Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Don't "temporarily" set things down

Recognize that if you're like me (and most people), if you set something down there is a significant probability that you are going to forget to pick it up again. The most foolproof solution is just not to do it. If you have something in your hand that needs to be put away, go put it away right now. Don't lay your sunglasses down on the restaurant table while you are eating. And never set anything on top of your car.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Babysitter cheat sheet

Many people, when leaving their kids with a babysitter, will just scrawl their cellphone number down and leave it at that. Most of the time, of course, this is fine, but cellphone reception isn't perfect, and it's notoriously bad in many of the places that might require a babysitter (e.g. in movie theaters). For peace of mind, if nothing else, write out a babysitter cheat sheet and tape it to the inside of one of your kitchen cabinet doors. This should include, among other things, your address and home phone number. Remember, you know this, but in a pinch your babysitter might not. If you have neighbors nearby who would be likely to help in an emergency, include their names and phone numbers. And, of course, any special instructions such as food allergies.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Credit-card cleanup

An article over at Bankrate discusses closing credit cards. I've always had the habit of getting my credit-report periodically and closing all of the cards I rarely use. (This is even easier now that you can get your credit reports for free, which you should do anyway to check for accuracy.) It also discusses -- this part was new to me -- when you shouldn't close cards. Apparently lenders like to see a low ratio of debt to available credit, so having open cards with low balances is actually helpful to your credit scoring.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Dedicated credit cards

I keep two credit cards dedicated to specific tasks. One is used for all of my directly-debited bills. This card is used for nothing else, and I don't carry it with me; the idea is to minimize the risk that I'll ever need to cancel this card, because that would require a painful round of notifying all of the people who debit their bills to that card. Similarly, ever time a company gives me the choice of billing to my credit card or to my bank account, I choose this credit card. The second dedicated card is used for all online shopping (except for a few trusted sites like Amazon), and for any other merchant that I might not quite trust. I keep the credit limit on this one quite low - in my case, $1000. The idea with that one is to have one card that I can cancel at will with no irritating repercussions.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Live Simple

John December has published an e-book entitled Live Simple, which describes a variety of ways to make your life simpler and less stressful. None of this is particularly new, but it's concise and well-organized, and worth a read. I already do most everything in there, except that (a) There is no way we are going to get rid of our TV, though I do strive to watch it as little as possible, and (b) The suburbs where we live require a lot more driving than I'd prefer; there is really no other practical way to travel from here. However, I love it here, so that's life.

A few I'll add to his suggestions:

    If you can't live without TV, get TiVo (or some other digital video recorder solution). You can watch a '1-hour' TV show in about 45 minutes, and more importantly, you watch the stuff you care about and not whatever happens to be on when you feel like watching TV.
    Organize your home so that it is easy for your children to clean up after themselves. For instance, we have a bench by our front door under which are three baskets, one for each of our children to store their shoes in. They know where they go, and do a remarkably good job of putting them there; most amazingly, they really seemed to quickly recognize the value of always knowing where their shoes are when it is time to wear them.
    Of course, I'll second all he says about decluttering. If you're not sure, you don't need it! With a few exceptions, I only own things that I use almost every day, a handful of things that I don't use every day but love anyway, and a little seasonal stuff (e.g. Christmas decorations).

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Deluxe Laundry Rooms

Whirlpool Family StudioThe Washington Post had an article today about the trend toward increasingly deluxe laundry rooms. Highlighted was the new Whirlpool Family Studio line of laundry appliances, which includes the expected washer/dryer as well as a drying cabinet, an ironing station, and a clever jetted sink for agitating very delicate clothes. I love it, though it certainly does seem a little over the top. I'll have to settle for slowly migrating my laundry room in that direction, though I have quite a way to go before I achieve "deluxe" status. (I can't really complain, though; it's a big, ground-level room with two windows.)

In related news, Cheryl Mendelson (author of our beloved Home Comforts) has a new book out called Laundry (three guesses what it's about). I haven't even finished Home Comforts yet!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Kids' admission wristbands

Many amusement parks and such issue adhesive wristbands that you (and your kids) must wear to prove that you paid admission (or, in some cases, to show a child's size). Trouble is, kids pick at them and in an hour or two they are torn off. At one of the parks this summer, a stranger shared this tip with me: Put the bands on the kids' ankles instead of their wrists.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

"Snooze" your kitchen timer

When a kitchen timer goes off, and the food is not quite done, never trust that you'll remember to come check it again in a minute (or two, or five, or whatever). Always reset the timer, even if only for a minute or two duration.

I've made this a personal rule: Nothing should ever be in the oven without a timer set.


Friday, October 28, 2005

Your message should include your phone number

When you leave a message on someone's answering machine, voicemail, etc., always leave your phone number. Even if you think they know it, if you're wrong then they are going to have to go look it up, which annoys them and reduces the chances that they will call you back. Even if you know they have caller ID, they may be checking their messages from elsewhere, in which case the caller ID information on the phone you called is inaccessible. So, leave your number! Be sure to speak it slowly and clearly as well; I usually say mine twice, once at the natural point in the message and again at the very end. That way, they may have a chance to get a pen and paper before the repeat. The only exception to these rules is if you are positive that this person knows your number cold.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Talk to your potential future neighbors

When you're considering buying a house, knock on some of the neighbors' doors and ask them if there is anything you ought to know about the house. This can uncover problems such as noisy or otherwise unpleasant neighbors, future construction plans nearby, and all manner of irritations that do not have a material impact on the property (and thus that the seller is not obligated to disclose).