Unclutterer’s 2015 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Organizing Gifts

Organizing products are like any other gift item — one person’s treasure is another person’s clutter. But assuming you know your gift recipients well, the following are some items they might appreciate.

None of these gifts imply the recipient is disorganized, which could be awkward. Rather, these are things that might help your gift recipients get a bit more organized by upgrading the tools they currently use or introducing them to some they may not know about.

Password management tools

Not every gift has to be something tangible. You could give someone the gift of a password management app such as 1Password, which is the one I use. If you buy the Windows or Mac app on the vendor’s site, it will ask you if it’s a gift when you go to check out.

Cable organizers

Desktop cable organizers are great for anyone who has a problem with cables slipping to the floor when they are not in use.

The MOS magnetic cable organizer (available in black, white, or aluminum) has a lot of fans. Other options are two products from Bluelounge: Cable Drops (also available in multiple colors) and the Sumo cable management system.

The GRID-It organizers from Cocoon are a nice choice for those who need to carry cables and such around with them. They hold cords, chargers, and much more.


A good stapler that doesn’t jam can be a valuable organizing tool. The Swingline 747 has a great reputation, and you can get it in red for a festive touch. Including some of Swingline’s premium staples will help ensure it can handle 20 sheets of 20-pound paper.

Other recipients might prefer a PaperPro stapler with its one-finger stapling or a Harinacs stapleless stapler.


Although many people have timers on their smartphones, sometimes a physical timer is nice, too. I love the Datexx timers because they are so simple; you just turn the cube so the time setting you want is on the top, and flip the switch. The timer comes in different colors, each of which has different time choices.

And many people like the Time Timer for the way it shows the passage of time.

File totes

A Jamie Raquel file tote could be a welcome gift for those who need to carry a number of files around with them. The totes come in eight different colors.


Lots of people could make good use of a cool toolbox. One of many choices is the Trusco toolbox. The Klein leather tool bags aren’t cheap, but could be a lovely gift for the right person.

Sticky notes

The Post-it Super Sticky Full Adhesive Notes have a lot of fans, including me. (I’ve even seen them on someone’s wish list.) For those who like something whimsical, consider the Moomin sticky notes.

The Morris Memo Holder provides a fun way to store the sticky notes on a desktop, so they don’t get buried. Morris’s mouth can hold a pen or pencil, or a note that you want to keep in front of you.


There are lots of functional bookends available. But for something out of the ordinary, take a look at the animal bookends from Zuny.

Storage for children’s items

The bins and boxes from 3 Sprouts have always caught my eye. While they are obviously designed for children, some adults might like them, too.

Two other products work with specific kinds of toys. The Boon Animal Bag is a clever way to store stuffed animals. And SWOOP is a play mat and storage bag, helping to corral Lego and other toys with many small pieces. These are gifts that both kids and their parents might like.

For additional inspiration, feel welcome to check out our past Guides: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Unclutterer’s 2015 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Kids Gifts

It’s time to go shopping for the holidays and if you have kids on your list, you have a lot of fun and useful and organized options available. The following are recommendations that you’ll hopefully find inspiring.

Younger Kids

Play-Doh Clay Center and Storage Case. Ah, Play-Doh. It’s such a nostalgic toy. Even the smell takes me back (and there’s a gift for that, too). This kit gives kids everything they need to get started with this classic toy: four tubs of Play-Doh, stampers, rollers, cookie cutters, figures and so much more. Best of all, it comes with a 13″ L. x 9″ W. x 6 1/2″ H case with a handled lid that tucks it all away.

The Perplexus toys are a whole lot of fun that put a new spin on the classic maze. The maze itself is inside a plastic sphere and your job is to twist and turn it in your hands while guiding a tiny ball from start to finish. No small balls to lose! There are several models of increasing difficulty available, and each one comes with a handy stand for storing/displaying the Perplexus when it’s not in use.

