Unitasker Wednesday: Warm whiskers neck warmer

So you want to compete with the creepy cat lady who lives down the street? Well, now is your chance with the Warm Whiskers Neck Warmer. It is a stuffed animal that wraps around your neck after being heated in your microwave. Did you have a tough day at work? Your Warm Whiskers stuffed cat will make it all better. Just place it in your microwave for thirty seconds and place it on your neck and the pain will surely melt away. (Do not try this with actual cat.)

The 17 inch long cat is stuffed with buckwheat and lavender for a lovely scent that will make all your troubles float away. The troubles will inevitably return when you realize that you have a fake cat wrapped around your neck. You can also put the stuffed cat in the freezer too! (Again, not recommended for an actual cat.) The frozen cat can help with aching joints or migraine headaches. I guess it is a bit of a multi tasker since it can be heated and frozen. Oh well, don’t just sit there, get yours now!

**Unitasker Wednesday posts humorously poke fun at the single-use items that seem to find their way into our homes.

Grandparents, consider the fold away crib

Both sets of our daughter’s grandparents have a crib for her in their homes. The cribs take up a ton of space that neither homes have to spare. For soon-to-be grandparents considering a crib, you may want to look into the Stowaway Folding Compact Crib. If you are going to purchase a crib anyway, you should definitely consider this compact and easy to store alternative. When your grandchild isn’t around, the crib folds up and can easily be wheeled into storage.

If your son or daughter already has Pack and Play, you may want to consider bypassing the spare crib altogether. We use our Pack and Play as a crib for our daughter whenever we are traveling to a destination that is without a crib.

Popout maps

If you are traveling to a city which you are not familiar you probably have to take a map. Most maps are not very user friendly and they are a pain to fold back into their original configuration. A friend of mine recently traveled to San Francisco used a San Francisco Popout Map for the duration of his trip.

The Popout map is about the size of a postcard. It folds out and, as the name suggests, it pops out with two separate maps. One side is a detailed view of the downtown area and the other is an overview of the surrounding area. It is a very sleek alternative to a traditional map and it may help you hide the fact that you are a lost tourist.

Other available U.S. locations include:

Your organized workspace

A few weeks ago we asked you to send us pics of your organized workspace and the result was a great post with the submissions. We had so much fun with the feedback that we’ve decided to make this a regular feature. To that end we’ve created a flickr group to which readers can add their pics and everyone can comment on them. Every week or so we’ll pick a workspace to feature on the Unclutterer site. So get uploading to the Unclutterer flickr group!

The multifunctional Trey chair

The Trey chair has an interesting design that lends itself to becoming more than just an office chair. If you live in a small apartment and you need a multitasking office chair, this might be what you are looking for. Gamers may also find the Trey useful for their gaming needs.

The Trey is first and foremost an office chair, but it also “transforms into a rocker with an extra seat for a friend, foot stool, laptop desk, or side table.” Multitasking furniture saves space and it also saves you from having to purchase extra furniture. The design of this chair looks solid and versatile. The price is a bit steep at $239 for standard fabric and $269 for faux leather, but other office chairs you could pay $200 for aren’t multifunctional like the Trey.

Reader question: Should I hire a professional organizer?

Reader Mike sent us the following questions:

Lately I have been considering hiring an uncluttering company to come in and help simplify my life. Do you have any advice? How much should I pay? How do I know a good organizer from a bad before I hire them? Do people usually go back to their cluttered ways after they leave? How do I find one locally?

I’ll start my response by addressing the last question first because it’s the easiest to answer. The National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) has a search function on its website where you can search for organizers by location (non-US organizers are listed, too) and by specialty (residential vs. corporate, feng shui, estate, etc.). This search function is the best that I have found online. You also can turn to your local classified ads for listings. I’ve had success finding organizers in the following ad sections: home organizing, business organizing, time management, and life coaching.

Unfortunately, the answers to your other questions are much less straightforward.

How much you should expect to pay will vary based on where you live, the size of the project, and the billing system of the organizer. Some organizers charge hourly rates and others have per-project billing. Feel comfortable getting quotes from multiple organizers the same way you would get quotes from cleaning companies and mechanics.

