Workspace of the Week: Study in Contrasts

This week’s Workspace of the Week is a twofer. A study in contrasts, if you will. First is PlasmicSteve‘s memorabilia museum, which gives me the hives just looking at it.

Is that little desk functional? And all that stuff on the walls would drive me to distraction, literally. Say what I will, however, it’s organized! He’s taking care of the items he treasures (even if I think it’s one too many).

Now, withoutform‘s desk is more my speed.

Obviously taking a cue from Japanese simplicity, there’s nothing on the work surface to distract from the task at hand, and just a bit of soothing inspiration on the wall. Almost qualifies for Extreme Minimalism Mondays.

Want to have your own workspace featured in Workspace of the Week? Submit a pic to the Unclutterer flickr pool. Check it out because we have a nice little community brewing there. Also, don’t forget that workspaces aren’t just desks. If you’re a cook, it’s a kitchen; if you’re a carpenter, it’s your workbench.

Trash goes in the trash

Reader Claire writes in to ask,

I love the goals of this site. My issue has always been: what do I do with all this stuff that I’m getting rid of? I don’t like to create trash, and trying to give stuff away on Craigslist or freecycle sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t. Ideas?

Well, if you don’t want it, no one on Craigslist will buy it, and no one on freecycle will take it for free, then chances are it is trash. Your choices are then to dump it in the rubbish bin or live in a home filled with trash, and I hope that’s an easy choice. If you’ve done everything you can to find a new home for your clutter and you just can’t, there’s no reason to feel guilty about trashing it.

Some might suggest that you should just drive it over to the Salvation Army or some other charity, but you might want to think twice about that. In his great book, It’s All Too Much, Peter Walsh has this to say about pawning off your stuff on charities:

Goodwill receives a billion pounds of clothing every year. Ultimately, they use less than half of the clothes they get. Clothing is cheap, and the cost of sorting, cleaning, storing, and transporting the clothes is higher than their value. If you wouldn’t give an article to a family member, it’s probably not good enough for charity. Sure, it’s great to get the tax deduction and it makes you feel like you didn’t waste money buying the clothes, but if you’re truly charitable, be sensitive to the needs of the organization. Charities aren’t dumping grounds for your trash.

So, give yourself permission to just throw it out.

Unitasker Wednesday: Electric slicer

When you’re at the deli, do you ever think to yourself, “I could slice that turkey at home if I only I had the right equipment“? Well, now is your chance to start living the dream of slicing your very own lunch meat thanks to Williams-Sonoma. The Chef’sChoice Electric Slicer handles all of your slicing needs and while not in use takes up a good hunk of your storage space. Wouldn’t you sacrifice the cabinet space to be able to slice your own meat and cheese? Measuring in at 14″ x 10 1/4″ x 11 1/4″ high, it is a small price to pay for freshly sliced meat.

Why would you want someone you don’t even know slicing meat for you for free? Who knows where that person learned how to slice meat? Take your meat and cheese slicing seriously and invest the $280 in your very own electric slicer. You can thank me later.

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

Sippy cups: Less is more

My sixteen month old daughter has been off the bottle for quite some time. Since then, we have been using sippy cups, and I have come to appreciate the simplicity of the two piece cup. (We also have a three piece and a couple of four piece cups, but I’m not recommending them.) When you are cleaning cups multiple times per day, the less you have to clean the better. The more pieces the cups have, the more likely you are to lose a piece–which we have definitely done.

Some ridiculous cups have six pieces! A few of the pieces are optional, but why have a six piece cup if you can get the job done with a two piece cup? It is a bit hard to figure out how many pieces a cup has shopping online, but be diligent in finding out that information. Most sippy cups have a little rubber or plastic valve to hold back the liquid, and, regardless of how many pieces there are in a sippy cup, this is the one you will inevitably lose.

