Archives for Tips
The following is a list of common New Year’s resolutions and related gadgets or Internet tools to help you track and/or be organized in your pursuit to achieve each one:
- Get fit and/or lose weight. Gym managers around the world await January 1 with great anticipation, as that is when newly-determined customers show up to buy memberships. With or without a gym membership, you can track your day-to-day march toward better health with a Fitbit. It tracks your movement, records your stats, and helps to chart your progress toward fitness goals. Compared to wearing a pedometer and heart monitor and logging and charting your daily steps and constantly fluctuating heart rate by hand, the device is extremely convenient.
- Drink less alcohol. If you’re a social drinker who wants to cut down a bit, check out some of the tips at Drinkaware. In addition to helpful articles, the site offers a browser-based app to let you keep track your intake and notice trends.
- Learn something new. There are so many great options for this resolution. I love the site Instructables, which has tutorials on making everything from a hockey jersey to a garden bench to an outdoor fire pit. Monkeysee is a similar site with a focus on video tutorials. If you’re keen to learn a foreign language, consider the Rosetta Stone system (I used an extended trial of Japanese and loved it) or any of the tools from Innovative Language Learning (again, I used it with much success for Japanese).
- Improved work/life balance. As a person who works from home, I’m very familiar with this daily dance. Something I’ve used is FocusBooster. This browser-based tool lets you set timed, alternating work and break periods. Set it up and when the timer sounds, take a break. After the break period ends, get back to work. It’s similar to the Pomodoro Technique. But in my experience, the best thing to do is commit to work hours and that’s that.
- Volunteer. This is definitely a worthwhile resolution, but can be hard to find opportunities in your area. VolunteerMatch.org is a great place to start if you don’t already have a specific project or organization in mind. Enter your location and the type of volunteer work you like to do, and the service will present you the best matches it can find.
- Save money. How many times have you said, “That’s it, this year I’m going to increase my savings by [x]”? I’ve said it quite a bit. You Need A Budget has helped me. It’s more than software, though that is a big part of the product. “YNAB,” as it’s called, is a budget-focused software management application for your computer or mobile device. The company also has a very informative blog and hosts frequent webcasts, which I’ve found helpful.
- Get organized. My first instinct is to say, “Read Unclutterer,” but you knew that. Since the site is deep with archives, you can find help for organizing pretty much every area of your life. Specifically, one of my favorite data organizing tools is Evernote, which I use as an electronic filing cabinet; a filing cabinet that is almost always available, no matter where I am or what I’m doing. There are many gadgets that work with Evernote, extending its usefulness. To get the most out of the service, check out this ebook, Evernote Essentials.
- Read More. My first suggestion is to consider an electronic book reader to help keep book clutter at bay. The current Kindle Paperwhite is a fantastic little device that makes it easy to get books and carry them around. Also consider Scribd, which is described as “Netflix for books.” For less than nine bucks a month, you can read unlimited digital books on your computer or mobile device.
Good luck with whatever New Year’s resolutions you set for 2014.
After Christmas each year, the search function on our website gets a lot of activity by people looking for articles on “how to get organized” and “be more organized.” This is of little surprise since “Get Organized!” is such a common New Year’s Resolution.
Over the next couple weeks, we are going to address New Year’s Resolutions in a series of posts — how to create them, how to make a plan for achieving them, technology that can help you work on them, and even an alternative perspective on how not to make them. We want to help the thousands of people looking to get rid of clutter and find more organization in the new year, just as we do every day, but also lend a helping hand to those of you creating resolutions that have nothing at all to do with clutter and disorganization.
Grab a pen and paper, find a quiet and comfortable place to sit, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Spend a few minutes in solitude trying your best to think about nothing. If you’re like most people (myself included) it will be very difficult to clear your mind, especially if this is not an activity you do regularly. Responsibilities, concerns, wishes, dreams, embarrassing situations, and maybe a few random jokes will flood your mind. As they do, write down these thoughts on your paper and then quickly return to trying to clear your mind. Eventually, you’ll either tire of the activity or be successful at having a clear mind, and this is when you can stop the meditation activity and review the list you created.
Do you notice any themes among the items on your list? Do you see items that evoke strong feelings — good or bad? Are there items on your list of things you wish to change or improve upon or achieve?
