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Follow these simple tips to keep clutter at bay and keep your home looking effortlessly organized.
Piles of bills on the kitchen counter, DVDs strewn about the living room and a beautiful antique dining room tabletop that's buried under piles of paper. Oh, and you can't find your gym pass either.
Can you relate to the above scenario? If so, you and your loved ones may slowly be drowning in a giant pile of clutter.
Clutter can be a big weight on the state of your mental health. "Clutter is like pollution. It's all-pervasive: It's in your thoughts, in your way, in your space. It robs you of peace of mind and that feeling of being at home," says Kristie Demke, President of Professional Organizers in Canada. "It can also rob you of time," she adds, "because you spend a lot more time moving things to dust, sweep and vacuum around. And, you spend more time looking for things."
Many of us dream of neat and tidy rooms like those showcased in our favourite design magazines like Style at Home. Here are 10 quick and easy ways to start clearing out the clutter in your home.
Credits: Stacey Brandford
1 Identify clutter hot spots
Kitchens attract mail pile-ups, home offices store endless piles of bills. Books and hand cream samples seem to love night tables and the weekend's newspaper becomes a permanent fixture on your living room floor. Once you identify your clutter hot spots, consider purchasing an attractive basket to house items you like to have at your fingertips. But remember, a basket can organize chaos for a while, but will also need a frequent purge a few times a month to avoid pile up.
Purge and do it often. Why are you using up valuable space storing that mixing bowl set you think your niece might want when she leaves for university in a few years? Go through your stuff and think about the last time you used it, why you're keeping it around and if it would be more useful somewhere else. After your first few big purging sessions, you won't need to go at your storage closet so frequently (and ruthlessly).
We all have important keepsakes we don't know what to do with and purging these can be difficult, but don't keep these things buried in the bottom of a box in your garage. Find a space in your home where you can show off its beauty and take good, constant care of it. "There's really no point in owning something if you can't use it," Kristie says.
3 Deal with a little every day
This may be the hardest tip to follow, but it's by far the best. Focusing a mere 15 minutes of your day on clearing clutter will make your life a whole lot easier (and your house a whole lot tidier)! When you're finished your bowl of cereal, put the dish in the dishwasher right away, rather than placing it in the sink. When you get home from work, deal with your mail immediately. File away bills and recycle junk mail then and there. If you have the luxury of half an hour, says Kristie, you can manage to sort through a closet of clothing, determining what you don't need anymore. If you don't let things pile up, your home will be a lot tidier and cleaning up much less of a daunting task.
4 Stay focused
When you're taking on a clutter-busting task, it's important to be energized and focused. Even if you're just spending 15 minutes on cleaning off your desk, ignore the buzz of your Blackberry and the ping of your e-mail inbox. Just focus on the task at hand so you can be done with it once and for all.
5 Look at the big picture
It's hard to decide on the fate of a beloved old sweater when you're looking at it on its own, but when you put it beside all your new ones, you may notice that it's stretched out of shape, faded and really, you wouldn't be caught dead in it in public. Conundrum solved!
6 Make use of unused space
You can add hooks over your bedroom and bathroom doors, bins and baskets on closet floors, storage bins under your bed, and bulletin boards and file pockets to your office walls. Be creative when looking at unused space and it can become a great new place to store items out of the way.
7 Get your kids involved
"Kids come with a lot of accessories," Kristie says, "so you have to be pretty vigilant to make sure you stay on top of it." Kristie recommends sitting down with your kids for an hour every month to sort through what they have, then storing or donating what is no longer being played with. "And make sure whatever storage you have is at their height and within their ability [to use]," she adds. "Even a toddler can put away soft toys into a bin if it's at the right height."
8 Identify a place for things
So you knit, sew, run, bike ride, cook and have two dogs. Your hobbies require you to actually own stuff, and therefore have created a good deal of clutter. "You really have to identify an amount of space - a place - for things. If you have a dog, make sure the leash and bags are all kept in one area," Kristie advises. In finding a home for your hobbies, you may discover you don't have room for all of them, helping you to identify which ones should be a priority.
9 File things ... now
Kristie says that one of the best organizing investments is a filing cabinet. Just think: All of those piles of papers in your home office can be put away in mere moments. And you won't spend hours of your precious time trying to locate your donation receipts come tax time. Don't worry, not all filing cabinets are of the old, stacked metal variety. You can find ones with classy design elements at places like West Elm, Ikea and Pottery Barn.
