We’re All Collectors.

I’m not exactly a massive fan of junk, clutter or collections. But I also have a deep, personal struggle with some hoarding habits. I went through a few events in my childhood where beloved items were placed in storage only to be forgotten, damaged or stolen. And when you’re being uprooted again and again, however much you enjoy it, you can grow attached to things that go with you. I also find that when you’re frugal you cling onto things because you realize the value there is in reusing everything you own. Water bottles are good for mixing and transporting drinks. Egg boxes are good planters, newspaper can be formed into fire blocks…

So I spend a lot of my life sorting, organizing and getting rid of junk. And an equal amount of time gathering more junk, because I saw something on Pinterest or because planting season is coming up.

Which is where I’ve been finding out the importance of libraries. Most people think only of conventional libraries, but there are, in reality, all sorts of libraries. You can have a video library, a seed library or a pattern library, for example.

And if we’re going to keep some amount of clutter in our lives, we may as well categorize it. I keep my craft materials on some shelves, sorted by type. Some piles of fabric, some sewing boxes, some assorted material samples and some furs and animal bones. Everything I need to craft things when the urge arises. I have a specific shelf for current projects, so when the urge arises I can just leave new materials on it. If I don’t finish the project I will just get rid of the materials.

Keeping your collections in an organized library does three things.

Firstly, it contains your work. Never take out two projects at once, always put materials back and sort everything you finish.

Secondly, it reduces waste. You don’t end up throwing away a few things every time you tidy the house.

Finally, it limits your collection. Once your library is full, you need to focus on quality and can stop yourself from becoming a hoarder.

Because we all collect things, so we may as well not drive ourselves or anyone else crazy doing it.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

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How To… prepare a makeup kit.

This post is the last in my “housekeeper’s kits” series. Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V and Part VI at these links.

Ending on something a little lighter for my seventh and final kit: makeup. Again, another one for the girls, but also an idea for a gift!

1: The Bag.

Most people’s makeup bags are too big with too few compartments or too small. Instead, look for something about the size of a pressure cooker pot, a 2l jug or an xBox360, with two or three compartments to it. This should be enough. If you’re an avid collector of makeup, try and keep various kits this size rather than one larger one, as it will keep everything more organized.

2: The Basics.

These are your minimalist makeup products. The two, three or four things you absolutely won’t go without. Keep them all together in a small section or their own pouch.

My basics:

-brown eyeliner

-black mascara

-concealer

-tinted lip gloss

3: The Specials.

These are things you actually use, but not all that often. Fancy dress, dressing fancy or to swap with your basics when you fancy a change. Anything you don’t use daily can be considered here. Anything you don’t use weekly absolutely belongs here. Keep them organized in a larger section of your bag where they can be accessed easily but kept away from your regular use items.

For specials, I would suggest an assortment of makeup with a bias towards makeup that enhances your best asset, all in good colours for you.

-eyeshadow collection in at least 5 colours that look good on you

-a couple of lipsticks that look bold and attractive against your skin

-blushes and countouring in your colours

-something unbelievably sparkly

4: The Applicators and Tools.

The stuff you use to put the makeup on and get your face neatened up. There are thousands of reasons to keep them separate from your main makeup, but the primary one is hygiene. These tools will be in contact with your face every day until they are replaced. You need to keep them clean, keep clean tools away from makeup and not let them come in contact with face cleaning equipment, unless you want to damage brushes or get deep pore cleanser in your eye through your lash curler!

I haven’t had a need for much more than this, but I’m not into heavy makeup most of the time. Add a special applicator for every item you wear regularly!

-large brush for coverage

-smaller brush for bursts of colour

-fan brush for eyeshadow control

-thin applicator for eyeshadow control

-sponges for dabbing and blurring

-lash curlers

-tweezers

-small scissors

5: The Cleaning.

And when you need to make a few corrections or get everything off, these come in handy. These occupy the main area of your bag, seeing as they’re large and best kept handy. You will also want to keep tools for cleaning your brushes and applicators.

