How to De-Clutter (and Organize) Gadgets - Gifts

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Low-Maintenance Living

Gadgets (see also Appliances, Hardware)

Gadgets could be called the epitome of clutter. According to Funk and Wagnall’s New Practical Standard Dictionary, a gadget is “any small mechanical device or contrivance, especially one of which the name can't be recalled.” Gadgets are also those gizmos and doodads that everybody moves from place to place, muttering something about how “I know this belongs to something, I’m just not sure what . . . better keep it.” For most people, these “small mechanical devices and contrivances” cover a plethora of items from appliances to jar openers. Gadgets are supposed to make life simpler, but somehow before that happens, the gadget becomes useless clutter.

Eventually gadgets find their way into drawers and cabinets in nearly every room of the house. The office is not exempt from this mechanical proliferation, either. Gadgets that probably go to the advanced telephone system or the new computer lounge on top of filing cabinets and inside desk drawers.

Where gadgets are concerned, fear rules the roost. Convinced that the gadget is a vital mechanical doodad that goes to a very important something or other, throwing the thing away becomes unthinkable. Being very low-tech myself; I can understand these fuzzy rationalizations for hoarding gadgets. I have them myself. But I do try to limit them. A box marked GADGETS sits on a shelf; with gadgets inside housed in plastic bags with a date, and , if I know what it goes to, that information as well. Once a gadget is dated past one year—particularly if I don’t know what it's or what it goes to— it gets tossed. You can either save your unidentifiable archaic gadgets for a time capsule in the back yard, or date and destroy them as I do.

Games (see also Children, Toys)

Games usually come in boxes, which we stack until the pile resembles a construction site. As soon as one game is pulled out from the stack, the stack collapses. Or the heavier boxes somehow move to the top by default, crushing all the boxes below. Obviously, games that are never played or games that have permanently missing pieces (making the game unplayable), should be either given away or tossed. Denese Schofield, author of Confessions of an Organized Housewife and mother of five children, wrestled with the game problem and finally came up with what is probably the best solution to the care and storage of the rest of the games. Game boards and parts are removed from the box, the boards stacked on a shelf, and the parts stored in a metal parts cabinet (these cabinets have lots of different sized drawers). Denise cuts the game directions from the lid of the box, photocopies them and puts the copies in a loose-leaf notebook in alphabetical order. Directions that are on pamphlets are simply hole-punched and put into the binder. This method saves space and helps cut down on lost parts, directions, and mangled boxes. There are always some games that have parts that are too big for the cabinet—these few can be stored in the boxes as is.

If you have party games for adults (I don’t mean X-rated here — we’re talking, maybe, Trivial Pursuit), you can keep them away from sticky children’s hands by storing them in a special place, such as a wicker trunk or the dining room buffet near the table where the games would actually be played. If you top the trunk with a piece of glass, it can be used as a game table as well. Keeping the family’s games organized can only encourage playing together. After all, games are Jim, not clutter!

Gardening Equipment and Supplies (see also Catalogs, Tools)

Some people like yard and garden work and others hate it. Whether you love it or loathe it, yard work of any kind will be easier to face if the supplies and equipment are easy to store and retrieve.

You can begin by rounding up all of the gardening supplies, including those five pairs of old gloves, three rakes, pesticides and herbicides, fertilizers, sprayers, and so forth. Review the sprays, powders, and poisons and dispose of outdated materials. Keep these items in a secured cabinet so that children or pets can’t get to them. Or you can store these supplies, along with small gardening tools, in a bench that doubles as a storage bin (secure the latch with a padlock). Long-handled tools can be hung on the wall from hooks or supported by two or three nails. If you’re short on hanging space, group these tools in a large metal trash can. Small tools can be stored in bins by category, or, if you only use a few tools, they can be kept in a supply caddy or basket and carried to and from the garden as is. Don’t forget overhead garage rafters for storage of major equipment and out-of-season lawn furniture. Dowels or brackets, mounted on the wall, can also hold big items such as wheelbarrows and furniture. Hoses can be stored on a reel with wheels or on a reel mounted next to the water spigot in a garden shed, basement, or garage. Planters and pots are best kept on shelves, with bags of potting soil stored in small covered buckets or trash cans. A work table near the potting materials can be a plus. Once the equipment is organized, there won’t be any excuses not to do the work. And the next time the neighbor needs to borrow something, at least you’ll know right where it's .

Gifts (see also Cards, Souvenirs, Ties, Toys, Vases, Wallets, Wine)

Gift clutter may be the most difficult clutter of all to deal with. After all, it was a gift. Never mind that it’s the ugliest thing you’ve seen come down the pike in forty years — it was the thought that counted. So, now that you’ve thought about it, why not get rid of it by doing the logical thing—give it as a gift to someone else, or give it to charity. If the gift-giver visits you frequently and expects to see the gift displayed prominently, the problem is a bit stickier. Can you redecorate or gain a few pounds (or, better yet, lose a few pounds), making the gift obviously inappropriate for the new you? If the gift was lovingly handmade, recycling or tossing it's usually out of the question. You can use it and hope it breaks or disintegrates, or you can put it in a “treasure chest” where you can let everyone know you keep all of your treasures.

Getting rid of a gift often involves more guilt than is called for, so to spare yourself the gut-wrenching feelings that accompany dumping gifts that are duds, employ a little preventative maintenance. Let people know that you are not in the market for gifts, unless it’s a gift of their time spent with you. They’ll be secretly relieved at the financial savings, and you won’t get your hopes up at your gift prospects only to have them dashed with yet another goofs’ present that you must act thrilled about receiving. If people insist on spending their hard-earned money on you, have them buy tickets to the movies, the theater, or the concert hall, and spend the evening with them at the event. You’ll remember it longer than a gift you have to add to your inventory of conspicuous clutter.

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