Most of us have two types of monthly bills — the big stuff and the little stuff. For the purposes of this post, I’m not talking about the big ones. I don’t mean the mortgage/rent, car payments, insurance, and so on. Those things are there and you pay them as part of your life responsibilities. No, in this case I mean the little costs, the automatic payments that are so easy to forget and that pile up quickly. You know, that $2.99 a month subscription fee or the $5.00 monthly rental fee. If we remember these at all, the temptation is to say, “Eh, it’s three bucks. I’ll deal with it next month.” Meanwhile, three becomes nine and then 12 and by the end of the year 36 — but for dozens of little things so the total is in the hundreds.
Once a year, I sit down and unclutter these little payments to decide what stays and what goes. If you’re interested, the following is advice on how you can do it, too.
Write it down
The easiest way to get look at what you’re spending is to write it all down. When I do this review, I chart it up on a piece of paper:
There are four columns:
- Name: The title of the company or service
- Cost: What I’m paying out
- Description: A plain-English description of exactly what I’m getting for my money
- Stay? After reviewing the information in the three previous column, I decide: “Does it stay?” If yes, I enter a “Y” in the last column. If not, it’s “N.”
In the example above, I’ve entered two services. First is Netflix. It costs me $7.99 per month to stream all the TV shows and movies I want. Is it worth it? For me, yes. My family and I spend more time watching videos on Netflix than we do on cable. For us, it’s worth it. Netflix stays.
Next is Blizzard. Blizzard is a game company that lets me play World of Warcraft online for $14.99 per month. Is it worth it? Well, a few months ago, I was meeting up with several friends so that we could all play together. That was great fun, but it has fizzled out. I don’t enjoy playing solo as much. So, I nixed it. That just saved me $179.88 per year! Hooray!
Why did I sign up for this?
Before you decide if a service stays or goes, concentrate on brainstorming so you get them all down. It’s possible that you’ve completely forgotten about one (or even more). Do you have a transponder in your car that comes with a monthly fee? Do you have a safety deposit box at the bank? Does your bank charge you a monthly fee if your balance falls below a certain dollar limit? Are you renting any large pieces of equipment? Do you subscribe to magazines?
Once you’ve remembered all your little costs, add up the total amount spent. It might be surprising. Once you’ve nixed the services you no longer want, you’ll feel really good about saving that money.
Hold onto your list
Although it’s a little morbid to think about, having all of these subscription services written down in one place would allow for someone else to help close your accounts or suspend them in case of an emergency. Store your list in an “In case of …” file so a loved one can find it. Also, you can reference it in six months or a year to help you brainstorm all the little bills you’re paying each month. You can then replace the old list (shred it) with the new list in the file.
As I said, these small monthly fees are easy to forget and tempting to overlook. This post is your prompt to unclutter them! In less than 30 minutes, you’ll have a good overview of what you’re spending, feel more on top of things, and perhaps save a little money for your trouble.
Every Christmas, we receive a few jigsaw puzzles — it’s a family holiday pastime to watch movies and put the puzzles together. Interestingly enough, as I spend time going through the documents I need to prepare for our family’s 2013 income tax return, I realize that the steps involved in organizing paperwork are similar to the steps in assembling a jigsaw puzzle.
Define the goal
When you’re working on a jigsaw puzzle you’ve always got the box that shows what the puzzle should look like once it is together. For most organizing projects, you won’t get a picture of the final product; you’ll have to invent it yourself. Imagine what you want the final result to look like. How do you want it to function when you’re done? Don’t worry about all of the details at this point. A rough outline is just fine. You could simply state, “I want to be able to find the documents that I need, when I need them. I want them to be stored in the filing cabinet for easy access and any documents that I don’t need regularly but need to keep for tax reasons, will be stored in the attic. Everything else will be shredded.”
Sometimes you don’t have the entire picture. Imagine only receiving one or two puzzle pieces a day. You would have to collect a few months’ worth of pieces to get an idea of what the finished project should look like. This is exactly why I have a big pile of paperwork to be sorted and filed!
