Tackle Outdoor Clutter This Summer

The Gilmer Free Press

The glorious days of summer are not the best days to weed out household clutter. Beautiful days encourage me to be outside rather than indoors. Of course, if and when you get a rainy day or a day too hot or too humid to be out, it can be a great time to tackle an indoor clutter clearing project too. Unfortunately, I have a lot of outside clutter to tackle this summer. Here are some areas and ideas to help you get motivated to tackle outside clutter.

The great outdoors:
Take some photos. Looking at photos of your home provides enough “distance” that it may help you to see what needs to be addressed. Outside clutter includes trees and shrubs that may need to be trimmed or eliminated. Tackle weeds growing under trees, and trim deadwood out of shrubs. Take a hard look at swing sets that are outgrown and patio furniture. Flowerbeds can have clutter too. Honestly, after ten years in this home, there are flowers and shrubs that are overgrown and there are some that I am just tired of seeing. Freshen up and lighten up your outdoor look too.

I also am a fan of washing windows and vacuuming or washing screens, applying fresh paint where needed, and mulching to cut down on my weeding in flower beds when the days get hot and muggy. Don’t go it alone. Encourage other family members to turn off the television and come outside to help you! If there are multiple residents in the home, everyone can help take care of the outside parts of it too. Fair is fair.

When you need to pull a weed, pull a weed. Consider weed pulling to be a soothing mental health time, a meditation if you will—you are outdoors, and weed pulling is an easy and repetitive task. Or, if you aren’t sold on that thought, remember it is easier to just reach down and pull that darn weed than to be annoyed by it every time you walk by it! Just like housework, we often spend more time worrying about a task than the time it takes simply to do it.

Good outdoor equipment:
When tackling projects, don’t be shy about using the right equipment.  Use sharp trimmers, not bent or dull ones. Try a foam kneeler to save your knees—it actually helps! Remember decent gloves to protect your hands from thorns and scrapes. Toss a bad rake and get a decent one—same with shovels, hoses, sprayers, and other outdoor equipment. Struggling with poor equipment makes any task more difficult—inside or outside. Life is too short to struggle with poor equipment.

Keep a bucket handy with the right supplies and it will motivate you when you see it and the bucket will be easy to grab to take care of a quick projects. My bucket includes a dandelion puller, a small hand shovel, a kneeler, gloves, and my smaller clippers.

When tackling outdoor projects, break them down into small manageable tasks, just like clearing clutter indoors. Tackle one area at a time. You will be surprised at how many weeds you can pull in ten minutes. Seriously, count sometime! Rest in-between and remember to stay hydrated! A garden hat and some sunglasses and sunscreen are good equipment to have too!

The “great” indoors brought outside:
How are your lawn ornaments and decorations doing? Are you so accustomed to some of them that you don’t even see and enjoy them any more? Are there others that are broken or rusty? What about your patio and lawn furniture? Do they need a bath? A fresh coat of paint? Replacement? Maybe even elimination if you own more than you actually use?

The in-between areas:
These include entry doors and doorsills, entryways, and car and garage clutter. Entries can sometimes benefit from cleaning and fresh paint. Entryways can be lightened up with brighter paint or more lighting or a mirror to reflect more light. Use the warm days to clean the car inside and out on the driveway—you will thank yourself during your next drive to work.

Garage interiors can benefit from clutter clearing too. Sweep them out. Donate unused planters, pots, and yard furniture. Wipe down doorsills. Eliminate what you don’t use. Improve garage lighting and storage if you can. A bright space is easier to work in and to use. Cabinets and shelving are awesome. There are many more garage storage products available now compared to even just a few years ago. Take a peek.

If I can’t persuade you to tackle out-door clutter this summer. Don’t sweat it. Summer is made for out-door relaxing, activities, and, above all, fun! So get outside and enjoy! Sit outside instead of inside. Look around you! The days will get shorter and winter will return soon enough! Right?

~~  Barbara Tako - A clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life (O Books, 2010)  ~~

Huge CarpFfound in Kansas Ditch Is No Fish Story

KANSAS CITY, MO—Rarely is a trophy fish so easy to land.

An animal control officer in Olathe, Kansas, recently hauled in a 60-pound (27-kg) carp that was lying in a drainage ditch. A man out for a walk last week spotted the fish and called police, city animal control officer Jamie Schmidt said on Tuesday.

The man estimated the fish at more than four feet (1.22 meters) - and he was not telling a whopper, said Schmidt, who responded to the call in suburban Kansas City. The carp lay dead in a roadside ditch that connects to a lake and it apparently swam there when heavy rain caused flooding, she said.

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“When the guy said it was four foot, I thought ‘Well, most men tell fish stories’ and I thought it wasn’t going to be even close to that,“ Schmidt said. “I was very shocked.“

Schmidt said the fish measured about 3 ½ feet (1.06 meters) long and weighed 60 pounds (27 kg). It was a grass carp, said Lucas Kowalewski, fisheries biologist for the Kansas Department of Parks, Wildlife and Tourism. The Kansas record for grass carp caught by angling is 77.7 pounds (35 kg), according to department records.

