about myself, but it’s the way of my world. To some people it may be obvious, but it may be a helpful tip to others. Take a look around your house and see if you tend to have a mess erupt in one location. Is a stack of items to blame? If so, you may want to consider reducing the size of the stack if the objects in it are different.

 

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

Reader suggestion: Storing and disposing used paint

Paint CansReader Mike sent us the following tip that he adapted from an episode of Clean Sweep that aired a number of years ago:

Paint cans in my garage tend to reproduce and grow. Pretty quickly after various projects there is a collection of 1 gallon paint cans taking up huge amounts of space. When my wife and I went to finish painting a room, we discovered our less than half filled paint cans also thickened a little over time.

To put and end to this, I purchased a few 1 quart cans and poured the paint out of the gallon containers into these little guys. In the end, I wound up throwing away a very small amount of paint, but a very large amount of paint containers.

He added the following tip:

Paint in its liquid form is hazardous waste, however, as a solid it is safe to throw away. I combined all my left over paint into a single one gallon container, capped it, and saved it with the used light bulbs for hazardous waste disposal. The rest of the [empty 1 gallon] cans were left outside in the sunlight to dry, then they were simply tossed.

Our readers may want to also consider the quarter-pint (125mL) cans for smaller amounts of paint required for touch ups. Mason jars with tight fitting lids are a good alternative but store them in the dark as exposure to light can change the color of the paint.

Thank you, Mike, for the great tip!

 

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

Yearbooks: Worth keeping or clutter?

About once a month, a reader writes to us asking what to do with his or her large stash of yearbooks. Whenever this question comes to me, I’m always at a loss for what kind of advice to give. I have all of my old yearbooks — a spiral bound paper one from elementary school, two paper ones stapled together from middle school, four traditional ones from high school, and two traditional ones from college — and my husband has five of his. They take up a cube on our bookshelf and sit beneath our reference books.

In a way, I think of these books as reference materials. If a person I don’t remember makes a request to connect to me on Facebook or LinkedIn, and the request states that I went to school with the person, I’ll head to my yearbooks hoping that a picture of the person will spark my memory. I also look through the portraits before heading to class reunions, but those are pretty much the only times I look at them.

However, the idea of getting rid of them sort of makes me nauseated. Maybe a part of me is fearful that one day I’ll lose my memory and need them to recreate my past? Maybe I hope that my children will be interested in them and want to better understand who I was when I was their age? Even though I can’t exactly identify why I keep them, I have carved out a place for them in my home.

My advice is that if you want to keep them, then it’s okay to keep them. Store them in a place that is safe (not in a cardboard box in a mildewy basement) and scan any pages that you would be crushed to lose if your home were destroyed by a natural disaster. Remember to backup your hard drive at an off-site location so that you won’t lose your data in an emergency.

If you don’t have any desire to keep them, then scan individual pages you want to keep digitally and recycle the books. You might e-mail your former classmates and see if any of them are interested in the books if you don’t want to toss them straight into the recycling bin. You also could contact your school’s historical society and see if they would want them, or if a current journalism teacher at the school might have use for them.

How have you handled your yearbooks? Do you have additional advice for what to do with yearbooks? Your ideas are welcome in the comments.

 

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

Reader inspired charging station

Reader Geek Novice sent us the following photographs:

A detailed explanation can be found on his blog here. His blog is written in Slovene, though, so we were happy that he kindly emailed us a few translations. In short, he purchased two meters (about six and a half feet) of pipe insulation from his local hardware store for about a dollar. He cut the foam tubing to his desired length, inserted a second slice, piled in the cords, and called it an uncluttered day.

We love this innovative, inexpensive, charging station. Thank you, Geek Novice, for sharing it with us!

 

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

Creating a personal strategic plan

Setting goals, working on projects, and tackling action items are three things I do on a regular basis to keep my work and personal life afloat. They’re the backbone of what I refer to as the Daily Grind.

The Daily Grind doesn’t happen by accident, though. I’m not a person who sits around and lets things fall into her lap or wish for the perfect opportunity to open up to me. I try to have purpose to my actions and am proactive in my dealings. Because of my desire to live with purpose, guiding my Daily Grind is a personal Strategic Plan. Much like a Strategic Plan that guides a business, my plan guides who I want to be. It keeps me on track, helps me reach my goals, and keeps me from feeling like I’m in a rut or walking through life as a zombie.

Similar to how a business creates a Strategic Plan, I created a plan for myself. In the book How Organizations Work by Alan Brache, strategy is defined as “the framework of choices that determine the nature and direction of an organization.” If you replace the words “an organization” with “my life” you get a solid idea of a personal Strategic Plan.

