Simplify, simplify, simplify!
May 16, 2012 3:55 PM   Subscribe

What are some items you purchased that have had the net effect of simplifying your life or reducing the clutter in your home?

For example: I got an alarm clock that is also a radio and charges my smartphone. I always know where my charger is (on my bedside), I always know where my phone is (on the charger or next to it), and it replaced a few other items (speaker set, radio, alarm clock, various cables).

Another example would be an MP3 player: now 90% of my music exists in the cloud and on the device. Eventually all of it will and I won't even own a legacy stack of CDs. I imagine it's the same idea with a Kindle, although I don't own one.

A stretch of the same idea would be a subscription service like Netflix; while it's not perfect, it's replaced cable for me and most DVD purchases.

In all these cases I'm spending money and bringing additional "stuff" into the house, but as an investment to simplify my life and free up space or my time.
posted by 2bucksplus to Home & Garden (36 answers total) 116 users marked this as a favorite
Maid service or a Roomba? (Not that I have either of these things.)
I use Amazon Subscribe & Save for a lot of things, and would at least try their grocery service if were available where I live.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:59 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Document scanner - by scanning important papers and backing them up on an external drive or in an online service, you don't need to keep most documents in physical form.
posted by asphericalcow at 4:01 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Cast iron cookware.
posted by HuronBob at 4:03 PM on May 16, 2012

Best answer: One or two good knives.
posted by benzenedream at 4:14 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I gave up bedside tables in favor of wall-mounted lamps. Sounds like a small thing, but the less stuff I have on horizontal surfaces, the better. My dresser used to be covered with crapola like papers, clothes, etc. I cleared it off, place a beautiful vase and a framed picture on it, and now it feels like it's off limits to clutter.

I'm sure you know about having a specific place for everything...that's what allows you to keep surfaces clear. The stuff that tends to lie around is usually stuff that doesn't have a dedicated place, or things whose dedicated place is a pain in the ass to access. Other culprits are things that I'm planning to do something with "any time now," but they end up staying in limbo even if they're in plain site.

Like asphricalcow, I bought a document scanner. Once you have a good system for scanning daily and categorizing things intelligently, it can be so much better than the old way. I didn't to have the scanner out in the open, but that's best for me... it was kind of ironic that I was concerned that it wouldn't look right unless it was tucked away. Once scanning becomes a stronger habit, I may be able to hide the machine.

I got smaller hampers, just big enough for one load. I prefer to do one or 2 loads now, instead of waiting till every article of clothing needs washing. I have a hamper for hot wash, one for black clothes, and one for a mixed cold wash.

I added wastebaskets so I wouldn't ever have to walk across a room to throw something away.

There was a chair in my bedroom that always had stuff piled on it. I got rid of the chair.

For papers that I need to handle in some way but not just now, I bought this organizer at the Container Store. Notice that the boxes don't hold much. You could do the same thing for a low price with ordinary boxes.

Hiring a housekeeper has helped me a lot, because I tidy up before she gets here. She can't clean if the surfaces are cluttered, so I stay on top of things a little better by weeding things out every 2 weeks.
posted by wryly at 4:23 PM on May 16, 2012 [6 favorites]

My boyfriend just invested five bucks at Ross in one of those things you hang in your closet that holds ten pairs of shoes (he has exactly ten pairs of shoes) and is *thrilled* to not have shoes under the bed anymore.
posted by jabes at 4:25 PM on May 16, 2012

Best answer: I started just buying the one, nice, expensive and PERFECT version of anything that I noticed that I kept buying infinite versions of the lesser, crappier thing, hoping that the next one, or more of them would work. Here are some examples of that theme:

-iPhone: Got rid of my crappy ipod, kindle, and camera, and my little paper calendar and notepad that rode in my purse.

-Laundry basket solely dedicated as a holding pen for out of place stuff in the house (that i don't have time to put away ): Was able to stop buying replacements for little things because now my stuff gets put in its proper place 100% of the time.

-Clothes that fit well and i love: stopped buying 10x the clothes to fix the hole that my ill fitting cardigans and not quite right shoes left in my wardrobe.