Schmidt said the fish had not decomposed and was lying in shallow water. She put plastic trash bags around the fish to drag it to her vehicle, where she loaded it into a kennel that has a power lift.

Schmidt had her picture taken with the fish, which appears on the Olathe Police Department Facebook page. After the picture, the fish met a quick demise.

“We treated it like any other dead animal,“ Schmidt said. “We put it into our incinerator.“

Are You Planning a Road Trip This Summer

The 10 Best & 10 Worst U.S. States to Visit on a Road Trip This Summer
The Gilmer Free Press

Americans are itching to get away this summer, with 198 million people, about 85% of the population, planning a trip in the coming months. That’s an increase of 13% from last year. And nearly 90% of them will be getting away by car. And they are happy to be on the road for a longer time, willing to drive 80 miles farther on average (about 660 miles total) compared to 2014.

Are you one of these road warriors? Perhaps you want to visit one of Time Magazine’s “Top 50 American Roadside Attractions.“ Or maybe you’re finally ready to make that most epic journey: The cross-country drive across America.

The main thing is that you’ve decided to hit the road. That’s the easy part. What’s more complicated is figuring out where to go, especially if you’re on a budget. To help cost-conscious road travelers get the most bang for the buck, WalletHub, a personal finance social network, compared the 50 U.S. states across 20 key metrics, including average gas prices, road quality weather conditions, lodging costs and number of attractions. Their analysis resulted in two lists: the best and worst states for summer road trips in 2015.

2015’s Best States for Summer Road Trips

  1. Oregon
  2. Nevada
  3. Minnesota
  4. Washington
  5. Ohio
  6. Utah
  7. Wyoming
  8. Colorado
  9. North Carolina
  10. Idaho

2015’s Worst States for Summer Road Trips

  1. Connecticut
  2. North Dakota
  3. Delaware
  4. Mississippi
  5. South Dakota
  6. Oklahoma
  7. Arkansas
  8. Rhode Island
  9. Michigan
  10. New Jersey

In the process, they also came across some key stats:

  • California has 22 times more scenic byways than Connecticut
  • The price of camping in Connecticut is double the price in Nevada
  • The price of a three-star hotel room in Hawaii is three times more expensive than in Arizona
  • Massachusetts has three times more fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled than Montana
  • California has eight times more car thefts per 100,000 residents than Vermont
  • Nevada has six times more nightlife options per 100,000 residents than New Jersey

For the full report and to see where your state ranks, visit:

Of course, all that driving this summer means a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average passenger car emits 411 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. So for an average 660-mile trip, that’s nearly 600 pounds of CO2. To put that in perspective, that’s equivalent to burning a single 75-watt incandescent bulb for two hours a day for more than eight years.

On a positive note, the amount of CO2 that cars emit will decrease slightly each year as emissions standards become more stringent, and as more people switch to electric vehicles. Though plug-in vehicles remain a small part of the auto industry, the numbers are increasing: Last year, sales increased by 23% compared to 2013 — a 128% jump from 2012.

Also, there are ways to make your car emit less, such a keeping your tires properly inflated, using the right motor oil and avoiding frequent speed changes (like sudden braking and accelerating).

In the late 1940s, novelist Jack Keruoac and poet Neal Cassady took several cross-country road trips, visiting Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and Mexico City. These trips inspired Kerouac’s greatest work, On the Road. Even if your road trip doesn’t inspire the next great American novel, it can be a fun and cost-effective way to enjoy the summertime.

So keep your hands on the wheel, remember to pack the perfect road trip survival kit and relish the freedom and adventure of the open road. As Kerouac wrote in his Beat classic, “I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.“


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Charleston, WV—West Virginia has once again been inundated with flood waters over the past two weeks. Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick says state growers need to consider the condition of their fields and act appropriately when it comes to harvesting their crops.

“If your plants come in contact with flood water, the safest thing to do is to not eat them. Dispose of them,” says John Bombardiere, the West Virginia Extension Agent at West Virginia State University
specializing in vegetables.

For example, lettuce, a tomato that’s ready to pick, or potatoes that are underground and come in direct contact with flood water should not be consumed by humans or animals.

The United State Food and Drug Administration’s Guide on Flooding says: “

If the edible portion of a crop is exposed to flood waters, it is considered adulterated under section 402(a)(4) (21 U.S.C. 342(a)(4)) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and should not enter human food channels. There is no practical method of reconditioning the edible portion of a crop that will provide a reasonable assurance of human food safety. Therefore, the FDA recommends that these crops be disposed of in a manner that ensures they are kept separate from crops that have not been flood damaged to avoid adulterating “clean” crops (Ref. 1, 2, 3).”

“If for some reason there was sewage in the water, there could be e-coli, heavy metals, or other pathogenic organisms,” stresses Bombardiere. “You just don’t know when it floods. All sorts of things can
wash in.”

If your field or garden is flooded but the water does not come in direct contact with the produce, the FDA advises you to use your own judgement on whether to sell and consume the food.

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