Get Clothing Clutter Under Control

Dear Home-Ec 101,

I have a dilemma. I find my bedroom becoming cluttered very quickly with clothes that are “too clean to wash” yet “not clean enough to put away”. I was a single mom for many years, going to school or working, sometimes more than one job, and as a result, I didn’t want to spend more time on laundry than I had to. I’d wear clothes until they were visibly dirty, overly wrinkled, or they became… umm… odiferous.

When I was a single parent, that didn’t take as long as it does now! Now, I’m married and have one teen at home (who is responsible for his own laundry). I work at home caring for my elderly parents, and the piles of “not clean, not dirty” clothes are overwhelming. In our bedroom and my parents’! Sometimes, items in the pile have to be washed simply because they have been there so long, they’ve become wrinkled.

What do other people do with their clothes? Do they wash every item, every time they wear it? Do they wear the same thing until it needs to be washed? Do they hang up or fold and put away slacks and jeans and tops that have been worn but aren’t dirty?

Help me get out from under this heap! If you need something cleaned, I’m your girl. I’m not a very physically organized person, and “stuff” is my great foe.

Signed,
Clothes Horse

Heather says:

I’ll let you in on a secret, I’m a bit disorganized, too. Ok I struggle a lot with organization, but I do try.  I tend to be a perfectionist control freak -no comments from the peanut gallery, thank you very much- about my own space, which in a weird cruel twist of fate means stuff often piles up as I wait for the “right” time to take of something. It takes a huge amount of -wait for it, I’m about to say a dirty word- self-discipline for me to do the daily upkeep that  organization requires.

When I read your dilemma my first thought is that perhaps you have too much clothing.

Generally speaking those of us who live in relatively affluent Western cultures have too much stuff and that stuff causes misery. If we aren’t careful we tend to enter a cycle where we work to buy things and then work to take care of our things and then work to buy more things to replace the things that fell apart due to neglect. I’m tired just thinking about it.  (You all know that this is where some people are going to tell me that they live with exactly 3 pieces of clothing not including their underwear and that they have no idea what I’m talking about, right?)

So outside of those people who claim to have 3 items of clothing, what are you to do?

Don’t pile your clothing. 

Piles are the enemy.

Hang everything you possibly can, ESPECIALLY the items that have been worn but aren’t ready for washing. If you can’t hang everything, then you must find storage for out of season clothing and I don’t mean a pile in the corner of your room. Space saver bags, a box under the bed, a box in the attic, anywhere except a pile that’s going to get knocked over and them trampled on.

Hanging allows clothing to dry thoroughly, preventing that musty now I have to wash it condition.

Go into your closet(s) right now and hang everything backwards on the bar.

As you wear items and wash them, hang them the normal way on the leftmost side of the bar. Just keep shoving the stuff hanging backwards toward the right. Over six months or a year (depending on your climate) you’re going to get a better idea of the clothing you actually wear. Donate or consign the rest and do not feel guilty about it.

Just let it go. Someone else needs that item much more than you.

Don’t hang onto items for “when I lose ten pounds” and certainly don’t hang onto items “in case I gain ten pounds.”

Just let it go.

While you’re undergoing the great clothing weed out, do not buy more clothing. If there is an item you cannot pass up, something in your closet has to leave the house before that item can be introduced to your wardrobe.

This isn’t an overnight fix, but  over time you will notice a significant reduction in the amount of laundry done in your home.

Good luck!

 Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

Can This Smelly Freezer Be Saved

Dear Home-Ec 101,
Help!
Due to a series of unfortunate events, my small chest freezer (that sits under the house) was left unplugged for 3 WEEKS! Of course the entire inventory was a total loss, but the real problem is the SMELL. It really smelled like something died down there, and it permeated the house for a couple of days.

I have cleaned, bleached, Lysol-ed and baking soda-ed, all to no avail. It sat open and unplugged for a couple of weeks to air out It’s not as bad as it once was, but now that I have plugged the freezer in and closed the lid, the once (finally) faint smell seems stronger. I’m afraid the odor will attach itself to any new food I put in. I am almost ready to throw in the sponge and just get a new freezer, but my inner tightwad is having a hard time with that!
Heather, can this freezer be saved?

Kind regards,
Fetid Freezer

Heather says:

I have good news, there is a very good chance your freezer can be saved. There is a product called activated charcoal, which is charcoal that has been treated with oxygen to make it very porous. This means that it has a ridiculous amount of smell grabbing surface area.

There is a term called adsorb, don’t mix it up with absorb. To absorb means to take in and adsorbing means clinging by chemical attraction. See? SCIENCE! (Do you have any idea how hard it is not to do a Jesse Pinkman reference right now?)
Oh what the heck, I can’t resist, but I’ll stick to the clean version.