6: The Nails.

Nail-care materials are often spread around the house, but it’s worthwhile to keep a set in your makeup bag that never strays from there.

-clippers

-scissors

-nail files

-fake nails and glue

-nail polishes

-nail polish remover

-nail moisturizer

7: The Travel Bag.

Something you can grab and throw your favourite makeup into. You’d take your whole kit with you if you were going somewhere for a week or more, but this is more for an evening or a couple of days.

It needs to have two main compartments: day and night. Maybe a third for interchangeable items. Each will have a makeup combination that covers all the sorts of makeup you wear, but only for one set. So an example would be:

Day: deep beige eye shadow, tinted lip gloss, brown eyeliner.

Night: dark green shiny eyeshadow, red lipstick, darker eyeliner.

Both: concealer, mascara, wipes.

And that is how I would put together a makeup kit!

I’m open to any further suggestions for kits to make and will, if asked nicely, put together some visuals of the kits I use, what’s in them and how to pack them for easy everyday use.

So go ahead and tell me about everyday situations, emergencies or clutter that you really think need a kit. ­čÖé

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… prepare a first aid kit.

This is going to be the first in six installments where I will explore six kits we could use in various situations as housekeepers. It falls on our heads to be ready for most eventualities, especially when they happen on our threshold and a small, easy to locate, well-organized, well-stocked box will really come in handy when you need to think fast and save the day!

The first kit is a first aid kit. This is an essential in any household, but few people go beyond the basic sets you can buy in the pharmacy, a box of plasters and a few painkillers. But even if you find it hard to think ahead when it comes to illness and injury, there are some simple measures you can take to make an awesome first aid kit.

1: The container.

The first step is to prepare a suitably sized container for your kit. None of that tiny, easy, cutesy nonsense. That was fine for your first scout camp, but when you have a real problem on your hands, you need to be well stocked. We actually have an entire shelf in a cupboard dedicated to our first aid gear. That’s how big we’re talking. You will want to stockpile the basics and be storing heavy-duty things, like heatable and coolable packs, compresses and emergency surgery kits. You need the space.

If you can’t take over a cupboard, consider a child’s suitcase, a storage box or even assorted tupperware boxes, all properly marked and organized, of course.

2: The grab-bag.

But what about those times when you need something soon or often? For that we will create a mini-kit, a grab-bag of assorted items you may need in a pinch. This should be the size of your standard household first aid tin or small lunch bag.

It will contain antiseptic wipes and/or spray, a small selection of plasters and sticky bandages, a nail kit and anything else you may need suddenly or urgently, such as an adrenaline shot if your daughter is seriously allergic to beestings.

3: Basics.

The basics are what we first think of when we talk about first aid. You will want two stashes of these: a stockpile in the main cupboard/container and a small selection in your grab bag.

Antiseptics. For any small cuts or animal bites.

A nail repair kit. Tweezers, nail file, small scissors and clippers. All very useful in the event of torn or damaged skin or nails.

-Simple painkiller. Paracetamol is wiser, as too much aspirin is a blood-thinner. But do make sure to have a selection.

Plasters. Everything from those tiny dots to a huge roll of plaster tissue.

-Sticky bandages. For more serious cuts than plasters can help with.

And those are your bare essentials.

4: Cold and Flu.

Colds and flus are inevitable. Sure, if you look after yourself you may get to a point where you get one a year and all it feels like is a stuffy nose, or even where you don’t get ill. But not everyone will or can get their immune system that strong and these people wander in and out of your life and home fairly regularly. Therefore, we need to be stocked in case of cold and flu.

-Congestion relief. Inhalers are very good, but nasal sprays can also help.

-Throat relief. Soothers and cough syrup.

Vapor rub. Good for handkerchief rubbing and for little ones with blocked sinuses.

Spare packs of tissues. Nobody ever has enough.

Vitamin chewies. To help prevent them from catching anything else whilst they recover.

5: Sports.

Again, you may be one of the least physically active people in the world and still get tennis elbow. And others around you will almost certainly get sprains, tears and twists even when you don’t. So you will need to be prepared for them.

