Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 10: Make Time

by Michael on March 31, 2010 · 0 comments

Are you sure you want to go in there? (Photo by ValetheKid)

Ultimate Spring Cleaning is a project to clean and declutter not only your house, but your life. Each day you’ll get a housecleaning assignment, an assignment that involves the world around you, and a project to clear your mind. You can start anytime at the Ultimate Spring Cleaning main page.

Today’s your last day in the kitchen, and there are a couple of remaining items there to think about. Also, you’ll free up some time with e-mail tips and another mental exercise will boost your confidence. I’ve also got those freezer-defrosting tips I was telling you about.

Your Home: Organize for Faster Cooking

In our last day in the kitchen, most everything should be clean, all expired and bad food thrown out, and the clutter stashed with the clutter from the bedroom. Now it’s time to make sure to use your kitchen time efficiently through organization.

First, you want to make sure that everything you use in cooking is as close to the stove as possible. Put your pots and pans in a cupboard next to the stove. If you’re feeling crafty, get a hanging pot rack and store them that way. Bakeware normally goes in the drawer below your oven (if you’ve never looked under there before, you might even find a roasting pan!). Store cooking utensils either in a canister or drawer next to the stove.

Spices and cooking fluids such as olive oil and hot sauce should be nearest the stove, within easy reach. A spice rack will look good and keep you organized. Then, in the cabinets closest to the stove, put the non-perishable food that typically needs cooking. Cereals can be stored closer to the refrigerator. If you don’t have a bar for storing alcohol, keep it near the fridge as well so that you can quickly combine it with mixers and ice. Foods that go together, like coffee, tea, sugar and honey, should be stored together.

For condiments that may attract moisture like sugar or salt, “non-perishable” but air-exposed foods that you may not use quickly like rice and pasta, or foods that are at risk of attracting insects, canisters with air-tight lids are a great storage solution.

Try to store dishes and silverware nearest the dishwasher to speed unloading. (One day I hope to attain every single man’s dream—two dishwashers, one to hold the dirty dishes and one to store the clean, so I never have to put dishes away ever again—but I’m not there yet.) Use drawer dividers or silverware trays to keep your silverware drawer organized.

If you have deep corner shelves, “lazy susan” turntables will help you to more easily store and retrieve items. And don’t keep seldom-used appliances on the counter. If you only use the George Foreman grill once every other week, put it away when you’re done.

Finally, if you’ll have children in your kitchen, make sure that cords and sharp objects are out of reach, and that any toxic fluids are stored securely.

Bonus: Defrost a Freezer

Every refrigerator sold in the past 15-20 years has included a frost-free freezer. However, if you live in an older apartment, who knows how old that icebox is. If you’ve got a layer of ice in your freezer, you’ll occasionally need to defrost in order to be able to fit food in there:

  1. Remove everything from the freezer. Throw out anything old or freezer-burned, and put what you want to keep in a cooler filled with ice. If you have to open the refrigerator to get to the freezer, you may have to unplug the whole fridge and put everything in coolers, otherwise this process will take forever.
  2. Find the freezer thermostat and turn it all the way down. To speed up the process, you can boil a pot of water and put it in the freezer, swapping it for a new boiling pot every 10-15 minutes or so.
  3. Wait. Keep an eye on the freezer and as the ice melts, take the chunks out and put them in the sink to melt. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT TRY TO CHIP OUT ICE WITH ANY TOOL WHATSOEVER. It will not end well. You have been warned.
  4. Swab out any water pools and drips with a towel.
  5. When every scrap of ice is gone, wipe down the freezer and turn it back on. Wait 15-20 minutes before putting the food back.

Easy? Yep. Tedious? Yep. See if you can convince your landlord to get a new fridge—the energy savings alone will be worth it.

Your World: Cut Your E-mail Time

If you work an office job and/or have many friends, e-mail can be one of the biggest time drains of your day. You know those people with multiple computer screens, who keep one screen just for their e-mail program? I used to be one of those people. Now, however, I’m free. Your life will be so much easier when you’re no longer under the tyranny of perpetual e-mail:

Delete It, Date It or Do It

This is my adaptation of the much bigger and broader system in David Allen’s best-selling productivity book, Getting Things Done. Every e-mail can be handled in one of three ways:

  • Delete it if it has no lasting value. This includes junk mail, quick “answer” e-mails and those lolcats the receptionist keeps sending you.
  • Date, or schedule, action on the e-mail if you can’t do it right now. Quickly determine how much time it will take you and when you can fit it in, then put it on your calendar. After you do it, delete it.
  • Do it if it requires action and you can do it right now. Don’t let it randomize your other work, though: if you’re busy right now with something else, date it instead.

If you have to keep e-mail for “posterity” or “future reference,” you’ll need to create a filing system so you can get these messages out of your inbox. I recommend Getting Things Done as a good starting point.

Check E-mail Only Twice a Day

This idea comes from Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek. And it’s incredibly simple and freeing: check your e-mail only twice a day, at specific times. Tim recommends 12 noon and 4 pm, and I’ve found those work very well for me, although if your workplace suffers from late-night or early-morning “e-mail explosions,” you may need to adjust.

Important tips to help make this change:

  • Make sure people know your e-mail schedule. Simply make it clear that in order to get your important work done, you check e-mail on a limited schedule.
  • Let those people know to call or text you if they have something urgent to say or ask. (Say no to instant messaging, which can be worse than e-mail.) E-mail is a poor method of conveying urgency. It takes an extremely passive-aggressive co-worker to insist on sending “drop by and see me right now!” in e-mail when they could walk over and talk to you right now.
  • Act on your new e-mail immediately and appropriately as necessary.
  • Resist the temptation to check e-mail on your cell phone. Twice a day, that’s all.
  • If you’re doing online dating, hold your ground, answer all e-mails at the planned hour, and move to a phone call as soon as you can. No waiting by the inbox all night for that total babe to respond, alright?

Using these tips you can wrestle a substantial part of your day back from the e-mail demon.

Yourself: What Do You Admire?

The thread that ties together everything I talk about here at Tao of Bachelorhood is self-love. Confidence. Comfort in your own skin. An important part of this is being in touch with the real positive qualities you admire—and the ones you already have. Today let’s get out the pen and paper, or keyboard and pixels, and do another short exercise.

First I want you to think about the three people in your life you admire. For each person, write down the three most admirable qualities you see in them. For the purposes of our exercise these should be people you have observed, and qualities you’ve seen with your own eyes. These should not be physical qualities such as hairstyle or fitness—but they can be qualities relating to how they carry themselves or dedicate themselves to fitness.

Three people, three qualities each. That’s the warmup.

Now take a look at yourself. What are the three qualities you admire most in yourself? Again, these can be anything from compassion or honesty to willpower to the uncanny ability to cast a fly practically into the mouth of a waiting fish. Anything you can do or are. Be honest, but be fair with yourself. The goal is to have three things that you can tape to your mirror or repeat to yourself as you go to sleep, that aren’t just empty positive affirmations—positive affirmations don’t work—but are really what’s inside you.

Don’t forget to meditate, sleep well and ask questions. See you tomorrow.

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