Storage ideas for bathrooms

We’ve rented several different houses that had bathrooms with no storage space — just a pedestal sink, a toilet, and bathtub. Here are some storage solutions I’ve used over the past.

We thought it was odd that one older house we lived in did not have a toilet roll holder already installed. Nor did it have a place to hang a towel by the sink. Rather than drill into the plaster/concrete walls, we opted for an over-the-tank toilet roll holder. We also installed a Command towel bar. Command, the experts in damage-free hanging items, has a large selection of products for bathrooms such as a wall and cabinet organizer, hair dryer holder, accessory organizer, and soap dish. They are amazing products, especially for renters who may not want to drill holes in walls when moving in or fill holes and repaint when moving out.

While we opted for a plastic rolling cart (similar to this one) for storage under our pedestal sink, a neighbour used pedestal sink shelves with a collection of little baskets to keep her things in order. I like this narrow cabinet with pull out shelves. It would be handy in a small space, but being made of wood, it would easily suffer from water damage if a toilet or sink overflowed. A standing corner shelf might be better option.

I’m not a fan of storage over the toilet. I’ve had the misfortune of smacking my head on cupboard doors left open and losing my hairbrush and cosmetics in the toilet. Also, some cabinets are installed so low that they must be removed if the toilet has to be repaired. That being said, storage over the toilet can be a great space for items not accessed frequently such as extra towels, toilet paper, tissues, etc. Perhaps a cabinet with sliding doors would be a better option for this space.

For more tips on bathroom organizing, check out our posts on towel management and storage as well as how to corral bath toys.

What could be secretly hidden in clutter?

Last week my daughter lost her AirPods. She said she was wearing a particular jacket when she last had them. On examination of the jacket, we found a small hole in one of the pockets and the AirPods had fallen through the hole and were trapped between the jacket and liner. Fortunately, that jacket had not yet passed through the washer and dryer!

This incident made me think about some precautionary measures to take while uncluttering.

Before donating or disposing, we certainly should examine the pockets of clothing but if the pockets have holes, or if we find the pockets have been repaired, we should make sure that nothing is trapped between the layers of fabric. We don’t want to be like the woman who donated her husband’s old shirt in which he had hidden $8000 cash. Luckily, she was able to retrieve the shirt and the money, but what a stressful experience!

When examining clothing, always check inside mittens and gloves. Did a ring slip off a finger and remain trapped inside? Is something trapped in the lining? Look inside the brims of hats as people have been known to stick cash and receipts up there. Due to the notorious lack of pockets in women’s clothing, some ladies have placed money, important receipts, and jewellery inside their bras. Check inside shoes too, underneath the insole and deep into the toes.

Verifying all the compartments of purses and wallets is pretty obvious but again, check between the purse and liner for any items — especially if you find holes in the lining or see that the lining was repaired. Hand stitching on mattresses or other furniture may be a clue that something could be hidden inside.

At a NAPO conference I attended, one professional organizer mentioned she found a diamond tennis bracelet like this one, (but with real diamonds and worth thousands of dollars) in an inside pocket of a suitcase to be donated. As well as pockets, always check the bottoms and lids of suitcases and briefcases for hidden compartments. If suitcases have linings with zippers, open them and check within.

For centuries jewellery boxes had many secret compartments to thwart thieves and the tradition continues today. Completely empty jewellery boxes and give them a good shake to ensure you haven’t missed a hidden niche. Once, when doing an estate clearing, I found cash hidden behind the liner of a jewellery gift box so do check inside all items that may have contained valuables.

Secret safes may be overlooked while uncluttering. There are book safes, safes that look like food containers, hairbrushes, and even surge protectors. This Pinterest board shows some amazingly creative hiding spots for valuables!

When you’re uncluttering someone else’s things, especially elderly people (who may believe their mattress is safer than a bank for storing cash), and anyone with dementia or other mental health issues, it is helpful to think about how a spy would hide their secrets. We don’t mean to suggest that anyone has nefarious motives but there are times when honest, upstanding people put items “away for safe-keeping” and then forget where that is. For example, a recycling plant employee found $100,000 cash hidden in the back of an old television. Fortunately, the money was returned to its rightful owner who had forgotten he had stashed it there many years before.

If you’ve found something interesting or valuable hidden in clutter you were about to donate or dispose, please share it with our readers so they know what to look for.

Why do we keep the things we do?

