Techniques for taming pet fur tumbleweeds

Reader Jim sent us the following question:

OK, so I like your 30 minutes per day cleaning model…however, with a dog (big chocolate lab) that is constantly shedding, what tools, cleaning devises, ideas, etc., might I use to keep up with the seemingly endless dog-hair dust bunnies? Vacuuming works, but takes time to drag out the vacuum, and the broom just seems to move the hair around.

In my house, we call these gifts from our two cats “tumbleweeds.” I like your use of the word “bunnies,” though, since they do feel as if they are forever multiplying. I completely empathize with your situation and hope that I can help.

Here are a handful of strategies for dealing with pet fur tumbleweeds:

  1. Once a day, armed with a couple slightly damp paper towels, walk through your house and capture the worst offenders. If they’re large enough that you would see them and be stressed or embarrassed if a house guest were to immediately notice them, just scoop them up with the paper towel. This isn’t deep cleaning, this is just peace of mind. At most, this process should take you five minutes and is a great chore for a younger child.
  2. Bathe your pets regularly. When you bathe a pet, a good chunk of loose hair and dander goes down the drain with the water. Now, granted, this task is a bit more difficult with a cat. You have to start bathing the cat when it’s a kitten or you’ll never be able to give it a bath as an adult. We’ve been bathing our cats twice a month since they were first adopted from the shelter and now they just climb into the water. Use a pet-friendly shampoo (not human shampoo) and ask your vet for tips and breed-specific bathing frequency recommendations if you’re new to the pet-washing adventure.
  3. Keep a pet brush handy. When your pet curls up at your feet and wants some snuggles, give him a brush at least once a day. You’ll capture the fur before it can become a tumbleweed.
  4. Install reliable air filters in your heating/air conditioning system and replace them seasonally.
  5. If your pet routinely uses a bed, drape its bed with a fleece blanket. If there is a favorite spot where he likes to curl up, lay a fleece blanket in that location. Fleece blankets act like giant magnets for pet hair because of their inherent static nature. Roll up the blanket and throw it in the washer once a week, and for extra pull, dry it without a dryer sheet.
  6. Although you hate to do it, you should run the vacuum at least once a week. Don’t forget to vacuum under the couch, along baseboards, every stair, and closet floors where pet fur tumbleweeds like to hide.
  7. Feed your pet high-quality food. The healthier your pet’s diet, the healthier your pet and his coat. Talk to your vet about the best diet for your pet. Sometimes, switching to a healthier pet food will greatly reduce the amount your pet sheds.

Good luck! And, if ever in doubt about a technique, just ask your vet. He or she will be able to tell you if something is safe for your pet.

Photograph accompanying this post taken by Matt Niemi.

 

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

Review: Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo

Over the last few days, I watched the entire season of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix. After years of watching home organizing shows (in three different countries in two different languages), Tidying Up ranks very high on my preference list. There are a few issues I have with the KonMari method though. Here is my perspective about the show.

Kondo respects the families and their home. At the beginning of each episode, she “greets the house” by kneeling on the floor for a few minutes. Personally, I find it a bit daft but this gives her clients time to focus on their vision of what they want their new organized life to be. This centres them and prepares them for the upcoming tasks.

During the show, the clients do everything themselves. There does not appear to be a team or crew of organizers to help. The families sort through their own stuff. They decide what to keep (things that “spark joy”) what and what goes (things that don’t “spark joy”). We see them taking their own stuff to donation centres too.

One of my favourite things about Tidying Up is that there is no “stuff shaming.” Kondo does not make the family members cry because they have too much stuff or they are not treating their stuff well-enough. She just keeps smiling and reminds them of their end goal. When the clients are unsure about keeping an item, Kondo does not judge. She tells them to keep it because they can always look at it later and change their mind. All of the professional organizers I know work this way with their clients.

Tidying Up also has realistic timelines. In one episode, the final reveal was on Day 42 — six weeks after Kondo’s first visit. This allows families to carefully evaluate their decisions about which items truly “spark joy.” This is much more representative of the work that professional organizers do.

I admit that I was pleasantly surprised when, in one episode, Kondo brought in an empty shoebox — a plain old shoebox — and told children to use it to organize their clothes. Because, she said, that when they were ready to buy a dresser, they would know how much space they needed. No shopping for containers and bins. No expensive furniture brought in by the show’s sponsors. Just respect for the clients, their needs, and their budget.

