Decluttering: 5 Simple Ways to Do It

Every time you go to your closet, look at your books, go to your kids’ rooms, or open your kitchen cabinet, you see that life can be much simpler. Clutter creates stress and when you’re stressed, the rest of the day goes haywire. But you see it every day… so what do you do?

Declutter! Simple? Not really. Some people just rearrange things and that’s just so different from decluttering. Pretty soon you’ll be looking at piles of stuff you’ll accumulate along the way and you’ll be forced to declutter anyway. So how do you do it?

Here are 5 tips to help you get going in the right direction.

organized dishes
Visualize your end result.

1. Visualize – Picture in your head (or draw if you can) what you want each room and each part of your home to look like. Having a picture of what you want something to look like does more than just give you good feelings. It actually forces you to prioritize things that will fit into your vision. When you’re able to see what you want your room to look like, chances are, you’ll be more ready to give up stuff that you really don’t need.

2. Personalize – The only way to make your rooms and spaces consistently clutter-free in a fun way is to personalize it. How can personalizing a room or space keep it free from clutter? When you personalize a room, you’d have to sort things in your head before putting up a new display or item. Having a space that’s personalized creates a theme that will keep you from placing just anything there except those that go well with that space. It also keeps you from buying stuff that don’t belong there as well.

3. Digitize – Much of the clutter you have most probably comes from things that have sentimental value. Your child’s first baby clothes, his singing contest trophy, the tickets from your first date, a gift from your mom, etc., have a way of creating memories that you just can’t let go of them for any reason.

But if you think about it, it’s not really the stuff you have with you that matters, it’s the memories that come along with the stuff. With today’s digital age, you have an opportunity to keep the memories without completely letting go of your keepsakes. Taking digital photos of souvenirs, mementos, family heirlooms, and even special greeting cards will give you the chance to keep them even when you let go of the items. The feeling you get with sentimental items will still be there when you look at their photos as well. In fact, digitizing them will help preserve them more than if you were to keep them. You can even create digital photo albums or digital scrapbooks of them, too.

Digitizing sentimental items makes it easier for you to let go of them and in turn gives you more space in your home.

Boxes can help you categorize your stuff into things to keep, things to give away, and things to sell.

4. Prioritize – Whenever you declutter, it’s always good to have at least three kinds of boxes to sort your stuff into three categories: things to keep, things to give away, and things to sell. When you do this, you’re prioritizing everything you see into just three categories which makes it easier to filter them. A case can be made for a fourth one: things to consider. If you’re like me, there are times when you can’t figure out which box something belongs to. Having a fourth box will give you time to consider your options and keep you from making rash decisions.

5. Organize – One of the results of having too much stuff is having stuff that don’t belong together in the same place. After having filled your three or four boxes, it’s time to sort through your things-to-keep box and things-to-consider box. Survey the space you have and then put stuff where they should belong based on what you visualized earlier. Chances are, you’ll have stuff that don’t fit in the space you have but are essential to you.

This time you’ll be needing storage boxes to put all those things that you need but don’t necessarily have to be seen. You can place these boxes in storage rooms, your cabinet, or under your bed for easy retrieval.

Decluttering can be a tedious and stressful process but remember it can’t be done in a day—so don’t even try! It took you months or even years to get to where you are now so it will take you about a week to completely declutter your home. If you follow the tips we’ve outlined for you, decluttering can be fun and fulfilling especially after you experience the functional benefits of your hard work.

This post was written by Nicole So.

It’s a grilled night-out

Dining out can be taxing at times. It feels a burden sometimes to think of where to eat, and or what everybody wants to eat. We usually end up in the same restaurant, eating the same food almost all the time. We’re often caught up with the idea of settling with our “favorites” instead of trying out something new. Location is also something that we consider, especially here in Pampanga, where there are but a few restaurants that actually serve good food.

A couple of days ago, we were celebrating two occasions, so we wanted to try something different. We’re tired of eating food that’s peppered with so many ingredients and been sitting in marinated sauce for awhile. Korean Barbecue came into mind.

Korean Barbecue or better known in Korea as Gogigui literally means grilling meat. You order whatever meat you want, including fish and seafood and they serve it to you raw. Your table is equipped with a griller in the middle and you cook your food yourself.

My sister likes to do Gogigui because it makes her feel like she can actually cook. I like it too because I’ve always considered grilling as one of the healthiest forms of cooking. In Korean Barbecue, most meats are given to you as is, not soaking in marinated sauce and or coated with so many herbs and spices.

In the Philippines, Bulgogi is one of the more popular forms of Gogigui. But you should know that there are different forms of Gogigui depending on the meat that you’re grilling. I personally love Galbi and Chaldolbegi. The meats are thinly sliced and are not marinated in any sauce.

But I find that the Japanese raised this form of grilling to a higher level, by way of Teppanyaki and Hibachi. I like going to Hibachi places because there’s a chef in front o f you who will do all the cooking while you watch your food getting cooked. If you’re into Japanese cuisine, they also have their own version of Korean barbecue. Theirs is called Yakiniku. There’s actually an ongoing debate on where grilled meat originated: was it really the Koreans who first introduced it, and then adopted by the Japanese, or the other way around? If you ask me, this is like the issue about the chicken and the egg—a debate that will never end.

If you want, you can try this at home. There are personal-sized grillers that are being sold in the market. Prepping is a little bit tedious, but imagine the fun your family will have at the dining table, cooking your own food and eating it straight off the grill.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

How to cook the perfect Crispy Pata at home

It would be nice and deadly if the crispy pata will be cook deep-fried, but considering the economics of it, being cooking oil is expensive these days, not to mention that it’s really not good for your health, we always cook our crispy pata in our turbo broiler.