In our situation, living in a foreign country as visiting military, we are required to keep certain documents beyond what we would normally keep in our home country. I really didn’t know how these should be organized so my solution was to keep all of the documents in one large folder. Now that we’ve lived here for six months, we have a good idea what the “finished picture” looks like and we are able to sort the documents easily into appropriate categories.
Make a work space
If you have a large project or one that you need a few days to complete, consider setting up in a place that has minimal impact on your day-to-day living. We assemble our jigsaw puzzle on a table in our family room, which is also the place I’ve chosen to do my filing.
Consider sorting paperwork into labelled boxes. Rather than have open boxes, consider getting boxes with lids. They can then be stacked up against a wall and out of the way when you are not working. You can organize one box at a time at a later time.
Define the edges
When we’re working on our puzzle, usually we try to get the edge pieces first and then group similar pieces together onto paper plates such as “sky pieces” or “purple pieces.”
Decide on the “edges” of your project. Chose fewer groups with larger categories within each group. For example, if you’re working on financial paperwork, separate by decade, then by year, then within each year, then by month. You may even find that everything prior to a certain year can be immediately discarded and shredded.
Do not take the “Only Handle It Once (OHIO) Rule” literally when sorting and organizing. I have never been able to take a puzzle piece out of the box, look at it once and put it into the puzzle in its exact place. Don’t expect to do it with paperwork either.
Every time you handle a document, it should be to move it forward in the system of processing so that it is in its appropriate place for the next step. Not only should you prioritize it immediately, you must identify when and where the next steps take place so that the item is not forgotten either accidentally or on purpose.
Zoom in – zoom out
When we’re working on our puzzle, occasionally one of us will zoom in on an easily identifiable object within the puzzle and work on that. On our recent puzzle, my daughter found all of the pieces for a large orange flower that was in the centre of the puzzle. It allowed us to work outwards from that point to complete the puzzle faster. However, while she was working on the flower, she kept it in perspective of the entire puzzle.
If you’re organizing and sorting paperwork, you may find you can easily complete a small portion of the project. You may be able to completely organize all of last year’s financial documents, for example. Congratulate yourself on a job well done but remember to zoom back out and look at the whole picture and remember what you want the final result to look like.
Create a Process
This step is where the similarities between puzzles and paperwork end. Once all of the pieces are put into the puzzle, the puzzle is completed and there is nothing left to be done but admire the finished project. Paperwork on the other hand, increases as soon as the postman arrives the next day.
- Unitasker Wednesday: Stick Pet Toy
It’s an $11 fake stick! Egads.
- Tax time: Three basic steps to get you closer to filing your taxes on time
If you’re good at procrastinating and do it often, putting off doing your 2011 tax returns would be a very simple thing to do. I know it’s even easier to procrastinate doing them when you suspect you owe the government money. There’s no need to let stress about completing your taxes take its toll on you, though. Getting started with just a few easy tasks right now can alleviate some of your anxiety, help you to be better organized, and assist you with meeting the federal and your state’s tax deadlines.
- Unitasker Wednesday: Cauliflower Corer
I didn’t even know Cauliflower Corers were a thing. More importantly, I never would have guessed what it was if it were sitting in front of me. Where I come from, tubes with sharp things on the end of them are used for digging holes for fence posts.
- Unitasker Wednesday: Mascara Protector
The item, the Tweezerman Mascara Protector, is supposed to protect your face from getting mascara on it when you’re applying mascara.
- Vertical laptop stands save desk space
Save limited desktop space by using a vertical laptop stand.
- O Magazine focuses on uncluttering
The March 2010 issue of O: The Oprah Magazine just hit newsstands and it is dedicated to the theme “De-Clutter Your Life!” The uncluttering articles begin on page 142, but most of the content in the rest of the magazine is tangentially related to the topic.