 

jesse-science

Those funky odors are the result of organic chemical compounds, which thankfully activated charcoal is super good at attracting and trapping. It’s thankfully much better at grabbing bad odors than the plastic in your freezer.

You can find activated charcoal in the aquarium supply sections of some large box stores and it is also on Amazon under the name activated carbon. Some people complain about the cost of activated charcoal, but compared to the cost of a new freezer, it’s pretty reasonable. It’s really going to come down to how much time and disposable income do you have to invest. If you’ve got enough money to replace the freezer and your time is at a premium, that may the route to take as I also suggest completely dismantling the freezer to clean it.

Think of the freezer as a plastic box wrapped in a Styrofoam or other insulating material and wrapped in another box with a motor and freezer coils attached.

You’ll want to dismantle your chest freezer as much as possible, without disturbing the coils or messing with the motor. You’ll want to be really sure none of the liquid from the thawing meat filtered is still inside the freezer insulating materials of the unit. Look for screws, unscrew them, and gently pull the plastic liner out. In most cases, the insulating material is nonporous.

Once the freezer has been disassembled and any missed leakage cleaned up -use an enzymatic cleaner or dilute vinegar OR dilute bleach.  Let the material dry fully, reassemble, and plug it back in. Now place the activated charcoal in the interior of the freezer and turn it on to its lowest setting. You’re not going to want it to run a lot, but you do want the fan circulating the air.

Close the door, cross your fingers, and give it 24 – 48 hours and I bet you’ll be surprised by the difference.

I have heard some people have had success with regular charcoal  briquettes, but please just NOT the kind with lighter fluid as those have their own smell and you’ll just be trading one funky odor for another. You could also crush the briquettes to increase the adsorbing surface area, too.

For those of you out there who have noticed their ice cubes taste like onions or other strong cooking odors, you may find that keeping a mesh bag of activated charcoal in the freezer really improves the taste and smell of your ice.

Best of luck, what an aggravating experience that had to be.

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

Lemon Shake-Up Recipe — A Refreshing Summer Drink

Bobbie says:

Ah, summer. The scorching heat, the overwhelming humidity. Fun times. Well, when life hands you lemons, shake things up a bit and make Lemon Shake-Ups. Depending where you live, you may have had these treats at a local fair or carnival. For the uninitiated, a Lemon Shake-Up is basically a freshly made individual lemonade. At the fairs where I’ve had them, it’s a big production: One person operates a big press to squeeze the bejeebers out of a lemon, into a tall, heavy glass. Another person adds sugar, ice and some water. A paper cup is turned upside down over the glass, and someone else shakes it all up to dissolve the sugar. The whole lot is dumped into the paper cup, water is added to fill, et voila – a Lemon Shakeup is served. You’d have to pay four or five dollars for this refreshing beverage and the opportunity to see it being freshly made in front of you.

I’d been reminiscing about this unofficial beverage of state and county fairs, but not about the hassle of actually going to a fair and the expense of paying several dollars for one beverage. For the cost fair admission and ONE Lemon Shake-Up at the fair, I could buy enough lemons to make shake-ups for the whole neighborhood.

Making Lemon Shake-Ups at home means I can choose my own sweetener. Most of the time, I use a stevia-based sweetener such as Truvia or Pure Via. (I like my lemonade on the tart side, so I usually use 3 packets.) Honey and lemon is a great flavor combination, but getting honey to dissolve well in the ice water is difficult, so it’s best to first melt the honey in a small amount of very hot water. Once the honey melts into the water, add the ice and lemon and proceed. (As always, do not give honey or anything prepared with honey to infants under one year of age.)

Whatever sweetener you choose, use an amount equivalent in sweetening power to ¼ cup sugar.

 

 

Lemon reamer

Personally, I prefer this handheld wooden kind,because I find I’m able to get more juice out of each lemon or lime. I used to have one made of shiny black plastic, which looked gorgeous but was too slippery to get a good grip, so I could hardly
squeeze anything out of the fruit. That tool wore out its welcome almost immediately.

 

 

 

One-quart jar with lid

If you use a wide-mouth jar, you can put the lemon halves right in for a more authentic shake-up. If not, you can cut the lemon into smaller pieces after you’ve juiced it thoroughly. Make sure it has a leak-proof lid. This replaces the potential disaster of the tall-glass-and-large-paper-cup shaking method used in the carnival and fair production.

 

Lemon Shake-Up Recipe

  • 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup sugar OR 3 tablespoons honey, maple syrup or agave nectar (OR equivalent amount of a sugar substitute – read package to determine amount – remember to dissolve thick syrupy sweeteners in a little hot water first)
  • 1 cup ice (crushed or cubes)
  • Cold water

Wash the lemon, and cut it in half. Juice the lemon into the jar using your method of choice. If you prefer your drink to be slightly less “authentic” you can remove the seeds.

