Archives for Resources/Services
I use iTunes to organize my digital music collection and, for the most part, it suits my needs. I say “for the most part” because similar to the problem I’ve been having with the photographs that I had scanned, not all of my music has correct information associated with it. Fortunately for my music, though, I don’t have to go through my entire iTunes collection song-by-song to straighten out the missing and incorrect data. I have found a program that simply corrects my data — TuneUp.
Based on algorithms and other technical things I don’t fully understand (kind of like the iPhone app Shazam), TuneUp picks up where iTunes leaves off at properly identifying the music in my collection. I no longer have seven Track 03s on my playlists. All I have to do is drag the misidentified song into the “cleaner” and TuneUp pulls up possible matches. (The cleaner function is displayed at right.)
In addition to identifying songs, it also fixes formatting, finds rarer cover art, matches artist names, and even gives information about the songs in your collection sort of like VH1′s old Pop-Up Videos.
There are other programs out there similar to TuneUp, I just happened to find this program first and since it worked for me I didn’t try the others. If you have tried other programs and had success, please tell us about your experiences in the comments. TuneUp is free for a “limited-access” download, and is around $20 for an “unlimited” version.
If only I could find a program to clean up my digital photographs as easily …
(Image from TuneUp’s website … I fear if I show my music collection you all will make strange — but probably correct — assumptions about me! And, it should go without saying, but I wasn’t paid to write this review.)
Dancing Mammoth, the company that owns Unclutterer, is always working on new products and services to help people save time and use the web more effectively. In the past, we’ve introduced Nest Unclutterer and Fix My HTML.
Today we’re introducing a new service, called AtTheBigRiver.com.
AtTheBigRiver.com is a convenient way to link to your favorite content at Amazon.com. It allows you to create intuitive, functional, and humane URLs on the fly, without interrupting the flow of your writing to stop and find the “correct” URL. AtTheBigRiver.com’s intelligent technology always sends your users to a sensible location. Just take the name of the artist, author, book or other product you want to link to at Amazon, change spaces to hyphens, and append “.atthebigriver.com” to it.
AtTheBigRiver.com works best with popular authors and artists. Suppose you want to link to The Beatles’ “official” page at Amazon.com. Finding the URL of the page is a hassle, and when you do find it, it looks like this:
Instead, you can simply use this URL:
AtTheBigRiver.com knows where the “official” Beatles page is, and will automatically redirect users to it.
The same thing works with popular authors. Compare the “official” Neil Gaiman link on Amazon.com:
If AtTheBigRiver.com doesn’t have a term in its database, it automatically redirects users to the Amazon search page for that search term. Try links like this:
The rules for constructing AtTheBigRiver.com URLs are simple. Simply take the name of the artist, author, book or other item you want to link to, change spaces to hyphens, and append “.atthebigriver.com” to it. Our intelligent redirection technology is very forgiving. Underscores are automatically converted to hyphens, and non-alphanumeric characters are stripped out.
So these URLs are both equivalent and functional:
AtTheBigRiver.com also works with Amazon.com referrer codes. Put your referrer code at the end of the URL and 90 percent of the time when that link is clicked on we’ll pass your affiliate code along to Amazon. The other 10 percent of the time we’ll substitute our code to help cover the costs of providing this service. If you don’t include a referrer code, we’ll use our affiliate code 100 percent of the time.
For example, if your affiliate code is affiliate123, then you add the referrer code like this:
Love them or loathe them, electronic party invitations are very convenient. To me, they are what you use when a paper invitation is too formal for the event (drinks with friends, coworker’s birthday celebration in the conference room), but you want people to know that you put some level of planning into it (ordered an ice cream cake, spent all day Saturday cleaning the bathrooms in your apartment). They save you time from having to pick up the phone and call every one of your friends.
E-vite has been the standard electronic invitation system that people adopted. There are a lot of color and theme options, people feel comfortable clicking on an e-vite link from their e-mail, and it doesn’t take a computer programmer to figure out how to use the service. But, I’ve never looked at an e-vite and been impressed from a design perspective:
It’s busy. Everything on the page is competing for my attention. (Although, I do like this new Clothing Swap Party invitation template. A great idea for a party.)