- Digital books for your mobile device
Over the course of the past few months, more electronic reading options have hit the market and we wanted to bring them to your attention.
Earlier this week, Jeri asked about the junk drawer that’s probably in your home (it’s okay, almost all of us have one). But junk drawers exist in places beyond your cabinets. There’s another one that’s even more covert, and it’s your computer. There’s all sorts of stuff in there, and much of it can be safely tossed away. I’ll reveal what junk is on mine and give you suggestions for how to deal with similar junk on your machine.
There’s a of stuff that is, in the strictest sense, junk on my computer. These items can be thrown away with no negative consequences.
What is it?
- Old software installers
- Links to web pages I’ve lost interest in
- Notes on projects long past
Where is it?
For me, most of the junk is in my “Downloads” folder. That’s where my web browser places items I’ve downloaded. For many of you, the folder is probably on your desktop. For me, it’s a folder in my Home folder. To see where your browser is placing downloads, look at its settings or preferences. Then, get in there, go through what you find and delete anything that’s absolutely unnecessary.
I found some true junk in my email software, too. Now I know that many of you like or even have to keep archival email. Still, instructions to the restaurant you visited three years ago is probably safe to throw away (especially if it was a lousy restaurant). Use you own good judgment when making this decision.
Here’s a very popular category for a junk-drawer. I’m talking about information that doesn’t require you to do anything, but might be useful in the future.
What is it?
- A summer schedule for the local community theatre
- Operating instructions for that new radio
- Information from Jr.’s school
- Material for a meeting
Where is it?
For most people, this reference material is in your email. I know that a huge number of you use your email software as a filing cabinet. I think this is a bad idea, as I explained in my very first post for Unclutterer (was that really two years ago?). If that’s you and you’re happy – perhaps you’ve got a folder system or a method of archiving/search that works – great. For me, Evernote is my digital filing system. It’s where all of my reference material lives, including user manuals.
Yes, memorabilia can be digital, too. I’ve got quite a bit stashed here and there.
What is it?
- Pleasant emails
- Quick videos
- Scanned sketches from the kids
Where is it?
For me, almost all of the clutter in this category lives in my photo software. You’re probably thinking, “But Dave, that’s what it’s for!” You’re right, and bravo for not piling photos on the desktop or who knows where. But, if you take as many photos as I do, your library will grow unwieldy quickly.
You can keep on top of it by archiving your work. Most computers can burn discs or DVDs and it’s a nice idea to make an archive as the year ends, to be stored away. Just understand that data stored on a CD or DVD won’t last forever, so consider digital storage, too.
An external drive is a good idea, as is a service like Flickr, which gives customers one terabyte of storage. A terabyte can hold a lot of photos. Flickr also lets you tag, categorize, sort and organize to your heart’s content, so that one image you need is easily found.
… and the rest
There’s likely other stuff hanging out your computer that’s prime for more organized storage or outright disposal. Duplicates of files are certainly up for deletion. Occasionally, I’ll find a piece of software I haven’t used in ages, little notes I made while working on an article, images I no longer need and so on. It’s helpful to take an hour or so once in a while to identify and purge this temporary stuff.
Now that you’ve tackled the junk drawer in the kitchen, turn you attention to the one on you’re computer. You’ll be glad you did.
All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!
I have been in some disgusting public bathrooms in my lifetime. I’ve seen things I can’t unsee. I’ve smelled things I can’t unsmell. But, I’ll spare you any further details because, you know, this is a family-friendly website after all. Just believe me when I say there are some truly horrific bathrooms out in our world.
Even though I’ve been to the worst of the worst, there is still no way I would buy an enormous disposable blanket to drape over a toilet to “protect” me from germs, such as the PottyCover:
For starters, these toilet covers are a dollar a piece, which seems like a lot for something you’re going to throw away after a single use. Seeing as how large they are, though, I guess you’re getting your money’s worth for the materials?
