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.

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.

Donating to help needy animals

A friend recently told me that a local wildlife center welcomed donations of Beanie Babies and other such small stuffed animals because baby raccoons and other small animals like to cuddle with them.

Your local humane society, animal shelter, or wildlife rescue organization may be able to use many things you might be looking to unclutter.

Many such organizations take blankets (especially fleece) and bath towels, but always check with your local organization before bringing in donations. Many do not want sheets, but some do. Other obvious potential donations, depending on each organization’s policy, are pet care items in good condition: food, food bowls, grooming supplies, cat trees, laser toys, catnip, cat litter, pet carriers, etc. The SPCA of Solano County wants cardboard flats or beer trays to use as disposable litter boxes.

A lot of these organizations also need office supplies, which many people have in excess. Pens, highlighters, copy paper, staplers, rubber bands, and Post-its are just some of the items I’ve seen on numerous wish lists. The San Diego Humane Society has surge protectors and calculators on its wish list, and I’ve seen many homes with unused calculators sitting around.

Cleaning supplies are also on many organizations’ lists: laundry detergent, bleach, hand sanitizer, trash bags, dish soap, hand soap, etc. Humane Animal Rescue specifically wanted Original Dawn liquid dish soap, but many organizations don’t care about the brand.

Rather than recycling your newspaper, you might give it to a shelter or rescue organization that asks for it, as many do. Some also want shredded paper. There might be some restrictions — for example, Humane Animal Rescue specifically notes the shredded paper should not include shiny ads. The Humane Society of Missouri can use long-cut shredded paper, but not confetti-like crosscut shred.

I’ve also seen a number of organizations, such as Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter and the SPCA of Solano County requesting gardening tools: hoes, shovels, rakes, garden gloves, garden hoses, etc. Flashlights and batteries are popular wish list items, too. ASH Animal Rescue in the U.K. also wanted general tools to be used in maintenance: screwdrivers, drills, hammers, pliers, etc.

Some of these organizations, such as the Peninsula Humane Society and the Humane Society for Southwest Washington, run thrift stores whose profits support their work. These stores can be a great place to donate a wide range of items in good condition.

Then there are the requests that are more unusual:

So if you’re in an uncluttering mood, you might check with your local animal shelter or rescue organization and see what’s on its wish list.

Organizing with cats: the litter box challenge

I have two cats, one of which is an 18-pound Maine Coon. And I’m lucky enough to have a space in my bathroom that’s just the right size for a large litter box.

But what if you don’t have such a space? Being organized involves having a home for everything, but sometimes finding a home for the litter box is a challenge. If you have to put the box out in the living room, a bedroom, or a similar space you may want one of the many furniture pieces used to conceal litter boxes. Erin wrote about one such product back in 2007, but now there are numerous options.

The following are just some of your many choices. If you have the right skills and tools, you might be able to make something yourself rather than buying a product, and this may give you some ideas.

The Meow Town litter box cabinet is an attractive piece that definitely does not shout “cat litter box.” The storage drawer might come in handy, although some purchasers chose not to install it to provide their cats with more headroom.

The drawback? It’s made with medium-density fiberboard (MDF), which can off-gas and which might not hold up well if you have a cat like mine that sometimes misses the box. (Some purchasers have chosen to line the cabinet with various materials to avoid this problem.) Also, this cabinet only allows you to put the door on the right-hand side, while some others give you the option of a right or left door.

The litter box from Way Basics is made from zBoard, which is in turn created from recycled paper. It doesn’t have the formaldehyde and the off-gassing that’s associated with MDF — but it would seem to be susceptible to the missing-the-pan problem.

The Litter Loo is made from ecoFLEX — a “non-toxic blend of recycled plastic and reclaimed wood” which does not absorb moisture. It comes in two sizes and four colors. It doesn’t look as lovely as some other choices, but it’s super practical.

If you have enough room for a bench, you might be able to store your spare litter in the bench along with the box, as with this Cat Washroom with its removable partition wall. Alternatively, it can fit larger cat boxes that don’t fit in some smaller cabinets. But yet again, it’s a piece you may want to line so a cat overshooting the litter box doesn’t ruin it.

There are a lot options beyond the various cabinet designs, too — and one of them may fit more naturally into your space. One is the Hidden Litter Box from Good Pet Stuff, designed to look like a plant in a clay pot. It’s made of polypropylene, so it’s easy to clean. A number of purchasers replaced the fake plant with others they liked better.

