June resolution wrap up and introduction to July’s goals

My resolution for June was to get our garage in gear. This ended up being an extremely relevant task seeing as our old car died and we got a new one. We had two hail storms in June, and it was wonderful to be able to pull the new car into the garage to keep it safe.

I started by clearing the clutter out of the garage the first weekend of the month. Rather, I started by clearing our clutter out of the garage. I had forgotten that our landlord had some of his stuff in the garage when we moved in (a couple dining chairs, etc.), so I wasn’t able to clear out his things. Mostly, though, only our garage-appropriate stuff remains in the garage (lawn mower, rake, trash cans, tools, bikes).

The second task was to organize what remained in the space and I sort of did this. See what I mean by “sort of”:

We have shelves now in place and space to organize, but I haven’t yet completed the project. Most of our tools and garage items still remain in their moving boxes. Since my mantra was garages are for cars, not clutter, I didn’t push myself too hard to get all of the organizing work finished. I can get the car in the garage and find things, so I’ll just keep unpacking boxes and putting items away over the next few weekends. I met my parking goal, so the rest is simply icing on the proverbial cake. As far as I’m concerned, the resolution was met, even if not perfectly.

My goal for July is to review and reset a number of our family’s routines and to do the same with some personal and professional goals. Now that my son is in preschool, we have a different structure to our day and different demands on our time. Not only does our family need to figure out how we want to structure our schedule, but I need to figure out which of my goals are best for me to achieve right now.

This may seem like a light resolution, and it is in terms of physical labor. However, it’s something that has to get done to retain our family’s sanity and for me to feel like I have better direction personally and professionally.

I haven’t yet figured out how I’m going to tackle this goal, but as I do I will give a few updates over the course of the month to help anyone who may be doing something similar. Creating new routines can be challenging if the first attempt isn’t one that can last over many months. And, identifying what I want to accomplish personally and professionally is going to take some introspection, and I need to set aside the time to do this properly.

What are your resolutions and/or goals for July? How did you do with any resolutions or goals you made for June? If you have annual resolutions instead of monthly resolutions, how are these advancing? The first of July was the half-way point in the year — are you on track to accomplish what you are hoping to by the year’s end? Share your experiences in the comments.

Erin’s 2011 monthly resolutions: January, February, March, April, May, and June.

May resolution wrap up and an introduction to June’s resolution

It’s difficult for me to believe that today is the last day of May. While I’m certain my calendar isn’t lying to me, I’m still confused as to how the time passed so quickly. Where did you go, May?

My resolution for May was to cut back on my media intake. I only watched two shows in real time and unsubscribed from three magazines. The battery on my cell phone stopped holding a consistent charge, so I was forced to cut back on my phone and application usage regardless of if it was my intention. Also, I was pretty consistent about using a timer to keep me from wasting time on the computer. Overall, I think it was a resolution that was kept well and will be easily continued throughout the remainder of the year.

My goal for June is to get our garage in gear. Our new house has a double car garage and it is incredibly tempting to abandon stuff in there. I tried diligently to not let it become a place where “I don’t want to deal with it right now” items were set during the move, but, alas, some of those things slipped through the doors.

My first goal is to get rid of all the clutter. Anything we don’t need will find its appropriate home on Craigslist, be taken to charity, be recycled, or be thrown away. All the clutter will be gone by Friday, June 10.

My second goal is to organize the remaining items so I can find things immediately when I need them. The items also must be organized so two cars can fit in the garage, even though we only have one car. We have friends and family who come to visit and their cars should be able to join ours. This goal should be met by the end of the month of June.

My mantra: Garages are for cars, not clutter.

If you have a garage, can you fit your car inside of it? Would getting your garage in gear be a good resolution for you for the month of June? I know I’m eager to get rid of the clutter and have a garage that really fits my family’s needs.

Erin’s 2011 monthly resolutions: January, February, March, April, and May.

Getting your garage and sporting equipment ready for summer

Although the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has me wanting to spend time indoors, the sunny skies and 70 degree temperatures are tempting me to head outside. As a compromise, I’ve been doing work in our new garage where I can hear the team analysis on one of the 200 ESPN stations and still feel like I’m outside with the garage door open.

