Say goodbye to perfume clutter

I like the idea of perfume, but have never really supported the whole “signature scent” concept. Wearing the same fragrance day after day isn’t my style, so I usually just go without perfume because it costs a lot to have many options. I also don’t want a whole dresser top full of large glass bottles tempting my cats. I find, too, that after a year or two the perfume goes stale and loses its oomph!

Reader Amanda sent us a terrific idea for men and women wanting to get rid of large bottle cologne and perfume clutter. Similar to the Use it up! advice reader Elena sent us for shampoo, Amanda’s suggestion is to only purchase perfume in very small amounts through websites like LuckyScent and ThePerfumedCourt:

“This keeps the price low, I can try different perfumes (some not available locally), and I hide them in a box in a dresser drawer, freeing (uncluttering) the top of my dresser.”

LuckyScent has an option at the bottom of every page of perfume that gives you the choice to purchase a sample (0.7mL.). They even offer sample packs; groups of popular or seasonal fragrances.

And, ThePerfumedCourt only sells trial sizes:

“What we do is spray, pour, or use sterile pipettes to take perfume from its original large bottle and repackage it in a smaller bottle (we only use brand new sterile glass bottles) so that the consumer can try as many fragrances as they desire before buying a full bottle.”

Thank you, Amanda, for such a terrifically simple idea for men and women who choose to wear a fragrance!

Unitasker Wednesday: Cutlery Cleaner

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

Safety has always been of paramount importance in my life. One precaution we take is to always hold kitchen knives by their handles and wash them one by one then place them in the drying rack them with handles up. We never pile sharp knives into the sink or dishpan due to the high risk of cutting yourself.

It doesn’t take very much time to carefully and thoroughly clean a knife as demonstrated by a chef in this video. You need soapy water and a soft bristle brush that you probably already have to clean all your dishes. That’s why I think the BladeBrush Knife Cleaner is a unitasker.

Although it does allow you to clean your knife blades safely, it won’t allow you to clean anything else. I suppose you could use it to clean all your cutlery but you would still have to have a brush, dishcloth, or sponge to clean the rest of your dishes. Also, for the price of this one unitasker, you could buy two packages of three multi-tasker regular brushes.

The problem with cleaning sharp knives (and other cutlery) is that it takes two hands to do — one to hold the knife by the handle, the other to scrub the blade. If you have reduced mobility in one, or both hands, consider a cutlery cleaner that mounts on the side of the sink.

Thanks reader Carol for bringing this unitasker to our attention.

Book Review: The Kitchen Shortcut Bible

When I agreed to review The Kitchen Shortcut Bible, I assumed that it would be just a book full of tips and tricks to keep your kitchen uncluttered and make meal preparation easier. It is indeed that, and much more.

The Kitchen Shortcut Bible is a recipe book like many others, full of healthy, sumptuous dishes including breakfasts, appetizers, dinners, and desserts. There are lovely glossy photos of the foods just like in every other cookbook too. But, the Kitchen Shortcut Bible differs from typical recipe books because there are time and money saving shortcuts on every single page and larger sections of helpful instructions and advice before and after every chapter.

One of the things I liked about this book is that the authors promote make-ahead meals which allow readers to do some meal planning but still have the flexibility to change their plan when the need arises. One of my favourite ideas was the make-ahead chicken packets. Foil wrap boneless, skinless chicken breasts in one of the marinade recipes provided and place the packet on a baking sheet in the freezer. Once the packets are frozen, pile them up in the freezer. When you are ready to make dinner, simply pull out the frozen packet and pop it directly in the oven. If you make one or two breasts per packet, you just pull out the number you need to make dinner — super easy if you’re dining alone or if guests drop in at the last minute!

There are dozens of slow-cooker, one-skillet, and sheet-pan supper recipes that allow you to create flavourful meals with minimal clean-up. The authors advocate time-saving preparations such as buying pre-cut or frozen vegetables, dried pasta, and canned beans, and they tell readers how to work with these ingredients to obtain the best results. They also provide guidance on choosing fastest cooking fresh meats and fresh vegetables without sacrificing quality or flavour.

