Archives for April 2009
According to the article “Stress and the Decision to Change Oneself” in a 1994 issue of Social Psychology Quarterly, there are six factors that significantly improve a person’s chances of making a change in his life:
1) A stressor disrupts or threatens to disrupt a valued role-identity, 2) one attributes responsibility for the stressor to an aspect of self that one believes can be changed, 3) one has access to structural supports for self-change, 4) one believes that one can effect self-change, 5) the perceived benefits of self-change outweigh the perceived costs, and 6)others provide social support for self-change.
Since this quote is from a professional journal article and not written in Unclutterer-speak, let me rework it without the jargon:
- You don’t like how you’re behaving.
- You know you are responsible for making the change; no one else can do it for you.
- You have access to information that can help you change.
- You believe you can change.
- You believe making the change is worth it.
- Your friends and family support your change.
Thinking about my transformation from a clutter bug into an unclutterer, I realize that all six of these factors were present. I was stressed out and overwhelmed all the time and I hated it. I knew I needed to sort through my stuff and that I would be upset if someone else just dumped it. I did research to find out how to unclutter my life (if only Unclutterer.com would have been around back then, this would have been a much easier process). I varied my intensity, but most days I believed I could change how I was living. I also believed that making the change would help my marriage, friendships, stress levels, and time management issues. And, everyone around me was willing to lend a hand if I would have asked for it.
If you’re having difficulties on your path to becoming an unclutterer, is it because you’re missing one of these six factors? What is keeping you from changing? Do you agree with this list? Share your views in the comments.
I’m always looking for ways to save a little cash and to free-up storage space in the kitchen. Recently, while standing in the grocery aisle grumbling over the price of parchment paper, I realized that I was about to make a bad purchase.
For less than what I spend per year on parchment paper, I could buy two reusable Silpat silicone baking mats and simply store them flat in my cookie sheets. I’ll save money and storage space.
I can’t believe I didn’t think of this earlier. Now I’m worried there are even more obvious things like this that I’m missing. What substitutions have you made in your home to save money and storage space? Share your substitutions in the comments.
All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!
One of the reasons I hate refreshing cold beverages in the summer heat is the “shocking splash of wayward ice cubes.” Thankfully, the IceBlok set puts an end to such shocking, horrible events. Made from space-age material (I’m assuming), the IceBlok will keep terrifying ice from falling into your face. From the product description:
Simply add ice to glass, slide IceBlok in, and sip beverage; IceBlok stays in place to keep ice out of your face.
Stop using straws that do the exact same thing, and get yourself an IceBlok!
Thanks to reader jsn for bringing this unitasker to our attention.
- Strategies to clear food clutter in your kitchen
Ways to clear food clutter in your kitchen to promote healthier eating habits.
- Handling sentimental clutter
We all have something that we are holding on to that serves no purpose other than to remind us of someone, something, or some important event.
- The highchair is in the way, again
In our recent move to a smaller home, we have noticed that our daughter’s highchair is in the way more often than not.
- If you have a job you hate, prioritize what is important to you and align your career accordingly
Life is to short to have a job you hate with every fiber of your being.
- Amazon’s Kindle is in stock
Amazon has since increased production and the Kindle is now available for immediate shipment.
- Paper clutter begone, part 2
Manuals and instruction booklets can be stored digitally to free up storage space and decrease clutter in your home.
- There’s wealth in simplicity
The advice in The 4-Hour Workweek jibes very well with our own philosophy here at Unclutterer: simplify to be happier, not to be a monk.
- Toy clutter treatment
Teach your kids to take charge of their own toy clutter.
At Unclutterer, we abide by the motto “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” In addition to this motto, we also have a number of uncluttered sayings that work their way into many of our posts:
- The less you own, the less you have to clean. This applies to quantity of objects as well as square footage in your home.
- One in, one out. If you buy something new, you need to get rid of whatever it’s replacing.
- If you get it out, put it back. An especially great rule to implement to keep your home and office orderly.
- Guilt is not a reason to keep something. This one is self explanatory.
What mottoes or principles inspire you to keep clutter out of your home? Share your motivating sayings with us in the comments!
Today we welcome back Unclutterer programmer, Gary DuVall. In the In the first, second, and third posts in this series, he discussed how to prepare yourself and your home in case of a disaster and what to do if it unfortunately happens. This is his final post in the series. He is writing for us based on his personal experience of losing everything he owned in a fire.
By January, life started to feel normal again. The fire, the struggles with the insurance company, and finding a new place to live were all behind us. We were rebuilding and moving on.
