Organizing Kids – Book Review – Benji’s Messy Room



Teach Kids Organizing Skills Using Fiction

Benji’s Messy Room is a beautifully illustrated book with a purpose – to get kids organized. Cowritten by two professional organizers, Jonda Beattie and Diane Quintana, this book is written in first person in the voice of Benji, who takes you along on his journey from a messy to immaculate room in manageable-sized steps.

The story begins with a bit of defiance and a feeling of being overwhelmed by his mess, but Benji progresses through the task of room cleaning and reducing his toy collection in a step-by-step process (which includes a reward at the end).

The authors include tips and techniques for teaching organizing at the end, but the real meat is in the story itself, which was written by two women, both teachers, in a way that engages kids visually through a compelling, first-person narrative that kids can identify with as they build their own tidying habits.

Teaching kids to organize is a skill that they’ll benefit from their whole lives, both personally and professionally. Benji’s Messy Room is a fun learning tool that young mothers, grandmothers, teachers and professional organizers alike will appreciate. A female counterpart book, Suzie’s Messy Room is also available.

The illustrations are visually compelling, warm, distinctive, and entertaining, which kids will surely love. Both Quintana and Jonda Beattie are certified professional organizers and teachers, so they know how to communicate with children, as evident in this delightful book. Find out more on Jonda’s professional organizing website.


Roll Jeans


roll jeans

Roll, roll, roll your jeans…. gently and efficiently.

You’ve been told to roll jeans for compact luggage transport and you did and it saved you tremendous amounts of space, but guess what? You can do it for your drawers too. Twice as many jeans in half the space.

One might wonder looking at this drawer why she needs all of those jeans. Well, you should’ve seen the bag I threw out. Still working on it. Reducing possessions is an ongoing process.

Sometimes less is more. Today is one of those days. Now roll jeans and enjoy all the extra space you are making. You might find some you don’t need, or a whole garbage bag full.


Clutter Control Freak

You might also enjoy this article on folding shirts.


Bread Substitutes


bread substitutes - brown - rice-paper-rollups

Bread Substitutes – 3 Low-Carb, Healthy Substitutes for Sandwiches

I love bread. Most people do. Give me some Wonder bread and I’ll roll it up in a ball, pop it in my mouth and embark on a nostalgic trip that includes orange peanuts, memories of Bozo and playing with Slinkies on avocado shag carpeting. I love good bread too, Panera bread, Zingerman’s bread, Crust loaves, homemade sourdough, Texas toast, seven grain bread and every kind of starchy, unhealthy, fattening white bread there is. If you can roll it up and bounce it off the wall, that’s fine by me too. I love all kinds – with practically any and every ingredient. Thing is, my metabolism is misaligned with my desire for starch and chewy, super-satisfying goodness.

Mind you, I’ve tried healthy breads and gluten-free cardboard products and would rather have my sandwich served naked in a bowl with no top or bottom. My quest for a healthy sandwich-like food led me to the following three products, which you might also find useful. Whether you have sugar or gluten issues, or are just looking for healthy low-carb alternatives to eating bread, you might enjoy these bread substitutes in your lunch, for dinner or any time.


Romaine lettuce comes in large leafs, making it perfect for building sandwich-like creations out of healthy vegetables. Romaine makes especially nice tuna sandwiches and has practically no calories or carbs. Consider it a free food for making guiltless sandwiches and snacks.

Rice Paper Wraps (brown rice)

If you’ve ever had cold Thai spring rolls, you’ve eaten rice paper. Although hard to find, the brown rice ones are much more healthy and have a different flavor altogether. Brown rice has a low-glycemic load, and while it does have carbs, they are low compared to most breads. They are somewhat rubbery and noodle like and only require soaking in water for a few seconds before rolling your ingredients in them. This is my favorite bread substitute and it also fills a need for something noodle like, as my metabolism doesn’t like pasta either. You can put almost anything in them, including scrambled eggs for a healthy, tasty breakfast roll-up.

Brown rice paper wraps by Star Anise Foods are sugar free, gluten free, fat free and have only 96 calories and 22 carbs per serving (about three sheets).

Kelp Sheets

High in iodine, kelp is a sea-harvested product that adds a hint of Japanese cuisine to your faux-sandwiches. Low in calories, these make a very healthy bread substitute with a distinct flavor all their own. Use them to get creative and feel free to use brown rice, quinoa, or other ingredients for your own sushi-esque non-sandwich creations. To use, simply spread the seaweed flat, add ingredients and roll. Very finely chopped items help sustain the shape of the rolls.

