Unitasker Wednesday: Handheld dishwashing 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!

When I first saw the photo of the handheld dishwashing machine, I thought it might possibly be useful for those who had limited use of their hands and did not have a dishwasher. It is referred to as a “robotic arm” after all.

I was wrong. You need two hands to get the dishes in the device and one hand to hold the thing while it washes.

The description on this device says you don’t have to get your hands dirty but you need both hands to put the dirty plate in it — unless you enjoy washing clean dishes like they do in the video (which makes my highly suspicious of its efficacy).

The site also states, “Environmental protection, beauty, simple, good cleaning effect.” But I fail to see how a plastic, robot-arm filled with electronics and a rechargeable battery protects the environment. The gadget reminds me of an extra-terrestrial insect from a sci-fi movie so maybe it is only beautiful to entomologists.

If you have enough space for the handheld dishwashing machine, why not just buy a countertop dishwasher? It would work better and your hands would stay cleaner.

Save your money. Save the environment. Avoid nightmares about green insects from outer space. Pass on this unitasker.

Minimalism vs. just in case

One rainy Friday before a long weekend, we laundered our bed sheets. After washing them, we discovered our dryer was broken. It did not heat. We were not prepared to pay for appliance servicing during a long weekend so we hung our wet sheets in the basement with a fan blowing on them. They were still not dry by nightfall. Fortunately, I had a second set of sheets stored in the linen closet.

As much as I strive to be a minimalist, I was glad I had the extra set of sheets “just in case.” Some minimalists argue that you need only one set of sheets per bed — you simply wash the set and put it back on the bed immediately. If I had followed that suggestion, we would have been sleeping in wet sheets!

Storing and maintaining an extra set of sheets took almost no effort and it saved us having to run out to a laundromat on a Friday evening. Mr. Justin Case saved us!

Balancing minimalism with “just in case” isn’t always easy. You have to calculate the probability that you will actually urgently need the item with the expense of owning (storage and maintenance) the item. You might also want to factor in the original purchase price and the cost and hassle of renting or replacing the item.

There are plenty of things I have been thankful I have kept “just in case” including spare batteries for the smoke detectors, light bulbs, an extra set of headphones, and an extra dog leash and collar.

On the other hand, we don’t own a table saw “just in case.” For our family, a table saw is used in a planned project and can be easily borrowed or rented. However, my friends who live on a horse farm own a table saw just in case they need to repair a stall a horse has kicked through — which happens more frequently than one would think.

How are you balancing minimalism with just in case? What items can you honestly let go of?

Unitasker Wednesday: Body odour detector

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

We all know that bad body odour is bad manners — especially if you are living or working in crowded quarters. To cope with this, the company Tanita is marketing a gadget that detects how bad your body odour is.

The Tanita-ES100 costs about $125 USD and is about the size of an antique pocket pager. It works on the same principles as a breathalyzer for detecting blood alcohol content based on a breath sample. The ES100’s replaceable sensor is good for 2000 uses, or about a year for the average person.

The device is easy to use, simply turn it on, flip out the sensor and point it to a part of your body you think might be emitting too much odour. After about 10 seconds, the display will show your smell level on a scale of 0 (no smell) to 10 (extremely smelly). The device suggests that anything above Level 5 requires “smell care.”

The nice thing about the device is that it will also tell you if you have applied too much aftershave or perfume. However, there are a few unpleasant odours that it is not programmed to detect.

I can see this device as being helpful for those who may have lost their sense of smell due to injury or illness. I’m not too sure if it would be useful for anyone else though. Perhaps if I lived in a crowded city in a hot climate I’d think differently. I’ll leave it up to Unclutterer readers to decide.

The BIFL philosophy

Those who practice the BIFL (Buy It For Life) philosophy believe that you should purchase only items of high quality so they will last for your entire life and preferably beyond so you can pass them down to your heirs.

BIFL was a very common practice up until the early part of the 20th century. Afterwards, consumer goods became more affordable and technology changed at a rapid rate. This, coupled with the driving forces of consumerism caused a decline in the BIFL philosophy. And, at the same time, our homes gradually filled with more and more stuff.

