Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Clutter-Free Gifts for the Holidays

We all deal with clutter in different ways.  Some of us handle it as it comes into the home.  Some go on weekend binges and clean out large areas of the home in a day or two.  Others wait until January, and make the resolution to get more organized.  Then life happens...

So my question is, do you really want to add to your clutter over the holidays?  Do you want to add clutter to others' homes?  Why would you?  Wouldn't life be easier if you DIDN'T add to the many piles already accumulated? 

And yet, it's fun to exchange gifts.  So how about buying clutter-free gifts?  Gifts that won't get shoved to the back of a closet or end up under the bed?  Here are some ideas:

For the techie in your life:
  • A subscription to online back-up storage
  • Useful apps for their phone/tablet
  • An eBook reader to consolidate their book collection
  • A wireless digital frame to enjoy family photos
  • Software for their computer
  • Pay for a subscription to Amazon Prime - unlimited downloads and free shipping!
For the family:
  • What's on their bucket list that you can check off?
  • Go out to a nice dinner, no electronic devices allowed!
  • Plan a weekend getaway with the family
  • Hire a photographer for a family portrait session
  • Offer to baby-sit for nieces/nephews and grandchildren
  • Buy a gift certificate for a day (or afternoon) at the spa
  • Start a savings account for your grandchildren
  • Pay for a membership to a museum, botanic garden, or health club
For the elderly:
  • Consumables - their favorite desserts, fruits or teas
  • Time - spend time visiting.  Use it to write down family history and anecdotes.
  • Cleaning service for their home
  • Hire a handyman for a day to fix those little things
  • Create a coupon book for errands or services, like a trip to the library or a shampoo and cut.
Still not sure what to do?  Donate to a charitable cause close to the person’s heart.  Don’t give to a charity of your choice, rather select a cause that is dear to them, and make a donation in their name.  You'll both feel good, and others will benefit.

What clutter-free gifts have you exchanged with others?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Clutter-free Ways to Thank Your Household and Its Members

Your home is your shelter from the environment.  It is a haven for your family.  It is a place where friends gather and have fun over the holidays and all year long. 

So, have you said ‘thank-you’ to it lately?

Probably not, because it wouldn’t hear you anyway.  But here are some ideas to show your thanks to your home and family without spending much money or adding to the clutter in your home.   


·    Control the Humidity—Too much moisture in the air can cause damage to furniture, fabrics, photographs, food, etc.  Too little moisture can cause damage to wood, your health, your plants, etc.  This may be in the living areas of your home, or most especially in basements and attics.  While household humidifiers and de-humidifiers help the living areas, they do not usually reach the attic, garage or crawl spaces in your home.  So pay special attention to what you store in those areas. 
·    Control Temperatures—Just as too much/little moisture in the air can cause damage, so can extreme temperatures.  Pipes can freeze in the winter if not insulated.  Ice can form on your A/C unit if air isn’t flowing properly.  Candles can melt in your attic in the summer, and snowglobes can crack in the winter.  Expansion/contraction can harm foundations and framing.  Keep temperatures as even as possible throughout your home throughout the year. 
·    Check Batteries—What good is a battery back-up for your sump pump, smoke detector, or computer if the batteries themselves are dead?  Check and change them regularly.  The extra time it takes to unscrew the cover of your smoke detector is worth the thousands of dollars in repairs and lost belongings in the case of a non-functioning alarm during a fire.
·    Clean Thoroughly—This may seem obvious to you, but we’re not talking about a casual dust and mop job.  We’re talking deep-down, nitty-gritty, get the grease off your stovetop and mold off your shower doors.  And it’s not just about being clean.  It’s about being healthy.  The longer you let dust and grit sit, the greater your chances for harboring viruses or other germs.
·    Make Repairs—Again, this may seem obvious, but we’ve all been there.  You know the screen needs repairing.  But you just don’t have the time to take the door down and bring it to the hardware store for repair.  So you let it sit.  Meanwhile, wasps find their way in, start building nests in your attic, and before you know it, their home is so big, the moisture starts dripping through your ceiling.  Now, you not only need the screen repaired, you also need an exterminator to kill the wasps and a handyman to repair your ceiling.  Was it worth it? 
·    Use Biodegradable Cleaners—Your house and your environment will thank you.  There are less harmful abrasives in biodegradable cleansers, and less pollutants running through your plumbing.  Be nice to your floors and countertops, as well as your sewer by using chemical-free cleaning products.
·    Purify Your Air—Perhaps it’s because we’ve grown accustomed to the ‘smell’ of our houses, that we don’t really realize they have an odor to them.  Whether it’s the pets, the cooking, the cleaning supplies or the human element, there are pollutants floating about the air in our homes. Running an air purifier will clean out these unwanted smells and germs, leaving behind a healthier, happier you.
·    Perform a Home Inspection—One of the best gifts you can give your home is an inspection. By identifying problem areas before they get too large, you may be preventing permanent damage to the home.  Yes, they cost a few hundred dollars, but isn’t it worth the investment of the inspection and the small repair rather than a major catastrophe in the home?  Inspectors are trained to see things you aren’t.  To you, your roof may look fine from the outside, but an inspector may find loose flashing, which is letting water seep into the attic, causing mold and mildew, which is making you sick. Be preventative rather than reactive.


