Workspace of the Week: Door desk office

This week’s Workspace of the Week is Matt.Kolt’s do-it-yourself door desk office:

The desk is made from a recycled door and sits on two sets of legs purchased from Ikea. A piece of Lexan (polycarbonate resin) sits on top of the door to create a smooth work surface. I also like how Matt has made use of this space, putting the desk immediately below a sky light. He’s attached a basket to act as a desk drawer to the underside of the door to add functionality. It’s a well designed, organized space. Very inspiring!

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.

No time to unclutter? Consider turning off your TV

I recently came across this inspirational and humbling quote:

Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein. — H. Jackson Brown

I have often claimed to not have enough time to do a lot of the things I’d like to do. I’ve made this excuse for things like working out, cooking dinner, doing laundry and cleaning the apartment. But, after I saw this quote, I started thinking about how I actually spend my time and realized that I watch a lot of TV.

According to this 2006 article, the average American watches over 4-1/2 hours of television per day! Over the course of a year, that’s more than 1,600 hours. What can you do in four hours a day? You could stop stressing out about a disorganized closet and help it find order. You could attend a Rolling Stones concert, and even watch the opening band. You could run an entire marathon!

So, the next time you think you don’t have time to unclutter, think about how you’re spending your time and whether turning off the TV for a few nights might give you those needed hours.

Creative storage for kid’s clutter

Apartment Therapy’s ohdeedoh site recently held a contest in conjunction with Cookie Magazine where readers sent in pictures of their creative solutions for storing toys, clothing, and entryway items. It was called, Now You See, Now You Don’t! The contest finalists were recently announced, and their ideas were fantastic. I thought some of our readers would like to check out some of the great ideas that were showcased in this contest.

As a parent of a nearly two-year-old daughter, storage for toys is a constant struggle. It is always helpful to see what other people are doing to conquer the toy sprawl. I hope you enjoy these creative solutions for storage.

(Photo via ohdeedoh)

Unitasker Wednesday: The Squeasy Tea Bag Squeezer

Tea lovers, your prayers have been answered. You no longer have to burn your fingertips on scalding hot tea bags just to enjoy every last drop of tea. The Container Store has you covered with the Squeasy Tea Bag Squeezer. How else would one get the maximum tea out of a tea bag, with a spoon? Ha! That is so pedestrian. No self respecting tea drinker would be caught using a spoon to squeeze out his tea.

You’ll undoubtedly be the envy of all of your tea drinking friends with this ingenious invention. From the Container Store:

The tea lover on your holiday shopping list will adore this smart tea bag squeezer because it prevents you from burning your fingers on a hot tea bag. The stainless steel squeezer helps get every last drop from the tea bag. The set also includes a porcelain saucer to rest the squeezer and tea bag.

So, if you can’t think of anything to get someone, run — don’t walk — to the Container Store and be sure to grab these squeezers. Your tea drinking friends will thank you for saving their finger tips.

**Each week, the Unitasker Wednesday column humorously pokes fun at the unnecessary, single-use items that manage to find their way into our homes.

Storing out-of-season clothing

Most of us in the northern hemisphere are experiencing longer days, warmer weather, and fewer opportunities to wear our winter clothing. One of my favorite things to do when spring takes hold is to pack up my cold weather clothing and swap it out of storage with my warmer weather things. It sounds silly, but I really do enjoy this process. Opening a box of summer clothes is like finding a forgotten five dollar bill in the pocket of a pair of pants.

Before I open up the warmer weather clothing, though, I make sure that I have properly prepared my cooler weather clothing for storage. Storing dirty clothes for six months can do a lot of damage and attract bugs, so the first step in the process is to clean everything you plan to store. **Dry clean your natural fiber and delicate clothing, and run the rest through the washing machine. Be sure not to starch anything, though, as bugs love to gnaw on starch, and remove everything from flimsy plastic dry cleaning bags. Also, now is the time to have damaged items repaired, and to find new homes for anything you no longer wish to keep. If you’re someone who likes to shop, then consider decreasing your winter wardrobe by half or more so that when you bring new items in during the fall you’ll have space in your closet.

My storage system for out of season clothing is very basic. I have clear plastic boxes with lids and I toss a handful of cedar balls into each box to deter pests. I also throw a humidity control desiccant packet into each container for good measure. I have one large box for coats, scarves, and hats, and another large box for business professional clothing like winter suits, dresses, and heavy slacks (they’re called underbed boxes on the Container Store website). Then, I have five smaller plastic sweater boxes organized by color: black, grey, blue, white/brown, and red/green. In case you’re curious, those are the only colors in my whole wardrobe — it’s oddly void of orange, purple, and yellow.

There are a number of different ways to safely store clothing for the season. The basics are this: Bugs need air to breathe and dislike cedar oil in high concentrations. So, either store your clothing in an air-tight container or store it in a nearly perfect air-tight container and introduce cedar oil into the environment to deter pests. Cedar chests are fantastic if they’re air tight. Heavy-duty sweater bags are fine, and you can put tape over the zipper if you’re afraid of air getting into it. My local dry cleaner sells cedar-scented bags that are good for coats you might leave hanging in a closet.

