I often wondered why items disappear from shared spaces, such as pens from the reception desk or coffee mugs from the lunchroom. I read about a group of epidemiologists from Australia who published the results of a study in the British Medical Journal documenting the disappearance of teaspoons from their lunchrooms. They purchased both high and low quality teaspoons and distributed them throughout the lunchrooms of their research centre. They examined teaspoon disappearance in common lunchrooms and private lunchrooms.
They found in private lunchrooms half the teaspoons had permanently disappeared in 11 weeks. However, from communal lunchrooms, it took only 6 weeks for half of the teaspoons to disappear. The researchers concluded that in order to keep their employees satisfied with the amount of teaspoons available, the research centre should purchase over 250 teaspoons per year.
I found this study interesting from an organizing perspective because it indicated items disappear faster when left in a common area where more people who have access to them. This is a problem in office settings as time is wasted looking for items and money is wasted in purchasing extra supplies. In a home setting, items are more likely to be picked up and moved by someone else in your home when left out in a common area instead of being properly stored after use. Organizing and simplifying procedures can minimize loss and misplacement of items.
Suggestions for change:
In an office setting, educate co-workers as to what is happening. Let them know how much the missing items affect the bottom line of the business. Spending a hundred dollars on replacing teaspoons means less money for other things. Encourage co-workers to bring their own personal items such as coffee mugs, water bottles, and teaspoons to use at work instead of stealing from the cafeteria or lunchroom.
Ensure people have the supplies they need. At work, each employee should be issued with a standard set of office supplies as necessary (e.g. stapler, tape dispenser, scissors, hole punch). Also, review common areas to determine what shared items are needed in these work spaces. At home, if your children are in school, they will need their own supplies for their desks instead of needing to take them from the kitchen or from your home desk.
Purchase specialized items for common areas to make them obviously shared items. For example, coffee mugs in the office lunchroom could all be exactly the same size and colour and have the company logo printed on them. The stapler and hole-punch at the photocopier could be bright red and labeled with a gold permanent marker. In your home, you might decide to get supplies for each person/area in specific colors (red for son, green for daughter, purple for mom, brown for dad, black for the kitchen, and yellow for the craft room). If you don’t wish to share an item with a roommate/family member, be sure to put it away after use to reduce the risk it will be picked up by someone else.
Some larger companies are using vending machines to dispense tools and supplies. Employees type in their employee ID code or swipe their pass-cards on the vending machine. This is an ideal solution for companies who cannot afford a full-time stock controller. It also allows management to track employees to find those who routinely misplace, hoard, or even steal tools or other supplies. It may not work with all offices, though, and certainly wouldn’t work well in a home.
While all the systems listed above may work, nothing beats a system where the items have a designated area and people are educated on the importance of returning items to where they belong. At home, a simple walk through the house each night before bed to relocate out-of-place items can also help to return items to their proper storage space so they don’t “get legs” and disappear for long periods of time.
Let Unclutterer help you get your home or office organized. Subscribe to our helpful product shipments from Quarterly today.
- Unitasker Wednesday: Wax Vacuum
This week’s unitasker is a product that doesn’t do what it claims to do (suck wax out of your ears) and doesn’t do what I wish it did (erase embarrassing memories) and is only “Similar” to an As-Seen-on-TV product. Oh, Unitasker, you make me sad.
- Unitasker Wednesday: Cork Presenter
This is one of those unitaskers that makes me believe manufacturers think their customers are suckers, patsies, easy marks. In their eyes (especially manufacturers that target pregnant women and people who like to cook), we’ll buy any doodad and gizmo they tell us we need. Them: “You need this gadget that does the same thing as what you already own!” Us: “OF COURSE WE DO!!”
- Clutter and Newton’s First Law of Motion
When uncluttering your home and office, chances are you’ll come across many objects you’ve thought about getting rid of dozens (maybe hundreds) of times, but never did.
- Unitasker Wednesday: Tie-Up Wooden Shoe
Although cute and clown-like, the Tie-Up Wooden Shoe doesn’t do anything a real shoe can’t do.
- Ask Unclutterer: Help me organize and build a bar
I want to put together a bar in my dining room, but I want it to be a gentleman’s bar not something I would have done in college or a kegerator.
- Weekend project idea: Bed-side table cleanup
This weekend, give your nightstand a little attention and see if it can use some uncluttering love.
- Musings on apologies and uncluttered speech
When I read Bezos’ apology, I was impressed by how direct, sincere, and uncluttered it was.
- Color-coded storage solves bathroom confusion
The Rubbermaid company offers some terrific advice on their website for sharing a bathroom in their Back-to-School section.
Let Unclutterer help you get your home or office organized. Subscribe to our helpful product shipments from Quarterly today.