This cat scratcher carpeted box with its hidden litter box has melamine on the inside.

If your cat is okay with a top-entry litter box, this one from Modern Cat Designs might look nice enough to sit out without any disguise.

Maybe you’re not really worried about people knowing the cat box is indeed a cat box — you just don’t want something ugly sitting out in plain sight. In that case, the Kitty A GoGo litter box (available in six designs) might be easier to place than your average litter box.

You could also hide a lidded cat box with one of the box covers from KattySaks.

One final option for hiding the litter box is to use some sort of screen, such as this one from Kitty Planet.

Besides the cat box itself, you’ll need a storage space for whatever scoop you use. Some boxes have hooks for hanging a scoop, and you might be able to add one to a box that doesn’t have one. But another answer could be the scoop and base from Maison La Queue, which don’t look bad sitting out — and which remind me of some designs for human toilet bowl brushes.

Organizing pet clutter

I have two dogs that I love dearly, Batgirl and The Bug. But boy, do they bring on the clutter — toys, leashes, food, treat bags, beds, shredded toys, slobbery tennis balls, and my favorite, fur — lots and lots of fur. If you’re a pet lover, I suspect this sounds familiar. Fear not! Your furry friend need not be a source of incessant clutter. In this article, I’ll share tips for keeping pet clutter under control and out of sight.

Let’s start with something simple: food. This will be easy or difficult to stash away, depending on the pet. A small container of fish food, for example, is easier to store out of sight than a ten pound bag of dog food. For that reason, I’ll focus on the latter.

While Bug loves his food, I don’t love the unsightly bag that his kibble comes in. To keep it stored away yet accessible, I needed a nice looking bin. The answer was one of these “half barrels” as it fits my home’s decor and is something I don’t mind looking at. It easily accommodates a large bag of dog food plus a bag or two of treats. If you have a spare cabinet that you’re willing to dedicate to pet food, even better. Just make sure it’s convenient for you, but not your pet, to access.

With that sorted, let’s move on to toys. My dogs are worse than toddlers when it comes to carpeting the floor with a huge mass of toys in various states of ruin. Pets are super cute and we love buying toys for them but the more they have, the more we must pick up, so we limit the number of toys they have. We have a small basket that sits on the floor that holds the half-dozen toys they have access to. Occasionally we go through the collection of toys and get rid of anything that’s badly damaged or potentially harmful. For example, that stiff rubber chew toy can get quite misshapen and potentially scratch their gums. Throw those toys away.

Leashes and harnesses are the next thing on the list. I bought a dedicated hook to hold these items and I installed it on the wall right next to the back door. That way it’s out of sight yet very convenient when I need it. You don’t want a dog who needs to “go” waiting around while you hunt for the leash, trust me.

Now, a controversial subject — pet clothes. I don’t like them. Yes, Fido looks super adorable in that little sweater. Perhaps he’s prone to cold and genuinely needs that doggie argyle. In that case, I understand. Keep him comfortable and warm. But the goofy outfit that’s meant only to delight Fido’s human is not my cup of tea. If your pet actually requires clothing, find a convenient, safe place to store it. Preferably near the leash.

Finally, the items you don’t use daily like a carrier, shampoo, outdoor toys, and so on could all live in one location. Perhaps a large plastic storage bin, or a shelf in the basement or garage, clearly labeled.

Pets are members of the family with all that entails, including the clutter. It doesn’t take much to gain control of it, and it’s just as easy to let it get out of hand. Set up a few stations, buy some nice storage containers, and enjoy your pets even more.

Organizing for pet owners

As someone with two cats, I know that having pets is a joy, but it’s also a responsibility. Part of that responsibility involves organizing with them in mind. The following list shows what that can involve.

Unclutter their stuff

Do you have some pet food that your pets refused to eat? You may be able to return it to the store where you bought it — my local pet store lets me return opened bags of kibble. If not, you can give it away to other pet owners.

You’ll also want to pass along any toys your pets never liked and dispose of any that were so well loved that they’re now in tatters. Other items to unclutter include pet beds they never used and clothes that didn’t work out.

Unclutter things that could be dangerous to them

There are a number of things you’ll want to remove from your pet’s environment because they are dangerous. Just as with children, you’ll want to protect pets from medicines and household toxins, including many cleaning supplies and insecticides. Make sure these aren’t anything your pets can get into.