We realized we hadn’t given much thought to the loss of our things but had spent all of our time worrying about our general predicament (Where will we live? I can’t believe this happened. How do I go to work tomorrow?) We discovered just how little the material stuff meant to us. This realization presented us with the peculiar ability to remain positive (for the most part) during the process. We talked about this being an opportunity rather than a devastating blow. (Losing intimate, irreplaceable items from our families, friends, and shared experiences did, for a time, bother us; however, that also faded.)
Thumbing through the more than 30-page inventory that listed what we once owned made us realize just how much we had, and, perhaps more importantly, how much we didn’t want to replace. So far, we have only replaced 20 percent of what we previously owned. To be comfortable, we don’t need a lot of stuff. Everything we have repurchased, we have been very thoughtful about quality and where everything will live in our home. No clutter.
Did we make mistakes along the way? Sure we did. We didn’t have an inventory prepared ahead of time, despite telling ourselves we’d “get to it one day.” Receipts we had kept prior to the fire weren’t filed in our records box, resulting in their loss. We hadn’t read through and understood completely our insurance policy, which, had we lost it in the fire, could have left us at a vast disadvantage. Knowing what we do now, these aren’t mistakes we’ll repeat in the future.
When we look back at what happened on June 27, 2008, we look at it for what it is: an experience nobody should ever go through. But, at the same time, it was an experience that afforded us a rare “reboot” button. We were able to re-examine and take stock of what we had, and act decisively toward a new beginning.
As strange as it might be, considering the setbacks, inconveniences, angry phone calls and other problems I’ve written about during the course of this series, I like to think we ended up better for it in the end.
At Unclutterer, we love touting the benefits of multi-use items. However, there are times when maybe product designers go too far with their melding of purposes. Gizmodo recently identified “10 Gadgets With Too Many Stupid Features,” and we wanted to share a little of their humor with you.
My favorite misguided objects:
Spinning rims with LCD television screens. I definitely think these are a car accident in the making.
The cell phone razor. Just imagine if you accidentally turn on the razor when you intend to answer a call. Oh! Ow! My lip!
Okay, maybe the “Mug-Mouse” is fun, but how would you ever wash it??
Click on the first picture in the series, the “Gun-Knife” to start scrolling through the slideshow. Then, click on the right side of each image to move between the gadgets.
Marie Claire magazine has some helpful bathroom uncluttering tips in their article “Has Your Makeup Expired?“:
“Like food, makeup has an expiration date, and over time cosmetics can harbor harmful bacteria that can lead to infections,” states Dr. David Schlessinger, a board-certified oculoplastic surgeon and ophthalmologist, and medical director of Schlessinger Eye & Face. “The risks are multiplied when these products are shared among friends.”
Check out the dates below and find out when you should toss your makeup stash.
Expiration dates — beginning from the time you first open these products
- Powders and shadows: 2 years
- Cream shadows: 12 to 18 months
- Foundation: 1 year
- Lipstick & lipliner: 1 year
- Mascara & eyeliners: 3 months
- Makeup brushes: Clean weekly using a mild detergent
- Makeup sponges: Replace weekly, or when sponge becomes soiled
My makeup case is full of things that belong in the trash (eye shadows, especially). I’m going to go and immediately take care of this potential bacterial hazard.
- Storing out-of-season clothing
The best ways to store out-of-season clothing in your home.
- Unitasker Wednesday: The Squeasy Tea Bag Squeezer
Tea lovers your prayers have been answered.
- Creative storage for kid’s clutter
- No time to unclutter? Consider turning off your TV
If you constantly doll out the excuse that you don’t have enough time to unclutter, consider turning off your TV to find the necessary hours.
- Workspace of the Week: Door desk office
A recycled door sets the stage for this inspiring office space.
- Exploring procrastination
Research on procrastination identifies who does it and why.
- Clutter saved their home
As a tornado ripped through a small town in Tennessee, one man’s cluttered trailer was credited with saving the home in which his family sought shelter.
- Undo the junk mail damage
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.
- Reader question: Magazine clutter & organization
Keep all your magazines together in one place, pull out only the one you’re reading, and always put it back before you take out another once.
- Junk Removal
What do you do with all the garbage the city won’t collect?
- The Collyer brothers, a study in compulsive hoarding
The Collyer brothers’ story is bizarre and illustrates the depths people will go to hold onto anything and everything.
- The tupperware is everywhere!
One of my pet peeves in the area of kitchen clutter was the tupperware drawer.
Muji, the makers of simple home and office goods, has finally launched an online store for U.S. consumers. For the past year, I’ve been stopping in at the SoHo location in New York City whenever I’ve been in town to get my hands on Muji goods. Now, they can appear right at my door. Happy news!