·    Cook Healthy—The food you put into your system is the fuel that charges your body.  If you are loading up on sugars and fats, you are not giving it the proper nutrition it needs to get through the day.  And a lifetime of bad eating habits can take its toll later in life.  Start now by giving your family the gift of health.
·    Give Compliments—Giving someone a compliment does wonders for his/her self-esteem.  Praise your family often, even for the smallest efforts.  And always remember to say thank you for anything they do, no matter how menial.  They are happier knowing you appreciate their efforts, and will in turn help you more.
·    Offer Services—Not everyone in your family has the same resources you do.  Perhaps it’s an elderly parent who can’t get to the grocery store, or a handicapped cousin who can’t drive to the hair salon.  Find someone who will come to their home and provide these services for them if you can't.  There are even mobile pet grooming companies who will come to your house and wash the dog, which may be too much for an elderly person to do on their own.
·    Give the Gift of Tickets—Don’t clutter up your home or those of your extended family with little trinkets or more clothes.  Give gifts like tickets to a play, tickets to the museum, or gift cards for consumable items such as gasoline or food.  Giving them an item gives them one more thing to maintain or clean.  They will be more thankful for a gift that doesn’t require effort on their part—only enjoyment.
·    Give the Gift of Time—The best way to give thanks to family and friends is to give them more of your time.  Whether it’s a walk in the park, a trip to the zoo, or sitting and watching a movie together, time is too precious to take for granted.  These are the memories you want them to have.
·    Run Errands—Just as precious as time spent with people is time spent doing things for them.  Whether it’s picking up a prescription or dropping off the dry cleaning, those little tasks say ‘thank you’ like no card can.


·    Schedule time for yourself—You are the backbone of your family.  You are what keeps them running and functioning.  Do you ever thank yourself for a job well done?  You can do that by scheduling time for yourself every day.  Even if it’s just a half hour at night to read, or an hour with a friend for coffee, you should thank the person who keeps you going—yourself.
·    Take an Artist’s Day—To borrow from Julia Cameron, take an Artist’s Day.  Spend time doing something fun and inspirational, whether it’s a trip to the art museum, a walk in the forest preserves, or browsing through journals and pens in the book store, spend some nurturing your creative side.
·    Begin an Exercise Program—Yes, the benefit will be weight loss, but you will also be more energetic and able to get through a long day if you exercise regularly.  You don’t have to join a health club and work out two hours a day.  Start simple with a walk around the block or sit-ups in the living room.  Your body will thank you in return.
·    Eat Healthy—Just as you should feed your family healthy meals, you should also eat healthy yourself.  You are no good to your family if you are not healthy or functioning well.  Give your body the fuel it needs to keep running.
·    Have Regular Check-ups—Part of a healthy lifestyle is seeing your physician on a regular basis for check-ups.  Like your home, finding a problem in the early stages can prevent serious illness down the road.  So see your doctor and get the tests recommended for your age group.

Saying thank-you to others makes them feel good.  Saying thank-you to others makes you feel good.  Saying thank-you to yourself is something you don’t always think about.  Don’t you think it’s time to start giving yourself a pat on the back and saying ‘well done!’