Our family completed two international moves in the space of 14 months and have not really had time to settle in our current house. So, it didn’t take much effort for recent home repairs wreak havoc in our basement. As I was sifting through stuff that I didn’t even remember we had, I started reflecting on why we keep the things we do.

Emotional connections

We keep some things is because we have an emotional attachment to them such as Grandma’s teapot or the toy cars from our youth. We’ve written a lot about sentimental clutter over the years so if you are dealing with sentimental items, reading these posts can help you decide whether or not to keep the items or let them go.

A need to be prepared

It’s great to be prepared. When the smoke detector starts its incessant “I have a dead battery!” beeping in the middle of the night, having a spare battery in the kitchen drawer is certainly handy. But is there a need for keeping a circular saw you use once every two or three years? We’ve written about renting seldom used tools as an option for reducing clutter. What about the huge roasting pan you use only at Thanksgiving? It could be shared among family members and whoever hosts next year’s family dinner, gets to store the pan for the year. Alternatively, you could always use disposable roasting pans.

No one wants to be caught off-guard so think about what you absolutely need in an urgent situation and what you’re keeping for non-urgent, just in case scenarios.

It’s for a special occasion

Many people have items they use only on rare, special occasions. I’m not talking about holiday decorations which are only used during holiday periods (it would be odd to see Christmas decorations in July). I’m talking about the “good dishes” that can only be used during a candlelight supper with dignified guests.

In reality, using special things all the time, or at least more frequently, does not make them less special. By using them, we are acknowledging the privilege of owning them and every time we use them we are creating special memories. Treating your own family members as dignified guests at a candlelight supper every month will give your children something to remember.

There are people, (and I am one of them) that use the term, “saving for special occasion” as an excuse to not use high maintenance items such as a dry-clean only clothing or hand wash only dishes. If this is the case, then it is likely you’re really keeping these things for one of the other reasons listed here.

It was a gift

If there is an emotional connection to the gift, follow the advice on dealing with sentimental clutter. Unclutterer Jeri wrote a great post on how to deal with unwanted gifts that provides some great information as well. Remember, you can keep something if it was a gift, you don’t have to keep it because it was a gift.

Some people keep items because they are going to give them as gifts “when the time comes.” I would suggest “the time” be scheduled in a planner, calendar, or reminder list. If there is more than one gift per person per occasion, then it is probably safe to unclutter those items.

The price

When people say, “It was free!” they really mean they didn’t pay any money for it. That is good deal if you need, want, and use the item. However, factor in a portion of your real-estate costs (mortgage, rent, utility bills) plus any maintenance time and costs for “free” items that you never use you realize that they are not really free. Liberate yourself and unclutter the freebies.

At the opposite end of the scale, it may be hard to part with items that were expensive. In most cases, thanks to mass-produced market goods and depreciation, the longer you own an item, the lower its value. Therefore, selling an item sooner, rather than later will reduce your loss. For example, if you buy a grandfather clock for $5000 in one year it would be worth about $4800 but after five years it would only be worth about $4100. Selling it sooner would result in more cash in your pocket. This depreciation guide may help you determine how quickly your assets decline in value.

Dreams

Sometimes it’s our dreams that cause us to retain clutter. We dream of creating that perfect scrapbook so we head out to the craft store to stock up on supplies. Inspired by the latest sports superstar, we shop at Athletes’ World for all the latest equipment so we too might become the next draft pick. There is nothing wrong with trying something new, but ensure that it is an achievable goal. You may not have the patience for scrapbooking or the time to practice a new sport.

Before you start buying to fulfill a dream, make a plan to achieve it. Schedule time in your planner to practice, take a few lessons with rented equipment, or buy only the minimum amount of supplies. If, after a few months you’re still “really into it,” and practicing regularly, then treat yourself to some extra equipment.

If you’ve got a stash of sporting goods, or craft and hobby supplies lying around that you haven’t touched in months, either make a S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) goal to get involved again or let the items go.

It’s not my clutter

There are times when we store items for other people. For example, our children are in university so we are storing many of their things. We don’t mind, but we fully expect they will take their things once they have graduated and settled in their own homes. If you’re storing items that do not belong to you, here is some advice that might help.

Here’s some more advice in case you are uncluttering other people’s things. Remember to get their permission to unclutter and if possible, go through all the items with them when making decisions about whether to keep things or let them go.

