Organization: Code Pantry

I hate mice! Seriously hate mice. I have been battling a mouse problem for a couple of months now. I think it’s time to bring in an expert.

Always one to look at the positive, this problem has kickstarted me into cleaning / organizing my house. Visit my tips for organization: Organization for a Messy Person

Because of the rodent problem, I decided to start with my pantry. It helps that my mom bought me the Oxo soft works 12 piece kit from Sam’s Club for Christmas. I wanted the Oxo brand because I did a lot of research on the Internet and was impressed with their ratings as well as the fact they were square & rectangular instead of round. I liked the pop top feature. As I opened it, was so happy with the size varieties in the pack. Too often, when you buy the multiple piece kits you end up with a bunch of useless sizes. Not the case with this pack. Sam’s Club 12 piece Oxo Pack

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I loved that Oxo included a booklet with suggestions as to what would fit in it each canister. Since I am not an organized person, I’m not great at figuring those things out. Using the guide Oxo provided, I was able to put some thought into each one and maximize the set.

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I also made out labels of the key items I wanted to put in the containers. By doing this, I could pick the ones I needed for each item and was able to best utilize each container. Is it perfect? Of course not, I am NOT the perfect organizer. Is it perfect for me? YES. The best part is now the mice will not smell all the pantry goodies and hopefully stay out of there. Of course, I’ll keep using the peppermint spray and Altoids! ūüėĄ

Even though I labeled most of the items, I also put a recipe on the French’s French Fried Onions (also purchased at Sam’s Club) container so I would have it handy. If I try it and don’t like it, I’ll just throw the recipe away.

I still need a couple more containers. Now I just need to decide if I’m going to buy them individually or just purchase another 12 piece set from Sam’s Club.

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Organization for a Messy Person – Getting Started

I’ve never been a resolution person. I didn’t need a “date” to tell me to start doing something better. For me, the decision was made due to an entirely different problem.¬† Mice. Yes, mice. Those annoying little rodents had decided to take up residents in my home and in my quest to stop them, I decided I had to make a change. As I tried to catch them, I realized I had a lot of JUNK in my way!

I’m not a dirty housekeeper. I keep dishes washed, food put away. I’m a pack rat (no pun intended) and tend to throw stuff in boxes, bags, things I should either use or throw-away. I tend to keep things with the thought I’ll use them later. I receive free samples & instead of using them, I save them, thinking to myself, “I’ll save it and use it for __________” only to forget about it and find it months later, often no good or expired. I buy things on sale thinking “I’ll use that for _________ but ________ never comes” so the item ends up going to waste.

I made a resolution a few weeks back to make a change. It was time to get the house organized. It was time to make sure I use the items I purchase. Even the free stuff I receive for whatever reason; I am going to use it, donate it, give it away to someone, or throw it away.

I made the resolution but did NOTHING to change it right away. Then, slowly, I started seeing the house differently. I saw the dust more. I saw the dog hair on the floor. I know, I know, that’s cleaning, not organization, but it all goes together. I started sweeping¬†and dusting more often. I started putting things away. I looked around and it all looked a little overwhelming. Where to start?

It is difficult to get organized when you aren’t a organized type of person. When you are a “throw everything into a box to look at it later” person it isn’t easy getting started.

The Internet is a great place to find suggestions.¬†¬†You can get some wonderful ideas, ideas that appear simple, until you get started. Then you realize….I will NEVER be THAT organized! Is it tempting to give up when you have those thoughts? YES!

Here is my advice. DO NOT GIVE UP!!! Ha, yes, I know it’s easier to say then do, so let me try some¬†better advice.

The first thing to do is to accept¬† this as¬†fact; organization isn’t your forte. It’s OK. It isn’t a big deal. You can still make it work.

Search the Internet for ideas. Look for realistic ideas. It’s nice to have goals but let’s face it, if it’s too difficult, you will stop half way and never go back. Find plans YOU know are obtainable for YOU.

Start small. Instead of saying, “I’ll start with this bedroom” start with the bedroom closet. Yes! I said a closet. If you are anything like me, a closet in your house probably holds more than one box filled with unnecessary items. By starting with something so small, you will be able to get through it, complete it, feel good about it, and feel motivated to keep going.