Freezable pack. This could be as simple as that sponge-in-a-Ziploc trick or even a camping freeze bag.

Warmable pack. Rice bags are really easy to make and helpful.

Cool and heat sprays. For instant relief.

-Compress bandages. Usually just two long ones are enough, but you may want a specialized knee, ankle and wrist one too.

Ibuprofen gel. For swelling and pain.

Rehydration salts. Great for recovery, also usable in cases of extreme enteritis.

6: Bandaging.

Anyone can get cut or injured. Anyone can fall over, have a piece of furniture land on their foot or be bitten by a large animal. So bandaging gear is an essential.

Simple sterile gauze. These bandages come in little sterile packets and are very useful.

Bandaging. These come in rolls and are used for compressing wounds or broken parts into place.

Butterfly stitches. Little sticky stitches, good for holding things together as a temporary fix.

-Sewing kit. Sterile needle, proper thread, sterile tweezers and scissors.

Dissection kit. Sterile scalpel, tweezers, scissors, etc. Good for cleaning up messy wounds before bandaging or stitching and removing glass or deep splinters.

7: Epipens.

If you or a member of your household has a serious allergy, you will probably have an epipen anyway. These are measured adrenaline shots to keep people alive through an allergic reaction.

But as long as you know someone who has a serious allergy, it may be best to keep an appropriate epipen at hand at all times, just in case. Be warned, they expire. So keep an eye on them.

8: Gadgets.

Anything technological that may need batteries recharged, to be kept dry and safe or replaced after a few years.

-Assorted thermometers. Oral, ear, rectal, baby.

-Massager. A godsend when you need one. Just get something simple, like those insect-like ones.

Blood pressure monitor.

Blood glucose checker and strips.

9: Specials.

These are assorted items you will use rarely and that aren’t part of a treatment program, but that it’s best to keep in the back of your kit, just in case.

-Heavy duty painkillers. Codeine, for example.

-Headlice killers.

-Worming pills.

-Something to induce vomiting. When you need someone to vomit, this is vital.

-Fire blanket and burn cream.

10: Personals.

Anything you need that other people may not. Have a look at whatever illnesses or disorders run in the family. Some homes may need a defibrillator, some may need omega oils, some may need a couple of epipens handy. Make sure you have everything you need and put it into the right area.

11: Information.

All the literature you might need. I’d recommend a clipboard with a sheet of expiry dates for easy access, a first aid book for all emergencies and any books on the local wildlife and what may be poisonous where you live.

Once you have collected all of this, be sure to keep it organized. Tupperware boxes or makeup bags make great mini-kits, so that all your bandaging, painkillers or flu treatments are together. When you use it, make sure to put everything back where it came from and make note when something needs replacing or restocking.

And that is your first kit! Be sure to check in next week to find out how to design a kit for when you are depressed or otherwise “down”.

Until then, feel free to share your suggestions for the kit in the comments!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… declutter paper.

We’ve already looked at speedy and efficient decluttering and how to declutter your wardrobe. Next we’re looking at one of our worst clutter areas: paper. Maybe you’re a student and going through last year’s work. Or you’ve accumulated a pile of bills and don’t know what to do with them. Or you’ve been away for a while and the mail pile has just piled up and up.

Well, as a private tutor I accumulate a lot of random paperwork and need to regularly go through it. Here is the fastest and most efficient way I have found of sorting paper.

1: Pile it all together.

If it’s a complete mess, just go round the house and empty all your piles of paper together. Most people have at least three, so here are the common piles of unsorted paper.

-Homework.

-Work sheets.

-Mail.

-Coupons and vouchers.

-Magazines and newspapers.

-Past bills, receipts, etc.

-Essential documents.

-Fun things, like motivational posters.

If your paper stores are generally organized, work through them one by one. But if you’re finding your post with your past bills and magazines and receipts in your briefcase, you may as well empty them into one pile to work through.

2: First sort. Bin or check.

