Book recommendation: The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

All of us here at First Things First Organizing are neat freaks. So, it was nice to get some validation this year as The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up made its way up the bestseller lists!

 

Easily one of the trendiest books on the market right now, this is a compendium of wisdom, philosophy, and practical advice from a top-tier cleaning woman from Japan. She writes about how we in the West should adopt the old Japanese tradition of keeping house, which involves a minimalist approach to possessions and decorations.

 

In the book, she talks about the history of “tidying up” in her culture, and encourages us to have a routine of going through our possessions and finding what we don’t absolutely need and love. If something doesn’t give you pure joy, she says, it doesn’t belong in your home.

We’ve been passing the book around the office, and all of us absolutely love it. The ritual aspect of the routine gives the possessions that you keep more meaning and significance, and it helps you better appreciate their place in your life. We’re also learning a lot about how nice rituals are–there’s a meditative aspect to cleaning your house routinely on a regular basis. You end up appreciating everything more, and being able to take a more objective look at your carpets, floors, and fixtures. You know which pieces of the home give you that joy, and which ones don’t.

 

In short, we think this is a great read, first and foremost, and it’s also simply a phenomenally important skill to learn, decluttering and finding order in both your physical existence and your emotional life!

 

We think this is also a great ritual to introduce with your family. Less clutter in your house makes for easier events, since you’ll only need to move a few things out of the way. And by trimming down your decor to the essentials, you’ll draw more attention to the standout pieces!

There are so many benefits to “tidying up” in this sense, but most of them center around an increased feeling of calm and relaxation. Taking the time to declutter will make your home feel more spacious, which makes you less anxious. You’ll focus more easily, because you see order all around you instead of chaos!
So, if you’re looking for your next book, give this a read!

Mastering the drinks gathering with the best wine coolers and more

We’ve all been to a perfectly planned cocktail evening, and wanted to recreate it at home. It’s so difficult to get right, though. So many times, you run out of the good stuff, or struggle to keep everything at the right temperature but still accessible to your guests. With people coming in and out of the party, it seems like you have to have everything on hand all the time… ahh!

 

Need tips on how to hold a cool party? Here’s our quick how-to for you to host the impeccable drinks occasion, whether you’re inviting new neighbors for the first time, or having a big party to celebrate an anniversary.

 

 

Tip one:

 

You should always have options, but know your options, and list them when you’re offering drinks to your guests. Remember, if you ask an open-ended question like “what would you like?” you’re opening the door for someone to request something you didn’t think to get. Always offer a selection of options that you’ve made sure to stock before hand.

 

We also think it’s a great idea and fun twist to have your own drinks menu for a cocktail party. If you’re having a dozen people over for drinks, it can all get overwhelming to find everyone’s favorite liquor or mixer. So, come up with a list of 6 cocktails that you’ll have plenty of ingredients for.

 

Try to have a range if you can, even if you’ve got a theme for your party. Remember there will always be one old-fashioned person who wants something simple, like rum and coke, just like there will be one super trendy person who’s drawn to the slightly spicy chili martini you’ve just discovered. Try to have something at each end of the spectrum!

 

This is a chance for you to use your creativity and put a personal twist on things. It’s also a super convenient way for you to figure out how much of each ingredient you’ll need to have.

 

Tip two:

 

If you serve wine or beer to most of your guests, you should stop using your fridge immediately. It’s nearly impossible to get temperatures right in the fridge, especially when people are constantly opening and closing the doors.

 

If you’ve got a beer-loving husband, you should get a kegerator. You never have to worry about throwing off the beer because the cooler door keeps opening.

 

Wines are easier to manage in that department, because you’ll be keeping them in the cooler until the occasion, and you won’t be putting your bottle in and out of the cooler every few minutes. Of course there are wine fridge reviews online that are must follows in case you’d want to make a purchase especially if you’re the type who holds regular parties and would like those wines served at the best temperature.

 

Tip three: stock up!

