Tag Archives: decluttering

5 decluttering tips for busy parents

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5 decluttering tips for busy parents

Lisa Canning

By Lisa Canning

The juggle is real! Between laundry, dishes, picking up toys and getting on with regular life, anything we can do to make tidying up a breeze, so we can get back to actually living life, is a bonus. So if you’re a time strapped mom or dad who wants to gain a few more hours of freedom, here are my five essential decluttering tips for busy parents.

Deal with paper immediately

From permission slips to pizza lunch forms, paper can overrun a household. To ensure mounds of paper don’t build on all your surfaces, deal with paper immediately as it comes into your house. Dedicate 10 minutes (set a timer even) to go through paper as soon as you get into the house from kids’ backpacks or from the mailbox. Anything you can address in 10 minutes (such as signing a form, or filing a piece of correspondence), do immediately. Anything that needs more time to be addressed, coral in a tray to be dealt with when you are able. Commit to ensuring that tray of paper does not build up by clearing it out daily.

Eliminate the search

So much frustration occurs from having to look for something, especially when you are in a rush. Commit to having a dedicated place where regularly used items such as your keys, wallet and cellphone “live” while they are at home. For example, always put your purse on the same shelf in your closet when you enter the house, or have a hook near the front door where keys always get hung. Commit to the behaviour of placing the items in the same spot every time. For chronic key losers, try a product like Tile, which syncs with your phone to help you find your lost keys.


Commit to the one-third rule

Visual clutter can also make us feel really overwhelmed. As a rule, I ensure that any practical surface in my home – such as countertops, desk tops, coffee table – has no more than one-third of it covered with stuff. So this means only one-third of your kitchen counter has a coffee maker, small appliance or other decorative items on it, only one-third of your desk surface has a tray or paper on it, and no more than one-third of your coffee table has books, remotes or decorative items on it.


Keep your living room toy free

If space allows, keep toy storage out of your main living room. This is a really important tip for a busy parent’s sanity! Parents need at least one room that is peaceful, and orderly, at the end of a busy day. And let’s be honest, sometimes the last thing we want to do when we have been working hard for everyone is clean up a room full of toys. So store toys in a playroom, the basement or kids’ rooms. Toys will inevitably make their way into your living room so every day, at the end of the day, commit to tidying up by throwing anything that does not belong in this space in a large decorative basket to be taken to its appropriate home.


Practice the 15-minute rule

Living in an uncluttered home is the result of small actions every day. At the end of every day, involve the entire family in 15 minutes of tidying up. This is your chance to move through the main areas of your home and commit to this lifestyle. These small daily habits daily will make a huge dent in the order of your space and by extension, the overall quality of your family life at home.

Lisa Canning is a parenting, interior design and lifestyle expert in Toronto where she lives with her husband and seven children, ages nine and under. To learn more about her tips for managing a house and a large family, join her at the BabyTime Show for her live presentations Nov. 16-18.

While at the BabyTime show, be sure to pick up a copies of Reno & Decor, Active Life, Condo Life and HOMES Magazine.





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Body & Soul: Live with Ease - Home adjustments for barrier-free living

Body & Soul: Live with Ease

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Body & Soul: Live with Ease

by Jayne Hobbs

Photography, bigstock.com

Home adjustments for barrier-free living

In a definition from Medical-Dictionary. TheFreeDictionary.com – barrier-free refers to structural or architectural design that does not impede use by individuals with special needs. Currently, there are more than four million Canadians living with disabilities. Aging is one of the biggest contributors – and as the boomer generation ages, this figure is expected to snowball.

It’s increasingly important to adapt our living space in a barrier-free manner. An annual physical will keep us in tune to our body’s requirements – both physically and mentally. Being aware of changing needs will help us to stay safe, and reduce the risk of falls. Often the self-imposed barriers that we put on ourselves can be can be improved. With adaptations to our homes, we can enjoy our retirement in an environment that’s conducive to our changing needs.


Each of us has unique needs as it relates to barrier-free living. Accessibility and safety are the main concerns as we age. Our mobility is often affected, making us more prone to falling.

As we enter our elder chapter of life, its often difficult to speculate future needs. If renovating and redesigning your existing home, or purchasing a new home for your retirement, factor in these safety tips.