Also, consider your plants: cut flowers, indoor plants, and yard plants if your pets go outside. A significant number of these are poisonous to cats and dogs. Some human foods are also hazardous to pets, so make sure you store the chocolate, grapes, raisins, and other toxic foods where they can’t get to them.

I know someone who recently spent a lot of money on pet surgery when her cat swallowed some kind of string. So make sure your cats aren’t playing with string unless you’re around to make sure they aren’t eating it. And keep their environment clear of floss, ribbon, rubber bands, etc. The Preventive Vet website provides more information on the problems these items cause and what to do to avoid those problems.

Organize everything you’re keeping

You’ll want to have defined places to keep any food, treats, toys, clothes, leashes, medications, cleaning supplies, etc. As with any other category of stuff, it’s usually best to keep like items together and to store them as close as feasible to where they’ll be used.

Keep good medical records

Jacki wrote about maintaining pet health records and why it’s so important. I handle most of this by scanning all the paperwork from my vet — including any lab work, where I always ask for copies. I keep the scanned documents in Dropbox, while others might prefer Evernote or another such tool. Of course, paper records can work fine, too.

Include them in your disaster plans

Consider what you’d need if you had to shelter in place for a week or so, as well as what you’d need if you had to evacuate.

When I look at what I need to stock in case of emergency, I include cat food and litter. I also ensure that when I decide how much water to store I consider my cats’ needs as well as my own. I also have a carrier for each cat (even though I normally only use one at a time) because I’d need these if we needed to evacuate.

Write up care instructions

When I go on a business trip or on vacation, I have someone come into my home to care for my cats rather than boarding them. If you do something similar, write up any instructions your pet care provider would need. Such instructions can also be useful in case of an emergency, when someone needs to care for your pets unexpectedly. Save these instructions so you don’t have to recreate them any time they might be necessary, and remember to update them as circumstances change.

Maintaining pet health records for the benefit of your furry friends

Keeping accurate records of your pet’s health information can play a vital role in quickly recognizing and identifying your pet’s health issues. Additionally, if your regular veterinarian were not available in an emergency, another vet would be working without any reference points and not know your pet’s normal vital signs (pulse rate, temperature) or any medication that was previously prescribed.

The following is a list of the minimum information you should retain in your pet’s health file:

Description of your pet. Photos as well as a written description of your pet will help identify him and prove proof of ownership in the event your pet goes missing. The photographs should show your pet from different angles to highlight unique markings. A copy of proof of ownership should be kept with your health records but keep your original in a secure place (licenses, adoption records).

Normal vital signs. Your pet’s temperature, pulse, and respiratory rate are important indicators of general health. If you can do it yourself, take these measurements a few times and record the data noting the time of day and ambient temperature. This will allow you to establish a baseline. Knowing what is normal for your horse, dog, or cat will allow you to quickly notice and respond to any abnormalities. If your veterinarian has a record of the pet’s vital signs, ask him/her for a copy.

Deworming. In addition to marking on your calendar when your pet is due for deworming medication (if applicable), make a note of which product is used each time. Some types of worms can become immune to the medication after a while. Your vet can provide advice specific for your pet and your geographic region.

Grooming. If you send your pet out for grooming, note the date of each visit and list the type of grooming that was done. This will help you to determine a plan for regular appointments in the future.

Vaccinations. Make a note of all vaccinations that your pet has received and the date on which they were given. Travel to certain parts of the country may be restricted if you do not have up-to-date records of vaccinations.

Medications. List any drugs your pet receives, along with the dosage, whether it’s an ongoing treatment or a short-term antibiotic. Note any side effects as well and report them to your veterinarian. You should also include any feed supplements on this list as they may have interactions with any prescribed medication.

Minor injuries. If your pet has had any minor injuries, make a note of when and how they were treated.

Veterinary visits. Record every veterinary visit including the reason for the visit, the treatment performed by the vet, and any treatment you must administer. Make a note to yourself to follow up with the vet if any diagnostic tests are performed.

Dentistry. If your pet has his teeth cleaned or removed, record this information. Note any other dental procedures.

A simple notebook with an annual calendar may be sufficient for recording information if you’ve only got one or two pets. Mashable has a list of apps that are good for recordkeeping for both dog owners and cat owners.

