How To Start Subtracting

subtractLast week, this post on Zen Habits inspired me.

When you begin your life on your own away from your parents, this world propels you to acquire things. You need essentials and consumables, that’s for sure, but then once that’s done, you start hitting the wants as opposed to the needs. And as you progress in your career and make more and more money, you acquire more and more things. Sometimes you trade in your old things for new, other times you keep the old things.

Long story short: the longer you live, typically the more your have. Every time I’ve had to move, I realized that I moved more and more stuff.

Eventually, you get to a point when you have to start subtracting instead of adding.

When I moved into my current house, I didn’t even realize it but I  was already doing that: I had the larger house and realized how much work that was, so we moved to a smaller house. Recently, we’ve been planning out our retirement and realized that at some point, we were going to probably move again, probably to a smaller place.

That’s when I realized – even though our retirement is a long way off, we need to start downsizing – or subtracting – now.

Its a simple rule – on the stuff you have:

  1. will you use this thing between now and when we retire, or will it be something you use when we retire? If so, keep
  2. If not, get rid of. Sell, donate or toss

On stuff you are thinking of buying:

  1. Do you really need that thing?
  2. If so, you can only buy it if you subtract 2 or more others

Result should be net loss of stuff going forward. It might take years, but at least we’ll get there. And its a lot less onerous than doing big, huge cleanouts.

I mean, does anyone really want to end up on Hoarders: Buried Alive…or pay for all that storage? I don’t think so.

How To Make Your Electric Bill Less Shocking

why-your-electricity-bill-is-so-highElectric bills are a part of life, whether we want them to be or not. Luckily, we don’t have to feel the burn of a huge bill each month.Here are some tips and tricks to help avoid the jolt of a sky-high bill.Switch bulbs. You can easily change regular lights to fluorescents. These bulbs may cost a little more initially, but over the course of a year they will be much more budget-friendly.Keep empty rooms dark. Double-check to make sure all lights are turned off when not in use. Always get into the habit of turning lights off when you leave a room or leave the house. If you tend to forget, you may want to consider setting lights on an automated timer.

via Making your electric bill less shocking | Homes & Real Estate | The Seattle Times.

Keep Kitchen Sponges Dry And Mildew-Free With This Cleaning Tip

This should work with scrubbing sponges as well, assuming that you have a big enough clip. Also, for scrub brushes, just throw them straight in the dishwasher.

There’s no denying that after a while, kitchen sponges can become pretty nasty. Because they’re always wet, germs tend to build up and before you know it, they’ve become moldy and smelly. But one Reddit user found a cleaning tip you can try to help keep sponges dry and mildew-free.

Churnopol uploaded a photo of the scrubber attached to an office binder clip. This device holds the sponge upright, preventing it from sitting in water and allowing it to air dry pretty fast.

via Keep Kitchen Sponges Dry And Mildew-Free With This Cleaning Tip.

How To Save Money On Heating Using The Nest Thermostat


One of the bet purchases we made at the beginning of the year when we got back from vacation was the Nest thermostat. If you haven’t heard of this, its an internet connected thermostat which you can control from your PC or mobile device. It’s a snap to install, controls both your heating and air conditioning (if you have any – we don’t) and literally learns your patterns over the course of the first week or two.

What do I mean by that?  Installing it is a snap, involving removing your old thermostat, mapping the wires from your old one onto new slots in the Nest, then connecting it to the internet via your homes WiFi connection.

Once its connected, you just use it like a regular thermostat, for about a week or two – turning it up when you find it bit cold and turning it down when its too warm. After that, it remembers when you want it hot and when you want it cool and it does the work for you. It even knows the outside temperature (during the setup process you give it a zip code and it checks the internet for local temps) – it even asks for the age of your home so it has an idea of the amount of insulation it has etc.

Once its connected, you get the app for it from the App Store or Google Play and you can control it from anywhere – forgot to turn it to away mode when you go on vacation? Do it from the airport or the beach (assuming you have internet) Lying in bed a bit cold? Turn it up without getting out of bed. The web and apps (the iPad app is especially nice) show you your current schedules and temperature settings and you can revise them at all from the apps as well.