Secondly, putting these covers on a toilet (and removing them afterward) requires extensive use of one’s hands. And, as we all know from basic biology, your hands are significantly more likely to spread and contract germs than your tushy is. Since you’re probably not going to wash your hands after installing this gigantic potty cover, you’re going to touch this cover and some toilet paper with germ-infested hands. Whereas, if you didn’t put this cover on the toilet, your hands would be more clean than if you had. (Not a lot more clean, but a little. Keep reading.)
Finally, study after study has been conducted showing that the average toilet paper dispenser has significantly more germs on it than the toilet seat. In fact, toilet seats are often the least bacteria-infested locations in a public restroom. As long as no one wiped the toilet seat down with dollar bills (one of the most bacteria-infested items you usually touch in a normal day), you’re statistically fine just sitting straight on the seat. A toilet seat is relatively germ free. I trust the MythBusters on this. (And for those of you who are squeamish about germs, know that your computer keyboard has far more bacterial colonies on it than a toilet seat. You’re welcome.)
As far as these ridiculously sized PottyCovers are concerned, it’s best to save your money and just wash your hands.
- Building a custom home: Four steps to help you stay organized
Are you building a custom home? Here are four ways to stay organized.
- A basic spring cleaning plan
Get ready to spring clean your home with a basic plan.
- Ask Unclutterer: Organizing electronic accessories and conquering Mount Techmore
Reader Katie wants to know how to handle tech clutter. She has old wires, chargers, manuals, and cables cluttering up her room.
- Storing bed sheets
If your linen closet is cluttered and overflowing with bed sheets, it might be time to unclutter and organize your collection.
- Workspace of the Week: Creative desktop storage solutions
- Ask Unclutterer: Pesky plastic bags
Instead of throwing away plastic grocery bags, reader Robert is looking for ideas on ways to reuse them.
- Unitasker Wednesday: Fit and Fold
Unfortunately, like most tasks that seem difficult, there is an inventor ready to produce a plastic doodad who is also eager to take your money from you. Presenting, the Fit and Fold.
- Collapsible funnel
Please forgive my relatively high level of excitement for such a bland product, but sometimes it is the smallest things that make life better.
Many people seem to have a kitchen junk drawer, and these drawers hold a wide variety of stuff. If not in the kitchen, the drawer full of random stuff might be in a utility room or a hallway or a desk. Usually, they’re filled with a few things you need but those things could be surrounded with clutter.
Most items found in junk drawers can be classified into a few categories:
Becky Harris at Houzz.com wrote that she got rid of these things recently from her junk drawer:
- Eyeglasses with hideous frames from about 20 prescriptions ago
- Hardened Liquid Paper (I don’t even have any use for Liquid Paper anymore)
- 5 sets of Delta Airlines headsets
- 6 inches of carpet tape, which is perhaps enough to use on a dollhouse area rug.
- Packaging and headphones for every iPhone and iPod I have ever owned, including some that are no longer in my possession.
An online discussion at Chow.com of junk drawer contents inspired someone else to do a cleanout. She got rid of these items, among others:
- Halloween cookie cutters (I never really make shaped cookies)?
- a blunt breadknife with a melted handle
If you take the time to remove the pure junk, you can then consider giving your junk drawer a new name. Laura Gaskill suggested the “really useful stuff” drawer in a post she wrote for Houzz, organizer Monica Ricci calls it the utility drawer, and Becky Harris calls it the catch-all drawer.
Random useful stuff
As commenter Nicole wrote on Be More With Less:
I organized my former junk drawer a few years ago and now it’s the useful drawer. I keep markers, scissors, tape, little screwdrivers, chip clips, that rubber thing you use to open jars, and the manuals for my small appliances (rice cooker, for instance) in there.
Other common things include batteries, binder clips, coins, coupons, gum, hair elastics, matches, postage stamps, reading glasses, receipts being held onto until it’s clear the items won’t need to be returned, rubber bands, sticky notes, and a tape measure.
Some of that random useful stuff might better be kept somewhere else — you probably shouldn’t keep any papers in the junk drawer, for example — but that’s a personal choice.