-gym membership to a cool gym that i love: threw away all the dumb home workout stuff I had and never used and stopped buying stuff that didn't quite work for me to replace stuff that didn't quite work for me.
posted by cakebatter at 4:32 PM on May 16, 2012 [6 favorites]

Plastic containers for the hallway closet. Perfect for toques, mittens, and that sort of thing. Much better than things piled precariously on the top shelf.

Plastic containers for the top shelves in my kitchen. Now I just pull out the container, and get what I need. Before, I'd have to grab a stepstool to reach items at the back of the top shelf.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:34 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Mail organizer - now instead of a big pile it is mine, his and ours in organized slots. I can take care of mine, he knows where his is and ours can be reviewed without digging trough piles. Much cleaner and simpler.
posted by cestmoi15 at 4:53 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and seeing it up thread, my roomba has definitely saved my husband's and pets' lives.
posted by cestmoi15 at 4:54 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Gladware that all has the same size lid. They all stack and I never have to hunt for lids. Any time a different-size one manages to sneak into my house, it goes right back out to take someone food or cookies, and, "Oh, you don't need to worry about returning it!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:10 PM on May 16, 2012 [9 favorites]

I rented a locker at my gym and keep it stocked with shower supplies so I don't have to keep hauling my crap back and forth. It comes with laundry service so I don't even have to take my gym clothes home.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:26 PM on May 16, 2012

Rechargeable AA batteries.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:30 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I got an EyeTV hybrid to run my game consoles through my computer. I moved my desk across the room, and now I can get rid of my tv, dvd player, and entertainment center. I think most people use them as DVR replacements.
posted by ansate at 5:52 PM on May 16, 2012

A three-compartment trash bin (landfill, paper, glass/cans/plastic) and can liners of the exact right size.

A rolling laundry cart, also three compartments.

A rack for spice jars that mounts to the inside of a kitchen cabinet. Another for foil etc. More racks for cookie sheets and cutting boards so they store vertically instead of on top of each other.
posted by expialidocious at 5:57 PM on May 16, 2012

Only for homeowners: those coated wire closet shelving systems (Rubbermaid, Closet Maid). You can buy them new, or find them extra cheap on Craigslist as I did. I have transformed my living room (reach-in) and bedroom (walk-in) closets with these and probably doubled the amount of convenient storage space. They're fun DIY projects and I still get a little frisson of pleasure every time I open the doors. Bonus: You have to take everything out to install them, but everything doesn't have to go back in, which means even more room for stuff that was being stored elsewhere or was just clutter.

You know that one dresser drawer in your bedroom where you stick things you don't necessarily wear? I save small cardboard boxes to divide that drawer into compartments for glasses cases, handkerchiefs, bandannas, travel items, prescription bottles (I decant the pills into small corked glass jars for the bedside table), perfume (which I seldom wear), spare keys, things that might otherwise clutter the dresser top.

Glass jars with rubber gasket wire-closure lids in the kitchen. Instead of storing beans, rice, chocolate chips, oatmeal, corn meal, pasta, whathaveyou in their packages in a cupboard, I now have these lining one long counter. I can see what's there and what's low at a glance, and I refill them from the bulk bins. Bonus: they look great.

Pot rack. It hangs from the ceiling and I never have to go digging around in a dark lower cabinet for a pot or pan. Also force you to get rid of pot and pans you don't use.

Since I have no drawers in my office (my desk is an antique dining table) I use large rectangular baskets to store things on the office shelves - cables, manuals, office supplies, tools, paper, ink cartridges, envelopes.

These were here when I bought the house: those slide-out shelves in lower kitchen cabinets. I don't know how I ever lived without them.
posted by caryatid at 6:05 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I bought 3 of these stacking recycling bins at IKEA. They take up much less space than the 3 bags sitting side-by-side that I used to have & have the benefit of not tipping over & spilling things all over the floor when the dog bumps into them. They're large enough that I only need to empty them once/week.

