It is amazing how quickly certain items can accumulate. You are blind to realize how many of an item you have until you have too many.
- Report covers: A few years ago we had 65 of them — yes 65! I ended up keeping eight of them for children’s reports for school and donated the rest.
- Pencil cases: You only need one per child and one spare.
- Pens: It drives me crazy if pens are one colour on the outside (e.g. red) but write another colour (e.g. black). I try not to even bring them into the house.
- Staples, elastics, paperclips and pushpins: Keep one small container of each and donate the rest.
Consider donating office supplies to charities. They often work on very tight budgets and may not have extra money for supplies for their own offices. Libraries, schools, and community centres may also appreciate the donation.
- Plastic cutlery, paper plates, and take-out trays: If you regularly use these disposable items for school/work lunches, keep a week’s worth handy and let go of the rest. You can use the “one-in, one-out” rule. As soon as you get a new one, toss an old one. If you may need them for picnics or parties later in the year, store them in a less frequently used area of the kitchen.
- Plastic Cups: Recycle plastic cups from amusement parks or sporting events. You really don’t need to save them to make a Beer Snake at the next cricket match.
- Food storage containers: Get rid of any that are stained, broken, or have missing or ill-fitting lids. About a dozen 500mL containers are enough for the average family of four. Choose identical containers with identical lids to keep things simple.
- Reusable shopping bags: Keep as many as you need for groceries. You may choose to use a few for carting around hobby and sports equipment. Charity shops, schools, or your local library would likely appreciate any bags that you are not using.
- Hangers: If you’re practicing “one-in, one-out”, there is no need for extra hangers in your closets. Keep a few for guests’ clothing and coats and maybe a few for your laundry room. Charity shops usually accept all types of hangers and many dry cleaners accept wire hangers. I always keep one wire hanger in my toolbox because at some point something valuable will roll under the refrigerator and I’ll need to undo a wire hanger to get it.
- Towels: Keep only the best ones and keep only those you use. The old ones can be cut into rags or donated to an animal shelter.
- T-shirts: It’s time to say good-bye to the worn out shirts with sports’ team logos and your favourite T-shirt from high school. Keep the best, let go of the rest.
- Cosmetic bags: A free cosmetic bag with every cosmetics purchase adds up to clutter. Keep one for the suitcase, one for your gym bag, and maybe a spare one. Donate the rest.
- Razors: Old, rusty, and broken razors should go directly to the trash. Say good-bye to any razor handles for which you no longer wish to replace the blades.
- Hair Accessories: Broken hairbrushes and combs that you’re no longer using can go directly into the garbage. Other hair accessories in good condition can be donated after they have been cleaned and sanitized.
Remember that if the item is not in good enough condition to give to a friend, it is best not to donate it to charity. Always check with the recipient charity to ensure they will benefit from the items you would like to donate. Keep clutter out of your space and look for even more items you can donate.
- Unitasker Wednesday: Disposable Plane Sheets
Are you healthy with a functioning immune system, yet still afraid of your pants touching the same place as someone else’s pants? If so, this unnecessary obsessive product might be for you!
- Unitasker Wednesday: Karate Lettuce Chopper
I can’t stop smiling when I see this week’s selection, and my guess is you’ll have a similar positive response when you cast your gaze upon the Gama-Go Karate Lettuce Chopper, too.
- Organizing solutions for renters
A common disadvantage of renting is most landlords prohibit structural changes to their properties. As a result, organizing can be trickier in a rental property than in a home you own. Creativity is a must when seeking out these uncommon solutions. The following ideas and products might be of use to renters looking to reconfigure storage options, and hopefully they also get your creativity flowing.
- Ask Unclutterer: Routines on a constantly varying schedule
Reader Cat works non-traditional hours that are always changing. She wants help with establishing routines in her crazy schedule.
- When whimsy and utility collide
Even though I bought a Kik-Step for nostalgic reasons, it has surprisingly turned out to be one of the most useful objects in our home.
- Unitasker Wednesday: ABC Cookie Cutters
Even if you don’t take a bite out of them yourself, you could at least break off a limb or two instead of using any of the three ABC* Cookie Cutters.
- Using a three-folder system to keep e-mail under control
Checking, reading, processing, replying to, and stressing out about e-mail can all be sources of clutter in our lives. And, according to a recent Fast Company article written by Gina Trapani titled “Work Smart: Conquering Your Email Inbox,” it might be taking up half of our workweek.
