Bean There

For those who lead busy lives, a leisurely cup of coffee in the morning at the kitchen table may seem like a luxury associated with a bygone era.  It is more likely that the blessed jolt of java is obtained in a retail outlet on the daily commute or after dropping the young ones off at school. On-the-go coffee has its compensations.  Often it is a gourmet experience, crafted by baristas, tastier than the pedestrian blend provided by the humble Mr. Coffee machine at home.  But not everyone is wholly enamored of sipping rapidly cooling brew from the cardboard cup, itself, environmentally suspect and risky to carry. A travel mug must be a godsend. But, is it?

Travel mugs are not without their disparagers. Criticisms concerning dribbling due to ill-fitting lids may top the list, perhaps making these vessels popular only with dry cleaners.  Others decry the taste of plastic or metal compromising the flavor. Many models of travel mugs are not dishwasher safe.  Not all mug shapes and sizes fit into a car’s cup holders, creating a balancing act for drivers. And they call texting a distraction? Try dealing with six ounces of scalding liquid in your lap sixty miles an hour. We call that a full-on emergency.

CRUD Challenge

Is there such a thing as the perfect travel mug? We suspect not, but our clients seem to be hell bent on finding something reliably spill-proof. That is why so many mugs are abandoned in this futile pursuit of perfection.  A clear-out should restore much-needed space in kitchen cabinets and your car’s interior.  Start with some the worst offenders. That should be obvious. These are the mugs for which no lid is to be found, or vice-versa. Next in line are promotional mugs that you have acquired but have never touched your lips. Don’t forget to toss any that lack insulation. If they can’t keep a drink hot or cold for more than five minutes they deserve the boot. Then see if you can remember which one or ones sloshed all over your computer or ruined a really expensive outfit when your commuter train lurched without warning. Recycling those should be particularly satisfying. It really makes you question whether liquids were meant to be drunk while the body is motion.

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Posted in C.R.U.D.

No Esther Williams?

Can you think of any woman you know, over the age of 22, who looks forward to going shopping for a swimsuit? For that matter, can you think of anyone who is totally happy with the state of her body?  Somewhere between New Year’s and Easter many of us start entertaining the thought of a winter holiday to some tropical paradise or at least, planning for summer fun that invariably includes beach or pool time. Unwelcome thoughts immediately enter the picture. Muffins tops, “bingo arms”, thunder thighs, varicose veins and other crimes of the flesh yet to be revealed, are enough to convert vacation anticipation into vacation aversion. If you have already vowed not to experience torture of the squeezing into a new Spandex equivalent of a sausage casing this season, we urge you to think again. Yes, we are advocating that you go out and find bathing suits flattering to your current body, but not until you give your existing swimwear collection a  critical  once-over.

Your beachwear will likely be located in one of several places: in a drawer, a basket or plastic container on the top shelf of a closet; or in a suitcase that you have not unpacked since last year. Once you commence sorting, you will discover that specific categories will emerge.  These could encompass microscopic bikinis worn when you were a hipless teen with a flat tummy, tops without bottoms and vice-versa, one piece suits that barely cover your derriere and an assortment of faded, stretched out models where the elastic has all but given up. Decide if there is anything worth keeping.

CRUD Challenge

If this perusal of the present state of your swimsuits still does not motivate you to replace, consider these factors.  No doubt it has been a long time since you have deigned to enter the swimwear department of any store in the mall. Even if you are no longer size 4, creative designs and miracle fabrics have come along to enhance your assets and deflect attention from your “problem” zones. If going to a store is too intimidating, on-line shopping and catalogues provide you with garments to try on in the privacy of your home. Remember, everything is subject to change, including your body as you age. Clearing outdated, ill-fitting, uncomplimentary and tired wardrobe pieces acknowledges your commitment to staying current and embracing the person you are today. As hard as this may seem, your reward will come when you start splashing in the surf, self-assured in your new suit.  Take the plunge. A little ruching goes a long way.

 

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Pajama D-Day

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In your current situation you may have ample room for your entire wardrobe.  You might possess 2 or more dressers in your bedroom just dedicated to your clothes.  If your adult children have vacated the family home, along with their belongings, then some of your clothing may have migrated into the drawers and closet space they left empty.

Now imagine that one day you will be faced with moving to a smaller location. When everything you own needs to be reduced to what a one bedroom apartment can comfortably handle, you will have difficult choices to make.

By taking inventory of the contents of your dresser drawers you can get a better sense as to what should be on your endangered species list for consideration. One category comes to mind immediately: sleepwear. Granted, we spend roughly a third of our lives in slumber and at least that amount binge watching streamed entertainment at home. Comfortable clothing like pajamas serve as appropriate attire for relaxed activities like nodding off on the sofa.  We understand the love affair with pajamas. Once you don them it signals you are done for the day. But, how many pair do you really need?