Today, BIFL seems to be making a come-back. People are aware the effect of mass consumerism, from poorly paid workers in unsafe conditions, to the environmental damage caused by production and disposal of items we are driven to purchase. They also want to live in less cluttered homes.

If you’re considering becoming a Buy It For Lifer, here are some things to consider.

Buy the highest quality you can afford

If a pair of $150 boots will last you three winters and a $60 pair will last only one winter, the more expensive boot would be the better option — not only for your pocketbook but for the environment as well. Buy the highest quality (in this case the most durable) that you can afford.

A disadvantage of BIFL is that often people get convinced to pay for more ‘quality’ than needed. For example, if you never play computer games, there is no point in paying extra for a high-quality graphics card on your new computer.

Define exactly what you need the product to do and the type of performance you expect. Do some research on the internet, check product review sites, and ask your friends and family for opinions. Don’t overspend on high-end products when you can get ‘good enough’ products at much lower prices.

Choose classic styling and neutral colours

Professional Organizer Julie Bestry cleared-out a client’s closet recently and posted a photo of a classically tailored man’s suit on Facebook. She asked her friends to guess what era the suit was from. The answers spanned from the 1950s to the 1990s — an indication that time-honoured fashion transcends fad styling.

Classic styling does not just apply to clothing. Simple and elegant home furnishings stand the test of time as well. White kitchen appliances may wax and wane in popularity but they certainly outlasted those of avocado green and harvest gold. Plain dinnerware and flatware sets can be dressed up for any occasion with fancy napkins and tablecloths. A beige sofa can be jazzed up with a colourful throw and decorative cushions.

Is it repairable, replaceable, upgradeable?

When you are considering purchasing an item, inquire whether it is possible to repair it if it breaks and what the repair costs would be. Often the owner’s manual will contain a list of available replacement parts. If it doesn’t, then it may not be easily repaired.

For large items such as appliances, televisions, etc., it might be helpful to talk to local repair shops and find out which makes and models to avoid. When I took my vacuum cleaner in for repairs, I learned that certain brands should be avoided because they are almost impossible to fix while other brands can be inexpensively repaired and outperform newer models even after 20 years.

Check for a Repair Café in your city. At a Repair Café, visitors bring in their broken item and working with volunteer repair specialists, they can make repairs to their items right in the café with the tools and materials available. (Coffee and snacks are also available!) If the volunteer specialists can’t fix it, they can give you advice on whether or not your broken item is worth repairing and where the local repair shops are located.

If you have a set of items and one of the set breaks or gets lost, can it be replaced? and CorningWare offers replacement lids, and Tupperware has an almost lifetime guarantee on most of its products. Most dinnerware and flatware will sell items individually however, some patterns may be discontinued.

Technology is one area where BIFL may not make sense. Certainly keeping a computer or television for as long as possible is a good idea, but at some point the hardware will no longer accept new software updates. Look for manufacturers and retailers that offer upgrade or trade-in programs. They will accept your old technology and give you a credit towards your new product. Apple has both an upgrade program for iPhones (as do many cell phone carriers). It also has a trade-in program that gives users Apple Store credit towards the purchase of new Apple products.

Extended Warranties

Often sales people will offer extended warranties on goods and customers may be tempted especially if they are considering buying it for life. Many extended warranties are expensive and have a host of exclusions so may not be worth it for a particular product. I encourage our readers to check out the excellent advice on extended warranties by both Consumer Reports and the Toronto Star before they agree to buy.

 

Are you someone who buys it for life? Has it helped you stay uncluttered? Share with readers in the comments.

Unitasker Wednesday: SockSync laundry sorter

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

In a previous article, we discussed having only one or two types of sock per person. Each person would have six pairs of the same sport sock and six pairs of the same dress sock. This saves time getting dressed because you only have to pull two socks out of the drawer and instantly you have a match! You could also be a fashionista and have no matching socks whatsoever. Either way, this solves the laundry sorting problem because all the sports socks match each other, all the dress socks match each other, or you have no matches at all and it doesn’t matter.

