The End Of 2014 Clutter Sweep

The holidays always bring about an interesting time, when we have to pull out all of the Christmas decorations from their storage space.  We have some shelves where items go, and some plastic storage bins.  After the holiday stuff gets put away, things go back in front of it, so when it’s time to pull the holiday stuff out, we quickly see that it’s time to declutter.

I’ve set a personal goal to try to clear as many of the following items from our house by the end of the year.  Clutter is not something you deal with and then it goes away, at least in our house, for the simple reason that it always comes back!

  • Old TV(s)
    • Where they’re located: Basement – Unfinished area
    • Where they need to go: Donate (Salvation Army)
    • Why it’s clutter: We’ve replaced several tube TVs with flat screen TVs, and the tube TVs are not re purposed.
  • Exercise Bike
    • Where it’s located: Basement – Home Office
    • Where they need to go: For Sale (Craigslist)
    • Why it’s clutter: I prefer to exercise at a gym, and the machine isn’t horribly reliable anyways.  It works but the display cuts out intermittently.  I don’t expect to get a lot for it as it was on the lower end of the price scale anyways.
  • Collectible Toys
    • Where they’re located: Basement – Home Office (piled up on a chair)
    • Where they need to go: For Sale (eBay or Amazon)
    • Why it’s clutter: In the 1990’s, I shared an apartment with a college buddy who was a big toy collector.  He convinced me to buy and stash a few items.  I put them in a bin and forgot all about them until I was trying to find some extra bins.  While many of the items are pretty much worthless, a quick eBay search revealed that there are some that have appreciated a bit.
  • Summer / Winter Clothes
    • Where they’re located: Closets and drawers
    • Where they need to go: Donate or trash or the rag shelf
    • Why it’s clutter: I switch out some winter clothes and summer clothes, and I generally avoid getting rid of stuff, figuring I’ll just deal with it but never do.  I have some items on both sides that either no longer fit, are too worn out, or out of style.  I just need to clean out the closet, so to speak.
  • Broken Power Washer
    • Where they’re located: Currently in the garage
    • Where they need to go: Garbage
    • Why it’s clutter: A relative gave me a power washer before they moved, and it’s never worked right.  I believe that it was stored in a garage or shed during the winter which caused some freezing on the inside pipes.  I’ve looked online and with these models, this cannot be repaired.

In addition we need to do some cleanup where we might not necessarily get rid of things, but the re-organization will help reduce the footprint of items:

  • Basement Kids Items – We keep things like high chairs, swings, and the like in the event that family might some day want them.  There’s a corner of the basement that needs to be taken apart and the stuff re-organized.
  • Basement Bins – We keep some kids clothes and such in plastic bins, some is in case relatives eventually need them, or so that they can be sold at resale shops when they’re in season.  The area where we keep things stacked up needs to be reorganized.
  • Garage – I don’t mind the cold, and will go out for a night or two or a weekend afternoon and re-organize the garage.  It’s definitely time.

What de-cluttering projects do you have on the horizon?

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Ugh, Clutter Is Invading Our Home

I hate clutter.  I also know that clutter is always around the corner.  Forget about it for one second and it invades your home.  Once it creeps in, the cycle of clutter doom starts.

Unfortunately, it’s my opinion that we let clutter in the door somehow.  The good news is that clutter can be uncluttered with a few steps.  Before all else, you have to recognize clutter.

Well, clutter, consider yourself recognized!