Needless to say, we see large numbers of pajamas, nightgowns, bathrobes and loungewear in our clients’ closets and drawers. To some degree, they are seasonal items. You can’t wear your flannel p.j.s topped with a velvet floor-length housecoat in the blistering heat of July. This is why people need to double-up on sleepwear, to cover all eventualities, unless they reside in the tropics. Still pajamas a hefty category deserving of frequent purging.

CRUD Challenge

If you have already invested a good percentage of your net worth in designer sleepwear then this may prove too challenging. On the other hand, if your p.j.s look like your dogs played tug-of- war with them, or the bottoms have morphed into a permanent, tangled wad that prevents you from closing the drawer in which they reside, then this should be a walk in the park. Don’t despair. Your washer and dryer won’t let you down if you run out.

Unload the drawers and closets, examining each garment for wear and tear, as well as sizing. Your discard pile should look something like this: things that are too small, faded, stained, full of holes or the flannel has lost its nap.  Toss or make rags out of the unwearable ones. Donate the pajamas in decent condition to shelters and other non-profits. What you wear or don’t wear to bed is really none of our business. Making sure your home is functioning with the right amount of stuff is.

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Posted in C.R.U.D., Show Clutter The Door

Dark Passages

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We know we are going to get in serious trouble for even suggesting that journals qualify as CRUD. If you have de-cluttered as many homes as we have then you would know why we include these iconic digests of personal misery in the category. When we were growing up the practice was referred to as “keeping a diary”.  No doubt there are many fine authors who, as children, honed their skills compulsively scribbling away in those little lockable private books.   In your formative years as  diarist, perhaps your diary served as the repository for confidences meant for your eyes only: junior high crushes; fantasizing about a disfiguring accident befalling a   competitor for a spot on the JV cheerleading squad; anxiety over math tests or acne: or the sheer dread being seen anywhere in public with your parents.  Life in one’s early teens is an emotional minefield.  Is there a benefit to reliving the humiliation in print a few more stable decades later?

Puzzlingly, journaling persists in a world dominated by the tyranny of social media. With virtually no barriers to entry, blogging, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms serve up an audience of countless millions for sharing one’s musings. With the potential for power and fame available at one’s fingertips, what explains the attraction of unburdening to a lined paper volume with a probable readership of one?

We understand that many people derive immense satisfaction recording the minutia of daily life in journals and, but at what price?  How much space in your home are you willing to squander in order to accommodate so much of the past? Our clients insist that they will go back and re-read the entries, when they have the time. Somehow, that day never arrives. It is often journals that are contained in the boxes that remain unopened from previous moves. 

CRUD Challenge

It may not be now, but some day you may want to downsize from your current living quarters to something smaller and more manageable. When you get to that point there will be drastic possession reductions required for a successful transition. You will have to make hundreds if not thousands of decisions regarding everything you own. The merits of keeping journals must we weighed against the importance of your other treasured things.

If a small bonfire is not a suitable option, here are some suggestions for how to deal with your journal collection. The first is to stop buying them. Inoculate yourself by staying out of the kind of store that specializes in incredibly beautiful high-end stationery and paper goods, so you won’t be tempted. Check through your current inventory. You may be surprised to find that you have brand new journals that you bought and put away without writing a single word. They can be donated. Re-purpose a small journal to keep in your purse to help you remember to do things, like calling people and making shopping lists. That covers the blank ones. You may be wondering about the box full of journals that contain your writings. What you decide to do is dependent upon your comfort level with the content. Do you want a future biographer to have access to your pet peeves? Shredding may prove prudent.

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Sole Survivors

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Consider yourself blessed if you reside in a zip code where the climate is so pleasant that your pedicure need never be concealed.  However, if sandals do not constitute at least 85% of your footwear, then you are very likely to be the devoting a large percentage of your precious storage to shoe care products. Take a moment to contemplate what your shoes and boots are expected to regularly endure. Unlike their counterparts in southern climes who live out their existences cushioned by warm white sand, your shoes make daily contact with puddles, snow, ice, mud,  and even the occasional dog pile. Such denizens require you to maintain an arsenal of shoe protection products to keep them in active service.

These come in many forms including the polishes, water proofers, shines, oils, stain removers and the requisite brushes and cloths used for application. But that’s not all.  What about the inner soles, orthotics and other items designed for comfort, as well as special products to eliminate the disagreeable odors emanating from sweaty feet when you forego wearing socks? There is another category for maintaining the shape of shoes, like shoe trees, shaper and stretchers. 

It is not that the countless numbers of shoe products are not useful. Like everything else in your house, they occasionally need editing.  Here are some ideas.

