Archives for July 2008
Mighty Haus, Maggie Mason’s home shopping blog, recently reviewed Green Feet’s Reusable Salad Spinner Bags. The bags caught my attention as being perfect alternatives to the bulky, yet efficient, salad spinner. From Green Feet’s website:
Yes! No more bulky salad spinners, paper or terry towels! These Spin n store bags are compact, reusable bags that spin freshly washed salad, collect water in the attached reservoir (which can easily be drained), store the salad and then can be reused over and over again.
Store bags conveniently in a kitchen drawer. Perfect for campers, RV’s, boats and apartment dwellers.
Have any of you tried these bags? If they’re worthwhile, I may actually get rid of the large salad spinner I have that takes up an inordinate amount of space in my kitchen cabinets.
One of the first things we did when we moved into our new home was paint. The old color scheme was more appropriate for a fast food restaurant than a living space.
Paint cans always seem to be left behind by previous owners and they tend to sit in a garage or basement for an eternity. So, when the previous owner asked if we would like her left over paint we told her, “no thanks,” and asked her to properly dispose of it.
What is one to do to with all the extra paint that is inevitably left over from one’s painting project? You can follow a few tips that we’ve listed in the past or check out Lowes’ tips for storage and disposal.
Another suggestion comes from Ron Hazelton, who suggests using water bottles for storage:
The key to paint storage is to minimize the amount of air in the container. So plastic water bottles of all different sizes are perfect for keeping leftover paint in good condition. Simply match the size of the bottle with the amount of leftover paint that you have.
Ron also suggests putting a couple of marbles in the bottles to make it easier to stir the paint (similar to a can of spray paint). I like the water bottle suggestion for getting rid of your mostly empty paint cans. It saves space and it will also save your paint.
I’m not much of a watch fan. I stopped wearing them when I started carrying around my cell phone, like a good portion of the population. But what if you still have a watch, even though you don’t wear it? What can you do to keep your watch wound? Enter the Wolf Designs Watch Winder. Feel free to skip the winding of your watch with this amazing product that doubles as a display case!
Now, when you are not wearing your watch, you can let everyone know you own a watch by displaying it and winding it at the same time! Simply set the machine to turn the winding mechanism forward or backward based on the direction of your watch’s wind.
What would one pay for such a product? If you guessed $300, then you were right! From the product description:
This single watch winder/rotator module 1.5 in black leather is crafted by Wolf Designs. Their name is synonymous with quality and you can be assured that your watches will be kept wound in style!
Style can not be sacrificed when it comes to keeping a watch wound. Think about that when shopping for your next watch winder!
Thanks to reader Marie for bringing this unitasker to our attention.
**Each week, the Unitasker Wednesday column humorously pokes fun at the unnecessary, single-use items that manage to find their way into our homes.
- A travel friendly solution for your baby’s dining needs
Do you have an infant or toddler and you’re traveling to a destination that isn’t equipped with a high chair?
- Coleman multi-tasking blanket
Here at Unclutterer we love multi-taskers. Especially, multi-taskers that can be stored away in a neat little bag.
- Yard sale preparation
To get our home into order we have decided to have a yard sale.
- Unclutterer joins the LifeRemix network
Unclutterer is pleased to announce that it has joined LifeRemix, a network of personal enrichment blogs. LifeRemix blogs explore the topics of productivity, happiness, work and family balance, personal development, and, of course, home and office organization.
Is your closet busting at its seams? Have you been looking for ways to get a little more functionality out of your wardrobe? Are you searching for a good magazine to read while on vacation?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions (or even if you didn’t), you should check out the latest issue of Ready Made magazine for my article “Easily Arranged: 10 ways to achieve the ultimate in closet organization” on pages 40 and 41:
As the title suggests, the article has 10 ideas for how to curb clutter and maintain order in your closet. Also, my picture and a short autobiography appear on page 86 of the magazine. I had Comic-Con on my mind when I wrote my autobiography, so it’s a little on the wacky side. The superpower I mention having, by the way, is completely true.
