Unitasker Wednesday: So you think you know how to eat spaghetti?

Twirling ForkToday’s Unitasker Wednesday item is a 2-for-1. Both of them will help you eat spaghetti like a machine. Each of them makes the tedious chore of eating stringy pasta easier — who knows what might happen if you use them at the same time?

First up is the Twirling Spaghetti Fork. For those of you suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome due to the fact that you have to twist your spaghetti noodles on your fork manually, your prayers have been answered.

Battery-powered fork takes the effort out of twirling spaghetti! Save your wrist with this battery-powered fork–it spins and gathers up the spaghetti, so all you have to do is eat. Fun and easy to use. Dishwasher safe.

Now that you have that magical fork, what else can you possibly want? Well, the fun doesn’t stop there. No, you are going to want the Spaghetti Shallow Plate to make the twirling fork that much more effective. The plate features a built-in “spinning zone,” the eye of the hurricane if you will, to make your noodle eating even faster. No noodles will be safe now.

Spaghetti PlateThis clever white melamine plate was designed to be used for spaghetti. Like other pasta plates, the shape is a bowl yet this piece features a small crater in the center which afford the user the opportunity to twirl the spaghetti using a fork only – no spoon required. Works wonderfully and a new essential for the pasta lover.

How on earth did we consumed spaghetti prior to these inventions?

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

Creating a weekly meal plan

In my mind, there are two types of meals: utilitarian and everything else. Utilitarian meals are weekday lunches and dinners when my top priority is supplying my body nutrients for survival. Everything else meals are dinner parties and meals prepared when I have leisurely Saturday afternoons to craft a gourmet plate.

The utilitarian meals, the ones that often begin with phrases such as “What’s for dinner?” and “I’m starving, let’s see what we have in the kitchen,” are where disorganization can work against you. If you don’t have an organized meal plan, it can be easier to head to a fast food joint than to create a nutritious meal at home.

To help with meal planning organization, I created a Meal Plan worksheet (links to the worksheet at the end of this article). To use it, I start most Saturday mornings with a cup of coffee, a stack of cookbooks, and a pad of post-it notes. I flip through my cookbooks, flagging all of the recipes I want to use for the week.

My next task is to put an “X” on the worksheet through any of the meals that I know will be eaten out of the house for friends’ birthdays or whatever is lined up on our calendar. Then, I match up recipes I’ve marked in the cookbooks with openings on the schedule. If any of the items need preparation hours or days beforehand, I’ll list those under the “Prep for Tomorrow” section to help with managing my time. (For example, dough for homemade pizza crusts needs to be made 24 hours in advance of use … so if I want pizza tomorrow, I have to make the dough today.) Also, having at least two snacks listed on the worksheet ensures that I’ve got healthy snack choices available.

When matching recipes with meals, I’ll review the recipe and write down any ingredients on the grocery list section of the worksheet. This helps me plan out what I need from the store and my local farmer’s market. Sometimes, I’ll make two grocery lists for a mini-run on Wednesday night to get fresh produce.

Creating a meal plan takes a little time when it is written, but ultimately saves time and stress during the week. You also may find that a meal plan helps you to eat better and completely eliminate fast food from your diet.

The Unclutterer Meal Plan:

Online toy rental in the spirit of Netflix

Reader Lorena sent us a link to a wonderful article about Baby Plays, an internet-based toy rental company for U.S. residents. From the article:

“Baby Plays … allows parents to receive four or six toys in the mail every month, assembled and ready for playtime. Call it Netflix for the toddler set.”

There is a flat fee based on the number of rentals ($29, $32, and $36 packages), and all of the toys are guaranteed to be lead-free. According to the article, “the toys are sanitized with Clorox wipes and loaded with fresh batteries before being shrink wrapped and boxed for shipment.” Additionally, all toys come with a postage-paid box for returning the toy when your child tires of playing with it.

Toy rental sounds like a terrific idea for keeping play room clutter under control, especially if you don’t have a toy lending library like the one discussed in today’s earlier post. This service also seems like a perfect gift a grandparent could give a grandchild.

Toy lending library

ToysIf there is one thing I remember from when I was a young pup, it was my all too fast boredom with toys that I accumulated. I would eagerly anticipate a trip to the toy store so I could pick out a new toy, only to have it lose its appeal in about two weeks. One Christmas I was so psyched to get Laser Tag, but upon receiving it I realized that those slick commercials made the thing look so much cooler than it actually was. Laser Tag found a quick exit from my toy rotation and it stayed in the basement for quite some time.

Fast forward 20-plus years later, and I find my daughter in the same boat. Yes, she’s younger than I was when I lusted for my very own Laser Tag set, but she definitely gets bored of the many toys that she has at her disposal. We luckily have a great service within walking distance of our home, the Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library, to help curb the toy accumulation problem. It lets little ones play with all of the library’s toys, and they can check toys out and take them home if they like. The service is very inexpensive and it is operated by an all-volunteer staff.

Hopefully, your city or town has something very similar (if not, check out our second post today, which discusses a national toy lending program). For those of you who want to curb the accumulation of more toys, this is a great alternative to purchasing toys that lose their appeal in a few weeks.

Going paperless

According to the New York Times article “Pushing Paper Out the Door,” a paperless future is coming quicker than a lot of us may think. From online bill paying to ticketless airline travel, paper is no longer needed for day-to-day activities.

“Paper is no longer the master copy; the digital version is,” says Brewster Kahle, the founder and director of the Internet Archive, a nonprofit digital library. “Paper has been dealt a complete deathblow. When was the last time you saw a telephone book?”

