Unitasker Wednesday: Nostalgia Bacon Express Crispy Bacon Grill

It seems we’re always looking for better ways to prepare bacon — more uniform cooking and less mess to clean up. The Nostalgia BCN6BK Bacon Express Crispy Bacon Grill touts itself as the best way to cook your favourite breakfast meat.

This electrically powered, 5.5-pound monstrosity sits on your counter-top and cooks up to six, strips of bacon (store-bought thickness only) in minutes. Because it cooks the bacon vertically, the grease drains away and the slide-out drip tray catches bacon grease.

Not only is this a unitasker because it cooks only bacon, it cooks only store-bought thickness bacon.

I think we’d be better off using the multi-purpose frying pan to cook bacon. Some frying pans are large enough to cook more than six pieces of bacon at a time. We can cook bacon of any thickness, shape, or size with a frying pan and we only have one thing to clean (the pan) instead of all the parts from the Bacon Express.

Multi-purpose furniture

When you live in a small home, having multi-purpose furniture is essential. Most people are familiar with sofa beds as multi-functional pieces however, many are uncomfortable as beds and not very stylish as sofas.

Vancouver company, Expand Furniture aims to change the way we look at multi-purpose items by providing high quality, stylish furniture that saves space and puts the fun back in functional.

My favourite unit is the Compatto, a three-in-one; queen-sized wall bed, revolving bookcase, and table (probably because it makes me think that this would be something that Batgirl used in the 1960s TV show Batman). This is a real space-saving versatile package. The attached dining table would comfortably fit 4-6 people and a 6-inch deep, queen-sized mattress would allow guests to have a good night’s sleep. Watch the video to see how easily this piece converts from one layout to another.

I also like the Trojan console dining table with four hidden chairs. This item would be great if you lived alone and only needed a larger dining table some of the time. It would also be useful in a small office. You could wheel it out only on those occasions when you needed a large work surface or had meetings with several people. The rest of the time, it would be out of the way leaving more room in the office. The video shows how quickly this console becomes a table.

 

If you have a small space but occasionally have overnight guests, for example your grandchildren, the Murphy Bunk Bed system would be ideal. It includes two mattresses and the rail ladder. It is well-built and sturdy enough for adults to sleep in yet easy enough for young people to set-up and fold away. Also, the top bunk tilts downwards so you don’t have to climb over the mattress to make the bed. When collapsed, the bunks only stick out about ten inches from the wall. The video demonstrates all the features of this Murphy bed system.

Unitasker Wednesday: THAT! Serrated Warming Butter Knife

A few years ago, we discussed the battery powered, self-heating Toastie Knife. (Un)Fortunately, the Toastie Knife is no longer available. However, there is a new product on the market, THAT! Serrated Warming Butter Knife and it does not need batteries! It is made using heat conducting technology that utilizes your body heat to carve and spread cold butter. It also has a serrated edge designed to curl and soften cold butter easily.

I can’t understand how this product conducts heat differently from any other stainless-steel knife. And conduct heat from my hands? My hands are always cold! If my hands are warm enough to heat a knife, then the room would be hot enough to melt the butter anyway!

No, I’ll save my $16, use one of the knives I already own and heat the butter by putting it in the microwave for a few seconds or leaving it at room temperature for a few minutes.

Thanks goes to reader Kimberly for bringing this unitasker to our attention.

Reader Question: What’s with republishing posts?

Unclutterer fan Kristen wrote to ask,

Just curious, what’s with all the reposts? I don’t mind them, they’re helpful, but I’m curious if the site is in some kind of transition.

Thanks for asking a great question Kristen!

Unclutterer has published a substantial amount about uncluttering, organizing, and productivity over the past ten years. We felt that republishing certain previous posts, usually two or three times per week, may be helpful to our newer readers.

Additionally, many readers contact us and ask us to provide updated information on previous posts, especially those that are related to changing technologies. Sometimes products that we have discussed on previous posts are no longer available on Amazon. By republishing, we are able to modernize our facts and figures and ensure our hyperlinks are directing readers to the correct resources.

Our Unclutterer team, Jeri, David, Alex, and I (Jacki), as well as our guest authors, still continue to publish new information Mondays through Fridays with the exception of certain holidays.

Thank you for your question Kristen. 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.”

5,4,3,2,1: Creating clothing capsules

Today’s guest post is by Geralin Thomas, Author, Career Coach for Professional Organizers, Home Organization and Decluttering Consultant, and Capsule Wardrobe Fanatic.