While reviewing this list, think about how you want to feel in 2014. Like most people, you probably wish to have more energy, more happiness, and less stress. Are there any items on your list that will help you achieve these feelings of contentment?
Work through your notes and begin to draft your resolutions for the new year.
After brainstorming, “Get Organized!” may still be at the forefront of your resolutions. Unfortunately, it is an extremely vague resolution, and people who make vague resolutions are more likely to fail at achieving them than people who make precise resolutions.
Do you want to get organized at work or at home? Is there a specific area of your life where, if you were more organized, you would have less stress? Do you have one or two projects that are out of control and a little organizing can help them succeed?
The more exact you are with what you want to change, the more likely you will be to create steps to help you achieve your resolutions. Instead of “Get Organized!” perhaps you want to create precise resolutions like: Better organize the children’s bedtime routine; Organize and file medical records and bills; Unclutter clothes that don’t fit from bedroom closet; Research, acquire, learn how to use, and maintain a new project management system at work.
There are a number of things I would like to change about myself, but I am not super human. I have limitations — limited time, energy, finances, etc. As a result, I’ve never been successful at achieving more than 12 resolutions (one per month) in a given year. And, most years, I’ve only been able to achieve four or five large resolutions. You know yourself best, so be realistic with what you can achieve. If you have a newborn at home, you may only want to have two or three resolutions for 2014. If “Get the proper amount of sleep each night by going to bed by 10:00 pm” is one of your resolutions, as it is one of mine, put it at the top of your list. The more energy you have, the more likely you’ll be to achieve the other resolutions on your list.
When creating New Year’s Resolutions, I always think about the brilliant and inspiring Danielle LaPorte. Her book The Desire Map is one of the best books I’ve encountered for helping to decide what new path or paths you wish to take in life.
I have a few to-do items that have stayed on my project list for way too long, and a few weeks ago I decided to do something about those items before the end of the year. I wasn’t aiming to necessarily complete each project, but I wanted to get each one in motion.
First, though, I had to figure out why I was stuck — why I wasn’t making progress. And in each case, I found that I was stymied by the first step.
Project 1: Getting routine medical work done
I was overdue for my annual lab work and physical exam. Why? My doctor had retired and I hadn’t settled on a new one. I’d asked a few friends for recommendations, but many of them were in the same situation as I was, having used the same doctor.
Once I decided I really needed to tackle this project, I realized I could easily take a few small steps to move past this decision-making logjam:
- Expand the geographical range I was willing to consider.
- Send an email to a larger group of people whose opinions I trusted, asking for recommendations.
And this worked out perfectly. Two people raved about their doctors; I picked one and had a first appointment, which went well. After that, I got my lab work done last Thursday, and I have my physical exam set for this coming Friday.
Project 2: Dealing with a broken lighting fixture
I love the lighting fixture in my bedroom, but it has a design quirk that has caused some recurring problems, which my handyman has repeatedly fixed. The last time it stopped working, I just brought a basic blah-looking lamp into the room as a temporary measure and lived with that for way too long. I was unsure what to do as a more permanent solution, so I did nothing.
But finally, I decided to decide and my decision was to give up on the fixture I had and buy a new one. I went back to my favorite lighting store, where I’d bought that first fixture, to see what was available. The store has great customer service and a wonderful selection; the only drawback is that it’s not close to my home. Once I got there and explained my problem, I wished I’d made the effort to come in sooner. The owner said that if I brought in my old fixture, the technicians could probably make an adjustment to prevent the problems I was having!
I got someone to remove the fixture from its ceiling mount, and I took the light into the store. The folks there expect to make the fix and install the light for me again shortly after Christmas.
In both of these cases, once I determined my first steps, everything else fell into place. I just needed to get past the first decision-making hump.
Project 3: Replacing some carpet
I have one final big to-do hanging over me: replacing the worn-out carpet in my home office. This is yet another project where I’m stymied by the first step, which is selecting the kind of floor covering I want. Because of my cats and the way the room is used, carpeting seems like a poor solution. The room already has a lot of wood, so wood flooring sounds like a poor choice, too.
