Feb 17, 2012

Save Time/Money: Give Up Ironing, the Drycleaner, or Both!


Without question, there are some delicate items that MUST have the special care of a good, professional dry cleaner* - I have a few items that I wouldn't dream of handling myself. However, many ready-to-wear items in your closet don't need to go to the dry cleaner every time, and some never at all.

If you haven't heard of Dryel and Woolite -"The Dry Cleaners Secret," they are marvelous products. They are kits that turn your dryer into a dry cleaner, using steam and dry cleaning chemicals to do so. Located on the shelves of stores such as Target and Walmart, they are easy to find and coupons are frequently available online or in circulars.

Dryel requires a starter kit, which has a special bag that holds the items to be cleaned.  Simply follow the product directions, remove promptly and let any wrinkles fall out by hanging immediately. Woolite-"The Dry Cleaners Secret" does not require a special bag.  Items can go directly into your dryer, which I find to be especially convenient for larger items like blankets, pillows, winter coats, etc.

If you like a crisp crease on your dress shirts or pants, simply pull out your iron do so.  Using your iron is not so much a time saver, but the money you will save by doing dry cleaning at home is worth the cost. One kit can clean up to 24 items . . . all for under $10. Have you EVER taken 24 items to the dry cleaner and paid only $10?  Ive used these products to freshen suits, sweaters, blankets, pillows (including feather and down), jackets, stuffed animals, dresses, blouses, dress pants (including light-weight wool) and skirts.


If Dante wrote Inferno for modern times, I'm convinced one of his nine levels of 'hell' would be ironing.  Some people may consider it a relaxing, cathartic exercise.  Not me. I avoid it like The Plague.

By simply hanging your clothing as soon as it comes out of the dryer, you can avoid a mountain of ironing. My husband's work khakis and oxford button-downs, and my knit tops, go from dryer to hanger, with a few wrinkles that drop out after hanging or being worn for a few minutes. On occasion, a collar or a cuff will look a little wonky and I'll press it. But for the most part, the iron gets little or no use.

What if you have a pile of laundry that has a bunch of impossible wrinkles? You can steam them out. I like a product called the Steam Mate, but there are others such as Mr. Steamy and Steam-n-Go. Add water to the sponge inside, toss into the dryer, and within minutes most of your wrinkles are gone. Again, hang immediately to let the soft wrinkles fall out.

These short cuts are not for your delicate clothing items or for items that have complicated stains.  But even if your attire requires the crispest creases with flawless fabrics that hang like a dream, you can lessen the cost and time of maintaining your more casual outfits by learning how to care for them at home. Once you get comfortable using the products, you'll be surprised at how much less money youre spending at the dry cleaner. And once you get used to responding to the dryer buzzer promptly (or using steam to do the wrinkle removing for you) you'll have gained tons of free time by avoiding the iron and ironing board.

*See the link below for fabrics and special items that SHOULD go to a dry cleaner:

Both of these sites offer coupons at this time:

Feb 16, 2012

Toy Organization: Buckets of Fun!

My toddler is two. The baby is four months old. Yet somehow they have accumulated an impressive collection of toys, scattered so thickly on the dining-room-turned-play-room floor that I was in danger of breaking my ankles at just the thought of entering that room.

Don't get me wrong  - I don't a mind a little disarray. After all, it's a space for kids. And it seems like exploration and imagination are just no good to children unless its accompanied by loads of wonderful, glorious messiness!!! So for the majority of the day, the toy room is under Little People Management.  And at the end of the day, Mommy (that's me) wants to restore a little order to the black hole of play things, sippy cups, shoes, and anything else we might actually want to use in other parts of the house.

And so, I began keeping an eye out for simple ways to loosely organize the room so that my toddler could actually find things without me. It also had to be simple enough for him to begin to learn how to put things away.
I was flipping channels one day and landed on a reality show about a family with eight small children - this house had the mother load of toys! While I wasn't that interested in the show, I noticed they installed a wonderful shelving system with colored bins that looks very similar to the cubbies at our son's daycare.  When I can afford the investment, and take the time for the three hour drive to IKEA in Chicago or Detroit, I will install those same awesome shelves. 

But in the meantime, I still needed something, anything . . . because I'm pretty sure the toys were partying, mating and multiplying during the night.  And as much as I'd like to be a relaxed, 'go with the flow' kind of mom, I'm just not cut out for toy Bacchanalia.

While shopping for recycling bins, I saw these large, brightly colored plastic buckets with rope handles. Perfect for toys in so many ways:  They're big. They're lightweight and can go from room to room. They have large openings for kids to easily rumage through or throw toys into when it's time for clean up. They can be repurposed elsewhere in the house when they are no longer needed for toys. And they were $5 each on sale (at Lowe's.)

In 10 minutes, the entire floor was cleared up with plenty of room for playing and horsing around.  I divided the toys into groups, and put some picture labels on them (obtained from the clip art section in Microsoft Word 2010.)  The labels serve two purposes: 1) they'll come in handy later when I'm ready to work with my toddler a little each day on putting things away.  2) I use the words and pictures as a learning tool for reading, similar to the concept used in "Your Baby Can Read." 

After Teddy goes to bed and the baby has been fed, I gather toys from around the house, throw them in their bins, remove items that dont belong, and forget about it. 

Lots of room to play. . . . for now!
The room rarely looks this put together, but sometimes it does.

Feb 6, 2012

Protect Your Techy Things - Org Your Cords

(Microsoft Word 2010 clip art)

About 10 years ago, I had a stroke of genius (<---- a highly questionable statement).  I was moving, or helping other people move - a lot, which included dealing with a mind boggling array of cords, cables and equipment.  I kept thinking: "there has got to be an easier way to set up computers and A/V stuff. Why not label both end of the cords, so that I know immediately where everything goes? This is too good to keep to myself.  The WORLD must be informed!!!!"

Okay, so I get a little excited :)

Having labeled cords is not just about being neat and speedy. In today's techy world, where it seems there are similar looking cords, with similar looking ends everywhere, it's especially important to know what you're plugging in where.  Our toddler recently inserted the Notepad adapter into the baby monitor. The next time the monitor was used to check on the baby, it started smoking!  I know not all adapters are alike, but I didn't know using an adapter with too many amps can literally fry valuable equipment.

So remember how I said above that I had a stroke of genius? Turns out this was a good idea, but certainly NOT original. Apparently, cord management has been a proverbial thorn in the side of organized people for a long while. Fortunately, there are many options to choose from to avoid that tangled, time-consuming, not to mention dangerous,  mess.

(marthastewart.com photo)
Personally, I like the options that dont cost a thing, such as using a Sharpie on masking tape.

Martha Stewart's website has a great idea to use old bread tabs.

And I love an opportunity to print off labels on my label maker (good old trusty-dusty Brother P-touch!)


Here are some seldom-used, labeled cables stored in a box. They are purposefully left unplugged to avoid the use of vampire energy (http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=about.vampires). 

It only takes a few minutes to label your electrical and extention cords and cables, but it will save you a bundle of time and money down the road.  Happy labeling!

See references below for information regarding cord lableing: