What does it mean to ‘honor’ mementos?

beastieWe talk a great deal about “honoring” the mementos you chose to keep in your home. This exact word we picked up from Peter Walsh, but it’s a concept most everyone in the organization business has understood for years. In short, when we say that you should “honor” your mementos, we mean that if you’re going to the trouble of keeping something in your home, you should at least treat that item with respect. Being shoved in a messy closet, typically, is not honoring an object.

How you chose to honor something is a personal choice and full of seemingly endless possibilities. I thought that I would discuss one of my collections to give you an idea of how you could choose to honor something in your home. My example is concert posters.

When I was in journalism school working on my undergraduate degree, I was convinced I was going to be the next Cameron Crowe. I interviewed every band that came through town (Everclear, Jackopierce, mid-1990s groups) and every legend who set foot on campus (Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Patty Smith, Debbie Harry). When I wasn’t in class, I worked as a disc jockey for the local commercial station and had an internship with the company that booked all of the shows at the region’s concert amphitheater. In my mind, there was nothing standing between me and being the next Editor-in-Chief of Rolling Stone.

I was exactly like most people in their early twenties. I was trying to figure out who I was and who I wanted to grow to become. I still love music, though, and it will always be a part of me. Plus, if I hadn’t gone through my Cameron Crowe-obsession stage in college, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

So, how do I respect those memories? I frame them. I put concert posters in ridiculously ornate frames and hang them in my hallway. They’re fun. They make me smile. And, most importantly, they’re treated with respect and honored in a way appropriate to their memory.

I don’t have concert posters from every show I’ve attended. I only have kept those that are the most important to me. The one in the photograph above is from a secret concert the Beastie Boys performed a number of years ago in DC. Bad weather delayed the band so they bought pizza for everyone who stuck around to hear them play. By the time they went on stage, only a hundred or so people were still at the venue. I saw the show with one of my closest friends and it felt like we were watching the band at a small house party. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I framed the poster from the show and hung it on my hallway wall in tribute to that night.

Gift card clutter

Gift CardWith the holidays behind us and the popularity of gift cards increasing every year, make sure you don’t let them go unspent. According to the E-Commerce Times, about $8 billion worth of gift cards’ value will go unspent. Here are some tips so you don’t let your gift cards go to waste.

Keep them all together. If you have gift cards all over the place you’ll end up losing track of them. Keep them in one spot and look through them before you head out shopping.

eBay them. If you received a gift card to a retailer that you don’t particularly like, eBay is a good way to get rid of the card. Rather than being stuck with a card that you will never use, get some value out of it. (The value is usually around 80%)

Don’t buy just because you can. If you have a gift card, don’t make that an excuse to purchase something. If you don’t like Pottery Barn, don’t feel compelled to purchase $100 worth of their merchandise. Again, use eBay to get rid of it. Don’t clutter your home with gift-card guilt purchases.

Rock Band clutter

One of the most popular games this holiday season is Rock Band. Think Guitar Hero, but multiplied by three. The game not only includes a guitar, but a drum kit and a microphone. Now, all your friends can pretend to be rock stars at the same time!

I’ve never played Guitar Hero (and I don’t intend to start), but Rock Band seems like an unclutterer’s nightmare. The storage space needed for all of these fake instrument controllers is ridiculous. For all the strides that gaming has made in making their systems smaller and wireless, they have been demolished by Rock Band. Not many homes are equipped for impromptu jam sessions, so be forewarned as to what you are purchasing for your children. You will have to deal with the consequences of your clutter. And more often than not, you will most likely have to play the roadie and clear the stage of all the fake instruments. That is when I would threaten to sell the game and all of its peripherals. Mom and Dad aren’t roadies and the den isn’t going to be a studio.

For more on Rock Band, here is an article in the Charleston City Paper.