It seems like everyone is talking, blogging, or photographing clothing capsules. Basically, a capsule wardrobe is comprised of several pieces of curated clothing and accessories that are versatile and coordinate with each other.

It might seem like an impossible goal, but creating a clothing capsule is not really difficult. And it has many benefits, the primary one being eliminating the “what am I going to wear” syndrome and keeping only garments and accessories that go together effortlessly. Clothing capsule enthusiasts dress with ease every day.

So how do you go about creating your own capsule wardrobe? There’s no one right way to do it, but most people who want to create a clothing capsule start by detoxing their current wardrobes and editing everything that doesn’t fit their body, lifestyle, and personality like a glove. They keep items whose fabric weight, colors, and mood are all similar.

For inspiration, think about certain celebrities who have a very distinct style. Public figures like Ellen, Martha Stewart, Kate Hudson, Wendy Williams, or Cher wear clothes that look like them and fit their lifestyle and personality.

One of the goals when building a capsule of clothing, is to aim for pieces that fit your current lifestyle, not a lifestyle you aspire to live. Each and every garment should fit and flatter and make you feel fabulous, not frumpy or costume-y when you get dressed. Each garment should mix and match so that you can reach into your closet and know that everything in it goes together.

The majority of my clients are looking for a system or starting point with capsule wardrobes, so I created a basic formula I call 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

My basic business wear/girls’ night out/date night clothing capsule formula is: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 but remember, it doesn’t matter how many pieces are in your capsule wardrobe, as long as all of them go there and you’re pleased with it.

  • 5 tops
  • 4 bottoms
  • 3 toppers
  • 2 dresses
  • 1 yours-truly accessory

I suggest picking one or two base colors for the bottoms. Three examples of base colors for the bottoms:

  • navy + whiskey
  • black + gray
  • chocolate brown + olive

One or two accent colors for the tops that coordinate with the base colors. For example:

If the base is: The accent colors could be:
navy + whiskey coral + teal
black + gray red + white
chocolate brown + olive marigold + paprika

 

The “toppers” can be blazers, cardigans, ponchos, or vests in base, in a third color or a variation of the base or accent color.

The dresses can be every-day, around-town dresses or something fancier depending on your lifestyle. They can be in your base, accent, or a third color.

The “yours-truly” accessory can be a handbag, necklace, scarf or whatever you’d like as long as it is uniquely you. That does not mean it has to be expensive. It typically means you are going to wear it every day and keep wearing it for years (a watch, a necklace, a handbag, earrings).

Hints about colors: Try to select colors that flatter your complexion (warm or cool) and your eye color. If you can’t figure out if you’re warm or cool, have a look at my Pinterest boards, color analysis and clothing capsules how-to.

Finally, if that doesn’t help ask a hair stylist or make-up artist to analyze your complexion as they are usually very good at this.

For most of the women I work with, creating very specific capsules for very specific occasions is another favorite starting place. I call these “Occasion Capsules” A few options include:

  • funerals
  • weddings (daytime and evening)
  • resort wear (skiing, cruises, etc.)
  • sports (yoga, swimming, golf)
  • girls’ night out
  • date night
  • public speaking
  • errands around town

Please note that in no way am I’m suggesting that a funeral or wedding capsule have 15 pieces. Instead, for those capsules you would want to make sure you have everything you need from head-to-toe and from inner to outer including undergarments, handbag, shoes, jewelry and coat, umbrella or whatever else might be appropriate.

To help plan your very own capsules, download my free Capsule Wardrobe Planning Worksheets or watch videos of me talking about decluttering, clothing, closets and capsule wardrobes.

Interested in taking things a step further? Record your exact measurements and figure out your body type using my Wardrobe Wisdom Workbook.

Keeping the memory but not the possession

antique green teapotNew research recently published in the Journal of Marketing, showed that people who were encouraged to find a way to preserve memories found it easier to part with the sentimental items.

This study was originally initiated to help increase the flow of goods to charity shops (e.g., Goodwill). The “supply chain” of goods to these shops depends solely on people’s willingness to donate. The researchers looked at ways to help people let go of unneeded, yet sentimental items.

Researcher Rebecca Reczek of Ohio State University, states that when we give up sentimental items, we often feel like we’re giving up a piece of our own identity — part of who we are. This is what makes it so difficult to let go of certain objects.