Trouble uncluttering

If you’re having trouble uncluttering, you’ve come to the right place. Unclutterer provides plenty of resources and motivation to get you moving. You can check out our Organizing Jump-Start, look through our posts on Resources and Services to learn where and how to dispose of items, and read all of our tips to help you unclutter.

Now I shall return to my basement to unclutter and organize. I should have it completed well before we have to move (again) next year.

What’s for dinner?

I think the question that every parent dreads is, “What’s for dinner?” But beyond creating a plan for the evening meal, you can save time and money by planning your entire menu. Menu planning will also help you achieve other goals such as eating healthier. Here are some tips to get you started.

Determine health requirements

Health requirements vary by individual. Size, age, and physical activity all factor into determining calorie requirements. Some people may prefer to consume all of their calories in three large meals per day. Others, especially children, may prefer to get up half of their daily calories in snacks between smaller-sized meals so it is important that these be healthy snacks.

Take a look at a healthy eating chart. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has links to food guides in many countries around the world. Many guides will provide nutritional information for infants, children, youths, pregnant and nursing women, etc.

Estimate how much everyone in your family needs to eat based on the food guide recommendations. For example, you may need to prepare five servings of fruits and vegetables per child but up to 10 servings per active teenager.

Note any dietary restrictions such as religious observances, allergies, or intolerances. (Download this interesting pdf explaining allergies, intolerances, and food labelling!) Many grocery stores are expanding their selections of allergen-free foods as well as Halal and Kosher foods.

If you have certain preferences make sure they are noted. Some children can be picky eaters and what they like or do not like can change on an almost daily basis but if there is anything that is a definite no-go, (I hate beets!) cross those recipes off your list.

Consider seeing a professional to help you get started. Your family health care plan may include a consultation with a nutritionist or dietitian. If so, take advantage of this to help plan your menu.

Go through your cookbooks

Browse through your cookbooks and pull out any recipes that your family loves. You may have meals that you prepare on a regular basis without recipes. If so, list out all the ingredients for those meals. Note any ingredients in any of the recipes you wish change. For example, you could add chopped carrots or celery to a spaghetti sauce or substitute milk for cream in a cheese sauce.

Do you want to try some new recipes? Go right ahead but ensure you give yourself lots of time to prepare that meal. I would also recommend that you only try one new recipe per week — just in case it turns out to be too much work to prepare or your family doesn’t like it. If the new recipe is a big success, feel free to incorporate it into your menu plan in the upcoming weeks.

Create a master grocery list

Make a master grocery list of all of the ingredients to all of the meals you have chosen including meals other than dinner. Remember to include snacks such as fresh fruit, granola bars, etc., and other foods not found within recipes (e.g., breakfast cereal).

I have found preparing a list in a spreadsheet helpful. Create one column for the food item, another for its category. You can then sort foods by their category. It will make it easier to do the grocery shopping.

Planning the plan

Check the calendar. Families have busy schedules so look at your calendar and decide which nights of the week you have time to cook. A 30-minute meal may be perfect for Wednesdays when you’ve got some time between getting home from work and taking the kids to music lessons. A crock-pot meal might be just the thing when you have a bit of extra time in the morning to throw ingredients into the slow cooker.

Choose recipes with common ingredients. Preparing several meals during the week that use the same ingredients will avoid wasted food. For example, you might want to prepare spaghetti sauce, stir-fry, and soup in the same week to use up the entire bunch of celery. An occasional Caesar cocktail/mocktail will help finish up those celery stalks too.

Prepare more than you need when you can. When you’re chopping fruit and vegetables for a meal, chop extra for lunches and snacks the next day. Cook twice as much and use it the next day. For example, bake extra chicken breasts to use in sandwiches or casseroles the next day. Cooking more than you need for dinner will allow you to use leftovers in lunches on the following day.

Time savers: Pre-cut fresh and frozen vegetables and packages of grated cheese might be a bit more expensive but they will save you meal preparation time. Use free time on the weekend to make soups, casseroles, or other freezer meals, slice and dice garlic and onions, and wash and chop lettuce and other salad ingredients.

ALWAYS have a back-up meal planned

Ensure you always have the ingredients for a 30-minute meal ready. This could be something as easy as mac and cheese or a store-bought frozen casserole. Because no matter how much you prepare, at some point, something will go wrong. You will come home from work to find the electricity was off and your crock-pot full of raw meat and vegetables has been sitting at room temperature all day or your casserole dish will explode sending shards of glass all over the oven. (Both have happened to me.)