This one is a big decision, as the cost will be non-trivial. But, I’ve got the Internet at my fingertips, there are some good flooring stores nearby, and I know some people to consult — so I’ll be off investigating my options before the end of the year. Because I’m determined to not let this project languish any longer because of one decision-making obstacle, I’m sure to get it done.
When I was in university in Canada in the late 1980s, I had a hard time keeping my money organized. I had tried a number of different wallets and coin purses but I always seemed to have a heavy pile of $1 coins that I kept forgetting to use.
Everything changed when I visited Switzerland in 1990. Switzerland had 1, 2, and 5 Franc coins. The wallets in Switzerland were designed with a larger section for coins. In Canada, I only had access to purchasing American made wallets that were designed for American currency: $1 banknotes, not coins. Canada had introduced the $1 coin and had not redesigned wallets to adapt to more coins and fewer bills. I purchased a Swiss wallet and my organizational dilemma was solved!
Over the years, Unclutterer has discussed several ways to organize and trim down your wallet, but there are a few more things to take into consideration.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to pay in cash, and the currency in the country in which you live has more banknotes (bills) than coins, choose a wallet with a smaller coin pocket and larger bill pocket. Consider keeping coins in a separate coin purse.
If the currency has more coins than banknotes, a wallet with a large coin pocket might be beneficial. However, if you’re likely to pay for lower priced items in cash, then a separate coin pouch will allow you to quickly find the coins you need without opening your entire wallet.
In many places debit/credit card payments are very popular, so popular that some people never carry cash. This also means that we need more places in our wallets to carry credit and debit cards as well as cards for all of those loyalty programs. For those who prefer electronic payments, choose a wallet with enough card slots to suit your needs. You may wish to consider a second wallet for your loyalty cards.
Tips for International Travelers
Transfer the currency from your regular wallet to a separate coin pouch or even a zipper-seal bag and place currency of the new country in your wallet. This is ideal if you wish to carry many of the loyalty cards and ID cards with you when you’re doing business or sightseeing within the country you’re visiting. This system works well if the banknotes and coins of the two countries are similar.
An alternative is to have a different wallet for each country. Transfer only relevant ID and credit cards between the two wallets. This option is preferable if the currencies between the two countries have differently sized banknotes and coins that will not fit well in your “home” wallet. Also, you may not need many of your loyalty cards or perhaps even your driver’s licence in the country you are visiting so it may be better to keep those cards in your “home” wallet and lock it in your hotel room safe. By purchasing a wallet in country or from an online site of that country, you’ll be able to get a wallet suited for that country’s currency. Many people must keep records of all of their purchases so a wallet with a separate section for receipts is helpful.
Tip for Handling Coins and Banknotes
For greater efficiency and speed in checkout lines, pass the cashier the coins first then banknotes. It makes it much easier for cashiers to put the money in the cash register and it makes it easier for customers to put money in their wallets.
You’ve done your best to minimize the wrong-for-you gifts. Perhaps you’ve politely discouraged gift-giving in general or you’ve directed people to the types of gifts that would be welcome. But, you still may wind up with well-intentioned gifts that totally miss the mark for you. So, what do you do?
Express your thanks
You may not be thankful for the gift itself, but you are thankful for the love, friendship, and/or camaraderie that was behind the gift.
As Richie Frieman said: “If someone took time to consider, buy, and wrap a gift for you, they deserve your gratitude, regardless of what’s inside the wrapping.”
Don’t feel obligated to keep it
“The bottom of my wardrobe is stuffed with thoughtful but unwanted gifts,” wrote a commenter on The Frugal Graduate.
This is a pretty common situation, and it seems so sad to me. Having a bunch of stuff shoved into closets or buried in basements doesn’t do anything good for anyone. As Deron Bos said on Twitter: “Your friends gave you the gift to bring you joy. If it doesn’t, imagine that their love also grants donating it to others for another try.”
Are you afraid the gift-givers will inquire about those gifts, especially if they don’t see them being used? As Erin noted a few years ago, most givers will never ask you about the item. Some gift recipients choose to have some white lies prepared, in case they are asked. These suggested responses were mentioned by commenters on Apartment Therapy:
“Well, a friend of mine saw it and was absolutely smitten with it, and frankly although it was lovely it wasn’t quite my taste, so I gave it to him/her.”