 

Here are a few basic beverages every good hostess keeps on hand.

 

-a dry white wine

-a good bottle of bubbly

-a keg of beer (don’t worry, they come in small sizes too! Kegs will raise your game in a way that even husbands can’t ignore!)

-whiskey

-gin

-bourbon

-tequila

-absinthe

-rum

-vodka

-Bailey’s

-a fruity liquor or two

-a selection of herbs (these are best fresh, and growing them indoors in a  window box is an amazing boost to your cooking abilities as well as for making drinks. Try mint, basil, thyme, rosemary, and sage for fun and exciting cocktails).

 

 

A special tip: When it comes to alcohol, you know as well as we do that there’s an infinite range of prices and levels of quality. It’s always, always a good idea to have two of everything. Aim for a “good” whiskey, and then a fantastic whiskey. Know your audience, and know how much you can afford to use. If you’re going to be serving people who aren’t that picky, or going through a whole bottle, you don’t want to get out your best.

 

No matter what you’re keeping in your cabinet, make sure you know how to store everything. And remember, not everyone drinks alcohol. Always have at least one exciting nonalcoholic option on the menu, like a spiced cider or nice ginger brew.

 

So, aside from drinks, what do you need to buy to have the ideal drinks evening?

 

-cooling appliances: to take the guesswork out of keeping wine and beer in their perfect conditions. We like wine coolers and kegerators. Beer coolers don’t do you any favors with things that don’t come in cans, and let’s face it, there should never be cans at your cocktail party. If you need help finding the best ones, there are some great online reviews here to help you out!

-a decanter: you can’t have wine without a decanter! It’s so, so, so important to let a wine breathe, and decanting can help you get it from pop to perfect in a matter of seconds rather than minutes. Plus, this is an excuse to get out your fancy glassware and get a few extra compliments! Yes, you ARE tasteful!

 

-a wine preserver for leftovers: No matter how well you plan, you’re almost guaranteed to have a glass or two in the bottle at the end of the night. Don’t re-cork your wine, use a preserver. It’s more elegant and it just plain works better! There’s nothing worse than crumbly bits of cork in the bottle when you go to finish it off. And always remember that if your wine isn’t good enough for drinking, you should use it to cook with! Wine adds rich, tangy flavor to anything, but it’s superb for making a delectable meat dish. Red for beef and pork, white for chicken and fish!

 

-a range of glassware: any good hostess knows that each different drink needs a different type of glass. Plan to have a set of a dozen whiskey glasses, white wine glasses, red wine glasses, pint glasses, and martini glasses. For your fancier concoctions, keep some good cocktail cups–copper is a stunning choice for anything bigger than a martini.

 

-salt…? Yes, salt. With wine comes spills, and with spills follow stains soon after! You want to be ready to act fast. Sprinkle some salt on the table cloth or dress to help keep those stains from sticking. You’ll save yourself the trouble of agonizing over your tablecloth later, and you’ll save your guests the embarrassment of having caused a permanent mark. Trust us, ladies, grandmothers know best, and this trick has been around forever.

That’s it! That’s all you need to have the perfect drinks soiree! Good luck, and happy hosting!

The important appliances you need to help you out in your household: including the best cleaning machines, coolers, and more!

It’s time for a little truth talk: all of us wish we were Julia Child, or Martha Stewart. We’d love to be the master of every sort of pastry, garnish, and souffle, but the fact is, with busy work and family lives, none of us can make it all happen by hand. You shouldn’t feel bad about using a few key machines to help you with the heavy lifting so that you can focus on the fine tuning of the evening and on making your home a relaxing, low-stress place that also happens to have amazing food and drink.

 

So, keeping that in mind, here’s a list of our “can’t do without” appliances that you need to help you around the house. Don’t think of it as cheating: think of using these as being prepared. After all, you want to be free to handle everything a machine can’t take care of!