But that’s not the best part – it will save you money by heating and cooling only when you need it to. An icon will tell you when its in money saving mode, and once its tuned to your habits you rarely need to touch it again.

It’s a bit expensive at $250, but it will likely make up for it easily in saving over time. Highly recommended.

Oh yeah, BTW, did I tell you it looks awesome as well? Apparently chosen as the first non-Apple product to be featured in the Apple store. Design, simplicity, functionality and savings – what could be better?

How To Bust The Clutter, One Stack At A Time


We have encountered clutter at our house at alarming rates.  This is NOT our house, but it’s a picture people can relate to.  Too much paper, lost items and feeling overwhelmed.

Lately, we have started to de-clutter every weekend.  We take four hours every Sunday to tackle a room in the house.  You can start with one hour or even a dresser drawer.  In our bedroom we managed to remove four big bags of clothing for Goodwill, reclaim the fireplace and have a fire by the end of the day.  If you have left it too long it will take time and the mess while cleaning up and sorting does gets worst before it gets better.  By getting your rooms to maintaining “stuff”, you have control of the situation and will appreciate the organized drawers and wardrobes too.

Great stress reliever

Don’t wait for spring… start clutter busting now!


Work Out Of Your Garage? How To Keep It Warm.


When we first started working in the garage it was fine. Nice temperature, cool in the evenings and warm in the summer. Little did we realize that California was going to have a long, long cold snap. We were freezing our hands and other extremities off with these little tiny heaters when one day I said “We need a big ass garage heater” We looked all over at various OSH, Lowes, Home Depots etc but found nothing with the power we need to heat up our garage.

So I said: “there must be somewhere we can go to get an industrial garage heater.” so we looked online and what came up was Grainger. Grainger was a company that I remember working with way back when I would do web designs for one of their competitors. I know that they carried all sorts of industrial supplies. Took a look at their website, and found an amazing heater. Only thing is is that heaters in this range, don’t use a regular hundred and 20 V plug. They used something more like what you’d see as a dryer plug electric dryer plug a 240 V electric drier plug. since we have a gas dryer, and nonelectric dryer, then this plug was pretty much going unused. So we went up to Grainger, bought the heater, came home, and try to plug it in.

Bad news. It was the wrong type of outlet. Apparently there’s a multitude of 240 V outlets and we didn’t have the right one. No big deal, took a look at the manual, took a look at the kind of outlet what we needed, went to the local Home Depot, bought a cord that would fit into the existing outlet, bought an outlet for the new heater, and an electrical box with cover. Got home, connected the cord to the outlet via the electoral box. Attached everything to the wall. Plug the cord into the outlet. Then plugged the heater into the new outlet.

I turned the on switch of the heater with trepidation. It went on and suddenly the room was filled with hot air (kind of like Congress).

Price of this thing was fairly reasonable, cost us about $165, it heats our entire garage, which is unfortunately is not insulated, but it definitely does the trick, it definitely takes the chill off. And even though we’ve had some really really cold nights over the last a while but it pretty much does the job.

Highly recommended and more than likely there probably is a Grainger location near you so go check it out.

DAYTON Electric Space Heater, Fan Forced, 208/240VIs You

Electric Space Heater, Heater Type Fan Forced, Oscillating/Non-Oscillating Non-Oscillating, Voltage 208/240, 4800/3600 Watts, Height 14 In., Width 10-3/4 In., Depth 10-3/4 In., 60 Hz, 1 Phase, 20.0/17.3 Amps AC, 4.8/3.6 kW, 16, 380/12, 285 BtuH Output, Cord Length 72 In., NEMA Plug Configuration 6-30P, Color Red, Number of Heat Settings 1, Features Auto Overheat Shut Off Protection, Power Indicator Light, Thermostat, Manufacturers Warranty Length 1 yr., Standards UL/CUL

via DAYTON Electric Space Htr, Fan Forced, 208/240V – Portable Electric Heaters – 3VU35|3VU35 – Grainger Industrial Supply.