If you have any meal planning tips, feel free to share them with readers in the comments section.

Book Review: Remodelista: the organized home

Remodelista: the organized home is a beautiful book. As the tagline states, the book has “simple, stylish storage ideas for all over the house.”

The book is divided into three sections. In the first section, they describe their organizing philosophy which is similar to ours at Unclutterer; eliminate what you do not use and love, designate a home for all items, look for organizing solutions with what you already own, and buy less but when you buy, aim for better quality.

The second section of the book takes readers room by room providing ideas on how to organize and store almost everything and anything. Many of the systems can be adapted for different styles of living whether that be a small apartment or a large family home. Detailed photographs of the designs show not just order and storage, but beauty and serenity. The muted neutral colour palette used throughout the book highlights utilitarianism with elegance.

There are several lists of resources in the third section of the book. There is a list of alternatives to plastic for those that wish to use to sustainable products and a guide to donating, selling, or otherwise off-loading unwanted goods. A list of favourite suppliers is also provided for those who wish to purchase the items used in the designs.

If you’re in the mood to be inspired by minimalism with style, I suggest you take a look through Remodelista: the organized home.

Unitasker Wednesday: FoldiMate

Our first unitasker of 2018, brought to our attention by reader Sonja, touts itself as the first practical and affordable laundry folding robot. The FoldiMate folds shirts, pants, towels, and virtually anything that will fit inside of it.

You just hang a dry article of clothing on the clips, it is drawn into the machine and within a few minutes, your laundry is neatly folded, treated, and even de-wrinkled! Just watch the video of this machine at work — ZOOM clothes go in the top and BAM they are folded and stacked neatly at the bottom.

Now, here’s the reality check. I timed myself folding a load of laundry the other day. It took me two minutes and the majority of time was used to match socks, not to fold shirts, trousers, or towels. So, I wouldn’t save much time if I had to stand there and feed in each item one by one. Perhaps if I was running a hotel or fitness centre and had to launder dozens of towels every day, this machine might pay for itself. But, with the FoldiMate’s price tag of nearly $1000 USD, I’d have to run a business because I couldn’t justify that cost for my family when everyone who lives here can (and should) fold their own laundry.

The website says the FoldiMate is “closet-ready.” For reference, FoldiMate is almost as big as a dishwasher. If you have a walk-in closet (I don’t) with an electrical outlet (I don’t) then perhaps you’d consider it closet-ready (I don’t).

This is, indeed, a unitasker. It is large and expensive and it does only one thing, folds clothes — or does it?

Ask Unclutterer: Dealing with a prolific gift-giver

A reader who goes by the name of Overwhelmed wrote in with this dilemma.

I am newly married and my mother-in-law and I have a strained relationship. She tends to show her affection by buying things and she goes way overboard. If I tell her specifically not to buy me something, she will buy it anyway.

She buys new clothes for my husband every time she is at the store. (He has several plastic bins full of clothes he has never worn). We do not have space for a dining table because the entire dining room is full of boxes of stuff she bought for my husband that he doesn’t need/want.

My mother-in-law kept telling me that for Christmas she was going to buy me something from our wedding registry that hadn’t already been purchased. I told her it was unnecessary because we were inundated with stuff and had already purchased the extra items we needed. She asked me if I wanted a convection oven that I had listed on our registry. I specifically told her that I no longer wanted it because it would not work in our current apartment.

So, she surprised me by buying the convection oven as a Christmas gift. This item is huge and very expensive which makes me uncomfortable. We have no space for it at all in our apartment.

I want to be grateful for the gifts but I feel disrespected that she didn’t listen to me. What is the polite thing to do with this oven (and all the other gifts) and how can I get through to her to listen to me when I tell her no?

I’m sure Overwhelmed is not the only reader with this dilemma. There are probably many people out there looking at piles of Christmas or birthday gifts asking, “How can I get this to stop?”

Because this is your husband’s mother, the first person you need to have a conversation with is your husband. I mentioned your situation to Unclutterer writer Alex and he strongly recommended the book he reviewed, Crucial Conversations. You may want to read it before you speak with your husband or read it with your husband before you speak with your mother-in-law. Regardless of if or when you read the book, it is important that you and your husband agree on how and when to approach your mother-in-law with your decisions on what to do with the all of the gifts you have received to date, as well as what to do with any future gifts you do not want.

