Archives for July 2008
Our daughter used her crib for less than two years. It started to lose its usefulness when she began to climb out of it. We also decided to move her into a “big girl’s bed” when we moved into our new home. If we had gone with a convertible crib, we could have easily doubled the time she used her crib. Convertible cribs, for those who don’t know, are cribs that convert into smaller beds. This makes the transition to a regular bed a bit easier for some children, and definitely easier for parents.
The crib pictured is the Davinci Emily Convertible Crib. The large rail on the back of the crib can eventually be used for a headboard for a full-size bed, as shown. The day bed conversion rail kit, full size headboard and footboard are included with this and most convertible cribs. There are many different makes and models of convertible cribs, so make sure you shop around. Also, don’t be afraid to look for cribs on craigslist or garage sales–these are options that can save you a lot of money.
Now is my opportunity to overcome my ignorance and have the chance to really experience a well hulled strawberry with the Oxo Good Grips Strawberry Huller! I shall never eat the totally edible and scrumptious strawberry hull again!
You don’t like the Oxo option highlighted here? Well, there are no less than five different hulling options over at Amazon. I’m not experienced enough in my strawberry hulling abilities to give an educated recommendation as to which one hulls best, so maybe you should buy ALL of them to be safe!
**Each week, the Unitasker Wednesday column humorously pokes fun at the unnecessary, single-use items that manage to find their way into our homes.
- Unclutter worries from your mind
When I find my thoughts are a mess, I answer the following five questions to unclutter my mind.
- Extreme minimalism Monday: Bucket o’ food
The extreme minimalist outdoes Rachael Ray by eating for $40 a Month.
I want to introduce to everyone Sue Brenner, a new contributor to Unclutterer. She’s a mother, performance coach, and a writer living near Silicon Valley.
Just last week, maybe you tossed a business card from a new client into your car? You can look up the website on the Internet, but you would like to have the e-mail address and direct phone number of this hot new prospect. Is it under the ream of paper spilling onto the passenger’s seat? Wedged between the booster seat and the seatbelt? Or, is it mangled in a corner of the glove box?
Whether it’s a business card, your cell phone, or the extra pair of socks you need for the gym, it’s great to be able to find what you need in your car when you need it. The more you use your car and the more people who travel in it can result in your car becoming quite a clutter collector.
Use these tips to unclutter your car for mind clarity, fewer distractions, and, hey, you might just find the pen you need when you’re in the drive-through teller line at your bank.
If you envision your car exactly the way you want it, what would it look like? How would you feel when you got behind the wheel? What things would be useful for emergencies? What things would you want to keep to a minimum (such as trash, gym clothes, and popcorn kernels)? Start with the ideal in mind. You don’t have to create the perfect car setting, yet … but it’s good to have a goal to move toward achieving. With small steps, you can make it happen.
Divide and Conquer
Tackling car clutter can make you sweat. Divide your car into zones before you begin. Your zones might include: the driver’s quadrant, the front passenger’s side, the space behind the seats, and second-row seating. Unclutter one section at a time, and be sure to have a recycling bin and trash can handy for the apple cores and junk mail. Even uncluttering just one section of your car can begin to part the sea of clutter.
Do I Need This?
Let us say, hypothetically, that you find your old cell phone in a cup holder of your car. Do you keep it as decor or should you donate it to a charity that accepts cell phones? You will want to get rid of what you don’t need or what never should have found it’s way into the car initially. An extra pair of safety scissors? That may be a keeper for your car. Four coffee mugs? Probably not. (You can pass along used cell phones to Collective Good, a company that supports groups such as Red Cross.)
The 3-Bag Approach
This tip comes from my book The Naked Desk: Along with your trash and recycling bins, bring three grocery bags with you when you clean out your car. Label the first one “Does Not Belong Here.” Write on the next one, “Give Away/Return,” and label the final one, “Storage.” Each bag will serve as a receptacle for the variety of things that found their way into your car. The “Does Not Belong Here” bag, for example, would be good for tossing in the spoons, client folders, and other items you want to keep but don’t belong in your vehicle. Return these items to their homes after you’ve completed your car uncluttering project.
Junk in the Trunk
Depending on what’s in your trunk, you may need at least 15 to 20 minutes to free up space in this part of your car. Just like you did for the interior, you can section off your trunk into sections. Starting with one small area will help you sift through the jackets, dig out the suitcase from last month’s business trip, and take out the ski gear from January’s family vacation. Getting through a section will motivate you to clear out the other stuff jammed in there. Continue the 3-Bag approach to fully de-junk your trunk.
Try one or all of these tips and let us know which ones lead to a smoother, more clutter-free ride.
