Taming Book Clutter

The biggest part of my recent uncluttering project was gaining control of, and undoing the damage from, my impulsive book buying habit. Over the years, I had acquired somewhere near 850 books, mostly stored away in boxes and bins throughout my apartment.

Much of the book clutter I’d accumulated consisted of outdated technical references and one-reads that I’d likely never pick up again. As such, these books were doing nothing more than taking up space, and adding unnecessary clutter to my life.

This post over at Zen Habits offers a set of tips and tools for getting rid of old books, and cutting back on the expense of buying new ones. I used several of these tools to eliminate nearly three quarters of my book clutter!

The most important tool mentioned, of course, is a library card. Once you get over the compulsive need to own every book you’ve read, it’s quite liberating to have only those books that you’re currently reading. You’ll suddenly find yourself with more money in your pocket, less clutter in your life, and you may even notice that you read more frequently, because the books you’ve borrowed must soon be returned.

Unitasker Wednesday: Asparagus pot

I never realized what a treasure trove of unitaskers Williams-Sonoma offers. Just a quick scan through their site and I came across quite a few that will surely keep the unitasker posts coming well into the new year.

The first one I decided to post is the All-Clad Stainless-Steel Asparagus Pot. Apparently, preparing asparagus has become so difficult and confusing that the need for a specific pot is crucial in getting it prepared just right.

And if you need to drain your asparagus, Williams-Sonoma also offers the Pillivuyt Asparagus Plate with Drainer for a mere $89.

But how exactly does one handle those crazy greens when you are preparing them? Williams-Sonoma also has you covered there with Asparagus Tools. If you purchase all these very specific kitchen gadgets, you’ll need a whole cabinet cupboard to house them.

Thanks to Williams-Sonoma for such a great line of unitasker products.

Note: Like all Unitasker Wednesday posts, this one is written fully in jest with ample amounts of sarcasm.

Furniture line hides cable-clutter out of sight

Whenever I watch Family Guy, I often find myself nodding in agreement whenever the talking dog opines on either aesthetics or design. He’s usually spot on.

So it came as no surprise when I tuned in one Sunday night and heard him dryly deliver a statement of preference that I too shared, but had been keeping to myself for several years. It’s an opinion that might be considered subversive or even possibly heretical in most parts of this country:

“I don’t care for Pottery Barn.”

The overstuffed and oversized furniture they sell only contributes to the trend toward ever-larger dwellings. Scale issues notwithstanding, my modernist tendencies generally keep me from finding anything redeemable in the design aspects of their offerings.

I am, however, somewhat intrigued by their new “Smart Technology” line of furniture, which features an emphasis on the elimination of visible cable-clutter.

The inexpensive Leah Desk features an integrated powerstrip as well as ports for network connections.

Leah Desk

The Bedford Smart Recharge Station provides a central location for the charging of portable electronic devices.

Smart Recharge Station

They also offer a CPU pedestal that looks like a library card catalog.

Packing tips

I’m heading out for a summer vacation, but I’m not doing the packing. My more organized better half takes care of those duties. I’m always amazed at the amount of stuff she fits into a modest-size bag for the both of us. I picked her brain so she could enlighten us on how to pack.

  • Make a list. First and foremost you must make a list. Otherwise, you are likely to forget something or pack too much.
  • Check the weather. Make sure you know the forecast for where you are headed and pack accordingly.
  • Pack less, but be versatile. Pack clothing that can be worn in just about any combination and don’t fret about wearing the same item more than once.
  • Folding is key. My wife is great at smashing things into our luggage, but she also folds everything into a meticulously small size.


So you think you’re uncluttered?

In the past 10 years, I have not rearranged a single room of furniture in my home. I equate rearranging furniture with moving, and I hate moving. Noting this, it was quite shocking to me that on Friday evening I found myself pushing a dresser across my bedroom. I had accidentally rammed the sharp corner of it into my thigh one too many times, and I needed a new layout.

Halfway through the process, I realized that my bedroom was not as uncluttered as I had previously thought. In addition to finding items that were out of place (books, cat toys, battery adapters), I also realized that I had two extra side tables, a lamp, and a magazine rack in the room that I didn’t really have space to accommodate. No wonder I was bruising my leg on the dresser — there was too much furniture in the room!

If you’re looking to check your uncluttered status, you might want to try rearranging the furniture in a room. Even if you end up putting your furniture back in its starting space, the act of handling an item can help you to evaluate it. Plus, you may find the single sock that you’ve been missing or your dog’s favorite chew toy.

Reader question: How to dispose of old electronics?

Reader Alicia asked the following question:

What’s the best way to dispose of broken electronics? I have a drawerful of old cameras, Discmans, earbuds, etc. – can I just throw them out or is there a better way to get rid of the clutter?

Great question, Alicia! Your notion to keep the electronics out of your trash can is correct. Electronics should be donated to charity or recycled–not sent to take up space in a landfill.

Listed below is a small collection of resources for what you can do with old electronics. This list is obviously not exhaustive, so hopefully people will add some additional ideas into the comments section. Also, a search of your local government’s website with the terms “tech recycle” or “electronic recycle” will likely yield a number of results specific to your community.

Before I get to the list of disposal and recycling services, I would like to remind you that if you are getting rid of a computer or any electronic device with a hard drive that you should properly delete the contents of the drive first and reset it to factory settings. To do this, check out the following programs:

Remember that smartphones and smartwatches should have their data erased and reset to factory settings as well.