Hipe 3 LED Automatic Motion Sensing Directional Night Light

Welcome to 2013! One of the new features that we’d like to start at Helpful Hints is an automated home feature – ways in which to automate little bits of your life and home to make things easier. We’ll start off this series by looking at lighting. Over the last few years I thought – look LED lights are powerful, low power so can be run for a long time even with batteries. Wouldn’t it be cool if someone could come up with a way to make stick on automated LED lights which only come on when you need them and go off shortly after you leave? Lo and behold, we are starting to see these kind of lights come into the market. At first the designs were pretty ugly, but since then they look a lot better. Check out this light from Amazon, company called Hipe. Watch this space, since LED lighting is so versatile you’ll be seeing a lot more of these, and a lot more interesting designs as well…

The Hip-NL3LED identifies day and night automatically and will only illuminate at night, when movement is detected and Turns off automatically after 30 seconds if no motion is detected.Has an adjustable Direction LED that allows You to Aim the Light at the perfect Angle.The night light instantly turns on when it detects motion, and can detect motion from as far as 15 feet away with 180 degrees of vision.The bright LED never needs replacing its so efficient that you will get more than 2,400 activations on one set of batteries.Includes 3 AAA Batteries. Mounts anywhere with the included magnets Wall magnet can be mounted with the included adhesive tape or with the included screw

via Hipe 3 LED Automatic Motion-sensing Directional Night Light – Battery Powered Hallway Light with a Built in Motion and Light Sensor

Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done

If your household in anything like ours, then you probably have a giant list of things to do every day – not to mention the weekends when you think that you would just be able to relax and watch the game but no. Don’t you sometimes feel like that old joke in the cartoons about the husband and his “job jar” – whether you are a husband, wife, partner, mother, brother, sister or kids, its pretty likely that you have procrastinated once or twice – or many times in your life – and your job jar – whether its real or virtual – is likely pretty full or overflowing. Well, if you are sick and tired of not getting things done, now is the time to start. Your first stop is buying this book: Getting Things Done – doesn’t matter if you get the Kindle version or not. This book will, literally, if you follow even some of it, change your life – well at least when it comes to Getting Things Done. I’ve read it cover to cover and implemented many of the strategies in here. My favorites are:

  • If it will take less than 2 minutes, do it now
  • If it takes more than 2 minutes, schedule a time to do it
  • At the start, allocate 1-2 days to just list absolutely everything you need to do, then work through it and prioritize

I’ts a great book, for anyone who feels inundated! Get it here…

How To Banish Those Telemarketers

Telemarketing 150x150  1
Banish Those Telemarketers

Working from home has its pluses and minuses – one of the big minuses is all of the telemarketing calls we still get on our home phone – yes we still have one of those because a) my wife Kitty insists that we have a backup – it’s part of the mini-survivalist within her and b) it was free with the high speed internet – I mean its $40 with our without a phone line and since I can’t pass up free stuff, we got it.

One good thing about automation in the telemarketing industry is that most telemarketers have moved to an automated system which simply calls one number after another and only when the phone is picked up, does the call get passed to a human.

Use this “pause” to your advantage: the phone rings, I say “hello” – if there is no immediate hello back – and you know what I mean by immediate – if you hear any kind of pause or hesitation, just hang up. Their system will then mark that call as completed and either take you off the list or move you to the end of the queue. Computers are stupid – they think that the call was completed so they mark you off and move on.

How To Use Bean Coffee On The Cheap : A Sub $50 Burr Grinder

$25 Burr Grinder

As a coffee fan, you need a burr grinder – those cheapo blade grinders that you see simply chop and heat the beans, thus changing/ruining the taste. Why buy really good coffee beans and then subject them to a crappy grinder? I mean that’s like washing your new car with a dirty old washcloth.

But you say – burr grinders, while better, are a lot more expensive! Not so, i say – we saw this little guy at Target about 2 years ago and its still around the same price.

Don’t listen to the negative reviews: this is a pretty nice grinder for the price, the grind comes out perfect for cone drip coffee. We use is daily on the Blue Bottle and it turns out great.

Dial adjusts so you can set the texture exactly how you want – from very fine Turkish blend to coarse percolator grind. Dual safety mechanism ensures that unit will not operate unless top cover is closed and ground coffee receptacle is in place.

via Black & Decker CBM210 Stainless Steel Burr Coffee Mill/Grinder: Kitchen & Dining.