Ask UfYH: Sentimental Stuff, Dog Pee, and Putting Things Away

Q: Do you have any advice on sentimentality? I just graduated from college and am undertaking a major room clean, and I don’t know what to do with the things I’ve collected throughout my life (i.e., posters I don’t have the room or inclination to hang anymore, stuffed animals, notebooks). How can I decide what to keep? 

A: Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I keeping the item only because I’ll feel guilty getting rid of it?
  • Does the item remind me of someone special, but I don’t actually use or enjoy the item?
  • Do I use or enjoy the item on a regular basis?
  • Is the item relevant to my life right now?
  • Am I keeping the stuffed animal because I’ve assigned human characteristics to it and I’m afraid that if I get rid of it that I’ll pretty much be a murderer? (Just me? OK.)

If you don’t use or enjoy something, there is no need for it to be taking up space in your home. Sentimentality is all well and good, but you don’t always need a tangible reminder of sentiment. If you want to remember an item but don’t want it physically present in your space, take a picture of it and then get rid of it. If it’s a stuffed animal, you can donate these (washed, please) to shelters, children’s hospitals, or Goodwill, Big Sisters, or the like. Please call to find out if the organization is accepting donations of stuffed animals.

I have a lot of people ask about gifts. They love the person who gave them a gift, but don’t love the gift itself. Here’s the thing about gifts: once they’ve been given to you, they are yours to do with what you like. You do not have to keep something forever because it was given to you by a loved one. The intent of the giver was received and acknowledged when the gift was given; beyond that, if you want to get rid of something that was given to you, do so without guilt. It’s yours to keep or get rid of.

Q: I have a dog who loves to pee in my kitchen. I’ve been using bleach to clean the floor (after cleaning up the pee first) to try and keep her from marking the area again, but now I see in your last Ask UFYH that bleach is overused. So what should I use instead?

A: If animal pee is not cleaned correctly, the scent will remain, and your pet will return to the same spot to keep freshly marking it. Bleach not only doesn’t fully remove the urine scent, but there are additional problems with using bleach to clean urine. Namely, urine contains ammonia, and Rule #1 of cleaning is do not mix bleach and ammonia. You’re making some toxic gas there. It’s not much, but you don’t really want to mess around with it.

So, what should you use? The only real way to keep animals from re-scenting and re-marking a spot is to use an enzymatic cleaner that breaks down the organic components of the urine, making it actually go away for good. There are a lot of enzymatic cleaners on the market, like Nature’s Miracle, Simple Solution, and Anti-Icky-Poo. It may take some trial and error to figure out what works best for you. With my dogs, I find that Nature’s Miracle is the most effective.

Q: I have a bad habit of cleaningcleaningcleaning (I do set the 20/10 timer so I take breaks) and then getting to a point where it’s ALMOST clean, like just a couple things need to be done, and then I can vacuum and be done but I stop and lose steam and then I throw stuff on the ground and re-mess everything because it was never really clean in the first place. Do you have any advice?

A: Don’t throw stuff on the ground.

No, seriously. Two big things are jumping out at me from your question: 1) You consider anything less than 100% clean to be unacceptable; and 2) Since it’s not 100% clean, you feel OK with treating it as 100% dirty. The two things are sort of related. First of all, most people will never achieve perfection with their cleaning. That doesn’t mean that what you’ve done up to that point is worthless, or that you shouldn’t keep making the effort toward more progress. So even though your space isn’t completely done, you can still maintain what you’ve already done, and make effort to doing the things you haven’t gotten around to yet.

Second, one of UfYH’s fundamental principles is that probably 75% of all messes can be prevented by putting things away instead of down, and by throwing trash away. So don’t throw stuff on the ground. Put it away. You’ll keep yourself from backsliding into your original level of mess.

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[E] Rachel

I punctuate sentences with Oxford commas, and I punctuate disagreements with changesocks. Proud curmudgeon. Get off my lawn.

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