The most important thing in a sippy cup is the spill factor. Does it hold the liquid? From experience, none of the cups we have are fool proof. The little one figures out how to get a few drops out here and there, but if the sippy cup has an extra piece acting as a stopper you should know that they slip out after being dropped over and over again. If the cup is missing that valve, then your child is covered in juice or milk.

To recap: When buying sippy cups, you want ones with as few pieces as possible (I recommend two–cup and lid) for easy cleaning and to reduce the likelihood that you will lose essential pieces.

Shameful Attempt to Garner Traffic from Productivity Blogs

iPod Touch PDA Case

The Hipster PDA is a wonder of personal productivity. What could be simpler than an ordinary stack of standard 3×5 index cards bound together with a clip? Easy use, and cheap refills make the Hipster PDA a favorite among hyperproductive GTDers.

But such convenience and usability can come at a dangerous price. Timbuk2 and Tom Bihn bags littered with stray index cards become a cluttered disaster, and battle-worn knuckes scarred from the cuts of rebellious action lists are unsightly and can take days to heal. But there’s hope.

For just $299, the iPod Touch comes with a box that is perfectly sized to hold nearly one hundred index cards bound together with clips. Finally, you can safely store and transport all of your tasks and actions into whatever contexts life may take you.

The iPod Touch box also includes an iPod Touch, which is kinda cool too.

Clutter and depression

Unfortunately, destructive clutter can be a symptom of bipolar disorder or depression. People who are depressed can lose their drive to do most everything, and that may include cleaning up their living spaces and keeping things in order.

Over at the blog Psychology of Clutter, Dr. Ragan writes:

When people do not feel emotionally strong they will often let their environments fall into disarray. If you start therapy and/or start medication, you can begin to feel better, only to be hindered by what is going on outside of you. I often use the term “depressed lifestyle” with my clients. It is hard to feel good when your house or apartment looks like a bomb went off, your friends don’t call anymore, you’ve gotten fat and you look like hell.

If you have a friend or relative who is living in an extremely cluttered living space, you should encourage him or her to seek help from a professional. Sometimes the most meticulously neat person can find themselves in a downward spiral that results in a depressive state surrounded by clutter and disarray. This 180 degree turn for the worse can be a telltale sign that the individual is in need of help.

Read a book over e-mail

I may be late to the game on this one, but I have found DailyLit.com and am in love. What’s DailyLit? Here’s the answer from their website:

… if you are like us, you spend hours each day reading email but don’t find the time to read books. DailyLit brings books right into your inbox in convenient small messages that take less than 5 minutes to read. This works incredibly well not just on your computer but also on a Treo, Blackberry, Sidekick or whatever the PDA of your choice. In the words of Dr. Seuss: Try it, you might like it! (Oops — it would appear that the actual quote from Green Eggs and Ham is “You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may.”)

If you get caught in a really good part of a book, you can send a message to DailyLit for them to immediately forward you the next installment. They also have a RSS fee alternative if you prefer to get your reading sections in that format. All questions about the free service can be found on their FAQ page.

Services like DailyLit and Audible are fantastic ways to keep up your reading habit without having to clutter up your home with physical books. Happy reading!

Mudrooms for all!

According to an article in Wednesday’s San Francisco Chronicle, homeowners are reportedly clamoring for mudrooms and pantries in newly constructed homes. As if homes in the United States weren’t big enough already, homeowners now need to have a whole room to act as a landing strip.

From the article:

A mudroom doesn’t even need to be a room at all. It can be just a hallway off the garage. “It can be as simple as hooks on the wall for the dog leash,” said Ronda Royalty, a certified kitchen and bath designer with Stuart Kitchens in suburban Timonium, Md.

The goal of the mudroom is to quarantine all the clutter that comes into your home. Find a way to do that, and you’ve found a little spot of heaven.