A few years ago, Unclutterer readers started a discussion on effective note-taking. Several of you had great suggestions, and looking at that old thread got me thinking about my own note-taking techniques. They’ve changed quite a bit since I was a young student, though I do still fall back on old techniques now and then.
We take notes so we can recall important information later. It’s a real hassle to sit down to a review of your notes only to realize you’ve got overly complex notes that actually hinder your recall process. Avoid this frustration by keeping your note-taking simple. Use clear keywords and avoid the temptation to hurriedly write down everything the teacher, lecturer, or coworker says. I put things into my own words unless I hear a fantastic phrase that I’ll want to recall verbatim. When that happens, I use quotation marks.
That said, a logical flow that works for you is most important. When I was a young student, I learned the hierarchical Arabic system that started with a Roman numeral, and added a capital letter under that, etc. That served me well through high school, but once I was in college I found it was hard to keep up with lectures using this system.
That’s when I adopted a system of dashes and dots. Large dots identified a main topic, with dashes and smaller dots marking sub-categories beneath those (similar to the “Dash Plus” system Patrick Rhone uses on to-do lists). It was quick and effective for me.
Taking notes is only the starting point, of course. Just because you write something down doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to recall/find it later. My system to help me find information later couldn’t be easier. As a matter of course, I write the page number in the upper right-hand corner of each page of notes. When a new topic begins, I circle the page number. Then, I make a bold line across the bottom of the final page of those notes to represent the end of that topic. If I’ve got a lot of notes, let’s say more than 12 pages, I’ll write an index for my own reference. For example, “Sample service schedule, page 11.”
You might also benefit from trying to create your index from memory before writing in page numbers. Creating this list mostly from memory will start you on your recall process.
For many, paper will be the answer for which technology to use for taking notes. If that’s you, I understand. Paper is tremendously flexible. You can capture a grocery list or solve very complex problems with a sheet of paper (or note card or napkin or sticky note) and a pencil. But, if you do use paper, I strongly recommend you scan your paper notes and run them through a hand-writing recognition program (like the one standard in Evernote) so you can easily search your notes later and have a backup of them in the Cloud.
If you’re not a paper person and you want to use something electronic, consider the following:
Mind Mapping. I’ve written about my love of Mind Mapping before on Unclutterer. It’s a non-liner way to capture ideas quickly. It’s especially useful when one aspect or idea will quickly spawn several others. On the Mac side, I love MindNode Pro. Windows users will want to check out Mindmeister.
Evernote. Here’s a great solution that’s platform-agnostic. It’s like working with paper, so you can use any system you like. The real power with Evernote is how searchable everything is. You can find any word or phrase you like and even create saved searches that monitor your notes for criteria you determine in real time.
Sketchnotes. If you’re an extremely visual person, you may benefit from taking Sketchnotes. The app Adobe Ideas (which easily integrates with other Adobe products) and Paper by FiftyThree both have high reviews by Mac users. And INKredible is well-rated for Android users.
I find that note-taking is a personal thing, with people using a wide range of methods. The important take-aways from this article are: keep note-taking simple, stick to important keywords, use a markup system that makes review helpful for you, and don’t be afraid to abandon systems that are no longer effective.
Let Unclutterer help you get your home or office organized. Subscribe to our helpful product shipments from Quarterly today.
All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!
I appreciate a little freshly ground nutmeg on things like chai lattes and roasted carrots. To use it, I grab my multi-tasking cheese grater that has a zesting plane on one of its sides, and I grind a bit of a nutmeg seed onto whatever it is I’m preparing. Fresh nutmeg seeds store almost indefinitely in a sealed container (I use a little glass jar), so as long as you keep them away from light, heat, and moisture, you don’t really need anything special to keep a few in your kitchen.
Noting how easy it is to have fresh nutmeg on hand, I have to admit to being confused by this device specifically made to grind nutmeg seeds — the Nutmeg Grinder:
First, this device is about the size of a travel coffee mug. It’s not small, like a salt or pepper shaker. For a single use device, it takes up a decent amount of space in your cupboards. Second, and this is my main beef with it, it’s not electric. The piece on the top folds out and you have to hand-crank the grinder. You use the same amount of effort as you do if you were to manipulate a nutmeg seed across a zesting plane. I thought initially that if you had arthritis or another hand complication that an electric grinder might be useful, but since this one requires hand strength and agility it doesn’t help anyone with those needs.
When outfitting a kitchen, it’s fine to consider single-use devices if they are extremely convenient and save you time and space and you regularly use them. But, even if you regularly use freshly ground nutmeg, this device won’t save you time or space and its purpose can be easily duplicated by a multi-purpose device.
