Archives for December 2010
All of us at Unclutterer hope you had a terrific 2010 and would like to wish you a great 2011! Our team has today and tomorrow off from work, but don’t forget you can always jump into the Forums and join the conversation there. We’ll return in the new year to share more Uncluttering insights.
If you aren’t a regular follower of Erin’s RealSimple.com column, also consider checking out “Three Year-End Organizing Queries” and “Creating Uncluttering and Organizing Resolutions for 2011.”
Happy New Year!
Make: Projects has an amazing do-it-yourself drawer organizing project that caught my attention this week. The “Drawer Organizer” is inexpensive, easy to make, and perfect for anyone who has difficulty finding the perfect store-bought organizer.
Reading through the instructions, all you really need to complete the project is some plexiglass, acrylic glue, and a ruler. I wish I would have thought about doing this when we set up our kitchen. I looked for months for organizers to meet our needs. Had I done this project, I’d have been finished in a few hours.
Image from Make.
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’ve recently been looking for a magic wand to handle all those pesky tasks I don’t enjoy doing — laundry, scrubbing toilets, changing dirty diapers. When reader Emily sent me this unitasker, I was hopeful it was a wand that could take care of all of those annoying chores. Unfortunately, I fear the Flour Wand is not the wand I’m looking for:
According to its description, the Flour Wand “produces an even and fairly light dusting of flour.” I’m not really sure why your hand isn’t sufficient for dusting flour onto dough. If you really want to use a tool, I guess I’d go with a multi-tasking Strainer Basket, which also can be used for straining, sifting, and steaming. I don’t see much use for a Flour Wand in most people’s kitchens. Most disappointing of all, however, the Flour Wand isn’t a magic wand. My search for a magic wand shall continue …
- Creating a plan to achieve your 2010 resolutions
Now that you have brainstormed resolutions for 2010, it’s time to formulate your plan for achieving these resolutions in the new year. As I’ve noted before, it’s easy to write “Be more organized” on a sheet of paper — but it’s difficult to actually become more organized without a plan for how to do it.
- Review: The Happiness Project
If you are interested in clarifying your reasons to become uncluttered, are looking to be happier, or simply enjoy the genre of “a year in the life” style books, I recommend checking out The Happiness Project. It’s a great reminder for not letting the joys of life pass you by.
Today is the official release of Unclutter Your Life in One Week in paperback. I’m extremely excited about today and this event for many reasons:
- Not all books printed as hardcovers ever make it to paperback. Making it to paperback is a sign that the publisher continues to believe the content of the book is worth staying in publication. I’m really honored and humbled by this.
- A few big bloopers were fixed, especially the one from page 17 in the hardcover. On page 17, I accidentally wrote a sentence stating the exact opposite of what I intended. Oops!
- As a special promotion, Amazon is selling the paperback at almost $7.00 off the suggested retail price — Unclutter Your Life in One Week in paperback is just $8.06.
Thank you to everyone who has supported the book over the last year, and to those who will support it in the future. I truly appreciate the opportunity to continue to share the Unclutterer message in a different medium.
The presents have been unwrapped, turkey leftovers fill the refrigerator, and we’re back at our desks finishing year-end responsibilities. Whether at work or at home, there are tasks that we complete before December 31 that help to keep us organized in the new year.
Even though it’s difficult to get back to work after a few days vacation, the last week of the year can often be extremely productive because so few people are in the office. There usually are fewer disruptions and it’s easier to work for longer blocks of time. If you’re taking time off from work, now is also a good time to focus on year-end responsibilities at home.
The following are tasks we complete at the end of the year, but you might tackle different tasks to wrap up 2010 and prepare for 2011. Share your end-of-the-year processes in the comments, as they might be something we all should be doing, too:
- Year-end fiscal reports. Pay all bills, submit all receipts, reconcile all accounts, and complete all fiscal reports the accounting department requires.
- Year-end professional goal reports. Review annual goals and accomplishments, and write performance reports the human resources department requires.
- Review benefit package and changes. Many changes in insurance plans and other benefits occur at the change of the calendar year. Make note of these changes so you aren’t surprised by the differences.