If you are unfamiliar with Muji, check out some of my favorite goods:
A map handkerchief of New York (talk about a multi-tasker!):
Splash proof speakers with amplifier (great for hooking up to my iPod or iPhone):
Chronotebook (it’s a day planner):
Reader Jesse submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
Do you have any suggestions for outdoor storage of sports equipment. We have a variety of balls, frisbees, and discs that right now just get put into an open bucket. It’s not great for the equipment and doesn’t look great either. Any suggestions?
Sporting equipment is rarely simple to store. Your bucket idea actually sounds better than most of the equipment storage I’ve seen people using in their garages. But, I agree, it can be an unsightly solution. Since things like bats and balls have rigid sizes, they take up a lot of space and they always seem to be in places they don’t belong.
My first choice is to recommend that you create an area in your garage or backyard to be your sports center. If you can make this space in your garage, I recommend a sturdy storage system that can hold more than just sports equipment. Elfa and Ikea both make excellent products for holding pretty much anything you would store in your garage. (Be sure to check out the components individually. Ikea’s Broder has sports attachments.)
If you’re not in favor of putting out the money for a full system, here are some additional options for your sports center:
- Ball Claws: They attach to your walls and hold onto basketballs, soccer balls, and footballs.
- Frisbees and discs can be stored in a nice bag on a shelf in the garage. I like this Prostyle bag, for instance.
- You can use a baseball and bat storage system over fence tops or on a rod, like this holder:
- A large barrel might also be nice to let air circulate around your sports equipment.
I’m interested in hearing from our readership on this question. What do you use to store sports equipment in your home? Let us know your solutions in the comments.
Thank you, Jesse, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.
Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.
This week’s Workspace of the Week is Pieter Pieterse’s pantry porn:
There really isn’t much to say about this pantry except, “WOW!” In the description, Pieter explains that all of the plastic storage is Tupperware. Also, moving the shelf heights helped a great deal to organize the space. I’m in awe.
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.
In the post What we want but can’t yet have, I bemoaned how I had yet to find a decent laptop bag for business travel:
The perfect laptop bag has a pocket for everything you need to carry with you, has a comfortable shoulder strap, is made to last, is professional in appearance, and doesn’t scream I’M CARRYING A LAPTOP FOR YOU TO STEAL. This bag is so perfect that you want to name your pets after it. We have found many bags that come close to meeting these requirements, but none that is perfect.
The day after this post ran, I got an e-mail from a lovely woman at Tom Bihn bags explaining that the reason I hadn’t found the perfect laptop bag was because I hadn’t tried her company’s top-of-the-line product. Fair enough, I hadn’t tried the exact bag she was referencing in her e-mail. I told her I would take it out with me on a few trips and see how it handled. My expectations were low; I’d been let down so many times in the past that I assumed I would be let down again.
I’m not one to eagerly admit when I’m wrong, but I was. This bag is amazing. It meets my qualifications for a perfect laptop bag for business travel — and more. I’ve since taken it out four times (three of those involved air travel), and feel comfortable singing its praises.
The Checkpoint Flyer:
The best part of the bag is that you don’t have to take the laptop out of it to go through security checkpoints at the airport. You flip the pouch that holds the laptop out when you lay it on the conveyor belt, and then flip it back in after it has gone through the x-ray machine. I didn’t time the event, but Tom Bihn’s website says it should only take three seconds. The laptop pouch sits on little hinges that move it far enough away from the contents in the rest of the bag so that it meets TSA requirements:
Closeup of hinge:
There are different pouch sizes you can order based on the size of your laptop. It also has pockets for all of my cords, cables and wireless peripherals, enough space to hold two days’ worth of business casual clothing and work papers (I put these in what they call the Horizontal Freudian Slip), and has the best shoulder strap I’ve ever had on a shoulder bag (it’s springy, like a wet suit):
My only complaint is that it is obviously a laptop bag to anyone who sees it. However, it’s attractive and professional, and I can walk into any meeting with it. And, it doesn’t really scream its laptop-bag status, it says it casually, as if having a conversation with friends over a couple beers. The fabric on the bag is very sturdy and the stitching is impeccable. My bag showed zero signs of wear after my trips. Yes, it’s pricey. But, I sincerely believe you’re getting what you pay for. On trips longer than three days, I’ve put my clothes in my Zuca bag and wheeled it around with this bag resting on top.
The bag is made in Seattle and Tom Bihn, the guy with his name on the company, actually designs the bags. I was sincerely surprised to be so impressed by it. My search for a perfect laptop bag is complete. (Could I gush more? Probably.)
First two images snagged from the Tom Bihn website, the other two are mine. I drastically need a nice photo setup in my house.