After a week of playing with my new iPhone 3G, I’ve found the following applications to be helpful to my productivity and in my fight against clutter.
Notes — I played with a number of the list-style programs (My Lists, iNeedStuff, To Do, etc.) and productivity applications (EasyTask Manager, OmniFocus) and found that Notes is just as effective for keeping track of action items and projects. Seeing as Notes is free and installed on the phone at point of purchase, I don’t recommend paying to download a more specialized application. Grocery lists, errand lists, and other to-do items are easily stored and erased when finished.
Photos — Use a digital camera with better than 2 megapixels and a micro focus to take closeup pictures of the bar codes on your membership cards. Then, transfer the pictures to your iPhone and store them in a folder in Photos titled “membership cards.” Barcode scanners should be able to read the barcode image and they also can be manually typed into a keypad if the scanner doesn’t work. Give it a try before you throw out your membership cards, but I’ve had success with this at my grocery store and pharmacy. (The Camera on your iPhone won’t work for taking pictures of bar codes because it can’t focus well enough at close range.)
Calculator — Ignore all of the tipping programs and budget planning programs available for download and simply use the calculator that is already installed. If you turn the iPhone on its side, the standard calculator transforms into a scientific calculator. Save your money and stick with the one that is provided and works.
Jott for iPhone — We’ve already discussed the wonder that is Jott in a previous post, so there isn’t much more to say about this application. If you’re someone who is tempted to text while you drive (DON’T DO IT!), Jott is the perfect application for you. It’s super convenient and free to download.
Evernote — Like Jott, Evernote is a program we’ve discussed in detail in previous posts. Integration with the iPhone Camera, however, makes this an even more useful tool. My only complaint is that it doesn’t seem to allow for web page tagging. It’s also a free application.
Unclutterer — Don’t forget to include an Unclutterer icon on your home screen! Directions for how to install one are here. We know that the man vacuuming his face off creeps a few of you out, but I find him to be unbelievably entertaining. Why can’t he figure out how to vacuum properly?!
Google Mobile — This application gives you iPhone formatted access to all Google applications. I’m a committed user to Google Calendar and Google Docs, so it’s nice to have these services in an easy-to-use configuration. I’ve also installed a separate Google Reader application, but you can access it through the main Google Mobile as well. It, too, is free.
The landing strip is an important area for one to have upon entry into one’s home. A traditional landing strip may be difficult to accommodate in smaller spaces. A wall mounted option might be a necessary alternative, like the one pictured here from Tiny Living. It has room for keys, mail, cellphone, and wallet.
This solution can serve as a landing strip in any home, but is especially useful for people in smaller spaces. Now tiny apartment dwellers don’t have to sacrifice floor space for a landing strip table.
(via Apartment Therapy)
A quick overview of my two email inboxes shows that I have 2,200 emails in one and just under 400 in the other. Why am I holding on to all of these messages? I’m not sure, but I’ll go out on a limb here and guess that some of you also have ridiculously high message counts.
Inbox clutter is definitely a issue I have yet to conquer and the problem is not taking care of itself. Over at 43 Folders, Merlin Mann has quite the series on emptying your inbox. It is called Inbox Zero. The series is extensive and also includes an hour long video of Mr. Mann’s Inbox Zero presentation.
From the introduction:
Clearly, the problem of email overload is taking a toll on all our time, productivity, and sanity, mainly because most of us lack a cohesive system for processing our messages and converting them into appropriate actions as quickly as possible.
Just as with any clutter, inbox clutter effects focus and takes away from the task at hand. Holding onto messages for no reason other than the fact that you “may need them one day.” Sounds like the excuse for clutter that takes up space in your basement, attic, or garage.
At 5:45 a.m. Friday, July 11, I was standing in a 17-person line at my local AT&T store. By 7:00 there were more than 100 people in line, and at 8:00 the line wrapped completely around the corner and down another block.
Being the seventeenth person in line had its advantages; I was able to purchase a 16 gig iPhone before the store ran out of merchandise. The process did not go smoothly, but by 4:15 that afternoon I had a fully functioning iPhone 3G in my pocket. The last time I upgraded my cell phone was four years ago and I think the word brick aptly describes what I had been toting around in my pocket before my conversion to the iPhone 3G.
Last summer, Jerry wrote a review about his experiences with the first generation iPhone. At the time, he didn’t see it as being a clutter-reducing device:
Because it’s a phone, a camera, an iPod, and an internet communicator, you’d think you could consolidate all of your devices. But as good as it is, it’s not going to replace a proper digital camera, a laptop, or even an iPod.