It is wise to consult with a number of organizers, especially if you don’t have any personal recommendations, to see which one best fits with your expectations and personality. You do not need to be buddies with your organizer, but disliking or having little respect for your organizer will make the uncluttering process difficult. Find an organizer whom you trust and will successfully help you achieve your goals. All members of the National Association of Professional Organizers are supposed to be guided by a code of ethics, but you may find that not all organizers are created equal. Check your local Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against the organizer, contact the Board of Certification for Professional Organizers to verify certification status, ask for references, and follow your instincts when hiring an organizer.

Finally, I’ll address your fears about reversion. You should remember that reverting to your cluttered ways is always a possibility after bringing in a professional organizer. A good organizer, however, will help you establish routines and systems to keep you on an uncluttered path. During a recent interview with Peter Walsh, I asked him about his former clients and how he keeps them from reverting to their old ways. Here is his insightful response:

As odd as it sounds, I don’t focus on the clutter when I help families declutter. The stuff is a distraction to potential success. The first step in addressing clutter in a home is to help the family define the vision they have for the life they want – what do they want their lives, their home, their rooms and living spaces to look like, to feel like and to function. This is the starting point in the process. If you work from this point, the chances of permanent change are significant and almost guaranteed. It’s not about the stuff; it’s about what you want from your life and how you will make that dream a reality. Long-lasting change is possible – I see it every day. That said, the single most important maintenance tip is to respect the limits that your physical space places on you and, once those limits are reached, you must remove an item from your home before you can add a similar item – one in, one out. It’s simple and it works.

The clutter-free DJ set up

If you DJ, you probably have a ton of CDs and/or albums to haul back and forth whenever you need to set up for a job. The amount of space and work you can save by storing your music digitally has been covered here in the past, but how does one harness their music for DJ purposes?

Enter the iDJ2 by Numark. The iDJ2 is a great way to free yourself from all the hard lifting that goes into transporting all of those CDs and albums. Yeah, the old school DJs will scoff at the pretend turntables on this device, but the iDJ2 also has audio inputs for a microphone, CD player, and turntables if you can’t give up the older technology just yet.

iDJ2 overview via the Numark website:

The Numark iDJ2 is the only iPod mixing console that provides full control of your music with real–time scratching (via two jog wheels), a stunning color screen and Numark’s exclusive crate management. Keylock insures that DJs can easily change tempo without affecting pitch. The iDJ2 features a fresh and innovative new iPod docking system that allows users to play and mix two songs simultaneously from a single iPod without the need of a computer. Users can also hook up multiple mass storage devices including additional iPods, thumb drives, and external USB hard drives through rear panel USB ports. In addition to USB connectivity, the iDJ2 comes complete with line inputs for audio sources including a microphone, CD players and turntables.

This is an extraordinary mixing console and portable DJ system with professional DJ features like balanced outputs, pitch control, key lock, seamless looping, and full cueing. DJs can easily manage their music library using the iDJ2’s highly intuitive graphic interface and the full-color LCD screen offers crystal-clear visual track–profiling.

iPod Direct Mode turns iDJ2 into the ultimate iPod player, allowing you play any music from your iPod, including songs purchased from the iTunes music store.

iDJ2’s unique Crate feature allows easy organization of songs to be played and supports multiple file formats including MP3, WAV and AAC (unprotected). The iDJ2 also supports iPod docking and charging, to keep the music playing and the party going all night long.

If you DJ on a regular basis, at the very least, the iDJ2 is worth a look.

(via Engaget)

Baby toy alternatives

As I wrote the post on managing your child’s toy collection, I realized how many things we used as an alternative to toys. Here are some everyday items in your house that can double as a toy for your adventurous little one. My daughter is fifteen months old right now, a peak time for such alternatives. Admittedly, these solutions may not be right for your older child.

Laundry basket: Our daughter either gets into and out of the laundry basket over and over again or she wants to be pushed around in it as she sits inside. She also torments our cat as it relaxes in the laundry basket. She likes to push the basket around the room and crash into things too. It can also double as a place for all of her regular toys.