However, if you have an extremely complicated wardrobe with dozens of different types and styles of socks, you may need the SockSync sock sorter. The SockSync comes with its own custom fit laundry basket too so you’ll have an extra one under foot (pardon the pun) all the time.

To use the SockSync, just put one sock on each SockSync cup, find a sock that matches what is on the SockSync, spin it around, and push it through (see the video). Your socks still come out of the laundry in a jumbled mess and you still have to rummage through the pile to find matches. All the socks end up paired but are in the same laundry basket so you’ve got to separate out each family member’s socks.

It would be easier to give each family member a lingerie bag to put dirty socks in. Each person’s socks would stay together in the wash and you would just simply give family members their lingerie bag back, full of clean socks at the end of the day. It would take up much less space too — not to mention the savings of about $50 USD.

A big shout out and thank you to professional organizer and friend, Stephanie Deakin for one of the biggest unitasker eye-rolls I’ve had in quite some time.

Buying vs. using

buying and using craft supplies are two separate hobbiesI have seen this meme floating around the internet for a while now. It made me stop and think about the definition of a crafter: a person whose occupation requires skill with the hands. If this is true, then buying craft supplies is indeed, a separate hobby from using those supplies to create art.

If you are uncluttering, you may want to take a look at your hobby supplies and equipment. Owning craft supplies does not make you a crafter; using the supplies does. Likewise, owning musical instruments does not make you a musician. You must regularly play the instruments to be considered a musician. You don’t need to be a virtuoso, you just need to enjoy playing regularly.

There are reasons why you may wish to keep certain things but make sure they are legitimate. When we moved to England, we kept our ice skates. There were no rinks in our area but we knew we would skate once we returned to Canada. However, my husband decided he would do recreational skating only so he donated all of his hockey equipment.

A friend of mine found that playing her clarinet while she was pregnant made her nauseous. She vowed that after the birth of her child she would pick up the instrument again. She started playing again when her youngest turned two years old and after a year or so, joined a small orchestra that accompanies a local theatre group.

Consider giving yourself a deadline for uncluttering unused equipment and supplies. For example, if you have not played your musical instrument or used your ham radio in over one year, you might wish to sell it. Put a moratorium on purchasing new hobby supplies and whatever you have not used in six months could be donated to a community centre.

Hobbies and pastimes are great but make sure you’re practicing the right one — using your equipment and supplies, not just buying and storing them.

Unitasker Wednesday: Canadian Breath Spray

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

G’day eh? I sees this ‘ere product, Canadian Breath Spray, and I wonders if it’ll make anyone sound Canadian if they use it, eh? Lard tunderin’ if it did b’y we’d have youse all pronouncing Newfoundland (noo-fn-LAND) correctly.

I’d bet you a Loonie or a Toonie that you’d be drinking double-doubles at Timmies while wearing toques. Of course, you could stay at the cottage and mix your mickey with pop while sitting on the chesterfield eating ketchup chips.

We know the keeners will give’er by calling the last letter of the alphabet ZED. Any Americans using this product will put the letter U in words like favour, colour, and labour while the British will have to spell words like organize, patronize, and itemize with a Z not an S.

Nous avons deux langues officielles au Canada. C’est possible, en utilisant ce produit vous parlerez français.

There is no need to put on your runners and queue up for this product. It doesn’t really work — SORRY!

Editor question: Should it stay or should it go?

Normally, a reader asks a question about uncluttering and organizing that our writers answer with amazing input by fellow Unclutterer readers. Today, I have a question that I’m hoping readers can help me answer.

We’re a military family. We’ve lived in 13 different homes in the past 28 years. Each house has been different. Some have basements, others have garages. Some homes had three bedrooms and one bathroom, others had four bedrooms and four bathrooms. We lived in houses with very little closet and cupboard storage, others with walk-in closets and walls lined with cupboards.