Many horse farms have a large calendar posted so that the humans know which days the veterinarian and farrier are scheduled to be at the stable. This is great for a facility that has horses with different owners. Rendaivu offers an app that allows horse owners and stable managers to record, organize, and search horse health records from a smartphone.

Keeping good records for your pets shouldn’t be a chore. There are many different ways to manage the information. Owners should speak with their veterinarians about specific medical record recommendations for their pets. Often vets will pass along free medical record sheets provided by animal health companies. These health sheets can be kept in a three-ring binder with other papers on which notes are taken.

Regardless of which method you use to record your pet’s health information (paper or electronic), leave a copy with anyone else who may care for your pet from time to time.

Remember, healthy pets are happy pets! If you have any preferred apps for managing the health of your pets, share them with fellow pet lovers in the comments.

Organizing for emergencies, for those who live alone

Here on Unclutterer, we’ve written about being organized so you’re ready to respond to medical emergencies. But I want to take it one more step, because of something that was prompted by my cats.

I live alone, and I’m pretty healthy. But emergency situations can happen to anyone, at any age — as I’m sadly reminded whenever I read about yet another tragic bike or car accident, or hear about someone who had a heart attack or a ruptured aneurysm at an early age. And it dawned on me that if something happened to me, no one might know (who could do anything about it, at any rate) for days.

I wear a watch with medical alert information on the back, including my allergies and an emergency contact number. But what if something happened where I wasn’t found — if something happened while I was home, for example?

People I was supposed to meet with would notice something awry, and might call, email or text. But would they do anything more? Probably not. The mailman might notice my mail piling up in my mailbox, but he’d be unlikely to do anything because of that.

And when I thought about all of this, I thought about my cats. They don’t have food just sitting out, because one of them is a pig and would eat all the food for both, and eat it much too quickly. So I just put out a measured amount of food at feeding times.

If something happened to me, the cats wouldn’t get fed. Thinking of them going hungry fills me with dread; also, cats can develop medical problems pretty quickly if they go without food. And of course there are other things they’d need, too: fresh water and a clean litter box.

So now I call my neighbors every evening, just to say I’m fine. They know if they don’t get that call to come check on me — and take care of the cats.

In looking around the Web, I see there are numerous programs for daily check-in calls, generally targeted at the elderly who live alone. Some are provided for free by charities, local governments or police departments, and others are provided by businesses that charge a small fee. Some of these programs use automated calls, and others make live calls. All will call a defined list of people (friends and/or family members) or follow an agreed-upon emergency procedure — again, the specifics vary — if no one answers after something like 2-4 calls.

I feel very fortunate to have neighbors who know me (and my cats) and can serve as my check-in service. We trade all sorts of favors, so this is just one more way we’ve helped each other out over the years.

But if I didn’t have neighbors like this, I’d try to find a check-in program that worked for my situation. I hope I never hit the day when my neighbors need to do something, because I don’t call — but knowing that they are ready to do so brings me peace of mind and reduces any stressful thoughts that might be cluttering up my mind.

Organizing with pets

Over 50% of American homes have pets, so when uncluttering and organising there is a good chance you may have to take into account the needs of your pets.

Surprisingly, sudden changes in a pet’s environment may bring out different behaviour, such as aggression or depression. The following are tips to help you and your pet cope with uncluttering and reorganisation projects safely:

Before the Project

If not already this way, get your pet accustom to wearing ID tags. If people are coming and going with bags of trash and items to be donated, doors and windows may be left open. Pets can easily escape in these conditions. Talk to your veterinarian or local animal control office about types of IDs for your pet. Some pets can have microchips inserted as a second level of precaution. Take photos of your pet and list identifiable markings. Put this information together in a booklet or computer file so it is ready to circulate in the community in case your pet escapes.

If you will be uncluttering and organising in the room where your pet usually sleeps or spends most of his/her time, consider getting your pet accustom to a new area of your home. This will get the pet used to sounds and smells in the new area and make the uncluttering/organising process less stressful. Remember to give your pet some extra attention and affection during this time so he/she is comfortable in the new area.

During the Project

Keep your pet on his/her normal routine as much as possible. If your pet is used to being fed or walked at certain times, keep those times consistent during the organising project. This may require taking breaks from the work, but it will be worth it to keep your pet’s stress levels down.