A new player has jumped into the electronic invitation market, and it is MyPunchbowl. It has all the same features as Evite, and the added benefit of the invitations actually looking like invitations.
There is less clutter on the invitation page, it’s obvious where to find information about the party, and it integrates with a number of electronic calendar systems. There are other features, like potluck planning and gift registry information, that are nice. But, to be honest, I just like the uncluttered look of the invitations. (And no, I didn’t really have a botox party.)
(Thanks to Erin Kane at RealSimple.com for introducing me to MyPunchbowl.)
A couple months ago, I was given the opportunity to be a beta-beta tester for Alice.com. (A gamma tester?) It’s a dry goods grocery delivery service where you place an order online and then have the items shipped directly to your home.
The prices are comparable to what you might find in a big box store like Costco or Sam’s Club, but the products are sized like what you would buy in a grocery store or pharmacy. All with the added convenience of not having to go to a store (and there is no charge for shipping). You can set up a shopping list and reminders, so that every few weeks or a couple times a year (you set the schedule) you receive a notification from Alice.com telling you that you might be getting low on toilet paper or deodorant or shampoo.
I’ve gone shopping on Alice, paid for my order, and received a shipment. For as much as I ordered, I was genuinely surprised at how little packaging they used. It all fit in a reasonably sized box and the box broke down easily to go into our recycling bin. Everything about the process was convenient.
And I think that is why I liked it so much. It’s convenient. I’m incredibly busy and the last thing I want to do is have to run to the store to pick up toilet paper when we inevitably run out at 10:00 at night. Now, I get a notice once a month asking me if I need toilet paper, and if my supplies are low, I order more. I make a few clicks with my mouse in less than a minute and toilet paper appears two days later.
Right now, since they’re still in beta, they’re only carrying the major brands. But, they’re in negotiations with smaller manufacturers to increase their inventory. They actually carried my favorite brand of all of the supplies I ordered, so I didn’t notice that anything was missing. During testing, though, I noted one or two types of products that weren’t on their inventory and poof! after I suggested the product it appeared on the list a few days later. So, I know they’re listening to consumer requests. The interface is easy to use, too, and these cute little cartoon people guide you through the site:
I think about my friends who have infants at home and barely have time to shower, and how nice it would be for them if diapers just appeared on their doorsteps. I think about my friends who live in downtown New York who have to take 20 minute train rides to get to the closest big box store, and how much time it would save them if their dry good items could simply be delivered. Since I buy the vast majority of my food through our local farmer’s market, Alice.com saves me from having to make a second shopping trip to the grocery store. It’s extremely convenient for busy people. It removes an errand/chore from my weekly schedule and allows me to spend that time doing something that matters more to me. It’s simple and uncluttered, for my life.
Granted, this service isn’t for everyone. If you like going to the grocery store and smelling products and first touching what you’re going to buy, then you won’t like getting your dry goods delivered. It also takes 15 to 20 minutes to put together your initial order (at least that is what it took me) which isn’t much of a time saver on that first trip. Subsequent trips are just seconds, however, since you have an established shopping list. Also, if you buy a lot of small production goods, it might take a while for those to become available as contracts are negotiated between Alice and those manufacturers.
What do you think about dry goods being delivered to your door? To me, it’s a lot like Netflix or Amazon, just with the specific grocery angle. If you’re interested in trying it for yourself, you can sign up for a free account and be a beta tester, too, at Alice.com. Tell us your thoughts in the comments.
I’m a list keeper. I used to keep lists on stray pieces of paper around my office. Whatever was within reach would get a list on it — backs of envelopes, stray receipts, post-it notes. After I got the iPhone, my random paper list-making decreased significantly. The Notes application and I become fast friends.
However, I’ve once again found myself looking to good ol’ pen and paper to write down some of my ideas. Instead of turning to scraps of paper that will eventually clutter up my desk, I’ve decided to buy a notebook.