Add the lemon halves to the jar. If you wish, you can cut these into smaller pieces first, but it’s not
necessary. Add the sugar or sweetener, ice and about a cup of water. Cover tightly and shake until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove the lid and add enough ice and water to make 16 ounces. Pour into a tall glass, or just drink it straight from the jar. I won’t tell.

 

 Bobbie Laughman is a freelance writer who thinks she’s normal. Don’t try to tell her otherwise.

Where Do You Find that Cleaning Motivation

Dear Home-Ec 101,

How do I motivate myself to clean? What do you do?

Signed,
Do I Have To

PS I’m also ADD

Heather says

Living in a mess is like being in a bad relationship. It starts off comfortable enough, let’s just stay in tonight. You don’t need to put that away.

But sooner or later it starts to whisper things that aren’t very nice:

If you weren’t messy, maybe you’d be more successful.

If you could just keep a clean home, you would have more friends.

If you weren’t so messy someone would love you.

Over time those whispers aren’t whispers anymore. You don’t want to go home from work, you are ashamed to have people over, the amount of energy it takes to fix things seems overwhelming.

One day though, you snap, and kick the jerk to the curb. You throw out all the reminders and let the sun back in. Friends come over, I’ve missed you they say.

If you aren’t careful though, the phone calls start, I’ll get to it tomorrow. The temptation to just let the mess stay one night, you’ll kick it out in the morning. . . and you’re right back in it all over again.

Yeah, I’ve drug the metaphor out far enough. You get it though, right? It sucks. Eventually though it clicks that it’s just not healthy to ignore the mess because it moves in and makes itself comfortable every. single. time.

My motivation to clean isn’t that I’m a particularly neat person, it’s that I’ve learned that letting the mess in takes too big a toll on my energy -physical and emotional. Sure, none of that stuff it says is true, but I sure as hell don’t have to listen to it.

It takes less energy to unload the dishwasher or fold and put away the clothes than it does to hear that garbage.

The secret to keeping a clean home is simply putting your stuff away. You might have to start off by creating a place for your things, but getting into the habit of putting things away takes tiny spurts of energy, not the herculean amount needed to tackle a huge mess.

Use a chore chart to keep yourself on track and prevent the bigger tasks,

I listen to podcasts while I clean, staying on top of tech news. And when I’ve let a room get out of control, I don’t let myself leave the area, because I will get distracted. I use timers when I need to.

And, just to be honest today, my house is not company ready. Someone was ridiculously kind and gave me a couple of chairs, which started the whole If You Give a Mouse a Cookie phenomenon of furniture rearranging. You’ve been there, right?

Most of us don’t like to clean, some of us have figured out it’s easier to do it before it gets out of hand. You’ll be okay.

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

Zucchini Parmesan Crisps, Regular and Gluten-Free

Heather says

Did you think oven fried goodness was out of reach just because you have to go gluten-free?

Here’s a simple, magic substitution for you… swap crushed Rice Chex for Panko crumbs and you’re set. No other changes, no mixing a bazillion different flours or buying special bread to make your own crumbs. Take out your aggression on a handful of cereal and call it a day.

Tested. Tasted. Proven.

I really like oven-fried zucchini chips, but find them a bit too fiddly for most occasions. If you have older kids, make them bread the zucchini, it’s a great exercise in patience with a decent pay off. I see these often suggested for parties, but unless you want to keep the oven on until serving time, save them for a rainy afternoon with a craving for some savory, crispy deliciousness.

zucchini crisps

 

: Zucchini Parmesan Crisps (Gluten-Free)

: Crisp, cheesy, oven-fried zucchini chips

  • 2 medium – large zucchini sliced thinly (use the slicer on a grater)
  • 2 eggs
  • splash of milk or water
  • 1 cup grated parmesan -yes, the cheap stuff
  • 1 cup Rice Chex, crushed  -if you don’t have a wheat allergy / you can use Panko crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • pinch of salt
  • fresh ground pepper

Instructions:

  • Spread the sliced zucchini on paper towels and lightly sprinkle with salt
  • Turn the oven on to 450°F
  • Beat the eggs with either a splash of milk or water in a shallow bowl to create an egg wash.
  • In a second shallow bowl or dish, combine the crushed cereal, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, a pinch of salt if desired, and a few turns of fresh ground pepper. (If you want to kick up the heat a little, cayenne pepper is a nice addition)
  • Grease a baking sheet.
  • Roll or blot the zucchini in the paper towel to absorb the moisture it sweated due to the sprinkle of salt.
  • Dip the zucchini slices in the egg wash and then the breading.
  • Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  • Bake at 450°F for 10 minutes and flip the zucchini slices with a fork or tongs. Bake for another 8 – 10 minutes depending on how done / crispy you like your cheese. Watch them carefully toward the end.
  • Serve immediately.

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4