Tackling your iPod clutter

Belkin has a solution that adds virtually nothing to your desk space and keeps the iPod wires where they belong — out of sight. The Belkin In-Desk Dock saves valuable desk space and you can seamlessly charge and play your iPod as you sync it to your computer. It also has stereo-output jack which lets you listen to your music through your stereo, powered speakers, or headphones.

It requires one of those standard 3-inch holes in your desk. If your desk doesn’t have one already, you can always just buy a hole cutter at a hardware store and drill one.

No more wire hangers!

The next time you head to your dry cleaner, take all of your unused wire hangers with you. Most dry cleaners recycle hangers and actually appreciate you returning them because it saves them money. You get rid of clutter in your closet and help keep landfills free of hangers.

Also, unless you have a need for the plastic bags they wrap around your clothing, you can ask for the dry cleaner to keep the bags off of your clothes. It keeps you from having to toss the bag when you get home, and again saves the dry cleaner money. Mens dress shirts also can be folded instead of put on a hanger so that you don’t have to take a hanger home with you at all.

Toy clutter treatment

I’ve been to homes where children’s toys are literally everywhere. Toys on the floor in the foyer, kitchen, den, playroom, bedroom, bathroom, and hallways. Parents are conditioning their children to become little clutter monsters.

My wife and I have already started to teach our child to put her toys away in certain designated places. She is not quite twelve months old, but she understands where her toys go when she is finished playing with them. If one always cleans up after a child, the cycle will never end, and one will continually be dealing with a toy tornado. On the other hand, if you don’t ever clean up after a child, then the child will begin to think that the toys are supposed to be all over the floor all of the time. The key is teaching the kid to fish, as it were.

We’re not quite at the point where we have purchased storage bins for our child’s toys, but we have considered this storage bin shelf system. It makes the toys easily accessible and makes clean up easy for a toddler. Also, the natural finish is versatile so it can be painted or stained to match the decor of any room.

How do you help your children to keep clutter under control in your home?

There’s wealth in simplicity

I just finished reading Tim Ferriss’ new book, The 4-Hour Workweek. It’s a great book if a little schizophrenic. On the one hand, the strategies to eliminate distractions and focus on the activities that generate the most value are excellent. On the other, the chapter on starting an automated mail order business wasn’t for me. That said, it’s an inspirational book that deserves a read from anyone looking to redesign their lifestyle. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I came to this passage toward the end of the book:

I’m not going to tell you to walk around in a robe and sandals scowling at people who have televisions. I hate the kashi-crunching holier-than-thou stuff. Turning you into a possesion-less scribe is not my intention. Let’s face it, though: There are tons of things in you home and life that you don’t use, need, or even particularly want. They just come into your life as impulsive flotsam and jetsam and never found a good exit. Whether you’re aware of it or not, this clutter is creates indecision and distractions, consuming attention and making unfettered happiness a real chore. It is impossible to realize how distracting all the crap is–whether porcelain dolls, sports cars, or ragged T-shirts–until you get rid of it.

What’s remarkable is how well that jibes with our own philosophy here at Unclutterer. The point isn’t to be a monk or disavow consumerism. The point is to be selective about the things you do have in order to live a quality life. On of Ferriss’ great insights is that when people say they’d like to be millionaires, they don’t mean that they’d like to have a million dollars. They mean that they’d like to live like a millionaire. It’s possible to do that without the money, and in my mind the first step to luxury is paring down.

Ferris goes on to explain how simplifying helps:

I created 40% more space in my apartment and hadn’t even grazed the surface. It wasn’t the extra physical space I felt most. It was the extra mental space. It was as if I had 20 mental applications running simultaneously before, and now I just had one or two. My thinking was clearer and much, much happier.

I certainly recommend you check out the book.

Bonus: Here’s Tim Ferriss’ talk from SXSW. (MP3)

Organizing digitally scanned data

Continuing in my series of posts on controlling paper clutter in the home, I want to tackle the issue of manuals and instruction booklets.

In my recent past, I have had an obsession with holding onto every manual that came with what I purchased. I can only think that this hoarding had something to do with a little voice at the back of my mind saying, “but, what if I need it one day…”

Our filing cabinet is not the world’s largest piece of furniture, so finding more available space in it was a priority for my husband and me. When we started on our paper reduction plan, we had more than 50 current manuals in our top drawer, and now there are none. Here is the plan that we followed to clean up the clutter:

The obvious first step is to throw out the manuals for products you don’t own. (I’ll keep my mouth shut about how many of these we had in our files!)

The second step is to set aside the manuals for all major appliances that will remain in your house if you ever sell it. I put these manuals in a magazine file and then stored them nicely on a bookshelf. Manuals in our permanent file include the refrigerator, stove, built-in microwave, dishwasher, water heater, furnace, washer, dryer, and security system. It’s kind to pass these manuals on to the next resident of your house so that he or she will know how to operate the equipment properly. In addition to storing these paper copies, you also may want to apply the fourth and fifth steps listed below to these manuals.

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The tupperware is everywhere!

One of my pet peeves in my kitchen has been the tupperware drawer. Most food storage containers aren’t that easy to stow away neatly in an organized manner. In my kitchen, we had a plastic tub that barely contained the clutter of all the bowls and lids. They just didn’t fit together nicely and the overflow began to make me see red every time I reached for a container.