If you’re considering doing work in your garage this weekend or in the coming weeks, be sure to check out Unclutterer posts we’ve already written on organizing your garage and related topics:



Sporting Equipment

Easily identify metric and SAE tools with red electrical tape

Red Electrical TapeI was in a friend’s garage recently helping him with a home-improvement project when I noticed that many of the wrenches and sockets in his tool cabinet were wrapped in red electrical tape. On closer inspection, I noticed that the colored tape was only wrapped around his metric-sized tools.

By having an easy way to differentiate his metric tools from their SAE counterparts, he found he was more likely to put both types back in their correct places when he was done using them.

Do you have any tricks for labeling things to keep them grouped with similar items? Please share them in the comments.

Three places clutter might be hiding in your life

After having to scrape frost off the car windows yesterday morning, I’m finally willing to accept that fall has arrived. As I have been pulling out all the cold-weather supplies (coats, hats, boots, shovels, grill covers, etc.), I’ve stumbled upon some unexpected clutter in these storage spaces. If you haven’t already pulled out these supplies in your own home (or done the same with warmer-weather supplies if you live in the southern hemisphere), be sure to check out these locations for hidden clutter:

  • Linen storage. I found a couple blankets and flannel sheets that I stored over the winter that should have been donated to our local animal shelter back in April. The elastic is shot in one set of sheets and two of the blankets have worn thin in places. Inspect your cooler weather linens to see if they’re ready for six months of use. (And give your warmer weather items a serious inspection before putting them into storage.)
  • Exterior storage boxes/sheds. If you store items outdoors during the winter, but in protective storage, be sure to give these areas a good review before putting tools away for the season. Small rodents and other critters may have been using these locations for living quarters during the summer months.
  • Car trunk. While loading a blanket and some freeze-dried snacks into the trunk of our car, I noticed a number of summer items hadn’t made it out of the trunk yet. Pull everything out of the trunk of your car and evaluate if it should live the winter in this space. If you don’t have a car, inspect the basket on your bike or thoroughly go through your backpack.

Have you found hidden clutter in your home while getting things ready for winter? If so, tell us where so we can all give these spaces a good review before the cool temperatures have us nesting indoors.

Eye candy: Wood organizing products

Knife and Saw is selling a beautiful bike shelf that is perfect for city dwellers in small spaces:

It’s not inexpensive ($270 for Ash or $300 for Walnut), but it is beautiful. And, the top of the bike rack can be used to hold stuff, which makes it a nice multi-tasker:

Speaking of beautiful wood things, have you seen Combine Collective’s Black Walnut Keyboard Trays?

Ranging from $69 to $79, they hold up to three Mac wireless devices in sustainable wood to use on your lap or desk.

It’s nice to see organizing products that are visually stunning and incredibly functional. So many organizing products are designed with utility as the only focus, completely ignoring aesthetics. I’m always on the lookout for items that manage to have high-quality function and form, and both of these certainly meet those standards.

(Bike shelf via Cool Hunting.)

Finish up the last of your summer to-do items

For those in the northern hemisphere, just 28 days of summer linger on the calendar. Before the cool days of fall and winter set in, now is the time to finish up warm-weather uncluttering projects that remain on your to-do list.

  • Your garage. If you haven’t already cleared the clutter from your garage this season, now is a great time to take advantage of the access you have to your driveway. Pull everything out of your garage and sort it into piles: Keep, Purge, Other. Clean your garage (starting at the top of the room and working your way down), make any necessary repairs and/or add organizing systems, and then return only the “Keep” pile items to the space. Donate, recycle, and/or trash the items from the “Purge” pile, and return the items in the “Other” pile to their owners or the places they belong in your home.
  • Your car. Similar to the process used on your garage, do the same with your car. Don’t forget small areas like the glovebox and the console.
  • Trash cans and litter boxes. Now is the perfect time to haul your trash cans and litter boxes to your local self-service car wash and give all of them a deep cleaning. Set them in the bright sun for a few minutes to dry before hauling them back to your place, stink free.
  • Your chimney. Before the rush of callers pour in to your local chimney sweep, give him a call and schedule an appointment now. This way, you won’t have to wait to start up your fireplace on the first cool night of the season.