There are suggestions for vegetarian/vegan options including a section on Better Veggie Burgers. (I can’t wait to try these out!) In the margins of some recipes, the authors indicate which processed food used in the recipe contain not immediately obvious ingredients such as gluten, peanuts/nuts, or high amounts of salt. This is very useful for those with allergies or on special diets.

One thing that made me smile is how they turn some unitaskers such as the waffle maker, garlic press, and coffee press into multi-taskers. There are ten recipes that use a waffle maker and only one of them is actually waffles (and it is a super-quick recipe too!). The section entitled, Better Living with a Garlic Press, explains how to make great rubs and marinades by using a garlic press for ginger, cocktail onions, pickled jalapeños and more. The coffee press is given a new multi-tasker life by making flavourful teas and infusions.

To be honest with Unclutterer readers, many of the food preparation and time-saving tips are not new to me. I have a Master’s Degree in Food Chemistry and I spend quite a bit of time in the kitchen. However, I did need to be reminded of a few things and it is always good to try different recipes! The Kitchen Shortcut Bible would be an ideal gift for someone new to cooking, perhaps a young adult who has just moved out on their own or someone interested in reducing their dependency on ready-made and restaurant foods. I highly recommend The Kitchen Shortcut Bible. You will save time and money in a uncluttered kitchen and enjoy restaurant quality meals with very little work.

Hangers, hangers, hangers!

Having an organized closet can improve the life of your clothing, and quality hangers can help keep your clothes in their best shape. Many closets have mismatched hangers that have been collected over the years: A wire hanger there, a thick plastic one here, and wooden one there. Having the same hangers keeps any closet that much more uniform, which appeals to many people, but having the best type of hanger for your needs can be important, too. So, what type of hanger does one choose? If you are to overhaul your closet, and your out-of-control hanger collection, which hanger is the best?

I’m sure our readers have many differing opinions on what the best hanger is, but I’ll highlight a few of my favorite options:

Ultra Slim Velvet Hangers: These thin hangers claim to save up to 50% of your closet space.

Vertical Hangers: If you want to keep your hangers, you can go this route and store five garments in the space for one.

Classic Plastic: My closet is currently filled with these fat things. They don’t stretch out my clothing, but I’m not too thrilled about them because they don’t always hold very heavy clothing such as winter coats.

Wooden: These are probably more useful for a coat closet or suit storage.

When it comes to those wire hangers, round them up and drop them off at your dry cleaner’s the next time you’re running errands. Dry cleaners almost always accept used wire hangers. However, you may want to keep one in case you need to unfold it to fish the Lego out of the furnace vent.

 

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

Take a load off your summertime travel plans

Today we welcome the phenomenal Monica Ricci as a guest author on Unclutterer.  A professional organizer hailing from Atlanta, we’re happy to have her share her uncluttering wisdom with our readers.

With the escalating cost of jet fuel, airlines have had to make service cuts and are trying desperately to improve the bottom line wherever they can. Unfortunately, to this end, most airlines are now charging for every checked bag. I’ve had a long-standing policy of not checking bags anyway, so this new rule doesn’t affect me, but if you’re reluctant to pay the extra baggage fee, here are some tips I find handy for packing light.

Use a consistent packing checklist. I have used hand-written lists in the past, as well as the LobotoME Pack-Me List (pictured). Your packing checklist should be a standard template, not a fresh list each time. This helps you standardize your packing, which means less thinking and fewer on-the-spot decisions.

Plan your wardrobe around a limited color scheme and choose your neutral first. I typically choose either black or brown, and then plan the rest of my clothing around two other colors such as blue and tan. This way I can mix, match, layer and create a bunch of different outfits without needing a ton of items.

Use your shoes as containers. I can get three pairs of socks and my sports bra into my sneakers! Men’s dress shoes are roomy too, as are some ladies shoes. Plus when your shoes are stuffed it keeps them from getting crushed. Bonus!

Call your hotel ahead of time to see what they offer in the way of conveniences to save space in your luggage. I never need to haul a hair dryer, steamer, or iron because most hotels will provide them at no charge if you ask.

Leave home any inessential toiletries. Airlines restrict the liquids and gels you can carry on, pack only the toiletries that are unique to your situation and leave shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and mouthwash behind. Most hotels are providing those items as standard now (and usually good brands at that!). You can also pick up travel sizes at a local shop at your destination.