  • DECLUTTER: Remove items that may cause falls, such as scatter rugs, electric cords, bedspreads that may drag on the floor (many falls occur by tripping on bedding in the middle of the night), as well as items on the stairs, stacks of paper and anything that impedes you from moving around safely.
  • LIGHTING: Luminous lighting should be placed evenly throughout the house. Include night lights or motion detector lighting in halls, stairways, bathrooms and poorly lit areas.
  • FLOORS: Use only slip-resistant throw rugs and bathmats, and avoid high-shine, slippery flooring.

  • STAIRS: Consider placing a hand rail on both sides of the stairs, as well as a secure runner if the stairs are slippery. Again, remove any clutter, and when necessary, install an electric lift.

  • DOORS: Change doorknobs to lever handles, and use pull-outs on cabinets for easier access.

  • GRAB BARS: These are one of the most useful, and safety conscious, items that you can install. Ideal for bathtubs, showers and beside the toilet, they can also be installed anywhere in the house where extra support is needed.
  • COUNTERTOPS AND CABINETS: In both the kitchen and bathroom, keep them tidy and only have necessary items within reach. Consider pull-out shelving and adjustable countertops.
  • FAUCETS: Touch faucets are fairly new on the market, and are definitely worth investing in.
  • BATHROOMS: Walk-in tubs and showers that include seating are highly recommended. Other considerations include, higher toilets or raised safety seats that help with aging knees, as well as slip-resistant flooring, and re-setting the water to a lower temperature in order to prevent scalding.
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Transitions from one flooring surface to another should be level, as well as all walkways for easy access. It might be necessary to install a ramp or railings where you enter your home. Likewise, widening door openings may be a future requirement.

Inside your home, everything you need on a regular basis should be easily accessible. Use a mobile phone, and ensure that all important numbers have been programmed in.

These helpful suggestions can be adapted to your existing home environment to help prevent accidents – making aging-in-place a realistic reality.


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Storage planning is the key to a successful home renovation project

Storage planning is the key to a successful home renovation project

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Storage planning is the key to a successful home renovation project

by Jason Siebenga

Spring has arrived and it’s time to tackle the home renovation project you’ve been planning all winter long.

You also may have noticed a lot of friends and family are taking on home renovations, and that’s for one reason: as house prices continue to rise in several Canadian real estate markets, many homeowners are choosing to upgrade instead of buying new.

As a result, we’re not only seeing an increase in dollars being spent on home renovation projects, but we’re also seeing a rising number of people needing an on-site storage solution while a renovation takes place.

At BigSteelBox, we’ve seen it all when it comes to home improvement. Some homeowners prefer to do everything themselves. From knocking down walls, to putting up drywall, and completing DIY projects, many take pride in taking on a big project. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the homeowners who put all the control into the hands of designers and contractors. Aside from choosing tiles and paint colours, they aren’t interested in the getting their hands dirty and prefer to leave it to the professionals. What we’ve found is that the majority of homeowners are somewhere in the middle.

Regardless whether you are a DIYer or not, every renovation project poses one question: “What should I do with my belongings while the renovation is taking place?”

At BigSteelBox we provide homeowners with a convenient, flexible way to store their belongings any length of time. A steel storage container is delivered to you, which you can either keep on your property, or have stored at one of our secure locations.

We’ve been helping Canadians execute their home renovation projects for almost 20 years. After everything we’ve seen, we’re always happy to offer a few tips on how to make a renovation go as smoothly as possible.

Plan ahead to reduce stress during and after your home renovation

First and foremost, do your homework. Assess what sort of condition your home is in before the renovation begins. Since you’ll be emptying out room(s) in your house, you’ll need to figure out how long you’re going to be displaced.

Be aware that even if you empty out rooms thinking it’s only going to be a couple of weeks, those weeks can turn into months, and you could be storing your belongings longer than anticipated. This means that items you thought you could go without for a few weeks, you’ll now need to access.

The option of storing your items right outside of your front door means you’ll always have easy access to them, resulting in less stress over the long term. In addition, knowing your belongings are secure and protected from the elements means they will be clean and ready to move when it’s time to put them back into your home.