The big reveal at the end of each show is the closest to reality TV that I’ve seen. There were mismatched hangers in closets. Shoeboxes on shelves holding (nicely) folded clothes. No renovations, no painting, no staging — just families proud of the work they accomplished.

Where Kondo sparks joy: Clothes

tshirts folded Konmari methodKondo’s method for folding clothes is amazing. I’ve used her method with my own clothes. Everything looks beautiful. The clothes take up much less space. I think it is a bit corny to “communicate my affection” to my clothes by running my hands over each item. However, it removes all the wrinkles and helps me notice if there are stains or damage to the clothing.

Where Kondo sparks controversy: Books

Unclutterer’s Twitter timeline was abuzz with bibliophiles stressed out that Kondo was telling everyone to get rid of any books that did not “spark joy.” She may have said that. She also said, “Books are the reflection of our thoughts and values.” She wants people to ask, “Will having these books be beneficial to your life going forward?”

In other words, Kondo thinks people should keep books that they have enjoyed and still want to enjoy, and they should keep books that they have found useful and will likely still find useful in the future.

Where Kondo fizzles out: Paper

I find Kondo’s method of sorting paper too simplistic. She says there are three categories:

  • Pending — Documents to act on such as bills and correspondence.
  • Important — Documents to keep permanently such as contracts and insurance forms.
  • Miscellaneous — Documents that you refer to often such as recipes from a magazine.

In the short-term this is a quick way to separate what you need to deal with now, and what can be stored for later. In the long-term, this is a formula for cluttered, over-stuffed filing cabinets.

There are many important documents that you need to keep for an extended period of time but do not need to keep permanently. People need to develop a routine for dealing with their papers on a regular basis. See the Unclutterer series on Records and Information Management to get not only your paperwork, but your electronic documents sorted, uncluttered, and organized once and for all.

 

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo does not reveal any new or unique organizing techniques. However, it is an enjoyable show to watch. Kondo’s cheerful attitude and positive energy spreads to the families she helps.

We would love our readers to share their thoughts about the show. Chime in with a comment and let us know what you think.

Hiring a professional organizer


Since January is the National Association of Professional Organizer’s Get Organized and Be Productive Month, I’ve asked Geralin Thomas of Metropolitan Organizing in Cary, North Carolina, to share her insights with us on how to hire a professional organizer. For many of us, having someone coach us through the uncluttering process can be very beneficial.

If you decide to hire a professional organizer, start by looking for someone who is diplomatic, empathetic, willing to listen, non-judgmental, creative, patient, and trustworthy. Also, to ensure that the professional organizer follows ethical business practices, check your local Better Business Bureau reports and look for someone who is involved a professional organization like the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) in the US. For professional organizing associations in other parts of the world, check the International Federation of Professional Organizing Associations (IFPOA).

It is okay to interview different organizing and productivity professionals to get a feel for who matches best with your personality. Below is a menu of questions you might consider asking when hiring someone:

  1. What are your areas of expertise? (Some possible answers may include: garages, clients with ADHD, time management, wardrobes and closets, financial matters, computer-related challenges, speaking, coaching, writing, estate liquidation, downsizing for seniors, home staging, relocation, etc.)
  2. Are you certified? Insured? (Certification is optional and not required. NAPO has many well-qualified organizers that are not certified for a variety of reasons.)
  3. Do you attend conferences or teleclasses to stay abreast of current organizing trends and techniques?
  4. Do you have local references?
  5. Do you belong to any professional organizations? (I would not hire a professional organizer who is not involved in some type of professional group or organization. To me, a professional affiliation demonstrates not only a commitment to the field but an additional way to check out that person among other business-minded individuals.)
  6. How long have you been in business? How many clients / hours have you worked?
  7. What hours do you work? What days of the week are you available? (Make sure that this person’s availability is a good match for your availability.)
  8. Do you bring the necessary supplies, or do I purchase them separately?
  9. If you purchase supplies or materials at a discount, do you “up charge” or charge an hourly shopping fee?
  10. Do you make arrangements to take away donations, consignments, and trash? If so, do you charge a fee for this service?
  11. Do you work alone or do you have a team of employees or subcontractors, if necessary?
  12. Do you have advertising on your car? (Ask this only if you do not want co-workers or neighbors to know you are hiring a professional organizer.)
  13. Do you take photographs? Will they be on your website?
  14. What is your cancellation policy?
  15. How do you charge? Of course, I don’t need to tell you to inquire about fees but there are many options available, including hourly, by the project, or bulk rates. There may be a minimum number of hours required per booking, too, so ask about that.