I’m currently reading the book Control through Communication: The Rise of System in American Management by JoAnne Yates. The book is dense, dry, and would be unfathomably boring to 99.9 percent of the world’s population. Just looking at its cover makes my husband yawn.
Seeing as I’m an odd duck, however, I’ve become mildly obsessed with the second chapter of the text, “Communication Technology and the Growth of Internal Communication.” The title of the chapter is extremely misleading, and if I were Ms. Yates I would have named it “All of the Failures that Led to Vertical Files.”
Page after page are examples of filing systems that companies tried to employ during the 19th century that were downright awful. I’ve garnered so much enjoyment out of the chapter that I thought I would share with you two of the more interesting mishaps:
According to Yates, the Wooten Desk was patented in 1874 and was an “elaborate cabinet” with “locking, swing-out cases containing pigeonholes and drawers of various sizes and shapes.” When correspondence would come into a business, the owner of the desk would keep the letter in its envelope and stuff it into one of the pigeonholes. Letters were usually arranged by oldest to newest, and each letter had to be found, reopened, unfolded, refolded, and put back into its hole if it needed to be referenced. Pigeonholes were usually assigned by individuals, and were limited to the exact size of the cubby. When letters were retired, they were often tied together with a ribbon and tossed into a box for archival storage. The whole system was a massive failure because a business owner usually had more need for pigeonholes than any desk could provide, wasted endless amount of time searching for correspondence because letters had to be reopened to be referenced, and there was no way to introduce any new information into the system because the pigeonholes were carved wood and couldn’t be rearranged.
By the 1900s, the Wooten Desk was out and the Shannon Sectional Cabinet was all the rage. Similar to the desk with many pigeonholes, this was a stand-alone cabinet that allowed for correspondence to be stored flat. Some people chose to file the correspondence alphabetically and used tabs, while others stuck with the chronological method. The system also failed. Yates notes that “retrieval of documents was still slow and laborious (though faster than with folded documents in pigeonholes), and rearrangement, while possible, was not easy. To locate correspondence in an opened box file or a horizontal cabinet file, all the correspondence on top of the item sought had to be lifted up. Since the alphabetically or numerically designated drawers in horizontal cabinet files filled up at different rates, correspondence was transferred out of active files into back-up storage at different rates as well. And the drawers could not be allowed to get too full, since then papers would catch and tear as the drawers were opened.”
Thankfully, the vertical filing system rose to popularity and became the standard filing technique by 1911. There have been many systems of vertical filing since that date, but the general concept of vertically arranged papers has remained the most efficient method of physical paper storage since its invention in 1893.
Shiny Object Syndrome. SOS! It has a nice ring to it, and more and more of us are falling into its grip. What is it, exactly? Well, you know how we’re surrounded by the latest and greatest sizzling things grabbing our attention? That can lead us to buy, explore, or go off on a tangent chasing all those new and exciting things flashing across the screen. We get seduced by the flavor of the month–that must-have tool, gadget, class, product–you name it! And we get derailed from our higher priority work tasks.
In her post “Eeek! Shiny Object Syndrome,” Karyn Greenstreet of Passion for Business writes, “It seems to be a trend that’s growing: small business owners are getting distracted by too many ideas or the latest fad, going off in a million directions and never completing anything. This loss of focus is costing you hundreds of hours a year in lost productivity, lost hours, lost dollars.”
Of course, small businesses are not the only ones afflicted by Shiny Object Syndrome. A good portion of the high-tech industry is known for buying every flashy new toy and developing hip new software just because their competition is. Here’s an example taken from p. 93 of my work-place effectiveness book, The Naked Desk:
Jacob started a new position managing the marketing department of a high tech company. Excited about what was possible for the company, Jacob latched onto one product piece of software to assist clients with day-to-day efficiency. Though several products of its kind already existed in the marketplace, Jacob envisioned creating a web-based tool that combined the bells and whistles of every hot piece of software he could think of.
His passionate presentation at the leadership meeting got him buy-in for the project. He received needed funding and started putting in 14-hour days to develop the software. The features of the software kept growing and expanding. Every week, Jacob thought of new things to add. Soon he had to request more money …
Deadline after deadline passed. The budget inflated. Countless work hours mounted from designers, developers and engineers.