The new generation of the iPhone, however, eliminates most needs to carry an iPod or a laptop, and the camera is great for candid images. With 16 gigs of hard drive space, you can fit a great deal more of your iTunes music collection on the phone. The headphone jack was retooled between the first generation and this model, so it works now with all standard headsets. With the Airplane Mode, you can turn off wireless capabilities and watch a film on a flight. The camera is still just 2.0 megapixels, but allows for geotagging. The 3G network is significantly faster than the Edge network, and you can open Word, Excel, and Adobe PDF documents (you can’t alter these documents, but you can view them).
One of my personal favorite features is the GPS system that provides searching for area businesses and landmarks. Want to find the closest pet store? Search for “pet store,” and contact information and directions will appear for how to get from your current location to the store. It’s better than other handheld GPS device I’ve used, but since it doesn’t talk, it’s not as effective in the car. You can view turn-by-turn directions, but it won’t call them out to you as you drive:
I wish that it had a SSH client and the ability to edit Word and Excel documents, but overall it has significantly decreased the amount of items I take with me when I’m on the go. Tomorrow, I’ll review my favorite iPhone applications and how they further reduce the need to carry objects with you like a notebook, membership cards, and other pocket clutter. Are any of you new converts to the iPhone? What is your response to it and all of its hype?
- Reader question: How to dispose of old electronics?
The best ways to dispose of old electronics.
- So you think you’re uncluttered?
If you’re looking to check your uncluttered status, you might want to try rearranging the furniture in a room. Even if you end up putting your furniture back in its starting space, the act of handling an item can help you to evaluate it.
- Packing tips
I’m always amazed at the amount of stuff my wife fits into a modest-size bag for the both of us. I picked her brain so she could enlighten us on how to pack.
- Furniture line hides cable-clutter out of sight
Some new furniture designs actually comply with the demands of modern technology.
- Unitasker Wednesday: Asparagus pot
Apparently, preparing asparagus has become so difficult and confusing that the need for a specific pot is crucial in getting it prepared just right.
- Ten things to do in 10 minutes
When you’re looking to feel productive with little effort, try one of the 10 uncluttering tasks that you can do in 10 minutes.
- Taming Book Clutter
Eliminate book clutter with simple tips for getting rid of books and avoiding buying new ones.
- Free-up space in your bathroom by getting rid of nail polish
If you’re looking to free up some space in your bathroom cabinets, you might think about getting rid of your finger nail polish supply.
- Living small
Lowe’s now sells floor plans and kits for their Katrina Cottages, which have footprints starting at 544 square feet.
- Uncluttered mosquito solution
Gomestic article names five plants that help repel mosquitoes during summer months.
Reader Evan sent us the following question:
I’m an engineering student, with tons of books and papers, so I love having a big open desk to work on, but I won’t have the space in my new flat. I have an idea of using a folding desk so that when it’s not in use, it’s not in the way. Plus, it’ll force me to put away all my junk! The problem is, I can’t find anything that seems to fit the bill — all I see are cheap card tables! Can you help me find something functional, yet attractive? Of course, if you have any other tips, I’d be delighted to hear them!
I immediately thought of numerous possibilities for Evan … and then noticed he said “flat.” An inquiry proved that he, in fact, is in London. Not a single one of the options that came to my mind could be found in the UK.
Instead of sending him a reply of “sorry, I can’t help,” I thought I would open up the comments to our European readers to lend Evan a hand. What suggestions do those of you across the pond have for him? Evan and I are interested in seeing your responses!
I dislike exercising in a gym full of workout equipment. I prefer to play competitive sports in the Big Blue Room instead of puffing away on a treadmill to nowhere. Unfortunately, this means that most winters I’ll add five to 10 pounds to my weight because the weather doesn’t always want to cooperate with my outdoor sports preferences.
I’m also obsessed with video games.
So, you can imagine my delight when I started reading rumor sites about a year ago that were discussing Nintendo’s Wii Fit. I could play video games! I could get a workout indoors! Win! Win!
Now that I’ve had one in my home for a while, I think it’s safe to say that I’m smitten with it. The balance and aerobic games are immensely more entertaining than the strength and yoga activities, but my opinion of this is again tied to my disdain for gym-style workouts. The virtual “trainers” in the game also creep me out a little. Their mouths don’t move and the male and female have the same pony tail hairstyle (envision Tim Robbins’ character in High Fidelity).
Overall, though, the game is a huge hit in our home. We’ve tossed our old bathroom scales because the sensor board has one built-in. I’ve Craigslisted my six-piece-set hand weights and our other home workout equipment that wasn’t being used. I also want to add that my husband and I have lost some excess weight–another form of unnecessary clutter. Plus, the sensor board works with We Ski and hopefully more upcoming games.
