Real Simple’s six causes for clutter

Real Simple magazine has a helpful list of clutter causes. These causes have been covered here at Unclutterer, but this specific list is succinct at pointing out the causes and supplying solutions. From the article:

The obstacle: ‘If I get rid of this wedding vase, I’ll feel guilty’

The solution: People feel a responsibility to be good stewards of things, says Randy Frost, a professor of psychology at Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts, and a coauthor of “Buried in Treasures” (Oxford University Press). Especially items they’ve been given by or inherited from a loved one. Getting rid of a present feels like disrespecting the giver. But remember the true meaning of gifts.

“When you receive a present,” says Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, an interior designer in New York City and the founder of ApartmentTherapy.com, “your duty is to receive it and thank the giver — not to keep the gift forever.”

Guilt is a powerful force to make us hold on to gifts from others. Sentimental clutter is equally powerful. The “I might need it someday” cause is also covered in the list along with procrastination, belief in future value, and bill paying.

What excuse do you use the most to justify your holding on to clutter?

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2009.

Are cookbooks a thing of the past?

cookbooksIt’s another Throwback Thursday! This post was originally published in 2008. Back then we believed that cookbooks were becoming a thing of the past but there are still many, many for sale. Most are available in a Kindle version which will reduce the clutter in the kitchen.

Read through the post below and let us know in the comments if you have stopped using and buying cookbooks.

My wife enjoys cooking and baking. She has a shelf dedicated to her cookbooks, but she hardly ever uses them. More often than not she accesses recipes via the internet. The amount of information that is at your fingertips is astounding and the ease of accessing that information gets easier and easier.

One cookbook that my wife swears by is the Joy of Cooking. It is an encyclopedic volume of just about anything you can think of cooking or baking. She swears by its usefulness and relies on it quite a bit. Other than that, her cookbooks are seldom used. So are cookbooks obsolete? Why clutter up a whole shelf in your kitchen for a bunch of books that you never use? Here are the recipe sites my wife frequents instead of using a cookbook:

One site that I just happened upon is Supercook.com. The site lets you enter the ingredients you have in your kitchen and then gives you ideas on what you may be able to prepare. Maybe it’s time to let some of your cookbooks go?

Get organized on a shoestring

Shelving systems, storage boxes, and drawer organizers are convenient, but they also cost money. When you take on an organizing project, sometimes what is convenient isn’t always in the budget. Here are some tips to help cut costs and become a little more organized:

Boxes: Whether they are cereal boxes, shoe boxes, moving boxes, or mystery boxes from long, long ago, you can make use of them in storing just about anything. You can spruce them up with contact paper or wrapping paper to make them more aesthetically pleasing. Make sure you label them accordingly so you know what is inside. You can also use cut larger boxes to a smaller size or use smaller boxes for drawer dividers. By making use of jewelry boxes, shoe boxes, or any other small box you can keep your drawers organized on the cheap.

Shelving: We made use of some old doors for shelving purposes in our basement. They are large, sturdy, and serve the purpose of makeshift shelving. Light-duty shelving units are relatively inexpensive, but taking a look around your home to see what you could repurpose before you head out to shop. In my opinion, basement or garage shelving should be utilitarian. Scrap wood and cinder blocks made sense in college for an entertainment system, surely it can make due as a place for your paint cans and bins of holiday decorations.

Thrift stores: They are a treasure trove of storage possibilities. An old chest of drawers can be used for tools and painting supplies. You can often find discounted desk sets, file storage solutions, and more.

Unclutter first, store later: Take stock of everything you want to organize. You may be surprised at the amount of stuff you don’t actually need. This may cut down on the storage solutions that you may need.

I know our insightful readers have some great ideas to add to this post. Let’s see them in the comments section.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2009.

Did you forget about Valentine’s Day?

vday-bearMy wife and I never observe the whole Valentine’s Day thing. Partly because we have an important anniversary date around mid-February and partly because we don’t really find the whole holiday very romantic. That’s just us. To each his own. If you’d like to shower your loved one with romance and terms of endearment go right ahead, but don’t let February 14th give you the excuse to go out and buy anything red just to make it look like you made an effort.

If you don’t put any thought into what you are giving your significant other, then that probably leaves you scrambling to find something at the last minute. That may lead you to purchasing something like the teddy bear pictured with this post. Convenience stores and gas stations love to display this stuff prominently this time of year. If you would like some ideas on what gift to give, check out our Gift Giving Guides. Although most of the posts were intended for the Christmas season, they can still be used for any gift giving occasion.