In my pursuit of finding the perfect notebook, I have discovered that there is a gigantic market of luxury notebooks out there. I honestly had no concept of how large it is. So, if you’re in the market for a good notebook to keep your ideas in one organized location, these are the brands to explore:
- Field Notes
- G. Lalo
- Kunst and Papier
- Maruman Hongasen
- Pen and Ink
- Quo Vadis
- Rag and Bone
- Rite in the Rain
- Xonex Ru
I made my decision about which to buy based on reviews I came across on a couple of notebook blogs. The blog Black Cover has pictures and reviews of some of the little black notebooks. And the website Notebook Stories has reviewed 19 different brands.
Are you a traditional notebook aficionado? Is there a brand or style that didn’t make my list? Please let us know about it in the comments!
We love Twitter.
But we don’t like it when a tweetbot follows us just because we mentioned a particular word or brand name. We could protect our updates, but that would just make it more difficult for people we actually know to follow us.
We don’t like tweetspammers who follow so many people that they’re probably just trying to get people to follow them back. You can’t be really listening to what 2000 people have to say.
We don’t like having our friend list filled up with inactive users who never tweet anymore.
These are just a few of the reasons we have created the Nest Unclutterer. It uses Twitter’s excellent API to help you maintain a tidy Twitter account:
- The Nest Unclutterer protects your privacy from marketers and businesses by blocking followers who are already following a user-specified number of people.
- It removes followers who have been inactive for a user-specified period of time.
- It helps create a whitelist of users exempt from any of these rule-based actions.
We hope you like it, and we would appreciate any suggestions for additional features.
The other day, I stumbled upon the bizarre website Homstie. The purpose of the site is to list space in your home that you want to make available to strangers for clutter storage rental.
Off site storage does make sense in certain situations, especially for city parking. If your home comes with two parking spaces and you only use one, renting out the other space makes sense.
However, when it comes to putting someone else’s clutter in your home, the idea falls apart completely. First of all, if you have enough extra space that you can rent it out, maybe consider downsizing. Your mortgage and energy bills would certainly be smaller. Also, you don’t want your clutter in your home, why take on someone else’s? Finally, there is no telling what could be in those duffle bags that were dropped off by that strange guy who talks to squirrels in the park. All I can think of is the spooky case of John Robinson.
LendAround is a service that coordinates sharing items with your friends. The website is in beta, and currently there is a waiting list to join, but we think it’s worth the effort of signing up for the service now. From their about page:
LendAround is a project to encourage us all to stop hoarding stuff we own, and start lending it to each other.
LendAround is a free web tool that helps people to borrow things from their friends — starting with DVDs.
It lets you keep track of what you own, what you’ve borrowed, and who from.
You choose who you trust, and you choose what to list.
You’re in control all the time. If a friend asks to borrow something of yours, saying yes is always optional.
A website that helps people to keep fewer things in their homes is a pretty good service in Unclutterer’s view. Learn more by checking out LendAround’s tour.
(via Apartment Therapy)
My father, a photographer, put a camera in my hands at a very early age. I have taken hundreds, often thousands, of pictures a year for most of my life. And, as a result, I have boxes and boxes of print photographs taking up space in my closet.
One of my goals for 2009 is to have all of my old photographs scanned so that I can have digital copies of these pictures. We’ve talked previously about services that will scan your photographs (in addition to ScanMyPhotos, commenters also recommend ScanCafe and LifePreserver), and having my photos scanned is the first item on my to-do list for this project.
While I’m trying to decide which scanning service to use, I’m also deciding what to do with the photographs once they’re scanned. First up, I’ll be sure to backup the images; I’ll put copies of the digital image DVDs in my safety deposit box at the bank and I’ll upload the image files to my online storage system. I value these images enough to pay to have them scanned, so I should also pay to have them protected from fire and natural disaster.
I will want to organize the digital image files on my computer, but I haven’t yet decided which program to use. I currently use iPhoto, but with a hundred thousand more photographs, it will be overloaded. With the new version coming out in a couple weeks, I’m going to wait to see if it’s more capable and robust. If it won’t meet my needs, I’m considering the iPhoto Library Manager by Fat Cat Software for $20 as one option for improving my current system’s functionality. But, I expect I’m going to spend the $200 to buy Aperture 2 and revel in its powerful system. (If you’re on a PC, I hear that Google’s Picasa continues to be the most convenient photo manager.)