Because the houses have been so different and we have moved so often, I have accumulated a large stockpile of organizing products. This includes:

  • A slat-wall system with various hooks and baskets. It has been used in garages in previous homes to store garden tools and bicycles. Our current home has a shed that won’t support the use of the slat-wall system.
  • A plastic filing cabinet with broken locks and missing wheels. The cabinet was rather expensive. It is sturdy and in great shape so it could be used for storing something. It is currently empty.
  • I have probably two dozen fabric drawer organizers. I’ve used these to organize clothes in drawers and items on shelves in various houses over the years.
  • There are lots empty totes. I’m not sure what was in them at previous houses. They are all in great shape and have matching lids.
  • I have a few shelf extenders. Our current home has adjustable shelves in the kitchen cabinets. Almost none of our previous homes did.
  • I save car cup gum containers and Altoids tins because they are great for storing office supplies, cotton balls, cotton swabs, and other small items. There lots of each type of container in my stash because they might come in handy.
  • There is a tower of plastic drawers that I’m sure could come in handy for something but it is currently empty.
  • There are at least 50 ways to use a basket so I have baskets of all sizes in my stash. This includes a bunch of kitchen drawer organizers.

Part of me wants to keep all of these items because we will be moving again in less than one year. I have no idea where we will be moving or what our next house will be like. I might need the organizing supplies because they are useful and I just love having lots of organizing products.

Another part of me wants to just donate all of the stuff and only buy what I need when we move into our new house because I just love buying new organizing products.

So, I will ask fellow Unclutterers as the classic song by The Clash repeats in my head…

Readers, you got to let me know
Should it stay or should it go?
If you say “keep,” because it’s mine
It’ll be here ’til the end of time
So you got to let me know
Should it stay or should it go?

Unitasker Wednesday: S’mores caddy

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

Summer is here and with it comes camping, camp fires, and of course, s’mores. Over the years, we’ve featured various s’more makers in our unitasker series including a barbeque s’mores maker, an old fashioned s’mores maker, a microwaveable s’mores maker, and even s’more s’more makers.

This summer is no exception. A big thank-you to reader Gabrielle who sent us a link to the Hershey’s S’mores Caddy. It is a plastic box designed to hold all the ingredients to make s’mores.

IT IS AN EMPTY BOX!

That’s right. For $10 USD, you get a plastic box. You have to buy the ingredients separately. And, it is designed to hold only a specific size of Hershey chocolate bar and a specific size of graham cracker. I guess if these are your favourite brands, that would be fine but if not, you’ve just wasted your money.

However, if wasting money is your goal, you can spend $16 USD and get the SUMPRI Smores Caddy because it has a place to store extra candy and SUMPRI roasting sticks neither of which are included.

Organizationally challenged

In our post on helping kids develop organizing skills, reader Vicki asked for suggestions to help a developmentally challenged person get organized and be able to maintain the level of organization.

Here are a few resources that can help.

Not everyone thinks the same way (it would be a very boring world if we did) so an obvious solution a caregiver would put into action, might not be intuitive to the person using the system. One of the most enlightening books I’ve read on this subject is Conquering Chronic Disorganization which provides new perspectives on organizing systems. Many of the tools used are the same, such as filing folders and labels, but how they are used and perceived is different. For example, a typical way to organize a filing cabinet would be to put the files into categories such as Medical, Car, Banking. An atypical solution would be to use categories like:

  • Head (thought requiring activities like finances)
  • Heart (things deeply felt like home, family, charity work)
  • Hands (information about objects and projects such as car, tools)
  • Health (medical, dental, etc.)

When helping someone get organized, adapt the system to them and the way they think and exist in the world, rather than having them use a system that they cannot relate to.

Another great book for people with ADD, ADHD, and everyone else is ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life: Strategies that Work from an Acclaimed Professional Organizer and a Renowned ADD Clinician. It is packed full of basic and straight-forward suggestions that work for any age group from toddlers to grand-parents. When I was doing hands-on client work, it was one of my “go-to” books for easy-to-implement ideas.

Judith Kohlberg, who wrote both books listed above, also authored, Getting Organized in the Era of Endless: What To Do When Information, Interruption, Work and Stuff are Endless But Time is Not! I had the privilege of seeing her present a seminar on digital disorganization at a NAPO Conference. She provided excellent information applicable to people with organizing skills of all levels. This book expands on that topic to help you manage your time and your life when everything, everywhere is always “switched on.”

