Unitasker Wednesday: RSVP International Deluxe Corn Stripper

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

RSVP International Deluxe Corn Stripper works on a similar principle to an apple corer. You insert the cob in the tube and push down the blade. The kernels are shaved off and the cob remains within the blade tube. You then use a plastic rod to poke out the cob. (The instructional video is here.) The four separate parts are dishwasher safe.

The RSVP International Deluxe Corn Stripper received high reviews on Amazon unlike many of the unitaskers we feature. I suppose if you thought you needed a corn stripper to clutter your cupboards, this would be the one to get — as long as you don’t try to use it for extra-large cobs.

I wonder why people buy corn on the cob when they can’t eat it. When my children were younger and had orthodontic appliances (retainers, braces, etc.) it was just so much easier and less cluttered and unitaskery to buy corn off the cob. When we went to a friend’s home, we used a multi-purpose knife to cut the corn from the cob. It was easy to wash one knife instead of four different parts of a corn stripper.

Thanks to my cousin Lisa for sharing this unitasker on Facebook. Since I know she, and probably many of our readers, are from farming families, I’ll share this video I found for Corn Shelling the Easy Way…Hillbilly Style!

Creating a time-saving grocery list

I love food and cooking but I’m not a big fan of grocery shopping. I would be, if I were the only one in the store and I had an unlimited amount of time and money, but that is never the case. Consequently, I am always searching for new ways to minimize my time in the grocery store.

Over the years, I’ve tried various grocery list apps. Many of them were simply lists. I had to manually type all items, one by one into a list on my phone. Once they were purchased and checked off, I had to either uncheck them manually if I wanted to keep them on the list to buy again next week (milk) or delete them if they were just “once in a while” purchases (ketchup).

Some apps let me choose food items from a database but the database could not be modified. I could not add, delete, or edit to specify a certain brand. Some databases were so large it was time consuming to find items. Some databases were too small or too different from our family’s eating habits to be useful.

For almost a year now, I’ve been using the Grocery Gadget app on my iPhone. It’s also available for Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Nokia, and Amazon Nook. See the promo/demo video here.

If you sign up for a free account with Grocery Gadget you have access their robust and customisable database and can sync it to your phone. For me, this was a real time saver as I could see and edit the entire list on my large computer screen instead of only on my small phone screen.

I spent a few hours updating the database by deleting the foods we never eat, adding items we do eat, and updating the existing items by specifying brands and package sizes we prefer. It allows for both U.S. and metric sizes and will allow you to specify if the item is in a jar, box, bottle, etc.

You can also add the price of each item as well as any applicable taxes. You can edit the tax rates to whatever percentage applies in your area. This allows you to see your total grocery bill before you even head out to the store.

Another great feature of Grocery Gadget is the ability to add photos and UPC bar codes to each item. This is very handy when you are staring at a shelf of razor blades and cannot remember which brand your husband uses and which brand your teenager son uses. I just look at the photo and scan the bar code with my phone!

I do about 95% of my grocery shopping at one specific store, so I went a step further. I renamed the categories based on the aisles in my grocery store. Since the categories are always listed in alphabetical order, I added numbers to the beginning. Produce is the first section in the store when I walk in the door so the category was named 00 Produce. The deli section is at the end of aisles 2 and 3 so it is called 025 Deli.

It took me a few weeks of slightly extended grocery shopping sessions accessing the database on my phone to ensure each food item was in its correct category but the time invested at the beginning has more than paid itself back. Now, I don’t even have to walk down aisle 7 if I don’t have anything to buy in category 07 Sides Asian Canned Veg. This is a big time-saver especially when the store is busy — and a money saver too because I’m not tempted to buy items that are not on my list.

Because my grocery list syncs through the free web portal, everyone in the family uses the app and can add items to the grocery list at any time. Sometimes I will be at the grocery store and all of a sudden “cheese slices” will appear on my list. I know immediately that I need to buy more which saves me a trip to the store later in the week. If my husband and I shop together, we can go to different sections, check off items as we pick them up, and get everything in half the time without duplicating items in our trolleys.

The Grocery Gadget app works very well for our family and the way we shop. But I’d like to hear from our readers to know what they prefer. Please share your grocery list techniques in the comments section below.