- Reconcile financial accounts. Now is the time to get all of your financial paperwork for the year completed so you’re ready to file your taxes when your forms arrive.
- Year-end personal goal and resolution review. Review all you accomplished over the course of the year and create goals and resolutions for 2011.
- Back-up all digital data. Even if you do this daily, it’s good to take a final snapshot of the digital year.
- Review beneficiary information on all investments and policies. If your family has grown or changed in the last year, now is the time to make sure your beneficiary information is current. Additionally, it’s a good time to do a general review of these investments and policies.
- Review systems and routines. Are the systems and routines you follow meeting your family’s and home’s needs? If not, now is a good time to create new practices to implement in the new year.
- Peter Daniel Frazier’s minimalist office escape
Most of us consider an uncluttered workspace to consist of an office with well-executed organization and minimal distraction. Peter Daniel Frazier, architect of the “Cube,” has taken the entire uncluttered workspace concept in a new, upward direction with his innovative home office.
- Unitasker Wednesday: Gift Wrap Cutter
Scissors are so obsolete. Sure, they have efficiently and effectively cut billions of things for more than 3,500 years, but whatever. You’re not into multi-taskers. You’re all about tools that only have one specific purpose, like the Gift Wrap Cutter.
- An uncluttered holiday gathering
Keep three principles in mind as you plan your holiday gathering: 1. The gathering is about creating joyful memories with guests. 2. Going overboard typically makes people uncomfortable. 3. Simplicity=sanity.
Like a good chunk of the western world, Unclutterer’s offices are closed today and tomorrow. We wish everyone who celebrates Christmas a merry one, and the rest of you we wish a joyful couple days off from work! Don’t forget, you can always jump into the Forums and join the conversation there. We’ll return after the holiday to share more Uncluttering insights.
Sue Shellenbarger, the work and family columnist for the Wall Street Journal, yesterday wrote “Steps to New Year’s Resolution Success” detailing the science behind keeping resolutions. Great advice begins right at the beginning of the article:
When setting a resolution, simply deciding to change your behavior may work for a while. But when the cognitive parts of the brain responsible for decision-making become stressed by other life events, that resolve is likely to succumb to an emotional desire for instant gratification, says Baba Shiv, a Stanford University marketing professor who specializes in neuroeconomics, the study of the biological bases for making economic decisions.
Keeping a resolution requires a detailed plan, with emotional rewards when milestones are reached—and even a strategy when there’s a setback. And don’t wait for Jan. 1, experts say: Start planning now to increase your chances for success.
The full article is worth reading if you’re interested in making uncluttering or organizing resolutions for 2011. I’m already planning out my resolutions for next year and will share details next week. I’ll definitely be putting into practice some of Shellenbarger’s suggestions.
Also in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal was a great article on organizing craft and present wrapping supplies featuring suggestions from Los Angeles-based professional organizer John Trosko: “More Homes Make Room for Wrapping.”
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 my favorite things about unwrapping gifts at the holidays is playing with the bubble wrap that was protecting the gift. Popping the air pockets is oddly stress relieving. Pop, pop, pop!
Popping bubble wrap no longer needs to involve bubble wrap, thanks to the Mugen Pop Pop Endless Bubble Popping Keychain:
Now I can pop bubble wrap every second of every day! I’m sure that won’t annoy anyone.
Unfortunately, the reviews on Amazon seem to indicate that the device makes a clicking sound instead of a pop. Additionally, it appears that there isn’t the same pressure involved to push the button as is required to pop a bubble on bubble wrap. This week’s selection may be an exclusive non-tasker!
- Brainstorming resolutions for 2010
Over the next couple weeks, I’ll write about how to create and organize a schedule for achieving your difficult goals. Right now, though, I want you to brainstorm on what you want to achieve in 2010. Make a list, or three or nine. Talk to friends, family and/or your boss about the ideas that are bouncing around in your head and get their feedback. Sit in silence for an hour and listen to the thoughts spinning through your brain. Formulate one or two big, risky resolutions you would like to make happen for yourself.