It may be better to keep the pets away from the area being organised if it is a large project. Pets can be caged or kennelled or simply separated in another room by a door or safety gate. Stick a sign on the door of the room to let everyone know your pet is inside and to remind you to let the pet out later.

Remember to check on your pet every hour or so. Loud banging, thumping and unknown voices my cause some stress in your pet. Comfort your pet with kind words and lots of pats or hugs.

If you’re unable to keep your pet away from the area being organised, take extra care for your pet’s safety.

Birds are attracted to shiny objects and cats love strings and elastics bands, so keep small items such as buttons, coins, and other choke hazards off of the floor and out of reach.

Bones and meat-tainted plastic wrap can cause serious illness in animals if consumed. Foods sweetened with xylitol are very toxic to dogs. Tobacco contains nicotine, which is also toxic to pets. Grease, butter, margarine, and oils can get on bird feathers and damage them and make your bird ill when it tries to clean itself. Keep garbage out of reach!

Pets can suffocate in plastic grocery bags or dry cleaning bags. Roll up bags and plastic wrap into small balls and stash them inside a box to keep them out of reach until they can be disposed.

As you clear the clutter, electrical and phone cables may become more easily accessible. Loose electrical cords can become a chew toy temptation, too. Keep cords tied up so your pets can’t get tangled in them, trip over them or chew on them. You may wish to invest in some wire covering to protect both the cables and the pets.

Many pets are poisoned every year by accidental ingestion of household chemicals, human medications, and some common houseplants (e.g. Easter lilies and mistletoe). Remove unwanted chemicals and medications as soon as possible from the area. Secure the rest of these items in a locked cupboard or cabinet away from your pets. Keep houseplants out of reach before, during, and after the organising process.

Pets, especially cats, love to crawl into boxes. Be careful that you don’t close your pet in boxes, closets, or dresser drawers. If you’re working in a crawl space, keep the door closed as much as possible. If you’re working in an attic, keep the hatch down and move the ladder when you’re not using it. Make sure all heating and air vents have tight fitting covers. Small pets, such as rodents, birds, and reptiles, can easily get lost and stuck in the ductwork.

Don’t allow clothing and shoes to pile up on the floor. Immediately put it into bags and close the bags promptly. Animals love to hide and burrow in piles of fabric. Buttons and strings on shoes and clothing are choke hazards, too. If you are bagging up piles of clothing, do so carefully in case small pets (ferrets, rodents, snakes) have taken refuge in the pile.

Rabbits and rodents love to chew soft materials such as cloth and wood. Some fibres when ingested can cause illness. Keep old bits of carpeting and wood, especially chemically treated wood, away from your pets.

Fish tanks can be affected by organising. The removal of clutter from around the fish tank may change the amount of light to which the tank is exposed. This may change the temperature of the water and could lead to excess algae growth. Fish can be light sensitive just like humans. Gradually increase in light over fifteen minutes to allow fish to adjust to the their new surroundings.

Have you been organising your filing cabinet and shredding all that unwanted paper? Turn off and unplug your paper shredder. Mouse tails, bird feathers, and paws can accidentally start up the “auto-shred” function on some models of paper shredders. This could cause your pet to be injured.

After the Project

Look through the area and think like your pet: What looks tempting? What’s eye-catching? It helps if you get down on the floor and see things from their point of view. Check all those places where your vacuum cleaner may not fit, but your pet will, and look for dangerous items like string, coins, buttons, and electrical cords. Clean out those areas or block access to them.

Look for heavy things that could fall over if your large dog barrelled past. Secure the heavy furniture to the wall. Keep stacks of boxes from becoming too high.

Make sure you haven’t inadvertently created a “staircase” out of stacked boxes. Keep piles of boxes at the same height and away from open windows and skylights.

Some animals are fascinated my moving objects, such as the gears of exercise equipment. Unplug this equipment so it can’t accidentally be turned on and injure your pet.

Now that the clutter has been cleared, your pet may have access to rocking chairs and reclining chairs. These pieces of furniture can easily harm your pets. Consider moving the furniture out of the area your pets are in if these types of chairs are a temptation. The backs and undersides of furniture can have nails and staples that can cause harm to animals. Repair your furniture so that it is pet-safe or block access to these areas.

Mirrors and windows are dangerous for birds because they are often mistaken as places to escape and a strong collision may result in injuries. Keep mirrors and windows covered when birds are flying loose. Special decals can be applied to mirrors and windows to discourage birds from flying into them.