The Junk Drawer Project asks participants: “What is your fondest memory surrounding an object in your junk drawer?” The answers show that many people choose to keep bits of memorabilia in their junk drawers.
Marie Irma Matutina said: “I have a bunch of new and used birthday candles, some with glitter, some are alphabets or numbers and they remind me of all the great parties, get togethers and gatherings I’ve had over the years with really great friends.”
And Leah Jackson said: “A birthday card from my mom that I can’t seem to get rid of.”
Other people mentioned cards and candles, too.
Odds and ends
I relate to Michelle W., who said this in another discussion of junk drawer contents: “My junk drawer is full of things I am hiding from the cats — rubber bands, bread bag ties, hairbands, etc.”
And then there’s Randy, who said the oldest thing in his junk drawer is a harmonica. “It just feels wrong to get rid of a harmonica, so it sits there mocking me because I never learned to play it.”
Your individual junk drawers
Erin Thompson, who maintains The Junk Drawer Project, was interviewed by Jillian Steinhauer about the project:
I started asking my friends about their junk drawers and quickly realized that the way that people curated their own junk drawer totally made sense for their personalities. I am finding that you can learn a lot about a person by way of their junk drawer.
What might your junk drawer say about you? If you don’t like the answer — or if your junk drawer just isn’t working right for you any more — maybe it’s worth spending a bit of time to make a change.
Organizing your personal finances can be time consuming and even a little difficult, but that doesn’t mean it’s something you shouldn’t do. The following are a few tips to help you get your personal finances organized so you can save yourself time, stress, and even money over the course of the year.
Set up online banking and learn to use a personal finance program. Personal Finance programs allow you to view all of your accounts including:
- Everyday bank accounts
- Loans and mortgages
- Investment accounts
- Credit card accounts
By being able to see everything in one place you will be able to take control of your finances and make good decisions based on accurate information.
There are several different personal finance programs available. Quicken is a very popular program for both Windows and Mac, but Quicken for Mac is only compatible with American banks. Mac users in other countries may wish to use iBank. Mint, because it is an online service, can be used on almost any computer or mobile device. However, it is currently only compatible with banks in Canada and the United States.
Personal finance programs organize transactions into basic pre-defined categories but may not reflect your actual spending habits. Categories can be renamed or combined and new categories can be added depending on your lifestyle. It may take a few months of examining your transactions to determine the ideal categories for you. It is better to use a few broad topics at the beginning and then become more specific with use. After a few months of using online banking, you may choose to use sub-categories.
Shopping with your debit card instead of cash allows online banking to identify in what stores you shop and will help categorize transactions. You also may choose to keep receipts to enter more information about each transaction. Do not get too detailed. If you routinely purchase groceries and household items, such as garbage bags, laundry detergent and shampoo all at the same time from the same store, consider creating a category called “Groceries, Personal and Household Supplies”. This would encompass everything that is used for your home and the people in it.
Other categories to consider.
- Financial Charges: Many banks charge extra fees for cheques, using another bank’s automated teller machines, or making payments or withdrawals in a foreign currency. If you track this information, you can easily tell how much you’re paying in extra fees. Check the different types of accounts and banking plans offered by your bank. Switching to a different plan may help you reduce these fees.
- Interest Expense: It’s a bit of a shock to see how much interest is paid out on loans or bank overdrafts but it may also be the incentive you need to pay off any loans.
- Charitable Donations: By tracking any donations, you can easily generate a list at the end of the year that will tell you how much you have donated and from which organizations you can expect a tax receipt. It will also be easier to report this information to your country’s tax office.
Simplify bill payments
Reduce the number of bills you have to pay by hand. Sign up for online bill payment services when possible.
If you buy things on credit (a highly debated topic here at Unclutterer), use only one or two major credit cards and cancel store credit cards. Most major credit cards have lower interest rates than store cards and great loyalty programs, including cash-back programs. Remember, just because you pay off a credit card and cut it up doesn’t mean the account is cancelled. Inform the credit card company in writing that you wish to cancel the account. Verify your credit score to ensure that the report indicates the credit card account has been closed as paid in full.