Many people give gifts because they love the recipients. For whatever reason, gift-giving may be the only way the giver knows how to express that love. In the eyes of the giver, asking him/her not to give gifts would be like asking them not to love you anymore — an almost impossible task for many mothers.

Your mother-in-law is facing an empty nest now that you have moved out and is probably trying her best to keep a connection to you and her son even if she is going about it in a way that makes you uncomfortable. Perhaps you could try and build a connection with her that doesn’t involve material possessions. You could have regular “Sunday Roast,” (a British tradition where extended family gathers together for a mid-day meal) or schedule an outing to a museum or theatre. There may be a leisure activity you might be interested in starting such as yoga or ceramics. You could ask your mother-in-law to join you. You might find that working together at community service/charity events works best for you. This would allow you to show that you appreciate her presence (as opposed to her presents).

After you have made your wishes about gifting known to your mother-in-law, you can start disposing of the things you no longer want. Your mother-in-law will likely ask about certain items and I know it may feel awkward at first, but, with loving kindness, reiterate the decisions you and your husband have made regarding gifts and reassure her that you appreciate and value her thought, effort, love, and generosity.

Note: If you have received an heirloom item and you’re not sure of its significance, ask your mother-in-law to provide a detailed history (written or verbal). It will help you decide if the item is worth keeping or passing along (possibly to another family member).

It’s your home and you can decide what stays and what goes even if it was a gift. Remember that the gift is not only about the recipient but also about the giver, so always show your gratitude then move on.

Thanks for your great question Overwhelmed. We hope that this post gives you the information you’re looking for and all the best of luck with your situation.

 

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.”

More little changes that make a big difference

In his post about simple living and labour-saving devices, Unclutterer PJ stated that technology in the service of simple living can help us save time. Unclutterer Jeri showed us that certain tools can help make organizing a little bit easier and how little changes in your home can make a big difference.

Here are a few changes we have made around our house that have helped us save time and effort.

We added wheels to a large, heavy computer cabinet. It took some effort to install the them but it was oh-so-effortless when we needed to move the cabinet to adjust the computer cables behind it, or to retrieve toy cars that had rolled underneath, or even just clean!

Our kitchen garbage pail is inside a cupboard so the dog cannot use it as a luncheon buffet. While it is now safe for the dog, it is a little inconvenient for humans. To solve this problem, I attached a small metal joining plate to the bottom of the cupboard door so that hangs down below the edge. I covered the end with Sugru so it wouldn’t be sharp. This allows me to open the door with my foot — instant hands-free access!

 

Most non-Canadians probably are not familiar with Robertson (square head) screws but I use them exclusively. Robertson screws, do not slip or strip. You can get maximum torque with even if your hands are not very strong (like mine). When I buy something like a curtain rod and the hardware is included, I’ll swap out the screws provided for Robertsons. As a bonus, Robertson screwdrivers are colour-coded — screw size is indicated by handle colour. No longer do I waste time rummaging through my toolbox trying to read worn writing on handles or examining tips to get the proper screwdriver. And because I only need to have one type of screw and screwdriver handy, I have an uncluttered toolbox.

Have you made any simple changes like these that have made your routine tasks easier? Share them with our readers in the comments.

Reader question: Emptying storage unit from across the country

Reader Lenore recently sent us the following question:

We had to leave our home in Nebraska to go to New York to deal with a family medical situation. After a few months in New York, I went back to Nebraska to pack and store our furniture, belongings, clothes, etc. It has now been nearly three years and I’m still paying for storage in Nebraska, and renting furniture in New York. I wasn’t sure we were going to stay in New York once the medical situation was sorted out, but I have a job here and the kids are in school and doing well. I don’t want to uproot the family again. I need to know the most economical way to sell the majority of our furniture and transport our sentimental things, some clothes, etc. to New York. I do not have the finances to let this insanity go on for much longer.

Since I am only able to take four days away from work so I would have to do it all in one trip, I can’t imagine how I would unload the locker, show and sell the furniture, and drive it back here myself. I hope you can provide me with some information and/or companies that you believe could guide me.

First of all, let me say that I’m glad your family was able to pull through the medical situation and is happily settled in New York. I can imagine it was a stressful situation for you.

Unfortunately, Unclutterer is unable to recommend specific companies but we can provide you with some advice that we hope will help.