- Ten things you can do when you don’t feel motivated to get stuff done
It happens to the best of us. At some point or another, your motivation will seem to dissolve in thin air. Here are ten strategies you can use to get back on track and get things done.
- Excerpt: Six tips for organizing your time spent on the telephone
Since most of us spend time at work dealing with facts and data, the phone should be taking a backseat to other forms of communication. That being said, it’s impossible to avoid the phone in the workplace. And there are times when picking up the phone is the best way to handle a situation. The following are suggestions for how to use the phone in an organized way during those times when you need to rely on it.
- Ask Unclutterer: Best methods for recycling?
I recycle almost everything. In passing magazines along to a charity, is it much more likely they will end up in a landfill?
For people who like to cook, it’s easy to wind up with overflowing recipe files. While this may be more of a problem for those who keep paper files, even those who keep their recipes in a digital format can get overwhelmed at times.
If you would like to unclutter your own recipe collection, the following nine questions may help you to reduce your number and better organize those you wish to keep:
- Does this recipe fit with the way I eat? Our food preferences change over time, so our recipe collections should evolve, too. You may also have health reasons — your own, or those of family members you cook for — that lead you to change the type of recipes you cook.
- Does this recipe call for things I don’t have? If a recipe calls for a number of ingredients you don’t normally use, the recipe might not be one you want to keep. The ingredients may be hard to find or just things that will linger on your shelves, unused, and taking up space. (Of course, sometimes trying a new ingredient is a fun adventure. If you are feeling adventuresome, buy the smallest container of that ingredient you can.)
I’ve also found that if a recipe calls for a tool I don’t have and wouldn’t use regularly, such as a tajine, I’ll probably decide it’s not worth keeping unless I can readily borrow that tool from someone else.
- Does this recipe take a long time to prepare? Sometimes, a time-consuming recipe is worthwhile — for a special occasion, perhaps. If the recipe will make many servings and it’s something I can refrigerate or freeze for future use, that helps. But some recipes just don’t seem worth my time, and I let them go.
- Is this another recipe for something I already cook? If you have a favorite recipe for brownies, do you need another one? For some people, the answer may be yes. But, if you know you’ll always choose your old reliable recipes, you can get rid of the others.
- Am I keeping this recipe purely for sentimental reasons? You may have recipes you want to keep but never intend to cook: recipes inherited from your parents, for example. In such cases, you may want to store the recipes with memorabilia rather than with recipes you do use for cooking.
- Alternatively, does this recipe bring back unpleasant memories? If a recipe is strongly associated with a person or an event you’d rather forget, you may want to ditch the recipe.
- Am I keeping this recipe because I think I should prepare it? Maybe a friend or a health practitioner gave you the recipe. Or maybe you have some other reason why you think you should prepare this recipe. I’m giving you permission to stop should-ing yourself, and let the recipe go if it’s not one you want to make.
- Have I kept this recipe for months or years without trying it? If you have many such recipes, you may want to create a plan where you try some of them on a regular schedule: once or twice a week, perhaps. If you don’t plan to ever make it, you may want to let it go.
- Why am I accumulating so many recipes? If you subscribe to numerous magazines for the recipes, maybe it’s time to reevaluate at least some of these subscriptions.
Getting organized is valuable but it doesn’t have to be expensive. There are many ways to create customized organizing solutions with a small budget.
I often look around the house to see what items can be re-purposed. We use chewing gum containers to keep office supplies organized. It is easy to see what is in them. They are easy to refill and they have a little slot so they can dispense one item at a time. These containers are the perfect size for cotton swabs and hair elastics, so we use them in the bathroom to organize cosmetics.
Blister pack chewing gum containers and inserts from boxes of chocolates can be used to organize earrings in a jewelry box or craft supplies such as beads.
CraftSanity has instructions for how to construct magazine holders and a literature sorter out of cereal boxes. Lifehacker has an article describing how Lego minifigures make great computer cord organizers and bits of Lego can be used to make key holders. Lego bricks can also be used to make holders for kitchen utensils and napkins. (Interesting fact: the exterior case for the first Google server was built with Lego bricks.)
Discount and bargain stores have great organizing supplies (Dollartree in the U.S., Dollarama in Canada and Poundland in the U.K.). You can find baskets, bins, file folders, desk caddies, hangers, hooks, and over-the-door pocket organizers. And, not to leave out the most obvious, Amazon has almost 500,000 items in a range of prices to help you get organized.
Purchasing unnecessary or unsuitable organizing supplies is one mistake some of my clients have made while trying to get their houses in order. Creating inexpensive do-it-yourself organizers like those mentioned above will allow you to experiment with different organizing systems. Once you find the products and systems that best suit your lifestyle, you may eventually want to purchase a durable, higher quality version that coordinates with your décor.