Our solution was fairly simple. We purchased a set of Tupperware FlatOut containers and happily trashed our old set. The FlatOut containers are collapsible and flatten down to a half an inch which makes storage so much easier. Now when I reach for tupperware my blood pressure doesn’t rise and the clutter in that drawer is completely gone. I highly recommend these containers, which are dishwasher safe and also very durable.

The Collyer brothers, a study in compulsive hoarding

Homer and Langley Collyer were brothers who lived in a Manhattan row house in Harlem in the early part of the 20th century. Their story is bizarre and illustrates the depths people will go to hold onto anything and everything.

The discovery of just how bad the Collyer brothers’ hoarding was came to light in March 1947 when an anonymous person reported there was a dead body in the Collyer residence.

The authorities did not have an easy time gaining entrance to the home. They started by trying to remove tons of garbage from the front foyer, which consisted of newspapers, phonebooks, furniture, boxes, and other miscellaneous debris. Unsuccessful in their attempts, a patrolman broke a window on the second floor in order to gain entry. After climbing through junk for two hours, he found the body of the elder brother Homer among the boxes and trash. Missing from the home, however, was Langley, the younger of the two recluses.

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Junk Removal

So you’ve taken the initiative to clean out all of your cluttered closets, junk drawers, and other trash accumulating areas. Considering that not all of your clutter can be donated or FreeCycled, you may want to consider options on what do you do with all of those bags and boxes of unwanted clutter? Well, how about contacting 1-800-GOT-JUNK. Most city garbage collection services only pick up bulk garbage once a month, if you’re lucky. 1-800-GOT-JUNK claims:

…from old furniture and appliances to yard waste and renovation debris – including many things that your local garbage company won’t typically accept. We’ll find a time that is convenient for you – even the same day in many cases!

This is a convenient option that will help rid yourself of your unwanted clutter and your home will be better for it.

Send in your pics

Are you in the process of uncluttering your home or workspace? Send us before and after photos and we’ll post them on Unclutterer to help inspire others. Just shoot them to editor@unclutterer.com. And don’t forget we love to answer your questions on the site, so send them our way, too.

Reader question: Magazine clutter & organization

Unclutterer reader Michael wrote in with this question:

What solutions can you suggest for magazine freaks? I have about 10-12 magazine subscriptions–which means about 30+ objects or so come to my door each month, demanding attention. Plus I buy other magazines. I sit at a computer all day and so prefer not to switch to digital subscriptions.

Well, the first question you have to ask yourself is why do you have a dozen magazine subscriptions. These can pile up out of inertia because it’s often a lot easier to subscribe to a magazine than to unsubscribe. Whenever I get a renewal letter from a magazine I take the opportunity to consider whether I’ve been reading it and really enjoying it, or whether it’s been piling up unread. Piles of unread magazines can cause feelings of guilt, but you should remember that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. Let magazine subscriptions expire if you don’t devour them and no one will think the less of you for it.

Now, I’m not sure that advice applies to Michael because he seems like an avid reader who does consume the magazines he subscribes to. If that’s the case, what I suggest you do is keep them all together in one place, pull out only the one you’re reading, and always put it back before you take out another once. Magazine clutter comes from having them strewn about–on the coffee table, by the bed, in the bathroom. A drawer or a simple desk tray might be all you need to keep all your mags in the same place. If you’d like something sharper, try a nice wall-mounted magazine rack.

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Undo the junk mail damage

Jerry mentioned in a previous post a couple of ways that you can cut down on the amount of junk mail that comes into your home. His suggestions got my thoughts about junk mail spinning and I knew that someone out there had to have a service to take care of the junk mail problem for me. Not only did I find a company to do the work, but I found a company that also works toward improving the environment.

Green Dimes, for a fee of $36 per year (monthly and lifetime membership options also exist), does the leg work of unsubscribing you from the majority of junk mail lists and also has a service to specifically get catalogs out of your mailbox. You can even unsubscribe previous residents of your home from receiving junk mail at your address.

The best part of this service, however, is that for every month that you’re a member the company plants a tree in your honor. EVERY MONTH! If you become a lifetime member, they immediately plant 270 trees for you. Reading the company’s FAQ page really helped convince me that of all of the companies out there that could help reduce my junk mail problem, Green Dimes was the one for me.

Slay your wire monster, part 2

Belkin has some very useful alternatives to your usual run-of-the-mill surge protectors. They are compact and can conceal the unsightly mess of all those outlets. Belkin says:

Now you can add outlets, protect your electronics, and save space with multiple outlets as close at hand or far from view as you want them.

The regular surge protectors that you probably have are not very user-friendly and don’t lend themselves to keeping the cord situation inconspicuous. They simply serve the purpose of adding more outlets for your needs. The Belkin solutions add the outlets and take into consideration the unsightly mess that those outlets add to your home or office.

The three options are the Conceal Surge Protector, the Compact Surge Protector, and the Clamp-On Surge Protector. Each serves a different purpose and you should be able to find the one that’s right for you.

The Conceal Surge Protector does exactly what its name suggests. It conceals the outlets and plugs underneath a cover that closes over the top. Leaving a clean white box instead of a wire octopus. The Compact Surge Protector has more to do with space saving than concealment. It features a vertical design that combines functionality and style. The Clamp-On Surge Protector provides a mountable design for portability and convenience. Each model also includes a Connected Equipment Warranty.