You might consider bundling services where possible to reduce the number of bills you need to pay. By consolidating your various insurance policies with one company, you may be eligible for discounted premiums or other bonuses. Utility companies as well as media/communications companies provide discounts for bundling services like phone, cable, and internet access.
Most utility and insurance companies offer equalized billing. By having a fixed amount to pay every month, it will be much easier to set and maintain a budget. Some companies offer a pre-authorized payment plan where the monthly amount is deducted directly from your bank account.
Designate certain days and times each month to manage your finances. Use this time to pay upcoming bills and update your account balances. You may wish to do your finances every Saturday morning or the first weekday after your payday. Whatever day you decide, write it down in your agenda and stick to the schedule.
If you are using traditional paper billing, keep all necessary items for bill paying in one place. Fill a plastic bin/box with your chequebook, envelopes, stamps, address labels, pen, and calculator. Label the bin “BILL PAYMENTS”. You can even put your bills in the bin as soon as they arrive. Once paid, the paper bills can be stored in a filing cabinet for up to 13 months. Thirteen months is a good timeframe because it allows you to compare the current month’s totals to what they were the previous year — this is nice for things like water bills where you may be able to spot a small leak before it becomes a major one.
If you opt for electronic billing download your bill/statement into a folder on your computer labelled, “Bills to Pay”. Once paid, it can be filed in its appropriate electronic folder. Ideally, the folders on your computer should mimic paper files, e.g. “Utilities – Electric”. Ensure that the bill/statement is in an easily readable format, such as a .pdf file.
Whenever you receive receipts that you can use for your income taxes, such as those for charitable donations, place them in an “Income Tax” file. You won’t need to waste time searching for them come tax time. Many agencies send tax receipts via email so set up a folder on your computer’s hard drive labeled “Income Tax”. Save all electronic copies of income tax slips and receipts to this folder as soon as they arrive.
Organizing financial matters takes some time and energy but you’ll reap the rewards financially and come tax time. With low-cost personal finance programs available, it is easier than ever to track your spending and make better decisions about your financial future.
- Unitasker Wednesday: The CTA Digital Pedestal Stand for iPad with Roll Holder
Okay, so it’s technically a multi-tasker — but, even so, it makes us laugh until our sides ache. It appears we have devolved so greatly as a society that we cannot use the toilet without also using a mobile device. Ew, ew, ew!
- Unitasker Wednesday: Pancake problems that aren’t problems
I recently learned about these very special pancake plates that have run-off reservoirs for your syrup. Why would anyone want a device that drains away the syrup from a stack of pancakes? This makes no sense. None at all. The goal is to have ALL the syrup on the pancakes.
- Unitasker Wednesday: Bananarama returns
If you’re a stockpiler of fine banana unitaskery, then the Bananza Banana Slicer might be the next item for your collection.
- George Washington: Simplicity seeker
George Washington’s biography is a nice reminder that the problems and aggravations we face currently, and our desire for a more simple life, are often very similar to those experienced by the people who lived before us.
- Unclutterer article in latest issue of Real Simple magazine
In the article “10 ways to let go of your stuff,” I spend 1,000 words talking about my transformation from a clutterer into an unclutterer on pgs. 119-120.
This year holds a great amount of travel for my family and me, so I’ve been trying out dependable and useful gear to make it more manageable. With two kids — one being an infant — I have a lot of needs that go beyond a regular suitcase when we’re on the road.
For starters, I continue to be a huge fan of the ZÜCA Pro suitcase. I’ve been using it since 2008 and it’s the bag I use every time I travel, when I’m alone or with the whole family. It fits into overhead bins on all but the smallest airplanes and it is rugged. The frame allows weary travelers a place to sit, the wheels make it incredibly simple to maneuver, and my MacBook Air fits easily into the side pocket.