- Three universal truths for why projects are not completed on time
In fact, even when we think we’re in charge of a project, we often are not. When we have to rely on others to supply information, supplies, or support, timelines (and budgets) can quickly be extended. After years of working across multiple professions and clients, I have identified where projects typically go awry. From page 200 of Unclutter Your Life in One Week …
- Ask Unclutterer: Laundry tips for apartment dwellers
If you don’t have a washer and dryer in your apartment, how can you make the process suck less?
- Spring ahead by changing batteries, among other things
If you haven’t done so already, daylight savings is a great opportunity to get a few household chores out of the way.
From time-to-time, I’ll think about this post I read on Apartment Therapy back in 2010. For whatever reason, the post stuck with me. The advice in the post espouses The Rule of One, which breaks down like this:
Keep the things you own (especially technology) down to only one.
I like the idea, but am still trying to figure out if I can apply it to everything in my life. I certainly need to have more than one shirt, for instance. But, in other areas, could it make sense for me? I especially like this insight:
Listening to music? One iPod. One speaker set … Hold on to that one item for as long as possible.
Like I said, it’s impractical for me to apply the Rule of One to all aspects of my possessions. I have several baseball hats and I like to wear them all, so I don’t imagine I’ll ever get rid of all but one of them. But, a quick glance at my iPhone reveals a problem. I have seven weather applications. I’ve also got four note-taking apps and four camera apps. Yes, each does something unique, but honestly none of them is markedly different than the other. I don’t need all four camera apps, for instance, and should decide on one “keeper.” The rest are clutter in that they consume precious storage space on my iPhone and clutter my mind, as I must stop and choose one every time I want to take a picture.
I also like Nguyen’s advice to “hold on to that item for as long as possible.” My Internet buddy Patrick Rhone of Minimal Mac has written about this topic several times. In an article called “The Season of Stuff,” he gives good, pre-emptive uncluttering advice for the holiday season:
You can pledge to get rid of an amount of stuff equal to the amount you receive. You can let those who love you know that you do not want more stuff but want something less tangible instead (breakfast in bed, money for a favorite charity, etc.). Ask for specific stuff you really truly need that will add years of value to your life on a daily basis.
Now, if you have superfluous tech that you’d like to get rid of, don’t just bring it to the dump. There are several ways to recycle it responsibly:
- Donation. Is there a group, organization or school nearby that would love to have it? Give them a call.
- Best Buy. This American big box store will accept three electronic items per household per day for responsible recycling. It’s free, and no-questions-asked. You didn’t have to buy the item there to recycle it there.
- Seek a local alternative. For example, Free Geek is an Oregon-based service that takes your electronics, similar to Best Buy’s program. Search around to find something similar in your area.
Look at the tech you use every day and decide, is any of this superfluous? Can I follow the Rule of One in this area of my life? If so, unclutter the extraneous items and enjoy having fewer distractions.
All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!
Abracadabra! Hocus pocus! Put on ESPN!
Because you don’t already have enough remotes to control your television, DVR, DVD player, cable box, and stereo receiver, the Magic Wand Remote Control is eager to clutter up your vast collection even more:
I have no doubts that this remote works. I have no doubts about it being fun. But I also have no doubts that it will be clutter in most every reader’s home.
It can only be programmed with 13 control codes, so it can’t act as a helpful universal remote and replace all of your other remotes. It can only replicate 13 actions of one remote (only your cable box or only your television set, not both). Also, you have to learn 13 magical wand wielding gestures to control your electronics because the wand doesn’t have any buttons — four or five gestures would be easy, but 13 seems like a hassle. If you have kids, the magic wand is likely to never be in the same room as the electronics it controls, and if you have pets, it’s likely to be a chew toy. It also requires that only people who are trained on it can be remote master, putting babysitters and house guests at a disadvantage.
Now, if this magic wand could do laundry and vacuum and load the dishwasher, I’d be its biggest fan. But, sadly, it’s just another remote requiring batteries that does something another remote you already own already does.
- Get a jump start on spring cleaning with 15-minute microtasks
Why wait for warmer weather to start spring cleaning? Use 15-minute microtasks to get a jump start on your chores.
- Organize your bag: Find things easily and reduce back pain
Carrying a heavy bag can result in back pain. Follow these three simple tips to help you organize your bag and lighten your load.