The first time we go through our paper, we need to just ask if we want to bin or keep it. Plenty of things can be thrown away immediately. Anything that won’t be put in the bin or the recycling goes into another pile.

3: Second sort. Store, use.

The second time we go through our paper, we decide whether the paper needs something done, like a bill that needs paying or a magazine you want to clip things from, or just needs to be stored like payslips or important documents.

4: Third sort. Folders.

Take your store pile and assign a folder for every category of paper. Use the categories above, or even break them down, such as bills into water, gas, electric and tax, or homework by class. As you sort them, arrange them by date, with the oldest at the back. Make sure to add the newest at the very front of the folder each time.

5: Go through.

Once a year, go through your folders and get rid of anything you no longer need. Bills older than five years can easily be thrown away, though you may not keep bills older than one or two. Either way, it should be a simple matter of taking the papers nearest the back and recycling, shredding or burning them. If not, it’s time to sort again.

6: Keep out.

Make sure your folders are easily visible and usable, otherwise you start creating more paper piles. When you are sorting something, make sure you get whatever it is done and then put the paper away.

And that is how I declutter my papers. It does take a while, but it’s absolutely worth it and at least it gives you an excuse to procrastinate, watch TV, take a call and drink coffee for a couple of hours.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

What does your paper drawer look like? Is it driving you crazy, like it used to drive me crazy? How do you keep on top of paper clutter?

Why Do We Connect To “Things”?

In a world of abundance, it’s only rational to consider that people will want to have things. Humans are meant to accumulate, exchange and use resources, be they consumables, usables, culture or consumable replacements such as money.

But we also see an interesting phenomenon in the Western world that is not quite as strongly reflected anywhere else. We see an extreme attachment to physical objects that don’t have a specific use or job. And, because we have so many things, this attachment can happen in five, ten, a hundred objects. On a simple level, almost everyone has an item they feel attached to, such as a simple wedding band or a tatty childhood toy. In extreme cases we see problem hoarders: people who accumulate things everyone else would consider rubbish to an extent where their homes are full and their lives are impossible, but who can’t bear the thought of parting with it. Often we see a deeper attachment to these things than the person feels for unknown humans. Sometimes the person will feel better about driving away a loved one than parting with their things.

But why does this happen?

As mentioned above, there are only four purposes for something in a human’s life:

1: Consumables. Things you need to use to survive that cannot be reused or recycled. Water, food are the basics. Firewood, underwear and deodorant are less obvious consumables.

2: Usables. Similar to consumables except they are not quite as degraded by use and are often not absolute essentials. Houses, machines or phones come to mind.

3: Consumable replacements. Bartering chips we use to obtain consumables and usables. The main one today is money in physical and digital form.

4: Culture. Something that serves no utilitarian purpose, but provides entertainment, satisfaction and a bonding opportunity with the individual’s social group.

When we consider what these things often are, we realize they are not consumables, replacements or usables. They may have started out that way, such as a favourite jumper, a childhood toy or a phone, but they have been elevated beyond that. The jumper isn’t worn for warmth, the toy isn’t played with and the phone isn’t used only practically. They aren’t anything practical, they’re “just things”. These things must, therefore, be cultural.

However they aren’t cultural in the traditional sense. Art is culture, ceremony is culture, fashion is culture. These are things shared by groups of people. They are understood and appreciated. They have a shared meaning, shared rules, shared boundaries.

The things people become attached to don’t have that shared meaning. Nobody will know or understand why your toy cat is so special to you until you explain its history, its meaning to you. Even then they may not understand. Your phone does not bond you to people. At best it creates a weak association-by-trend between you and users of similar phones or brands. At worst it serves as a divider between you and the people you most often interact with.

So they aren’t culture. They are culture surrogates.

In societies where they still have faith, tradition, arts and a life rich with meaning, they rarely need such items. Parents will hand their last remaining childhood toy to their own children, knowing it might be torn apart. Children will more likely treasure an item with a shared meaning than a personal one. After all, this is how culture is born.