Whatever tasks remain on your summer to-do list, schedule and take on those tasks now before the weather keeps you from doing them.

Bringing clutter into the light

Is there clutter hiding in your basement, attic, or garage? Is it at the back of a closet, under the kitchen sink, or in your medicine chest? What is the situation under your bed, in the linen closet, and in the drawers of your entertainment center? How are things in your filing cabinet or your car’s glovebox? Are you harboring clutter in an off-site storage facility?

When you can close a door or drawer to hide whatever lurks inside, it’s easy to use that space as a place to put clutter and forget about it. Even though this area might not be distracting you from living the life you want to lead right now, it does create stress and anxiety each time you access the area and whenever your thoughts drift to these spaces. Plus, you are spending money to maintain these objects and areas, and you’re keeping something you might value more — something that actually matters to you — from being stored in its place.

Unlike clutter that “hides” in plain sight, clutter that is tucked away can lead to bug and/or rodent infestations, increase the levels of dust and dander in your home, and keep you from discovering leaks, cracks, or other major structural issues. Not being able to see into your home’s closed spaces can really cost you over the longterm — financially and emotionally.

To bring this hidden clutter into the light of day, find a clear, flat surface you can use as a place to set all of your stored things. A dining room table works well for small spaces, and your driveway can work for large areas. Pull out all of your items and group them by type (make piles of like things). Once you can see all of the items, go through each group to determine if anything can be thrown away, recycled, or donated to charity. Once you’ve determined what should stay and what should go, only return items into storage that should be in storage.

Try not to store anything in cardboard because it is a tasty treat for bugs and rodents and it won’t protect your things if water leaks into the space. Also, label any containers you can’t easily see inside so you won’t waste time when you go looking for something — holiday decorations, camping and hiking gear, 2008 contracts.

Also, while your stuff is out of storage and on display, don’t forget to give your storage spaces a good review and cleaning. Repair any damages and clean out the cobwebs so you return your items to the best space possible. Install battery-operated lights, too, so that you can easily check on your stored objects in the future.

I’m of the opinion that the less stuff you have in storage, the better. Good luck to you as you shed light on your home’s hidden clutter.

Assorted items for July 14, 2010

Some interesting things to share:

  • I’m recording an interview about uncluttering for Renew You that should be available this Friday through next Tuesday. Renew You 2010 was a conference that occurred earlier this summer, and every few weeks the organizer of the conference sends out links to new interviews to conference attendees and people who register for the mailing list. The interviews are targeted toward women, but the information I’ll be giving is applicable for anyone. The e-mail list is free, but there are pay-to-listen areas of the site that have some cost associated with them. You shouldn’t have to pay anything to hear my piece on uncluttering. The interview should be about an hour long, so sign up if you’re interested in hearing my talk.
  • TV business kisses HDMI goodbye” on the THINQ site leaves me with mixed feelings. I’m glad multiple manufacturers are coming together and establishing a standard cable, but it means we will all have to buy new cables. Not sure it’s simplifying anything.
  • Author Harlan Ellison decided to purge and auction off the majority of his book collection, including a signed birthday present from Neil Gaiman. The following link includes a profane word or two, but is still an interesting read about uncluttering your bookshelves: “The Great Ellison Book Purge” on the AV Club.
  • Have many errands to run at once? Lorie Marrero recommends the “optimal route planner” Route4me to determine the shortest route to take.
  • The website FreelanceSwitch offers terrific project management advice in its post “The Swiss Cheese Method of Project Scheduling.” The article is geared toward freelance programmers, but is applicable to anyone budgeting her time.

NeighborGoods helps you find specific items to rent or borrow

Borrow or rent equipment, tools, and reusable goods from your neighbors through the new NeighborGoods site. Instead of buying a specialized item, first check to see if you can save your money (and storage space) and get it on loan from a neighbor.

