Breaking the organizing stalemate

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt that you couldn’t organize your bedroom until the laundry room is organized, but you couldn’t organize the laundry room until the bedroom is organized? This is a deadlock or stalemate situation — one in which several actions are waiting for the other to finish, and thus none of them ever is completed.

There are two basic ways to break a stalemate, one is by diplomacy and the other is by imposing military might.

Diplomatic method

The diplomatic method creates the least amount of disruption, however it does take a lot more time to complete the organizing process. It involves working a little at a time in each space, alternating back and forth. In the above example between the laundry room and the bedroom, you may choose to spend 15 minutes in each space each day organizing. You may repeatedly need to transfer clothing between rooms. You may decide to do a few loads of laundry every day. Additionally you would cart away clothing that is no longer suited to your lifestyle. Slowly, over the course of time, both rooms would become organized.

Military might method

The military might method may cause intense disruption for a short period of time, but the end result can be achieved more quickly than with the diplomatic method. The military might strategy involves clearing a full day in your calendar to complete the entire task and clearing everything from the space all at once. In the laundry room and bedroom example, you would gather up all of the clothing from both the bedroom and the laundry room and dump it in the living room where there is enough space to do a sort and purge. Once that is completed in the living room, your clothing would be returned to its appropriate storage area and the living room would be clear.

You may have to employ a combination of strategies, using both diplomacy and military might. There are no rules in love (of a tidy home) and war (on disorganization). The important thing is to get started and choose the method that works best for you and your situation.

Uncluttering toiletries: the shelf life of shampoo, sunscreen, and more

Unclutterer has written about makeup expiration, but what about all those other toiletries that tend to accumulate? Shampoos, lotions, and other products can also clutter up a bathroom.

Expiration date labels

You may find expiration dates on beauty and body care products to help you make a keep-or-toss decision — but not all products have such requirements.

Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, writing in the Chicago Tribune, summarized the requirements in the U.S:

The Food and Drug Administration requires that expiration dates be printed on all prescription and over-the-counter drugs, but not on cosmetics — unless the cosmetics are also considered drugs, such as toothpaste with fluoride, anything with sunscreen, anti-dandruff shampoo and antiperspirant. But even then, over-the-counter drugs without dose limitations don’t have to carry expiration dates if tests have proven they’re stable for at least three years, which is why one sunscreen may have a date while another won’t.

Things are different in the European Union, where cosmetic products with a shelf life of 30 months or more must have a Period-After-Opening symbol indicating how many months the product can be used “without any harm to the consumer” after it’s been opened. (Products with a shorter shelf life are labeled with a “best before” date.) Some American products have decided to use this same symbol, but that is voluntary.

Of course, if you’re going to rely on a PAO guideline, you’ll need to remember when you opened the product. You may want to write that date on the product with a permanent marker, or add a label with the date.

Shampoo (non-dandruff)

Real Simple reported shampoo is good for about three years; Jyl Craven Hair Design suggests “no more than three years and an opened bottle for at most 18 months.” Jyl goes on to say that some products — those that avoid using additives and preservatives — might go bad more quickly.

You can also rely on the smell and the feel of a product to alert you if it has gone bad. Amy Corbett Storch wrote:

How can you tell that shampoo is bad? Usually by the smell. An expired bottle of Pureology, for example, smells straight up like wet dog. Other signs: the shampoo appears separated or extra runny when you squirt some into your hands, and a lack of good lather.

How you store your shampoo can make a difference, too. Aubrey Organics said, discussing skin and body care products: “Long-term exposure of products to sunlight and/or heat should be avoided because the resulting oxidation may affect freshness.”

Sunscreen

Real Simple explained: The Food and Drug Administration requires that all sunscreens maintain their optimal strength for at least three years, but you should also check the printed expiration date on the bottom or the side of the product.

But again, you’ll want to pay attention to how the product appears. Real Simple goes on to quote Zoe Draelos, a dermatologist in High Point, North Carolina: “Most commonly, a foul odor indicates that the preservative has failed.”