If your child has a Disney Infinity game with characters, a travel bag that will allow kids to bring their figures to playdates with friends is extremely helpful. The Disney Infinity 2.0 Armor Bag by PDP is my choice. It stores up to 16 figures and their accompanying “power discs.” It’s got a big, grippy handle that small hands can get a hold of and best of all, an inner plastic sheet prevents everything from falling out when the zipper is undone.

If you’re in a Skylanders household, the BD&A Skylanders Classic Tackle Box is a fine choice for keeping pieces organized.

Older kids/teens

I’ve been a voracious reader since I purchased Stephen King’s Thinner in 1984 with my paper route money. While my nightstand still has a tendency to attract piles of books, it happens less frequently since I got my Kindle Paperwhite. I love books and the Kindle offers a great reading experience. It’s thin, very light, has a battery that just lasts and lasts and can store hundreds of books. With features like highlighting, notes, bookmarks and more, the experience is rather like reading a paper book.

Next, trading card games like Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon, Yugioh and so on continue to be popular. Players often end up with huge collection of cards and carrying them around requires the right equipment. I recommend the Monster Binder 9 Pocket Trading Card Album. These are made of high-quality material and the interior pockets load cards from the side, not the top, which prevents them from accidentally sliding out. Pockets are generous enough to hold cards that are in protective sleeves as well. Finally, the front and back covers are padded. I keep my own cards in one of these and feel completely confident in doing so.

The guitarist or bass player on your list will love the Pick Punch. This awesome little gadget lets you punch guitar picks out of sheets of plastic. That’s cool, be we love it because it lets your reuse items you’d otherwise throw away. Expired credit cards? Guitar pick. Those holiday gift cards you get, use and toss? Guitar picks. It’s a lot of fun, allows for customization, and recycling. We love it.

Finally, I’m going to recommend something utilitarian in the Wallet Ninja 18 in 1 Multi-purpose Credit Card Size Pocket Tool. I carry one myself and it has proven its usefulness time and time again. With features like a ruler, nail-puller, letter opener, cell phone stand, screw driver, can opener, box cutter, and more, this thing is a life-saver. Got an outdoors-y kid on your list or one who loves tools? This will be a hit.

For additional inspiration, feel welcome to check out our past Guides: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.

A year ago on Unclutterer




  • Being organized before a doctor’s visit
    Doctors can be intimidating, even those with amazing bedside manners. It can be easy to be anxious and/or timid around them — especially when they’re wearing those impersonal white lab coats. A little organizing can help reduce these anxieties.


  • A simple Thanksgiving solution
    Until yesterday, I had no idea that chalk wrote easily on matte-finish oilcloth. The concept is so basic, yet its implications have my head spinning. I’m no longer trying to think of ways to decorate my Thanksgiving table, entertain the kids during mealtime, or am worried about a centerpiece — I have my solution.
  • As seen on Lifehacker
    This past week, I encountered two fantastic articles on Lifehacker I wanted to share with you.

Introducing the 2015 Unclutterer Holiday Gift Giving Guide

Starting today and going through Dec. 7, we will be running posts for our annual Unclutterer Holiday Gift Giving Guide. What I’m finding a little difficult to believe this year is that it’s our NINTH Guide and the ninth one I’ve organized as the site’s editor-in-chief. Putting together the 2007 guide was my first big project after taking over the chief position in November of that year. How has time passed so quickly?

As in years past, you can expect there to be guides this year about experience gifts (fun and clutter free), highly utilitarian gifts (gifts that in the right hands will never be clutter), and organizing gifts (oh how I love gifts that help people to be more organized). There also will be suggestions for giving gifts to kids and our ultimate gift of the year. This year’s guide is fun and useful and I really think you’ll find it inspiring.