Remember that professional organizers and productivity consultants are not housekeepers, therapists, decorators, or nurses unless they specifically tell you that their credentials include these jobs.

NAPO defines Professional Organizer and Productivity Consultant as follows:

Professional Organizer: supports evaluation, decision-making, and action around objects, space, and data; helping clients achieve desired outcomes regarding function, order, and clarity.

Productivity Consultant: supports evaluation, decision-making, and action around time, energy, and resources; helping clients achieve desired outcomes regarding goals, effectiveness, and priorities.

If you have ADHD or any other type of chronic organizing challenge, the Institute for Challenging Disorganization is the place to find a qualified organizer.

 

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

January is Get Organized and Be Productive Month

The National Association of Professional Organizers has once again declared January Get Organized and Be Productive Month!

We love the idea of starting off the year on the right foot, and we hope that you get in on the organizing spirit. NAPO has many events scheduled across the country as part of their Get Organized and Be Productive Month.

Also, Amazon is interested in helping you get organized in January with a number of good deals on storage solutions and organizing books.

Do you have plans to get organized in January? Let us know about your plans in the comments. You can help inspire all of us.

 

 

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

Reader suggestion: Cleaning ornaments

It is a great idea to clean and dry ornaments before putting them away for the season. In most cases, a damp cloth will be enough to remove any dust that has accumulated during the season. For ornaments that can’t be washed with water, reader Kerry wrote to us with this tip for cleaning ornaments.

When I take the ornaments off the tree, I hang them on my indoor clothes drying rack which is placed over a towel. Then, I use compressed air to clean the ornaments so they are ready for next year!

Great idea, Kerry!

If you have any ornament cleaning tips you would like to share, let us know in the comments below.

 

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.

Reader suggestion: Storing a George Foreman Grill

Reader Liz sent us the following solution for storing the removable plates and body of her George Foreman Grill:

I got the wonderful George Foreman grill with the changeable plates for Christmas a few years ago. I have since been struggling with how to store the 5 grill plates since they don’t stack conveniently and can get easily scratched. I live in an apartment, so storage space is hard to come by. After several disappointing online searches, I decided to create my own [storage solution]. I used a vertical, metal sorter (similar to this one) placed on top of a locker shelf (similar to this one) so I can store my Foreman grill underneath the plates. The file sorter that is holding the grill plates is coated in plastic so it won’t scratch the plates, which is vital!

In addition to being a great solution for a George Foreman Grill, it would be wonderful for waffle iron plates, lids for reusable storage containers, lids for pots and pans, and even baking pans and cookie sheets. Thank you for such a terrific suggestion, Liz!

 

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

What to do with pajamas during the day?

I have never known what to do with my pajamas in the morning. They usually end up being folded and set on top of my dresser. The dresser location is functional, but it’s cluttered. Years of living with clothes strewn on my dresser left me wishing I had a place where my pajamas could live that wasn’t on top of a flat surface.

After a recent trip to the hardware store, I came home armed with a “S” hook to solve my problem. The hook fits over my closet’s clothing rod and provides an instant place for my pajamas during the day. I also have enough space in my closet that my pajamas don’t touch any of my clean clothes. My pajamas are out of sight, off a flat surface, and behind the closed door of my closet.

If I had children, I think that I would install more permanent hooks that screwed into the closet wall at a height convenient for them. This way, they would be able to hang up their own pajamas even if they couldn’t reach their clothing rod in their closet.

I know that some people will likely comment that pajamas should be stored either under your pillow or in your pillow case. I just can’t do this. I think about how I sweat on my pajamas during the night and am not comfortable with then storing them next to where I put my face when I sleep. The reality may be that it is more hygienic than I am imagining, but I can’t do it. It gives me the willies. For me, the “S” hook works perfectly.

 

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

Learn to safely wrap cords, cables, and hoses

The magazine Fine Homebuilding has an informative and season-appropriate tutorial on its website “Wrapping cords and hoses: Learn how to avoid twists and kinks that can cause damage.”

This advice is perfect for garden and air hoses and extension cords that are ready to be stored for the cold months. There are three methods described in the article: a looped bundle, a loose chain, and a reverse coil.