Along with iodine, kelp is a super-food, rich in anti-oxidants and has the highest calcium ratings of any natural food (even higher than milk).

All three of these bread substitutes are great springboards for creative non-sandwich making. Whether you’re pursuing a paleo diet, monitoring glucose, or looking for tasteful gluten-free alternatives to bread, you’re likely to enjoy experimenting with all three of these.

Bonus Recipe – Tuna Fennel Salad Brown Rice Paper Roll-up


  • 1 can of drained tuna (or 4 ounces of fresh cooked)
  • 2 tbs. of low fat Miracle Whip
  • 1 tbs. of very finely chopped fresh fennel
  • 1/4 cup of coarsely chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/8 small onion very finely chopped
  • 4 brown rice wraps
  • Fresh parsley or vegetables for garnish (optional)

Mix the tuna, Miracle Whip, fennel and onion in a bowl. Prepare the wraps by soaking in a pie plate or lid with warm water. You don’t need to soak long – maybe five seconds. Carefully shake off some of the excess water and spread on a clean plate individually for building your roll-up.

Sprinkle a small amount of chopped spinach in a straight line across the center of the wrap, leaving plenty of spare space on the ends for folding. Carefully spoon your tuna mixture on top of the spinach. Then add a little more chopped spinach to the top. Be your own gauge for amounts here.

Fold the ends over towards the center, then carefully roll the wrap. Roll it tightly and squeeze it into a neat tube as you go. Set aside and then repeat for the other rolls.

You’ll find that as the roll-ups sit during the process, the water evaporates. Brown rice wraps are a bit sticky and rubbery, very much like rice vermicelli noodles and they have a very distinct flavor from the more common white rice counterparts.

After rolling all of your wraps, garnish if desired with some vegetables or herbs and serve and enjoy. If you’ve never thought to put fennel in tuna salad, you don’t know what you’re missing. Delicious tuna, fresh herbs and brown rice paper wraps (one of the best bread substitutes available) make for a delicious late summer snack.

Clutter Control Freak

P.S. You might like an OXO salad crisper to clean and store your romaine.


Lost Socks


Lost Socks

Lost Socks – The Antidote

We all have them – well most of us. Lost socks. Orphaned socks. The one that got away, ran away, got eaten – or disappeared into the sock black hole never again to be found. We keep the orphaned socks, hoping the mates will show up some day, like the tomcat who went out carousing. Only the socks usually aren’t out rollicking. They are, sadly and simply, lost socks.

The bag of lost socks may hang on the back of a door or in a closet – a big dumb clump of fabric and annoying reminder of a careless moment (or twenty). I have had such a bag for ten years. Every year or two, I dump them out, take another assessment, and then put them away after another failed attempt at matching.

Eventually, the lost socks get converted into dust cloths and then relegated to the trash soon after. It’s a sad thing, a widowed sock. Dusting with one is only a reminder of the thing that’s missing. I discovered something recently though, that put an end to my lost sock problem – SockPro Wash Organizer Discs. They’re made of flexible rubber and have non-destructive grips that hold your socks together. The rubber is completely safe for the washer and dryer and super-easy to use. Simply pull your socks through the center and the built-in soft teeth grip them, holding them in perfect pairs.

If you make it a habit to insert your sock pairs into the SockPro as soon as you take them off, you’ll never lose another sock. They come in sets of ten and are inexpensive – well worth the cost to keep your socks happily married forever.

Love, Clutter Control Freak
lost socks sockpro


My Closet is Scary: Confessions of a Clutter Control Freak


organize-it sidewalk salescary closet

My Closet is Scary

My closet is scary. What’s in my closet? Well, clothes from previous decades (I won’t say how many) that I may alternately bulge out of or get lost in. Clothes with room for several people from a body image issue I finally conquered. Odd-looking clothes, with tags still attached, that I apparently bought while in a fugue state and did and will not wear – ever. Strange clothes from some unidentified person – where did they come from? Who knows? Polyester clothes. Clothes with moth holes, worn out knees, bleach spots, food stains, etc. The gigantic box of jeans I accidentally bought on eBay… all of which strangely slip off of me now… Embarrassing and unflattering both.