I also travel wearing a Scottevest women’s trench coat. I use it instead of a purse unless my destination is super cold. A ridiculous amount of stuff — phone, wallet, keys, Kindle, water bottle, passport, earphones, pens/pencils, tissues, snack food, bottle, zip-top bag of formula, pacifier, burp cloth, diapers — fits in it. It’s incredibly convenient, especially when traveling with kids, because it keeps both of my hands free.
Last year, Eagle Creek contacted me to see if I would be interested in reviewing any of their products. I’d been using a Pack-It toiletry travel bag and really liked it, so I thought it would be nice to see what else they offered and if any of their products worked for our needs.
Two of the items they sent have become staples in our family’s travel gear.
The first items are their Compression Sacs. I had always liked the idea of vacuum compression bags but never could figure out how to get my hands on a vacuum for the return trip home. A hotel room might have a vacuum in the closet, but in all my years of travel I never found one with a hose attachment. I had been using large Ziplock XL bags, but after a couple trips the bags were getting ratty and didn’t really compress all that much. I’m still a fan of them and use them around the house for items in longterm storage, but they just don’t hold up for our travel demands.
Conversely, Eagle Creek’s Compression Sacs are extremely durable, made of a reinforced nylon, and are actually useful. After four trips, they are showing no sign of wear. Best of all, they don’t require a vacuum to get out the air, so they work both coming and going on a trip. You just roll the air out of them, and compress down a bunch of bulky clothes. They are awesome for things like coats and baby clothes. They really do save space. We also used them on a travel day to hold wet swimsuits because they’re waterproof and kept the suits from making everything else in our luggage soggy. There is a video on the manufacturer’s site that demonstrates how they work.
The second item they sent that we have found indispensable is the Digi Hauler Backpack. As its name implies, it holds a laptop easily in a hidden, padded compartment that sits directly next to your back. Since we usually travel with two computers, this second compartment holds my husband’s laptop and my son’s Kindle. The shoulder straps are very nicely padded, so it’s comfortable to wear for long periods of time. And the part of the pack that rests next to your back is also very well padded, so nothing pokes you. And, like the trench coat, it keeps my arms free to wrangle kids as we walk through an airport or train station. It has a waist belt for added stability, which is good since it’s usually stuffed to its gills. The zippers also lock, making it less desirable of a target for pickpocketing. It has handles and a shoulder strap if for some reason you want to carry it like a duffel and the backpack straps fold away, but I’ve never had use for that feature. The main compartment has huge storage capacity. In combination with the Compression Sacs, we’ve been able to fit a ridiculous amount of stuff into it. I love this bag.
With the ZÜCA Pro, the trench coat, Compression Sacs, and the Digi Hauler backpack, I can travel easily with two kids and not have to check a single bag. I wear my daughter in a Beco Carrier on my front, pull the ZÜCA with one hand, and have my other hand free to hold my son’s hand. If my husband is traveling with us, we’ve got an extra set of hands and no need for additional luggage. This setup is also great for taking public transportation once we’re at our destination. It’s so nice to be able to travel easily and in an organized manner with two young kids — finally!
How do you deal with all the interesting information we now have available to us on the Internet, from international news to updates on the lives of an acquaintance’s children? There are numerous ways to tackle this flow of information you want to consume in a way so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
Chris Miller explored this topic:
Sooner or later you have to sit down and say:
- My time and attention are the most valuable things I posses.
- There is too much stuff on the Internet for me ever to read it all.
- Therefore, I’m going to be super-choosy about what I read and what I do.
Where are the places you may want to be super-choosy?
Are you trying to be active on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter? Maybe it would help to focus on just a few that best meet your business and/or personal needs.
Within each community, are you engaged with too many people? Are you friends with people on Facebook who you can’t even place? Are you following thousands of people on Twitter? Maybe it’s time to prune the lists.
