Cleaning the Sink

20130422-220521.jpg I have been given an enormous freedom: the freedom to dry my dishes with a drying towel and put them away immediately.  I know, this sounds a bit strange.  For years now, I have had a drying rack.  Our family would unload the dishwasher onto it and we would allow the dishes to dry for hours — usually overnight.  Then, we would come back to a mess that would still need to be put away. Often the dish cycle was not complete before I needed to unload the dishwasher again, and I had not yet put the dishes away from the previous dish cycle. This was an ongoing source of frustration and agitation in our family. The kicker of this problem is that I didn’t even recognize that it was a problem. Through all of my best efforts of ‘5S‘ing the house, I somehow missed what should have been an obvious “Please 5S this Clutter Catcher” area.  It was a constant irritant, and yet, I had no idea that it was such a problem area.  I had even less of an idea of what to do about it. 20130422-220558.jpg Then one day, we happened upon the “Fly Lady.” In about a day, this woman changed my life and my sink. One of her first lessons is shining your sink. (Click here to visit the lesson.) After reading this, it became apparent that the drying rack was doing nothing but creating an extra step. I can just dry the dishes with a drying towel as I am putting them away. I don’t want to sound dense, but the idea had not really occurred to me. Truly, I have the freedom to just dry the dishes and put them away as I unload the dishwasher. And while I am at it, I dry the sink with my towel when I am done to help shine the sink for the next time I use it. This has the added benefit of keeping the number of dishes used to a minimum. To make it more of a habit, we run the dishwasher now every night whether it is completely full or not. This way we established the habit of unloading the dishwasher and putting the dishes away in the morning to get the day off to a good cleaning start. Our family is six members strong at this point, so running the dishwasher every night may or may not work for you. Both my wife and I have been doing this for about a month now. I will never go back.  My drying rack was offered to the garbage man this morning as a sign of my commitment. Honestly, there was no love lost on this one.

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Refrigerator Cleaning

Refrigerator Before

After Cleaning

So, it was time to tackle the fridge. It had finally got to the point that it was really bugging me.  (That is generally what’s required to get me moving on any cleaning project!)  When I started, I was really stumped on how I could fix the problem. It is a problem that we all encounter with lots of different spaces, not just the fridge. How do I fix it and not just move the pile of (insert favorite word here) from one location to another? So, I deconstructed it.
I unloaded the fridge in its entirety, and I made some presuppositions:

  1.  The organization that I was about to do may not be optimized for every situation, but any forward progress was a learning experience on how to do it better for next time.
  2.  The organization that I perform at this moment will have to be revisited on a recurring basis.

Now, I have a friend that once said to me that he had a fifteen minute rule. i.e., any mess that takes longer than 15 minutes to clean up is too big, and must be cleaned up right then and there. (Thanks, Walter!) And while I do not know if this is a rule that he has been able to adhere to, I like it, and would like to find myself following it. That being said, it took me about 3.5 hours to clean this up. Which might give a clue as to just how bad it was needing it.

So, did I learn anything? Yes:

  1.  My LG fridge has adjustable shelves, but like most people, I do not take the time to evaluate the best position of those shelves. This is mainly because food comes in containers that are various sizes, and it can be hard to predict which sizes one might stock over the course of the food cycle.
  2. Small adjustments to the placement of the shelves can have a huge impact.  I came to realize (after much thought about the shapes and sizes that I was trying to place into my fridge) that improper placement of shelves can act as a nucleation site for compounded clutter.  In my case, I have had a few extra “tall” items that I have been trying to place in the fridge, but because I did not have the correct shelf placement, I only had one area that I could place tall things. –This was my clutter nucleation site. All of the small things had to yield to the placement of this one container size.

My current solution: I adjusted the shelf on the right by moving it 2 inches higher.  This now divides the space on the right into two equally spaced areas. With the added benefit of a half-shelf, the upper space on the right can be broken down into smaller spaces, currently used to shelter the eggs (see picture). So far, this small change has made a big difference in the form and function of the fridge. I will reevaluate after a couple of months to see if further changes are necessary.

Keep in mind that this may not work for you. It really depends on the type of containers that you are storing in your fridge; however, I’ll bet with a little bit of thought, your fridge can be better optimized, too!