Unitasker Wednesday: Automatic hands-free sauce stirrer

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

Safe for non-stick pans and able to be used in boiling liquids, this automatic hands-free sauce stirrer is says it is able to stir for up to four hours on one set of AA batteries (not included).

Just think, for the ability to save some energy in your arm, you can create more dead batteries for the local landfill. According to the comments, most of the time this device doesn’t even stir, it just vibrates against the side of the pot which means the device ends up in the landfill too.

Save your money. Keep non-recyclable junk out of our landfills. Use a multi-purpose spoon or whisk.

NOTE: This device, should you purchase one that actually works, may be of value if you have reduced mobility in your hands, arms, or shoulders. Proceed with caution though.

Gift ideas for Father’s Day

Father’s Day is just around the corner. Here are a few items that can help parent figures of all types stay organized.

Grocery shopping is time consuming. Drive to the store, walk up and down the aisles, wait in line to pay the cashier, and drive home. Why not offer the gift of grocery delivery with Amazon Fresh? Log on to the website, select your groceries and a delivery time, and click pay. You can have as many deliveries as you would like for $14.99 per month and if you are an Amazon Prime member, that price drops to $10.99 per month.

Parents, especially fathers, often have a long “to-do” list yet they never seem to have time to get everything done. Why not help out by hiring an expert through Amazon Home Services? From house cleaning to gutter clearing, from furniture assembly to home theatre installation, from tree planting to snow removal, you will be able to find the services you need to allow Dad to relax and enjoy instead of working for yet another weekend.

For Dad’s who like things organized, consider a smartphone label maker. Use the app to create labels on your smartphone and print them on a small printer that connects using Bluetooth. Remember to give Dad a few extra replacement cartridges too.

Unitasker Wednesday: Mac Magic pasta pot

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

Macaroni and cheese from a box, specifically Kraft Dinner (KD), (“Dîner Kraft” if you speak French) is referred to as the national dish of Canada. Canadians eat 55% more Kraft Dinner than Americans making it the most popular grocery item in our country. When we were living in England, we had family members ship us a few cases of Kraft Dinner so that our children could share a “typical Canadian meal” with their U.K. friends.

Even as much as we love our KD, I cannot fathom why I would buy a device as unitaskery as the Mac Magic 4-qt. Pasta Pot.

The pot does have a strainer lid which makes it easy to drain the water from the pasta but there are many other higher quality pots with strainer lids. The Mac Magic pot has a stirring unit built into the lid but  you can only use it in conjunction with the pot — unlike a regular spoon or spatula that you can use with any pot. There is also a little hole in the lid in which you can add ingredients which is useful because when you lift the lid the stirring unit pulls out all of the contents and spills them all over the place.

The Amazon reviews of this product indicate that it is not very well made. Reader Kimberley, who alerted us to this unitasker observes that the ‘description included ‘Eliminates dirty dishes’. Except this contraption is huge and ridiculously difficult to clean!”

Thanks Kimberley for sharing this unitasker with us. I now have a craving for Kraft Dinner which I will make using my multi-purpose pot, multi-purpose strainer, and multi-purpose spoon.

Reader Question: Screw nail organizing solutions

A reader recently sent in a request:

Do you have any suggestions for your father to organize all his screw nails? He’s been using margarine containers but their round and waste space. And, they break easily.

If you haven’t guessed, the reader is my mom. I thought if my dad was looking for screw nail organizing advice, then maybe other readers were too.

I know my dad. If he finds stripped, bent, or rusty screws in his collection, he throws them out right away. He has already sorted his screws into margarine containers by type, length, and head type. If you’ve got a collection of screws, nails, bolts, or other types of hardware bits, I suggest you use an inexpensive solution such as margarine or yogurt containers to sort your screws first. Once you see how many and what types you have, then invest in a permanent organizing system.

One of my favourite organizing solutions is the Stanley Deep Bin Professional Organizer. The little yellow compartments can be removed individually and taken to the work area. They can be easily rearranged within the main case and it is easy to see and access the items. The container itself can be stored flat or upright in small, narrow spaces. You can turn it upside down and shake it and the objects stays in their own container. A small parts organizer with adjustable dividers can useful too but you must take the whole container with you when you do a project. It is also a bit more time consuming to re-arrange the contents.

Many people like cabinets of mini-drawers. In most models the drawers can be removed allowing you to take an individual drawer to a work area. However, they can be somewhat difficult to use if you have large fingers. Because it is difficult to see the entire contents of the drawer just by looking in the front, you may forget that you have certain parts or pieces that are stored at the back of the drawers. Personally, I loved the mini-drawers that I had — until the moving company packed it upside down in box and all the small parts fell out all over the place, getting lost in the packing paper and causing me to re-organize everything on arrival at our new home.

Plastic Storage Stacking Bins are another ideal option for hardware storage and organization. These sturdy bins can be stacked on your workbench or be hung on a wall-mounted rail. You can take the one you need to your work area and easily place it back where it belongs. Dividers are available for these bins to help you increase storage space. They have no lids so it is easy to access the parts you need even if you have large hands/fingers. However, because they have no lids, it makes it very tricky to transport your hardware from one job site (e.g. your home) to another (e.g. your cottage).

These are my top three ways to organize small bits of hardware but there are many more. Please feel free to share your favourite organizing system.

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.”

Unitasker Wednesday: Nunc watch

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

Nunc is the Latin word for now. You would think, with an item that looked exactly like a watch, you would be able to use it to tell you what time it is now.

Well, no. you can’t.

You see, the Nunc watch isn’t meant to tell you the time. It’s meant to remind you that you should not worry about time and live life in the now. As Nunc states on its website, “Time is often depicted as the evil in the struggle with Life.

The Nunc watch is created with high-grade stainless steel and encases a one-of-a-kind, marble stone that supposedly represents the uniqueness of every moment. The wooden box in which the watch is shipped, transforms into a plant pot. Their artisanal manufacturing processes (as shown by their use of electrical power tools) compliments their philosophy of environmentalism. To further reduce their carbon footprint, they also source their materials close to their manufacturing site (which is interesting because they ship anywhere in the world in 2-6 business days. I’m pretty sure you can’t walk, cycle, or swim from Italy to North America in that time-frame).

The Nunc watch is not a watch. It is jewelry that you wear around your wrist to remind you to live life to the fullest.

We should create a special name for this item! How about the word bracelet? We could even invent bracelets that already have inspirational sayings on them so you wouldn’t need to think of your own as you looked at your blank, €160, piece of marble encased in stainless steel.

If I were to buy a stainless steel and marble bracelet, I’d choose this one because it serves two purposes, some single malt whisky and living life to the fullest.

Reader Question: Scanning magazine clippings

Reader Ms. Ball sends in this question:

How does one handle weekly magazines that contain a hodgepodge of information? I have been reading such magazines since at least 2009 and there are a multitude of recipes and craft ideas in each issue that I would love to digitize so that I can reduce the actual paper and still have access to the information. Is there any current information on this subject? Woman’s World now seems to exist in somewhat of a digital format for e-readers and digital magazine services such as Zinio. However, this will only address issues from 2017 going forward, not past issues unless I pay to access issues I already own. Do you have any advice on scanners or easier ways to convert my paper magazine articles to digital format?

This is a good question Ms. Ball and I’m sure you are not the only reader who wants to digitize this type of information.

Before you start the digitizing process, the best thing to do is organize the clippings you have accumulated. If you haven’t already, take some time to sort them into file folders, envelopes, or zipper seal bags. You could clip them together with paperclips or clothes pins — whatever you already have around the house. Just do enough to keep the same types of articles together long enough to get them digitized. While you are sorting, take the time to toss out any articles that are no longer of interest to you.

If the articles are still in the magazines, you don’t need to spend time cutting them out because you can scan directly from the magazine. Perhaps put a sticky-note on the front cover to remind you what it was that you wanted to digitize (Page 9 – wedding dress pattern, Page 33 – cheese cake recipe).

Next, think about where you are going to store all of this digital information. You could create a virtual filing cabinet on your hard drive or cloud drive (Dropbox, iCloud, etc.) or create a series of virtual notebooks on a cloud service such as Evernote.

Now that you have your paper clippings organized and your digital storage space prepared, it is time to start scanning!