Don’t get distracted. Again, if you are anything like me, reality is you start in one room and end up in an entirely different room. How many times have you started cleaning / organizing a bedroom only to wind up cleaning your stove?!? Nothing gets done. You wind up frustrated. The cycle repeats.

Start prepared. For the person who HATES cleaning / organizing, it is easy to find an excuse to stop. Trust me, I get it. I honestly think I have a slight form of adult ADHD and can stop simply because I get distracted. <—-see what I did? Came up with an excuse to stop before I even truly got started! It is so easy! Back to preparation. Are you a list person? A visual person? I have learned to appreciate lists but I am more of a visual person. For me, I started out with drawings of each of my rooms. I draw out the closets or items that will need organized. For example, if you have a dresser, make that a “room” in your mind. Trust me, one dresser could be as annoying as a whole room sometimes.

Here are some examples:

GUEST BEDROOM
*Closet
*Dresser
*Table
*Bed
*Room itself

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KITCHEN
*Pantry
*Table (yes, for me, a table can be a full item!)
*Sink side under cabinets / drawers
*Sink side over cabinets
*Stove side under cabinets
*Stove side over cabinets
*Lazy Susan
*Countertop

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Dining Room
*Closet
*Hutch
*Dog Area
*Cabinet
*Corner Area
*Room Itself

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Ok, you get the idea. Break it down to manageable areas. Stick to your chosen area! Do not stray.

Have boxes ready. One for trash. One for donations. One for items you want to sell. Then have boxes ready for the other rooms in the house. Do not take the items to the room when you pick them up. Put them in the box labeled for the room it is going to. Remember the “easily distracted” problem?¬†I have learned not to¬†follow the thought, “Only touch an item once” style. Those that can, it’s great. They are the ones who end up with picture perfect homes. I am not such a person. I will walk away and never make it back to the area I started in! Do not do it. Resist temptation. Put the item in the appropriate box. Do not go and make a spot someplace else for something. Only focus on the area you are working on. If you know you need to make a spot for something coming into the area you currently at, make the spot, but DO NOT go get the item (unless you need it¬†for sizing).

Once you are done, admire it. Will it be picture perfect? No. You aren’t that kind of person. Will it be organized? Yes! So you have accomplished your goal! It doesn’t have to be picture perfect, just perfect for you. Be proud of your accomplishment!

Now to deal with the filled boxes. Empty the trash box first. You do not want an opportunity to second guess yourself! Yes, I know it happens. Dump the box into a large trash bag and put something icky on top of it so you aren’t tempted (if you need to). The donate box should be taken to the appropriate place right away unless there is only one or two items. The quicker the box is gone, the less likely you are to second guess yourself. You may want to consider having two different donation boxes. For example, I have one for goodwill and another for a local animal shelter. Old sheets, towels, etc can be used at an animal shelter. If the item can be repurposed instead of throwing it away, that is the best. You may want to check your local free cycle website before you take the box someplace.¬† There may be¬†some local Facebook repurposing sites, look for them as another option.

The sell box is the dangerous box. Too many times, we box something up for the yard sale we never have. Yes, I know….you’re going to have one but…. Been there. Done that. Instead of saving it for the yard sale, look to see if there is a local social media site to list the item on. In Kansa City, you can use¬†KC Virtual Yard Sale.¬† Another way is to¬†post the items on Craigslist. It is best to put the price you want or best offer. It doesn’t matter how big or how small the item is. Put it on there. If you are not set on making money for the item, check local repurpose sites. Keep the box to the side for one week. If no one responds in a week, you should consider donating it. If you are still intent on selling it, move it to a larger “sell” box and put a date to donate on it. (No more than 6 months). Try to repeat the sites mentioned above again in 60-90 days.

Remember to update the listings on social media & Craigslist as you sell¬†or get rid of the items. If you do sell the items, be smart about it. Do not allow people you do not know into your home. Meet at a local store parking lot to exchange the item. A place you know has cameras. Preferably in the daytime. TRUST YOUR GUT. If someone or something feels strange, don’t do it. Don’t rationalize. If you are truly not comfortable selling the items online or they are larger items, consider¬†talking to a consignment shop. They will give you an idea if it’s worth selling or not.