- Is checking voice mail, text, and e-mail messages outside of work hours cluttering your life?
We’ve recently talked about strategies for curing your e-mail addiction to reduce the number of times a day you check your e-mail at work. With many of us in the western world having a day or two off from work this week, I thought it might be appropriate to address the addiction you might have with checking messages of all kinds when you’re not at work.
- Life-threatening clutter
We often talk about the dangers of clutter, but tragedy has a way of bringing it home. An 80 year-old man in Evanston, Illinois, was found under several feet of clutter in an attempt to escape his burning home.
- Preparing your car for a road trip
Guest author John Walton gives advice for organizing your car before a big road trip.
Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are experiencing the winter solstice today and, as a result, the least amount of daylight this year. I always think of the winter solstice as being the first day of Nesting Season.
Nesting Season is a season I made up based on trends in my behavior. This is the time of year when I usually start accumulating more clutter than at other times of the year. Items come into my home, and, except for rubbish, not much tends to leave. Based on the weather, Nesting Season typically lasts until the first warmer stretch of days in March or April.
I think some nesting is a good thing. I love occasionally curling up under a blanket in front of our fireplace and reading a book instead of tackling chores. I’m also much better at eating at home during Nesting Season than I am at other times during the year.
However, I have to be diligent and make a conscious effort to keep my home and life from being overrun by clutter during Nesting Season. If you’re like me and kicking off Nesting Season today, try these strategies to keep clutter from causing chaos in your home:
- One-in-one-out. The holiday season is a time of the year when lots of new items might be coming into your home. Try your best to toss, recycle, or donate corresponding older items as you’re putting away the new items.
- Keep up your energy. Get the proper amount of sleep, eat healthy and nutritious meals, and push yourself to get at least 30 minutes of brisk walking in a day. You’re less likely to experience Nesting Season lethargy when your energy levels are high.
- Invite a friend over for coffee. You’ll be motivated to unclutter your space before your friend arrives. And, your friend can help you to make decisions about some of your things. You’ll also get to see your friend during a time when you might usually be less social.
- Play Eye Spy. As you’re sitting on your couch, make a list of all the clutter you see in your space. Set a timer for 20 minutes, and, when the alarm sounds, crawl out from under your blanket and take care of all the clutter you identified. Each night, relax in a different room and repeat the process.
Do you experience Nesting Season? What strategies do you embrace to keep clutter from taking over during this time of year? Share your advice in the comments.
Reader Pam sent us an e-mail with some helpful advice about how to decide to trash, recycle, or donate books to charities — such as when donating to libraries, schools, and/or prisons — that I wanted to share with all Unclutterers:
I have been volunteering at our local library used book sale, sorting books. It is astonishing to see the condition of some of the books people “donate.” Water damaged and moldy from floods and spills, pages turned orange and falling out from age, holes from … abuse? etc. I’m pondering why the donors did not just throw the books away, but instead are wasting our time throwing them away, for no one is going to purchase these badly damaged books. The book sale also has a policy to toss travel books and text books older than 5 years, because the information is too dated. I’ve decided it takes courage to throw your own books away, because you feel like you’re tossing the memories away with them. Somehow, donating them seems more
acceptable. I urge everyone to think about this the next time you confront a pile of your own books in bad or outdated condition. Try to summon up the courage to toss them, rather than donate them to an agency that has to toss them for you.
This advice applies to more than just books. Ask yourself, “Would someone pay money to buy this?” If you think someone would pay money for it, then it’s usually in good enough quality to donate to charity. However, if an item is chipped, torn, stained, or damaged in any way, you should usually trash or recycle the item.
Some charities will accept clothing to recycle into rags, but these items should be marked as rags when they are donated instead of expecting the charity to make these decisions. Always call the charity or check their website before making a donation to ensure that they are accepting rags, and to see how the organization prefers the items to be clearly identified as rags. One of the most overlooked areas on clothing is the armpit area of shirts — if there are sweat stains, the items are ready for the rag pile instead of the donation pile.
