29 days a leaping

Leap Day — oh, it’s such the mysterious date on the calendar. Every four years it appears and gives us an extra 1,440 minutes. It’s a bonus day just hiding out in February. Sneaky, sneaky.

Geralin Thomas, long-time friend of Unclutterer and owner of Metropolitan Organizing in Cary, North Carolina, has an article up on the Fine Living Network website with suggestions for how to spend this day. One of her organization suggestions from the article is quite cool (pun intended):

Just Chill: If you scramble around, wasting time looking for your reading glasses, mobile phone, remote control or car keys on a regular basis, it’s probably because you don’t have a designated place for things. While this idea sounds crazy, it works! Get a cafeteria-style tray – the kind with separated compartments – and a label maker. Label the sections: Keys, Glasses, Wallet, etc. Before going to bed, put these items in their appropriate place and set the entire tray, contents and all, in the fridge.

Happy Leap Day!

Workspace of the Week: A transformed room

This week’s Workspace of the Week is AimeeRoo’s transformed office:

The area has purpose, structure, and space to move and be creative. What is best of all, is that it used to look like this:

AimeeRoo committed herself to shaping up the space, and even did it without spending a single dollar on the redesign. Other angles of the room include a dedicated arts and craft space and her washer and dryer. Before, it was a disorganized room, and now it’s a wonderful, transformed office. Great work, AimeeRoo!

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.

Weekend project: Tackle the area beneath your kitchen sink

I have to admit that I never think about the area under my sink. Even when I reach inside of it to grab the dish-washing detergent, I keep my eye on the soap and nothing else. It’s a dark pit and can be a scary place if left unattended.

This weekend, I want you to tackle the area beneath your kitchen sink. Would a pull-out drawer or shelving system help you to better organize the space? (I love ours, which is pictured, but I don’t know where the previous homeowner purchased it.) Are there things down there that can be thrown out or relocated to a more appropriate space? Are you accidentally hoarding sponges because you forgot you have already purchased two dozen of them?

Remember, too, that I’m not a fan of having your trashcan beneath your sink. I understand that if you have dogs, small children, or an incredibly small space that you may have no other choice. But, if your trash could be moved someplace else, maybe now is the time to consider that option.

If the area beneath your kitchen sink is organized, what about the area beneath your bathroom sinks? Can those areas be straightened or the space more efficiently arranged?

These areas are best to keep clear of clutter because of the damage that can result if a pipe bursts or your drain starts leaking. Plus, it’s good to be able to tell if your pipe or drain is leaking — something that is difficult to do if you have too much stuff in this place. It’s best to keep valuables out of these spaces and the area easily accessible for a plumber. The last thing you want to do is have to waste time clearing a path for someone who is about to cost you a hundred or more dollars an hour.

A multifunctioning curtain system

My husband and I are redecorating our bedroom. Our first step was to acquire a duvet cover we liked, and then we painted the walls a pale grey to match. Our next step was to decide on window treatments.

After evaluating what I can only refer to as every single curtain option on the market, we decided to go with the Ikea Kvartal system. Our windows are around 11′ tall, and they let the most amazing light into the room. We didn’t want to block this light during the day, but we wanted privacy at night.

We ran the three rail curtain rod (pictured at right) across the whole length of the wall. This allows us to pull the panels fully off the windows where they can act as artwork during the day. Also, we’re only using two of the three rails right now, and we’re planning on hanging artwork from the third rail like we do from our art gallery system. We like the versatility the system provides, too, so that we can easily and cheaply change the fabric as our tastes change.

Big window without curtains:

Big window with curtains:

Wall between windows without curtains:

Wall between windows with curtains:

I’m writing about these curtains on Unclutterer because they have such a multifunctioning purpose to them — panel curtains, panel artwork, and an art gallery system. Additionally, they have a very clean aesthetic.

If you’re thinking about a similar curtain system, let me offer some advice:

  1. Fully assemble the rod and attach it to the wall mounts before hanging it on the wall.
  2. The cut of your panel fabric needs to be straight for your walls/ceiling, not the actual fabric. (We learned our walls are not straight.)
  3. Like all things Ikea, serious assembly is required for this project.

Also, I want to apologize for the poor quality of these photographs. I was trying to only shoot the top of the windows since the rest of our bedroom is in disarray with the redecorating, and it didn’t result in attractive pics. My father, a professional photographer, will be calling any minute now to instruct me about where I went wrong.