“It got broken in the last move, unfortunately.”
Here’s a slightly different approach, which tries to prevent future off-the-mark gifts:
“I shamelessly blame my cats for knocking it over or throwing up on it. Then I say, ‘It was such a sweet present, but maybe, given those rascally cats, we should just go out to brunch next year.’”
And another Apartment Therapy reader chose to be more blunt:
“We addressed it head on by saying, when someone asks where that hideously freakish tchotchke they’d gifted happens to reside, that it found a happy home through eBay and the proceeds went to benefit the local animal shelter or food bank in their name.”
Real Simple summarizes it well: “When you receive a present,” says Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan “… your duty is to receive it and thank the giver — not to keep the gift forever.”
Remember there are always exceptions.
Example: You enjoy doing extensive holiday decorations. A beloved family member, who usually selects great gifts, buys you a decorative item for your collection. It’s not hideous, but it’s definitely not your taste. But, it’s only going to be on display for a few weeks each year, it doesn’t have to be center stage, and the beloved family member will be delighted to see it gracing your home each year when she stops by at the holidays.
There are no absolutes; sometimes we do choose to keep something because that makes someone else happy or avoids hurting someone’s feelings. But, in most cases, we can keep the warm wishes behind the gift, and exchange the gift itself or move it along to a better home.
For those of us who celebrate, the holidays mean that you’re likely to have house guests. Some will stay for a day, while others will be in it for the long haul. My wife and I play host to several far-flung relatives every year, many who stay for a week or more. It’s great to be around everybody, and a little planning makes it even better. The following are a few organized ideas you can employ to make the whole experience better for everyone.
Before the gang shows up, there’s some preparation that needs to be done. I suggest you begin by delegating. There’s a lot to be done, and taking it all on by yourself is a bad idea. First, write down what needs to be done before everyone arrives. Next, divvy up who’s going to do what. Not only that, but set a start date and deadline for each task. That way, projects like “ensure that all bath towels are clean and available” and “wash all bed linens” not only have a due date, but a person in charge. Make this list public to everyone in your home so that accountability isn’t a mystery to anyone.
Next, prioritize. The lists you generate while working on the above will probably contain many items that must be done, as well as some that would just be nice to get done. From there, I suggest making three lists:
- Priority A: Do or die, must be done.
- Priority B: It would be nice if these things happened.
- Priority C: Aspirational goals. Everyone will have a great time, even if these items are not completed.
After making this list, you’ll have a real good handle on what must be completed to pull off a successful and relatively stress-free hosting, and what’s nice but not crucial. Then, act accordingly.
During the visit
My family is not content with sitting around. They like to go, see, and do. This is a lot easier when the going, seeing, and doing have been defined ahead of time. Make a note of who’s “on point” for a given activity well before the guests arrive. Who will drive to caroling in town? Who’s in charge of dinner? Having those questions (and more) answered ahead of time will benefit everybody.
When my extended family goes on summer vacations together, we create sign-up sheets for determining who wants to do what. It might sound overly formal, but it helps the 13 of us stay on top of things without a doubt.
It’s also important to be flexible. The schedule isn’t the end-all and be-all of your time together. It’s merely a formalized suggestion. There will be times when plans change. Go with it. You’ll have a much better time than trying to stick, unyieldingly, to the itinerary.
Finally, don’t forget the little things or the regular routine. Who’s going to make breakfasts? Or take the dog out? Run to the dump or turn the laundry over? Answering these questions ahead of time is a good idea.
Odds and ends
Here are a few tricks that my wife and I have used at home with great success. First, we put a folder full of take-out menus in our guests’ bedrooms. That way, they know what’s around and can make their own plans if they like. Also, make a “Boredom Jar” like the one I described earlier this year. To make one, print many answers to “What can I do?” onto thin strips of paper. Next, glue them to popsicle sticks and stick them into a jar. Now, when the kids ask, “What can I do?” just point them to the jar.
Hopefully something here will work for you. Good luck and have a great holiday season.
The season for giving is here and that means there is a lot to do. Fortunately, the gadgets are here to help. That’s what they’re supposed to do, right? Make life easier? And, there are several examples of apps that can work for you.