We recommend that you contact a NAPO member in Nebraska. Select a professional organizer with experience in relocations. Some who are experienced in Seniors’ move management may be willing to take you on as a client even if you are not a senior so please consider contacting those organizers as well.

Most professional organizers would be able to communicate with you via email during the process so, if you were not able to return to Nebraska, you wouldn’t necessarily have to. They are also trained in separating sentimental and high value items from those that you wish to sell. Many professional organizers have networks that include local auctioneers that can help you liquidate the items you do not want to transport to New York. They are quite capable of organizing an estate/garage sale if they feel that would work better in your situation and they have connections with charities who could accept items that are not sold.

If you decide to return to Nebraska to clear the storage area yourself, you could contact moving companies to see if they would be willing to take a partial load from Nebraska to New York. (Our family did this twice, shipping only an heirloom piano across the country and back.) Moving companies would much rather put two or three clients on one truck and transport a full load. The only downside is that you may have to move your items when the moving company is available rather than when you want to. Once you have shipped out the items that you want to keep, you could simply walk hire an auctioneer to liquidate the rest of the contents of your storage locker.

You may wish to combine these two options, hiring a professional organizer to start clearing the storage area before you arrive and work with you when you are there so it goes faster. Then you could drive the load yourself from Nebraska to New York. Alternatively, the professional organizer may be able to meet a moving company at your storage unit so you do not have to wait around in Nebraska.

We suggest that you call several businesses and discuss your situation and get quotes. Prices (and personalities) can vary widely and it is important that you work with someone who you get along with and who understands your situation — both emotionally and financially.

All the best of luck to you and we thank you so much Lenore for sharing your situation with us. 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.”

Book review: Soulful Simplicity

Soulful Simplicity isn’t a book entirely about uncluttering and minimalism. It is a book about the author’s journey to her ideal life (of which uncluttering and minimalism play a large part).

A number of years ago, Courtney Carver was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). She recognized that her lifestyle was exacerbating her symptoms. She needed to reduce high stress levels caused by clutter, debt, overwork, and trying to meet the needs of everyone in the family.

During the first few chapters, Carver she describes her life after her MS diagnosis. She felt that MS was her wake-up call then she goes on to say, “…but had I been really paying attention I would’ve woken up sooner.” Carver explains that the way she was living was difficult but at least it was familiar. Isn’t that the case with so many of us? We cling to our old habits because they are comfortable and we resist change because it makes us feel uneasy.

By following Carver’s journey in Soulful Simplicity readers can learn how to create their own ideal lives. Carver came up with the “Simplicity Summit” — a type of family meeting to discuss, in a supportive environment, why you are simplifying your lives in the first place. Her book provides a guideline on how to hold your own Simplicity Summit. There are lists of questions to ask each other and suggested action steps to achieve your goals.

One idea I liked was Carver’s suggestion to change your lifestyle slowly by using habit stacking — establishing one habit at a time then adding a new one so that each habit triggers and supports the others. For example, if you want to increase your daily water intake, drink a glass of water before every meal. You are already consuming a meal so that habit is already established, adding another habit onto it, will help create a pattern that will stick.

Soulful Simplicity has a chapter on “The Upsides of a Downsize” where Carver discusses her reasons for uncluttering. She hits the nail on the head when she talks about organizing supplies and storage space stating, “When you need to buy things [i.e. storage bins] for your things, it’s time for fewer things.”

Carver doesn’t really delve into the organizing process itself (for example, where to donate shoes or what is the best spot for the coffee maker), but she does discuss a lot of causes and reasons for clutter accumulation. From debunking the myths of ownership to shopping away the pain to dealing with the guilt of letting go, she helps readers wade through the emotional turmoil and come out on the other side with a better idea of the life they want going forwards.

If your New Year’s resolution is to move towards a lifestyle with less stress and less stuff but more joy and more soul, I highly recommend Soulful Simplicity.

Wallets and loyalty cards

Like many people, I use loyalty cards to get deals on products and/or accumulate points to get free products. However, I was running out of space in my wallet (which is similar to this one) to store all of the cards. I worried that I would have to get a new wallet so I asked fellow Unclutterers Jeri and Alex what types of wallets they used and what they carried with them.