Brache continues in his book to discuss how to create an effective Strategic Plan for a business. Building on his ideas, but with a bent toward the personal, I created the following process for how to create my plan and how you can create a plan, too.

Five steps to living with a personal Strategic Plan

  1. Collect data and analyze your current situation. What are your strengths? (The book Now, Discover Your Strengths can help you answer this question.) How do you process information? What in your life do you love? What activities in your life do you look forward to or wish you had more time to complete? What are the activities you loathe and want to get out of your life completely or reduce dramatically? What competes for your attention? What are your core beliefs and how does your life reflect those ideals? Do you like the things you say you like, or is habit guiding your behavior?
  2. Make the tough choices. How far into the future are you willing to work with this Strategy? (I recommend no more than three years.) Review the data you collected and analyzed in the first stage, and put into words your core beliefs that under no circumstance are you willing to break. State what obligations in your life you must fulfill. State your strengths and which of these should continually be highlighted in your life. What stands out the most in your life as being the positive force for your actions? More than anything else, what makes you happy?
  3. Communicate (draft) your personal Strategic Plan. Put into words the plan that will guide your Daily Grind. Write it in words that you understand and trigger memories of why and how you chose your plan. Your Strategic Plan isn’t a mission statement, it can fill more than one sentence of text. It probably won’t be a 20+ page document like many businesses create, but it should be at least a page or two containing the gist of your vision. Be realistic and let the document wholly reflect who you are and who you want to be. This is just for you, not anyone else, so let it speak to and for you.
  4. Work with your Strategic Plan as your guide. Make decisions about how you spend your time and all aspects of your Daily Grind under the guidance of your plan. Try your best to keep from straying outside the bounds of your Strategic Plan. Live with purpose.
  5. Monitor and maintain your Strategic Plan. Sometimes life throws us a wrench when we were looking for puppies and rainbows. Or, something even better than you ever imagined can happen. Update and monitor these changes and see if your Strategic Plan needs to be altered as a result. If no major change has taken place, evaluate your performance within your plan and check to see if you’re getting lazy and letting things slide. Maybe you realize that your plan wasn’t broad enough, or maybe it was too specific. It’s your plan, so work to keep it healthy.

Ideas and Suggestions

What you choose to put into your plan is a deeply personal choice and how your plan looks is as unique as your finger print. If you’re looking for ideas or suggestions to get you started, consider the following:

  • Your relationship with your children, spouse, parents, siblings, friends.
  • Your spiritual and philosophical beliefs, how you practice those beliefs, and how you incorporate them into your daily life.
  • Your career goals and how much energy and focus you choose to commit to these achievements.
  • Your time and how you choose to spend it.
  • Your health and your objectives regarding your health.

Your strategic plan shouldn’t be a list of goals about these topics, but rather the guiding philosophies behind those goals. For instance, if in your Daily Grind you have action items about losing five pounds, those action items might reflect your Strategic Plan: “I enjoy the time and active relationship I have with my growing children. Staying healthy and in good physical condition allows me to have energy for this time with my children and allows me to work when I’m at work. Good health also is one way that I can work to have more years with those I love. It is important to me that I make healthy choices with regard to nutrition and exercise.”

Do you have a Strategic Plan? Does it help to keep clutter — especially time and mental clutter — from getting out of control? If you haven’t written a personal Strategic Plan before, do you think this is a tool that can help you?

 

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

Tools of the Trade

Do you keep a stapler on your desk? How often do you use it?

What about the other objects taking up real estate on your desk? How many items could live in desk drawers or cupboards instead of on your work surface?

If the top of your desk is cluttered, start by looking at all of the equipment, peripherals, and doo-dads occupying space and decide if some of the objects could find better homes someplace else.

I started this post by mentioning the stapler because most people don’t use them on a regular basis. Paper clips, photocopiers that staple documents automatically, and double-sided printing have reduced the amount of stapling people do at their desks. Clearing the stapler — or broken printer or obsolete Rolodex or whatever you are not using on a daily basis — off of your desk and storing it in a desk drawer is a simple way to give yourself more work space. Except the broken printer… feel free to get rid of that altogether!

You don’t have to make your desk sparse and uninviting, but giving yourself room to move can help boost your productivity by clearing distractions and frustrations from your line of sight. Are there objects on your desk that don’t belong to you? Do you have a small collection of dirty coffee cups and used utensils? What can you do right now to clear the clutter and create a more useful work environment?

 

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