Also, everyone in our household always buys the same brand of cell phone so that we can share chargers, rather than having a separate wall & car charger for each person.
posted by belladonna at 6:25 PM on May 16, 2012

I'm a huge a seltzer water drinker and Sodaclub has both simplified my life (never run out) and decluttered my fridge (no more cans).
posted by askmehow at 6:39 PM on May 16, 2012

I bought one of those charging cables that has (I think) 8 or so ends on it (USB on the other end). It lives in my overnight bag and I never have to worry about bringing cables when we go on a trip. Also, my iPod Touch replaced my Walkman, bookshelves full of books, paper calendar, and wads of lists on paper. I love that thing.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 7:06 PM on May 16, 2012

Bought and hung 2 attractive mail sorters with room enough for magazines and phones to put by the door. Mail gets sorted as soon as it comes in nested of hanging around or getting misplaced.
posted by bq at 8:15 PM on May 16, 2012

Decent coat hangers so the clothes stay on them, in good repair and aren't all fallen to the bottom of my closet in a heap so need for re ironing or washing.
posted by wwax at 8:29 PM on May 16, 2012

Buffet Table
yield: 3 extra (near) kitchen drawers, 2 extra (near) kitchen cabinets, and several square feet of priceless uncluttered kitchen counter top

Pricey "indestructible" dog toys:
yield: carnage free carpet

Benadryl (as a sleep aid)
yield: freedom from ear plugs, fans, noise machines, and night time allergies
bonus: cheap as shit
posted by skrozidile at 8:41 PM on May 16, 2012

These boxes have organized me a lot. The official use for them is storage of CDs: you slip the CD into a plastic envelope and toss out or recycle the rest of the packaging. If you want to keep a booklet or a cover liner that comes with the CD, you can. This reduces the volume of strorage spaces for discs by about 75% - 80%, and when you move, the CDs are already packed. This obviously works with DVDs and Blu-Ray discs as well, and their packaging is even more cumbersome than CDs.

But having a few leftover boxes got me thinking. I sort small hardware-type items into these boxes and store them on a shelf in the closet instead of letting everything pile up in a junk drawer. The box has a little plate where you can insert a label for "Batteries" or "Tape" or "Nails and Hooks."

I use these as desk organizers too, leaving them open on shelves in my home office: one with pens, index cards, post-its, paper clips, tape and other officey stuff, one with everything needed for mailing (envelopes, blank labels, stamps, etc.), one for larger office tools like a letter opener, scissors, a ruler and so forth.

They're even okay for temporary filing: one box for "needs action," one for "bills" and another for "don't lose this.

But wait, there's more. I placed a few of these in my sock drawer to separate dress socks, casual socks and short athletic socks, and once those were organized, surprise! there was plenty of room in the same drawer for underwear!

Another cool thing about these boxes is that they come flattened out and so storing unused ones doesn't take up much space at all.

It's a reallly minor thing, but it's reduced the sprawl around me immensely.
posted by La Cieca at 10:20 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding the stacking interchangable-lid food storage; I prefer the sturdy stuff to Gladware, but YMMV depeding on your needs. I got a big set of Rubbermaid containers for Christmas, something like this, and it's cut down on our lid-finding and cupboard-tetrising by quite a lot. I'd recommend replacing all your current containers with an interchangable one-brand system, if you're up for it.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:03 AM on May 17, 2012

Freestyle makeup palette (the Z-palette or UNII are examples). Depotting make-up is a pain to begin with, but I threw out a carrier bag's worth of packaging when I removed my eyeshadows from bulky paper casing to four slimline plastic palettes. They mean I use my make-up more - because I can actually get to it - and I can transport it more easily.
posted by mippy at 6:16 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can further reduce your home clutter by renting a self-storage unit. You may think this is opposite of reducing clutter, but we've found no better way to store (among other things that cannot be disposed of) the Christmas tree and ornaments, Halloween decorations, the window unit A/C in the winter, Rubbermaids of personal family items, and the removable 3rd row seat for our SUV. Just be prepared, it ain't cheap.
posted by lstanley at 6:54 AM on May 17, 2012

I bought an attractive basket, about 12x16 (bigger than a magazine) that hangs out by our mail slot -- when the mail comes in, I throw all the garbage mail or stuff I'm not going to look at in the basket. Ideally, once a week, I go through and shred stuff that needs shredding and recycle stuff that can be recycled. It can get messy if I don't keep up with it, but it's a contained mess instead of spreading that stuff all through the house.

