Saying Goodbye to Things

In my books and articles, I write a lot about organizing your home and life. But there is usually more to getting ‘organized’ than just finding a place for everything. There is decluttering.

It’s been my experience that the ‘skill’ of collecting too much stuff has many different origins. I have talked to farmers who wouldn’t dream of throwing away a left-over nut, bolt, piece of steel, wire, or lumber. They know that something will eventually break, and it’ll probably be needed. Besides, it’s a long drive to town. Other people might associate their feelings about a person or event with a related object. Still yet, some just have a lot of unfinished business (see prior post Help for Household Stress – Steps For Today®). Whatever the cause, just the mention of decluttering can evoke anxiety in most. And, therefore, is something we often avoid.

In the book Goodbye Things by Fumio Sasaki, Japan’s most famous minimalist takes you through his personal journey to a life with more focus on living and less focus on things.  It’s an interesting read as he learns more about himself with each step in the process. Here are a few steps from his book:

1. Discarding takes skill. Like all skills, you have to start somewhere. Do something simple at first. Start small and work your way up to larger items. Try just adding one additional small item to the trash and then immediately taking it all out to the bin.

2. If you can’t remember how many gifts you’ve given, don’t worry about things you’ve gotten. We’re often concerned that throwing out a gift that we no longer use will offend the giver. But wouldn’t you, as a giver, prefer for that the gift no outlast its usefulness?

3. Things bring more things. When we buy new things, we often get caught up in all of the accessories. For example, a couch can lead to matching chairs, rugs, curtains, etc.

4. Getting rid of things frees you from the stress of keeping up with the Jones’. He writes that we spend too much thought, time, and treasure on trying to keep up with everyone else. And that letting this go is a feeling of great relief.

Sasaki has many more reasons for getting rid of things. Some might say he takes it to the extreme. But he believes having less things, gives him a greater ability to focus on, and appreciate, the events of his life.

One thing that Sasaki doesn’t really address, is the passing of ‘heirlooms’. I don’t know why people wait until they are no longer able to participate, to take this opportunity to give a wanted gift. It can be a great experience. See my next post for ways to make this happen.

Thanks for reading.
Please like and share with those who are struggling with these issues.
And remember to take the next step.

Even a blind squirrel …

I’m not sure about her vision, but a recent uninvited guest into my home surely thought she had found a nut.

Early one morning this week, I went to the basement to grab the laundry from the dryer. When I entered the laundry room I was greeted by a little creature probably just as surprised as me! Yes, it was one of those bushy tailed rodents that scurry about my yard all day and night. It seems this one had found a way in. This isn’t the first animal to get into my home. I’ve had birds (Starlings) get in there as well. I’d been able to get rid of the birds pretty quickly. And I THOUGHT that the squirrel would be just as easy to get gone. But, I now have a clearer understanding of the phrase “squirrel-brained”.

I knew that the birds had always come down the flu for the gas log fireplace in the basement. It is never used and we just try to make sure that the glass doors are kept closed so that that’s as far as they get. I wanted to check to see if that was where my new little friend had entered. But to do so, I had to leave the laundry room. So I carefully shut, and blocked the thresholds for the two doors. In the process, I lost track of the scurrying squirrel but was confident he was still in there. Sure enough, a fireplace door was open just enough for the squirrel to pass through to its new home. As I walked about the basement, I could see that the squirrel had been in there for more than just the morning. It had spent some time in all of the window sills no doubt trying its best to get back out to the safe trees. And I had a plan of how to help it get out. But for that, I would need to get some live animal traps from another location. So I left the little varmint in the room and went for a drive.

When I returned with the traps, and started setting them up in the laundry room, it became clear that the squirrel was no longer in there. Now squirrels are notorious chewers. I’ve had them chew through a quarter-inch-thick hard plastic clamshell car carrier (probably because it looked like a giant nut). But I didn’t see any evidence that the it had chewed its way out of the room. I can only guess that it had left the room before I shut the doors. As I found out, they are quick. I found it, once again, sitting in the window sill. And upon seeing me, the chase began. Now I’ve herded many animals and even cats seem to have a general pattern to their movements. But these things are squirrely. The ensuing chase can only be described as a comedy. And I can tell you truly that a squirrel will jump on your head if it’s the best route to escape.

Eventually, it did go back to the fireplace where I could trap it. Or so I thought. After setting up and baiting a trap, it never would come down from its perch atop the damper. Too bad it couldn’t climb out. It seems as though, unlike every surface in my basement, it’s claws couldn’t grasp the flu pipe. So I finally conceded to doing as my wife suggested in the first place, call the professionals from Rottler Pest Control. Within an hour, a “nuisance animal” specialist , Jason, was at my home. Turns out, this was a job for two. As Jason bravely tried to grasp the squirrel with a grabber pole, I was waiting with a clear plastic tub and lid. Sure enough, it ran straight out of the fireplace and into the tub. Jason then when on the roof and fixed the flu so that I wouldn’t have any more pest coming down the chimney. The squirrel was re-homed, and I was relieved.

What has this got to do with Steps for today?