And Dr. Lawrence Gibson wrote on the Mayo Clinic website, “Discard sunscreen that is more than 3 years old, has been exposed to high temperatures or has obvious changes in color or consistency.”

Toothpaste

Proctor and Gamble explained about the expiration date on toothpaste with fluoride:

Toothpaste past its expiration date may be less effective — some fluoride won’t bind with tooth enamel, reducing the toothpaste’s ability to strengthen teeth and defend them against cavities. Another result may be viscosity issues, such as toothpaste that is more difficult to squeeze through the tube.

Dr. Joel H. Berg, chairman of pediatric dentistry at the University of Washington in Seattle, explained the binding problem and a bit more in The New York Times.

He said depending how long and at what temperatures the tube was stored, the goo inside could separate, meaning less or more fluoride in each squeeze, and less or more flavoring agent, which could be mintily disconcerting.

Some toothpastes provide recommended storage temperatures. I’ve seen two — AquaFresh and Sensodyne — that say they should be stored below 86ºF, while another says below 77ºF.

Lip balm

Real Simple suggested lip balm can be kept unopened for five years, and opened for one to five years.

For more guidance, you might check with the individual company and see what information it provides. For example, Hurraw! Balm: “We recommend using your tube of Hurraw! Balm within a year of opening (fyi, stability tests place expiration at 3 years ‘on the shelf’) and storing it between 40-72F (4-22C).”

That last part is important, because a number of people indicate that lip balm will often go bad — developing clumps and texture problems — if it gets too hot or too cold, because the emulsification of the materials gets broken.

Conclusion

The more careful we are about how we store our toiletries, the longer they’ll last, and the less we’ll have to toss. But careful storage still doesn’t mean the products last forever.

Dyeing to love my clothes again

Today’s guest post is from my hometown friend Rebecca Bealmear. Lawyer by day and aspiring minimalist by night, she writes about her adventures in simple living, bicycling, and whatever captivates her attention on her personal blog Seven2seven8.com. She currently lives in St. Louis, Missouri. A big welcome to the lovely Rebecca. — Erin

For the past three years, I’ve joined up with the women on my husband’s side of the family for a once-a-year shopping trip. We often time it in the fall, to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday, and to get a head start on holiday shopping. And so, I found myself with my in-laws, at the Osage Beach outlets in Missouri this past October 26. This time, however, I didn’t feel like buying anything.

The funny thing about our tradition (and the point at which I became part of it), is that it coincides with the time I started to question all of the belongings I was holding onto in my home “just in case” they became useful or somehow morphed into what I really wanted or needed. This was especially true in my clothing closet — my tiny, circa-1939, approximately 10 square foot closet.

It was then my clothing projects began. I donated, but then I replaced more than I donated. I tried storing just a quarter of my huge wardrobe (full of inexpensive and trendy items) in my closet, with the remainder hanging on racks in my basement. And this worked, well, not at all. Then, it took a turn for the worse when I was bitten on the hip in February 2012 by a brown recluse spider that moved into a pair of pants I had been storing downstairs.

Suddenly, donating clothing I was not consistently wearing became so much easier.

Fast forward to today, and my wardrobe is easily a quarter (a sixth? an eighth?) the size it was a couple of years ago, and I have found a wardrobe system that really helps me evaluate the remaining items.

In February of 2013, I decided to try Courtney Carver’s Project 333. I tailored the challenge to the size of my current wardrobe, so I could reasonably cycle through almost all of my clothing in a year’s time (by dividing six rounds of 33 items across two months each). I have now completed four of my six rounds, and I am hooked, and I am changed.

I can no longer tolerate excess in my wardrobe or home, though I am still negotiating for myself what is “enough” and what is “excess.” I am simultaneously surprised, relieved, and horrified by the volume of items I have donated to charity organizations, and by the lack of sustainability I have learned is inherent in our fast-fashion culture. I struggle with ethical concerns raised by the toll rampant consumerism has taken on the lives of garment manufacturing factory employees in places like Rana Plaza, in Bangladesh, where the April collapse of a building (costing the lives of thousands of workers) has resulted in almost no improvement in conditions for workers — those who make the clothing we often wear just once or twice before discarding it for the next great deal.