A fond farewell to 2007

The Unclutterer staff wants to send off 2007 with a list of our favorite posts from this year. These aren’t necessarily the posts that were the most read or the most commented, but are the ones we love for some reason we can’t really explain. Most of all, we hope you enjoyed them!

Do you have a favorite post? We would love to know which posts bookmarked a place in your hearts, too!

Workspace of the Week: Fold-away desk

This week’s Workspace of the Week is Joker the Lurcher’s fold-away desk:

I appreciate this desk because all of the peripherals and the user’s work product can be folded up with one, quick motion. Yes, the computer will still be visible on top of the desk, but all of the other stuff simply disappears. I like this for someone who works from home because it would make the separation between work life and home life concrete. I’m more than a little envious of this setup.

Want to have your own workspace featured in Workspace of the Week? Submit a picture to the Unclutterer flickr pool. Check it out because we have a nice little community brewing there. Also, don’t forget that workspaces aren’t just desks. If you’re a cook, it’s a kitchen; if you’re a carpenter, it’s your workbench.

Organize ticket stubs in a dedicated diary

If you’re someone who can’t part with ticket stubs, you may be interested in making something like the Ticket Stub Diary from Uncommon Goods.

From the product description:

With this Ticket Stub Diary you can preserve your precious memories from concerts, museums, movies, sporting events, Broadway shows and more. Comes with clear sleeves that fit a variety of ticket sizes, plus space in the margin to write down your memories from the event. Acid-free pages will preserve your memories; so that one day you can tell your grandkids that you met The Boss.

Unfortunately, the website says that the exact product won’t be available again until March 2008. Creating your own wouldn’t be too difficult, however, with a scrapbook cover, photo corners, and some acid-free paper (or go for an all-in-one kit).

I photograph my ticket stubs and then toss them, so the idea of a memory book for them is personally a bit much. (Concert posters are another issue altogether, which I’ll address next week.) If you’re someone who holds onto stubs, though, you should definitely consider an uncluttered solution similar to these.

Thanks to reader Robin for the head’s up about the Ticket Stub Diary!

Good Housekeeping’s 30 minute clutter solutions

Good Housekeeping has an interesting online tool to help you organize and clean just about every room of your home. It is the 30 Minute Clutter Solution. The solutions are helpful and cover a wide range of areas from kitchens and pantries to laundry rooms. Each tip is supposed to take 30 minutes. This will give you a target as to how much time you should spend on each solution without becoming obsessive about it. We love the idea of combining the Good Housekeeping system with our suggestion of spending half an hour cleaning each day during the week.

Check out the 30 Minute Clutter Solution. It may become a useful resource for future cleaning projects.

Unitasker Wednesday: Electric garlic roaster

Garlic RoasterMy wife and I love garlic. We generally go overboard on our garlic intake, but we tend to have a hefty tolerance for each other’s garlic breath so it works out okay. Even with our mutual cravings for all things garlic, we find this Electric Garlic Roaster ridiculous.

Roasting garlic isn’t rocket science. You put it in a conventional oven wrapped in tin foil with a little olive oil. There is no need for another small appliance. Unless, of course, you are pulled in by this gadget’s cool garlic shape. I guess the shape will help you remember what it is for when you find it in the back of one of your cupboards in 10 years. So, I guess, that’s a good thing.

**Unitasker Wednesday posts humorously poke fun at the single-use items that manage to find their way into our homes.

Uncluttering your refrigerator’s crisper

crisperWe joke in our home that the refrigerator’s crisper drawer should really be called the molding drawer. It seems to be the place where fruits and vegetables go to rot. We put things in, forget about them, and then find them weeks later covered in a green goo. Also, when you put fruits and vegetables in the drawer, all of the healthiest items in the refrigerator are instantly out of sight. Only the pizza leftovers and soda pop are right at eye-level.