 

  1. a KitchenAid mixer

The KitchenAid mixer has been the bulwark of every good kitchen for over half a century. You shouldn’t be without one! These machines are the pride of every cook’s arsenal, whether you’re making a meringue, a batch of dough, or the base for a fantastic mousse. You’ve got better things to do than stir for hours on end, and these machines can get you to just the right texture, quickly and easily! Sure, they’re expensive, but these are heirloom machines, and they’re made here in the USA, so you don’t have to worry about quality. Save your time and your back for every baking project with one of these.

 

  1. Roomba

 

Yeah, right-you’re thinking. A Roomba? Essential? Fat chance. Hear us out. When you’re having an occasion, your mind is going to be on anything but the floor. You’ll need a normal vacuum for nooks and crannies, and for things like stairs. But for keeping the main areas of your house clean on a regular basis, a Roomba is a very smart purchase. It saves you time and effort, and it’ll give you peace of mind, especially if you have animal friends roaming around your place. No matter what, you’ll know that the main areas of traffic are going to be clear. It might seem like a luxury, but trust us: being able to have the vacuum automatically go around your floors half an hour before guests arrive is going to make you gasp with relief every time.

 

  1. Dishwasher

Dishwashers are much less extravagant than Roomba’s, but they’re every bit as important to have as a reliable kitchen ally. We have an unspoken rule here that no matter how nice your cutlery, glasses and dishes are, you should never buy anything that can’t go in the dishwasher. You simply shouldn’t have to wash dozens of glasses every time you want to have people over, and then try to find drying space, let alone energy after an occasion. Dishwashers are highly economical–they use less water than you would doing dishes by hand, and they’re so. darn. quick. If you’ve got a family, they’re also the only sane way to deal with the dozens of dishes kids create every day.

 

  1. Coffee machine

 

‘Nuff said, right? We mean a real coffee machine, though, not a crappy old percolator. Do yourself a favor and get a Miele, or a KitchenAid coffee maker that can compete with what you can do with your french press. Nothing impresses guests or family members like fresh, perfect coffee. Nobody should be without a good machine! We suggest finding one that grinds beans right in the same chute, so that you’re getting maximum flavor. You also save yourself an extra appliance!

 

  1. Get a warmer oven instead of a microwave

This one’s a bit more expensive and intensive to get setup, since it’s not a standalone appliance. But if you’ve got a built-in microwave, or a bulky old cooling hood, make better use of that space with a warming oven. If you’ve been cooking for any amount of time, you know how easily the microwave can destroy the texture and taste of practically any food. It’s even bad at warming things up, since the warmth seems to disappear almost instantly, so all you have to serve is a soggy, cold disappointment. Warming ovens are great for covered dishes, baguettes, and other things that would take too much time and energy in your big oven. You can also use them for heating plates while your lasagna is cooling! Basically, they’re everything your microwave isn’t: a way to warm things consistently while keeping flavor and texture intact. If you’re the sort of person who likes to make enough for leftovers, a warming oven is the key to making things taste even better the second time.

 

  1. Drinks cooler, for wine or beer

 

If you’re going to get serious about wine or beer, you absolutely can’t be without proper coolers. Fridges simply don’t give you the precision or consistency you need to keep wines and beers tasting optimal, so if you drink more than a bottle a week, you should shell out for a proper cooling system. Wine coolers are the obvious way to store your vintages. You can set a temperature that stays constant, since you’re not constantly opening the door to get food. A really good one will control light, too, which can throw off wines. Even better, grab one with a few different chambers, so you can keep reds and whites at their own perfect temperatures! We actually don’t like beer coolers one bit. They’re catered exclusively toward cans, and they don’t store bottles well at all. And we think that if you’re going to start buying nice beer, you may as well get kegerator. They’ll let you keep a keg at home and pull fresh pints that taste infinitely better than canned brews.

Well, there you have it! All the essential appliances every good household should own. It can take time for many of us to get the money to invest in all these, but you’ll up your game as a household and as hosts with each one!