Here are a few areas where clutter has invaded our home, and what we plan to do about it:

  • Paint cans – I’m in the middle of repainting a few rooms upstairs, all necessary with finally getting our youngest from her crib to a bed.  As I’ve gone through all of our paint supplies, I realize that I have no less than 20 paint cans.  We’ll be adding a few more with the various colors we’re painting, and honestly I don’t have room anymore without making some changes.  The plan: Four times per year, the county will collect hazardous materials, including paint.  They charge $10 for the processing and such, but this will be well worth it.  I will go through our paint cans, and get rid of those which have gone bad or which I know we will never use again.  I expect we’ll be down at least half, which will free up a shelf or two.
  • Closets – As we’ve started shifting things around, some room clearing has been accomplished by stashing things in closets.  What I’ve realized as I cram lamps and such in the closets is that we have stuff there that probably isn’t needed to begin
    Stay On Top Of Clutter Before It Takes Over

    Our clutter isn’t this bad yet!

    with.  One closet has a bunch of old luggage that I need to get rid of, as well as a lot of gift bags that we’ve kept for potential re-use but that have grown way beyond what we’ll ever need.  The plan: As we complete rooms and complete the moving around,  we’ll have to make sure that all items in the closet are things we want to keep, otherwise it will need to be donated or disposed of.

  • Boxes – Similar to our gift bag stash, in the basement I keep various boxes that we can use when wrapping presents.  These have been great over the years, but even during Christmas, we’ve probably never used 10% of what we have.  There’s a certain advantage to having a box of any shape or size, but that can be outweighed by realizing that you’re losing lots of valuable space in the process.  The plan: Cut the number of boxes we keep by at least 33-50%, freeing up a couple of shelves.
  • So-called moneymakers – I have a couple of faucets that I bought at Home Depot for around $1 each.  Their original price was probably $75 for each of these, but they threw them on some discount shelf, and I pounced.  They’re not ugly, or broken, they were just changing styles.  While I have no need for them in my house, I figured I could probably get $10 or $20 for them somewhere.  But I haven’t.  The plan: I’ll need to either try to sell them and collect my massive windfalls or donate them, and realize what Home Depot did, that sometimes it’s just not worth it.
  • Bike – My wife got a new bike last year.  The problem is that her old bike is still hanging from our garage ceiling.  Her old bike still works, but it was old, bulky, and for the riding we like to do when we take our bikes on camping trips, it no longer met her needs.  The plan: Either sell it or give it away.
  • Exercise bike – I have a working exercise bike in the basement.  There are a couple of sensors that go haywire once in a while (resulting in the bike telling you that you stopped pedaling when you haven’t, only to ‘resume’ a couple of minutes later).  I don’t use it as I like to go to the gym, but the bike takes up space in my basement.  The plan: Same plan as the bike, either sell it or give it away.  This will involve hauling it upstairs, which is why it hasn’t been done yet.

None of these things are huge, and we’re nowhere near being considered for a casting call on Hoarders (is that show even still around), but it does show that a little bit of clutter here and a little bit there can lead to feeling like you are being surrounded by too much stuff.

I’m sure these aren’t the only areas, but they’re currently on my target list, and if I can address these, it might make the next round more identifiable.

What de-cluttering activities do you have in process or planned?

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

A Simple But Effective Way To Clean Pet Stains From Carpet

I’ve been a cat owner for 17 years, and over that time you get used to cats getting sick, and when they do, it always seems to be right in the middle of the floor.  For years, I’ve tried various ways to clean up the mess, but more often than not, I’d still be left with a stain.  The worst was in my condo when I got new carpet that looked darker on the sample sheet than it was when they installed it.  Nearly white carpet simply doesn’t last too long with cats.

But our house has beige carpet.  It’s not in the best of shape, as it’s the original carpet that was put in 1999 when the house was built, but the previous owners actually took good care of it and we have tried to keep it up as well.

We’ve had it cleaned several times since we moved in, and I’ve used different carpet cleaning outfits that did an OK job, but none that really wowed me…that is until this past winter when I found a one-man operation who did an absolutely fantastic job!  His price was about half of what I was getting for full service (cleaning, ScotchGuard), and he spent twice as long in my house getting things taken care of.  As I watched him work, I noted that he worked on our carpets as if they were his very own.  My wife even observed that there were areas which had spots since we moved in which were now clean.

