2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Our ultimate pick for an extravagant organized gift

Since 2007, we have been recommending an extravagant organized gift as part of our annual Holiday Gift Giving Guide. The first year, our ultimate pick was the Fujitsu ScanSnap. In 2008, we recommended the Kindle. The following year, we suggested my book, Unclutter Your Life in One Week. In 2010, it was the Fellowes Intellishred Shredder (now called the Powershred). For 2011, our ultimate generosity idea was for hiring a professional organizer. Then, in 2012, it was a closet makeover with Rubbermaid’s Configurations system.

All of these suggestions continue to make terrific gift ideas. In fact, we heavily debated if we should have the Fujitsu ScanSnap be our selection again for 2013. However, we decided we should pick something we hadn’t done before.

For 2013, we have selected a subscription to Unclutterer’s Quarterly shipments as our ultimate extravagance.

It is difficult to put into words the excitement that we feel each time we put together one of these mailings. We know that with each package we are having fun and helping people to be more organized in their homes.

Quarterly is a subscription service that sends out curated packages four times a year, as its name implies. The Unclutterer staff selects the items that go into all of the Unclutterer mailings. We include straightforward directions on how to use/install/manipulate the items. Our assumption is that for every item we send, you will actually be able to subtract one or more things from your homes and offices. Or, the items will help you discover a significantly improved level of organization in your life.

Our previous mailings, which you can now give as gifts after the fact, contained solutions for organizing a mess of cables and getting your filing cabinet in order.

What we love about these shipments are that if you already have the specific area of your home organized, the items make great gifts to give others to help them on their organizing journey. And, the items we pick for our Quarterly mailings are very positively reviewed, tested, and tried and true solutions to disorganization problems.

Want more gift-giving ideas? Explore Unclutterer’s full 2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

What was in Unclutterer’s second Quarterly mailing?

All over the world, subscribers to the Unclutterer shipment from Quarterly have received their second mailing from us. If you didn’t subscribe to the second mailing, but were curious as to what we sent, I’ve detailed the contents below.

Each box is sent with a letter from our team, and PJ penned the second one. As if a secret agent on a mission, he discussed the theme of the mailing — paper control — and how to use the items contained in the box. What was in the box?

  • An Evernote Smart Notebook by Moleskine, which included a code for three months free of Evernote Premium. The notebook makes it incredibly simple to upload digital documents to Evernote and the Premium subscription is an added bonus. (The leather-bound notebook retails for $20 and a Premium Evernote subscription is $15 for three months.)
  • The FreedomFiler physical document filing system. Knowing which documents to keep and which to purge can be confusing, but the FreedomFiler system removes any doubts you might have. You will always know where you important papers are located when using this product. It’s what we use in our home. (The FreedomFiler system retails for $29.95.)
  • An archival box. This product is for papers you want to preserve for decades — like your child’s first school paper or love letters from your sweetie — but that don’t belong in your filing cabinet. (The archival box retails for $8.15.)

If you’re interested, we have a third mailing coming out in the next quarter (and then a fourth and a fifth …). We’re really excited about the next mailing and how it can help people wanting to organize their lives. Sign up if you want to subscribe to the organizing shipments. If not, we’re totally cool with that, too.

Two days left to sign up for Unclutterer’s second Quarterly product shipment

A reminder that if you are interested, Sunday, September 1, is the last day to sign up for Unclutterer’s second Quarterly product shipment. Sign up now if you want to make sure you don’t miss out on our next shipment. To learn more, visit Quarterly’s site or our recent post “What was in Unclutterer’s first Quarterly mailing.” Thank you!

Unclutterer welcomes new writer Jacki Hollywood Brown to the team

Today we welcome a new voice to the Unclutterer team — Jacki Hollywood Brown.

Jacki will be taking over the Monday article on the site, as our beloved Deb Lee has started a new technology organizing company and is knee deep in making it a success. Good luck, Deb! We miss you already.

As sad as we are to see Deb go, we are unbelievably excited to have Jacki join our team.

Jacki Hollywood Brown is originally from Kingston, Ontario, Canada. She holds a Masters degree in Food Chemistry from the University of Guelph and has worked in research and manufacturing. Being a military wife and busy mom has helped build additional time-saving organisational skills. She has moved NINE times since 1990, lived all across Canada, and currently lives in the United Kingdom. Her hobbies include horseback riding and science fiction. She has been professionally organizing since 2004 and is the recent past-president of the Professional Organizers in Canada national association.

