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Clutter control is awesome. It reduces stress, stops our stuff from taking over our lives, and helps us live more simply. But are there times when a person can go overboard with decluttering? In my opinion, yes.

Last week I was making a salad. My husband handed me the croutons and I took what I wanted. I noticed that there were only four croutons remaining in the box. Several thoughts quickly passed through my mind, like, “I should just eat the rest and be done with it” and “then I can clear a space in the cupboard and recycle the box.” Under some circumstances, thoughts like these would lead to productive decluttering. But didn’t I just waste those 4 croutons?

I’m not perfect. I strive to be organized. Hey, I love to be organized. But I’ve got a ways to go. And when I put those extra four croutons on my salad, I realized that I have to be careful not to go overboard with decluttering. There’s a line and I crossed it. Now, it’s only four little croutons, but attitudes like that could spill over into other areas of my life and I don’t want that!

After contemplating my actions with the croutons, I came up with five signs an organizer should be careful to watch out for to make sure he or she is not going overboard with decluttering. “Clutter control” has the word “control” in it, so let’s stay in control.

obsessed-with-clutter

1. You are obsessed with decluttering

Do you go through your day constantly thinking about things you can get rid of? Does unsightly clutter cause you to feel stressed until you can get it cleaned up? These are signs of an obsession with clutter control. Getting rid of clutter is good. Letting clutter bother you and control you in a negative way is bad.

2. Your decluttering habits annoy people

I know a person who is so fixated on decluttering that he will literally take the soda can out of your hands before you are even finished drinking it so he can crush it and recycle it RIGHT NOW. These types of habits really annoy people, especially people who are not at all sympathetic to the organizing cause in the first place.

3. You judge other people for their clutter problems

As organizing junkies, it is very easy to walk into someone else’s house and think of ways they could organize their belongings more effectively.  For some of us, this is just second nature.  But when constructive observation turns into critical judgment of that person’s lifestyle and character, you’ve crossed the line.  Having an attitude like this is very dangerous, and you should try your best to avoid it.

4. Your decluttering methods result in waste

This is where my crouton example fits in. I didn’t need to eat those four croutons. But even though they were only four little pieces of toasted bread, I truthfully just wasted them. And you know what? They cost money. Be careful not to get so hung up on decluttering that you start to go against your frugal principals.

5. Decluttering costs you money later

Have you ever hesitated throwing something away because you were worried you might have a use for it months or even years down the line? Clutter control gurus would give you a time limit to put in place and tell you to throw that item away if you didn’t use it by that time. Well, I think there is something to be said about the opposite problem—what if you impulsively throw something away in order to declutter, but then you realize later on that you needed it? What if you have to buy it again? That’s money you wouldn’t have had to spend if you had saved the item in the first place. Now I’m not advocating that everyone become a pack rat. All I’m saying is that there is a healthy balance between what useful possessions to save for later and what clutter to get rid of now.

Reader Reflection

It’s clear I’m talking extremes here, but they do exist and we have to be careful not to go too far with decluttering. Do you notice any areas in your life where you sometimes cross the line?

This past week I took it easy on cooking meals, falling back on some old favorites. It was a nice break and I got to spend my extra time doing other things related to cooking, like defrosting my freezer.  It helped that we had subzero temperatures to work with, although I can say I’m quite ready for spring.

I also was able to take advantage of some grocery store sales and buy lots of red bell peppers ($1.98 / lb) and a whole beef tenderloin ($2.99 / lb). I first chopped up all the peppers, bagged, and froze them (I’m not allowed to buy peppers for a while now…I have a big supply!). Then I prepared the tenderloin into individual steaks, vacuum sealing them in pairs to freeze for later. Did I mention I love steak? Finally, it was time again to replenish my supply of prepared frozen cheese. Overall it was a productive week and we are now well stocked!

I’ve very excited about my meals this week. I’m getting hungry just thinking about them!

meal-plan-mondays

Monday 3/16/09

Oaxacan Tacos (NEW) and fresh pineapple

Tuesday 3/17/09

Leftovers

Wednesday 3/18/09

Lumpia (egg rolls) and fried rice

Thursday 3/19/09

Leftovers

Friday 3/20/09

Leftovers

Saturday 3/21/09

Chicken Parmesan, with pasta, green beans, and garlic bread

Sunday 3/22/09

Leftovers

* * * * * *

I posted my weekly menu to the I’m an Organizing Junkie blog, so be sure to check it out and participate if you’d like!

This week for Mission: Appliances, I’d like to feature an appliance that I wish I had dusted off long ago…the smoothie maker. Why? Well, I find myself using it regularly now that I’ve discovered how cool it is!

mission-appliances2

We own the Back to Basics SJR1X Smoothie Blast smoothie maker. My husband got it before we were married and as I said above, I only recently discovered its potential.