Then there are the shoes, the tattered ones that I have an unnatural emotional attachment to and the ones I stopped wearing after that really bad date two years ago – plus the dress shoes that cause painful blisters – the 120 dollar ones. Darn it. I remember that walk in Chicago to the Contemporary that left my feet blistering and weeping for a week after. Of course, I had to buy another pair while there, just to get around. Okay, and shoes I never wear. Lots of them. I’m embarrassed to say how many because, while I’ve always maintained I’m not addictive, I have this one little thing, a habit, if you will… I’m no Imelda Marcos, but I suspect if I contacted the Toronto Bata Shoe Museum, they would want to devote a wing to my collection which includes some great 90s Doc Martens and Steve Maddens. Chunky, witty and ridiculous, I know. The 90s were, I believe, the Renaissance of shoes. Sigh. They don’t make them like that anymore, which is partly why they still exist in my collection.

There are also things that shouldn’t have ever been there like board games (which I hate) and the Twister game from the 70s – which violated my personal-space rules. The Operation game that never did work quite right (good thing we didn’t get shocked).

So here’s the problem: my 1000 square foot house and its two ridiculously makeshift, tiny, oddball closets built by farmers 100-and-some odd years ago. Something’s got to give and I know it involves shoes, board games, and never-worn clothes.

I’m making a pile, as I write this – in the middle of my living room. For Purple Heart, for the shoe museum, for Goodwill and for ceremonial trash bin burning (yes, I live in the country). Eyeing the ill-fitting stack of jeans, that’s an easy 300 in mad money for a rainy day, a Chicago weekend – or a car payment, whichever strikes me at that moment. I’m listing them this weekend and scheduling the Purple Heart pickup for tomorrow.

As I write this, my closet is no longer scary. It’s splendidly empty, waiting for some Clutter Control Freak magic, some cedar, some shelving, some organizing, and possibly something uniquely freakish in a clutter-controlling kind of way.

Yes, I am a Clutter Control Freak. It evolved out of my dark side, my scary closet, and a gradual shift in consciousness, as well as an honest moment about my aversion to board games. As I continue on my journey to organization, I’ll share my experiences with you, my solutions, my tips and tricks, and my joy.

If you have, or have ever had a scary closet, no need to feel bad. Organize it! And feel free to share your stories, before and after photos, etc. in our forthcoming contests on Facebook. Check out for tips, links, articles AND contests. And be sure to bookmark Clutter Control Freak Blog for lots of organizing ideas.

That’s it for today. More soon…


Clutter Control Freak


picture credit: Laurie Halbritter

You might also want to read about closet organizing here.

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Declutter Kitchen Instantly by Tossing These 8 Items



Tossing duplicate and worn pans and utensils is an excellent way to declutter your kitchen – plus it paves the road to kitchen organization. Kitchen organizing, while a challenge, starts with the difficult process of letting go. Most of what we have, we do not use, and this is true of clothing, kitchen accessories and most other possessions. Here is a list of common things you most likely need to toss to help declutter your kitchen quickly and efficiently. Sometimes we want to sell you things; today we want you to just let go.

1. Duplicate Utensils

You don’t need three spatulas, two slotted spoons and four ladles. Determine what you need and don’t need and give them away or donate them. Utensils takes up tons of storage in your drawers and on your counter. Someone else will be happy to have your discarded ones.

2. Ragged Towels and Dish Cloths

Know when it’s time to let go. Your clean new ones will bring you joy when you see them hanging from the towel bar.

3. Extra Coffee Cups

You saved them because they were gifts, or because you felt guilty. But do you really have to? No. Unload them on your coworkers (don’t tell Marie Kondo) or give them to the Goodwill. Think of all the inches you reclaimed in your cupboard.

4. Extra Drink Containers or Water Bottles

They find their way to the back of the cupboard. You can’t find them. You purchase more. Yes, you must stay hydrated. No, you don’t need all of those extra bottles. You are one person, not a camel – okay, maybe four, including kids, but those bottles are just hogging space in your cupboards. Make sure to check under the car seat too. You’re sure to find more, plus things you might need.

5. Worn Anodized Pans

Toxic, ugly, are you really eating those flaky bits? Use the excuse that they are worn to finally let them go. You’ll feel safer and you won’t regret it. Feel free to toss the duplicate ones too and be glad for the 100 plus cubic inches of space you now have. Pat yourself on the back. Breathe. It’s a good day.