- Unitasker Wednesday: Mystery Unitasker!
Instead of putting the product name in the headline and immediately telling you what this week’s item is used for, I thought it would be fun to have you guess. What does it do?!
- What to pack for an organized trip to Walt Disney World
These packing recommendations will help you make the most of your trip to Orlando.
- Study: Physical possessions and U.S. families
According to a recent study released by the UCLA Center on the Everyday Lives of Families, U.S. families have reached “material saturation.” The back areas of our homes (closets, basements, attics, cupboards) are so stuffed with possessions that our things spill out into our front areas (table tops, floors, furniture) and create more visible clutter than ever before in the history of the world. We’re no longer enjoying leisure activities and our children’s stuff is at the top of the clutter pile.
- Unitasker Wednesday: Hot Dog Hero
The device leaves me feeling strongly compelled to declare, “I will not eat any hot dogs steamed inside an animal.”
- Backsliding can help you fine tune your routines
Backsliding happens to the best of us. Follow these three suggestions to help you get back on track.
- Ask Unclutterer: Rituals, mechanisms, habits and traditions to ensure an uncluttered home
A handful of readers want to know when to institute rituals, mechanisms, habits, and traditions to move clutter out of their homes.
- Unitasker Wednesday: Tie-Not
Unless you’re a professional water balloon maker, I’m not really sure the average person needs the Tie-Not.
- Repercussions of uncluttering and organizing
We often talk about the benefits of uncluttering and organizing, but we rarely even hint of their being downsides. Today, I thought we’d break that trend and discuss all the work that — at least in the short term — uncluttering and organizing create.
Over the years of writing about organizing and working with clients, I continue to be baffled by how to neatly organize a small number of items. Whenever I see these items or hear about them, I cringe. Organizing them successfully is a complete mystery to me. Maybe you have a few, too, in your home or office — a specific item that always seems to be out of place, cumbersome, or impossible to store well?
- Ask Unclutterer: Is something put away if it’s in cardboard?
In your situation, one of you believes that the cardboard box is in its place against the wall and that the stuff inside of the box is in its place, too. The other of you believes that the cardboard box and the stuff inside of it are all out of place and they need new places to live.
- Book review: The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook
Published in 2006, this gem is essential reading for anyone who finds themselves in a cluttered kitchen of any size.
- Three laws of basement storage
If you use your basement for storing things other than root vegetables, let me introduce you to my Three Laws of Basement Storage.
- Off-beat solutions for organizing your mail
If you don’t immediately process your mail when you come home each evening, then I strongly recommend having a set place to store your mail until you do have time to process it.
This week has been incredibly exciting in our Unclutterer world and I’m eager to share the details.
First up, I signed a contract for a second organizing book. The working title is Never Too Busy to Cure Clutter and it is scheduled for an early 2016 release. I had a burning desire not to rewrite my first book, so this one took awhile to develop and find the right home for it. It’s full color and fun and will be a visual processor’s delight. I’m working with Harlequin Non-Fiction for this book, which at first might seem like an odd choice, but is actually perfection. Harlequin understands digital better than any other publisher out there, and I wanted the digital version of my book to be as amazing as the print version.
My editor for this book and I have such a similar vision for Never Too Busy to Cure Clutter that it is a little creepy. It will feature hundreds of projects you can complete in as little as 30 seconds, a minute, five minutes, all the way up to full weekend activities. There are quizzes and inspiring quotes and the whole book makes you want to get up off your tushy and get organized — even when you’re pressed for time. I am so excited about being able to make this book for you and others who are interested in finding more organization and less clutter in their lives.
My second announcement is that I’m a featured expert in the August 2014 issue of Real Simple Magazine. I answer a series of readers’ questions about topics ranging from photographs to refrigerators. If you are a subscriber, you should have received the issue earlier this week in your mailboxes. If you aren’t a subscriber, you can get the August issue on newsstands today. The feature begins on page 77 with a drawing of me that doesn’t include a single wrinkle (you’re welcome to pencil those in around my eyes if you prefer authenticity).
I am very thankful to Real Simple for including me in their Ask the Organizer series. I believe I’m the eighth organizer, and they are featuring 12 this year. The feature has been terrific, and I recommend checking out the advice from each month for some amazing tips.
There is also a possibility I’ll be in another issue of the magazine this fall. I’ll keep you posted as we get closer to that publication date.
As I’m writing this, I’m preparing to go see a radio show being taped in San Francisco tonight. Seats for the show disappeared within a day, so I was lucky to get one. In addition to luck, I was also prepared to make the necessary quick decision as to whether or not I wanted to attend the event when the tickets became available.