Speaking of inspiration, if you need a little right now, let me direct you to our past Guides: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Personally, I’m not yet thinking about getting gifts for loved ones as I’m rushing around to get our house ready for out-of-town Thanksgiving guests. If you’re in a similar situation, the following are some ideas for staying organized during the next week:

  1. Clean out your refrigerator and pantry first. Free-up space for leftovers and food you’ll prepare ahead of the meal by getting rid of anything that has expired and/or gone bad.
  2. Poll your guests now to see if anyone has food allergies, intolerances, or special dietary needs. Also ask if anyone needs transportation, so you can coordinate travel requirements ahead of time. No need for last-minute surprises that can easily be avoided.
  3. Meal plan for the entire week, not just the Thanksgiving meal. Figure out today what you’ll be eating all next week so you aren’t stressed about meals next week.
  4. Grocery shop early Saturday or Sunday morning. You don’t want to have to fight the crowds of last-minute grocery shoppers, so get this chore out of the way early.
  5. Make a detailed schedule at the same time you make your to-do list. Include things like cleaning your home and automobile (I like to do that Monday night) and looking over your Thanksgiving meal plans to determine what can be made ahead on Tuesday or Wednesday (desserts, like pies, are great to make ahead of time). A detailed schedule is important for keeping your to-do list from being overwhelming.
  6. Delegate! If you have children, put them to work taking care of some of the to-do items. Everyone who lives in your home should be involved and know their responsibilities ahead of time.
  7. Breathe. Remember that Thanksgiving is about coming together with people you love to be thankful for the good things that happened this year. Take time to enjoy being with your people. And if your people are making you feel like you can’t breathe, take yourself outside on a walk.

And, as a last bit of news, our offices will be closed next Thursday and Friday so everyone can enjoy the holiday.

Managing the holiday shopping list

It’s the time of year when many people’s thoughts turn to holiday gift-giving. There’s a real joy in finding just the right gift for a close friend or beloved relative — and starting tomorrow, we’ll help you find some of those gifts in our annual uncluttered and organized gift-giving guide.

But sometimes gift-giving gets overwhelming and isn’t fun any more. If you’ve got a huge list of gifts to purchase and dread what that means, perhaps you can get some agreement to scale things back a bit. For a family, that may mean giving gifts to the children but not the aunts and uncles. Or, within any group, there could be a “secret Santa” approach where each person winds up buying for just one other person, rather than for everyone.

Such approaches may have the benefit of reducing the clutter caused by well-intended gifts that were sadly off the mark. And you can always participate in some charitable gift-giving opportunities that definitely won’t cause clutter and can make the holiday season brighter for the gift recipients.

I always take part in my local Adopt a Family program, providing things like warm clothes and grocery store gift cards to those in need. Many churches and civic organizations run similar programs.

If you want to focus on children, you could buy a toy for Toys for Tots. And some locales have book drives at the holidays.

Of course, you could also just donate cash to any of your favorite charities. Food banks that try to ensure people have a nice holiday dinner (as well as food throughout the year) would certainly appreciate anything you could give.

Do you like the idea of helping someone in particular? Some organizations help individuals in need make it over a tough spot in their lives caused by medical problems and more. You could help a family pay their rent and keep their home (or meet other pressing needs) by donating to one of the drives at Small Can Be Big or any similar program.

Or you could select a gift from the catalog at Good Gifts and buy a pig for an African subsistence farmer, tools for a trainee carpenter, etc. As Lucy Siegle noted in The Guardian back in 2007, “Most charities that run goat-gifting schemes pool the money from your gift. You might pay for a goat, but the money may eventually be used for a water project.” If you’re fine with that, there are many places to donate. But if you want your donation to buy exactly what you selected, Good Gifts is at least one way to make that happen.

If your friends and family are into such things, you could combine gift giving with charity. If you know people’s favorite causes, you could make donations in their names. Or you could get gift cards from CharityChoice or JustGive, and let them choose where to send the donation.

Unitasker Wednesday: Scallion cutter

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

If you are reading this post, my assumption is you own a kitchen knife. And if you own a decent kitchen knife (decent=not falling apart, sharp), you don’t have a need for this doozie of a unitasker. The scallion cutter:

In case it isn’t obvious, the purpose of the scallion cutter is to cut up scallions to use in food or as garnishes for food. Scallions, and only scallions.