On the wall nearby, I hung this magazine rack. I looked high and low for such a thing that didn't look like something in an "office." It sorts his/hers/bills and the occasional project -- one pocket is still dedicated to the bills that came in for the birth of my daughter. I think we are all paid off so that will get archived.

We have rubbermaid shelving in our master closet -- it needs re-doing but it can be a real space maker. The biggest transformation was my office which went from 3 ugly and ill-suited bookshelves to a total vertical system on one wall. I used ELFA from the container store. It's expensive but it looks good and works very well. I put it up myself while pregnant. I share my home office with the baby and had to consolidate.
posted by amanda at 8:30 AM on May 17, 2012

Put a pen and a phillips head screwdriver on your keychain. A mini Swiss army knife will do this quite well.
posted by condour75 at 8:35 AM on May 17, 2012

Nthing the Roomba! We also recently bought, installed and filled up an outdoors shed...moved the clutter out of the house and organized it as we placed it in the shed. Fantastic!
posted by txmon at 8:41 AM on May 17, 2012

Best answer: Throw out all your socks. Buy 30 pairs of new socks that are all exactly the same. If you need dress socks and athletic socks, but 10 pairs of dress socks that are all the same. This will improve your life dramatically.
posted by corn_bread at 9:19 AM on May 17, 2012 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Use the library instead of byuing books. You can put in requests from all over the system, and return the books/music/magazines/movies when you're done. Sweet!
posted by wenestvedt at 11:11 AM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

The litter robot has dramatically improved my pregnancy, if not my life.
posted by ohyouknow at 11:53 AM on May 17, 2012

I didn't actually buy these, but when I used to work in a lab I took home old pipette boxes with plastic lids. They stack very nicely and I have these labelled with my label maker and use them to store all sorts of odds and ends from buttons to batteries. Made storing things and finding things much easier.
posted by inbetweener at 4:02 AM on May 19, 2012

[quote]Rechargeable AA batteries.[/quote]

Yes, but get Low Self-Discharge NiMh batteries such as Sanyo Eneloop. I've replaced almost all my batteries with these, as they last for months in low-drain devices. They're sold fully charged, like an old-skool alkaline battery. They've really simplified my entire "battery strategy".

Regular NiMh rechargeable batteries are much cheaper and have a little higher capacity, but they'll go dead in a couple weeks just sitting on the shelf -- or in a remote control. And you'd better remember to charge them right before going on a trip, or you'll likely have dead batteries with you. They're still better than alkaline batteries, and have their place, but you'll find yourself recharging them quite often.

The Eneloops are not the end-all-be-all battery, but they're pretty close. Here's a nice battery guide for more info.
posted by LordSludge at 4:39 PM on May 22, 2012

Best answer: Also, I use streaming internet radio services, such as Slacker Radio and Pandora, as a further simplification for my music. I don't even have to maintain an mp3 library. Between this and Hulu/Netflix, most of my network hard drives are now obsolete.
posted by LordSludge at 4:43 PM on May 22, 2012

This is probably just tangentially related to your question, but I was just talking about this the other day...

I finally have a vehicle large enough to hold all of my outdoor gear. My bike, my tent, my camping gear, my dayhiking gear, the portable dog kennel, the foofy dog bed...all of it. At once. All of this stuff used to live in my house, cluttering up the hallway and filling corners. I tripped over my bike daily. I had to move my big backpack to get to my desk. It was horrible but I dealt with it...for almost a decade.

Being able to just keep it all in the car is the BEST THING EVER. So much less clutter, so much more space, and everything is always ready to go. Beauty.
posted by Elly Vortex at 10:18 AM on May 23, 2012

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