A bird’s respiratory system is very sensitive to impurities in the air, such as carpet powders and household deodorising sprays. If you’re cleaning after uncluttering and organising, keep these airborne chemicals away from your birds.

At the end of the day you can let your pet explore the uncluttered area. There will be many new places to explore and investigate. New and different smells may make your pet feel insecure. It may be best to confine the exploration to a smaller space and a shorter time depending on how your pet is reacting to the changes.

Once you are sure your pet is safe and comfortable in the newly organised space, you’ll be able to enjoy it together.

Safe storage

You’ve uncluttered your home, and now you’re making sure everything you’re saving has its defined storage place. You’ll usually want to store the things you use most often in easy-to-reach places — but please make sure you’re also storing things safely. Here are some of the issues you’ll want to consider.

Medications

A recent study by Safe Kids found that parents know the importance of storing medications up and away from children — but emergency department visits for accidental poisonings are still increasing. What’s going on? Children are ingesting medicines found on the floor, in purses, in pillboxes, etc. They get into these medicines not just at their own homes, but also at the homes of grandparents or other relatives.

So when you’re looking at storage requirements, be sure to think about those pillboxes and purses. And, remember that pets can also get into medications.

For more information, check out the Up and Away website, which reminds us to put every medicine and vitamin container away every time you use it — even if you’re going to use it again in just a few hours.

Toxic materials

Most everyone knows to keep things like pesticides and antifreeze in places where children and pets can’t get to them. But other hazardous products might escape attention.

For example, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a safety alert warning about the dangers of single-load liquid laundry packets. These colorful packets look like toys to children, but they often contain chemicals that are dangerous if ingested — so they need to be kept safely away from kids.

If you have pets, please be aware of the materials that may be toxic to them, and store those items appropriately. The Pet Poison Hotline has a detailed list of pet toxins for cats and dogs, including items like chocolate, matches, nicotine, and mothballs. Since so many foods can be poisonous to pets, you’ll want to be sure you have a pet-proof garbage can, one that’s tucked away where pets can’t get into it, or pets that are trained to never raid the garbage can.

Furniture, televisions and other heavy items

Living in earthquake territory, I’ve learned about the perils of toppling bookcases and other heavy items. The Dare to Prepare website reminds readers to tightly secure everything that could injure someone if it falls — as well as any fragile items you would hate to see damaged. The site provides information on how to properly secure bookcases, filing cabinets, etc.

But, until recently, I hadn’t thought about how easily children can get crushed if a television or a piece of heavy furniture were to fall on them — which can happen when a child reaches for something like a remote or climbs onto the furniture to get to an attractive item. The Georgia Department of Public Health has written about these issues, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission has a Tip-Over Information Center. Safe Kids has a report providing extensive information about the TV tip-over problem and how to avoid it.

Plastic bags

Where do you store plastic bags? Do you dispose of dry cleaning bags immediately, in places where young children and pets can’t get hold of them? These bags can present a suffocation risk, so please handle them appropriately. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that you “tie plastic bags in a knot before storing them out of reach and out of sight” if you have children ages 6-12 months.

Being well organized also gives you the opportunity to be more safe in your home. Storing items securely and safely can help to prevent accidents.

Sitter information forms

When you leave your home, you may have a babysitter, pet-sitter, or house-sitter watch over your children, pets, or things. Completing an information sheet with important contact and vital data can keep you and the sitter organized and ready for anything.

You can print and fill out these forms exactly as they are, or use them as inspiration for creating your own.

Babysitter:

Pet-sitter:

House-sitter:

Really small spaces: Portland coop

We’ve written about very small living spaces before, but this 16-square-foot contemporary chicken coop wins the all-time prize in the category.

The three hens who live in this modernist dwelling must have very refined aesthetic sensibilities. I can easily imagine them inside the coop perched atop tiny Eames shell rockers discussing the exhibition of the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel collection at the Portland Art Museum.

I’ll freely admit that the coop is a thing of beauty, but not everything with a clean and uncluttered design makes your life easier. Call me crazy, but I’m actually glad I can acquire eggs without engaging in small-scale urban subsistence poultry farming. Division of labor means I can make an omelet without the concomitant obligation of having to clean up chicken droppings.

I love Dwell, but I can’t wait for the guy who runs Unhappy Hipsters to have a little fun with this.