I suggest the low-cost, all-purpose, Canon CanoScan LiDE220 Photo and Document Scanner. Because it is a flat-bed scanner, the disadvantage is that it won’t allow you to load up a pile of documents and scan them rapidly. However, it has a unique “expansion top” that allows for easy scanning of thick books and magazines. It has an “auto-scan” mode that detects what you are scanning and automatically adjusts the settings. If you scan articles in PDF, it will also automatically do optical character recognition (OCR) creating searchable documents.

Thanks for your great question Ms. Ball. We hope that this post gives you the information you’re looking for. All the best in digitizing your magazine articles.

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.”

Unitasker Wednesday: Clean Step shoe wrapping machine

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

I’m Canadian and have spent most of my life living in Canada. When you visit a Canadian’s home, you’ll be expected to remove your outer footwear at the door unless you are specifically told not to. This is not unique to Canada. Many cultures have a tradition of removing outside shoes at the door. Soles of shoes are a potential vector for pathogen transmission and removing them keeps the inside of your home cleaner.

It was very surprising to me, living in other countries, to find that people do not take off their shoes at the door. I guess this is why the Clean Step shoe wrapping machine was invented. It shrink-wraps the soles of your shoes in one-time use, non-biodegradable plastic to keep the floors clean while walking around your home or office.

Maybe in the parts of the world where the climate is mostly dry the shoe wrapping machine would work. I doubt the plastic would stick over a layer of ice and snow or mud and slush typical in many climates.

Maybe you’re thinking this would be useful in an area that required a high level of hygiene. Probably not. In the food and pharmaceutical industries, only super-clean indoor shoes are worn. When going into the production area, workers are required to walk through a shoe sanitation station that further cleans and reduces the germ load on the shoes.

In hospital and other medical settings, there are several types of automatic shoe cover dispensers that cover almost the entire shoe to prevent germ transfer. The Clean Step shoe wrapping machine only covers the sole.

Maybe you’re thinking this would be useful if you already had your boots on but forgot an item in another part of the home. Not really. We prefer to use babouche — felt indoor overshoes. They slip on and off easily over any size boot. They are re-usable and washable. They take up much less space than the shoe wrapping machine and do not require electricity to use. Even contractors that come to your home to repair something will often bring their own set of babouche to wear indoors.

Avoid the shoe wrapping unitasker and just take your shoes off.

Ask Unclutterer: Hiding a workspace in a studio apartment

In reference to our posts on Bedrooms are for sleeping, part 1 and part 2, reader Eric wrote in to ask,

Could you expand the article to address studio apartments? What would be the best way to isolate a workspace from the living space? I guess I could use a divider like you show in the first article to isolate the bed/sleeping space from the rest of the apartment.

Thanks for your question Eric. We would be happy to expand on our answer.

There are several ways other than a folding room divider to section off different areas of the apartment. The first one we suggest is a curtain divider. Curtains are great because they can be closed for privacy and opened to make the space larger. They are washable and generally easy to install. There are many styles and colours available.

Tension rods are ideal if you have brick or plaster walls because you do not have to use a drill or screws for installation. They work best in smaller openings with lighter weight curtains. Also, if you have cats or small children who might pull on, or attempt to climb the curtains, the rod may fall down. If you are sectioning off a bedroom, I suggest that you use room darkening curtains to improve sleep quality.

If you do not have walls on which to mount a tension rod, then you might consider the ceiling track system. There are 90º and 45º corners available so you can make more than one wall out of curtains if required. You have to bolt/screw the track into the ceiling and that might be difficult if you are a renter or there is any trace of asbestos in the ceiling.

Some people use bookshelves to separate spaces in a studio apartment. I do not recommend this unless the shelving units are anchored into the ceilings and floors. IKEA’s Elvarli system bolts into floors and ceilings. With various configurations available it will allow you to divide your living space and create extra storage.

Another option to hide a workspace in a studio apartment, is to use an armoire or cabinet. There are various styles available depending on your needs. Some companies who design kitchen cabinets may also be able to design one to your specifications. If you are looking for simply a computer workstation, a folding wall-mounted desk is a space-saving option.

When living in a studio, loft, or other open-concept designed home, always look for furniture that can do double-duty such as hidden filing cabinets and storage ottomans.

Thanks for your great question Eric. 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.”

Unitasker Wednesday: Stircle

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

Single-use plastic items such as plastic coffee stir sticks damage our environment. But, if we choose to be eco-friendly, how will we stir our coffee? I bet most of you are thinking, “Hey, I could use this multi-purpose, reusable spoon I already own just sitting here in my kitchen.”