The executive sponsor finally called STOP! He cancelled the project all together. Within a month, Jacob the marketing manager submitted his resignation. Because most of his focus had gone toward the software development, he did not meet his marketing and sales objectives. And this meant his position at the company was vulnerable. He opted to bow out before they asked him to leave.
Although Jacob talked a great story and stirred possibility in peopleís minds, in the end he didn’t deliver.
Like Jacob, when you make things more complex than they need to be [and you're in deep with SOS], you experience over-extended schedules, stress and inflated budgets. Not to mention disgruntled workers and all-around fatigue. Some ideas are so outlandish, in fact, that they never get off the ground. You become overwhelmed by your own vision.
Regardless of industry though, each us can easily slip into the alternate reality of SOS, exploring all the new features of FaceBook or even deciding how many features to use with MSProject. Todd Defren at pr-squred.com says it well: “Shiny Object Syndrome is marked by a headlong and heedless rush; but, lasting businesses are built when business and PR plans are carefully plotted and sculpted – not thrown against the wall to see what sticks.”
There are some questions to think about before grabbing hold of a shiny object. Greenstreet suggests asking yourself six questions:
- Is this right for my business?
- Do my customers want this, and are they willing to pay for it?
- Do I have the time, resources, energy, and money to put into this to make it successful?
- Do I have too many open projects sitting on my desk that need to be finished before I begin something new?
- Do I have the ability to finish this new project, and implement it, and maintain it?
- What has to drop off my radar in order for me to start something new?
In most cases you can zip through these questions in a minute or two. If you get a wave of impulsiveness, with thoughts firing in a have-to-do-or-buy-this-now way, how about waiting just one day? Sleep on it and then decide if the potential shiny object in front of you will be the next best direction for you, your department or company. Delayed gratification does have it’s advantages!
My wife’s manicure bag (pictured below) is in complete disarray. She has had the bag since high school, and it serves as a storage bag for all of her nail manicuring needs. She has the terrible habit of putting things into it and then never taking anything out of it:
For years I have looked the other way and ignored it, until recently when the bag’s contents spilled onto our bathroom floor. The accident provided a perfect opportunity to talk to her about a new upgrade for her manicuring storage.
She is interested in cleaning it out and finding a better solution, but we are at a loss to find a decent replacement. Anyone out there with a recommendation? We’re eager to read your suggestions.
Selling your home is nerve wrecking. I’ve done it twice in the last five years, and I hope I’m finished with real estate transactions for the foreseeable future. With the real estate market in decline, it is more important than ever to prepare your home before you put it on the market. Decluttering has to be near the top of anyone’s to-do list and it is featured prominently on this list of 25 tips prepared by an Austin realtor.
CLEAN LIKE YOU HAVE NEVER CLEANED BEFORE: This is definitely not the time for dirt, dust and grime. From bottom to top, the house needs to be spotless. From sinks to bathtubs, windows to doorknobs, attic to basement, make it immaculate. If you have to bring in a professional cleaning crew to give your home a serious scrub-down, do it.
LESS IS MORE: It is a good idea to consider removing some furniture in rooms to open up more space. Buyers want to get a good feel for the layout and space within the house. Also clear countertops, shelves and corners of appliances and miscellaneous knick-knacks and clutter, to create an open, clean look.
CLUTTERED CLOSETS AND OTHER STORAGE SPACES: Basements, garages and closets jam-packed with several years worth of old stuff are a big turn-off to buyers. Clean them out and rent storage space if necessary. Again, buyers expect access to the house and all the spaces within.
MINIMIZE CLUTTER IN DRAWERS, PANTRIES, AND CABINETS: The same is true for these spaces. Buyers like to look everywhere!
Take a look at the full list and present your home in the best way possible to buyers. It is very competitive out there and the buyers have the upper hand. If you your home isn’t in a presentable state, then the buyer will most likely look elsewhere.
If you’re someone who regularly reads comments to our posts, you’ll notice that occasionally comments will disappear. More specifically, you’ll notice that nasty grams disappear.
