Beyond Marie Kondo: 10 tools for tidying up

Some stuff is useful, especially if it extinguishes the bad kind of spark.

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Having multiple laundry baskets instead of one hamper is one way to reduce chore time and the bad-spark type of friction.

Marie Kondo is all about getting rid of stuff, which is good. But some stuff is useful. And, just as important as sparking joy is avoiding the bad kind of spark, the kind that inflames irritation and kindles annoyance. Some handy housewares can smooth the friction of living with someone you (otherwise) love-- so that you aren't griping and sniping all the time. One trip to the store, or a half-hour online with a credit card, can help you kick a lot of entirely preventable bickering.

1) Hang a dry-erase calendar in the kitchen.

Everyone can write on it. Use different colors for different kinds of events. This way, you each know each other's schedule at a glance and won't double-book yourselves. Reserve it mostly for major one-off events, not weekly or daily ones. It's especially useful for tracking short-term medications. Keep the markers right next to the calendar. Velcro them to the wall, even.

2) Hang a dry-erase board on the fridge.

When you run out of something- food, but not only-- write it down on this. Then take a picture of the list with your phone, and take that with you to the store. Boom: a self-generating shopping list.

3) Get a bowl, basket, or hook-rack for keys.

Put it by the door. It can be any small bowl or tray you are not using. You might want one for each entrance, depending on which keys you use where. You can theme the hooks to your décor, or to which keys go on them. You also might want to tag or color-code the keys.

4) Get a caddy for the remotes.

Use a desk organizer, designed for pencils and such, for your many remotes. When TV time is done, put all the remotes back in the caddy. Then you will know where they are for your next binge-watching session.

5) Get a mat, rug, and tray for shoes.

When it's not rainy or snowy, it's dirty outside. So, one rugged mat goes outside the door for scraping shoes, another absorbent one inside for wiping-and then the shoes go on the tray indoors. There are even schmancy shoe trays for the front-door area. No more traipsing in dirt, searching for shoes, or having them block the doors.

6) Put security lights on a timer .

Then there's no more worrying if they are on or off at the wrong time, or who left them that way. Or getting back out of bed once you remember. Or worrying if they are on when you are out of the house. There are apps for this now, too.

7) Set aside a marker for labeling food .

If there is something you need to eat, for whatever diet or restrictions you are on, label it, or expect it to not be there when you need it. Also, if you are saving something for an occasion, label it as such. You can also label produce-- on a bag-- as to when it was bought.

8) Make labels for shelves.

Remember Dymo labelers? They sort of look like sci-fi guns and spit out tape with words you stamp on them. You can use those-- the tape even comes in different colors-- or make labels on your computer and print them out. Label medicine cabinet shelves especially. But you can also label the shelves in the kitchen (especially for you kosher types), linen closet, and office-supply area. Then, you are not spending half your life yelling, "Where are the scissors?"

9) Have enough towel racks.

Few things cause as many arguments as wet towels left on the floor. If there is no more wall space in the bathroom, you can hang some racks on the back of the door, or even two on the back of your bedroom door. You might also just leave a laundry basket in the bathroom. Speaking of which…

10) Get multiple laundry baskets.

Ditch the hamper (or repurpose it for toys). Put three or four laundry baskets on the floor of your bedroom closet and sort your dirty clothes as you take them off. When a basket gets full, wash it. If you don't have to navigate stairs to get to the laundry room, you can use a sorting cart. They even come with sections. Now, no more sorting clothes as they go into the washing machine-you sorted them already.

Bonus: Designate a device-charging area.

Take one surge-protected power strip, put all the charger plugs in it, and charge stuff with it every night-phones, tablets, whatever. The next morning, your gizmos will be all ready, willing, and able-and right where you left them.

We have the technology, as they say, to end a great deal of common household bickering. Nothing on this list should break your bank, but it should save wear and tear on your nerves-- and your relationship. And, they will leave more time for the joyful kinds of sparks.




"Some handy housewares can smooth the friction of living with someone you (otherwise) love."

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