I am not a super awesome housekeeper. Every so often I rehome rarely used items and do more thorough cleanings, but for the most part our home is unlikely to end up in a photoshoot for Better Homes and Gardens. That said, I do use a number of homemaking tips and tricks to keep the clutter under control and make things a little tidier and easier to use. A minute saved here and there; reusing, repurposing and extending the life of items so we don't need to buy replacements so quickly – every little thing adds up to make a difference. Plus – a new study has linked clutter with depression, so keeping things neater may help improve your mood!
Homemaking Tip #1 – Divide and Conquer
Don't just dump everything into a drawer or bin – use dividers and organizers to separate your storage space into zones. That way, when you need a specific item, you don't have to waste time digging through piles of things you don't need. All of the most used drawers in my kitchen are subdivided so everything goes into “its spot”. You can buy commercial plastic or wood organizers, or make your own with repurposed objects, such as boxes cut to size. If possible, try to store things close to where they are used. This drawer houses my main cooking utensils, and is to the left of my stove. It's simple enough even teenage boys can usually find what they're looking for.
Homemaking Tip # 2 – Keep Boots from Flopping Over with Rolled Newspapers or Cardboard
I have some lovely knee high winter boots that end up in storage each summer. To keep them from taking up more room in the closet and getting all crumpled around the ankle, I stuff the boots with either rolled up newspapers or cardboard to hold them upright. If you want to get fancy, there are also commercial products that do this, like Household Essentials CedarFresh Boot Shapers.
Homemaking Tip # 3 – Make it Easier to Grab the Right Key
Use nail polish to apply dots of color on your most used key, applying several layers to build up the dots so they can also be easily felt. The next time you're fumbling with your keys, you can identify the right one by touch or at a quick glance. You could also color code your keys, like pink for the front door and green for the garage.
Homemaking Tip #4 – Repurpose Bottles to Use as Drying Racks
I wash and reuse my plastic bags that have held bread and produce several times before they wear out. (I don't reuse bags from meat and dairy.) To make sure the bags dry completely, I prop them up in a sunny window over old vinegar and olive oil bottles. The bottles hold them open and the sun bakes them dry. Every so often I wash the bottles so they're not breeding any mystery guests, and the sun's UV rays also help sterilize everything.
Homemaking Tip #5 – Repurpose Clip Hangers for Clothes Drying
Over the years we've accumulated a fair number of clip hangers with clothes purchases. Many stores are starting to reuse and recycle them now, but if you happen to have some, those clips hold up for years of use. I hang ours in the laundry room and use them for hang drying items such as wool socks and gloves. The clip hangers work much better than trying to drape something over a regular wire or plastic hanger. I've even used them on our regular laundry line to squeeze more items on. If the clips break free of the hanger, they make really sturdy bag clips to use in the kitchen.
Homemaking Tip #6 – Take Advantage of Often Unused Spaces
We have storage cubbies built in here and there throughout the house in what would otherwise be wasted space. There's shelving built into stud walls, and tip outs by the sinks. The bathrooms have a toilet topper cabinet for a stash of toilet paper and towels. A door was added to hide storage under the stairs. There are multiple pegs for catching coats and bags near all the doors. We lined a hallway with bookshelves (we homeschool). Instead of filling it in with dirt, the space under the front porch was turned into a root cellar. Most houses have an assortment of nooks and crannies which would otherwise go unused that can be repurposed into very handy storage.
Homemaking Tip #7 – Contain the Litter with a Crate Tray
When we first got kitties, I noticed right away that the litter did not stay in the litter box so well. During the course of digging or stepping out of the litter box, the kitties often left a trail of litter. I went looking at our local Fleet Farm (known around here as “The Man's Mall”) and found these big black trays designed for the bottom of pet crates. I brought one home and put it under the litter box, and the fallout area dropped dramatically. I won't say it stopped the litter tracking completely, but it's so much better than it used to be. We paired up the 15″x18.5″ litter box with the medium crate tray.