When I use the phrase “nasty gram” I’m not referring to people who disagree with content on our site–educated dialogue that takes issue with ideas is definitely welcome. My use of the phrase “nasty gram” is to refer to a comment that does nothing but spread nastiness and hate.
Nasty grams are pure clutter, so we clean them off the server the same way we throw away junk mail in our homes. If someone were to walk into your office spewing hate, security guards would come and remove that person from the premises. The same concept applies to Unclutterer, where we have security guards (interns and sometimes me) remove nasty grams from the server.
Thankfully, over the course of the past six months, we’ve only had to remove about 40 nasty grams from the site. We’re pretty convinced, too, that the majority of nasty grams aren’t written by readers of our site but by trolls who get their jollies off of leaving hate mail around the internet. Because, seriously, who else has time to write nasty comments? I barely have time to keep up with reading and commenting on blogs I enjoy. I can’t imagine how I would find the time to read blogs I think are crap AND leave messages on them.
Oh, and in addition to removing nasty grams, we’ll remove comments that notify us about broken links when we fix the links. We remove the notice so that it doesn’t confuse people once the link is working. I think this is common practice among most blogging communities.
Speaking of other blogs, if you have one, let me recommend that you also follow an uncluttered comments policy. Delete the nasty grams off your website without a second thought. You’re not fond of having clutter in your home, so feel welcome to get rid of it on your site!
- Of uncluttering buddies and shoes
Grab a friend and work together in your closet
- Child’s beach bag can help contain beach toy clutter
Children’s beach toys can quickly grow out of control, and a beach tote of his or her own can help solve the problem.
- Craftsman tool chest becomes non-traditional jewelry box
All of your jewelry, regardless of size or shape, can fit comfortably inside a Craftsman Six Drawer Tool Chest.
- Website helps identify walker-friendly neighborhoods
Walk Score ranks the walkability of a neighborhood for people interested in a car-free lifestyle.
- Unitasker Wednesday: Apple peeler-corer
My love affair with Williams-Sonoma’s endless supply of unitaskers continues with this contraption to help you peel and core your apples.
- Attack your junk drawer
We all have at least one drawer in our house that has turned into what can be called a junk drawer.
- Organizing your dorm room
So is it possible for college aged co-eds to keep their dorms in an organized and uncluttered state? Here are some tips and products to help achieve the nearly impossible task.
- More than 15 ways to handle recurrent clutter
There are three areas in my home that are on a recurring cycle of being cluttered and cause me stress: the kitchen, the family room, and the dirty clothes hamper in the bedroom. Provided in the post are more than 10 helpful hints for dealing with this clutter.
- Reader question: How to dispose of unused medications
Medicines are hazardous waste and should be disposed of properly.
Golf is a leisure activity for most people, yet some golfers I’ve played with end a round more stressed than they began it. And, no wonder, they’ve just spent four hours lugging 50 pounds worth of equipment around a couple miles of grassy hills.
How can you expect to be on top of your game if you’re tired and sore by the time you make the turn to the back nine?
If you’re a pro, you hire a caddy. But what about the rest of us? Should we be expected to lose out on the exercise aspect of the sport by driving around in silly little cars with our enormous overflowing equipment bags strapped to our backs?
The standard golf club set is based on the idea that each golfer should have one consistent swing, and vary the club to achieve the desired result. If you spend three days a week swinging a golf club, this may be the case for you, but most people have a slightly different swing for each club.
I’ve been swinging a golf club since I was four years old, placed in tournaments, and played on the team in high school. I still consider myself a decent golfer even though I play only for fun now, and I’ve NEVER had a consistent swing. I regularly became frustrated with the inconsistency and the hassle of dealing with a big golf bag full of clubs.
So, two years ago, I ditched most of them.
That’s right, I now have a lightweight bag with only a driver, 23 degree hybrid, 5, 7, 9, PW and putter. And, my game has not suffered. In fact, now that my bag is lighter, and I don’t have to worry about deciding whether my six iron or seven iron is the right club for a shot, I’m having much more fun. By limiting the number of clubs I carry, I’m able to better master each one.