- Maybe you can take it with you…
Why leave behind beautiful solid-wood furniture for your heirs to fight over when you can be buried in it?
- Unitasker Wednesday: Microwave French Fry Maker
I have never had a french fry made with this contraption, but supposedly it allows you to microwave fries purchased in your grocer’s freezer and turn them into treats that taste like ones from your favorite fast-food joint. But, I’m sincerely doubting this claim seeing as we all know it’s the fat and grease that makes fast food french fries so yummy.
- Project Basement: Day 3
Except for a couple hours this morning pulling out the washer and dryer, sweeping the floor where they had been, and doing a general cleanup in the laundry area of the basement, I’ve been sorting, scanning, and recycling a couple hundred pounds of paperwork.
- Ask Unclutterer: Food storage containers
Reader Carla asks for a recommendation on the best type of food storage container that won’t clutter up her mother’s cabinets.
- Kindle application now on iPhone
Yesterday, I downloaded the new Kindle application ebook reader onto my iPhone.
People sometimes assume that professional organizers are 100 percent organized and uncluttered, at all times. But every organizer I know has a few problem areas that pop up occasionally. Organizers face the same challenges that everyone faces: unexpected events disrupt our plans, we fall out of our routines, etc. And, sometimes it helps all of us, organizers included, to take another look around our homes to see what no longer serves us.
I’m going to share what I’ve uncluttered this past week, in the hope that it may inspire some of you in your own uncluttering efforts.
These were all good cookbooks, but they weren’t ones I used. The recipes were too complex for how I cook, or they duplicate the kinds of recipes I have in other books that I prefer to regularly use. For example, I have my go-to author for Indian recipes, and I didn’t need another book by another author.
Two books about making presentations
These were both great books: Presentation Zen and Presentation Zen Design. It’s always a bit hard to give up a great book. But, I don’t do many presentations, and the ones I do are pretty informal, so the books weren’t serving any purpose in my home. I was delighted to see them go to someone who can really benefit from them.
One organizing-related book
I’m working through my collection a bit at a time, figuring out which of the 80+ books I own are worth keeping. They were all worth reading, once upon a time, but that doesn’t mean I still need all of them on my bookshelves.
This happens to a lot of us: We acquire books when we’re learning about a subject, but after some time we know enough that the books aren’t really helpful anymore.
I’m not going to tell you how many emails I have in my inbox, but I can tell you it’s about 40 percent less than it was a week ago.
It wasn’t as though important emails were being neglected. Rather, my inbox was full of newsletters I hadn’t read, emails from discussion lists, and similar items. Some messages I deleted without a second thought and removed myself from the distribution lists so similar messages won’t clog my email inbox in the future. Others, I’ve reviewed and decided what’s worth reading — and next I’ll be doing that reading. Some of the emails are worth keeping for reference, but many are hitting my electronic trash can.
This is a project where I’m committed to making daily progress. Some days I make much more progress than others, but every day I see the count go down.
I only get three magazines, which should be a very manageable number, but my stack of unread magazines was getting too tall for my comfort. Going through my stack, I discovered one magazine from December 2011. It was the first to get a quick look-through and then hit the recycling bin. With five more gone, I’m currently down to 12 magazines, none of them more than nine months old. Now, I’m inspired to reduce the stack even more, maybe going through one magazine a day.
Next up on my list: Uncluttering my many boxes of slides by scanning the ones I want to save. I’ll finish the email and magazine projects first. Bit by bit, day by day, things are getting better. And that’s how uncluttering tends to go for a professional organizer.
One of the fun things I’ve done a few times with friends is to have a clothing swap party. During the party, people exchange articles of clothing that are still in good condition but that they no longer use. It gives participants a chance to unclutter their closets, socialize with friends, and pick up a few items that they really will use and enjoy. Although donating can be accomplished through charity drop-offs and services like Freecycle, the Swap Party is a good excuse to get together with friends.
It is fairly straightforward to organize a Swap Party. Send an invitation to your friends indicating the date, time, and location of the party (send it electronically and you won’t even have to worry about the clutter of invitations). You should also lay out the Swap Party rules in the invitation. Here are the rules that I used for my last clothing swap party:
- Bring unwanted women’s clothing; clean and in good condition.
- Feel free to bring shoes, purses, scarves, jewelry and other accessories.
- No arguing over the clothes — remember we are friends!
- You may take home as many or as few clothes as you like.