Have you used whatever filtering tools are available? For example, I use TweetDeck to read Twitter, and I have filters set up to hide any tweets mentioning specific TV shows that tend to get mentioned a lot, and which I just don’t care about.
People who do this type of cleanup often comment on how much better they felt afterward. Kelly O. Sullivan recently wrote: “Unfriended someone on Facebook who was adding no value to my life. Feels good.” And Dennis K. Berman wrote a whole blog post titled “The Purge: I Unfollowed 390 People on Twitter, and I Feel Great.”
If you use RSS to read blogs and other news sources, have you evaluated what you’re reading lately? Maybe it’s time to delete some of those subscriptions.
I just deleted a subscription to the blog of an acclaimed writer, whose articles I found myself skipping over when they appeared in my list. He may indeed be writing wonderful stuff, but it just wasn’t stuff I felt like reading. I had to get over my own case of the “shoulds” — the internal voices telling me I should read his work — and decide it was perfectly okay to decide not to read it.
Do you tend to ignore these when they hit your inbox? Have you created an email rule to move them to their own mail folder — where they languish, unread? Maybe it’s time to do some unsubscribing.
News and magazine apps
Did you download a bunch of these at some point — only to find you don’t use most of them? This is another area where you might do some cleanup.
Pocket, Instapaper, and other read-it-later tools
Kevin Fox commented on Twitter: “My Instapaper button would be more accurately titled ‘Read it Never.’”
Are you like Kevin? Do you have lots of articles you’ve saved to read later — that you never seem to get to? You may want to review that reading list and see which ones you still want to make time to read, and which you can just delete.
But some people are fine with a long list, and you might be, too. Om Malik spoke to Nate Weiner of Pocket, who noted that people go back to read 10-70 percent of the articles they put into Pocket, with the average being 50 percent. But Weiner went on to add:
The key is to think of it like a Netflix queue. You are never overwhelmed or concerned about the number of items in your Netflix queue. You just keep putting things in there because you know that when you have the time to view something, you can guarantee you’ll have something great in there that you’ve been meaning to check out.
Maybe you don’t need to clean up your saved-for-later reading list — or your RSS feeds, your email newsletters, or your apps. Or maybe you just want to do some limited cleanup. Do you like having a large number of items to choose from when you have some reading time, or does having such a large collection overwhelm you? The answer to that question will help you determine your strategy.
But whether you keep your reading list short, or keep it long (knowing you’ll never read it all), you’ll still need to be super-choosy about what you eventually spend time reading. Because this wish from M.S. Bellows, Jr. probably isn’t going to come true: “I want to be reincarnated in a way that preserves all my bookmarks, pockets, and favorites, so I can spend 80 years simply reading.”
All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!
I have to admit, I’m a little nervous about posting this week’s unitasker selection. Last time I mentioned a toast-related unitasker, we got more than 80 comments defending the item. It was then I learned that Unclutterer readers are very serious about their toast.
Today’s selection is such a perfect contender for a unitasker, though, that I have decided to move forward with it. I’ll admit, if I worked in a restaurant that specialized in artisanal toast, this doodad might have a need if I didn’t want to wear sanitary gloves. But, for the daily home toaster, the Toast Tongs are overkill (well, unless you’re using a supervolcano to toast your toast):
If you are worried about your toast being a little toasty, you can let it sit in the toaster for a few seconds to cool before touching it. Five seconds is usually all it takes, though I have been known to grab toast directly from the toaster and live to tell the tale — as I’m sure we all have. Yes, the toast is warm, but it’s not so warm as to need a special device to handle it. Plus, if you wish to spread something on the toast, you’re going to have to use your hands anyway because these tongs won’t be of much use to you during that task. And, if you’re regularly having issue with large items getting stuck in your toaster, it’s time to get rid of the toaster and get a toaster oven. Toaster ovens are beautiful multi-taskers.
Back to the point: Toast Tongs are one more thing to wash, one more thing to store, one more thing to forget you own, and one more thing to eventually put into a yard sale or donate to charity.