You see, my husband’s grandparents have a HUGE garden. And every year they supply us with copious amounts of frozen fruit, like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and apples. I certainly have used this fruit to make desserts in the past, but now with this smoothie maker, I can use the fruit in lots of new ways (and the fact that the fruit is frozen is a bonus!). Let’s see how great this smoothie maker really is.

Smoothie Maker Vital Statistics

  • Brand: Back to Basics
  • Average Price: $40
  • Power: 350 watt motor
  • Size:32 ounce container, 6 x 16 x 7 inches, 8 pounds
  • Features: Dispenser valve serves smoothies without a mess
  • Complexity: Very easy to use
  • Versatility: Marketed for smoothies, but can blend just about anything a normal blender would blend
  • Cleaning: Easy to clean
  • Storage: Unit breaks down into parts that fit well inside a cupboard
  • Safety Tips: Blending blades are sharp
  • Pre-series Location: Inside a high cupboard that can be reached without a chair
  • Pre-series Use Level: My husband used it a couple of times before we were married, but I never had until now

smoothie-maker

Project Smoothie Maker

A few weeks ago when we used our blender to make milkshakes, we also decided to bring out the smoothie maker too. I searched recipes online, never having made a smoothie before, and came up with this:

Strawberry Yogurt Smoothie
8 frozen strawberries
3 ice cubes
½ cup milk
½ cup plain yogurt
2 TBS white sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

We added the ingredients to the container and immediately noticed a feature with this smoothie maker that was going to make it better than our blender: a stirring stick you can use to stir the ingredients while they are blending so you don’t have to keep turning the unit on and off to mix the solids around.

smoothie-maker-ingredients

After everything blended, we used the handy little spout to pour the smoothies into our glasses. Yum! Now this first time we used a recipe, but since then, we’ve invented all sorts of different smoothies. For example, my husband loves to combine frozen pineapple chunks, yogurt, orange juice, sugar, and vanilla extract. I for one love strawberries as my base, but I’ve been adding blueberries, cran-raspberry juice, and sometimes ice cream instead of yogurt if I’m feeling naughty. It’s actually quite fun to try different combinations to see what you can come up with!

smoothie-maker-smoothie

I want to mention here also as a side note that we were also able to borrow another kind of smoothie maker from a family member this month, called the Magic Bullet.  This smoothie maker uses a smaller blender unit and the container you use to blend your ingredients in is the same container you use to drink out of later.  I really like that concept because there’s less to clean.  It’s definitely a nifty little gadget, but our smoothie maker also gets the job done.

The Verdict

We love our smoothie maker! It blends better than our blender (thanks to the stirring stick) and we’ve had a lot of fun inventing smoothie recipes. I know we’ll keep using this appliance regularly and I’m glad we have it!

Reader Reflection

Do you own a smoothie maker? What is your favorite kind of smoothie?

I love thrift stores. Lately I’ve been visiting them a lot more frequently. Maybe it’s the economy, or maybe I just love the idea of finding a great deal.

A few weeks ago I hit up a new thrift store in my home town. It’s small, but seems to have high quality items. I was getting ready to leave when I spotted the shoe section. I’ve never bought shoes from a thrift store—I’m not at all opposed, I just don’t tend to buy shoes very often in general and thrift stores obviously don’t always have the size I need.

Case in point, a pair of hiking shoes I narrowed in on were a size too big for me. But I decided to try them on anyway because it immediately became apparent that they were in great shape and were probably a fairly expensive shoe new. And I love to hike.  Here’s a photo of them:

hiking-shoes

The price tag was $5. I thought that seemed like a very good price for new-looking hiking shoes with awesome gripping soles. Then the store owner noticed me trying them on and informed me that all shoes were 25% off. At $3.75, how could I pass up that deal? The problem was, I was having trouble making a decision.

Here are some of the thoughts that were going through my mind:

These shoes are a size too big. They fit even with just one pair of socks, but are not a perfect size.

I already have a few pairs of hiking boots (did I mention I like to hike?), so I don’t really have any pressing need for another pair. At the same time, I only have high-top hiking boots, not hiking shoes.

I don’t want to clutter my closet with too many shoes. Shoe clutter is annoying.

What if someone else in the community really needs these shoes?

Is there someone I know who I could buy these for?

Come on, these shoes are only $3.75!!!!

I bought them. And I’ve worn them several times since buying them.  To be honest, my deciding factor came down to the amazing price on a high-quality pair of shoes.  But I still wonder if I made the best decision. For example, what should be more important: price, need, clutter control, or whether I’m preventing someone else from buying a great pair of shoes?  And that’s where you come in:

What would you have done in my shoes? (pun intended)

After voting in the poll, feel free to explain why you voted as you did in the comments section below.