If you have a competitive spirit and aren’t using your gym membership or any of your exercise equipment, consider getting yourself a Wii and a Wii Fit. The money you get from selling off your workout equipment or stop paying to your gym in membership fees will more than make up for the price of the sensor board. Additionally, we store our sensor board on the floor underneath the media center where it takes up considerably less space than all of the workout equipment we had. The Wii Fit is my uncluttered workout solution.
Images courtesy of Amazon because I couldn’t get up the nerve to post pictures of myself in workout clothing.
This week’s Workspace of the Week is hotrocket’s Pixar desk:
Seeing that Wall-E was released a couple weeks ago, I wanted to highlight this organized Pixar wall, and the very empty desk that sits in front of the shrine. This reminds me of the very organized memorabilia office we featured a while back. If you have a collection of something that you truly find inspiring, it is possible to find a way to display them so they do not overtake your workspace.
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.
The couple who lived in the house next door to me when I was growing up owned their home for more than 50 years. Helen and Richard raised their children there and stayed in the house until they passed away in their late 80s. After they left the house, a younger couple moved in and started raising a family of their own.
On a Saturday afternoon while doing repair work on the house, the new owners discovered a stack of love letters behind a loose plank in a bedroom wall. After reading “To my dearest Helen” at the top of one of the letters, they brought them to my mother so that she might be able to pass them along to Helen and Richard’s children.
My mother was delighted by her new neighbor’s discovery, and snuck a peek at the letter at the top of the pile. The letter spoke of being off at war and the uncertainty that existed in every moment. The letter’s author longed to be with Helen again and missed her dearly. Then, my mother looked at the signature, and the name wasn’t Richard’s.
When my mother passed the stack of letters along to Helen and Richard’s eldest son, she carefully chose her words. The son explained to my mother that Helen had been married to a man who died in World War II. She must not have been able to part with the letters from her first husband, and so she hid them behind the secret panel in her bedroom. The son didn’t know if she had meant to leave them or had forgotten about them over time. But, he was glad that she had kept them so that he could learn about a time in his mother’s life that she had rarely mentioned to him while she was alive.
My mother relayed the story to me minutes after Helen and Richard’s son pulled out of her driveway. We agreed that it was a beautiful story, the kind that movie plots or Nicholas Spark novels are based.
I scan most of the letters and cards I receive from family and friends and keep them only in digital format, but I have never been able to scan and toss the love letters my husband has given to me. They’re currently wrapped with a ribbon and kept in a bureau drawer. The irony is that if my house were ever destroyed, I’d have a backup copy of all of my other correspondence but lose the precious love letters from my husband.
I don’t think after hearing this story from my mother that I will ever be able to toss the love letters from my husband, even if I scan them first. Instead, I’m going to preserve the letters the best way I can:
- Scan the letters. In worst case scenario circumstances, a scan is better than nothing.
- Lightly dust the letters with a clean, dry cloth.
- Order the letters by date.
- Insert the letters into archival 8.5 x 11 pocket. The sleeves will help to protect the letters from deterioration.
- Store pages in an archival box:
The hidden panel in the bedroom is a romantic gesture, but if I’m going to keep the letters I would rather them be as protected as possible. If you have shunned our advice in the past to scan correspondence, you might want to consider the process I’ve just described as an alternative. I really like the idea of my children being able to see the love letters my husband shared with me.
The Container Store is having a summer sale between now and September 1. The sale applies to all of the store locations, as well as online. Here are a couple of my favorite items featured in the sale:
If you’re a crafty type or have a home workbench that needs some organizing help, I recommend checking out the Clip ‘N Go Craft Caddy. It’s currently $5 off its regular price and perfect for buttons or nails.
Two Elfa file carts also are on sale. The Plantinum Mesh File Cart and White Mesh File Cart are $20 off their regular prices. If you’re in need of extra file support in your home or office, these carts might be perfect for you.
(Although, we still recommend that you avoid the unitasker Squeasy Tea Bag Squeezer.)
What does one do when a craving strikes for a delicious slushy or smoothie? You can head over to your favorite smoothie joint and partake in their wide variety of flavors or you can invest in the Ultimate Professional Drink Maker. That’s right, now you can have your very own icy concoction 24/7. No need to travel out of your home to enjoy that fruity sensation. You also can use it to make some alcoholic drinks in the form of a tasty margarita or daiquiri.
So what is the catch? C’mon, you knew there had to be a catch. First off, the size of this unit is not very small. Weighing in at 55 pounds and measuring 13″ x 17″ x 30″, it has a pretty hefty footprint. The other catch is the price tag. It will set you back $2000. You must really like your homemade smoothies to own this monster!
Thanks to reader Samir 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.