Determine your storage needs and declutter

Before your renovation begins, take stock of everything you’ll need out of your home during construction and determine how many items you’ll need to store. Most homeowners don’t realize how much stuff they have accumulated over the years. When it comes to clearing out a room, many are overwhelmed by how many possessions they actually have.

When your storage container arrives on site, a good rule of thumb is to only store what you plan on keeping. That way you’re maximizing your storage space and increasing efficiency. In addition, taking inventory is a great way to declutter your home and ensure every item you have is one you truly want.

If certain decorative items or furniture won’t fit in your new design, look at selling or donating them. When the renovation is complete, you’ll be amazed by how much more space you have.

Maximize the space in your storage container

A storage container can serve a number of purposes during a home renovation. Firstly, it’s a great place to keep household items safe and clean during construction. Additionally, if you’re doing the renovation yourself, the storage container can also be used to store tools and equipment. These items are often expensive and having a secure place to store and protect them is important.

Once you’ve moved all of your belongings into storage, it’s important to keep them organized. This way you can access them quickly and easily during and after the renovation. When it comes to making sure your space is organized, we can provide tips on keeping it in order and even provide brackets for shelving inside your container.

Now your tool belt is loaded with tips and storage solutions, so you’re ready to get to work. Whether you have the power drill in hand or plan on kicking your feet up and watching someone else do the work, the question of what to do with your belongings while the renovation takes place has been solved. Happy renovating!

Jason Siebenga is the president of BigSteelBox. The company has been offering Canadians a better way to move and store their belongings since 1999. By bringing the storage to the customer, BigSteelBox has eliminated some of the most stressful aspects of moving and storage.



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Big Style, Small Space: Squeezing More Out of Your Existing Space

Big Style, Small Space: Squeezing More Out of Your Existing Space

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Big Style, Small Space: Squeezing More Out of Your Existing Space

The lifestyle advantages of condos and townhomes can’t be denied – not only low maintenance but also great access to local amenities, green space and transit. But the downside, especially for condos, is the shrinking sizes and zero storage.

While good design has gone a long way toward overcoming a few of these challenges, not all condos and townhomes are well designed. So if you’re looking to purchase, you need to do your research– not just the quality of building construction and level of interior finishes, but also the way the suite has been laid out. Because end results are not always what they appear on paper. Bulkheads, vents and outlets often end up in places you didn’t expect, which makes for challenging furniture placement.

Condos now start at around 400 square feet, but I always recommend buying as much space as you can afford. A suite of 740 square feet will get you two small bedrooms with tiny closets and an open-concept principal area, which gives a feeling of space but there no walls to place storage against. Townhomes, because they don’t consume a big footprint but give three or four levels, offer more space, but you can still run into storage issues.

But there are ways to squeeze more space out of that condo.

For example, if you’re the type of person who doesn’t cook all that much, work you’re your builder’s design centre to see if you can customize the kitchen. Like opting for smaller appliances to make more room for cabinetry. If an island is included in the plan, see if it can be lowered so it doubles as a dining table with storage beneath. If there’s a sink in the island, see if it can be relocated to the wall to give you more counter and serving space. If a tall upper cabinet is available as an upgrade it’s well worth the extra expense for the storage they give. Some luxury condos and townhomes give you all of these as part of the standard package. It pays to check.

I also recommend hiring a designer or a space planner because they understand all three dimensions of space and can help draft a plan for squeezing out more storage options.


Reduce your furnishings list to only what is necessary: sofa, ottoman, dining table and four chairs. Ditto for the kitchen. You really don’t need a bread machine or a pasta maker in a condo – there’s a reason they’re for sale at every yard sale you stop by.

One of my good friends is a professional organizer and she swears by using an egg timer when you’re doing the purge because it forces you to make fast decisions as opposed to agonizing over every little thing.

You don’t want to strip it down so much that it’s bare and not homey, but just enough to create an unimpeded sightline. Check out the condo-sized furniture available from almost every store and manufacturer – pieces have been shaved down without losing their style or function. Some even come with storage tucked underneath.


There’s nothing like built-ins for using space well while creating storage. Their advantage is that they go right to the ceilings and recede into the overall floorplan. For example, built-ins on either side of the window and a window bench below with storage underneath blends seamlessly into a room, adds tons of storage and takes up very little space.