If the pictures in the article don’t provide you with enough information, check out the instructional video that accompanies the article.

 

 

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

 

Reader Question: Organizing medications

Reader Deborah wrote to us to ask for some help with her situation:

We are overrun with pill bottles and medicines of all kinds — bottles, jars, tubes, etc. of prescriptions, headache pills, cold pills, skin creams, vitamins, and more. Years ago, I got a new cabinet to put next to my sink and it’s now overflowing too. You pull out the bottle you want and others fall out too. How do you corral these?

Dealing with dozens of little bottles that fall over all the time can be frustrating! Here at Unclutterer we’ve got some advice on how to corral these small containers.

Step one is to unclutter. It’s time to dispose of all of the medications and toiletries you no longer need or use. Gather everything up and spread it out on your counter or dining table to see what you have. Collect all of the prescriptions that are no longer used and any expired over-the-counter-medications and vitamins. Ideally, place them into a sealed bag or bucket out of the reach of children and pets until you can dispose of them properly. Check your toiletries such as face creams and cosmetics for expiry dates and dispose of any that are expired.

Now it is time to organize what is left — the items that you are currently using.

You have not specified exactly where you would like to store your medications (pharmacists say that the bathroom medicine cabinet is one of the worst places to store medications) so there are several alternatives listed here.

If several people in your home are using prescription medications, you may want to store each person’s bottles in small, different coloured baskets. It will be very easy to see whose medications are whose. Unless the vials are full of liquid, lay them down flat. They are less likely to tip over and you will still be able to see the labels.

Another option is to use a three-drawer desk organizer. Assign each person their own drawer and lay the vials flat inside. This unit does take up some counter space but it could be easily put on a closet shelf — out of the reach of children.

If you have liquid medications, you could use a turntable. One with high sides and interior dividers will prevent the bottles from falling over when it spins. The dividers would keep everyone’s medication separated and you could easily label each section. You would need counter space or a shelf at least 12-inches deep for this item.

Stackable, transparent storage bins with hinged lids would work for storing vials containing both liquids and solids. Again, each person could have their own bin or you could arrange the medications by category such as, “headache & pain relief” and “cough & cold.” This type of container is nice. Because the lids are hinged, they won’t get separated from the containers and lost or end up in a big pile at the bottom of the cupboard.

If you are limited in counter and shelf space, spice racks can be mounted to walls or the interior of cupboard doors. They are ideal for holding small bottles and vials. A spice rack with several shelves would work if you have multiple bottles of the same height. If some bottles are taller, opt for single spice shelves so you can mount them further apart to accommodate the various sized bottles.

If you travel frequently, consider storing your medications in a transportable, lockable, travel bag. It will keep everything in its place when you are at home and you can just zipper it closed and put it in your suitcase when you are ready to leave.

If you are having difficulty keeping tubes of medication, cosmetics, or even toothpaste from getting lost and tossed around in your cupboard, check out this idea to keep tubes of paint organized. You need not use nails on a piece of plywood in your bathroom, just attach a binder clip to the end of the tube and hang it from a small Command hook on the wall or inside a cupboard door.

Thanks for your great question Deborah. 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.”

When previous uncluttering can come back to haunt you

Once upon a time, my husband and I were filling out forms for a background check and the forms required that we list all of our previous addresses. My husband can count the number of his residences on his fingers and recite all of them from memory. It took him about two minutes to complete his portion of the forms.

It took me about an hour to remember all of my previous places of residence, and then another two hours to track down the information. To count my addresses I need to use my fingers, toes, and maybe an elbow, knee, and ear. For example, during the decade of the 1990s, I had 10 different residences. In the year 2000, I had three residences. It was my first year living in D.C. and I moved three times in a single year. In my defense, though, my first apartment that year had snakes in the ceiling. SNAKES!

I have purged all of my pay stubs and tax documents from before 1998, so the years from 1991 to 1998 were the most difficult for me to obtain. And, of course, these were the years I was in college when every fall meant a new dorm room or apartment. I also imagine that if I did have these documents, that my parents’ address would be listed on them as my “permanent” address, anyway. I searched my home for old address books (to no avail), emailed former roommates (one address was found this way), and called my mom (she produced another one). I even discovered an address on a ski lift receipt I had pasted to a page in a scrapbook.

I eventually found the remainder of my previous addresses in a box of old love letters I had forgotten I had saved. My husband was laughing as I transcribed information off the fronts of the envelopes.