6. Chipped and Cracked Dishes and Glasses

They’re chipped. They’re cracked. They might cut your mouth, or someone else’s. You feel sad every time you see the damage and remember the careless thing you did to break it. It was once shiny and new. Now it’s not. Why keep the negative reminder? You have other ones that are perfect.

7. Expired Canned Goods and Other Food

Think of a reason you need to keep these. No, don’t. Compost pile or trash. Now, please, thank you. You rock.

8. Orphaned Plastic Lids or Storage Containers

You will never find them, so just let go. They are off with the socks somewhere, also never to be found. But rest assured – they are happy, wherever they are, and they’re not alone – they’re keeping the socks company.

Make yourself a nice meal now with your newly spacious kitchen. Or just enjoy a warm cuppa and congratulate yourself. You’re on the right track to decluttering your kitchen. You did it! You let things go. Enjoy your splendid emptiness.


Clutter Control Freak

You might also enjoy this kitchen cleaning for single people blog post on


Tiny House Accessories


tiny house accessories girl kitchen

When converting to small, tiny house accessories are as essential to staying organized as reducing our belongings.

over door towel rack Tiny houses and small kitchens alike make for unique storage problems. Tiny House Accessories such as the Over-Cabinet-Door Rack are lifesavers for small kitchens. This particular one is unique in that it has cleverly-designed, two-sided storage for maximum space efficiency. One side is useful for holding sponges, scouring pads and similar kitchen accessories and the other provides a handy towel hanger, which is great to have right under your sink.

While there are no actual products marketed as “tiny house accessories,” a variety of over-door, over-cabinet-door, under-cabinet, and simply small and efficient products are available for small kitchens and bathrooms. Here is a quick list of space-saving organizing and kitchen products that are well-suited for your tiny house:

  • Collapsible kitchen products: strainers, dishpans, dish drains.
  • Over-cabinet-door towel hangers and racks.
  • Over-door racks: shoe racks, cap racks, clothes racks, pantry bins.
  • Shower caddies that hang over your shower head.
  • Floating shelves add instant storage to any free wall.
  • Expandable cabinet shelves can be tailored to most cabinet sizes.
  • In-drawer spice racks add convenient, concealed storage to any free drawer.
  • Over-toilet storage racks make good use of underutilized space.
  • Wire, over-sink storage shelves provide access to kitchen cleaning supplies.

Of course, when owning a tiny home, reducing your belongings, as well as your attachment to things is as essential to getting organized as having the right tiny house accessories. Simple living is part of the tiny home draw.

We’ll be posting more ideas about tiny home organizing, so be sure to check back. In the interim, you may enjoy these two small kitchen blog posts on, our sister site:

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Remove Water Stains from Wood



Remove Water Stains from Wood

7 Tips for Removing Water Rings from Wood Furniture and Wood Surfaces Using Simple Household Products

Spilling a beverage or leaving a window open next to heirloom furniture can feel devastating when it happens. White rings from glasses or blotches from rain can ruin the surface of an otherwise beautiful piece of furniture. Fortunately there are a few solutions to remove water stains from wood that can reduce the appearance of blemishes and sometimes remove them altogether. Of course, if the damage is too great, a furniture piece might require refinishing, but you owe it to yourself to try a few of these easy water stain removal methods before throwing in the towel.

  • Sometimes carefully applied heat via an iron (with a cotton ironing cloth) will lift white rings – especially if they are still fresh. Applying heat removes some of the moisture trapped in the grain.
  • Toothpaste, very carefully rubbed in to a small area with a cloth. Use the white paste, not the gel, and don’t over-rub because the polish can alter the finish and make it glossy.
  • Mayonnaise – rub it over the stain and leave for an hour. Wipe it off and see if it improves the stain.
  • Equal parts olive oil and vinegar. Rub across grain with a soft cloth and see if it restores some of the depth and color of wood. This works the same way as mayonnaise, as it replaces oils in woods but it has a higher oil concentration.
  • Massage petroleum jelly into the stain (yet another variant of the oil remedy).
  • Combine a teaspoon or so of salt with a little water and put that on the stain. Salt has an absorbing capability but will also act as a mild abrasive so do this with caution, or you may polish the surface of your dresser.
  • Mix oil or butter with powdered charcoal or cigarette ashes and rub into the wood. Using a dark substance is especially effective on dark old furniture as it can replace some of the color and conceal the damage.