Next up on our bedroom redecoration project is new furniture …

Modular kitchen design

While looking around the web for multi-functioning kitchen tools and gadgets, I stumbled upon the following design for a modular kitchen. As you can see from the photos, the modular kitchen designed by Fevzi Karaman is an interesting concept for small spaces. It looks to be, at this point, just a concept. Hopefully, in the near future this modular kitchen concept will be available for purchase. Just about everything you need in a kitchen is packed into this small, rectangular counter top:

Fevzi Kitchen 1

Fevzi Kitchen 2

Obviously, this is intended for small living spaces and isn’t going to be very useful for larger families. For a small space, however, it is well done.

(via Tuvie.com)

Unitasker Wednesday: Food molds

Penguin Sausage MoldYou may have eaten a few hardboiled eggs in your day, but have you ever eaten one in the shape of a cute little fish? If you or you child have been waiting for a more exciting ways to consume hardboiled eggs, your opportunity is now. Over at Slashfood, they highlight the fish mold for all your hardboiling needs. Those folks in Japan think of everything don’t they?

Once you’ve had your taste of an egg in the shape of a cute little fish, you’ll most likely be craving for some more molded foods. Not to worry, the good people at the eBay Store in Japan have your sausage making covered with the Penguin Sausage Maker (pictured). Have you always wanted to have a little more fun when eating plain old sausage links? Your morning breakfast will be full of excitement when you take a bite out of a sausage link shaped like a lovable little penguin. Penguins not for you? How about sausage in the shape of a crab or an octopus? Either way, you’ll be living it up with your newly found love for molded foods.

Wait, what about your kid’s lunch? You’re covered there, too. Boring sandwiches can now be cut and molded into bears, bunnies, or flowers. Take your pick. Now, go forth and eat some molded food!

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

Creating extra storage and counter space in a small kitchen

Everyone welcome Teri Kieffer! This is her first post for us as an Unclutterer writer.

You’ve been a good Unclutterer and gone through your cabinets and discarded the items you never use. You’ve put away the rarely used appliances that sat on your countertop. For those with a good size kitchen, you’re done. Your kitchen is uncluttered. But what about the rest of us?

If you’re like me and you rent an apartment or own a condo with a tiny kitchen, your counter space still doesn’t offer enough room to cook a complete meal. I have size and poor design to deal with in my kitchen. I can clear my counters completely and still have a difficult time finding space to cut vegetables. To work around this dilemma, I have found a solution: A kitchen cart.

I used to think kitchen carts were silly. That is, until I had a real use for one. Now, I can’t exist without it.

My cart won’t fit inside the kitchen, so I have to store it against the wall across from the kitchen entrance. When it’s time to cook, I just wheel the cart over to the kitchen and, suddenly, I have all the counter space I need. It also blocks off the entrance, keeping my husband and the dog out of my cooking space.

Here is what to look for in a kitchen cart:

  • Sturdy – You need to be able to chop things on it, so go for something that won’t rock or cause you to slice your fingers
  • Wheels – You should be able to move it where you need to use it
  • Wire Racks – This feature is great for holding mixing bowls and other items used for cooking
  • Hooks (optional) – If you’re also short on drawer space, the hooks are nice for utensils

LinkBun.ch unclutters messages with multiple links

Reader Craig recently submitted a link to us about a link bundling service called LinkBun.ch. From an article about the service:

“LinkBunch is a service that does exactly what it sounds like it should do: condenses multiple URLs into one short address. Just paste them all into one text box, hit a button, and your new, slimmer URL is ready to go. Your days of sending just one LOLcat picture at a time are over! When someone clicks on your LinkBunch, they’re directed to a page that shows all the links you included.”

If you’re working on a project for a client and you want to show him three different versions of a design, now you can send him one uncluttered link instead of three. This service also works well for twitter posts and texting when you want to save keystrokes.

If you have a link you want to share with us go to http://del.icio.us, and mark your suggested link “for:unclutterer” (without the quotes).

Casualties of the format wars

It is always a risky decision to make when competing formats are at each other’s throats for market dominance, but what if your early adoption choice is on the wrong end of the format wars? If you don’t know what I’m referring to here, you probably haven’t made a choice between Blu-Ray or HD DVD. Recent developments have basically put the nail in HD DVD’s coffin, so it looks like HD DVD will go the way of Betamax.