- Don’t feel bad if nothing fits you and you don’t get to take home anything. There will always be a next time.
- Don’t feel bad if no one takes the clothes you brought. There will always be a next time.
- You may return home with the clothes you brought or you can leave them with the hostess to take to a local charity.
Before the party, ensure you have an area that can be used as a changing room. Make sure it has good lighting and good curtains. Ideally, you should set up a full-length mirror in the room. When the party is over, arrange to deliver the leftover clothing to charity.
While women’s clothing swap parties seem to be the most common, there are other types of swap parties you can organize with your friends and neighbours.
Holiday decorations: You can limit this to one specific holiday such as a Christmas Ornament exchange or include all sorts of holidays.
Baby/toddler items: Swap parties of baby and toddler clothes, furniture, and accessories are popular with the parent-tot crowd.
Toiletries: The hairspray you don’t use since you got your hair cut, the hand cream that Aunt Bertha got you for your birthday, and those other personal care products cluttering your cupboards might be of value to your friends.
Pet products: Your pet-loving friends may enjoy a get-together to swap pet clothing, unused pet shampoo, and toys. It could be a chance for the pets to socialize too!
Cleaning products: There is no point storing a can of oven cleaner if you have a self-cleaning oven or carpet shampoo if you have hardwood floors. Prior to spring-cleaning, consider gathering for a neighbourhood cleaning product exchange.
Sports: Sport specific clothing and equipment, especially children’s sizes, as well as specialized cleaning products and accessories, can be swapped within your sports team or club. You could also invite the teams in your league to participate for some pre-season socializing.
Office supplies: Fellow entrepreneurs can get together and trade supplies to get what they need: pens, markers, report covers, binders, even computers.
Hardware: If you have friends who are into building, have a hardware swap. Eliminate the nails, screws, hardware, lumber, and paint cluttering your garage or garden shed. You may get the items you need for that fix-it project.
Hobbies: Whether your hobby is rebuilding cars or scrapbooking, find a group of fellow enthusiasts and “swap ’till ya drop”!
Remember, it should be good stuff, good friends, and good fun at your party. With the extra items going to charity, it is also good for the community and the environment.
- Unitasker Wednesday: Stainless Steel Stir Mug
For those mornings when using a spoon or swishing the contents of your mug around is just more than you can bear, there is the Stainless Steel Stir Mug.
- Four ways to successfully manage change in the workplace
Are you experiencing changes in the workplace? Here are four ways to successfully manage them.
- The second pass
Do you do a second pass on your uncluttering efforts to make sure that you didn’t accidentally leave clutter in your collections? If you haven’t been doing a second pass of the areas of your home and office you’ve uncluttered, I recommend you schedule it on your calendar for a few days or weeks after your first pass in your uncluttering process. My guess is you’ll find one or more items you’re now ready to purge from your bookshelves, or whatever area you’ve recently uncluttered.
- Organizing your workspace based on function zones
Whether you’re moving into a new office or simply uncluttering and organizing your current space, one of the easiest ways to get your desk in order is to focus on organizing zones according to purpose. When you deal with the items on your desk based on similar function, you can keep the most important items as the focus of your space and put the least important items out of the way.
- Moving: How to pack your home
Tips and tricks for how to pack your home before a move.
- A lesson on mental clutter from the book Zen Shorts
Frustrations caused by occasional messes are usually not worth carrying around with you and cluttering up your mind, energy, and emotions.
Not a big post today, just some inspiration to get you thinking about where to keep your keys so you’re not searching for them when you need to leave your house. Obviously, you can keep them in a bowl or on a plain hook, but you can also do something fun with them.
We found these two cute animal key holders on Amazon that also store mail and I think they’re super fun.
Where do you put your keys? Are you in the habit of hanging them up or dropping them into the exact same spot each time you enter your home? If not, is this a routine you can easily incorporate into your life? It’s nice to know where your keys are in your house, especially in emergency situations.
How well lit are your rooms? One of the things I love about my home is that all of the rooms get a lot of natural light during the day. And, each room has enough in the way of lamps and light fixtures to make them comfortable to work in at night.
If you have a room that is dark and dreary, it’s going to work against you in your organizing efforts. You can’t see properly — and you may well find yourself avoiding the room, because it’s unpleasant.
The following are ways to address the lack of lighting:
Add some lamps or light fixtures
Determine what kind of light you need in your room — ambient light for sure, and possibly some task light — and then look for lighting to meet those needs.