The main photo shows before and after images of a water-damaged walnut dresser top. Imagine my dismay as I woke to find those water rings after absent-mindedly leaving the windows open. I used the mayonnaise method to remove the water stains, which produced rather amazing results. As you can see in photos, it’s barely visible now. The stains were about two years old. If you treat water damaged wood right away, it’s likely to yield even more impressive results.

There are no guarantees that the methods above will fix your water rings, and please try them at your own risk. Before resorting to refinishing or even veneering your furniture it may be worth it to try some of these water-stain-removal hacks, however.

mayo water stain removal

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Shed and Garage Storage Made Easy



Now that the snow is gone, every outdoor project I failed to complete last fall looms largely as the rains approach and the perennials begin peeking through the grass. The 2015 winter came suddenly, as it often does, and I haphazardly stashed every garden tool and accessory in my newly-built shed quickly before the first snow fell. With only a single pegboard for storage and no hooks or shelves, the shed is well, a mess. Fortunately, my workplace has lots of garage and shed storage accessories to get me organized and ready for my spring yard-cleaning tasks.

For shovels and rakes, the freestanding rack quickly organizes the weed whacker, shovels, rakes and other gardening tools. It accommodates 20 long-handled tools, 17 short-handled tools, an electrical cord – plus it has casters for short-distance moving. It’s made of resin, is fairly lightweight, and yet sturdy enough to store heavy tools.

The wall storage rack is an alternative way to store gardening tools. Made of metal, it holds up to 50 pounds of shovels, rakes, trimmers and other gardening essentials. This kit includes a single hook, a loop hook, a long-handled hook, two double hooks, and a 48-inch rail which mounts to studs or the wall using included hardware.

The ladder bracket is a super-inexpensive way to keep ladders upright and prevent them from falling over. It doubles as a wheelbarrow rack, so I purchased several. They’re simple to install with only two screws which come in the package.

For household hand tools and other gardening items, this Pegboard 32 Piece Kit has tons of components for many other storage needs. This includes two 18 x 36-inch steel epoxy-coated pegboards which won’t warp or degrade like common boards – plus a huge selection of storage accessories, including single, double and curved hooks. The bright white color will brighten my dim, windowless shed. Other sized and style pegboards are also available in our garage storage section.

For gas cans, spray washing supplies, and other items, a small cabinet is appropriate. We sell both resin and metal storage cabinets here. With an organized shed, now I can spend less time rummaging around for things and more time getting to the important business of yard cleanup!

by Laurie H.



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Prepping for Thanksgiving Day dinner


Ready or not, here comes Turkey Day — AND your hungry family. If you have been honored with the chore of making dinner for the fam, make it easy on yourself with the proper tools.

 Must-have kitchen gadgets for a Thanksgiving feast

  • Electric knife: I know it seems goofy, but this Electric Knife from Cuisinart will make it super simple to cleanly slice up your bird or ham come the big day. Carving a turkey can be a real chore, but this handy blade takes the guess work and grunt work out. It comes with a solid hardwood stand and handle storage so you can keep it properly stored and it will be like-new every year. Switch between the two stainless steel blades, designed for carving meat and bread respectively. A safety button and a four foot cord makes this electric knife user-friendly and safe for everyone.
  • Immersion blender: Whether you’re looking to perfect your gravy, mashed spuds or whip up a great soup with that leftover turkey, an immersion blender is a must have. This particular model from Cuisinart comes with three different attachments to do the work of a food processor, a power whisk or drink mixer plus a blender. Two speeds and a 200 watt motor allow you to chop, puree, blend, whip and process.
  • Food chopper: Chop veggies for your stuffing, pecans for pie, garlic to spice up your potatoes and much more with this easy hand chopper. The plastic base allows you to chop without the addition of a cutting board. The covered design also keeps you hands out of the way, so you can cut and dice without worrying about slicing your fingers. This safe, easy to clean (throw it in the dishwasher!) and user-friendly chopper is a great addition year-round.
  • Food processor: Cut your prep time in half with a food processor. This one has a three cup bowl and convenient handle that allows you to easily measure ingredients. This counter top appliance is perfect for chopping veggies and making sauces like cranberry relish.