“You should write about this on Unclutterer,” my husband said when his laughter had subsided enough that he could speak. “Advise your readers to hold onto their old love letters so that they’ll have a record of where they used to live.”

“I think it would be easier to recommend that they keep a list of their previous addresses,” I countered.

“Yes,” he agreed, “but these letters are hysterical! This one guy talks for an entire page about how your souls are connected by invisible forces, like bungee cords.”

“Old letters from you are in that box,” I reminded him. “I could write about them on Unclutterer.”

“The list idea you mentioned sounds like a good idea to me,” he said.

“I thought you would like it.”

When purging papers from your home or office, let me recommend that you keep a list in a file in your filing cabinet or on your computer of all your previous addresses and addresses of your former places of employment. Even if you don’t have a need for them now, things could change and you might one day need the information.

Now I’m off to either scan and purge or find a more preservation-friendly storage option for my old love letters … well, after my husband and I get a few more laughs from them. Let us know in the comments if you have ever been too eager with uncluttering and what lessons you can share with our readers!

 

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

Reader Question: How control pre-baby clutter?

Reader Zoe recently sent us the following question:

I’m expecting my first baby in December and I’m already worried about the impending cloud of clutter. My husband is unfortunately not devoted to uncluttering like I am, so I suspect there will be struggles even between the two of us, not to mention the grandparents! I would love to see a post from you guys about how to deal with/prevent baby clutter before the baby even arrives. Has anyone created a list of baby clutter rules, for instance?

I currently have several close friends who are pregnant and all of them have asked me versions of this question continuously over the course of the past few months. So, to put it mildly, I have given this question a great deal of thought.

First things first, if you’re blessed to have generous friends and family, you need to accept that people will want to give you things. If you beg and plead with people not to give you things, they will either ignore you or get mad at you. It’s best just to come to terms with the fact that there will be stuff — and that it will probably be lots and lots of stuff.

This doesn’t mean that you need to throw in the towel and sit idly by while your home fills with baby clutter. You can be proactive and keep clutter out of your home with just a few actions on your part.

  1. Create a wish list and gift registry. There are practical things that you will need when the baby comes: diapers, a car seat, a stroller and crib, for example. Research through Consumer Reports the safest products, learn about product features through reviews on websites with active communities. Be an informed consumer and create a list of essential products that fit your needs and create a gift registry. When your family or friends ask you what you need, show them your list. Let them know about the research you’ve done and why you have picked the specific products on your list. Explain to your family and friends that these are the items you need, and people will gravitate toward them.
  2. Buy as you need, not in anticipation. Beyond the bare bones items, avoid buying (or acquiring through Freecycle or Craigslist) anything until you need it. People with children will give you a constant stream of advice that begins with the phrase, “You just HAVE to have …” Until your child arrives and you grow to understand his or her preferences, you won’t have any idea if your child really has to have specific things. Your neighbor’s child may have loved the vibrating child carrier, but yours might hate it. Their must-have items may very well be clutter in your home. Also, don’t buy any clothes or toys ahead of time, you’ll very likely receive lots of these as gifts.
  3. Don’t agree to a shower/gender reveal party or only agree to one with a theme. You don’t have to have a party. If you don’t want one, then don’t have one. If you’re okay with the idea of having one or have a super-excited family member chomping at the bit to throw you one, then ask for the party to have a theme. Guests can bring their favorite childhood books or everyone can bring a pack of diapers. If you’re adopting, have a shower where you ask guests to bring gifts for the orphanage or foster care services, and give the presents to children who haven’t yet found homes. I’ve also heard of pamper the parents parties being a huge hit for keeping baby clutter at bay.
  4. Return unwanted items for wanted items. Products you don’t want that were purchased in stores can be returned. There is no law saying that you have to keep something you don’t want. Build up a store credit to help you purchase the items you really need.
  5. Donate unwanted items to charity or sell on Craigslist or eBay. If you receive four blankets, give two away to someone who needs/wants them.
  6. Don’t open items until you need them. It will be a lot easier to return items in their original packaging if you haven’t opened, assembled, and then dismantled the boxes.
  7. Immediately store items for when your child is older. You’ll inevitably receive items that you want to keep but that your child can’t play with or wear until he or she is older. Have inboxes ready to go in your nursery for these pieces. A plastic box labeled “clothes” and another labeled “toys” will provide you with space to immediately store these items out of the way.

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