 

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

Valentine’s day gift ideas

vdayValentine’s day is just around the corner and some of us are probably scrambling to find that perfect gift for their loved one. Don’t let your desperation lead you to your local retailer in search of a gift just for the sake of paying attention to the calendar. We highly recommend consumables as gifts. For example, food, tickets to a performance, or an experience gift.

If you need some ideas, here area few that should make the day a little more memorable:

Dinner for two (prepared by you): If you don’t usually cook, do yourself a favor and figure out how to make one dish very well. You can surprise your significant other with an unexpected meal — freshly made and ready to eat.

Movie night: Find and rent the first movie that you watched together, no matter how bad it was. It will bring back some memories and if it was a really bad film it will probably make you laugh.

Be creative: If you are the creative type, create a collage of photos and mementos or write a poem. If you don’t consider yourself creative, give it a try — you may be surprised at your hidden talent.

Organize: Surprise your loved one by organizing a particular problem area of your home. Try to choose an area that really gets under their skin.

Tickets: Print out a set of redeemable tickets for back rubs, foot rubs, or chores that your partner usually takes upon themselves. Whatever you can think of can be printed onto these redeemable tickets.

These are just a handful of ideas, feel free to add your own in the comments section.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2009.

Casualties of the format wars

Throwback Thursday

While looking through pasts post, I came across this one from 11 years ago and I had to smile. Format wars were going on long before HD DVD vs. Blu-Ray. As a member of the Generation X cohort, I remember when we were told 8-track tapes for music, and laser discs for movies were the way of the future. Even 11 years ago, it was hard to imagine that music and movies are now distributed via streaming services like Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Unlimited Music. It will be interesting to see what the future holds. In the meantime enjoy a bit of the past.

 

It is always a risky decision to make when competing formats are at each other’s throats for market dominance, but what if your early adoption choice is on the wrong end of the format wars? If you don’t know what I’m referring to here, you probably haven’t made a choice between Blu-Ray or HD DVD. Recent developments have basically put the nail in HD DVD’s coffin.

What should one do with the HD DVD player and discs that are basically going to become relics of the latest format wars of home entertainment? Well, you could try and return all of your HD DVD merchandise if you have the receipts and are within the return date cut off. But, what if that ship has sailed? Are you supposed to hold on to this dying format only to pull it out in 20 years to impress your technophile friends with this short-lived format?

Should you resort to listing it on eBay or Craigslist? It seems that a lot of people already have that idea. Could you use the discs as coasters for your drinks? Not really a great idea either. Unfortunately, I think you just admit that it’s time to move on and buy a replacement Blu-Ray player. If you choose to dispose of your old player, be sure to read our post on disposing electronics first.

I’m going to hold off buying a new DVD player for a while and rely on digital distribution for my HD movie viewing pleasure. Services like Amazon’s Prime Video and my cable provider’s On Demand make this relatively simple. It is definitely the most uncluttered of all the options, and I’m in no hurry.

For those of you who have all the hardware needed to convert HD DVDs to Blu-Ray, Wired has a tutorial on how to do just that.

Positives from downsizing our home

homeI recently had a friend drop by my house. Prior to his visit, my wife, daughter, and I executed our pre-visitor clean sweep. While we were walking through the house helping my daughter locate all of her toys, I realized for the first time how much simpler our smaller home is to maintain in comparison to our last house.

I mentioned my revelation to my wife after we completed our quick clean up and she mentioned how much she used to hate cleaning our prior home. (Our previous home was roughly one third larger than our current one.)

Since we downsized, we have discovered the following things:

Energy costs: We have saved about 50 percent on home energy costs per month since the move. (Our old home was not well insulated, so the size wasn’t the only culprit to the high energy costs.)

Mortgage: While smaller doesn’t always mean cheaper, in our case we cut our mortgage payment by 30 percent and we also save 75 percent on our homeowner’s insurance. Our prior home was older and larger, while our current home is smaller and recently updated.

Maintenance: As I mentioned above, the cleaning time for our home has been decreased significantly.

While the positives are great, I do have a couple things that I miss about our old home: more room for entertaining and a nice master bathroom. Those two luxuries are worth being sacrificed, however, for all of the other benefits found in our current home. We have less clutter, fewer possessions in general, genuinely like this place more, and we’re saving a lot of money.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2009.

The post-holiday tear down

christmas-treeI inevitably spot one every year — a house with Christmas decorations still displayed in mid-March. Granted, taking down decorations isn’t nearly as much fun as putting them up, but delaying the inevitable doesn’t make the process more entertaining later in the year.