Reaching around to the back of the Christmas tree is a hassle. I’ve knocked ornaments off several times, much to my wife’s chagrin, and even forgotten to turn the thing off at night. The solution is automation, and the easiest way to get started is with the Belkin WeMo switch. It’s a Wi-Fi capable switch that plugs into a wall socket and lets you turn anything plugged into it from almost anywhere. After some easy initial setup, grab the free WeMo app for your iPhone or Android phone and you’re all set. Give it a tap, and the tree is on. Tap again and it’s off. You can keep using it when the holidays are over, of course, for things like televisions, lights, and so on. Plus, you can create schedules with the free apps that will turn devices on and off for you.
My wife and I started to receive Christmas cards this week. If you’re still waiting to send holiday greetings, fear not. There’s still time to make and send great-looking cards from home. Shutterfly is what we use. It’s super easy to put a card together and have it delivered. Or, buy a some labels so you can print labels for them at home. Speaking of labels, Mac users can check out tutorials on creating great-looking address labels with Apple’s Contacts and Pages applications.
No time to wait for physical cards? Then consider this tutorial from Instructables on making and sending ecards with your smartphone. They used an iPhone in the article, but an Android phone will work just as well.
Many of us will travel between now and New Year’s Eve. There are so many great travel apps available, that I could write a whole stand-alone post on the topic. In the interest of time, I’ve picked a few of my favorites.
Kayak has been my top travel app for a long time, as it’s a one-stop shop. It does everything from creating a packing list to finding deals on flights and hotels. Plus, its mobile apps are just beautiful and often dispense flight information faster than the airport. I use it almost every time I travel. It’s so tidy as it keeps everything you need in one app.
If you’ll be road tripping, check out Waze. This service offers turn-by-turn navigation, as many do, but what makes it unique is the crowd-sourced information. As other users travel, they report on time-consuming accidents, road conditions, and map accuracy. If there’s an accident along your route, you’ll be notified in real time, allowing you to make time- and money-saving adjustments. The app even lets you know where you’ll find the cheapest gas along your route.
I assume you’ll be traveling to familiar territory, but just in case you aren’t, check out Field Trip from Google. It’s available for the iPhone and Android. As you move about, it points out interesting things in your vicinity.
Here’s one more quick tip: If you’re traveling with an Apple laptop, here is the best way to pack the power supply and cord.
Last but not least, don’t forget about the far-flung relatives and loved ones who can’t join the festivities in person. Set up a video call and wish them the best while you’re face-to-face. Apple’s Facetime lets you send and receive video calls to and from a Mac, iPad, iPhone or iPod touch, while Skype covers just about every other device.
I hope these tips help you enjoy your holiday more thoroughly. Have a great time, everyone.
Holiday parties, festivities, and gift giving can generate clutter. One of the ways to reduce the clutter build-up is to have effective clean up and disposal systems in place before the big holiday rush begins.
Parties and Festivities
At banquets in hotels and restaurants, they often have tables in the corners of the room on which guests can place their used dishes and cocktail napkins. Set up a similar system at your home party. You may choose to clear a section of kitchen counter near the sink or place a festive tray in each room. As a host, you can see when the trays are filling up and remove the dirty dishes quickly and easily.
Having a small garbage bin near the dirty dish collection point will allow your guests to drop in their soiled napkins. You may wish to have a separate bin for soda cans/bottles for recycling. Most guests are happy to put trash in its place if bins are accessible and clearly labeled.
If you decide you do not want to keep party decorations and holiday flowers, they could be donated to local hospitals and nursing homes if they are still in good condition. Please call ahead and see if they would appreciate your donations prior to dropping them off.
All of these tips could work for parties at any time during the year, too.
General Clutter-Busting Tips
This is the biggest shopping season of the year so more stuff than ever enters the house. Keeping donation boxes or bags in the closet or laundry room is a good idea to help you quickly get rid of any old stuff (like clothes) that will be replaced with new stuff. Once the donation bin is full, take it to your favourite drop-off location or arrange for pick-up from an appropriate charity.
Designate a place in the home for out-dated electronics. It could be a box or bin in your laundry area or office. If they are still functioning, you may be able to sell or donate them. Broken and non-functioning electronics can be sent to electronics recycling programs. Check your municipality’s website to see how electronics should be disposed.