Today we welcome back Unclutterer programmer, Gary DuVall. In the first and second posts in this series, he discussed how to prepare yourself and your home in case of a disaster and what to do if it unfortunately happens. He is writing for us based on his personal experience of losing everything he owned in a fire on June 27, 2008.
After having spent the prior three weeks trying to process what had happened, it was nice for life to slow down a bit. My wife and I found a temporary sublet north of the city to live in for a couple of months, and we tried to regain some sense of a “normal” life. While it wasn’t the most comfortable situation -— nothing in our furnished sublet belonged to us and we were 15 miles from our neighborhood -— it was still a place we could call home.
The next step in the process was to build an inventory of what we lost. Between the photographs my wife Stephanie had taken and many hours of trying to remember what we owned, we constructed an inventory we felt good about and sent it off to the insurance adjuster.
Now would be a good time to point out a vital distinction in your policy when it comes to how much money you’ll receive for the items you’ve lost: Actual Cash Value (ACV) vs. Replacement Cost (RCV). Under ACV, your items are subject to depreciation and as such you’ll only receive enough money to replace the item at that depreciated price. Under RCV, you receive the full amount necessary to purchase an item of like quality without a depreciation in value. While your first check under a policy that contains a RCV rider is likely to cover actual cash value only, it’ll be up to you to repurchase the items you’ve lost and send in the receipts to recoup the difference. (Learn more.) Needless to say, we were both thankful we purchased a RCV rider.
The hardest part after submitting the initial inventory was waiting for that first check. Come September, when we finally moved into a new apartment, we still hadn’t seen anything but excuses from both the insurance and claims adjusters. In the meantime, my wife and I ended up having to sacrifice the savings and credit we’d built up in order to buy the essentials. In our case, it ended up taking over three months -— October 2008 -— to obtain the completed appraisal document and our ACV check.
- Compile your inventory before a disaster occurs and keep it updated quarterly. Had we done this before the fire, it wouldn’t have been necessary to spend 40+ hours compiling an inventory. While a video inventory provides you with visual evidence of the items you own, a spreadsheet containing the purchase price, date of purchase, and the store where purchased (along with receipts when possible) will serve as hard evidence. Ask your insurance provider for a copy of their inventory spreadsheet; in most cases, they’ll be more than happy to oblige.
- Consider a Replacement Cost Value (RCV) rider. While it may come at a premium, it’s worth it. The difference in what you receive may be thousands of dollars. Some providers (such as USAA) now default to this type of coverage in order to ensure policyholders aren’t left at a disadvantage with very little money to rebuild.
- A tip from the many insurance adjusters I spoke to while roaming the building after the fire: When calculating the replacement cost of an item for your inventory, use the MSRP. Relying on a sales price is likely to result in you receiving a check far below the value of what’s necessary to rebuild.
- Think about your options. In our case, we found “starting from zero” to be a liberating experience of sorts; we could chart exactly how we wanted to rebuild without, ironically, the process of having to sell or get rid of existing furniture and items. Once the initial shock of having lost everything fades, you’re left with what we considered to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
- If you’re financially able, don’t wait for that first check to arrive before making purchases. You may be left waiting months and, in the end, could end up moving into a completely empty home. It’ll be up to you and your family to take action and prepare your new home with furnishing and essentials whether you have a check in hand or not. If you’ve purchased a RCV rider, organize your receipts, match them to your inventory, and have them ready to submit as quickly as possible after the first check arrives.
- Take charge, and don’t be afraid to press for action when every side seems to have an excuse and you’re caught in the middle. Many people end up waiting considerably longer than three months for results because they don’t want to rock the boat.
- Your initial inventory isn’t the end-all-be-all when it comes to making your claims. Should you discover additional items that were lost, you can make subsequent claims. In our case, we ended up making three separate claims: The initial inventory and two more addendum inventories.
In the final part of the series, I’ll discuss how the experience has affected us in the long-term.
All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!
I recently had a big double take after seeing a pet umbrella in action at my local park. Did I just see that? Yes, yes I did.
Did the poor dog have a cold? Did other dogs make fun of him for retreating under an umbrella? Since when did a dog require an umbrella for a walk in the rain? Has the pampering of pets become such an industry that a product like this becomes a good idea for consumers? I had so many questions to ask the owner, but I had to be somewhere and the dog owner was probably unable to answer any of my queries.
Have any of you seen a pet umbrella in action? It is definitely something to see. Any owners of a pet umbrella out there? Defend it in the comments if you’d like. The wet dog smell is obviously a reason to employ the pet umbrella, but what else beyond that? I’m truly baffled.