But our society rejects culture. We actively fight it. We seek to understand a little bit of every culture around us and embrace none of them.

So we have branded “things” as surrogates for religion. They help us bond, find new people, find some sort of a meaning to life.

We have childhood “things” as surrogates for memory and family. They help us remember pleasant times, feel loved, feel worthy.

We have nonsensical “things” as surrogates for art. They make us feel individual, unique, eclectic and special.

We keep all these things around us. When we are lacking associates we find a new brand to associate ourselves with. When we are lacking memory or love we find a new trinket to hold some memories in. When we are lacking individuality, artistic appreciation or visual stimulus and pleasure we find a new random item to put in our room to collect dust.

And I guess having a few of these things is just natural. We’re human, after all, so a family heirloom or a painting that actually resonates with us will elicit strong emotions of joy, belonging, satisfaction and meaning. But do we really need quite so many of them?

What about you? What “things” do you have in your home? Are you a clutter bug or a minimalist? Do you find yourself attaching meaning to objects easily? Or do you have one or two things you need in your life and everything else is disposable? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… declutter a room.

If you’re a housekeeper, you are familiar with clutter in a way that bachelors or kept people rarely are. That slow, creeping mess of things. You can’t remember who they belong to, who brought them in, why they are there, but there they are. Glasses on the bookshelf, a pile of papers on the table, an abandoned mug or a toy in the middle of the floor.

Generally you keep on top of it. Just put the glasses somewhere sensible, ask the paper-owner to sort the papers, put the mug in the sink or dishwasher and return the toy to the toybox or child’s bedroom. But sometimes rooms get out of hand. Very, very out of hand. Like an episode of Hoarders in the making. Usually this is an office, a spare room, a child’s bedroom or a shed, but sometimes it can happen to kitchens, living rooms, bathrooms and master bedrooms as well. No space is safe from clutter explosions.

So, when you next walk into a room that looks like it was hit by a hurricane, here’s what to do to straighten it out and try and prevent this happening again.

1: Clear a floor or furniture surface.

Just throw everything to one side, if you must. Give yourself an open space to work with.

2: Arrange clutter into piles.

One for books, one for laundry, one for toys, one for kitchen stuff…

3: Work by sections.

Once you have sorted a certain cluttered area, take everything and put it where it belongs. Then move onto the next area until the room is tidy.

4: Find a collection.

Basically, if there are many books, clothes, toys, CDs or anything in one corner, that’s a collection. It may not be intentional, but there are probably a lot more things to get rid of from collections than anywhere else.

5: Work through one collection at a time.

Don’t overburden yourself. Pick a collection or a piece of furniture and take everything off it.

6: Sort everything.

Create three piles: things to return to the furniture, things to donate and things to throw away. Don’t put anything aside for storage, that’s just more clutter. When you have finished, clean the furniture and the items you’re keeping before returning them.

7: Organize everything.

When you’re returning the items you’ll keep, think of how they will be best used and how they’ll look best. You want everything to look nice, but also to stay tidy. The things that will be used more often should be in easy reach, where the things you use rarely can be hidden.

8: Rearrange.

If everything doesn’t fit, go through and remove things. Assume you have to throw something away, what would it be? Take those things out and put them to one side. Maybe you can keep them, or maybe you will decide you don’t need them after all.

9: Move to the next collection.

Go around the room, working through each collection. Finally you should have a large pile for donations, a small pile of rubbish and a small pile of things you’re yet to make your mind up about.

10: Finish the room.

Whatever you have in your undecided pile, try and find a place for it. If you can’t, choose some items to donate and some to keep. Put the ones you’ll keep in a storage box.

You can also get a basket or item or furniture to keep them on or in, if you really want to use them.

Finally you’ll be left with a tidy room that is easy to use and unlikely to become a mess in the next two hours. Enjoy the tidiness until someone leaves a plate in the middle of the room for no apparent reason.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

Did you find this how-to useful? How do you go about decluttering your house? What are the biggest sources of clutter? How do you prevent mess?