Finally, I plan to use Blurb to create a handful of albums that I want to store on the bookshelf for guests to peruse. I used Blurb in December to create four photo albums and was very impressed with their service. I’ve used the Apple system in the past, but the quality of the Blurb book is leaps and bounds ahead of Apple’s product.
The books I ordered from Blurb were hardcovers with glossy jackets, full color interior, and 100-pound silk-finish paper. With shipping, I paid less than $150 total for the four albums. It may sound like a lot, but their quality appropriately matches the price. Alternatively, if you decided to go with a paperback cover, no book jacket, and non-premium paper would significantly reduce the price per album.
(Off-topic tip: I’ve often thought that digital photo albums would be great for sentimental clutter photographs. Take images of sentimental items, ditch the actual item, and then create a photo album of all your sentimental things. Instead of a basement full of clutter, you can have a single book on your bookshelf taking up just inches of space.)
I will add that I do have one complaint about Blurb and that is if you use their templates you can’t move any elements around on the page or resize any objects. This isn’t an issue just with Blurb, though, a handful of other album printing companies have the same restrictions. You can import full pages from programs like InDesign (Mac and PC), but then you’re not able to use the templates. Inside sources have told me that there are some improvements coming down the pipeline, and I hope altering templates is one of them.
For those of you who have already gone through the process of scanning all of your old photographs, what have you done to manage the files? Please let us know your plan of action in the comments.
Since January is the National Association of Professional Organizer’s Get Organized Month, I’ve asked Geralin Thomas of Metropolitan Organizing in Cary, North Carolina, to share her insights with us on how to hire a professional organizer. For many of us, having someone coach us through the uncluttering process can be very beneficial.
If you decide to hire a professional organizer, start by looking for someone who is diplomatic, empathetic, willing to listen, non-judgmental, creative, patient, and trustworthy. Also, to ensure that the professional organizer follows ethical business practices, check your local Better Business Bureau reports and look for someone who is involved a professional organization like the National Association of Professional Organizers in the US, the Professional Organizers in Canada, or the Australian Association of Professional Organizers in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.
It is okay to interview different organizers to get a feel for who matches best with your personality. Below is a menu of questions you might consider asking when hiring an organizer:
- What are your areas of expertise? (Some possible answers may include: garages, clients with ADHD, time management, wardrobes and closets, financial matters, computer-related challenges, speaking, coaching, writing, estates, downsizing for seniors, home staging, relocation, etc.)
- Are you certified? Insured? (Certification is optional and not required. NAPO has many well-qualified organizers that are not certified for a variety of reasons.)
- Do you attend conferences or tele-classes to stay abreast of current organizing trends and techniques?
- Do you have local references?
- Do you belong to any professional organizations? (I would not hire a professional organizer who is not involved in some type of professional group or organization. To me, a professional affiliation demonstrates not only a commitment to her field but an additional way to check her/him out among other business-minded individuals.)
- How long have you been in business? How many clients / hours have you worked?
- What hours do you work? What days of the week are you available? (Make sure that this person’s availability is a good match for your availability.)
- Do you bring the necessary supplies, or do I purchase them separately?
- If you purchase supplies or materials at a discount, do you charge an “up charge” or an hourly shopping fee?
- Do you make arrangements to take away donations, consignments, and trash? If so, do you charge a fee for this service?
- Do you work alone or do you have a team of employees or subcontractors, if necessary?
- Do you have advertising on your car? (Ask this only if you do not want co-workers or neighbors to know you are hiring a professional organizer.)
- Do you take photographs? Will they be on your website?
- What is your cancellation policy?
- How do you charge? Of course, I don’t need to tell you to inquire about fees but there are many options available, including hourly, by the project, or bulk rates. There may be a minimum number of hours required per booking, too, so ask about that.
Remember that professional organizers are not housekeepers, therapists, decorators, or nurses unless they specifically tell you that their credentials include these jobs. According to NAPO, a professional organizer:
… enhances the lives of clients by designing systems and processes using organizing principles and through transferring organizing skills. A professional organizer also educates the public on organizing solutions and the resulting benefits. Professional organizers help individuals and businesses take control of their surroundings, their time, their paper, and their systems for life.