Batteries are required for almost all electronics and many toys. But, many batteries contain materials that can leak into the environment when they are dumped into the trash. In order to protect the environment and keep dead batteries from cluttering up your home, consider creating “Dead Battery Bins.” Ideally there should be three small bins; one for alkaline batteries, one for button batteries, and one for rechargeable batteries. Used batteries may still have a bit of life left in them. Grouping used batteries together can bring these live batteries into contact with one another creating safety risks, so it is important not to accumulate a large amount of alkaline batteries. Small “dead battery bins” such as clean yogurt or margarine containers should minimize the risk and allow you to safely dispose of the batteries before you collect too many. Ensure the containers have tightly fitting lids and keep them out of reach of children and pets.
During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season sometimes the simplest things get forgotten, such as the day the waste bins need to be at the curb. Often municipalities will reschedule waste pickups so that they do not fall on statutory holidays. Check with your municipality to confirm the trash and recycling pickup dates and mark them on your calendar. If you need to have your bins out early in the morning, set a reminder for the day before.
Today’s guest post is by Amanda Scudder, Organizing Consultant with the company Abundance Organizing. Please give her a nice welcome.
Are you a basket case in the making? If you have a spot where clutter tends to collect — the table by the front door, the kitchen counter, the foot of the bed — you are! And I’m going to make the case that a basket, properly managed, can be just the solution you are seeking.
Clutter hotspots are a leading cause of aggravation for just about everyone. I recently worked with a client who lamented that a basket on her counter constantly filled up with clutter that didn’t belong there — sun screen, library books, art supplies, children’s toys and the like. She had tried removing the basket, but the items still landed on the counter. And without the basket to contain things, it looked even messier. What she didn’t realize was that the problem wasn’t the basket. In fact, she’d intuitively set up a clutter-management strategy that can be very effective. A basket gives you a place to contain things that are not convenient to put away in the heat of the moment, as you are running out the door, emptying book bags at the end of a busy day, or otherwise trying to get on with life. The trick to turning it from a clutter problem into a clutter solution is to establish a routine for emptying it on a regular basis.
In my house, we use an “up-and-down” basket on the table at the foot of the stairs — in it go things I’ve picked up off the kitchen counter, living room floor, end tables, and other clutter-collecting surfaces. Like the dishtowels that need to be washed, the hairbrush dropped by my daughter in her mad dash out the door, socks found under the couch, books, and toys. When I go upstairs, I grab the basket, put the laundry in the hamper, the brush on the dresser, and the books next to the bed for nighttime reading. When the basket is empty, I use it to collect things that belong downstairs and it goes with me the next time I go downstairs.
To set up your own basket system, find an attractive, portable container to hold the clutter. You probably have a basket or tote around the house that you can press into service for this purpose. Reusing things you already have saves you time, money, and space. But if not, there are lots of options available for purchase, like this classic, eco-friendly collapsible bamboo-jute basket from Crate & Barrel:
Or this market basket:
Whatever container you choose, the next step is to put it in the spot where clutter seems to collect. Then, set a time each day to empty the container by returning everything that is in it to its proper home. Some people enjoy the routine of a few minutes every morning or just before bed to take on this chore. Other people use the basket itself as a visual cue — when it is full, it is time to empty it. Just make sure you don’t get a basket that is too big, as you want to be able to empty it pretty quickly on a regular basis.
Think about your clutter hotspot — will a basket strategy work for you?
December is the greeting-card season and even though a number of people are moving toward e-cards (or at least e-newsletters, full of family updates) many of us still get a number of physical cards. After they’ve been read and displayed, what do you do with them? The following are suggestions for preventing holiday cards from cluttering up your space after the holidays:
- Toss them into the recycling bin. I do this immediately with some of the cards, particularly the ones that aren’t personal at all. I don’t need to keep a card from my dentist. And, after the holidays, even more go into my recycling bin.
- Scan them. I scan the newsletters from people I care about. Then, I recycle the physical copy.
- Organize them in a nice storage box or in an album. I do this with the cards I really want to save because they came from dear friends or family members and they have lovely personal notes written inside or they are photo cards where I definitely want to keep the photo. I limit the number of cards I can save to what fits into the box, because that’s all the space I want to give to this type of memorabilia.