What should one do with the HD DVD player and discs that are basically going to become relics of the latest format wars of home entertainment? Well, you could try and return all of your HD DVD merchandise if you have the receipts and are within the return date cut off. But, what if that ship has sailed? Are you supposed to hold on to this dying format only to pull it out in 20 years to impress your technophile friends with this short-lived format?

Should you resort to listing it on eBay or Craigslist? It seems that a lot of people already have that idea. Could you use the discs as coasters for your drinks? Not really a great idea either. Unfortunately, I think you just admit that it’s time to move on and buy a replacement Blu-Ray player. If you choose to dispose of your old player, be sure to read our post on disposing electronics first.

I’m going to hold off buying a new DVD player for a while and rely on digital distribution for my HD movie viewing pleasure. Services like Amazon’s Unbox and my cable provider’s On Demand make this relatively simple. It is definitely the most uncluttered of all the options, and I’m in no hurry.

For those of you who have all the hardware needed to convert HD DVDs to Blu-Ray, Wired has a tutorial on how to do just that.

Multifunctional home office hub

CNET’s positive review of the Brother MFC-685cw Color Inkjet Multi-Function Center caught my attention mainly because of the inexpensive price and all the functions it performs. For a price as low as this ($130), you can’t really expect to have high quality photo printing when the device consolidates so many functions into one product. But, if you are in the market for an all-in-one printer, fax, scanner, copier, phone, answering machine, wireless network interface, and photo printer, this may be for you.

You are sacrificing quality for quantity and run the risk of losing all functionality if one of the devices breaks, but you are saving space. Fewer wires and a smaller footprint for your home office can be beneficial to an uncluttered workspace.

Reader suggestion: Staying organized with binder clips

Reader Christine, author of the blog Compass and Coffee Spoons, has a terrific little suggestion for staying on top of paperwork. A traditional tickler file didn’t work for her, so she found a system that did. After learning about her process, I asked if she could write up a post for us explaining it. Thank you, Christine, for sharing your tip with us!

Like most people, I am constantly battling the paper monster. Though I am making strides in going digital, I had been struggling on how to organize the things I still receive as hard copies. Inevitably, there are things that need to be filed, paid, or acted upon in some way at some time that does not exactly coincide with the moment I first touch them. For me, letter sorters didn’t work — the papers would end up avalanching all over the place or would be sorted incorrectly. I had tried and failed to use a “to do” file folder; I personally benefit from visible reminders and would easily forget about them when I filed the papers.

After seeing small binder clips with “to do” and other similar words printed on them, I was inspired to create my own using regular large binder clips and a labelmaker. I printed labels on my labelmaker that read “To Do,” “To File,” and “To Pay,” placed them on the binder clips, and hung the clips on sleek aluminum pushpins on the inside of my coat closet door. The papers are out of sight when I want them to be, but serve as a visual reminder for all my “to dos” each time I open my closet door. The size of the clip also creates a limit to how long I can put off the inevitable.

This idea can be applied in various ways, of course. I can see it working on a bulletin board or wall in a home office, or inside of kitchen cabinets. (Magnetic spring clips could be substituted on a chalk board or other magnetic surface.) You might want to have one by the front door for papers you must bring with you when you travel. This would also be a good way to organize kids’ homework or household information you need to frequently access (for that application, I could see laminated sheets on a ring, with the clips as identifiers). You could also use color-coding — either painting them yourself on regular black binder clips or by purchasing clips in various colors. No matter where, why, or how, it’s a cheap and easy idea that can help you be a little less paper-crazed.

Is ‘trading up’ your space worth it?

Are you in constant pursuit of a bigger, better home? Do you think that more space will solve your problems or alleviate the stress of your stuff? Are your eyes set on the biggest house you can afford?

If you answered affirmatively to any of the above questions, you may want to take a few minutes to read Daniel McGinn’s Newsweek article “Extreme Downsizing: How moving from a 6,000-square-foot custom home to a 370-square-foot recreational vehicle helped quell one family’s ‘House Lust.’

The family featured in the article is getting ready to buy a home on land and give up their RV after two years on the road. They have learned a number of valuable lessons over the past two years, but this one stuck out to me:

“Debbie makes it clear that their next home, while smaller, will still be nicely appointed. It’s not as if she’s forsaken the American dream altogether; she has just realized that the endless cycle of ‘trading up’ to nicer homes isn’t very fulfilling. ‘It was this constant “This will be the answer.” Then you’d come up empty at the end,’ she says. ‘It was this searching thing, and I think I’m done with the search.'”