A number of months ago, I started to wonder about my refrigerator and if the crisper drawer should even be used at all. I then went on a quest to learn about the fruits and vegetables in my refrigerator and the best ways to store them. The information I found was enlightening:

Apples: According to the Purdue Horticulture Dept., apples are best stored in plastic bags with air holes in a 30-32?F refrigerator. They recommend putting them on shelves instead of the crisper drawer to permit proper circulation and humidity. Do not freeze.

Bananas: From Chiquita Banana, “To slow the ripening process once bananas reach your preferred ripeness, put them in the refrigerator. Even though our original jingle warned consumers not to refrigerate bananas, it’s really OK. The skin may turn dark, but the fruit will be just right for several days.” (It doesn’t say anything about them having to be stored in the crisper drawer.)

Corn: Being from a family of corn growers, I know this one without having to reference anything. In husk, use it the day you buy it. If you’re not going to use it that same day, remove the husk, vacuum seal it, and store it in the freezer.

Bell peppers: According to the Texas Produce Association, bell peppers can handle short-term storage for seven days or less at 45-50 degrees with 85-95 percent humidity. If you store a pepper below 42 degrees it will suffer from chill injury. (Which means that I need to use peppers the day I buy them. My refrigerator sits below 42 degrees.) Additionally, don’t store next to apples because of a chemical reaction.

Tomatoes: According to the Penn State Agriculture Dept., tomatoes should be stored in an aerated basket on your counter, out of direct sunlight. Putting them in the refrigerator will cause them to lose their aroma and flavor.

Potatoes: According to the Delicious Organic website, “Because their starch turns to sugar in the refrigerator, they should be kept in a dark, dry, cool area like a cellar or a brown bag. However, out of sight, out of mind, and our south Florida temperatures cause them to sprout too quickly and we don’t have cellars so what to do? Store them in the refrigerator but let them come to room temperature for a day (take them out in the morning) so that their sugar can return to starch.”

Herbs and lettuce: According to the Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension, “Lettuce should be rinsed under cold running water, drained, packaged in plastic bags, and refrigerated.” The refrigerator should be at least 40?F or lower, and you should eat the greens within a week. Do not freeze.

Onions: According to the Foodservice Guide, “Store your onions in a cool, dry ventilated place–not in the refrigerator. Lack of air movement reduces storage life. Chopped or sliced onions can be stored in a sealed container in your refrigerator for up to 7 days.” Do not freeze.

After looking at all of the research, I couldn’t find a single reason to keep my crisper. So, my refrigerator is now crisper-drawer free. I’ve pulled out the drawers and have deep shelves where they used to be. Rotten food is the epitome of clutter, so hopefully I’m starting out the year on the right foot with my refrigerator’s organization.

Additionally, if you want to read more about uncluttering your refrigerator, check out Serious Eats’ post on How to unclutter your winter fridge.

Celebrate!

Like a good chunk of the western world, Unclutterer’s offices are closed today. We wish everyone who celebrates Christmas a merry one, and the rest of you we wish a joyful day off from work! We’ll return tomorrow to share more Uncluttering insights.

Slimmed down kitchen faucets

faucetKitchen faucets have become much more sleek and compact over the years. If your kitchen is still equipped with a traditional two handled faucet and a separate sprayer attachment, you may want to make the switch to something like this Price Pfister model. The water’s temperature is regulated by a standalone arm design that isn’t very new, but the sprayer is contained in the spout for a convenient design that keeps your sink less cluttered.

If you do go with a newer and sleeker design for your sink you can install a soap dispenser, as one of our readers suggested. This will further free your sink of clutter by getting rid of those pesky soap bottles that seem to get in the way of just about everything.

Minimalist-style cooking for the holidays

In September, when The New York Times online stopped the pay-to-read system, I linked to my favorite minimalist-style Mark Bittman article: “101 Summer Express: Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less.”

Wednesday, Bittman wrote a follow-up article that is perfectly themed for the holiday season: “101 Simple Appetizers in 20 Minutes or Less.” Bittman’s low-effort cooking is right in line with this Unclutterer’s style. Enjoy!