For the bedroom closet, I always recommend hiring a professional company to design the components. They really know how to use every inch, giving you maximum storage for how you actually use it. That doesn’t work so well with teenagers, however, or smaller children, because they like to be able to see their stuff. Believe it or not, visible belongings tend to be kept tidier because kids are actually proud of their rooms. I’d even consider removing closet doors and then outfitting the interior with cubbies, hanging shelves and vertical shoe racks.

Teens, however, tend to be disorganized – blame the prefrontal cortex – so if you can create a functional foundation everyone will be happy. Kids need desks, preferably with drawers, but also open shelves for books and display items. A bulletin board will keep schedules and notes in sight.

Now if you must go out and purchase storage items, here’s my list of the must-haves:

  • Filing cabinet for papers with clearly labeled categories.
  • Rolling carts for under the bed storage. A queen bed has 30 square feet of available space below decks and you can store a ton of things.
  • Drawer dividers for kitchen, bath, office and bedroom.
  • Stackable plastic drawer units inside the bathroom vanity for that jumble of toiletries.
  • Use vertical space: book or magazine racks attached to the wall keep clutter off the floor; stainless kitchen spice shelves can be used in the bath to corral the small bottles.
  • Closet systems, but figure out in advance what kind of storage you need. You’ll need more long hanging space for dresses and pants, but if you prefer separates, double up on the short hanging. Systems are available at big box stores, but consider hiring a professional because they’re challenging to install. The same goes for inside your kitchen cupboards – these systems really use every inch of space.
  • Floating shelves mounted on walls above sofas, or in the kitchen area, for storage and display that doesn’t close in the space.
Lisa Rogers is the exclusive interior designer for Dunpar Homes (DunparHomes.com).

Lisa has shared her style and design expertise on popular television programs, such as Canadian Living TV, House & Home TV and The Shopping Channel.

Lisa is one of the most familiar faces on CityTV’s Cityline as a regular guest expert for fashion and image, health and wellness and interior design.


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eNewsletter February 2017

Your New Start Can Be Someone Else’s, Too

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Your New Start Can Be Someone Else’s, Too

By Chuck Resnick

Moving to a new home is an exciting and stressful time. Think: a new space, a different layout, a blank canvas!

But before you move in, you’ve got to move out of the old. Lots of stuff means many boxes, which means lots of work. As they say about new beginnings: to make room for more, sometimes you’ve got to let things go.

In anticipation of the move, purge your belongings. There is value in decluttering your home before you move. The process itself forces you to itemize and organize your belongings, which is always helpful before tackling moving day.

Take note of what are your must haves, what will work in your new space and what you want to leave behind.

Know that when you hire a mover, you pay for space and time. Items for which you have no use or don’t need, if packed, take up valuable space in the truck that could be used to carry something else. Also, the labour and effort of properly packing and carrying those items costs you time. Don’t pay to transport something you don’t need. Moving needn’t be expensive if you plan properly. Consumers can help subsidize the cost of hiring a professional mover by selling unwanted items. Luckily for savvy savers, all it takes is a few keyboard clicks. In these tech-driven times, there are plenty of digital destinations that allow for easy and free advertisements. Use online classified websites or social media platforms to help spread the word and watch how quickly your goods get sold. Prefer the old fashioned way? Spread the message that you’re selling some items by word-of-mouth or posting posters in your neighbourhood or condominium bulletins.

A rewarding alternative to selling your items is to donate them. Find a home for those belongings by giving them to people in need. Donate your comforters and couches to your local women’s shelter. That old office desk you were going to leave behind could be someone else’s place of inspiration. That old jacket you haven’t worn in years could keep someone else warm today! Across the country there are shelters in need of donations.

Other alternatives could be donating to the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity and The Furniture Bank, as examples. Give someone else a fresh start from belongings that don’t make the cut for your new space.

For most, moving is an emotional time, in part because of the stress of packing but also because of the sentimentality of saying goodbye to a place they lived. Decluttering your home before a big move is valuable. Not only does it help with packing efficiency, which lends to it being financially helpful, but it also helps with the emotional stress of moving out and moving on.

Decluttering helps start the process of “goodbye” and gets you ready for all those “hellos” in your new neighbourhood.



Chuck Resnick is vice president marketing and operations, Two Men And A Truck Canada, a division of Herity.



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