Since stains that go down into the padding tend to re-appear over time, I don’t expect miracles, but it was still nice to see our carpet look better than when we moved in, which is a pretty big feat since we had put five and a half years of wear, and quite a few kitty messes along the way.

As we talked about the cats and their effects on the carpet, he gave me some tips.

First, he told me that the way we had been cleaning up was wrong.  Our method had been to use a vinegar and water mix that I sprayed on, blotted off, and repeated as necessary until the mess was away.

What was wrong with this?  Well, he brought me up to a room that he was cleaning and as he was cleaning, he showed me every spot that I had cleaned with the vinegar-water mix as he could tell when the steam cleaner was pulling vinegar out of the carpet.

The problem, he said, when you use vinegar or other cleaners, is that they don’t come out of the carpet.  After they get done cleaning and stick around, the problem is that they then attract dirt, so in the end those clean areas will end up becoming dirty faster.  Many times when I saw stains where cats had gotten sick, it wasn’t stained from the cat mess, but stained from dirt attracted after the stain was cleaned.

Technically, he said, I could keep doing that and just add in some steps to make sure that the vinegar was rinsed out, but he then pointed out that his tried and true method did that anyways, and essentially skipped the entire use of vinegar.

What You Need

Paper towel or rags
A spoon
A large pitcher
Water
A shop vac

How To Clean Up The Pet Mess

  1. Take your rag or paper towel, and get rid of as much ‘solid’ mess as you can.  Don’t rub it in, but try to soak it in.
  2. If you can’t get the solid mess up this way, you can use your spoon to basically pick it up.  (Wash the spoon, and you probably want to simply dedicate a spoon for this cause as I’m sure it would gross people out to know that a regular spoon was used for this, even if it was washed afterward).
  3. Once the solid mess is gone, fill up your water pitcher.  Use water from the cold water tap as warm or hot water will set the stain.
  4. Pour the water all over the stain.  Yes, you will feel odd dumping two or three cups over such a small area, but that’s OK.
  5. Let it soak in for a couple of minutes.
  6. Use your shop vac to suck up the water.   Work your way from the outside in, going in circles.  You want to be working the worst part of the mess at the very end. Otherwise, you could end up spreading the stain outward if you do it in reverse.
  7. After the first pass, you might have to repeat a time or two.  I usually do three passes, using slightly less water each time.
  8. Empty your shop vac

The strong suction of the shop vac will pull up most of the water so even though you’re dumping a lot water in, you’re not leaving it in long enough for it to soak through the padding.  By soaking it, you’re loosening the mess from the fibers, which coupled with the strong suction that a shop vac offers, allows it to pull up.

So far, since we’ve had the carpets cleaned a few months ago, I’ve had to use this method 4-6 times, and honestly, I can’t find the stains.

The quicker you address the stains, the better likelihood you’ll have of them not setting, but honestly, I had one small stain that sat there for at least a week (I pulled up the ‘physical evidence’ but the stain itself was still there), and I was worried that I’d waited too long, but it came up just fine.

This is great information and I’ll use it for every pet stain I have moving forward.  I only wish I had known about this for the first 16+ years of being a cat owner!

Readers, what method(s) have you used to clean up stains from pets? 

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

10 Small Things To Do Around Your House Today

If you are fully or partially responsible for the place that you live, whether that be a house you own, house you rent, apartment, townhouse, whatever, you know that there is always something to be done.  Much of the time we are focused on big projects, things that can pay off big, cost big, and can take big chunks of time.

Today, let’s focus on some small things that everybody should take a look at (well, some might not apply, but I think there are enough things here that everybody can get some benefit).

Consider one or two of these things to get done today, and look at all of them as things you can do that will only cost you a few minutes of time, and in many cases, won’t even cost you a single penny.