Outdoor decorations can be a little more tricky to take down because of foul weather conditions in cold climates, but there really isn’t any excuse for keeping indoor decorations up through the spring. Here are some tips for making the tearing down of holiday decorations go more smoothly:

Lights: Gather up all of the lights in a systematic fashion. If you have misplaced the original packaging, wrap the cords around a flat square of cardboard or an extension cord wrap to keep them tangle-free.

Inspect and repair: As you put away your items, inspect each piece to make sure that it is in its best working order and doesn’t pose any safety threats.

Keep all your holiday decorations together: Label all your storage boxes and keep them together in your storage space. It can be a good habit to limit yourself to a set number of boxes (in our house it is three). If you can’t fit all of your decorations into a limited space, it’s time to purge some of your items.

Donate: If you need to lighten your decoration load, take the lightly used ones to a consignment shop or charity. Nursing homes also can use some festive decorations. Regardless of the charity, be sure to call before you make your donation and make sure the group is interested and able to handle your gift.

What tips would you add to the list? Join in the conversation in the comments.

 

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

After Christmas shopping

My wife is rather thrifty. I figured this out long ago, but one of the things she is accustomed to doing is heading out to local retailers the days after Christmas to purchase deeply discounted holiday storage products.

In the past, she has scored a couple of ornament boxes, a wrapping paper storage case, and she always comes back with a few new ornaments and decorations to replace ones that didn’t survive the season.

If you’re heading out to shop and take advantage of the sales here are some tips:

  • Plan out a list before going to keep you from impulsively buying items you don’t need.
  • Try to stay true to the one-in, one-out policy. If you do find a great deal, make sure to get rid of its replacement item.
  • Before you take to the stores (if you go at all), check out our list of tough questions to ask of new acquisitions.

 

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

Apartment Therapy’s small space round-up

at-small-spacesApartment Therapy is one of the sites that we enjoy reading here at Unclutterer. Their small space solutions are a helpful resource for those of us who live in tiny apartments and more “compact” homes.

Their budget-friendly tips are great for those just starting out on their own or living in more expensive cities. Read through The Big List to get great ideas on how to maximize space in homes of any size.

There are tons of solutions, photos, resources, and storage ideas. Get inspired by taking a look at some of the ideas and products that they highlight in their year-end review.

(photo courtesy of Apartment Therapy)

 

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

Displaying holiday greeting cards

My wife found an easy and creative way to display holiday cards using ribbon and a hole punch. In our current home, we don’t have mantle space for the cards we receive, so, rather than cluttering up a table or other flat surface, my wife decided to implement an idea she found in a magazine. (The picture to the right is the result.)

Apartment Therapy posted a question from one of their readers about displaying holiday cards. They feature a couple of options from Pottery Barn (no longer available) that cost $50! My wife’s solution cost under $6.

There are a few Christmas specific holiday card holders available at a relatively reasonable cost of about $20. If you have the space to store them, it could be an option. For those that are looking for something they can use all year-round, then consider a display that holds photographs most of the year and holiday cards during holiday seasons.

The option my wife implemented displays the cards while keeping them out of the way. It is also cheap and, most importantly, simple.

How do you display holiday cards in your home? Feel free to add your ideas in the comments.

 

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

Pet hair gets everywhere

Photo by Mircea Iancu from Pexels

My home has been cat free for eight months now. It wasn’t by choice. Our two cats passed away within a year of each other and we are waiting until our daughter is a bit older to get a new kitten. I definitely miss having a cat, but one thing I don’t miss is cleaning up cat hair all the time. It is a never-ending task!

We are currently awaiting the possibility of cat-sitting for my in-laws when they travel to Florida for the winter. My daughter will absolutely be thrilled with this, and I must admit that I’m excited to have a cat in the house again. After my initial excitement, the next thing I thought of was the return of cat hair. It is definitely a negative aspect of owning a pet. Dogs aren’t much better in this regard, so I’ll include them in this post. My mom spent many hours vacuuming up black hair from her carpets from the Labrador they had years ago.

Here are some tips I came across recently when looking for solutions:

Grooming: Brushing your pet regularly will decrease the amount of hair that ends up on the floor and furniture. You may also look into a corner comb.

Furniture and Floors: Vacuuming regularly is a must. It doesn’t matter if you groom regularly, the hair will find its way to the floor and furniture. You may want to instill a no furniture rule for your pet to curb furniture fur.

Clothing: The lint roller is a necessary evil if you plan to exit the house hair free. Also, don’t leave clothes out  on the floor. Most cats love to lie on clothing left on the floor.

Erin’s post on Taming pet fur tumbleweeds. The Furminator de-shedding tool will definitely be something we purchase.

How about you? What do you do to keep pet hair from taking over your home?

 

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