If you have ADHD or any other type of chronic organizing challenge, the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization is the place to find a qualified organizer.
Finally, check out Erin’s article on RealSimple.com “Should You Hire a Professional Organizer?” to learn more about the process.
Dropbox is an incredibly useful file sharing application that can be added to your Mac or PC (and even a Linux operating system). If you are looking for a way to share or store files on the web, and are averse to using Google Docs, this may be the application for you. It is incredibly easy to use and your files can be accessed from any computer via your Dropbox account. Here is a quick overview on the basics:
- No complicated interfaces to learn. Dropbox runs in the background on your desktop.
- Sync your files automatically to your computers and the web.
- Sign in and access your files from any browser or mobile device.
- Sharing files with your friends and family is just two clicks away.
- View your photos in a gallery and share them easily with anyone.
This is what Apple’s iDisk should be, but isn’t. Dropbox offers a superior product that is easy to use and runs in the background. For a video tour of the application in action go to Dropbox and watch the informative presentation.
If you are tired of receiving magazine subscriptions in the mail, but still enjoy reading them, you may want to check out Coverleaf. Coverleaf is a way to read magazines online and forgo the hard copy altogether. From their site:
Coverleaf.com is a service that provides digital editions of many of your favorite magazines allowing you to conveniently read your magazine anywhere with Internet access. No software downloads are required. If you are a current print edition subscriber, you can access your magazines for free by verifying your subscription. You can also browse the selection of magazines on coverleaf.com and look inside any issue for a free preview. If you opt to register on coverleaf.com, you can clip, save and share pages from any issue. Coverleaf is provided by Texterity, a leading provider of digital publishing services, in partnership with leading publishing and fulfillment companies.
You also can purchase digital copies of a single issues for $0.99. The current selection offered by Coverleaf is pretty limited at the moment, but we hope to see their selection expand. They offer an Unclutterer favorite, ReadyMade, for $0.99 per digital issue.
How long would it take you to scan 1000 photos? I’m thinking it would take me quite some time and I don’t think I’d be able to do anything else if I wanted to get them scanned in a reasonable amount of time. If you have a large amount of photos sitting in closet, basement, or attic, you may want to check out ScanMyPhotos.com. The service promises to professionally scan 1,000 photos for you, the same day it receives them, and put them on a DVD for $50.
Because it must feed your photos through this machine, ScanMyPhotos has set some rules. Photo sizes can range from 3 by 3 inches (Polaroids) to 11 by 14.
The photos must be put into similar-size bundles (4-by-6 prints together, for example) with rubber bands. The only way to label the batches is to write on index cards, which are scanned along with the photos like title cards. If you want the bundles scanned in a certain sequence, you can number the index cards.
The photos can’t be in albums or scrapbooks. That’s understandable, but it can be heart-wrenching to have to dismantle photo albums that somebody once spent a lot of time and effort creating.
Your photos can’t be in envelopes, either. For my test, I submitted about 20 years’ worth of pictures. (I found out later that there were more than 1,800 in all. I had no idea it was that many; those bundles look deceptively small.) They came from dozens of drugstore envelopes, meaning that I had to separate them from their negatives, probably forever, given that matching 1,800 prints with their original envelopes would take the rest of my life. And my descendants’.
The photos are scanned exactly as you send them. If one is upside down or backward, that’s how it winds up on the DVD. Similarly, you’re supposed to ensure that all horizontal photos are upright, and all vertical photos are consistently rotated 90 degrees the same way.
Finally, you pack your bundles into a box, stuffing it carefully to avoid shifting.
The company’s Web site offers copious photos of the right and wrong ways to pack up your pictures. The bottom line is, ScanMyPhotos will do the scanning. But you have to do the prep work, and it’s not insubstantial.
This seems like a pretty reasonable option for digitizing your old photos. Preparing your photos for shipment looks like the most labor intensive part of the whole process. It seems like a rather even tradeoff, though, for getting a DVD full of your digitized photos.