Home & Garden

Tips: Unclutter your life in one week


Erin Rooney Doland knows from experience the stress of living in a cluttered home.

She also knows the difficulty of overcoming chronic disorganization. But she knows it's possible, because she's done it.

Doland, an organizing consultant and editor-in-chief of the Web site Unclutterer.com, shares her strategies in "Unclutter Your Life in One Week: A 7-Day Plan to Organize Your Home, Your Office and Your Life."

If the idea of doing all that in seven days sounds daunting, consider that Doland herself spread those seven days' worth of work over six months when she first got her life and her home in order. The idea behind the book isn't to achieve a decluttering speed record, but to take a methodical, well-reasoned, step-by-step approach to the task.

Doland specifies what her readers need to do and teaches them how to do it, even tailoring the process to individuals' preferences and the way they process information. She helps them develop workable systems and, importantly, teaches them how to maintain those systems for the long run.

"Unclutter Your Life in One Week" is published by Simon Spotlight Entertainment and sells for $22 in hardcover.

Even though stockings may be hung by the chimney with care, that doesn't mean a home is safe from holiday hazards.


As we head into Christmas week, here are some tips from First Alert:

Candles: According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), candles cause an estimated 15,600 fires in residential structures, 150 deaths, 1,270 injuries and $539 million in estimated direct property damage each year.

To keep your home safe, never leave burning candles unattended and place them away from the reach of children. Make it a part of your routine to check that all candles are extinguished before you go to bed. Keep fire extinguishers close at hand.

Trees: According to the USFA, Christmas trees account for 200 fires annually, resulting in 6 deaths, 25 injuries and more than $6 million in property damage.

If there is a fire, the Christmas tree often is the first thing to ignite - especially if it is dried out. Make sure that you have a sturdy stand for the tree so that it is not in danger of falling over on children or pets. Place Christmas trees away from heating sources and candles. In addition, assign a member of the family to be on water duty and make sure the tree always has plenty to drink.

Fireplaces: When using a fireplace, be sure to use a sturdy metal screen to avoid sparks and embers from escaping. Make sure your chimney is clean (have a professional check each year) and that your flue is open. As an added precaution, check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors before the holiday season by testing function and replacing batteries as needed. If you can't remember the last time you replaced an alarm, change it. Smoke alarms should be replaced at least every 10 years, and CO alarms every five years.

Holiday lights: Be sure to use appropriate indoor or outdoor lights that have been tested and approved by an independent laboratory (typically indicated on the product packaging). If you live in an older house, it might be a good idea to get a professional check-up from an electrician before loading up outlets.


Bathrooms used to be a place of business. You went in, did your thing and left. No lingering.

Now, the best of them are luxurious, spacious and relaxing suites with magnificent views, sophisticated materials and thoughtful design. In "150 Best Bathroom Ideas" (Collins Design, $29.99, 600 pp.), Daniela Santos Quartino takes readers on a tour of some of the world's most interesting and daring bathrooms, from glass-encased rooms to bed-and-bath areas with minimal separation. While the featured spaces are high-end, they incorporate ideas many homeowners can apply.

A bathroom can be both vintage and contemporary. Pair a modern color such as a bright, mossy green and classic hexagonal floor mosaic tiles.

Gussy up your lighting. Sleek countertops and shapely tubs can be beautiful to highlight.

Don't be afraid to use wood to warm up the space. Teak and cedar are water-friendly varieties. Bamboo - technically a grass - is another. Lacquering a wood floor also can protect it from moisture.

Not enough natural light? Install transparent glass shelving and sink vessels or tiles with metallic finishes to lighten the space.

If your bathroom has busy tile work, keep the rest of the fixtures and furnishings simple and similar in design. If your bathroom is plain, dress it up with an unusually shaped mirror or sink.

Offer up the unexpected, such as a bamboo ladder for hanging towels. One Michigan homeowner even built a waist-high, ergonomic lounger right into a roomy shower stall.