Ooooof. Instead of lamenting yet another knife replacement, please enjoy this educational YouTube video containing instructions for how to use a knife to cut scallions six different ways:

A year ago on Unclutterer



  • A woman in uniform: Angelina Jolie
    Angelina Jolie admits to having a small closet, and her wardrobe of all coordinating, multi-functioning pieces is helpful to maintaining its small size.


Up your keyboard shortcut game with TextExpander

A few years ago on Unclutterer, we made a couple suggestions for increasing your computing productivity with keyboard shortcuts. I’m a huge fan of this practice and suggest everyone spend less time with the mouse and more time learning the keyboard-based equivalents of the tasks you perform most often. But, if you’re really ready to ramp up your keyboard wizardry, look no further than a program called TextExpander ($49.95).

TextExpander is a Mac utility that lets you replace one string of text with another. And do not fret, Windows users, I have not left you users out in the cold. PhraseExpress (starting at $49.95) is fully compatible with TextExpander, and syncs shortcuts between the two.

Also, I shouldn’t have to state this outright, but I’m going to: I pay for this utility myself, it’s what I use, and I’m not being compensated in anyway to write this product recommendation. Phew, now that’s out of the way …

Why would you want to use a utility like TextExpander? The short answer is that it saves you a lot of typing. Let’s say you own a small business and must produce a boilerplate email to customers who write requesting certain information. The response is just three short paragraphs long, but the time spent writing it over and over adds up. TextExpander lets you define a brief string of text, say “.response”. We’ll call that the trigger snippet. When you type .response, it’s immediately replaced with the three-paragraph email.

Or, let’s say you’re a developer who must use the same bits of code over and over. You can create a trigger snippet that’s replaced with the code in question, saving you time and reducing the likelihood of a typing error. As you use TextEpander you begin to realize its magic simplicity.

Today, I use TextExpander to:

  • Replace commonly misspelled words
  • Replace the surnames I often get wrong
  • Add a lengthy URL when I need to
  • Reduce the potential for human error when pasting complex code

TextExpander offers advanced features that make it even more useful. For example, you can opt to have it place your cursor at any point in the replacement text, which is great for those times when just one part will change. You can also turn it on or off in specific programs, so you don’t have to use it.

Minimalist packing for a weekend trip

As I write this, I’m on a bus making its way from New York City to Boston. I managed the whole thing — booking, clothing, toiletries, navigation, and recording memories — with a tiny backpack and no paper. A little planning and minimal equipment allowed me to enjoy a stress-free weekend away without clutter.


I’m a huge fan of rolling my clothes when packing. It saves a decent amount of space in almost any bag. Since I was attending an event in New York, I rolled up two black shirts, one pair of dark jeans, and something for bed. (Why two dark shirts? To avoid having a single point of failure.)

Next, I tossed in my pre-packed Dopp kit. Having one of these ready to go at all times is so helpful.


My smartphone (an iPhone) was my best digital friend on this trip. In the days before I left, I took several steps to get it ready.

I purchased my bus tickets and opted for digital delivery. After getting the QR Code that would be my ticket via email, I saved the QR code to Evernote (so I could access it online or from the Evernote app) and took a screenshot of each ticket, which I saved to my phone’s photo album. Again, I made sure the ticket information was in three places (email, Evernote, photo album) to account for the possibility that one of those storage solutions wouldn’t work.

Next, I opened my Maps app, found the places I intended to visit and marked them as favorites (saving them as points of interest in my navigation app). Again, this saved huge amounts of time later and eliminated that awkward moment of standing in the middle of a sidewalk, trying to find something. Plus, when I needed to travel from venue A to venue B, I didn’t have to search or type in an addresses. A simple tap was all I needed.

When I travel like this, I depend on my smartphone a lot. In fact, its battery is not ready for what I’ve got planned for it. Therefore, an external battery case is a must. These can be expensive depending on the make and model of your phone. If you travel often, it’s an investment that’s totally worth it. Mine adds a full charge to my iPhone, which means I can let the phone’s battery drop to 10 percent, switch on the external battery case and get it back up to 100 percent. I highly recommend these types of cases.