This is how I found myself uninterested in purchasing clothing on my recent shopping trip with my in-laws, and strangely attached to some clothing in my own closet — specifically, four items that had disappointed me over various rounds of Project 333: (1) a white t-shirt, too sheer and becoming discolored; (2) a white button-up tunic, stained with bicycle-basket oil; (3) a white blouse with a lace panel, discolored from overuse; and (4) a chevron-striped blue skirt in a color I found difficult to wear and weirdly cheap-looking.

My solution? They had to dye.

Armed with one box of Rit Dye in Denim Blue, a large stockpot, and the four items to dye, I set out to improve the items in my closet. These are the items before:

And these are the items after dyeing, rinsing, washing, and drying:

I am pleased with the results. The practical life of each garment has been extended, and they each have a different personality in the new blue versus the original shade. And, if I ultimately donate a garment, it might actually find its way into another person’s closet now, instead of landing in a rag heap or landfill – a much better fate than the tops would have met, had I donated them in their stained or discolored states.

The box of Rit Dye cost about $3 and since I already owned the clothing, it was free. I’d recommend getting some rubber gloves to protect your hands. I simply followed the provided instructions, which were very well-written. I dyed the skirt first for 20 minutes, then all three shirts together for another 20. Once finished, I rinsed the clothing well, and ran them, alone, through a heavy-duty wash cycle with a generous amount of detergent, then dried them.

No shopping, no landfills, no waste. I’ve deemed it a success!

Storing off-season clothing

As the seasons change, it’s time to switch out the clothes. It’s a labor-intensive process that not many people like, honestly, but some early preparation can make the process a bit smoother. In the northern hemisphere, we’re currently moving from warmer weather to cooler temperatures, but the following advice applies for those of you in the southern hemisphere moving into warmer months.

Before you buy any storage containers, plastic bags, or similar items, get your hands on a label maker. It’s the most useful tool for this project. We have one of these handheld models because its easy to carry around. When you get to the bin stage, you’ll want the label maker to label whose clothes are in which bin and to note the contents (“Jane’s winter clothes,” “Dave’s sweaters,” etc.).

My wife and I have tried two brands of vacuum bags, and neither have worked for us. Despite following the instructions to the letter, both brands began filling with air within a matter of weeks, defeating their purpose entirely. If you’ve had good luck with a particular brand, please let me know.

For us, the answer is large, plastic bins. You can find these at home supply stores, some hardware stores and big-brand DIY stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s. Make sure the lids seal tightly and that they’ll work with your storage method before buying (stackable, side-by-side and so on).

Before placing clothes inside, ensure that they’re thoroughly clean. Locking your shirts in a sealed bin with some insect larvae you didn’t notice in September means you’ve created an all-you-can-eat bug buffet for little critters. Check the bins themselves for the same thing. If you are using plastic bags, ensure that no moisture is inside and there’s no chance of condensation. Throw in a few cedar balls and/or natural herbal moth repellent sachets for a little more protection. Do not store clothes in thin plastic dry cleaning bags for long periods of time as the plastic can decay and ruin your items.

Here’s a lesson I learned the hard way: a hanger is not a good long-term solution. When I was living on my own as a bright-eyed 20 year old, I kept several sweaters hanging all summer. Once fall arrived, they all had hanger-induced bumps on the shoulders that would not go away. If you don’t have any other option, fold the items and hang them in their folded state over the straight bar of the hanger and then group the hangers inside a garment bag made to repel moths and other fabric-eating insects.

When stacking heavy objects like sweaters in a bin, put them at the bottom of the pile. That way they won’t crush lighter items, allow air flow, and prevent mustiness. Finally, check on your clothes once a month to make sure that none of the aforementioned problems have cropped up.

Ask Unclutterer: How to store transient items?

Reader Heather submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

My “Ask Unclutterer” question has to do with what I call “transient items.” It’s the birthday gift you purchased but you won’t see the recipient for a few days/weeks or the cupcake carrier that usually stays in the pantry, but a friend needs to borrow it, so you get it out so she can come over for it. What is the best way to deal with these items?