We have asked Jacki to use Canadian spellings since doing so is her authentic voice. So, everyone in the U.S. get ready for some amazing organisation advice!

Available at Staples: An uncluttered and time-saving HP four-in-one color printer, scanner, fax machine, and photocopier for the office

The following is a sponsored post from Staples about a product we support. We’ve been aggressively testing this product and the review is based on our first-hand experiences. We agreed to work with Staples because they sell so many different products in their stores, and our arrangement with them allows us to review products we use and have no hesitation recommending to our readers. Again, these infrequent sponsored posts help us continue to provide quality content to our audience.

This spring, HP released a series of new four-in-one color printers exclusive to Staples — the Pro X line. Not too long afterward, we received an HP Officejet Pro X576dw to review. We were interested in this new line of printers for a number of reasons, but one of those reasons is that it’s being marketed as the “world’s fastest color desktop printer.” It actually holds a Guinness World Record for speed, and we thought that was something we wanted to test for ourselves.

The HP Officejet Pro X576dw is $800 and is intended for active use by small- and medium-size businesses. It’s wireless, so everyone in the office can use the same machine. This means instead of buying each employee a scanner and printer, you can save your company a good amount of money with a shared device. Being wireless, it also means you can store it anywhere that is convenient for all of your employees.

And, it really is fast. When I hit print on my computer, it immediately starts printing, and the pages come out at a rate of up to 70 pages per minute (that’s for basic, single-sided printing). The printer we were using before this wasn’t even half that number and it wasn’t color. The HP Officejet Pro X576dw can print, scan, and copy both sides of the paper, so it saves us money by also not wasting paper. It uses what HP calls “PageWide technology.” According to HP, that means it “delivers four colors of Original HP pigment ink at one time onto a moving sheet of paper. As the paper moves, the printhead remains stationary, allowing the HP Officejet Pro X Series to print quickly and quietly.” In short, it moves the paper instead of the ink.

In addition to saving time, it saves money, too. It’s Energy Star qualified and the entire unit consumes less energy than a laser printer. It’s also half the initial cost of a laser four-in-one printer with relatively comparable features. It uses high-yield ink tanks (which you can also get at Staples) that result in fewer and less expensive ink tank replacements over the life of the machine in comparison to a laser printer. You save money at initial purchase and then over the lifetime of the machine.

The setup process is simple. While the machine runs its initial automatic internal configuration, you just use the touch screen on the front to type in the network password and make preferences. You don’t need an installation CD or any high-tech knowledge to make it work.

A few of our favorite functions:

  • You can email the machine things you want printed and copied. If you’re out and about, you can send an email from your smartphone and print documents so they’re available when you and your clients arrive back at the office.
  • I really like the Stamps app, which allows you to print postage through Stamps.com directly on the printer. With the help of a trusty scale, I weigh what I need to send, use the app to print a stamp for the exact postage amount, and then hand the package to the mail carrier. I’ve stopped going to the post office, saving myself a lot of time.
  • For its size, it has a really big paper tray. It holds a full ream of paper (500 sheets), while our previous printer held less than half a ream (200 sheets). It’s genuinely nice not to have a partial ream of paper hanging open in our office supply closet all the time. It sounds silly, but unopened reams stack much more cleaner than open ones.

Exact product specifications and more technical information can be found on Staples’ website. But, on the whole, we are really impressed with this four-in-one printer. It greatly exceeded our expectations, especially with saving us time and money over the longterm.

What was in Unclutterer’s first Quarterly mailing?

All over the world, subscribers to the Unclutterer shipment from Quarterly have received their first mailing from us. If you didn’t subscribe to the first mailing, but were curious as to what we sent, this was our mailing:

Each box is sent with a letter from our team, and I (Erin) penned the first one. I discussed the theme of the mailing — cable control — and how to use the items contained in the box. What was in the box?

  • A large BlueLounge Cable Box for holding a power strip and unsightly cables (which you can’t see so well in the above photo, but you can see much better on BlueLounge’s website)
  • BlueLounge CableDrop adhesive cable holders
  • Beclau Cable IDs for finding the plug you want inside your Cable Box
  • Hyperline Velcro Cable Ties that attach to the cable and hold the slack in your cables
  • And, as previously mentioned, the letter explaining how to use the products

People have started to post before and after pictures to Twitter to show how they’re using the items to control their nest of cables and cords. You can see these images, too, by following the #UCL01 hashtag on Twitter.