I also brought a set of headphones, my iPhone charger cable, and an AC adapter for the USB charger cable. Everything fits in a lightweight backpack that was simple to store on the bus and left my hands free when I was walking around wearing it.

Planning for your next trip well in advance of when you leave, identifying the bare minimum of what you need, and packing with a mind toward efficiency will go a long way in keeping your trip uncluttered and well organized. Good luck on your next adventure.

A year ago on Unclutterer





  • Clean and organize your refrigerator
    Tomorrow, November 15, is Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day in the U.S. If your home and/or office refrigerators haven’t been tended to in many months, these tips can get your icebox cleaned and organized in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.


  • Wrap it up in silver
    One of the things I discovered during my uncluttering process is that silver wrapping paper works for every gift-giving occasion — weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, baby showers, housewarming, etc. — and when you only have a few tubes of wrapping paper to store, it takes up very little space in a closet.


Uncluttering social media frustrations

Over the past few months I’ve seen various people complaining about social media interactions, with comments such as the following:

  • My Facebook (or Twitter) timeline is filled with people saying horrible things.
  • My aunt (or co-worker, college friend, etc.) shared an article that’s factually wrong.
  • Someone is continually saying things I find abhorrent.

What can you do in such situations? There are a number of choices:

Take the time to respond with reliable information or a well-reasoned argument

This can be time-consuming, so I’d recommend limiting this response to situations where the other person is likely to be influenced by what you write. For example, when people fall for a story that has been debunked by Snopes.com, they often appreciated being directed to accurate information. But if the subject involves long-held political or religious beliefs, you are unlikely to sway them to your point of view.

Just ignore it

As the xkcd comic says, people are wrong on the Internet all the time — wrong according to your view of the world, at any rate. So in many cases, just ignoring what someone has written is the easiest way to avoid frustration. For example, you don’t need to read a relative’s entire 500-word post supporting a political candidate you dislike. You can see it, shake your head, and move on. That will save you time and limit the annoyance factor.

Similarly, if many people in your social media circle are discussing a topic that always gets you angry, that may be a good time to ignore Facebook, Twitter, or other such networks for a while.

Hide updates you don’t want to see

Ignoring something can be hard, so it may be better to unclutter your timeline and just not see certain posts in the first place. Twitter readers such as TweetDeck, Tweetbot, and Twitterrific allow you to mute text strings. If you don’t want to read anything about a certain person, organization, or event, you can just mute the relevant name or hashtag. That’s not foolproof, because variations on the name might still make it through your filter, but it will catch a lot of the aggravating posts.

With Facebook, you can choose to hide a specific story that appears in your newsfeed. That means you’ll still have seen it once, but you don’t have to keep seeing it as people respond.

Disengage with selected people

Sometimes it works better to hide posts from selected people than to hide posts based on the topic. While you may certainly want to read posts from people who disagree with you, some people’s posts may be so frustrating that seeing them doesn’t serve you well.

You may feel obligated to friend your relatives on Facebook, but you can still unfollow them — which means you’ll stay connected but you won’t see anything they post. (Alternatively, you can choose to just see fewer updates from these people.) If you don’t feel any obligation to be connected to a specific person, you can just unfriend someone whose posts continually annoy you. On Twitter, you can unfollow someone (the equivalent of unfriending on Facebook) or just mute the person.

Unitasker Wednesday: Clip-on man bun

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

My friend David has long-ish hair. It brushes the top of his shoulders and he usually wears it down. When he wears it up, though, he wears it in a man bun (like in the popular style a million famous male actors, models, and professional sports players seem to be donning lately).

Recently, David was considering cutting off his hair, but hasn’t yet gone through with it because he’s not ready to part with his man bun styling option. And then yesterday, I came across the perfect solution for his “problem.” It appears his love affair with his man bun doesn’t have to end if he cuts off his hair! All he needs is a $10 clip-on man bun:

I’m just looking out for my friend David and all the rest of you man-bun wanters.