In our home, we have an old laundry basket on the floor of our main coat closet where we put these sorts of items. It’s nice because even if one of us isn’t home, if someone stops by to pick up items, other people in the house know where to find whatever is being retrieved. We also put items in it we don’t want to forget when we run errands — like a bag full of dry cleaning.

Other ideas might be to clear the top shelf of your coat closet and use it as your transient area or get a bench with hidden interior storage and put items in it. Benches are nice in hallways because they give guests a place to sit if they’re waiting on someone, as well as a place to park yourself if you want to take off your shoes.

The Red Chair Blog suggests using storage cubes with labeled boxes set out in a hallway, though I would suggest sticking the cubes in a closet if you have a closet near your front door. Or, if you have a garage, this could easily be stored in it next to the house entrance.

Thank you, Heather, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. Be sure to check our comments for even more ideas from our readers.

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.

Ways to put lonely socks to good (uncluttered) use

The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Canada, is a self-described “unique and charming” museum that displays well over 10,000 shoes and hosts podcasts about “one fantastic shoe” every month. And, shoes aren’t the only thing on display. The museum also held an art exhibit featuring socks and the history of their humble beginnings.

The curious thing about socks is that they often lose their mates and become a source of clutter. Unlike those featured at the Bata, the ones in your home can end up under your bed and in between the sofa cushions. They are also often relegated to the dark recesses of shopping bags when Justin Case comes for a visit.

“I’ll keep this sock, just in case its mate turns up.”

Does that sound familiar? When we misplace an item from a matching set, we tend to hang on to them for a while, especially when the items cannot be used without each other (such as a gadget and its power cord). We probably keep lonely socks because we still see some value in them, even though they are now orphaned and we may not want them anymore. Fortunately, there are uncluttered alternatives to keeping mateless socks:

  1. Wear them! This may not seem as obvious (or maybe it’s so obvious that it’s often overlooked), but you can still wear them. You can make a pair using another lonely sock and wear them around the house.
  2. Use them as padding in your packages. Clean socks can be used inside packages to protect the items that you’re mailing. This is a good way to keep the contents of your package safe, but you should let the recipient know that the socks can be discarded.
  3. Use them to protect holiday decorations. You can store some of your holiday decorations (like ornaments) inside the socks before packing them away.
  4. Dust with them. I’m not a fan of dusting, so this is my least favorite option, but you can add mateless socks to your cleaning supplies. Just be sure to keep a specific number of sock dusters so that you don’t end up cramming more and more of them in with your supplies.
  5. Use them in craft projects. This is perhaps the most fun way to repurpose socks (especially for children). From sock puppets to doll accessories, get creative and make something new. Looking for inspiration? Check out the book The Lonely Sock Club: One Sock, Tons of Cool Projects!.
  6. Make a pet toy. If you have pets, you can make a cool tug-of-war toy for them. Have a look at this tutorial from Real Simple on how to make one. If you have a cat, you can stuff a little cat nip inside it, close it up, and watch your cat go nuts. You may also want to check with your local animal shelter to find out if they have a need for them.

The next time you end up with orphaned socks, be sure that they don’t overstay their welcome and turn into another source of clutter. You can use one of the suggestions above to breathe new life into them, but remember that it really is okay to let them go if you have no use for them.

2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Ultimate uncluttered gift

Since we began putting together our annual gift-giving guides in 2007, we have always included an ultimate gift in our series. The idea of the ultimate gift is focused on uncluttering and/or organizing and it is sometimes at the high end of the price spectrum for our gift guides. It’s a gift you might give to a loved one, but it also might be an item you add to your wish list.

In 2007, we recommended the Fujitsu ScanSnap (PC and Mac). In 2008, we chose the Kindle. In 2009, it was my book, Unclutter Your Life in One Week (now also in audio format). In 2010, we went with the Intellishred paper shredder (now called the Powershred). And, in 2011, we went off script a little and recommended hiring a professional organizer with a list of recommendations.

After much thought and deliberation, we have decided to return to the world of the physical and suggest a tangible item. Like last year, though, it’s a bit unorthodox. It’s not necessarily something you can unwrap, but I’m sure if you are creative you could find a way to put something wrapable under the tree (like a screw or small piece of it).