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Food Storage Solution

My Old Plasticware
My Old Plasticware

As a man who uses dishes (as well as wash them), I have been frustrated by the food storage containers that we have been using in our house for a while. Over the last thirteen years, we have been collecting different plasticware. Now, for those first years of marriage, money was tight. So, when cheap Gladware sets became available, I was elated. But that didn’t stop me from keeping the occasional butter container. Nor could I possibly part with the plastic container that comes with my lunchmeat. Forget the fact that the shape is almost the same as the Gladware, but the lid doesn’t fit anything but itself. Having a mix-and-match set leads to confusion and delay when actually trying to use the containers for storage. There is a slow down when:

  1. Trying to find a lid for a container
  2. Trying to put the containers back to where they live – (nothing stacks correctly)
  3. Choosing the appropriately sized container – (not really understanding how much volume each container holds)

So, I have decided to standardize. This led me to the question of which containers I should buy. Thanks to all who answered on the Facebook shout-out. It really gave us some things to ponder. There are a few choices. BPA (aka, Bisphenol A) has been deemed toxic. So, make sure that your plasticware is BPA free. Good news. I didn’t find any plasticware out there that had any BPA. In fact, most of the companies are going out of there way to let you know that their products are BPA free. Regardless, the thoughts are that one should still not heat things up in plasticware. Only use it for ambient temperature needs. The recommendation we received overwhelmingly was to use glass for things that need to be reheated. This led us to a difficult choice – plastic or glass?

The New Plastic and Glassware

We decided to go with both. The idea is to use the glassware when we know something will need reheating, and plasticware when it will not. The real question is which brands did we end up buying? (Drum-roll please)

For the plastic, we went with the Rubbermaid Premier, and the glass we went with Snapware Glasslock. We found the prices to be very competitive at Costco, so I bought three boxes of the plastic, and two boxes of the glass. For a total of:

  • Plastic
  1. 12 x 1.25 cup containers
  2. 12 x 2 cup containers
  3. 6 x 3 cup containers
  4. 9 x 5 cup containers
  5. 3 x 9 cup containers
  • Glass
  1. 4 x 1.4 cup rectangle
  2. 4 x 3.2 cup rectangle
  3. 2 x 5.9 cup rectangle
  4. 4 x 1.3 cup round
  5. 4 x 2.3 cup round

Just take a look at how well it fits in the cabinet. 🙂

-Along the 5S way

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Plastic Bags

Bags of Bags

We all have them. Some of us would rather not use them, and some of us don’t care one way or another. Regardless of which camp you belong to, the plastic bag is easy to come by. I find that in everyday use, the plastic bag does have its place. Usually for cleaning unsightly messes that the dog makes. Should it be used when a reusable bag would work better? No, probably not, but there is a reason for keeping them around.

The real question is why do I have so many? Following the attitude of not throwing away anything that you might need later (A fallacy and rather poor way to live life), I have become a collector of bags. Not that I need them, but rather because, “Why would I throw away a perfectly good bag?” It may not look like it, but there are over 500 bags in this picture. Some of them date back almost a decade ago.

New 5S rules:

  1. One small bag of plastic bags may be kept. If the bag is full, you don’t need to keep it.
  2. If the plastic bag has a hole in it. Don’t keep it.
  3. Use re-usable bags whenever possible.
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Using Adobe Acrobat Pro to Bulk Add a Password to my PDFs

As I have been “Going Paperless” I have decided that I want to keep some of my scanned files under password protection. The problem is that I have been generating PDFs so fast with my new ScanSnap S1500. Traditionally with the Adobe Acrobat Standard (which is what comes with the ScanSnap S1500), the files have to be password protected one at a time. Yikes! That is a real pain when I am generating files at about 15 a minute! I would have to go in and individually add passwords to each file. This would be real time consuming. Luckily, I have Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional which allows for the batch processing of files. All I have to do is put all of the files that I want to password protect into a folder that I want to maintain. Then, I can run the batch processing from Adobe Acrobat  and it will password protect all of the files that are in that folder. Pretty Cool! (Some initial set-up required; however, it is fairly straightforward)

Batch Processing

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