The study showed that when people were encouraged to take photos of items and preserve the memories, donations to non-profit charity shops increased. Additionally, those that took a photo of the item, reported less “identity loss” compared to those who did not take a photo.

Reczek indicated that although these memory preservation strategies will probably work for most items, they may not work for items with high sentimental value such as the baptismal gown your grandmother handmade for your child.

We’ve written a few posts on sentimental clutter over the years, so please feel free to check out Unclutterer’s advice on how to capture memories and let go of some of these items.

If you need some support and encouragement in dealing with bouts of nostalgia while uncluttering, visit our forum on Sentimental Clutter.

 

P.S. The photo shows my great-grandmother’s green teapot in which she served green tea. I still use it to serve green tea.

Unitasker Wednesday: Nuni Taco Toaster

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 Jaz sent us a link to the Nuni Tortilla Toaster. With this unit you can toast six tortillas in less than a minute. It has five different toaster settings and an automatic release feature (similar to the auto pop-up on bread toasters) so that the tortillas slide out when they are toasted. Just watch the video.

By all accounts this is a unitasker. It does only one thing – toasts tortillas. It is large and would take up a significant amount of counter or cupboard space.

If I had lived my whole life in Canada eating typical Canadian foods, I would have wondered who would buy the Nuni Tortilla Toaster. However, I have had the wonderful opportunity of living in different places and experiencing different cultures. Now, living in Texas, I’ve realized that owning a device that would allow me to rapidly toast six tortillas at a time might be the only way one could keep up with hungry teenagers.

Thanks Jaz for bringing this unitasker to our attention.

Reader question: An abundance of clothing

Reader Olympia wrote us to say,

I have an abundance of clothes… 3 closets full of clothes plus a room full of clothing. I recently lost a lot of weight so it was easy to get rid of the larger-sized clothes but I have saved all of my smaller-sized clothing (20 years’ worth) that I love, fits me, and looks great on me. I know I can’t keep everything but I just don’t know what to get rid of and how to organize it better. Also, over 100 pairs of shoes… Crazy! I would welcome any input.

I’m sure Olympia isn’t our only reader with an abundance of clothing especially since the clothing industry is designed to make us feel out of fashion within weeks. Here are some suggestions to reduce the quantity of clothing in your closets.

First of all, read Erin’s post, Discover your style to keep clutter out of your closet. This will help you determine your preferred style. There is no point in keeping a dozen lacy, frilly blouses if you’re not a lacy, frilly person. Paying attention to the way clothes fit you is important too. Jeri discusses the importance of proper style and fit in her post, Managing your wardrobe: award shows vs. real life.

What about your lifestyle? Has it changed in the past twenty years?  Back then, I was a stay-at-home parent with two children under 5 years old. The clothes I was wearing at that time still fit me and look good on me but very few pieces suit my age or current lifestyle.

If you’re having difficulty determining your style or evaluating fit, Erin’s post, Get rid of the clutter in your clothes closet has some great ideas to help you. You can look through photos of yourself and decide if the clothes really flatter you. You could ask a spouse or friend to toss any clothing of yours that he/she hates to see you wear. It might help to set a “past due” date on your clothes. For example, anything not worn in the past 24 months is automatically removed from your closets — no ifs, ands, or buts.

To help you build a good wardrobe foundation, check out Erin’s post, Basic wardrobes can end clutter in the female closet. Gentleman, please refer to Basic wardrobes can end clutter in the male closet and an Organized wardrobe for men in their 40s. We’ve also answered a question about managing a wardrobe of many sizes and discussed the benefits of uniforms.

One of the things that helped me simplify my wardrobe was living in a hotel for six weeks during our trans-Atlantic moves. I had two large suitcases in which to pack everything I would wear to carry out my normal day-to-day home and working life. Imagine if your employer sent you to work at another location across the country for two months. What would you take assuming you could not return home for anything or buy anything new?

I’m sure our readers have some great ideas too so I welcome them to chime in with suggestions on how to pare down clothing.

 

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.”

Three organizing products in development

From time to time we see organizing products in development on crowd-funding sites. Here are three interesting ones we’d like to share with our readers.

Gather desk organizer

Designed by Ugmonk, Gather is a sleek, elegant organizer constructed from solid wood and polished thermoplastic. It can be configured in many different ways so that it adapts to wherever it is being used (desk, countertop, dresser, etc.) and to whomever is using it. Because Gather is so versatile, you can make sure that all of the tools you need are always at your fingertips.


Grow modular furniture system

Designed in Paris and manufactured in Germany, the Grow modular furniture system allows you to easily create and re-create functional and stylish living and work areas. Grow is made from high-performance plastic foam, is 100% recyclable and is even approved for food use. The best part is that each piece weighs only 300g (10oz)! This would be ideal for mobile work spaces, trade show booths, student apartments, etc. Check out the video to see how Grow works.

SlotPack auto organizer

SlotPack is a car organizer for the passenger seat. Designed by Jens-Christian Lang in Germany, this product solves many of the problems drivers encounter: inability to find items and items rolling out of reach or falling down onto the floor. It has many practical and functional compartments allowing drivers to easily access items without diverting attention from driving. SlotPack is designed to buckle into the existing seatbelt so there are no extra straps and buckles to worry about —meaning it is easy to install and remove.

Although the video shows the SlotPack being used in a passenger seat by a driver, I believe it would be great in the back seat on long family trips so children would be able to access their snacks, drinks, and toys.

Organized gifts for Father’s Day

Father’s Day is just around the corner so we’ve compiled a list of items that can help male parent figures of all types stay organized.

For dads who travel

Dads who travel might appreciate the UltraLight Roll Toiletry bag. It is It is a little smaller than most conventional toiletry bags but it is made from rip-stop nylon and weighs only 4 ounces (about 100g). It would be ideal for short business trips or weekends away at the campground.

The Mossio set of packing cubes are made of premium quality nylon and two-way zippers. They will help dad keep his clothing organized while travelling. They are also ideal for keeping sports bags and backpacks in order.

If dad travels for business, he’ll need to keep all of his receipts in order. This small expanding file folder has 13 pockets – ideal for keeping meal, hotel, and travel receipts separated and organized.

For DIY dads

For dads who like do-it-yourself projects, here are three gifts that might be appreciated.

The Professional Organizer by Stanley is great for organizing small items like nails and screws. The little yellow compartments can be removed and carried to the job site. They can easily be rearranged within the case. The transparent lid makes it easy to see and access the items. It can also be stored upright in small, narrow spaces and each object stays in its own container.

The MagnoGrip magnetic wristband, made from durable ballistic polyester and extra strong magnets will help keep nuts, bolts, nails, and screws within easy reach when dad is working on a project. No more dropping bolts and having them roll under the car!

Edgeworks’ mini multi-tool is definitely not a unitasker. Perfect for dad’s pocket, this one little pen-sized item contains a stylus, flat and Phillips screwdriver bits, a bubble level, and a ruler with both inches and centimetres. It’s also a cheery bright yellow.

For fitness dads

For dads who play many different sports, the Ultimate Sports Equipment Organizer will keep their baseball bats, lacrosse stick, basketballs, and cycling helmets in one place. This organizer is made from heavy-duty material and has transparent pockets so dad can see exactly what he needs when he needs it.

The BodyMinder Workout and Exercise Journal will help dad keep track of his fitness routine. He can build a schedule, monitor his performance, and see how he is progressing towards his goals.

If dad celebrates sports with commemorative baseball caps, he might appreciate a baseball cap holder to show off his collection as well as keep it organized.

Book Review: A Simple Guide to Saving Your Family Photos

Like many of our readers, I find one of the most daunting projects is organizing and digitizing our family photos. Fortunately, when I was at the recent NAPO conference, I had the opportunity to speak with Mollie Bartelt, co-founder of Pixologie and author of A Simple Guide to Saving Your Family Photos. She gave me a copy of her book to review.

If you’ve inherited family photos or you just want to get your own photos organized and digitized, this book is for you. It is well written and easy to read. It provides advice on many different scenarios (family photos, a professional photographer’s collection, etc.). As well, the book explains how to incorporate physical photos and digital photos into one organized collection.

In the first part of the book, Bartelt explains how to get started. She describes the time, space, tools, and equipment needed manage this type of project. I was rather confused when I saw dental floss on the list of required tools. However, Bartelt goes on to explain that dental floss can used to remove photos that are stuck in old-fashioned “magnetic” photo albums. Sliding the floss carefully underneath the photos will unstick them without having them curl up at the corners. This makes it much easier to scan them.

Bartelt also recommends which photos to keep and which to let go. For example, to remember your family’s trip to the zoo, you can keep a photo of your children in front of the elephant enclosure. There is no need to keep a dozen pictures of the elephant itself.

