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.

Dealing with teenager’s clutter

As a father of a toddler, I can easily clean up the toys that she plays with and eventually leaves strewn about the room. I am not looking forward to her teenage years, however, if she turns out to be as messy during that stage as I was. I’m not exactly sure how I will deal with it, but maybe some of our readers can give me some pointers?

The reason I bring up teenagers and clutter is an old article I stumbled upon from Kevin Duggan of The Coloradoan. An excerpt:

Clutter is as natural to teens as acne and mood swings; it’s as aggravating to parents as gray hair and hearing loss. There lies the conflict.

My home is not immune to this problem. A tour at any time through my daughters’ bedrooms (and nearby rooms, for that matter) will reveal all manner of clothes worn or tried on in recent days strewn about the floor like so many pine needles in the forest.

There’s no telling which clothes are dirty and which were recently washed but never put away. Included in the ground cover are food wrappers, CDs, papers, books and every shoe they own. Prized possessions are mixed in with trash.

So do we have any readers who deal with teenagers and their inevitable clutter? Would any parents be willing to brag about strategies for helping to raise a clutter-free teen? Trust me, I’m all ears!

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2007.

Keeping holiday decorations uncluttered

Decorating for the holidays? If so, you may want to look over some of the tips below to guard against over cluttered decorations. Adding seasonal decorations to your home can increase your home’s clutter if you don’t take steps to remove items in preparation of the decorations.

Explore the tips and feel free to add your own in the comments section:

  • Replace everyday items: When decorating your home make sure you remove everyday items that are being replaced by holiday decorations. It is a good idea to place your everyday items in the boxes that usually hold your decorations. That way you know right where they are and you can easily put them back when removing you decorations after the holidays.
  • Don’t put all the presents under the tree: If you have family or friends that don’t come to visit, you should probably keep their presents in a bag in storage. So when you go to visit them you can simply grab the bag and head out the door to play Santa.
  • Donate or discard unused or broken decorations: Reader John sent us this suggestion last year. If a decoration isn’t being used, then it shouldn’t be stored for another year.
  • Beware of over decorating: Decorating for the holidays can go a bit far. If you go too crazy, then the decorations will lose their appeal and clutter up your space. Sensory overload is not a good thing when it comes to decorating.

 

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

Too many flower vases

As I was looking for something in my kitchen, I came across a cupboard that was filled with multiple flower vases. Over the years, my wife and I have received a fair amount of mail ordered flowers and with every order there is always a glass vase included. Apparently, these vases all found their way into the same cupboard and now I’m trying to figure out what to do with them.

My first thought was to take them down to my local charity shop. However, I always remembered seeing an abundance of vases at thrift stores so I decided against that. I called a local florist to see if they would be interested in reusing some flower vases for their deliveries. They were not very receptive to the idea. Maybe they thought I would return them with some sort of flower killing disease.

I tried to figure out what I could use them for around the house other than storing loose change. I could use them for their purpose and display beautiful flowers each and every day, but buying flowers every week, especially in the colder seasons isn’t going to happen. I’d have to purchase quite a few bouquets just to put all the vases to use.

Dear readers, what can I do with all of these vases? Please leave some suggestions in the comments. I’m sure other readers have the same issue of flower vases taking up way too much storage space. Let’s get a collection of ideas brewing in the comments section.

 

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

Unclutter your refrigerator before Thanksgiving

If you host Thanksgiving at your home, then now is the time to start making room for all of the dishes that need to be stored in your refrigerator. Use up the items that are currently taking up space. My wife calls the process of clearing out the ingredients available in the refrigerator as “creative cooking.” It consists of not shopping for groceries for a week while concocting dishes from the ingredients that remain in the refrigerator and cupboards. Creative cooking also takes place at our house prior to long vacations.

While you clear out the space in your refrigerator it is freeing up valuable real estate for the turkey along with the side dishes that will reside in there while they wait to be prepared. This also allows for room in your refrigerator for the all important leftovers.

With just a little more than a week to go, clear out your fridge and give it a good cleaning. Let us know about some of your favorite “creative cooking” recipes in the comments. One of my favorites is a good old fashion stew using up meat and savory vegetables.

 

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

Interesting way to hide powercords

Power cords are a necessary evil that ruin the aesthetic of almost any room in your home. Finding ways to hide them and get them into a manageable arrangement is always a struggle. One option is to use the “J” shaped cable organizer but they are only available in white or black which doesn’t always go with the décor. Nail-in cable clips are easy to install and can neatly hold cables against the wall but again, who wants to see that bright orange extension cord?

This rather unique and interesting way to hide your wire clutter I found over at the Boiler design site:

The Picket Fence adapts to older homes and cleanly manages the electrical necessities of the occupants. The baseboards have a certain thickness to them, typically much thicker than an electrical cord. By sticking these pickets onto the baseboard, a space is created between the wall and the picket points. This space serves as a track for routing all of the wires cleanly around the room. They can go wherever they like and double back as much as they need to, all concealed behind a picket fence. Because of the gaps between the individual pickets, a plug can jump out wherever it is needed.

Obviously this design isn’t for everyone, but I think it is creative and lends itself to different interpretations.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2007.

Perfect time to organize your garage

Autumn is my favorite time of year. The temperature is just right for me, the leaves are beautiful, and Halloween and Thanksgiving are always fun. Fall also reminds me of the time of year when my mother would predictably ask her three sons to clean the garage. Cleaning out the garage consisted of moving everything in the garage into the driveway and then sweeping and hosing off the garage floor. After we let the floor dry we moved everything back into the garage. It was always a dreaded task that wasted perfect backyard football weather.

The silly thing about the chore was that we hardly ever threw anything away or donated stuff to charity. I can still remember wheeling the wagon filled with old baseball equipment out to the yard and then right back into the garage again. Figuring out what needs to be trashed or donated is the first step to organizing your garage. With the car taking up so much real estate, you need to be organized with the space you do have at your disposal.

Using the walls for storage is key. You could easily go for the quick and cheap project with some strategically placed heavy duty hooks or you could go the storage system route. It probably depends on how much stuff you have or how much you actually use your garage.

A guest post by Lauren Halagarda has some excellent tips that should help you out immensely. The garage is one of the most common areas for clutter to accumulate and it needs to be kept under control before the car no longer fits into its spot.

 

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