Now, on with the list for disposing of old electronics:


This post has been updated since its original publication in 2007.

Extreme minimalism Monday: Rock out

We’ve never really been a fan of the extreme minimalist’s guitar playing. Truth be told, he makes Robert Fripp’s music sound like pop by comparison.

He had been perfectly content playing a headless Steinberger GLB-2S. Recently, however, he came across pictures of a rare Gittler guitar from the 1970s.

It was love at first sight.

He just won’t stop talking about this guitar. For the last two weeks he’s been making phone calls and scouring the Net in a vain attempt to track down a Gittler of his very own.

So if you happen to come across one, please let us know and we’ll pass the info along.

Before and after: Stockholm project case

One of the most problematic clutter areas for me is my desk. Typically, I have many projects going, but can only really work on one at a time. The result is usually a small valley of workspace nestled among mountains of project clutter.

My solution is to use project cases. A project case is basically a magazine file with a lid that I leave open on my desk while working from it, then store away somewhere when I move to the next project.

It doesn’t matter what kind of stuff I’m working with — magazines, books, notebooks, CDs, DVDs, photos, or anything else that will fit — the project case takes the piles of stuff that would normally exist on my desktop and gets them out of the way so I can focus and get work done.

The best ones I’ve found so far are the Stockholm Project Cases from The Container Store. Made from recycled fiberboard, and finished with heavy paper exterior and interior and a reinforced hinge, they’re durable. The Stockholm cases are a bit larger than most of the other project cases I’ve found, so they easily accommodate not only letter sized paper, but larger items such as magazines and sketchbooks.

Project Case

Gadgetry clutter

So the new must-have gadget is the iPhone. It may have been the most hyped new gadget ever, but that doesn’t mean that it put an end to gadget madness. Everyone knows someone that must have the newest and most cutting edge technology out there and they won’t stop until they have it. The problem is technology never stops and there will always be a new gadget on the horizon for them to sink their teeth into.

This BBC article states:

Gadgets are no longer just about functionality, they’re a statement about you; hi-tech jewelry that beckons you to touch, try, buy and stake your place in the Stuff Lust society.

A gadget addict may have a problem if they constantly drool over the next best thing, but most of us can control our consumer frenzy and be happy with our two-year-old cell phones that doesn’t have internet access. When your time becomes cluttered with gadget envy and the continuous pursuit of the end-all of gadgetry, then you may want to think of why you pursue them so aggressively.

Corrective lenses are clutter

I’ve had to wear glasses or corrective lenses since I was in the third grade. At first, I thought they were cool. I had the lenses that tinted when exposed to sunlight. The novelty wore off after about a year or two and the quest for contact lenses began. I didn’t get contacts until I was in the eighth grade and I was happy to get them. The glasses just got in the way when playing baseball and basketball.

Unfortunately, I still wear contact lenses and on occasion I wear my glasses (only in my house). I’ve been looking into laser eye surgery for quite some time and I have to admit I’m bit freaked out by the process, but the clutter that my lenses add to my bathroom drawer is a bit more than I’d like. My drawer includes: my year supply of lenses (I wear disposables), my large container of saline solution, my glasses, and my contact case. So almost half of my tiny drawer is taken up with products to help me see.

The ability to see when I wake up is definitely the highest priority, but also I’m tired of keeping my drawer stocked with lenses and solutions. So, should I be freaked out by laser eye surgery or should I go ahead with the procedure? I checked to see if I was a good Lasik candidate and it turns out that it doesn’t look like a problem. Now if I could only figure out how to pay for it?

Gamer clutter

I must admit, I’m not much of a gamer. The last console I owned was the Nintendo 64, but a few of my friends live for gaming. They own multiple systems and they usually have controllers scattered around the floor that I always almost crush while heading to get a beer.

If you are a gamer, try and keep your entertainment system under control and the gaming clutter to a minimum. Here are some tips I’ve come up with:

  • Go wireless. All the most current gaming systems have the option of wireless controls. Some XBox 360 controllers have wires, but they also offer wireless. The Nintendo Wii and the Playstation 3 don’t even offer wired controllers, but if you are living in the stone-age and you have a PS2, you go can also go wireless. This way your friends won’t trip and kill themselves when they are trying to get a beer.
  • Put it away. I know I sound like a parent yelling down into your dark and dingy gaming basement, but when you’re not playing the game simply put it away.


Handling inherited clutter, part 1

Inherited clutter can come in many forms, but usually it is accumulated in one of two ways:

  1. After the loss of a loved one, or
  2. When someone is moved into a smaller living space, such as a nursing home.

I have dealt with both situations, and can attest to their emotional strain. When my maternal grandparents suddenly passed away, everyone was stunned and grieving. Sorting through their out-dated coupons, years of saved wrapping paper, and my grandmother’s childhood doll collection was the last thing anyone in the family wanted to do. The next year, we had to move my paternal grandmother into an assisted living center, and the repercussions were just as severe. Lifetimes of possessions seemed to compound the grief, stress, anxiety, sadness, and seemingly endless waves of other emotions for everyone in the family.

In the coming days, I’m going to present a series of posts on the topic of inherited clutter. By no standard will these posts be completely exhaustive of the subject. Additionally, they won’t answer questions about funeral or nursing home arrangements. These posts will simply discuss objects that legally come into your possession or responsibility after one of the two above situations has occurred.