I know that many women out there look at a garage or shack out behind the house and comment on how messy men really are. Just imagine for a moment all you had in your kitchen was a stove, table and fridge. Where would you put food, dishes, pots, pans, forks, knives… well you get the idea. Now go out and take a look at the garage with new eyes.

The usual garage has tools (fix the car, bikes, skidoos, four wheelers, snowblowers, plumbing, minor house repairs, gardening, etc.), paint cans, brushes, shovel or two, is used for storage space for bikes, sports equipment, trash cans, workbenches and the list goes on. Then some are even used to keep your vehicle in them!

No wonder it looks so messy and just cleaning up the place is a nightmare. It’s best to do it just before winter strikes. Then you can once again have some place to work in away from the snow and wind that strikes Eeyou Istchee.

We know how to get around this. Follow a few simple steps:

1. Set a date for a garage sale or donation pick-up. If you advertise a sale in the classifieds (such as the Nation or local radio) or make a commitment to donate to a local organization by setting the date, then you are more likely to follow through with fixing up and cleaning the garage.

2. Once you’re committed (the good way, though the wife may argue about that), sort everything in the garage into three piles: a) things you want to keep; b) things you can get rid of; c) and things you don’t know what to do with. After you have decided what to keep, divide that pile into sections such as holiday, recreation, car maintenance, house maintenance, etc.

3. Store often-used items, such as axes, snow shovels and mops, where they can be easily seen and accessed. If you can see it, you can find it. Make use of vertical space with wall hooks or some sort of an organizer to achieve easy access to your items and get it off the floor.

4. Use overhead space to store items used infrequently. Items such as holiday decorations can be stored in higher places to allow for more eye-level or easy-access storage space for frequently used items such as the chainsaw, water hose or drill.

5. Place sports equipment and specialty items in a plastic bin with closing tops that are stackable. Label them with a marker so you don’t forget what you have in them. This will eliminate clutter of small items and can compartmentalize items by category or use.

6. For supplies, such as motor oil, gas and paint, store them together in a container if possible. Storing containers on the shelves of cabinets or shelves keeps them off the floor, where contents could spill over or suffer water damage.

Keeping the garage neat and orderly is easy when it’s organized. With your items categorized and stored in cabinets or shelves, it becomes much easier to determine what you need, and what can be tossed out. Being able to find your items easily saves time and money, as you won’t be purchasing things you already have, but can’t find.

Winterizing the house

James Bay is a place where the winds always blow, or so they say. In any case it can get extremely cold in winter. Since our negotiators have never gotten Hydro-Quebec to agree to free electricity for the Crees, the winter bills can get quite high. Before some nitpicker out there mentions it, we do get electricity subsidy checks that our various band councils keep trying to take larger chunks out of.

Anyhow there really doesn’t seem to be a coherent program out there to teach people to save electricity so the Nation will try to help you save a few bucks this year.

We collected information from all over Eeyou Istchee and Turtle Island to assist you. The first and most important one is to replace a door knob with more than just string. The hole costs you serious money. Insulating and filling in cracks so drafts are a thing of the past can save you 10 per cent of your bill. Can’t afford putty or chalk? I’ve known people who have wet newspapers and used that to fill in chinks and holes around windows and walls. One person even used peanut butter. Duct tape is a great thing also. If you can’t afford the new plastic coverings for the windows just staple a sheet of clear plastic tarp over windows for the winter.

Turn off heating when it is not needed at night or if the home is empty. In very cold weather, keep a low heat going to prevent frozen pipes. In any case keep the thermostat at 20 degrees Celsius during the day and 13 degrees Celsius at night. If it seems chilly put on a sweater or pile on more blankets. In many northern European countries people do this as a matter of fact. Wear warm, layered clothing indoors during cold weather. Some of the new synthetics are the best for thermal layering. If you live in a cold climate and can comfortably walk around in a tank top and shorts, you’re wasting money!

Try to teach children and yourself to keep doors closed and discuss other ways of conserving heat and saving energy. If yours haven’t turned out a light since they were old enough to stop playing with the light switch – good luck!

Carpets help with floors. I have most of my apartment carpeted. Some are plush but others aren’t. The important thing is they do help with cutting heating bills. A plus is your feet don’t feel as cold, which makes you want to up the heat. Wear slippers if the feet are cold. Insulate floors over unheated spaces such as your basement, any crawl spaces and your garage. You actually lose more heat through poorly insulated floor spaces and basements in the average house than through drafty doors and windows. The savings here could be considerable.

In colder areas it makes sense to move furniture away from any exterior walls. Putting some space between you and the cold walls makes the house seem warmer and leaving room for the air to move around actually makes it warmer. Do not block electric heaters as you just waste the heat this way. By the way, dust is a wonderful insulator and tends to build up on radiators and baseboard heat vents. It keeps the heat from getting into the rooms where you need it, so dust or vacuum all radiator surfaces frequently.

Use thick curtains with linings to help further insulate windows.

Close off the attic, garage, basement, spare bedrooms and storage areas. Heat only those rooms that you use.

And remember an electric blanket is much less expensive than heating your bedroom…