Consider what kind of light bulbs you want. LEDs are coming way down in cost, so they’re a more attractive answer than they were in the past. They last longer than other light options and require less energy to run. When I put some LEDs in my home, I bought one soft (warm) light bulb and one daylight (cool) bulb to see which I preferred, before buying more. Many LEDs are dimmable, too, which can be really nice.
Rather than adding lamps or light fixtures, maybe all you need to do is replace your light bulbs. Both CFLs and LEDs allow you to get more light out of any given socket. If a socket is rated for 60 watts, for example, you can use a 13.5-watt LED light, which is the equivalent of a 75-watt incandescent, and still be totally safe.
Beside the normal lighting products we all know about, there are products to address specific lighting problems, too. For example, Ikea has a battery-operated LED light for a drawer, which goes on when the drawer is opened.
Add more natural light
If the cost isn’t prohibitive, and if you aren’t facing rental restrictions, consider adding a skylight, a solar tube, or some larger windows. If possible and practical, consider trimming back plants outdoors to allow more light to enter the room.
If you have good windows but privacy is an issue — so you keep the light out with widow coverings — bottom-up shades might work for you. These allow the light to come in at the top of the window. Window films might also be an option.
Repurpose your rooms
If your home office lacks natural light and is causing problems for you and light issues aren’t easily fixable, you may want to re-evaluate where you do your office-type activities. Can rooms be re-assigned, so the home office is relocated and the darker room becomes a room where the lack of natural light is less important to you?
Or could you do office-type activities somewhere else during the day? I’ve seen people do a lot of work at a kitchen or dining room table, in rooms with big windows with gorgeous views. It won’t work for everyone — some people would find the views too distracting — but it works for some. Just be careful about ergonomics if you’re working away from your normal desk.
All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!
Earlier this month, our very own Jacki Hollywood Brown traveled to Germany to attend a Star Trek convention. For fans of the franchise (counting the animated series, I think it’s six shows and 12 movies), a Star Trek convention is a good amount of fun. Like most conventions, there are speakers and workshops and an expo center featuring vendors selling anything even remotely Star Trek related.
Jacki and I had a few email exchanges while she was at the convention. I am also a Star Trek fan, preferring the Enterprise-based shows, and have gone to a convention or two in the US. After the general “I’m here and having fun” emails, our messages focused on a device she discovered for sale in the expo hall that we both have deemed a unitasker. The Brainwave Emotion Controlled Cat Ears:
As the name implies, this is a headband with fake cat ears on it and the ears move based on your emotions.
I have to be honest, I think they’re fun. However, beyond giving strangers a reason to talk to you, I’m not really sure what function they have. The whole mind reading thing is also creepy. If a headband is going to have a laser that is connected to your brain, I feel like it should do something beyond moving two little ears — like it should give you telekinetic powers or translate your thoughts into meows. Right? Plus, that giant battery pack on the left side and the laser on your forehead are certainly non-cat like and quite distracting. And, according to the Amazon reviews, they’re extremely delicate and the motors in the ears are quick to stop working (which is a bummer since the ears are $70).
Are they fun? Yes. A conversation starter? Yes. A unitasker? Definitely.
- Seven ways to cope with stress
Feeling stressed? Here are seven way to better handle the anxiety.
- Stay productive and organized while working from home
In Dave’s four years of working from home, he’s learned a lot about managing home and work life, staying productive while cozy at home, avoiding distractions, and more. Based on these experiences, the following are his 10 tips that keep his work on track when he’s at home.
- Unitasker Wednesday: Formula Mixer
Introducing the Formula Mixer.
- Design Public’s Organization Blog Fest: Bookshelves
The website Design Public is hosting an Organization Blog Fest for a week, and they asked me to be a part of the advice-wielding group for the second year in a row.
- Ask Unclutterer: Auto office
My wife uses her mini van as an office for her process serving business, and a shuttle bus for taking our children to and from various events plus all the household shopping. What suggestions or gadgets have you come across for organizing a vehicle? Any suggestions would be appreciated.
- Organizing food storage wraps
If you’re not lucky enough to have a designated drawer for food storage wraps in your kitchen, you probably have to sacrifice space in your pantry or cupboards for these items.
- Unitasker Wednesday: Underground time capsule
- Purchasing the right CFL bulbs
Martha Stewart Living had an article in their September 2008 issue that highlighted the differences of all the CFL options.