Take the other boxes to the next area you will be working in. DO NOT TAKE THEM TO THE ROOM THEY ARE INTENDED FOR. You only take the box there when you are ready to start in that room (or one of the areas in the room).

If you are like me and know you will lose focus quickly if you spend too much time in one area, break up the areas. For example, do a closet in one room, then do a dresser in another room. Pick a difficult area one day / time, then an easier area the next. There are no rules stating you must finish a whole room before you move to another one. That is why smaller areas are so important.¬† The most important think is to keep going.¬† Don’t get discouraged.

You should have a designated holding area for the items you have listed on social media / Craigslist. The area should be neat. Keep the boxes and items stacked up.

There will be items you just do not want to part with. It’s ok. Sometimes you just have want to keep stuff. Get a few plastic bins, nothing too big. They should be stackable and liftable. Label the boxes. Store them in a safe area away from extreme temperatures and possible water damage. Before an item goes in there, really think about it. Is it a memory you are holding on to? Is it something you want to pass down? What is the real reason you are keeping it? Could someone else benefit from having it? Those questions should be answered BEFORE you decide the item is “keep forever” worthy. Only YOU can truly decide why or what you want to keep. It doesn’t have to make sense to someone else, but it does have to make sense to you.

Remember to check off the areas as you complete them! Celebrate your accomplishments!

Here is a picture of my kitchen counter top and one cabinet. I didn’t make it messier to make the finished project look better, but I had just returned home from being gone and I was piling a lot more on my counter with Altoids all around them to keep the mice away.

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I will be posting updates as I move forward with each area. I hope they encourage you to start as well. It also keeps me accountable to getting it done.

I started with the kitchen because of my mouse problem but there is no right or wrong place to start.

Leave comments as you move forward with your own cleaning / organization.

Have a great 2015 and beyond!

The Mice Battle Me vs. Them

I have mice. No one WANTS mice, it’s hard to admit it, yet here I am, battling mice. I want to say I have a mouse, because having one mouse sounds better than saying I have mice, but even I can’t convince myself of this anymore, since I saw two in my kitchen at the same time.

This battle has been going on for a couple of months now. I feel as if I am becoming a mouse expert with all of the research I have been doing. The one thing I have learned….there is no fool proof way to get rid of mice!

It all started a couple of months ago when I saw a mouse run along the wall of my living room. I started looking around and discovered they had found my open bag of dog food in my downstairs office. I had taken in a friend’s dog for a short time and I fed him in there. Never once thought about the bag of dog food being mouse heaven. I called a friend to ask for help. I hate killing living creatures so the thought was to catch & release like we had done one other time. This mouse was FAST and smart. He wasn’t having it.

I went out and bought a live trap from Wal-Mart. I was confident I was going to catch this mouse and all would be right in my world again.

I had caught the mouse! I was so happy. Seeing as how I freak out over the little creatures, I called on yet another friend to release it for me far, far away. I moved the dog food to a plastic bin. I had my house back! Yes!

Or so I thought. When my friend came back with the trap, it was in a couple of pieces (it had fallen apart as he was releasing them) and he said he had to was it. Wash it??? What??? He informed me I had caught two, not one and they had made a mess in the trap. My instant thought….NO WAY. The live trap has to go! I know it seems ridiculous but I did not want to have to keep cleaning this trap and putting it back together. I told him to just throw it away.

As I rounded the corner of my house, I screamed. It wasn’t a blood curdling, someone is trying to murder me scream, but it was a scream none the less. Sitting on TOP of my plastic dog food bin I had JUST put dog food in about an hour ago were three – four baby mice and one down on the floor! Since math WAS a strong subject, I could put it all together. Four or more baby mice plus two captured equals a big problem!

I scoured the Internet. I found out peppermint oil is supposed to repel mice. When I couldn’t find Peppermint Oil at the Wal-Mart I was at, a quick search helped me find a recipe of warm water, crushed Altoids, and dish detergent.

I loaded up on mousetraps. Not the live ones this time. When it was just a visitor passing through, I was ok with the catch & release. When they are so comfortable in my home they have a tea party, out in the open, they overstayed their welcome and need to be gone by any means necessary. Still being a squeamish baby about them, I bought the type you can’t see them in. I wanted to kill them, throw the trap away, and set out a new one. I did not want to have to see a dead mouse, I did not want to have to touch anything. I did not want the mice in my home anymore.