While the box I use isn’t acid-free and lignin-free, you might want to get one that is, especially if you’re expecting to keep the cards for a long time or perhaps pass some of them down to your children or other family members. University Products even has a special greeting card storage box. You can also find greeting card albums with polypropylene sleeves — polypropylene being one of the plastics that won’t damage your cards.
- Put them away with the holiday decorations. I save a few cards mostly because I love the covers, and I pull them out each year to grace my refrigerator door or another surface.
- Donate them. After a time of being overloaded and not taking cards any more, St. Jude’s Ranch is once again accepting used cards for its recycled card program — although it can’t take any from Hallmark, Disney, or American Greeting. The program takes all sorts of cards, not just holiday cards; birthday and thank you cards are especially needed.
- Put the covers of selected cards on the inside of cabinet doors. I do this with non-holiday cards; it’s an idea I stole from one of my best friends when I saw her doing this. Now, whenever I open a cabinet door in my kitchen, I’m greeted by something that makes me smile.
- Use them for craft projects. The web is full of ideas for this, from Martha Stewart to Pinterest boards. You can make bookmarks, gift tags, ornaments, an advent calendar, and much more. If you don’t do crafts yourself, there may be schools, senior centers, or other community organizations that would like to have these for their own craft projects. (But they may appreciate the donation more next November and December, rather than in January. Please call ahead.)
As you’re receiving holiday cards, give thought to what you’ll do with them come January so you don’t wind up with greeting card clutter.
It’s December and that means the holiday travel season is fully upon us. It’s great to reunite with family and friends, see new places (or old ones) and enjoy some time away. That experience can be more organized when you plan and record your adventures with a portable, neatly organized journal.
I started keeping travel journals when I visited Paris for the first (and only) time about five years ago. Reading those old entries and looking at the tiny keepsakes brings back memories I might not have otherwise, and keeps all my memorabilia from the trip limited to one book. It could be done digitally, but as I’ve admitted before, I’m a big fan of physical journals. (Though, digital journaling fans can find helpful links toward the bottom of this post.)
Moleskine City Notebooks. This is the notebook that got me started with using a journal for travel. Moleskine produces a pocket-sized, hardcover notebook for several cities around the world (Paris, Madrid, Tokyo, Seattle). Each features lots of blank pages for you to fill, but also includes subway maps, unit conversion charts, street maps, and an alphabetical street index. My favorite feature is the transparent, peel-and-stick sheets of plastic that can be placed over a map. Mark it up with points of interest, phone numbers or anything else that relates to the area in question. It’s very handy and the hard cover means it is up for rough-and-tumble travel.
The Journey Journal. Here’s a very clever idea from Etsy’s Cracked Designs. Inside you’ll find 13 pages to recored your experiences — perfect for short holiday visits -– plus a pocket for stashing souvenirs. But, what’s really cool is the cover. The notebook comes with six pins and a length of string that can be used to plot your journey on the notebook’s cover. Several maps are available.
Smythson’s Travel and Experiences notebook. As far as journals go, this one is definitely fancy. With the the gilded pages and a lambskin cover, you’ll want to keep the Smythson around for a long while. And why not? Some adventures deserve such fine preservation. It’s available in three colors and has a Moleskine-like ribbon bookmark.
The Scratch Map. This isn’t a journal per se, but I absolutely love it. When you make it back home from a trip, you can scratch the thin material away from the area you just visited. Three maps are available: The world, the USA, and Europe. Since it looks great hanging on a wall, it’s a relatively clutter-free way to remember your travels.
The Scratch Travel Journal. If you like the idea of the Scratch Map but really want a notebook, consider the Scratch Travel Journal. It combines scratch-able maps with blank diary pages, a packing checklist, and pockets for memorabilia storage. Plus, it looks great.
Mosey for iPhone. OK, I had to add one electronic journal. While I love Rego for keeping track of specific points of interest, I use Mosey for chronicling my journeys. It’s a really fun and great-looking app that doesn’t take up any physical space in your home. When you arrive at a given destination, you begin taking photos. Those shots are gathered into a single adventure, or “Mosey.” You can note locations, cauterize and tag for easy review later and even review adventures posted by other users if you choose. And no, you needn’t visit Timbuktu to get something out of it. A day with the family is a valid and worthwhile use case.