Homemaking Tip #8 – Put your Vacuum Sealer to Work to Extend the Life of Everything from Bandages to Wine
If you don't own a vacuum sealer, you may want to put one on your wishlist – they are wonderful homesteading tools. In addition to regular food storage, they can also be used to keep candles from loosing their shape in warm storage areas (like attics), to prevent corrosion, and to reseal food items like crackers and wine. For more info on the versatility of vacuum sealers, check out “5 Uses for a Vacuum Sealer Everyone Should Know“.
Since we moved out to the country, I've gotten more creative with making meals from what's on hand, since any run to the store is likely to take an hour or more. If you don't have a particular ingredient on hand, the Handy Kitchen Substitutions post can show you how to swap for everything from dairy to canned tomatoes.
Homemaking Tip #10 – Make Things Easier to Find in the Pantry With Bins
I loved my mom dearly, but her cupboards were a mess. Things went in, got shoved to the back, and did not always emerge again. When I was home from college on a visit one time, I went through the spice cabinet and found some spice tins that were older than I was. While these may have reached the point of being interesting antique collectables, they were no longer tasty, useful items for cooking. There was also a package of marshmallows that had congealed into one large, sticky mass, and some packages grain products that had been taken over by tiny vermin. Not yummy.
I have a small walk in pantry, which is great, but I also make the most of my shelving in the pantry and cupboards by using baskets and bins to hold like items for easy access. Bins work great for grouping like items such as spices, tea boxes, wine and cheese making materials, gluten free flours, canning supplies like pectins, dry herbs and plenty of other things. When you go looking for a specific item, instead of trying to shove things out of the way to see what's in the back, just grab the whole bin out and take bird's eye view. I also use a Sharpie marker to write the names on the top of containers that look similar, like spice bottles.
Speaking of spices, if you're tired of trying to pour out just the right amount of spice from those awful built in pour spouts, you may want to check out The Spice Jar Secret for Perfectly Measured Spices.
Homemaking Tip #11 – Canning Ring Storage Made Easy
If you're like I am, years of canning have led to an accumulation of canning lid rings. Rather than having them take up valuable real estate on the shelves, you can store them vertically using an old wire hanger, or upcycle an old t-shirt, shorts or sweats into a braided storage rope. When things are too worn to be mended, I look to repurpose. Cotton clothes can be used under mulch for weed control, and they will compost, and cotton socks make some of the best cleaning rags and cat toys. Those who have been around a while know that I love to upcycle old clothes into cloth tie bands for the garden that help with vertical gardening, but it seems we still end up with a plethora of worn out pants, shirts and socks.
By cutting around the leg of my shorts in a spiral, I made a long strip of cloth. I then did a simple loop braid – slip braid? I'm not sure what you call it, but I think my grandma taught it to me when I was a little girl. You could also cut three strips and just braid them normally. Braiding the cloth strip makes it sturdier, which is helpful because the rings can get fairly heavy when you put many of them on. I tie a wide mouth canning ring at one end, to keep the other rings from sliding off, and then tie a hanging loop at the other end. In just a few minutes, you have hanging canning ring storage that you can color coordinate with your kitchen.
Homemaking Tip #12 – Go Non-Toxic for Cleaners and Pest Control
Natural Cleaners made with common pantry items and essential oils get the job done without leaving a nasty residue of things that are best avoided. We have an assortment of natural cleaner posts on the website, such as:
- Natural Stove Cleaners
- How to Remove Hard Water Buildup from Faucets and Showerheads
- Do It Yourself Laundry and Household Cleaners
- DIY Cleaners Made with Essential Oils
The same goes for pest control in the home and garden. From cedar oil to Castile soap, there are dozens of simple methods to keep the creepy crawly critters from getting out of control. For ideas to get you started, check out:
- Non-Toxic Home Pest Control – Avoid the Risks of Neurotoxic Pesticides
- Keep Your Pantry Pest Free – 7 Green Pest Control Tips
- DIY Natural Garden Pest Control