10 Give away
Dedicate a specific spot in your house or garage for giveaway items, and place a box there. When you come across something you no longer need or want, you can discard it to the giveaway spot immediately, rather than setting it back down and forgetting about it. Plan a monthly trip to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army drop-off location to get rid of the goods you no longer have room for.
Learn how to keep your evergreen fresh all season long.
Find everything you need to know to keep your evergreen fresh and contain the inevitable mess.
Nothing announces the holiday season quite like a fresh conifer. But, as it’s often as tall as you are and prickly all over, a Christmas tree can be quite challenging to manoeuvre. Spring for the optional plastic bag for easy transport, and don’t rush to pull it off. Once the tree is indoors, cut a hole in the bottom of the bag large enough to poke the trunk through, and insert it in a tree stand. Pull the bag down, flatten it around the base of the stand and conceal it with a decorative tree skirt. When you’re ready to say goodbye to the holidays, carefully remove the skirt and shake the needles off outside. Then simply pull the bag back over the tree and haul it out with minimal mess.
Needle in a haystack
Vacuuming tree needles out of carpeting can seem like mission impossible, but it doesn’t have to. Sprinkle the area with baking soda to neutralize stickiness from sap. Then, target needles individually with the crevice attachment. In future, to minimize the problem, choose an extra-large tree skirt.
What’s your type?
Before heading out with wallet or axe in hand, get informed about the most popular tree types.
Fraser fir: Known for its sturdy, well-spaced branches ( ideal for ornaments) and superior needle retention, this high-end tree can be pricey.
Balsam fir: A less expensive alternative to the Fraser, it has similarly stiff branches and a nice woodsy scent.
Eastern white pine: With slender, wispy branches bearing soft needles and a light fragrance (great for allergy sufferers), it’s a delicate option.
Size matters Make sure your tree stand is large enough to contain sufficient water. A good rule of thumb is four cups of water per every inch of the trunk’s diameter.
Remove stubborn sticky sap from carpeting and fabrics by hardening it with bagged ice and then scraping it off. For walls, wipe it away with a bit of baby oil; afterward, remove the oil with dish soap and water.
Dos and don'ts
Do: Have a pro make a fresh cut at the trunk’s bottom, and put the tree up right away. Keep it in constant contact with water.
Don't: Saw the trunk at an angle or in a V shape, or drill a hole in it. These methods won’t aid water uptake.
If you opt for a faux tree, mimic the fresh scent of a real conifer with one of these products.
Fill your room with the fragrance of eucalyptus and pine with this designer tool. Jo Malone London diffuser in Pine & Eucalyptus, Holt Renfrew, $95.
Tuck these discreet green stick-shaped ornaments into your tree for a month’s worth of fir aroma. Scentsicles ornaments in White Winter Fir, Bed Bath & Beyond, $14 per pack of 8.
Poured in festive green glass, this candle emits a jolly woodsy scent as it burns. Scented candle in Snowy Pine & Fir Balsam, Indigo, $20.
Learn how to properly de-ice your outdoor steps and walkways.
This winter, transform your outdoor steps and walkway from slippery to safe with these helpful de-icing tips and tricks.
Problem: Icy walkway
1 To remove the bulk of the ice, chip away at it using a long-handled ice chipper. The one you normally use for your car will work just fine. The ice will be thinnest at the edges, so start there, working inward.
2 If any ice is too persistent to loosen with the chipper, melt it using boiled water. Just be sure to have an absorbent rag at the ready to wipe up the water immediately after. The last thing you want is for it to refreeze and add to your workload. Wear thick rubber gloves to avoid scalding your skin.
3 Ultimately, when it comes to ice build-up, the best defence is a good offence. In the future, to prevent snow from melting down and forming into ice, ensure your your walkways are shovelled regularly. To make the work less back-breaking, explore your local hardware store for an ergonomic shovel.
If a bargain-sized bag of ice melter or traction aid is cramping the style of your front entrance, try placing it in an elegant lidded plastic storage bin like the Berkshire from Mayne ( Lowe’s, $178), which looks like an architectural feature. Keep a wood-handled scoop inside it for easy dispensing.
Illustration courtesy of Joanna Kim
Hold the salt
Rock salt has negative environmental and health effects that can’t be ignored. Try these green alternatives for fast slip-proofing.
(From top to bottom)
A volcanic mineral that provides instant grip for your soles, even in freezing rain. Traction aid, EcoTraction, $13.
Pooch-approved and stops new ice from forming for days with an invisible barrier. Safe Paw Ice melter, Pet Valu, $17.
A greener option from a trusted brand. Sifto Safe Step Ice melter, Canadian Tire, $8.