Get yourself a couple of Pack-It Folders! These folders keep your clothing in a nice tight bundle, reducing movement thereby reducing wrinkling.

If you carry a purse, don’t make it your second carry-on bag. Change out your purse to a small one just for the trip, and bring only the bare essentials in it. Then stuff the whole thing inside a larger carry-on bag or your laptop bag. Poof. No checked baggage.

If you just have to have that second pair of shoes, suit jacket, or your workout clothes and they just won’t fit into your carry-on luggage, ship them to yourself in advance.

Bring shoes that will serve more than one purpose rather than a specific pair for each outfit. Ladies’ shoes with a low to medium heel can usually serve multiple functions and are a great compromise because they can dress up or down depending on the outfit. This saves you a ton of space in your luggage. The same goes for a comfortable pair of men’s leather lace ups.

Keep your travel size toiletries full and packed at all times. Refill any travel size containers as soon as you get home from a trip. This way, you’re already good to go for your next trip, and you won’t risk forgetting something important.

These are some of my favorite tips for traveling light. Be sure to check out Unclutterer’s post on the One bag travel website for folding help. How do you travel super light and avoid checking luggage? Do you have any great tips or secrets to share?

 

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

College Life: Making your dorm room livable

Most everyone, college student or not, has periods in life when we have more stuff than space. Beyond the obvious solution of vastly reducing the amount of stuff you have, here are more ideas for making do with the space you have.

Shelving: Most dorm rooms don’t come with shelving, and with a minimal amount of floor space to work with you want to utilize as much vertical space as possible. Most colleges do not allow you to put nail holes in your walls, so I suggest a tall, cheap bookshelf, and use it for everything from books to files to your shower caddy. If you can’t afford a cheap bookshelf, never underestimate the power of the classic plank-and-brick construction.

Raise Your Bed: Some colleges provide beds that have built in storage spaces underneath. However, if they do not, putting risers under your bed is another great way to maximize space in your dorm room.

Store Information Digitally: Most colleges encourage students to have laptops, and digitally storing your information is a great way to combat clutter of all kinds. Invest in an external hard drive. And, no matter what, make sure you back up your files.

Feel welcome to read and add more space-saving advice in the comments.

 

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

Unitasker Wednesday: Bulb Nest

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

In every home we’ve rented all of the light fixtures contain the least expensive and least energy efficient light bulbs. In order to reduce our electric bill, we replace the cheap bulbs energy with energy efficient LED ones. Consequently, we store quite a few light bulbs because we switch them all back before we move out, taking the LED ones with us.

We have gone through this process 12 times in the past 25 years and never once did we consider buying or using a unitasker like bulbNEST — a cardboard box that holds up to 6 standard light bulbs and 2 spotlight light bulbs.

I suppose some people may find it useful but I think paying $16.99 USD for a cardboard box, even if it is custom designed, is a little expensive.

We store light bulbs in a small Rubbermaid tote, either in the original packaging so it is easy to see what the bulb is, or we wrap the bulbs in fruit net wrap that the local grocery store was going to throw in the garbage anyway.

Sometimes custom organizing solutions are necessary. However, with a little thought and items you already own, you can save money by creating your own storage solution.

Thank you to reader Ano Nymous for bringing this unitasker to our attention.

Follow-up: Should it stay or should it go

A few weeks ago, I asked readers to chime in and help me decide if my collection of organizing products should stay or go. I read and appreciated every one of the comments and the messages that were sent directly.

Some readers suggested I let everything go and start again when I moved to the next house. Others, suggested I evaluate the difficulty and expense of replacing items in determining whether or not I let them go. Many recommended that I keep only what would fit in one large bin. Almost everyone told me to get rid of the gum and mint containers as these are easily replaceable.

As we are new to this city, one of my neighbours told me about the semi-annual Giveaway Weekends. During the assigned weekend, residents can place unwanted, reusable household items at the curb in front of their house (apartment units usually have a designated area in their parking lots) with a “FREE” sign on the items. Residents drive around and pick up any items they want during the two days. The city website also provides a list of charities where leftover items can be donated and explains how to either take your item to the landfill or schedule a large item waste pick-up.

This Giveaway Weekend helped me with my decision-making process. Here is what I decided.