CRUD Challenge

This is an easy de-cluttering project for a day you want instant results when you don’t really have a lot of time to devote. Shoe care products can typically be found in several locations.  Men often keep theirs in wooden boxes designed to both clean shoes and store the various components. Women will re-purpose shoe boxes and store their shoe care goods in a closet or cabinet. Aged, cracked and dried up residue vaguely resembling polish is a good place to start for pitching. Liquid shoe polishes are considered to be hazardous household waste and need to be treated as such. You may have polishes hanging around that were purchased for shoes you long ago discarded. The same goes for gel soles. Check the labels on aerosols to see what chemicals they may contain. These may need special disposal that does not harm the environment.  Now that you are finished cleaning out the stained rags and free amenity shoe kits that you dragged home from hotels, use the remaining products to give your shoes a refresh. They deserve the attention.

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Utens-hell

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Graters, slotted spoons, melon ballers, apple corers, peelers, tongs, knives, canning supplies, can openers, corkscrews, blades from mixers, spatulas, cake servers, cheese slicers, egg timers, whisks, strainers, steamers, squeezers, zesters, beaters, choppers, serving forks, thermometers, mashers, and ladles. What do they all have common? They all need somewhere to live.

Kitchen drawers? Can there ever be enough? We find ourselves returning to this problem area again and again. Unless you are among the extremely fortunate who either don’t cook or have moved into a newly renovated kitchen equipped with cabinets and drawers designed to house enough gear to open a restaurant, your tolerance for cramming may be stretched to the limit. Your cutlery drawer may be overflowing with a few too many mismatched soup spoons. But, forks, spoons and knives are child’s play to organize. They fit into their allotted spaces in their plastic trays. The utensil drawer is another story. Imagine a 10 car pile-up on the freeway in the middle of rush hour. Nothing is moving. You need to call a tow truck just to get the drawer opened.

Utensils, like pots and pans, are your tools for food preparation. But, what can you do if the volume outstrips the supply of available storage? If you have any wall space available you could hang some on a rack. If you have room on your counters, you can use a receptacle like an open canister to handle the excess. Keep in mind that you will be encroaching on your work area by adding to the load already dedicated to toasters and seltzer makers.

CRUD Challenge

Paring down your utensils is not a major undertaking. You can do it in less time than it takes to find a pair of sandal foot pantyhose with any runs in your hosiery drawer or search for the receipt for a lip balm you need to return. Simply take everything out of the drawer and apply the following tests:

1. How many poultry shears (or anything else) do you have? Compare them. Keep the best for yourself and donate the runners-up.

2. How many utensils perform identical or similar functions? Can you reduce using these criteria?

3. Can you remember the last time you actually used something like an egg-slicer? Would your life be diminished in any way if you no longer had it?

4. Do any of the utensils appear worse for wear? Are they missing parts? Are they so decrepit as to be no longer capable of performing the functions for which they were purchased?

5. Do you have any utensils whose uses are a total mystery?

Once you have performed this mini- evaluation, clearing your drawers of relics from a long-ago passion for gourmet cooking, enjoy opening and closing your streamlined utensil drawer that slides with ease.

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What Lies Beneath

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For some it is an endless quest: finding space to store everything they want to keep. Consequently, we frequently run across overwhelmed clients that will use any area or anything that resembles a container to stockpile surplus belongings.  Banana boxes and opaque plastic bags top the list of the impromptu storage vessels. As neither is designed for stacking, the floor itself resembles the aftermath of a Black Friday sale, before the sales personnel can return the premises to selling condition, in preparation for the next shockwave of shoppers.

If your floor is merely is merely a holding pen for any possessions that lack permanent homes, then you need to adapt to a storage regimen that allows you to take advantage of four times the space than your floor is currently offering. We are big advocates of the virtues of vertical space. Nearly everyone has walls and walls are not just for hanging pictures and mirrors.  Walls also support shelves and shelves possess untold possibilities for storing books, photos, knick-knacks, tools supplies etc. Visibility is the key to remembering where things are.  If you can’t see it, you don’t have it.

Just remember, the floor is not a storage area. Floors are bases designed to hold furniture, appliances, plants, magazine racks, floor lamps and large musical instruments.  You should be able to walk on them without having to wear protective shin guards or use sonar to  detect unseen objects that if accidently encountered can land you in the ER. Too much stuff limits the opportunity for proper cleaning.  Floor coverings themselves can constitute indoor health hazards. Carpets are havens for allergens. Unsecured area rugs are a major cause of falls.

CRUD Challenge

Floor clearing is a highly worthwhile endeavor, although it may prove time consuming.   You are apt to find any of the following monopolizing the lower regions of your rooms: piles of newspapers, magazines or books (mostly unread); dirty dishes, glasses and pizza boxes; discarded clothing; unfinished craft projects; oversized children’s’ toys like kitchens and doll carriages; athletic gear and giant pet transporters, large enough for a St. Bernard. You can throw in vacuum cleaners that never get put away and footwear representative of every season. If you merely either toss or stow the above, you might find that your living room has magically grown in size by leaps and bounds, or at least it will seem that way. You could be in a position to install hardwood.

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