Some people manage just fine using electronics such as digital calendars and various apps to stay organized. Other people prefer paper-based calendars and planners. There is no right or wrong way. It is a personal preference so do not try and force a person to use something that does not resonate with them.

One of my all-time favourite resources for uncluttering and organizing information, is Unclutterer readers. Everyone is unique. Different ideas and perspectives enrich our community. Thank you to those of you who comment on our posts and participate in our forum. To all other readers, please be sure to read the comments to find more great advice and if you have an idea, you are welcome to add it.

Unitasker Wednesday: Half and half cupcake maker

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

Although it is highly rated, I do not see the usefulness of this half and half cupcake maker.

It has dividers for all twelve cupcake cups in one unit. It is large and difficult to store. You would not want it to get bent or warped because then it wouldn’t fit into the pan correctly. Since it comes with its own cupcake pan, I suspect they work together as one unit and the divider portion may not work in other cupcake pans.

I’m still not sure why people want two flavours in one cupcake. Personally, if I want two different flavours, I’d eat two different cupcakes (not necessarily the same day — it is cake after all).

If you really feel you need a unitasker to make half and half cupcakes. Batter Babies cupcake dividers take up much less space and are likely easier to clean. You could also make your own using cardboard covered in waxed paper.

 

Helping kids develop organizing skills

My mother was a teacher for over 30 years. When I decided to have children, she gave me the book, Kids are worth it! by Barbara Coloroso. I learned a lot from that book, including how to help my kids (and my organizing clients’ children) develop their organizing talents and independent thinking skills.

Identify the problems

It is important to identify the organizing challenge and frame it correctly using positive, empowering language. Blame and accusations are counter-productive. Young children need help in identifying the issues while teenagers should be capable of figuring it out on their own. For example, if you want to help a younger child keep a playroom tidy, you might state, “You seem to be having some trouble finding [special toy]. Would you like some help organizing so you can find it when you need it?” With teenagers you might say, “The family sits down to supper at 6pm. You’ll need to create a plan so that your art supplies are cleared off the dining table by then.”

Give ownership and options

By giving the child ownership of the problem and letting them know you will be available to help, builds confidence. As a parent/caregiver, asking these questions will prompt useful answers for creating organizing solutions.

  • What is working? If something is working well, try not to change it. If the children are happy with all of the Lego pieces in one large bin, don’t suggest they separate it into various colours and types. With younger children you will likely have to ask them specific questions about specific things such as, “Do your dolls like living on this shelf?”
  • What is not working? By clearly identifying what is not working, you can take steps to fix it. For example, the kids need a large, flat space to do art and crafts and the heirloom dining table is off limits to paint, glue, and ink.
  • What are the most and least important tasks done in the space? What are the most and least used items in the space? These questions encourage kids to establish priorities. Once those are defined, decisions can be made about how better to use the space.
  • How do people and things move through the area? Do people need a clear path to walk across the room? Is there enough space to build the Lego Millennium Falcon?

R.S.V.P. solutions

In the Kids are worth it! book, Coloroso uses the acronym R.S.V.P. to determine if discipline techniques are appropriate. This acronym can also be used for organizing solutions.

R — Is it Reasonable? The organizing solution needs to make sense. Helping younger children choose their outfits for the next day is reasonable. Having a teenager do his/her own laundry and prepare their own school clothes the night before is also reasonable.

S — Is it Simple? The organizing solution should be easy to implement. Purchasing hanging shelves or toy bins is relatively simple as is tidying up for ten minutes at the end of the day. Renovating the house or hiring a cleaning service is not so simple.

V — Is it Valuable? It is important that the solution work as intended. It might take a little while for a student to get the hang of using a planner (either paper or electronic) but the end result will be worth the effort — having homework assignments submitted on time.

P — Is it Practical? If a child is always late for school because they are disorganized in the morning, a practical solution would be to prepare as much as possible the night before. Skipping school or having a parent drive the child to school every morning is not practical.

Children who create and implement their own R.S.V.P. organizing solutions, develops self-discipline and confidence. As they grow, they learn to recognize the value of uncluttering and organizing, setting them up to be productive adults.