The 2012 Ultimate Gift is a closet makeover.

Over the past few months, we’ve become fans of Rubbermaid’s Configurations system for its price (much lower than Elfa’s) and quality. The arrangement options and sizes are numerous, and we believe a well organized closet is a thing of beauty. In addition to bedroom closets and office closets, don’t forget your pantry, coat closet, and supply closets in your garage and/or basement. When uncluttered and organized, these areas can increase functionality significantly, such as with my old “Mary Poppins” closet in our previous house:

Also, the system has attachments like pull-out baskets, chests of drawers, tie and belt valets, angled shoe shelves, sliding pant racks, as well as preassembled kits for your pantry and clothing closets.

This is a gift you would want to consult with the recipient before giving, but I think in many cases it would be very well received. As I mentioned before, it is a non-traditional gift, but non-traditional doesn’t mean bad. A beautiful, new, organized closet would be a truly wonderful way to start the new year.

The full 2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

Insight (and shoe inspiration) in an uncluttered wardrobe

In an effort to unclutter my wardrobe, I made the decision a few years ago to streamline everything and stop buying printed clothing. Three years later, and except for five pieces, I’ve achieved this goal. My pants, tops, coats, dresses, suits, and skirts are now solid colors and are also in a very limited color scheme: navy blue, white, gray, black, brown, red, and teal.

Shopping is certainly easier — in fact, all of my casual tops are one of two styles of basic t-shirts (this one and this one), just in different colors. When one of the t-shirts is damaged or worn, I hop online and order the exact shirt to replace it. My dresses all come from two designers (this one and this one) who have outlet stores near my home and almost exclusively design in solid colors. Three of the dresses I own are even the same dress in black, gray, and white. Since these items fit me exactly how I prefer, it’s nice to have the color variety (and getting them at discount at the outlet stores is nice, too).

The idea of having a classic, basic, streamlined wardrobe seems boring or lacking in creativity to a lot of people, but the way I see it is my clothing is like a canvas. My shoes and accessories are where I let my personality speak. A headband and coordinating pair of shoes stand out when they’re not also competing for visual attention with a shirt and skirt. I’ve also found shoes and accessories are significantly less expensive than well constructed, quality clothing. As trends change, replacing a scarf is easier than replacing an entire wardrobe. And, until I point it out to people, no one ever notices I have a basic wardrobe of solid colors in a limited color range.

Recently, I came upon a design concept that is so in line with my uncluttered wardrobe system I was saddened to learn the concept isn’t in production. I’m mentioning it, though, because it’s where I would like to see fashion trend. I’d like to see more uncluttered ideas become mainstream.

Israeli industrial designer Daniela Bekerman started with a basic flat shoe and then created accessories for the shoe that dramatically alter its simple appearance. The Ze O Ze shoe:

I see my clothing as the basic flat shoe that is enhanced with the heel accessories, or, in my case, simply accessories.

Keeping clutter out of your wardrobe can be difficult, and how you choose to do it will reflect your style and personality. In my case, a streamlined wardrobe of solid color, well constructed pieces in classic designs and a limited color palette work best for me. This system works because all of the pieces fit me well and are complimented nicely by my fun, trendy shoes and accessories. There are obviously different ways, but this is how I achieve an uncluttered wardrobe.

Shoe design found via Design-Milk.

What’s on your summer to do list? Organizing your closet

Sorting, categorizing, and purging clothing are not activities just for springtime. If your goal is to simplify, unclutter, and to keep only the things you need and use, summer is an opportune time to reveiw and edit what’s in your closet. A new season gives us a reason to check if our style and tastes are still the same as the year before, to see if we have duplicates, and to organize things in a way that helps us find what we want when we want it. You will also get a good idea of the colors you tend to stock up on so you can find ways to introduce others that flatter you (or to streamline your options). And, if you read Erin’s recent post on “material saturation,” you would have learned that our closets (as well as a few other places) are bursting at the seams, so this is just a good a time as any to figure out:

How much clothing you have

This is typically the first step in the clothing review process. You can’t really know what you’re going to keep or donate until you find out exactly what and how much you have. If you have clothes in several places, gather them together so that you can really see how large (or small) your stash is. Sometimes we forget where we store things, so check on high shelves, under the bed, in the guest room (in the closet and under the bed in there, too, if you have a guest room), basement, attic, outdoor storage units, and the laundry area. Once you have them all together, use a flat surface like a table or your bed as a staging area for sorting and categorizing.

Now comes the hard(er) part, making decisions about what gets the boot and what gets lovingly placed back inside your closet.

How many clothes do you really need?

So, how often do you really wear all your clothing? Frequency of use can be used as a benchmark when you’re deciding what you’ll keep. Some things may only be worn once in a while (e.g. for special events) while others are not worn because you no longer like them or because you haven’t seen them. If the latter statement refers to you, give them until the end of this season to see if you reach for them. If you don’t, they are probably good candidates for your favorite charitable organization. Do the same for clothes that you just don’t fancy anymore.

Are you still holding on to clothing that you used to love?

You don’t have to get rid of everything in your closet and there’s nothing wrong with keeping a few items because they have high sentimental value. But, if your closet is filled with many clothes that you used to love but don’t wear anymore, it’s time to look at things a little differently. And, don’t just buy something because it’s on sale. It has to “make your heart sing,” so says Stylist, Stacy London. You might also want to think about which item will leave your closet so that your new purchase can move in.

Do your clothes still fit and flatter you?

Look with a critical eye at each article of clothing. Are they flattering to you now at your current size? Try them on to see how you look and feel in them, especially while you’re still at the store. It will take a little more time to do this, but consider the time you’ll save by leaving something unflattering at the store instead taking it home only to return it later.

Do your clothes still fit your current lifestyle?

Think about your current lifestyle while you’re in decision-making mode. Do you need to attend a variety of diverse events that require several types of clothing, or can you wear some of the same outfits? Has your style evolved over time? If the prospect of searching for clothing that will make you look your best is a bit daunting, you can use an in-store stylist to help you select a few core pieces. Many stores, like Nordstrom, offer this service (for both men and women) free of charge. This doesn’t mean that you have carte blanche to buy any and everything. But, you may get advice that will help you make wiser purchases and help keep your closet from being filled with things that you will never wear.

How will you put everything back?

Before putting everything back in your closet, first figure out if any of your items need to be laundered or taken to the dry cleaners. Some things, even though you may have already worn them once or twice, can go directly in your closet. A recent article in the Star Tribune noted that it’s okay to wash your jeans “intermittently” but jackets and blazers can be worn up to six times before needing to be cleaned. You can also take a look at Real Simple’s The When-to-Wash-It-Handbook for “when to wash” tips on various items, including delicates and everyday wear.

As you return things to your closet…

  • Group like items together (e.g., all the pants together, all the shirts together, all the dresses together, and so on) and keep in mind that not every item should be put on a hanger. Sweaters, for instance, keep their shape best when they are folded (find more clothing tips in Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook).
  • Color coordinating (i.e., keeping similar hues together) the clothing in each category will help you to find what you’re looking for more quickly and see the colors you tend to gravitate toward.
  • Consider using hangers of the same type and color to give your closet a neat and orderly look. By maintaining a uniform look, you’ll be more likely to things back where they belong.
  • Keep donation basket or bag in your closet or laundry room for clothing that you haven’t worn in awhile or simply don’t like anymore.

No matter what structured elements you decide to include in your closet, put things back in a way that makes sense to you. Avoid creating a system that is too complicated to keep up with and the next time you decide to organize your closet, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much easier the task will be.

Do your spaces reflect what matters most to you?

My friend Brittany (whom I’ve mentioned so many times on this site that I’m starting to think I need to add her to our About page) sent me a link to the following video, which I’ve found to be incredibly inspiring. As an unclutterer, there are numerous things that caught my attention with this piece and I want you to see it, too. This is a video that fashion icon Anna Dello Russo recently made for the clothing store H&M:

Dello Russo’s home is a perfect example of what I refer to when I say, “it’s important to clear the clutter so you can focus on what is important to you.” What is important to Anna Dello Russo? Fashion and, specifically accessories. Her place has a lot of accessories — more than I’ve ever seen in an individual collection — yet her home is completely uncluttered, simple, elegant. She doesn’t have anything in her home that detracts from her passion for accessories. Even the books on her bookshelf exist to provide her inspiration for new accessories and outfits. And, she is truly organized. Everything has a place, and everything is in its place.

Did you notice the descriptions she has written on her shoe boxes? Did you see how she keeps the packaging for her tights and carefully returns each pair to that packaging when she’s finished wearing them? Did you see how few clothes she actually owns? My guess is that she is a loyal follower of the one-in-one-out rule for her garments. Her purses and clutches are lined up in beautiful rows, and it’s obvious she knows exactly where each piece of jewelry is located in her home.

My favorite thing about this space is how it represents her love for accessories and that love is directly reflected in the decor of each room. She has some artwork on the walls, but mostly she lets the bracelets and hats and other items be the artwork. This is a woman who knows exactly what matters to her and doesn’t let anything distract her from her passion.

What matters most to you? Have you made room in your life for whatever it is you love? Have you cleared the clutter, the distractions, so you can spend more time focused on what matters to you? Do your spaces reflect who you are and what you love as well as Anna Dello Russo’s do?

The Cubby: An uncluttered coat hook

Well designed, superior quality, visually appealing, utilitarian goods that make life more organized and less complicated are the types of products I look for when shopping for housewares and office supplies. I try to only have things in my spaces that, as William Morris so aptly identified as his ownership goals, are beautiful and useful. When I no longer feel inspired by an item or find it helpful, I get rid of it.

I recently stumbled upon a Kickstarter project for a simple device that meets all of my qualifications for making life more organized and less complicated. The Cubby makes traditional coat hooks look like they’re not living up to their potential:

Key ring, phone, gloves, sunglasses, and/or wallet fit right inside the pouch, and a purse, scarf, laptop bag, and/or coat on the exterior of the pouch. It’s made with some recycled materials and is fully recyclable. It’s easy to use, attractive in a modern space, and would be perfect for a reception station near the primary entry to your home or office.

Have you come across a better mouse trap? Do you know anyone who is designing or has designed a high-quality, visually appealing, utilitarian good that helps to make life more organized and less complicated? Share your finds in the comments.

And, again, I have no affiliation with this product and am not benefitting in any way from talking about it. I simply think it’s an uncluttered and useful product.

What aren’t you using this winter?

While the chilly winds blow (at least on those of us in the northern hemisphere), now is a great time to go through your home and see what winter-related items you haven’t used this year and donate the excess to charity. You’ll free up space in your home, and possibly help someone in need make it through the winter more comfortably.

Check out your:

  • Blankets. Are there heavy blankets lingering in your closet that you haven’t used this year or last year or the year before that?
  • Sweaters. If you haven’t worn the sweater by now, are you ever going to wear it again?
  • Hats, gloves, scarves. If you have children, do all the hats and gloves in your closet still fit someone in your home?
  • Coats. Similar to your sweaters, if any of your winter coats haven’t been worn this season, are you ever going to wear them?
  • Boots. If they’re in good condition, someone in need could really benefit from any boots you’re not wearing.
  • Outdoor recreation items. Sleds, toboggans, and skis won’t help someone in need, but if you’re no longer using them, they still shouldn’t be taking up space in your garage.
  • Outdoor care items. Snow shovels, snow blowers, and other outdoor care items should be replaced if they’re broken or unsafe to use. Don’t donate unusable items to charity, but recycle and/or trash pieces as appropriate.
  • Decorations. Any holiday or winter decorations you didn’t put out this year could easily be sold on eBay, Craigslist, or given away through Freecycle. Check with local doctors’ offices, day care centers, and schools to see if they have any interest in the items you didn’t use this year.

Those of you basking in the summer sun in the southern hemisphere, consider doing a similar sweep for unused warm-weather items. If you haven’t used something yet, it’s likely just taking up space in your home unnecessarily.