The items stayed if:

Everything else (plastic filing cabinet, car cup gum containers, Altoids tins, various sizes of plastic baskets) would go out on my curb for the fall Giveaway Weekend. Whatever did not “disappear” by Sunday evening, would go to charity.

Of course, the day after I made my decision, my daughter took an Altoids tin and turned it into a sewing kit to have in her dorm room at college. Therefore, I decided to keep one each — and only one each — mint and gum container.

Next year, we will know where we are moving a few months before the spring Giveaway Weekend. This will give me the opportunity to go through my stash again and make decisions on what stays and what goes.

Thank you, dear readers, for all your help!

Make your yard easier to maintain

070806-flowers.jpgYard maintenance isn’t my most favorite thing in the world. Luckily, my yard is pretty small and the maintenance is minimal. If you have a larger yard with more landscaping and plants to look after, you may want to try some of these tips to cut your maintenance down as much as possible.

Go native: Ask your local garden center what the easiest native plants are in your area. Make these native plants the foundation for your yard’s landscaping.

Watering: Try and go for drought resistant plants, but you may also want to invest in an automatic watering system that can save you from watering your plants.

Take an hour: For an hour a week, go through your yard and keep the weeds to a minimum. Also, make sure the plants are thriving and in good health.

Mulch: Mulching around your bushes and plants reduces weeds and helps nourish your plants. Mulch also holds in moisture so you don’t have to water your plants as much.

Plant perennials: Plant more perennials and fewer annuals. This will save you time and money every spring.

Hire someone: If you absolutely are not interested in, or unable to do yard work, consider hiring someone to do all these tasks for you. If it is cost-effective, of course.

 

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

Be organized after an auto accident

I have a friend who was unfortunately involved in two car accidents a few years ago. When the accidents occurred, she was obviously disoriented and under a great deal of anxiety. Days later, after being able to think about what had happened, she wished that she would have been more organized during the events. After both accidents, she realized that she had forgotten to write down important information like the license plate numbers of the other cars.

Wanting not to be caught off guard again, she created a worksheet to keep in the glove compartment of her car in the same folder as her insurance card and registration. (If you do not have Adobe Reader, you can download it here.) This is a situation when being organized can help you greatly.

At the time she had her accidents, she recommended carrying a small, digital camera to photograph the accident scene. Today, most people have smartphones that will not only take high quality photos, but video as well. Just remember to keep your phone charged!

Now, let us hope that you never have to use this worksheet! If you do, however, rest assured that you’ll be organized and you won’t forget to gather any important information.

 

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

Keyless entry = fewer keys

Reader Ralph writes in with a tip that may well belong in a Extreme Minimalism Monday post. He writes,

I hated carrying around my keys so I installed combination door lock deadbolts on my house doors. ”Look ma! No more keys!” … There’s also no need to give spare/emergency keys to family, they just know the code.

He points us to this keyless lock solution. There are also fingerprint and Bluetooth enabled deadbolt locks which allow you to unlock your front door if you “knock” on your smartphone — even if your phone is in your pocket.

Not sure keys bother me that much, but if they bother you, pair this with keyless entry in your car and you’re home free.

 

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

Unitasker Wednesday: Handheld dishwashing machine

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

When I first saw the photo of the handheld dishwashing machine, I thought it might possibly be useful for those who had limited use of their hands and did not have a dishwasher. It is referred to as a “robotic arm” after all.

I was wrong. You need two hands to get the dishes in the device and one hand to hold the thing while it washes.

The description on this device says you don’t have to get your hands dirty but you need both hands to put the dirty plate in it — unless you enjoy washing clean dishes like they do in the video (which makes my highly suspicious of its efficacy).

The site also states, “Environmental protection, beauty, simple, good cleaning effect.” But I fail to see how a plastic, robot-arm filled with electronics and a rechargeable battery protects the environment. The gadget reminds me of an extra-terrestrial insect from a sci-fi movie so maybe it is only beautiful to entomologists.

If you have enough space for the handheld dishwashing machine, why not just buy a countertop dishwasher? It would work better and your hands would stay cleaner.

Save your money. Save the environment. Avoid nightmares about green insects from outer space. Pass on this unitasker.