We have two kinds of turbo broiler, the really ancient steel looking kind one, and one of those new, glass ones where you can actually see the fat dripping from the meat. If you’re to ask me, I would prefer to use the newer one because it’s user-friendly. You can set the temperature and can actually see the meat inside. But with the old one, which is what we’re all accustomed to using, is a matter of gut feel. You’ll know that the food is done by using your senses and/or a cooking thermometer.

My family loves food. Healthy, deadly, name it and we’re always craving for something. But the big Crispy is a one-time deal. Meaning, if we eat crispy pata today, it’ll take a few months till we cook it again. It’s a conscious effort on our part because the dish just spells “heart attack” all over it.

To achieve the crispiest, juiciest and most succulent crispy pata at home, you only have to do a few things. No need to go to a fancy restaurant and order it there. You can buy at least two “pata” for the usual price of a crispy pata in our local restaurants, not mention they’re sometimes dry on the inside because of overcooking.

  1. Boil your patas first. Yes. You have to boil them to achieve the tenderness inside and to make sure that your pata is well-cooked all the way. Make sure to season your water with a generous amount of salt, enough to taste like salted water BUT not a “sea water”-type of saltiness. Add few cloves of garlic—no need to peel them, just smash them with the back of your knife. Add a couple of shallots or a piece of onion, cut in half, and a few pieces of whole peppers.
  2. Let it rest. Before wrapping it in foil, rub some more seasonings to it. I usually rub in fish sauce (patis) and pepper, but just enough to coat the skin. Then wrap it tightly with foil or cling wrap.
  3. Put it in the freezer for at least a day. Yes my dearies! The secret to a crispy, crispy pata is to make sure that it’s been boiled and kept in the freezer for at least 24 hours. A freshly-boiled and seasoned crispy pata will not crisp enough. There will be no “lutong” factor.
  4. A great sauce can accompany a great dish too. Sarsa lechon is somehow being used by the upper class, because they associate crispy pata with the like of a lechon too. But a true-blooded meat lover will know that the combination of toyo-mansi with onions and sili will make you screaming for “isang tasang kanin pa nga!”

Don’t feel bad serving your family crispy pata once in awhile. Besides, if you use the turbo broiler, half of the fat will be remove from the meat already. Enjoy eating!

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

Pickling fruits

Peeled santol
Peeled santol

Pickling is a way of preserving a certain type of fruit and or vegetables. In some countries they do this process because not all fruits and vegetables are in season all-year round. They usually do this process during summer or spring time, in preparation for the winter and fall season.

In Asia, pickling is done for different reasons. In the old times, they pickle their food to prevent it from spoiling. Since not most households have refrigeration, they would put their meat/fruit/vegetable in brine solution so that they could preserve them. (I’ll give you a recipe of the brine solution later.)

In countries like South Korea, pickled foods play a big part in hansik (Korean food). Kimchi is a staple in every meal, and it’s the best example of pickling. Most popular kimchi is cabbage, but they pickle almost everything in that country.

In the Philippines, we’re used to pickled papaya, or better known as achara. My aunt makes the best achara, and she doesn’t put raisins in it. And because of that reason, unconsciously, I hated pickling. I can’t seem to make that perfect brine even though I follow her recipe to a T. Besides, I’m not fond of pickled fruits or vegetables, even though I love kimchi. I like to use fresh ingredients as much as possible. If it’s not in season, then I work with whatever ingredient is available in the market.

But pickling is really convenient for all households. Aside from the fact that it’s good as a side dish, it also helps busy mommies save time and be able to preserve those ingredients that they use often but are not always in season.

Santol fruits from the Philippines
Santol fruits

A few weeks ago, my dad brought home more than a dozen of unripe santol. I love fruits that that a sweet-sour taste, but these santols are still bitter. He didn’t want to throw them out. My first suggestion was wrap them in old newspapers and keep them inside our rice dispenser, but my mom said I should just pickled them so that we can use them for sinigang. As Kapampangans, we love sinigang so much that we use all sorts of vegetables and fruits to provide the sour flavor. Aside from santol and the staple tamarind, we also use kamias (kalamias, or bilimbi), and miso.

I have two kinds of brine mixtures, the salt-based and the other, sugar-based. Of course, vinegar is a key ingredient too in your brine. My culinary friends will use high-end types of vinegar, but I always believe that not all kitchens are supplied with expensive ingredients in their pantries. So, I make with what’s available and make some necessary adjustments.

For the santol fruits, I did both salt and sugar brine mixtures, just in case one of my family members decides to munch on them. I’m really not good with measuring so I always go with equal parts of water and vinegar. But, you have to make sure that your vinegar is not too acidic. If that happens, then make it 2/3 water- 1/3 vinegar. My measurement for sugar and salt is also the same. I usually add in 10 tablespoons of sugar (and or salt) per 1 liter of liquid (vinegar and water combined). Of course, you have to taste it as you do the process.

With salt, I put it on top of a low-heat fire, just so the smell and acidity of the vinegar evaporates. I let it simmer, just like with the sugar, until all the particles get dissolved. Turn off the stove and by this time, you can add in whatever aromatics you want to add. Cloves and star anise are ok too. They’re good agents in pickling. But I like mine simple. Just salt (sugar), water and vinegar unless I’m doing achara.

One very important thing in pickling is that the jar you’re going to use is very clean. You don’t want any bacteria entering or seeping through your brine and fruit. I suggest you boil your jars first, them clean them dry with a cloth. Store your pickled stuff in a cool area. You don’t need to put them in the fridge, just an area in your house that’s always cool, but not damp.

Update: Here’s my pickled vegetables recipe.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.