One exception to Pam’s rule is when donating used linens to animal shelters. Most animal shelters will accept towels, sheets, and blankets with holes or stains on them (but not mold or mildew). The items are often used for cleanups, so perfect condition isn’t necessary. Call your local shelter before making your donation, though, and definitely wash the items before making your donation.
- Vigilante road unclutterers
The Washington Post reported last week that there are numerous vigilante unclutterers cleaning up Virginia roadways as a hobby.
- Unitasker Wednesday: Fingertip oven mitts
That’s right, fingertip-only oven mitts do not look safe in the least. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that they look unsafe. And, all you can do is grab a plate with them. You certainly couldn’t use them while grilling, reaching into boiling water, or removing a pan from the oven.
- Gadgets of the decade that helped unclutter our lives
For all the unitaskers and useless doo dads the past decade gave us, at least there were a few gadgets that helped to get clutter out of our lives.
- Sort, scan, and file your stacks of papers
If you’re looking at a Great Paperwork Filing Project of 2009 or 2010, try the following method from the “Tuesday at Work: Fixing Your Files” section of Unclutter Your Life in One Week to get it under control.
- Workspace of the Week: Cable serenity
Reader Catherine submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
I sprained my ankle yesterday and can’t move without crutches, and I am feeling very overwhelmed. Neither my husband nor my 13-y/o daughter really cook, so he went out and stocked up on TV dinners but already that is getting OLD for me. (OTOH it doesn’t bother them. They honestly don’t notice what is on their plates.) And the mess is already beginning to pile up. E.g. – I hobbled into the kitchen last night and opened the dishwasher – my daughter had just piled stuff in there willy-nilly. Nothing was going to get clean that way, so I stood on one foot and re-loaded the dishwasher. But I can’t keep doing that. Clearly I’ve been protecting her and her dad way too much from household responsibilities – mea culpa – but what do I do to keep things in reasonable shape until I can move again? And get a decent, healthy dinner that they can cook with almost no cooking skills?
I’m sorry to read that you hurt yourself. In addition to dealing with the pain, it also sounds like you’re frustrated to be missing out on your responsibilities. You clearly take pride in the work you usually do around the house, and not being able to do it is grating on your last nerve. That must be aggravating.
Although it’s going to be difficult, you need to stop worrying about the house. The most important thing in your life right now is to heal properly. If you keep trying to take care of everything, you’re going to injure your ankle further and those crutches might become a wheelchair — and a couple months of healing could become years. I know it’s hard to let go of work you feel invested in doing, but you’re going to have to.
It’s okay if your daughter loads the dishwasher willy nilly. Even if none of the dishes get washed, she’ll move things around and run it a couple of times until she gets it. She’s 13, and now is a great time for her to develop these skills. And, she’ll remember the lesson better if she teaches herself. Redoing her work doesn’t help her, and it doesn’t help your foot.
Additionally, people like to feel needed. You’re not letting your husband or your daughter experience this because you want to do it all — even when you shouldn’t. They might not do things your way, but that’s okay. It’s temporary, and you may even find that you like how they do things. If your daughter learns how to run the dishwasher, this is a chore she can continue to do after you’re healed. A win for both of you!
As far as meals go, I recommend encouraging your daughter and husband to be creative. Let them explore cookbooks and recipe websites to find meals that they feel comfortable making. Don’t tell them what to make. Don’t tell them how to make it. Don’t critique what they make. Just encourage them to try their hands at cooking. Right now they’re relying on frozen dinners because they don’t think they can make good meals — and you don’t believe it either. Well, they can. The food might not taste great, but at least they’ll be trying. Your daughter might even grow up to become a world renown chef and this injury of yours could be the inspiration she needs to get started on her path.
Your injury is temporary and it is okay if the house falls to pieces while you’re recovering (but I don’t think it actually will). The more you focus on healing, the faster you can return to the responsibilities you enjoy in your home. In the meantime, trust your family. Enjoy and appreciate everything that they’re doing for you, even though it might not be the way you normally do things. They love you. They’re trying to care for you. Embrace these blessings and focus all of your energy on getting better.
Thank you, Catherine, 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.