I chose those traps over the glue because I’m still humane, I didn’t want to have a mouse suffer a slow death. I didn’t want to SEE the mouse. Most importantly, I have two dogs of my own plus the additional one at that time, one of mine being a Jack Russell, I did not want the mouse to become a toy. Those were the reasons for not getting the poison bait. If they had to die, I wanted it to be in the most humane way possible.

Coming home, I set the traps with peanut butter and went to work making my Altoids / water / dish soap mixture. I sprayed EVERYWHERE. At every door, around my pantry, anyplace I could think of. My goal was to keep the mice confined to the two rooms I had seen them in and kill them. I’ll admit, a small part of me hoped they would be so repelled by the peppermint oil they would run fleeing from my home, never to return. We all know THAT didn’t happen. Surprisingly, the peppermint spray appeared to be working for a short time. I sprayed almost daily under the doors of the rooms I was trying to keep them in. I even saw one mouse start to run under the door, stop half way, and acted almost like he was having a seizure of some kind. A SMART person would have used that opportunity to capture it, a freaked out person like myself swatted at him with a broom and ended up pushing him back through the door where he scampered off, leading me to believe the peppermint spray was working in some aspects. The traps were also working slowly. I was throwing one away daily (I had three set in the room). With the help of a friend not scared of the mice, we found their dog food stash (mice can move quite a bit of product) and vacuumed it all up.

With their food supply gone and the spray forcing them to stay in those two rooms, I honestly believe I could have gotten a handle on them….but….I went out of town for a week. No daily sprays meant they were able to venture out. Sure enough, I came home to discover they were in my kitchen. My heart sank. It made me nauseous to think they were in my kitchen. I mean that literally. Whenever I would see a trace of them, I would get physically ill.

Phone call to the same friend (Thank GOD for great friends) and she came over to help me clean my pantry and look for the mouse. We took everything out, wiped down everything with Clorox wipes, threw away everything even remotely having the appearance of a mouse being near it, placed Altoids on the shelves, and put it back in order. I have since switched everything to Oxo canisters so they are air tight. I set a trap on the floor of the pantry and then sprayed the doorway with my spray. I figured, if the spray kept them away, GREAT, if one breached, the trap would catch them before they made it up to the shelves. The trap didn’t go off for over 6 weeks and no signs of any mice on the shelves, so it has worked somewhat.

Now we are up to today. I was out of town for Christmas and sadly, I came home to mice taking up residence in my stove. Yes, my stove! Another phone call (she really should start charging me) and we begin the process of Operation Stove Removal only to discover I have a weird stove and we can not access the area between the stove top and the oven. We googled

****Funny story interjection****
As I was writing this, I kept hearing a noise in my kitchen. I would get up, turn the light on, and would see a scurry back into the stove opening. This happened three times. The fourth time I heard something, I had my eye focused directly in the area it was coming from and I see the mouse briefly on my microwave. I take a couple deep breaths to avoid freaking out and go investigate. Apparently I had received a sample of dog food, the kind in the tubes, and put it up on my microwave. I have no idea how long it had been there (it was in a decorative glass) but the mouse found it. There was a good chunk of it gone. It is thrown away, microwave cleaned off, disinfected, and the dishes on it have been washed. Back to my writing! ***********

As I was saying, we even Googled how to tear the stove apart. No luck. The stove is mounted into my counter top. The space between the stove top and the oven has a couple small holes. Through those holes, we can see insulation, but no way to access it easily. I made the decision to NOT tear it out. I decided to try other measures first. FYI, if you are thinking, hey, just turn the stove on, it didn’t work. Research says they just run somewhere else and return when it’s cooled down again.

After messing with the stove, I did kill one more mouse but it appears they are getting smarter or more adventurous. Back to the Internet for more research.