- I had my goals for the year already defined. One of my goals is to get out more, putting aside work and having fun, and taking advantage of all the area has to offer. So I knew that this opportunity fit within my goals.
- I had my finances organized, and I knew how much I could afford to spend on a ticket.
- I had my calendar up to date, and I knew I didn’t have any scheduling conflicts.
- I’d recently exercised my decision-making skills, and making one more decision was pretty easy.
Being organized has helped in many other areas of my everyday life. I’m having a couple family members over to the house on Saturday. I’ll do some extra cleaning before they arrive — don’t we all do that before company comes? But because the house is basically organized, I don’t have to fret about this being a big deal or plan on throwing a bunch of stuff into a closet or room that no one will see. And, I know I have the supplies I need to do the cleaning.
I moderate a Yahoo Group with over 2,000 members. In this group, the same types of problems come up time and again. These problems require me to write to certain members and explain what they are doing wrong. Since I took the time to set up some snippets in a text expansion tool — I happen to use Typinator, but there are plenty of others — I can respond much more quickly to these repeat problems and be sure I’m saying exactly the right thing.
And this year, I’m up-to-date on my bookkeeping and my scanning of tax-related documents. Next tax season will be much less stressful than in the past, when I’ve let myself fall behind.
I see the same kind of day-to-day benefits when I talk to other people, too. Artists who have their supplies organized can put their fingers on those they want when they begin a new project. Shop owners who are organized can find the inventory they need to restock their shelves. I have a friend who is both a painter and a gallery owner, and she’s always showing off to me when she puts a new organizing tool in place.
I’ve seen people with overflowing kitchen cabinets, full of stuff they don’t use. Once those cabinets were uncluttered and organized, meal preparation became much less stressful since everything needed was easy to find.
Organizing isn’t an end unto itself; it’s a way to make it easier for each of us to live the life we want to live.
All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we aren’t trying to encourage you to buy these items, we are trying to get you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!
This week’s unitasker selection is the Vessyl. And, there is nothing I could write about it that would be as entertaining as what Stephen Colbert has already said:
(If you can’t see the above video clip, try http://www.youtube.com/embed/VvkvBIleOEo?rel=0 on YouTube.)
Thanks to reader Tabitha for bringing our attention to Colbert’s segment.
- Four desks for a minimalist work space
Have a small workspace? Check out these four minimalist desks that will help you get stuff done and reclaim more space.
- The Simple Meal
Over the years, my husband and I have come to rely on The Simple Meal when we’re stressed and don’t want to make a production out of dinner. This meal consists of a protein, a vegetable, and a drink.
- Ask Unclutterer: Preparing for a major life change
Reader Sarah wants to know how much preparation she needs to put into setting up a nursery for a future child.
- Organized tool kits
Kits are great to assemble or purchase because all of the tools you need for a project are in one location and usually everything has a fixed home within the kit.
- Unitasker Wednesday: Bread slicer and crumb catcher
I’m of the opinion that if someone knows how to bake homemade bread that they’re suave enough to be able to cut it up without any assistance.
- Corralling lids
The August 2009 issue of Real Simple magazine (pg. 36) has a great tip for maintaining order in the kitchen.
Few things seem to collect clutter like a garage, basement, or backyard shed. Since their contents are typically out of sight, it’s easy to stuff something in there and forget about it. To make things worse, the clutter in question is often large: broken lawn mowers, unused tools, old trash bins, rakes, and shovels, partially used cans of paint, and other things deemed not appropriate for storing inside the house. When I need to stop thinking about something bulky, I often think, “Oh, I’ll put it in the shed.” This works until I can’t open the door anymore.
If this sounds familiar to you, check out my favorite organizing tips for these spaces:
First, get rid of the actual clutter. You can trash, recycle, and/or donate the items you no longer need or want. Once the clutter is gone you can work to organize the things you wish to keep. You may find you’ve decided to keep more than you have space to store and may need to go through the uncluttering process a second time.
Next, make use of the ceiling for storage. I bought several large screw hooks and put them along the ceiling rafters in our backyard shed. They’re perfect for hanging beach chairs, small tools, and bikes. I even keep the huge wreath that decorates our home’s front door in December on a hook. It frees up floor space and, if your shed is outdoors in a rural area like mine, foils any resident mice.
Garage owners might not want to screw hooks into the ceiling, but that space is still an option. Overhead shelving is a great way to get seldom-used items (like seasonal ones) off the floor and out of sight: when the garage door is open, the shelving unit is hidden. You could get the unit built in a weekend. If you’re not the DIY type, pre-made shelves are available at stores like Home Depot — all you have to do is install them.