So, adding a whole room isn’t necessary to keeping your home clutter free? If I had a mudroom in my home I would no doubt use it and probably enjoy having it, but keeping my home smaller and more efficient is more important to me in the long run. What do you think about mudrooms? Essential? Or one more way to bring clutter and chaos into a home? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Credit Card Survival Tool

Two months ago I highlighted the classic multi-tasking Swiss Army Knife. If that isn’t to your liking and seems a bit too bulky, you may want check out the Credit Card Survival Tool. As the name and picture suggest, this thing is the size of a credit card and includes eleven tools. It does have nine less tools than the Swiss Army Knife, but try fitting that knife into your wallet.

The Credit Card Survival Tool is a tiny multi-tasker that can really come in handy. Below is the a diagram highlighting each tools function.

(via Cool Tools)

Reader suggestion: No more dishwashing dilemmas

Reader Daniel sent us the following suggestion:

Hi! I just want to share with you a little project I did after a huge amount of motivation from this blog. The thing is I really wanted to diminish the presence of dirty dishes in my apartment. We are two people here and have very little spare time, so cutting on dishwashing time was a very tempting thought. The thing is, we took a drastical step, putting away every piece of dishware not strictly necessary for us both. We ended up with two plates, two spoons, two forks, and so on. Everything else is now in a place uncomfortable enough not to tempt ourselves to grab a hold of them, but accesible enough to reach if someone comes to have dinner or something. The result is great. The worst scenario right now is to clean a few dishes and that takes a minute. The kitchen hasnt been as clean or as neat before and we really cut off the clutter on our very, very small kitchen. I hope you can appreciate my thankful words and once again my appreciation to you guys for the inspiration.

I love this idea, especially for people without dishwashers in their kitchens. Thank you for the terrific suggestion, Daniel!

Uncluttering Music Production with Logic Studio

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Not so long ago, creating professional music tracks required racks upon racks of specialized equipment and cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

While thousands of little blinking lights and twisted nests of cables may look impressive when Sean “Puff ‘P Diddy aka Puffy’ Daddy” Combs rolls up with his entourage to cut a new single, such setups can do serious damage to both your wallet and your limited space.

Apple recognized the burgeoning independent music market in 2002 with the first version of it’s Logic Pro software, and truly brought production abilities to the masses in 2004 with GarageBand. It didn’t take me long to ditch my PortaStudio, VS-840, and associated bins of tapes, disks and patch cables.

GarageBand is currently included as a standard software application on all iLife suite. It’s perfectly suited to quick recordings when inspiration strikes, and even producing very passable demos. Professional quality recordings, though, still demand more robust — and much more expensive — software.

But yesterday, Apple changed the game again with the announcement of Logic Studio, which integrates Logic Pro 8, formerly separate application Soundtrack Pro, a new interface for using Logic Pro for live shows, as well as thousands of loops, plugins, and software instruments. This is a pretty incredible suite, and I predict that some musicians will literally be abandoning their racks for Macs and USB controllers.

And the best part — the whole package can be had for just under five bills, which makes it the ideal solution to serve as the hub of a minimalist recording setup. Add a decent mic, and good pair of reference monitors or headphones, and you’re in business. As an added bonus for us unclutterers, Apple also has abandoned the annoying USB dongle that formerly plagued pricey pro software packages.

Way to go Apple — yet again.

Unitasker Wednesday: The Perfect Pushup

So you think you can get a workout in your own home without adding clutter to your life? Think again! The Perfect Pushup is a product that will make you into a buff, pushup machine. I mean, just look at the ripped dudes they show performing perfectly executed pushups in the commercial! They don’t touch the ground with their hands–touching the ground is so uncool!

If you are going to get ripped faster than a Navy SEAL, you will have to add this unitasker to your life. Oh, and speaking of Navy SEALs, The Perfect Pushup was invented by one so you know it will get your body into shape. Stop doing those caveman pushups you were taught to do by some regular gym teacher and go for the gold with The Perfect Pushup.

**The man pictured may or may not be a Navy SEAL. Unitasker Wednesday posts humorously poke fun at the single-use items that seem to find their way into our homes.