Boxes: My daughter loves to throw things into boxes, so before we throw any old shoe boxes away we give them to her to play with until she destroys them.

Measuring cups: This is a nice alternative to the plastic keys she has. From five to ten months old she loved playing with her measuring cups. She doesn’t really like them these days.

Bottled water: Shaking a bottle of water keeps her occupied for quite some time on long car trips. Just make sure the cap is on tightly.

Cups: Nesting plastic cups can keep her entranced for fifteen to twenty minutes, and that is like an eternity for our daughter who is moving non-stop.

Keys: Give your kid a set of keys, but just make sure to remove the door lock contraption from the ring. Kids love pressing buttons and the panic button is usually red which is even more appealing.

Cellphone: Playing with an old cellphone lets her mimic her parents. We removed the battery from an old one and she pretends to talk to someone (most likely Elmo).

Blankets and pillows: They can be used to make tents or tunnels with some help from the furniture.

Obviously, these aren’t going to replace every toy, but they can offset the accumulation of more toys.

Are floor mats added as we age?

My late grandmother was notorious for carpeting her floor with mats. There were mats in front of her couch, at the kitchen sink, in the bathroom, at the foot of each bed, and underneath her rocking chair. She was also a big fan of the runner. She used runners for all the high traffic areas of her small house.

I’m not sure why she felt the need to protect her floor so much, but the mats and runners were definitely a tripping hazard. Luckily she never tripped over one of them. Currently, my mother-in-law has taken the floor mat torch and ran with it. She has mats all over her home and I’m not exactly sure why. Upon entry to almost every room there is a floor mat. She also feels the need to place one in front of her couch. Does the need for floor mats increase with age? Are we all doomed to clutter our floors with mats in our golden years? I’m at a loss to figure out what the need is here.

As you age please resist the urge to protect your floor from day-to-day traffic. The floor mats and runners can be used, but don’t over use them. The main entrance to the home can use a mat along with one in front of the kitchen sink, but in front of every piece of furniture? That’s where the problems start. If you currently feel the need to over use the floor mat, you may want to purge your collection. You may also want to institute a no shoes policy upon entry to your home. This will cut back on wear and tear on your floors and carpets. Also, you may want to equip your chairs with protectors to save your wood floors from scratches rather relying on the dreaded floor mat.

Resource list for inherited clutter

Inherited clutter can be described as objects that legally come into your possession or responsibility after the loss of a loved one or when a family member is transitioned into a retirement community or nursing home. Addressing these objects can be difficult and highly emotional. Provided is a small resource list of printed materials and an organization that may be of benefit to you:

Feel welcome to provide additional resources in the comments.

iMuffs remove personal cable clutter

When I go out for a walk I usually have a lot of stuff in my pockets. The last thing I need is a wire getting in the way. I usually walk with my iPod, headphones, wallet, camera, and cell phone. I recently talked to an owner of a set of iMuffs and he seemed genuinely happy about his purchase. I am considering investing in a pair.

From the product description:

Throw your iPod in your backpack and listen to your music wirelessly! No more cords to untangle or snag. Enjoy CD quality sound up to 30′ (10m) away thanks to the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) and Bluetooth 2.0.

When your Bluetooth phone rings, the iMuffs automatically pause your iPod and ring in the headphones, and let you talk through the integrated microphone.

The price is a bit steep and I’ve heard there are some problems with the reliability of the wireless transmission. Anyone have any feedback on this product? I hate wires, but I’d hate to purchase these headphones and regret it soon after.

Managing collegiate paperwork

Reader Cody wrote to us a few weeks ago asking if we had any back-to-school advice for college students. Matt started our response to this question by addressing ways to organize a dorm room. Now, I’m going to discuss managing the constant flow of paperwork associated with college life.

My first piece of advice is to get your hands on Captio’s CollegeCase or a similar product. I wish I would have had something like this back in my undergraduate days. In times of emergencies, being this organized would have really helped. If you’re ever burglarized, in a car wreck, curious as to which cafeterias your meal plan includes, you can find all of these answers in one well-designed notebook.