I can’t count how many times I’ve walked into the basement and thought, “Now, where is [x]?” Storing like items together is the practice that eliminates the random search. After buying a few simple shelving units from IKEA, we now have a home for camping equipment, beach stuff, tools, old paint, and more. Now, if someone wants to borrow our Coleman stove, I know exactly where it is.
This is a little off subject, but here’s a quick tip about paint: buy a box of large, white stickers and place them on the lid of each can you open the first time. Next, write the following on the sticker with a permanent marker:
- Date purchased
- Purchase location
- Where in the house you used this paint
- Date paint job was finished
If you need to touch up the closet trim in your kid’s room, you’ll know exactly which can to open.
I mentioned shelving earlier because the walls in a garage, basement, or shed are great for storage, too. I found this brilliant re-purposing of a wooden pallet that has me inspired. By removing a few select slats and affixing the unit to the wall, you’ve got a slim, useful storage container that consumes very little space. I’m planning to make one of these for our space.
Of course, you needn’t buy shelves. Some bungie cord will store sports balls beautifully. Again, those who would rather buy than build will find all softs of wall-mounted storage options available. Peg strips are excellent and very useful.
A few final tips: First, put a trash can in each location. This makes it easier than carrying stuff inside your house only to bring it out again on trash day. Next, try your best to throw away things you don’t need as they appear. Check with your local town dump, recycling station, local government center, or fire station to see when they have designated days for collecting hazardous materials, like motor oil. Be sure to write these dates down on your calendar.
Finally, you would be amazed what a little paint can do. A few years ago, I painted our basement floor and added a few rubber work mats and was amazed at how much better the place looked. It’s easier to spend time putting things away in a place that you don’t hate visiting.
Having a clean and organized refrigerator can help save you time when planning what to eat for meals and money on groceries. We’ve talked about organizing your refrigerator before, but there are additional suggestions that might help you to save even more time and money.
Start organizing your refrigerator by removing all of the food. Toss anything that is no longer edible or is past its expiration date. Place the food you intend to keep in a cooler with a few ice packs to keep it cold while you work.
It is important to clean and sanitize your refrigerator. Cleaning is the process of removing food and grime from a surface. Sanitizing is the process of reducing the number of microorganisms (germs) to a safe level. If the surfaces in your refrigerator are not clean, the sanitizer will not have a good contact with the surfaces and it will be impossible for the sanitizer to kill germs. Also, some sanitizers, such as bleach, react with organic matter (food) and will be less effective if the surface is not properly cleaned.
Remove the shelves and scrub them with warm soapy water. An old toothbrush can be useful to clean out small cracks and crannies. Rinse the refrigerator parts well and dry them with a clean towel. Clean and dry the inside walls of the refrigerator as well.
A diluted bleach solution (1 part bleach, 4 parts water) or sanitizing wipes can be used to disinfect the shelves and racks as well as the inside of the refrigerator.
Clean the outsides of bottles and jars before returning them to the refrigerator. Not only do gunky bottles make a mess, bacteria and germs love to grow in the mess. Remember to clean the outside of the refrigerator as well, especially the door handles.
When returning food items to the refrigerator, think about what is used most often and what is used least often. The foods used most often should be put just inside the door to minimize the length of time the door is open. This may save on energy bills but also reduce meal preparation time, as the foods used most often are closest to where you need them.
Group similar condiments together in baskets. By putting all the salad dressings in one basket you only need to grab that basket from the refrigerator and place it on the table when you make salad for dinner. Small baskets prevent small items from getting lost in the back of the refrigerator. You can also use baskets to contain small round cheeses, cheese slices and cheese sticks, mini yogurt containers and soy sauce, and ketchup packets for lunches.
It is a good idea to group leftovers on one shelf. Use clear plastic containers to store leftovers so it is easy to see what is in each container. Label the leftovers so that family members will know how long the container has been in the refrigerator and when it should be thrown out. A piece of masking tape and a marker make it easy to label containers, so keep these items handy.
Refrigerators are designed to keep foods cold enough to prevent food spoilage. The temperature of your refrigerator should be between 32ºF and 39ºF (0ºC and 4ºC). Freezer temperature should be 0ºF (-18ºC) which stops bacterial growth.
Use a specially designed thermometer and adjust the refrigerator dials to ensure that you’ve reached these temperatures. It may take a day or two of adjusting your refrigerator dials to ensure you’ve achieved the correct temperature.
- Clean out the refrigerator before grocery shopping — you’ll be able to get a better sense of what you have and have space to store what you buy.
- Dispose of old leftovers just before trash day — you won’t smell up your kitchen with the odor of rotting food.
- If you keep raw meat in the refrigerator, ensure that the drippings do not fall on fresh produce or already cooked foods. If you do not have a “meat drawer,” store or defrost meat on a plastic tray that you can remove and easily clean and disinfect.