I’ve known about this problem for years. When you know about a problem and don’t take care of it, It will eventually come back to – well it didn’t bite me- but maybe just scurry about your life create total chaos, and cost you even more money and time.

I only wish I had the whole thing on camera. It would have been an internet sensation.

Thanks for reading.
Please like and share with those who are struggling with these issues.
And remember to take the next step.

Spring Cleaning

I can still remember a lot about my Great Grandmother. Born in 1895, in a very rural community, she was a firm believer in ‘spring cleaning’. This usually occurred on the first warm day in March or April, and it involved opening the windows for fresh air, getting out the ammonia for cleaning, and taking out the rugs for a firm beating on the clothesline.  I was pretty young, but I can remember being amazed at the amount of ‘stuff’ that was in a rug that had been vacuumed all winter. I would love to see the look on my neighbors faces if I did this feat at home this spring. Heck, I’d love to see their faces if I put up a clothesline!

I no longer perform spring cleanings like that. But I do have the following list of things I try to do on the first warm days of the year.

  • Like my grandmother, I like to open the windows and let in the fresh air. This is also a chance to check the screens for damage and get them repaired before the bugs arrive.
  • Take a walk around your homes exterior to look for clogged or damaged gutters and downspouts. Cleaning gutters is not fun. But it’s less fun in the rain.
  • While you’re out there, also look for damaged or loose siding, facia, and soffits.
  • Take a few steps back and take another walk around your home. This time, take a look at the roof for damaged shingles. If anything looks suspect, call a roofer. They’re usually happy to take a look around up there and see if there’s minor damage or something that can qualify for an insurance claim.
  • Winter freezing and thawing can also cause landscaping to shift. It’s best to get that fixed before the spring rains cause further damage.
  • Now’s the time to wash away the winter collection of gunk on your windows. If you’re not a fan of window cleaning, contact your local firehouse. Those folks are great at cleaning windows.
  • Check for bird nests on your home while you’re out there too. Having birds nesting on your light fixtures causes a mess. But let’s face it, you’re not going to take it down once there’s eggs in it.
  • When it gets above 65 degrees, I like to check the air-conditioning system before the hotter weather arrives. Running the A/C when it any cooler, or when there’s a chance that ice could still be on the unit, can damage the system. So it’s best to wait.

These are just a few chores I do when the weather gets warmer. What are some of the steps you take on those first nice days?

Thanks for reading. Please like and share!
And remember to take the next step.

Things Are Heating Up (but shouldn’t)

Getting the most heat for your money is more important than ever. I’ve discussed ways to increase furnace efficiency, but what about the heat losses in your home. Windows and doors are the most common areas of concern, but there are other places where heat may escape. Let’s see what steps we can take to keep warm air in and cold air out this winter.

The seals around windows and doors wear out over the years. Older, single pane, windows may not have had any weather-tight seal when they were installed. In either case, a wide range of aftermarket weatherstripping products are now available. Some products may use tape to adhere to the window or door casing. Be careful when using any product which adheres to the surface. Often, a layer of paint will come off when removing the tape in the spring. Sometimes, too, the tape may leave a sticky reside on the surface. This can be removed with lighter fluid, or naphtha. Just use a little at a time on a clean white cloth. And make sure to test the surface in an indiscrete area to see if the naphtha blemishes or dulls it. Often, with a little research, you can find replacement parts, including seals, for your windows or doors. If you can’t find it at your local hardware store, online stores such as may have a close match to the original seal.

Modern building practices pay much more attention to sealing up air leaks before the siding goes on. In older homes there is often a poorly insulated area between the window and door frame and the casing.  Even if there is a tight seal between the window and frame. There can be large heat loss between the window frame and the house. On a cold, windy day, check for a cold breeze blowing out from between your window casing and the wall.  If you can feel a breeze, apply a bead of caulk where the casing meets the wall, or at any other place where air is blowing through the casing. 

The weather seal at the bottom of the entry door, including the door sweep, experiences daily wear and tear. They’ll often start to split and/or gap, leaving a great place for heat to escape. Not to mention, crawly things to get in (okay, technically, I did mention it). There’s a wide range of these to choose from at the store. I recommend trying to find one that most closely matches your existing sweep in order to minimize the trim work required to get a snug fit.

The last recommendation for this post, is also the least expensive. Close the fireplace damper when it’s not in use. An open fireplace damper lets harmful combustion gases and smoke escape up the flue. It should always be open when there is any heat coming from the fireplace, no matter how small an amount. Likewise, if the fireplace is not in use, an open damper is like having an giant hole in your wall for heated air to rush out and cold air to rush in. If you do close your damper, it’s a great practice to place something in front of the fireplace to remind you that it’s closed, and prevent you from building a fire without opening it.

These are just a few steps to reduce your homes heat loss and increase its overall efficiency. We’ll discuss some other, more challenging, steps in my next post. Until then, look for more tip for home maintenance at

Thanks for reading. Please like and share!
And remember to take the next step…

PS: I’d love to hear any cost-saving or home maintenance tips you may have as well.