  1. Change your furnace filter – You’re supposed to change these things every month, unless you have a special one that either lasts longer or can even last forever (though they do require regular cleaning).  If you haven’t changed your filter in a while, it’s probably time.  The more clogged that filter gets, the harder the furnace has to work to push air through it, making your bills go up and diminishing the life of the very expensive appliance.
  2. Do a quick check under your sinks – Go to each sink, flip the water on, and take a peek under the sink.  Hopefully the answer under all of your sinks is ‘nothing’, which means everything is in good shape.  But, you might find a few drips of water, either from the water lines or the drain lines.  In either case, it’s usually just a bit of tightening up to get rid of the leak, but those little drips can add up to ruined cabinets, mold, and a bigger leak down the road if you don’t catch it before it gets out of hand.
  3. Polish your wood furniture – If you have a dining room table made of wood, think of the last time you put furniture polish on it.  Doing so will protect it from drying out and will extend the life of your furniture.  It will also give your wood table a nice shine, something you may have forgotten can actually be present!
  4. Clean and treat your leather furniture – When we bought our leather couches a few years ago, we bought a ‘Leather Protection’ plan, meaning that if anything goes wrong with the leather, they’ll repair it.  On top of that, we get to go to the store and get free refills of leather cleaner and leather protector.  Every few months I’ll clean the couches and then put the protector on them.  This keeps the couches clean and will help prolong the life, and protect them from drying out, which is when you then start seeing cracking of the leather.
  5. Test your smoke alarms (and maybe even replace the batteries) – All smoke alarms are equipped with a button to test them. Go around and press this button on all of your alarms and make sure it beeps.  If you have a system where all of the smoke alarms are wired together, it should set off all the other alarms to, so test this.  If you can’t remember the last time you changed the batteries, it’s probably time to do that as well.  If you have smoke alarms that aren’t connected together (and thus aren’t connected to the house’s electrical system), you should replace the batteries every six months.  If you have alarms which are wired to your house’s power, once a year is generally fine.
  6. Clean your dryer line – You know how you’re supposed to clean the lint filter every time you run the dryer?  That’s great advice, but the dirty little secret is that lint continues through the system.  If you have a hose connecting the back of your dryer to the hole in the wall that sends the exhaust outdoors, you should disconnect that hose and make sure it isn’t clogged with lint.  Letting this go untouched for too long can make your dryer run poorly, and can put you at risk of carbon monoxide posioning and at risk of fire.  Just make sure that you securely fit the hose back on tightly, and ensure it’s on properly after the first few times you run the dryer.
  7. Check the caulking around your windows – Ideally you should do this on the inside and the outside, but since these are ‘quick’ fixes, just focus on the inside of your windows.  Take a look around at the caulking between the window and the wall.  If you don’t have any, you have a big problem!  If it’s there and it doesn’t have any cracks, that’s great!  But, if it’s there and starting to crack, you should start thinking about re-caulking.  This means it’s drying out, creating gaps, and losing effectiveness.  Caulk is one of those things that you can generally apply and forget about, but just for a few years.  Not forever.
  8. Go take a look at your water meter – Go find your water meter and take a look at the reading.  Write down all of the numbers.  Go do something else for 15 minutes or so, making sure that you aren’t running water anywhere (no flushing, no showers, no washing your hands), and then go take another reading.  If the numbers are all the same, you’re in good shape.  But, if the numbers don’t match, it could mean you have a small leak somewhere.  Many leaks go completely undetected but can take big chunks of your water bill.
  9. Tighten something that’s loose – There is always something that’s come loose somewhere.  It drives you crazy when it jiggles, then you forget about it, so it never gets fixed.  Whether it’s a knob on a closet door or a kitchen cabinet, the handle on the refrigerator, or somewhere else, chances are a screw just needs to be tightened
  10. Go clean something – Find an area where you haven’t cleaned in over six months.  A junk drawer.  The shelf in one of your closets.  Whatever.  Take a few minutes and clean it.  Chances are if it’s been that long, you’ll find some stuff you can get rid of, eliminating clutter and getting something clean in the process.  You may even come across something you haven’t been able to find in quite some time!

Those are just a few ideas.  What types of little things do you do that you’d like to share?

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.