- Use a corner cupboard organizer to stack plates of food and maximize vertical space.
If your refrigerator is organized it is much easier to clean. Remember: Clean refrigerators are healthy refrigerators!
- Unitasker Wednesday: AutoMee
As best as I can describe it, the AutoMee is a Roomba for cleaning your smart phone screen. It’s an electric device that does what a piece of cloth can do.
- Planning an organized Walt Disney World vacation
The first of three in a series on organizing a vacation to Walt Disney World.
- Unitasker Wednesday: FreshTECH Automatic Jam and Jelly Maker
When a new product doesn’t improve convenience or functionality, why abandon the older, traditional product? Avoid the Automatic Jam and Jelly Maker and simply use your microwave or stovetop or oven or slow cooker or even your bread maker (if you have such a thing).
- Unitasker Wednesday: Old Fashioned S’Mores Maker
I want you to focus for a second on this device’s name: The Old Fashioned S’Mores Maker/a>. Imagine it, in ye olde tymes, our forefathers plugging a large metal device exactly like this into their walls “virtually anywhere, in the home,” to enjoy their s’mores.
- Making Mondays — and your week — more productive
Mondays are opportunities to start new habits and the day to begin a productive path for the week. While others grumble about Mondays, I try to think of them like the first day of school or the first day of a new job. The possibilities for success, fulfillment, creativity, and all the reasons you do what you do are open for you to experience.
- Blog to watch: UN v2.0
Alec Farmer, a graduate student in Glasgow, Scotland, is spending a year living in a micro-structure and is blogging about his experience on the new UN v2.0 site. The UN in the blog title is an abbreviation for urban nomad, and it aptly describes Farmer’s interesting project in small-space living.
- Ask Unclutterer: Having it all
Reader April asks: How do you have time for all of this – running a blog, writing a book, all of these musical activities & all the other stuff you seem to do?
The following are four super-simple things you can do in less than five minutes to make a huge improvement in your productivity and efficiency.
First and foremost: disable the alert sound that announces every new email you receive on your computer. This alert sound is such a compelling distraction that it can pull me out of almost anything I’m doing. It’s similar to the sound of a ringing phone — no one can resist it. A lot of people learn to check email at pre-determined intervals (which I recommend), but even just silencing that insistent little beep and checking your email whenever you want will go a long way to reducing distractions and increasing productivity. I killed the beep on my iPhone, too. You can easily turn these notifications back on if the need arises.
A second suggestion and another large improvement for me was eliminating leisure computing after 9:00 p.m. Nothing increases productivity like sleep, and late-night Facebook browsing or tweeting was robbing me of that precious commodity. Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy! I’m going to order the book iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us by Larry D. Rosen for more insight on this topic. But even my modest efforts have been beneficial, as I’m getting more sleep.
My favorite online calendar is Google Calendar. I’ve been using it for years and I love it. However, I only recently discovered the “Quick Add” feature. Here’s how it works: when creating a new event, click the downward-pointing arrow next to the “Create” button. Then, enter an event that follows the what, where, and when pattern (note that only “what” and “when” are required). For example, “Meeting with Tom at Starbucks on Tuesday 2.15 p.m.” Using natural language is SO much faster than creating an event and filling each field one at a time. How did it take me so long to find this?
Finally, and this is my favorite, install an app launcher. This is a piece of software that, among other things, lets you launch applications with only a stroke of a key or two. I’m a Mac user and I swear by Alfred. LaunchBar is another popular alternative. On the Windows side, consider Launchy. With Alfred, I can open any app by hitting Command-Space and then typing just the first one or two letters of that app’s name. I can’t even measure how much time this saves me throughout the day. All of these programs do a lot more than launch other apps, but this feature alone makes them worth installing. In fact, when I get a new computer, the absolute first thing I do with it is install Alfred.
You can get fancy with your productivity enhancement to great benefit, but remember that sometimes small changes can make huge differences. Share your favorite small tips that reap huge rewards in productivity and efficiency.
- Seven steps to creating or revising your household routines schedule
When creating a new household routines schedule or revising one you’ve used for years, follow these seven steps.
- Ask Unclutterer: Not displaying family photographs
Reader Mary wants to know what to do with her parents’ wedding portrait now that her parents are divorced.
- Unitasker Wednesday: Vegetable and Fruit Savers
Our featured unitaskers are the extremely specialized food storage containers, the Vegetable and Fruit Savers.
- Stress, stuff, and world travel: The not-so-secret connection
In a personal quest to visit every country in the work, Chris Guillebeau has picked up a number of worthwhile travel tips — specifically what NOT to take with you.