Prior to organizing your photos, Bartelt suggests building an age chart for family members to help determine what year photos were taken. For example, if Charles was born in 2010, the photo of him beside a cake with six candles (his sixth birthday) would be from 2016, and we would know that he was in the first grade that year. Anne would have been four years old and in preschool.

When sorting photos, Bartelt provides suggestions on how to choose major categories and how to divide the major categories into sub-categories. She discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each method and provides real-life examples of projects that have used each method.

When it comes to digitizing photos, it is important to determine a file name methodology before the process begins. Bartelt has several suggestions but her preferred file name system is YYYY-MM-DD-description; where the description can be the event or people in the photograph.

Bartelt explains that for the digitizing process, all-in-one printer scanners can produce good quality digitized photos. However, using the flatbed option is very time consuming if you have a lot of photos to scan. Some scanners have an auto-feed function but this may damage photos because they are forced to bend around rollers before they are scanned. Pixologie, the company Bartelt co-founded, offers photo organizing and digitizing services. They use an E-Z Photo Scan’s Kodak PS80 Photo Scanner. This is a high-speed, straight-feed scanner that produces scans of very good quality. It is very useful for scanning many photos very quickly.

A Simple Guide to Saving Your Family Photos provides valuable information on recommended settings for scanning photos. Most family photos are scanned at 300-600 dpi as superior quality JPGs. Historians and professional photographers should scan at 600-1200 dpi as TIFF. She also describes how to store digital photos both on- and off-site and how to incorporate a digital photo collection into a recently digitized collection of physical photos.

If you’re considering a photo organizing project, whether it be your family photos or the portfolio of a professional photographer, I highly recommend reading A Simple Guide to Saving Your Family Photos before you start. You will save yourself a lot of time and effort by taking the advice offered by Bartelt.

Getting organized for barbecue season

For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, the warmer weather is upon us and that means it’s time to enjoy a few barbecued meals. Whether you’re going to grill vegetable brochettes or beef steaks, here are some tips to help you prepare your favourite meals in an organized way.

Prepare your barbecue

Before you get your first meal ready, it is important to check your barbecue and give it a good cleaning.

If you have a propane barbecue, check all connections and hoses for leaks using soapy water. Replace any hoses that are cracked and/or leaking. Clean ports with a brush to remove debris. Remember, blocked portholes can cause fires. For charcoal barbecues, remove any charcoal, clean out all of the ashes and ensure the vents are clear.

Grease is flammable so make sure you clean grease buildup from the cook box and grease tray regardless of the type of barbecue you have. Also, look for thin or rusted through spots in the cook box. That could be a sign that it is time to replace the barbecue.

It is important to clean your grill at the start of the season and between uses. Choose a bristle-free brush for cleaning your grill. Experts recommend that people throw out their wire bristle brushes because of the danger of  bristles coming loose, sticking to the grill, transferring to food and accidentally being eaten.

Here are a couple of videos with detailed cleaning and maintenance tips for gas barbecues and charcoal barbecues.

Collect your barbecue tools

Many barbecues have a series of hooks attached to the frame where you can hang your grilling tools such as meat fork, basting brush and tongs. If you don’t have pre-installed hooks, you could add some magnetic ones to your barbecue or install a pegboard system on a wall that is close by.

We live in an apartment block and we’re not permitted to have barbecues on our balconies. We have common barbecue area near the swimming pool. A utensil caddy with a handle is ideal for carrying cooking utensils back and forth to this barbecue area. Marinades and sauces are transported in a condiment basket.

Healthy cooking

Thermometers are essential for ensuring food is thoroughly cooked (to kill any nasty bacteria) but not overcooked – no one likes to eat burnt foods.

The ThermoPro TP03A Digital Food Cooking Thermometer is inexpensive and very easy to use. It provides a fast and accurate readout of the food’s temperature. My favourite thermometer is the iGrill Mini. It is magnetic so it easily sticks to the barbecue frame (or my stove). It connects via Bluetooth to my iPhone so that I can see the temperature of the food even if I’m not standing right next to the barbecue.

Using the same plates and utensils for raw and cooked meats may transfer harmful bacteria to your cooked foods. Always wash your dishes in hot, soapy water after they have been in contact with raw foods. Check out these food safety tips for barbecuing.

Are there things you do to make your grilling experience more organized and productive? Please feel free to share your tips with other readers.