There’s an old golf joke about a golfer in a thunderstorm holding aloft a two iron to protect him from lightning. “Not even God can hit a 2 iron,” he explains. It’s funny, because for most people, it’s true. Why are you still carrying a two iron in your bag? Get rid of those clubs you rarely use, leave the cart and your frustrations at the clubhouse, and love the game again!
Reader Amanda recently contacted us with the following question:
Could you write on the idea of how a home office should function?
It seems like an innocuous question at first. Obviously a home office should be used for, um, home office, uh, stuff …
But, it turns out, it’s not such a simple question. Identifying all of the reasons why a person might have a home office and then all of the possibilities for how that home office should function are quite extensive tasks. The specific requirements a single, graduate student, working on his dissertation might have are far different than those of an active family with four children where both parents work outside the home.
It is possible, however, to write about over-arching ideals that should be present in a home office. Here are the big picture goals I believe all home offices can strive to achieve:
- Welcoming. Strive to create the most comfortable, productive, inspiring, and organized environment that you can for your work space. You want this area to make boring tasks like filing home owners association documents as pleasant as possible. If your stress level rises when you walk past this space, you’re not going to use it.
- Flexible. The demands that you put on this space can change from year-to-year, or even day-to-day. You want your space to be able to adapt to your needs. This means that you need to have room on a shelf and in a drawer to grow–at all times. If your space is completely full, then it becomes a museum or library instead of a functional office. You want your files to be able to accept new entries and your desk to be ready to handle your next big idea.
- Consistent. The more consistent your office systems are, the more likely you will be to maintain them. Save files on your computer and in your filing cabinet using names and categorizations that makes retrieval quick and possible. Keep the learning curve low and let it reflect the way you think and work. Additionally, be consistent about putting objects away when you’re finished using them so that you will be able to find them the next time you need them.
Regardless of what type of work you need to do in your office, having a welcoming, flexible, and consistent environment will make it a functional space. The better your office can work for you, the better work you can accomplish in your home office.
How does your office measure up to these standards? I know that mine could use a little work in the flexibility department. My filing cabinet is almost busting at its seams!
This week’s Workspace of the Week is Rephlektiv’s Brooklyn office:
This is one of those offices that screams to be chosen for our Workspace of the Week feature. It’s brilliantly organized (check out the image notes for details), a creative use of resources (look at the window/dry erase board in the upper right-hand corner of the picture), and it has an amazing view (Brooklyn by day, Manhattan by night). In fact, I’m already brainstorming ways for how I can incorporate some of Rephlektiv’s ideas into my home office. What a terrific entry!
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.
Today we present Intern Julia’s first installment in her series on back-to-school preparations.
As students everywhere start preparing to head to college this fall, I want to talk about the art of small-space living. College students are a demographic that have particular stock in simple living, as well as anyone with more possessions than space. Whether it be a 500 square foot New York City studio apartment or a shared room with a sibling, it can be difficult to live in a space the size of a dorm room.
Most students arrive at campus for the first time, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, with a minivan containing all of our worldly possessions. This is great until we’re affronted with a dorm room approximately the size of a large closet.
If this sounds like it could be you, here are a few basics for maximizing your living space. For my first post in my series on tiny living, I want to begin with the obvious tip:
Reassess your stuff.
The best way to fit your stuff into an itty-bitty space is to have less stuff. Only take the essentials with you. You shouldn’t abandon all of your trinkets at your parents’ place, either. Photograph and get rid of the napkin from prom and donate those t-shirts from your middle school musical to a local charity.
If your dorm room is a suite and has a kitchen, do you really need that minifridge, toaster, and microwave? Are any of your roommates bringing those items? There is no sense in having three blenders, even if you really like “smoothies.”
Do you really need to have your CD collection at college, in the age of iPod? Or DVDs? Take advantage of your school’s student programming and see films for free.
Unless you are in the business school, do you need that suit? Do you really need that commemorative Coors Light bobblehead, under any circumstance?
Good luck to everyone heading off to school in the fall and stay tuned for more back-to-school tips in the coming weeks. Also, even if you follow this advice, be prepared to bring a lot of things home for Thanksgiving break.