Since the NeighborGoods site is new, there might not be many items yet available in your community. If you’re interested in building up your community, don’t be shy about spreading the word to your friends and neighbors. The more people using the system increases the likelihood that you’ll find what you need.

Ask Unclutterer: Processing car clutter

Reader Ruth submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

As a mini-van driving mom (and unabashed unclutterer), I am stymied by trash that seems to accumulate in the car on a daily basis. Dirty kleenex, gum wrappers, parking stubs, crumpled notebook paper, empty water bottles – all mysterious appear in the back of the car when I am not looking. I spend about 10 minutes a day cleaning it all out into a recycled grocery bag but can’t help wonder if there are other ideas on how to hold/manage trash in a vehicle. Of course, I would prefer something that was aesthetically pleasing (ie. NOT a Hefty bag tied to the back of the driver’s seat).

I would really like a scientific study commissioned to look into the trash and stray paper breeding ground of the automobile. I truly believe it is one of the most fertile regions on the planet. Our car grows straw wrappers, toll receipts, and used handy wipes faster than a flash of lightning — the humidity and sun exposure must be ideal trash and paper growing conditions.

To try to reduce the over-population of these items, we use a reusable trash bag tied to the back of our passenger’s seat. It’s not beautiful, but it’s better than the lawn and leaf black plastic bag you mentioned in your question.

Granted, getting others to use the bag might be the most difficult task of all. It took my husband and me a few months to even remember we had installed it, but once we remembered we’ve been using it with regularity.

You’re doing a great job by taking a few minutes each day to clean the stray clutter out of the car. I recommend to everyone a simple uncluttering session each time you get out of the car at your home. If you have kids, put incentives in place for actually using the reusable trash bags or make a game out of using it. You also might find that a bag on the back of multiple seats increases the likelihood that the receptacles will be used.

Good luck to you on keeping the clutter out of your car. For additional car uncluttering information, check out “Cleaning out your cluttered car” and “Clutter creeps into the car.”

Thank you, Ruth, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, 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 of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.

Ask Unclutterer: Regular car maintenance

Reader Roberta submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

Do you have any tips to keep track of upkeep for your vehicle, such as when to have tires rotated, etc.?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a cross-the-board answer to this question. All cars need regular oil and filter changes; brake, hose, spark plug, and belt inspections; coolant system flushes; tire rotations; and some need distributor cap, rotor, power steering, manual line, and gas line checks. However, when your car needs these things done is based on the car’s manufacturer, model, production year, and type of engine under the hood. For example, my old Dodge Colt could go 7,500 miles between oil changes, but my VW’s engine needs it every 5,000 (or earlier).

The specific information for when to have your car serviced can be found in your car’s owners manual. If you don’t currently have your car’s manual, you can likely find it in its entirety online or at least order a new one. The website Edmunds.com has a comprehensive list of “Where To Find Your Car Owner’s Manual Online.” (Porsche and Mitsubishi owners will need to contact your dealerships directly to obtain a new manual.)

My car’s manual feels like it is written for a 10-year-old with a first grade reading level, so it was really easy to create a spreadsheet of all of my car’s maintenance requirements. If your manual isn’t written as basic as mine, I suggest finding an online community of people who own the same make, model, year, and engine you do. Someone in the community has probably already created a similar spreadsheet and would eagerly share it with you. If you can’t find an owner’s online community, turn again to Edmunds.com and their recommended maintenance schedule to at least learn what basic work you need done at your car’s current mileage. (The recommendations for my car aren’t 100 percent in line with my manual, but they’re close enough that I think it’d be fine to follow it in a pinch.)

I taped the maintenance spreadsheet I made to a page in the front of a Moleskine notebook that I keep in my car’s glove box. In this notebook, I also record work I have done on the car, dates, mileage, and store my registration and insurance cards in the notebook’s front pocket. If I sell the car, I’ll take out my cards and just pass the notebook along to the new owner. Nothing fancy, but I’m not certain my little VW really needs fancy.

Thank you, Roberta, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, 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 of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.