I found a product called Fresh Cab. It is supposed to be a rodent repellant. Another “natural” product. The reviews were pretty favorable except in situations where the rodents already exist. Upon doing more research, I discovered some possible reasons why that might me, and decided to try it. Amazon had it cheaper but Tractor Supply had it in stock, so off to TSC I went. I bought 2 boxes equalling 8 pouches. I opened them, read the instructions, dated them, and then set out strategically placing them around the house. It was very clear in the instructions NOT to place them near traps. I’m not a fan of the pine scent, but if they work, I’ll live with it.

Ironically, the mouse eating the tube of dog food I mentioned was found less than a foot from where I placed the first pouch of Fresh Cab. Had I not done my research, I would have thought it didn’t work and thrown them away and sent for my money (They have a money back guarantee) but I am not giving up on it yet because
1. I read it is not a repellant like Peppermint Oil is supposed to be. It is a detractor. It is supposed to mess with the mouse’s sense of smell, making them think there is no food available.
2. Mice have weird memories, that is why they say to keep putting traps in the same area. If they KNOW a path leads to food, they will keep following it. With that in mind, the mouse clearly had been chomping on this tube for a few days, so his sense of memory was more powerful than the Fresh Cab (in theory).

I placed the Fresh Cab in one area, the traps with the yummy peanut butter in another direction, so they would be compelled to head towards the trap.

Another thing I have done is throw one or two chopped pecan pieces around the trap. Knowing about their memory, I figured, if they have one or two easy ones to access, they will come back and get the “bait” next and the trap will kill them.

One interesting observation is the Altoids. My first tin I opened and used seemed to work great. I never saw a mouse near anything I had an Altoid sitting on or near. They didn’t seem to go near any areas I sprayed. This new tin I opened I cannot say the same. I even think the mice are carrying the Altoids pieces away! I don’t know if this second tin used less peppermint oil in the manufacturing or not, but I find it strange.

I have not tried the 100% peppermint oil that so many people mention. The Wal-Mart I went to did not have any in stock. I looked today and it appears the one I am heading to has some in stock. I am going to try an experiment with it and will post the results.

I have contacted a company about coming out and looking for the areas in my home the mice may be getting in. It is $159 but considering how much I have already spent on traps, Fresh Cab, Altoids, and soon Peppermint Oil, it might be worth it. Not to mention all the pantry items I had to throw away. At least my house is getting clean an organized!

After all this, the bottom line is mice are a pain in the butt! It is not a simple fix. It takes time and diligence.

If you can stand the sight of the dead mouse and you don’t mind reusing the trap, the wooden traps are the least expensive. If you are a big baby like myself, there are some affordable alternatives. One key is to make sure to have the opening right near the wall so they run in as they are running along the wall.

The cheapest one is D-Con No Touch No View Mousetrap. Less than $5 for a two pack at Wal-Mart

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PROS: Inexpensive, Easy to use, easy to see the indicator

CONS: The indicator sometimes doesn’t work. (If it wasn’t clear & the
door was closed, I threw it away) Round (didn’t always fit in tighter areas) Slippery on hard floors so you had to take more care placing them.

Another trap I used and had a quick results is Victor Kill & Seal Mouse Trap About $10 for a 2 pack

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PROS: Easy to use, easy to load bait, shape fits easily against wall, Blends in well against lighter colored baseboards

CONS: More Expensive. If bumped, a little difficult to reset

The third one I used is Ortho Home Defense Max Kill and Contain Mouse Trap. About $8 for a pack of 2

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PROS: extremely narrow, will fit in tighter areas. Easy to load bait. Easy to set first time.

CONS: Haven’t caught a mouse in it yet. My dog seemed fascinated with it. Difficult to reset if it gets bumped. Messy if bumped (bait sorta falls everywhere, then out when you pick it up to reset).

I have caught the most mice with the first one, but to be fair, I have purchased them the most. My thought is, if they are the cheapest, no harder to use, and work, go with them.

As for bait, peanut butter seems to work well. I but the great value kind to give my dog his medicine with, so I’ve been using that. Chopped pecans also work. Ironically, Ole Roy dog food works well. My dogs eat Acana and Earthborn…using that as bait didn’t get the same results. I’m guessing it is because they are both grain free. Any type of seed, grain, or nut appear to yield the best results.

I hope I have helped the next person battling mice to not have to go digging around multiple days to get all the different information I was able to compile over time!

Good luck!