If you’re interested, we have a second mailing coming out in the next quarter (and then a third and a fourth …). We’re really excited about the next mailing and how it can help people wanting to organize their lives. Sign up if you want to subscribe to the organizing shipments. If not, we’re totally cool with that, too.

Organizing paperwork with Staples’ Better Binders

The following is a sponsored post from Staples about a product we believe in. For the past month, I’ve been aggressively testing this product and the review is based on my first-hand experiences. We agreed to work with Staples because they sell so many different products in their stores, and our arrangement with them allows us to review products we use and have no hesitation recommending to our readers. Again, these infrequent sponsored posts help us continue to provide quality content to our audience.

When I travel (for work or pleasure) or have special projects, I almost always organize the corresponding paperwork in a three-ring binder. I like to have all of my necessary information in one storage system so I can grab it and go. I also usually have a scanned backup of the same data in Evernote or on Dropbox, but I see these digital copies as being useful only if something happens to my original binder. Usually I need physical copies of the papers I’m keeping, especially with projects, when the papers may be something I’m giving to clients or need to file with a legal entity.

Earlier this year, I was introduced to Staples’ new Better Binder system, and I’ve been using them ever since. I’ve taken them to a conference, on vacation, and am currently using one to store all the paperwork for our second adoption. When finished using the binder for one purpose, I’ve removed the FileRings and dropped them into my filing cabinet. They could also be useful for keeping yearly family or tax information or anything project where you’ll be actively using the paperwork for a period of time and then need to archive it when you’re finished with it.

In short, it is a three-ring binder whose FileRings spine pops out and allows you to file the contents of the binder directly into your filing cabinet. The binders themselves are reusable and additional removable FileRings are available for purchase. (They are currently in the $4 range for the replacement FileRings.)

Removing the FileRings is incredibly simple, especially after you see it done. Pull on the plastic pieces at the top and bottom of the FileRings spine to pop it out. You then push in the top and bottom plastic pieces to hang the FileRings in your filing cabinet. Inserting the FileRings is also simple — set them in place and then push in the top and bottom of the FileRings spine to secure them into the binder.

They also have available Better Dividers, which I really like. The tabs can be inserted on the top or the side of the divider, making them extremely versatile. There are times when having the tab at the top of my binder is helpful, especially when I only have a need for two or three divided sections.

The binder comes with a blank spine label you can tear off and easily slide into place, so you don’t have to cut up a sheet of paper to make one from scratch. The front panel of the binder also allows you to slip in a cover sheet of your own design.

Better Binders come in the traditional size (11” x 11-3/4”) for 8-12″ x 11″ sheets of paper. They’re available in 1″ (275 sheets of paper) for roughly $8, 1-1/2″ (400 sheets) for $9, 2″ (540 sheets) for $11, and 3″ (600 sheets) widths for $14. The binder comes with one removable FileRings spine, but additional FileRings must be purchased separately. Current colors are white, red, black, pink, orange, yellow, green, teal, blue, purple, dark teal, fuchsia, plum, olive, and multi-color combinations of some of these colors. I use the different binder colors to make it even more obvious which binder I need to take with me, in addition to the labeling I use on the binder.

Last day to sign up for Unclutterer’s first Quarterly product shipment

Just a reminder that if you are interested, today is the last day to sign up for Unclutterer’s first Quarterly product shipment. To learn more, visit Quarterly’s site or our initial post “Subscribe to Unclutterer on Quarterly” about the subscription service. The first mailing will be sent on June 14. Thank you!

Deadline to sign up for first Quarterly mailing June 1

I just wanted to drop a quick reminder that the subscription deadline for Unclutterer’s first Quarterly mailing is in a little more than a week, June 1.

Again, Quarterly is a subscription service that sends out curated packages four times a year, as its name implies. The Unclutterer staff will be selecting the items that go into all of the Unclutterer mailings. We will be including straightforward directions on how to use/install/manipulate the items. These will be quality products that will bring a higher level of organization to your spaces. Each mailing will be focused on a particular theme, to help you find order in a specific area of your life.

Rest assured, the products we have chosen for our mailings are useful and clutter-curing, not clutter-creating. Our assumption is that for every item we send, you will actually be able to subtract one or more things from your homes and offices. Or, the items will help you discover a significantly improved level of organization in your life. Our many years of experience as professional organizers has taught us that there are universal clutter problems for which almost everyone needs better solutions and tools. The themes of our mailings address these universal issues. Additionally, if you already have the solution we mail, the items will make wonderful uncluttered gifts for friends and family so you can spread your vision of an uncluttered life with others.