If you plan to travel for the holidays, consider planning and recording your journeys in an organized fashion. Have fun, and if you use something I haven’t listed here, let me know in the comments section. Be sure to check out our other posts on organized travel in our archives to find tips on packing, planning, and even returning to work afterward.
I’m a big fan of labels. Labels tell everyone where things belong. Labels indicate that only items of a certain type belong in a certain place. Labels help you remember where you put stuff.
There are many different types of labels that can be used and each type has advantages and disadvantages. The following are things to consider when choosing labels for your next organizing project.
Permanent or Removable
Permanent labels are intended for one time use. Peeling off a permanent label will generally destroy the label or the object to which it is attached, or both. Address labels on paper envelopes are a good example of permanent labels.
Removable labels are made with a special adhesive that, rather than sticking to the surface of the object, sticks to the label, and leaves the surface clean. Removable labels do not damage the object to which they are attached and can often be re-used. Post-It Notes are a good example of removable labels.
The object to which a label is attached and the conditions in which it is used can influence whether or not the label is permanent or not. For example, an address label that is designed to be permanently attached to a paper envelope may be easily removed from a plastic bin. It may not even stick to the plastic bin if the conditions are cold or damp. Sometimes removable labels may end up permanently adhered to surfaces if they are left on for a long time or exposed to excessive heat or pressure.
Always evaluate the type of material that you need to adhere the label to prior to purchasing the labels. Consider how long the label will be left in place and what the storage conditions will be.
Handwritten or Computer Printed
If you’ve got terrible handwriting, it may be better to use a computer or label maker to create labels because then everyone can read it. However, it takes time to make labels on a computer but it is easy to print many copies of the same label. Some labels are meant to be only for laser printers and some for only inkjet printers so always confirm that you’ve got the right labels for your printer. Some types of printer ink runs in damp conditions or fades in bright light. In these harsh conditions, it may be better to use a plasticized label.
Label makers print clear, easy-to-read labels that can be used in a variety of conditions. However, they tend to be limited in the sizes and colours of labels. Most label makers do not have a wide variety of fonts.
If the label is permanent on the container but the contents change, dry erase or chalkboard labels might be the best to use for your needs. They are a good choice if you are creative and enjoy making handwritten labels. An alternative is the Identa-label system. It is comprised of transparent plastic pockets that hold index cards. You can use a computer to print the index cards or they can be hand written.
While copper labels would look lovely in the garden, they would not be appropriate in a home with small children or pets. Labels can be detached and chewed on or swallowed. Some types of key ring labels may contain parts that could injure children and animals, too. Tag labels with string can be wound around tiny fingers and paws and cause injury.
Colours and Sizes
Once you have taken the above information into consideration, the colour and sizes of labels seems to be limited only by your imagination.
Full page stickers allow you to print your own design or create multiple stickers of any shape, size, or colour.
Tamper-evident hologram warranty void stickers can be placed on bins or boxes to ensure they have not been tampered with. This would be ideal for valuable items sent via mail or courier service. They could also be placed on boxes of paperwork containing sensitive information during a move or in a storage facility.
Iron-on name-tags for clothing are great for identifying children’s clothing for school and camp but they can also be used for labeling the tablecloths you take to the family potluck dinners.
You can purchase pre-printed magnetic labels for toolboxes or create your own with dry-erase magnetic tape. Speaking of toolboxes, “Eye-Saver” big typeface socket labels have imperial and metric stickers in different colours so it is easy to tell which sockets are which.
TrueBlock labels completely hide everything they cover. They are great if you like to reuse shipping and file storage boxes. When you need to get people’s attention, high visibility labels would work well. If you need to see the label in the dark, Epson makes glow-in-the-dark labels for its label makers. You can write on glow in the dark tape to make your own labels.
Plant pot labels can be used to tell your house sitter how and when to water your plants during your vacation.
For holiday parties, reusable cup labels allow each child to have his or her own cup. If all goes as planned, there won’t be any sharing of germs. Adding allergy information to the cup label is a good idea, too. For the grown-ups, there are wine glass labels.
Labels are a wonderful thing, but when they have to be removed, label sticker remover comes in handy.