Well, this past week had its ups and downs in terms of meals. On the one hand, my slow cooker pot roast recipe was excellent and I talked about it in more detail for Friday’s Mission: Appliances post. On the other hand, the tilapia recipe didn’t go over as well. It wasn’t really the fault of the recipe. We just think that my husband is allergic to tilapia. And I’ll leave it at that. 🙂

This week I’m excited to fall back on a few old favorites. I’m not going to try any new recipes to give myself a little break. On to the meal plan!

meal-plan-mondays

Monday 3/9/09

Sage Butter Linguine with Bell Peppers

Tuesday 3/10/09

Leftovers

Wednesday 3/11/09

Sesame Chicken

Thursday 3/12/09

Leftovers

Friday 3/13/09

Weekend away

Saturday 3/14/09

Weekend away

Sunday 3/15/09

Leftovers

* * * * * *

I posted my weekly menu to the I’m an Organizing Junkie blog, so be sure to check it out and participate if you’d like!

Today I am excited to announce that I have been featured as a guest poster at The Smart Passive Income Blog! This blog is one of my favorites–I visit it regularly to get inspiration and advice about legitimately earning passive income from home. You should check it out!

The author of The SPI Blog, Pat, asked me to write a post while he was away on his honeymoon in Hawaii (nice!) so I worked up an article about one of my newer endeavors: writing for the comprehensive how-to website, eHow.

I joined eHow back in November and have already written over 100 articles. The coolest thing is, anyone can write and articles earn money based on people clicking the related advertisements. It’s been a rewarding form of passive income so far and I hope to continue to write more articles in the future.

As for my guest post, of course I had to write about organization. 🙂 So head on over to this great blog to read my post, “Earn More Money by Organizing Your eHow Workflow.”

This week for Mission: Appliances, I chose an appliance I actually do use on occasion, but I wish I used more: a slow cooker, or crock pot. Slow cookers are so cool, there are even whole blogs devoted just to them. So that inspired me to try to find a recipe unlike any I had ever tried before so I could stretch myself a little. Let’s see how it turned out!

mission-appliances2

We actually own 2 slow cookers, the Proctor Silex 33015 1.5-Quart Round Slow Cooker and Hamilton Beach Stay/Go Slow Cooker. One is small and other is large. I’ve used both equally in the past, mainly to transport food to a potluck or a party, and a few times to cook ribs. For this particular experiment, I used the small one.

Slow Cooker Vital Statistics

  • Brand: Proctor Silex
  • Average Price: $20
  • Power: Keep Warm, Low, & High settings
  • Size: 1.5 quart capacity, 5.6 pounds
  • Features: Dishwasher safe stoneware and lid
  • Complexity: Very easy to use
  • Versatility: Slow cooks just about anything
  • Cleaning: Very easy to clean stoneware as long as you do not let it sit out too long to dry
  • Storage: Unit is pretty compact so fits well inside a cupboard
  • Safety Tips: Heating elements get hot on High setting
  • Pre-series Location: Inside a deep cupboard; must remove several other appliances and pots first
  • Pre-series Use Level: Used on occasion to keep foods warm or to cook ribs

crock-pot

Project Slow Cooker

In my search for a creative recipe to try with my slow cooker, I found a popular one on allrecipes.com: Slow Cooker Pot Roast. A pot roast might not seem all that creative to some of you, but I had never made one before, let alone bought one! It was actually kind of fun to try a new meat that was relatively inexpensive. I went with a 2.35 lb Angus Beef Bottom Round Roast and modified the recipe some to enhance the flavors:

GRAVY:
2 10.75 oz. cans cream of mushroom soup
1 1 oz. package of dry onion soup mix
1 cup beef broth
¼ cup red cooking wine
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce

RUB:
2 TBS flour
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 tsp rosemary

Directions: Mix rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Coat roast with rub. In a skillet in olive oil, sear all sides of the roast until brown to lock in the juices. Meanwhile, mix all the gravy ingredients in the slow cooker. Place the seared roast inside and cover with the gravy. Cook on high for 4 hours and low for 2 hours.

crock-pot-ingredients

I found the prep to be pretty fast and after you get the ingredients inside the slow cooker, you basically just have to wait! I do like slow cookers in this way—I was able to prepare most of dinner before lunch and we just ate when it was done. One thing I tend not to like about slow cookers is that they seem to cook the snot out of some things. For meat this could be perfect—who doesn’t want tender, falling-off-the-bone ribs or what not? But for veggies, I prefer a little texture and crunch. That’s why I left veggies out of the gravy.

crock-pot-cooked

After 5 hours, I prepared my two sides (garlic mashed potatoes & frozen corn) and then after 6 hours everything was ready. Clean up was pretty easy and I made sure I rinsed out the stoneware before it got too cool and dry. Overall we really enjoyed the roast! I’m not a big fan of roasts in general (I’m more of a steak person), but the sauce was quite good and the meat was moist and tender.

crock-pot-meal

The Verdict

Well, I’m convinced to try more slow cooker recipes! I really have wanted to, but I just haven’t done it. Maybe I’ll get a slow cooker cook book or visit a slow cooker blog. In any case, this is one of those staple appliances that really does offer a lot of versatility.

Reader Reflection

What is your favorite recipe to make in your slow cooker?