Jeri’s answer

I bought my wallet 20 years ago on a trip to Italy — such a useful souvenir — and it’s still going strong. The only thing I regret is that it’s black, making it harder to see inside my purse. It’s a basic bifold design with two slots for bills (one of which is deeper, so it holds bills from various countries just fine), four credit card slots, and a coin purse. There are pockets behind the credit card slots and the coin purse where I can store my insurance cards and my driver’s license. This fits my needs perfectly. I use Apple Pay wherever I can, but I still need to carry two credit cards (business and personal) and a bank card.

If I had to buy another wallet I would go for the same brand, because of the amazing quality: The Nappa Vitello collection by Bosca. I don’t see one exactly like mine — most of them lack a coin purse — but I might go for the one with a zippered coin purse. Or maybe I’d get a basic bifold and adjust to using a separate coin case. And I’d stay reconciled to black, because this specific collection only comes in black.

Alex’s answer

Because I always carry my wallet in the front pocket of my trousers, I never carry much in it, keeping it down to seven different cards (driver’s license, ID, two bank cards, health card, transit card, and a store loyalty card). I also carry money (but not much as I know pay almost everything with my bank card or my smart phone), receipts for things that may need to get returned or that offer a discount on the next purchase, a picture of my husband, and my mother’s library card (in the last few months of her life, I would go to the library for her and it’s a way to keep her memory close to me).

To store all this, I need something lightweight, slim, flexible, yet sturdy. A few years ago, I came across the perfect solution by accident and now I swear by it, only ever buying myself the same brand when the old one wears out. The brand is Mighty Wallet. They are made from Tyvek and apart from being practical, tear-resistant, water-resistant, and expandable, they are fun! I’ve had ones that look like they have been made from Star Trek comic books, a page torn out of a notebook, a NYC subway map, or an American one dollar bill. And there are many other designs to choose from too.

If you don’t like to carry much in your wallet and want something a little distinctive, I would highly recommend trying out a Mighty Wallet.

Jacki’s conclusion

I appreciated the input from Alex and Jeri. It made me realize that I was carrying too much stuff in my wallet — specifically loyalty cards. My iPhone fits into my wallet thus I have it with me when I shop so I started using the Stocard app for my loyalty cards and kept the cards themselves at home. However, if I need a wallet in the future, I’ll certainly take Alex’s and Jeri’s suggestions to heart.

Reader question: Helping mom unclutter

Reader Misty sent us this question:

I want to help my mom do some uncluttering. The entire house is in need of some help. My sister passed away three years ago — she was a collector and many collections there are! Do you have any ideas on how to deal with packed closets and chests of drawers, etc.? In order to clean, one must have a place to put things away. The answer might be simple, except that mom isn’t ready to do a major cleansing of clothing, shoes, etc. Do you have any ideas on beginning with baby steps? Mom has lost great deal of her vision and has had three strokes. I’m the one to help her clear out and make safe where she is walking.

First of all Misty, thank you for being willing to help your mom with such a project. It’s obvious that you are concerned about her safety and well-being and it is important to emphasize this when you start your project. It will be a challenge for both of you but working together to make your mother comfortable can bring you closer.

We’ve written before about strategies to use when helping someone else unclutter and this advice may be useful to you as you proceed. Remember that forced clean-outs are rarely successful and can create a lot of resentment between family members.

Her health issues indicate that she may not be as mobile and active as she used to be. She may feel that removing items from her home amplifies her belief that her world, and her ability to influence it, is shrinking. She may struggle against this loss of power by refusing to let things go. Remind her that you are not uncluttering to “get rid of her stuff,” you are uncluttering to keep her safe and independent for as long as possible.

Consider doing many mini-projects. Even just one drawer, cupboard, or surface per day may be enough. Choose a time of day that works best for your mom, when she has the most mental and physical energy — maybe first thing in the morning or perhaps just after lunch. Keep your sessions short and always end the project on a positive note sharing your successes over a cup of tea or some fancy chocolates.

Keepsakes will be important to your mother. While many of us may select certain aesthetic features when keeping and displaying memorabilia, these may not be practical for those who are visually impaired. Objects with bright and/or contrasting colours and those that have a unique, distinctive structure that can be felt rather than seen, may be a better choice. Consider keeping one or two items from your collections that meet these criteria and let the rest go.

When it comes to clothing, help your mother decide on easy-wear/easy-care pieces. Build a colour coordinating wardrobe that will make it easy for her to be independent.

All the best of luck to you Misty as you work together on this project. For more helpful tips on whole house organizing, check out our Organizing Jumpstart.

 

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