We are incredibly excited about this project and have had a very positive experience putting together the first mailing. If you’re interested, you can learn more about Quarterly and Unclutterer’s partnership on Quarterly’s site. We truly appreciate anyone who chooses to subscribe to our mailings, as in addition to helping you become more organized, a small percentage of the subscription fee comes to us so we can keep the lights on, servers running, and our writing and technical staff paid for all of their hard work. Subscribers need to sign up for the first mailing by June 1 and the first package will go out on June 14.

Thank you to all of you who have already subscribed and to those who choose to do so in the future.

Subscribe to Unclutterer on Quarterly

We are excited to announce a new Unclutterer partnership today. We have joined forces with Quarterly to help people find order in their homes and offices.

What’s Quarterly? It’s a subscription service that sends out curated packages four times a year, as its name implies. The Unclutterer staff will be selecting the items that go into all of the Unclutterer mailings. We will be including straightforward directions on how to use/install/manipulate the items. These will be quality products that will bring a higher level of organization to your spaces. Each mailing will be focused on a particular theme, to help you find order in a specific area of your life.

It may seem counterintuitive for a site called Unclutterer to be pairing with a product site like Quarterly, but it’s not. Rest assured, the products we have chosen for our mailings are useful and clutter-curing, not clutter-creating. Our assumption is that for every item we send, you will actually be able to subtract one or more things from your homes and offices. Or, the items will help you discover a significantly improved level of organization in your life.

We will not be sending clutter. The people at Quarterly are Unclutterer readers who support our mission and reached out to us to work with them. They understand our point of view.

If you’re interested, you can learn more about Quarterly and Unclutterer’s partnership on Quarterly’s site. We truly appreciate anyone who chooses to subscribe to our mailings, as in addition to helping you become more organized, a small percentage of the subscription fee comes to us so we can keep the lights on, servers running, and our writing and technical staff paid for all of their hard work. Subscribers need to sign up for the first mailing by June 1 and the first package will go out on June 14.

Update for clarification: Our many years of experience as professional organizers has taught us that there are universal clutter problems for which almost everyone needs better solutions and tools. The themes of our mailings will address these universal issues. Additionally, if you already have the solution we mail, the items will make wonderful uncluttered gifts for friends and family so you can spread your vision of an uncluttered life with others. We are very confident, however, that people who choose to participate will be more uncluttered after receiving our mailings.

Ask Unclutterer: Improving the Unclutterer Forum

Reader Erin submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

A few weeks ago, we released the new Unclutterer Forum. Although the system is powerful and has a lot of new cool features, it isn’t doing everything we would like. We at Unclutterer know what we would like to change — but what about the rest of you?

Dear Erin, Wow! You took the words right out of my mouth! What a great question.

Seriously, though, we really do want your help. We want to know what we need to change to make the Unclutterer Forum everything you desire in a Forum. This is a list of the things we are already planning to send to our techs to have them try to improve:

  • Disable being able to post as “guest.” Or, rather, to leave a comment you should have to create and be logged into an account.
  • Expand the Challenges section to show a list of the different challenges directly on the Home page of the Forum. Then, when click on the specific challenge, it will take the user to a month-by-month listing of the discussions of each challenge.
  • Fix the New Topics listing so that it operates similar to the old Forum. Have the discussion topic appear instead of individual posts. Also, have all new discussions listed, not just those new since the last time the user logged in.
  • Have the Active Topics and the New Topics be the same, so users have two ways to find the most recent discussion activity.
  • Reinstate the RSS that allows users to subscribe by email to new topics that have been started, not just specific discussion threads.
  • Add moderators, which we have already done. There are now four moderators for the Unclutterer Forum.

Forum users and those who are interested in joining the Forum community, what do you think about the list above? Is it accurate? Does anything need to be changed before we send it off to our techs? Does anything need to be added?

Please share your thoughts with us. We really do want to make the Unclutterer Forum a fun and exiting place for everyone to gather and discuss their adventures in uncluttering.

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.

Happy birthday to us! Unclutterer turns six!

It’s another milestone for Unlcutterer — six years ago on January 6, Unclutterer came to life with a post that focused on what it means to live more simply:

…to find balance in order to enjoy what one does have, and to avoid becoming overwhelmed by clutter.

What has happened in the time since that very first post? Here’s a look at some highlights of the last six years:

Of course, May 2012 is pretty special to this writer since that’s when I joined the Unclutterer team (along with Dave Caolo). On behalf of all of us at Unclutterer, thank you for your support over the last six years. We look forward to continuing the journey with you in 2013!