Hmm, the last time I saw a telephone book, it was left on my front porch in a plastic bag by the good folks at Verizon. I never used it, and it quickly found its way to the recycling bin. The article goes on to highlight an Unclutterer fave, the Fujitsu ScanSnap, which was highlighted in Erin’s Paper Clutter Begone series.

…at home, where printers are slow, noisy and devour expensive ink cartridges, people are more cautious about hitting the “print” button. What little paper comes into the home — receipts, bills, invitations — can be scanned and then shredded. Filing cabinets can be emptied, the data kept, the paper gone.

The article also goes on to offer ways to get rid of those shoeboxes of photos that all of us have taking up space in back of our closets. Scanning services are an option, but you can tackle this at home with a garbage bag and a scanner.

For more on getting paper clutter under control take a look at Erin’s Paper Clutter Begone series:

  • Part 1 – Fujitsu ScanSnap
  • Part 2 – Filing system software
  • Part 3 – Filing systems for your file cabinet
  • Part 4 – Shredders

Unclutterer in Real Simple magazine

You cannot imagine how delighted we were to open the March issue of Real Simple magazine and find Unclutterer listed as a “best blog” on the internet for organization and productivity:

Also listed in the section are heavy hitters Zen Habits and Lifehacker. Blush. Like the cover of the issue, we’re tickled pink by this designation!

The article we’re in also discusses blogs in the categories of home, food, beauty, fashion, health and fitness, parenting and family, travel, and news and pop culture. I didn’t know about a number of the blogs listed in these other categories and I’m excited to start following them in my blog reader. If you’re someone coming to our blog for the first time as a result of the Real Simple article, we welcome you!

Weekend project

I want you to imagine your dining room table right now. Is it covered in paperwork? Piled high with homework? Stacked with mail or dirty dishes?

If you can’t see the top of your dining room table, what do you need to do to be able to see it?

Whatever it is, do it now. Clean the clutter off of your table and make it a place where you can sit down and eat your meal tonight (and tomorrow and the next …).

If your table is clear, are there other horizontal surfaces in your home cluttered to the point that they aren’t serving their functions? If this is the case, clean the clutter off of those surfaces instead for your weekend task.

When clearing the clutter, don’t just move stacks around, actually take the time to do the job right. Do the work, then enjoy the benefits of your effort!

Pictured is my dining room. The table is by sculptor Michael Sirvet.

Workspace of the Week: Garage storage for professional photographer

This week’s Workspace of the Week is professional photographer Raisinhell’s equipment storage in the garage:

Raisinhell has a number of pictures up in the flickr pool, but the one that speaks to me the most is the garage image posted here. The equipment is stored where it is needed (next to cars), it is grouped by type, the heaviest items are at waist height or lower, and it occupies a space (between stalls) that would otherwise go unused. It’s a wonderful utilization of space and nothing can get lost. Bravo!

Want to have your own workspace featured in Workspace of the Week? Submit a picture 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.

Unobtainable love

I searched my brain for uncluttering and Valentine’s Day tie-ins and couldn’t really find any. “Love and honor those things you choose to keep!” Meh. Too forced.

Instead, let me show you my new love, the Smith Storage and Stool:

It’s a desk drawer! It’s a cart! It’s a bench! It’s a bookshelf!

It’s SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS!

Sigh. I guess this year for Valentine’s Day I’ll be pining for the (completely out of my price range) Smith Storage and Stool.

via Apartment Therapy

Unitasker Wednesday: The pancake puff

Pancake PuffDo you like pancakes? If you do, you’ll probably question why you have been eating flat pancakes all these years when you could be making pancakes in the shape of a ball. Yes, that’s right! Now you can eat pancakes that are easy to make, completely round, and taste delicious. Introducing the Pancake Puff.

Forget making those messy pancakes that your grandma used to labor over for hours (cue old woman spilling pancake batter all over the counter), now you can easily make a puffy ball-like pancake as easy as 1-2-3 — But that’s not all! You can choose the Chef’s Upgrade package that includes:

  • Gourmet Flavor Filler
  • Sugar Shaker
  • Pastry Brush
  • Professional Handle Cover
  • 1 Year Supply of Flippling Sticks

Kiss those boring old pancakes goodbye and take your pancake making to the next level. Order today!

If for some reason you aren’t interested in the Pancake Puff set, you should take a look at their site and watch the video. You will be amazed at the possibilities, and have a hearty laugh.

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

Tips for quick grocery shopping

GroceriesGrocery shopping is a necessary evil. Does anyone look forward to their weekly visit to the grocery store? If you’re like me, you defer these duties to your spouse. My wife has the grocery shopping down to a science. She tries to get in and out of the store as fast as she can. Don’t we all?

Here are some tips that she has to make your grocery shopping visit easier to deal with:

  1. Make a meal plan: Decide what you’re going to eat this week and what you’ll need to make that happen. (Erin will write more on this specific topic next week.)
  2. Make a list from your plan: Not only will this help you remember what you need, it also discourages you from picking up things that you don’t need.
  3. Separate the items on the list into their own sections (dairy, condiments, cereal, produce, etc.). This will reduce the chances of having to double back for something that you forgot in another section.
  4. Go shopping at off-peak hours. The less of a crowd the faster the shopping goes. Avoid weekends. (My wife goes before work early in the morning.)
  5. Sale items above all: Look over your weekly sale items before heading to the store. Saving money on groceries is a good thing.
  6. Get physical. Don’t be afraid to elbow fellow shoppers to get to the checkout ahead of them.

Ok, so that last one is a joke, but I hope these tips help you use your time more wisely. The less time you spend in the grocery store, the more time you spend doing something you actually enjoy.