- Peter Walsh provides organizing tips for Microsoft Office users
Peter Walsh has created a 15 minute video for Microsoft talking about how he recommends using Microsoft Office to organize three specific areas of one’s life (family, finance, and health).
- Unitasker Wednesday: Lightning Reaction Extreme
Are you so bored that you can’t think of anything better to do than send an electrical charge through other people’s bodies? If so, then I know the perfect product for you to purchase
If you’re interested in creating your own kit, the following are three specific things to think about as you assemble it.
Food and water
You may have heard advice like: “A good rule of thumb is to have supplies for about 3 days, or 72 hours.” That advice comes from the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management. Both ready.gov and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) have repeated that advice, recommending at least a three-day supply of water per person.
Other sources indicate that 72 hours worth of supplies is a bare minimum. The Southern California Earthquake Center, in its brochure “Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Territory,” recommends that you have enough food and water for “at least 3 days and ideally for 2 weeks.”
FEMA’s guide entitled Food and Water in an Emergency (PDF) advocates for more supplies, too.
If an earthquake, hurricane, winter storm or other disaster strikes your community, you might not have access to food, water, and electricity for days or even weeks. … Store at least one gallon per person, per day. Consider storing at least a two-week supply of water for each member of your family. If you are unable to store this quantity, store as much as you can.
The American Red Cross has made a distinction between the supplies you need if you’re evacuating versus the supplies you need if you’re staying where you are. They recommend a “3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home.”
I’ve had clients tell me they were holding onto candles as an emergency supply — but that’s a really poor idea. As the CDC has indicated:
Home fires are a threat after a natural disaster and fire trucks may have trouble getting to your home. If the power is out, use flashlights or other battery-powered lights if possible, instead of candles. If you must use them, place candles in safe holders away from anything that could catch fire. Never leave a burning candle unattended.
I’ve heard people suggest getting a headlamp, so you can walk around with your hands free, which sounds like a good suggestion to me.
Landlines with corded phones
In day-to-day use, many of us rely on our cell phones, and many people are getting rid of their landlines. If you’re lacking power, a landline using copper wire, in conjunction with a corded phone, may work when no other phone will. Tara Siegal Bernard wrote in The New York Times about this in more detail. She noted that 911 services works better when the calls come through on a landline rather than a cell phone.
There are additional advantages to having a landline during an emergency. If your local cell phone network is overloaded after an earthquake, your landline calls might still go through. If you need to evacuate your home and you have a landline with an answering machine, you may be able to call home to find out if your power is back on; if the answering machine picks up and your home is still standing, your electricity is back.
At Unclutterer, we usually support the organizing standard of “a place for everything and everything in its place.” However, there are occasions when adhering to this motto is inefficient and might best be put on hold.
For example, most of the year our family eats meals in the dining room. During the financial year-end though, the dining room table turns into a horizontal filing cabinet for a couple of days while I prepare our income tax returns. During these few days, our family eats in the kitchen or in the living room on TV trays while the paperwork stays out on the table. This is a minor inconvenience for our family compared to the time-consuming task of packing up all of the paper work and re-filing it into the filing cabinet everyday. All of this paperwork does have a long-term place, but for this period of time it has a short-term place on the dining table.
You may decide there are other times when the standard of “a place for everything and everything in its place” should be temporarily ignored or when a short-term home should be established for specific items.
From time-to-time, your children may take on projects with their toys that are too much fun to go away after just a single play session. If your child is building a space station with blocks, confine the construction to a certain area of the room and let the building continue for a few days. A doll’s excessive wardrobe and shoe collection could be out for a few days and then sent to the “dry cleaners” (cardboard box) that can be easily moved so that housekeeping can be done. If you notice the projects haven’t been worked on in awhile, that is a good indication that the toys are ready to be returned to their permanent homes.
Rather than trying to obtain one those picture perfect houses from the magazines, think about how to manage your projects efficiently. When is it a good idea for you to ignore the “a place for everything and everything in its place” motto?
- Unitasker Wednesday: Tug of War Rope
This week’s unitasker is not just a 30-foot piece of abaca rope for $60. No, this is 30′ of rope for $60 with a knot in the middle of it, which is totally different.
- Unitasker Wednesday, er, Tuesday: Toastie Knife
This week’s selection comes to us from across the pond and could easily have been one of the reasons our fore fathers seceded from British rule. (I jest.) It’s the perfect tool for those of you with consistently torn toast from spreading too cold butter. HOW TRAGIC! Introducing, the Toastie Knife.
- Unitasker Wednesday: S’More To Love STL-600
This is NOT how you make a s’more.
- 10 uncluttering things to do every day
Small things you can do every day to keep your clutter under control.