But wait! You have to wash and dry the spoon. It’s hard and time consuming. And what happens if you lose your spoon?

You need the Stircle — it stirs your coffee and it is round like a circle — STIR CLE!

The Stircle should stir 50,000 cups on about $0.10 of electricity. The video doesn’t show how the Stircle is powered. It may have to be built into a countertop with the electric cord underneath or it might be powered by rechargeable batteries. Either way the Stircle is made from plastic and electronics — neither of which is environmentally friendly.

Also, if you watch the video, you’ll notice that the Stircle only stirs disposable cups. Not one reusable drink container is shown. Even these light-weight biodegradable mugs would not fit on the Stircle because of their handle design.

In summary, the Stircle is a non-eco-friendly automatic stirring machine that only stirs drinks in non-eco-friendly cups claiming to “save the environment” from non-recyclable stir sticks. With a price tag of $345, I’ll skip this unitasker and purchase reusable teaspoons.

Thanks goes out to Jeri Dansky for bringing this unitasker to our attention!

Reader Question: How to unclutter some possibly valuable odds and ends

Reader Alice recently sent us the following question:

I inherited a rather big plastic bin of items that are not junk but would need specialized attention to sell. For example, there is a messy but large stamp collection, a reprint of a newspaper from the day after Lincoln’s assassination, and a beautiful pair of felt baby booties from the late 1800s.

There isn’t enough stuff for an estate sale. I don’t know if an auction will take it and I’m skeptical about the value I would receive. I am worried I will need to take every item to a different place to sell it. I also don’t want to be taken advantage of. I know some things have some value, but don’t want to be given $20 for something worth $2000.

What is a fair way to approach this random collection of stuff? Is there a method of selling I am missing? Should I just forget the “value” and put more of a premium on getting my space back?

Thanks Alice for a really great question and one that I’m sure many readers can relate to. It isn’t easy to know what to do odds and ends especially when you are not sure of their monetary value.

The first step is to research the approximate monetary value of each item. Whether you are selling through an auction house or via private sale, the first thing someone will ask is, “How much do you want for it?” You need to have at least a minimum price in mind.

The internet is a great resource but it can be overwhelming and time consuming to search for the value of certain things. The Collector’s Marketing Resource Center has built an amazing guide called, “How to use the Internet to research the value of your antiques.” It has links to multiple websites and search engines specifically for antiques, collectibles, and vintage items.

Stamporama has a great article on what to do with an inherited stamp collection. The site provides three options for the collection; keep, donate, or sell. It states that most collections are not worth very much money but you should have a dealer evaluate the collection to confirm especially if you have no experience in stamp collecting yourself. You can find dealers through the American Philatelic Society.

Kovels has an article specifically on Lincoln’s assassination newspaper. Unfortunately, reprints do not have a high monetary value. However, they may be valuable to someone so you may be able to sell it on a site like eBay if you’re willing to take the time.

As you mentioned, you could send the items to auction — if an auction house would accept it. Some auctioneers only do full estate sales. Others will include lots from several estates in one auction if each individual estate does not have enough or compile the items from many estates or businesses together and sell them in theme auctions such as “tools and farm equipment” or “restaurant equipment.” Most auctioneers will give you an appraisal of your items but the value they provide will likely be what they could fetch at auction, not necessarily the value you would get if you sold each item privately. They will take a commission from the sale so ensure you inquire about that percentage.

Another site to check is the online auction site MaxSold. They do online estate sales across North America. It is interesting to note that similar items sell for different prices in different cities so the value of your items might depend on your location should you chose to use a local auction house to liquidate your goods.

Once you have an approximate monetary value of the items in your bin, you need to ask yourself whether it is worth your time and effort to sell these items. Take into consideration the value of your time (i.e. what you would do with your time if you did not have to sell them), the value of the space in your home, and the peace of mind that you will have once you are no longer worrying about these things and this task.

Some people may decide to just donate everything. Others may decide to take the time and sell each piece individually. There will also be people who choose to sell the more valuable items and donate the rest. Each person who reads this column may come up with a different answer because it is all based on how they value their space, time, and the “mental load” of worrying about all of this.

Thanks for your great question Alice. 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.”