**Note: The reason I recommend dry cleaning your natural fiber clothing before putting them into storage for the season is because the dry cleaning process kills moth larvae and adult moths. If you don’t want to dry clean your items, then you need to freeze your clothing for two to three days before putting it in storage. Freezing your clothes will kill the pests the same way dry cleaning will.

Finding order on your bookshelves

After reading Bringing your bookshelves back to order last week, you’ve hopefully had time to go through your books in your personal collection and clear the clutter. Now that you have enough space for your books, it’s time to take on the task of organizing them on the shelves.

I want to start by recommending that you take inventory of your books. If you value your books enough to keep them, then you should want to replace them if ever your collection is ruined in a disaster. If you wouldn’t want to replace them, then you may want to reconsider keeping them. Additionally, a current inventory allows you to search your whole collection with just a few key strokes on your computer. There are many software programs out there to help you with your inventory. On a PC, you may be interested in trying Readerware for Books ($40). It seems to be the least expensive, most positively reviewed, and it also has a version for Windows-based handheld devices ($50). If you have a Mac system, the two most positively discussed products are Booxter ($50) and Delicious Monster ($40). Neither appear to have the bells and whistles of the Readerware program, but they have much more intuitive interfaces.

With your collection free of clutter and properly inventoried, here are some recommended ways of organizing your books:

  • The latest trend is to organize your books by spine color. This method is definitely not for me since it doesn’t provide easy access to finding what I need quickly, but, if you have a home inventory in place, you could enter shelf location and make searching your collection easier.
  • I organize my collection using the Library of Congress classification system. I don’t get into the nitty gritty of subclasses, I just follow the broad category groupings. All of my social science books are together on a single shelf, for example.
  • If the LoC isn’t for you, the Dewey Decimal groupings may be more your style.
  • I’ve also found that organizing most accessed to least accessed works well, especially if you have a lot of shelves that are above shoulder height. Books rarely accessed go up on high shelves, and ones regularly accessed go at eye level or lower. If you have smaller children, reserve the lower shelves for their books.
  • Creating your own organization method is always an option, too. If this is the path you choose, I recommend labeling your shelves with Inreda Bookends or sticking a printed label directly on the lip of the shelf. Doing this will help you find your books most efficiently.

Good luck with your book organizing efforts! I’m eager to read in the comments how you’ve decided to organize the books you’ve chosen to keep.

Image from chotda’s collection on flickr.

Save storage space with the telescoping ladder

As I lugged my ladder out of my basement the other day, I thought to myself, “There has to be a better way to store a ladder.” And, it turns out, there is. My research led me to discover the telescoping ladder that is billed as the “World’s Handiest Ladder.” The ladder collapses down to 30 inches for storage, but telescopes into a 12-1/2 foot ladder at full length for use.

If you’re in the market for a ladder, you might want to consider this easy-to-store version. It’s simple to transport and has an incredibly small footprint. Try fitting a regular ladder into the trunk of your car!

Organizing pet information in case of emergency

My friend Elspeth recently lost her cat. The kitty is home safely now, but in the process of looking for her my friend learned a thing or two about how she could have been a better organized pet owner.

After her experience, Elspeth put together a list of emergency information and resources you should have on file if you have a pet:

  1. Have your pet microchipped and have on file the name of the company, the microchip number, and contact information for the company.
  2. Know the number on your pet’s rabies tag.
  3. Have documentation on all of your pet’s vaccinations and surgeries. Shelters and vets that take in lost pets will conduct blood tests to identify strays from non-strays. Knowing which vaccines are in your pet’s blood and locations of scars can help in identifying your pet.
  4. Take pictures of your pet at many different angles and of all unique pattern markings. Have these images in digital format. Many states and shelters will post pictures of lost pets online and you’ll want the pictures to print fliers.
  5. Most agencies will only allow you to report a pet that has been missing for more than 24 hours. Find out which agencies take these notices (usually shelters and animal control) and have their contact information in your address book.
  6. Even if your pet lives primarily indoors, you still need to have a collar on your pet with identification. Break away collars are best for constant wear so that your pet doesn’t accidentally choke himself/herself.
  7. Keep contact information for how to post messages to your neighborhood e-mail listserv and Craigslist community.

Ultimately, it was a couple who found the cat and also saw one of Elspeth’s posters on a bus stop in the neighborhood. We hope that you never lose one of your pets, but if you do, you’ll be prepared by having the above information at your fingertips.

Brijit: An uncluttered way to get quality information

An Unclutterer reader recently directed me to a website called Brijit (pronounced bridge-it). After doing a Google search about the site, I decided the link wasn’t spam or anything dodgy, and clicked through on the link to learn more about it.

The site, at its core, is a news aggregator. But, unlike other news aggregators, it only focuses on long-form content in magazines and newspapers. The site provides a 100 word summary of the article and a link to the original source if you decide you want to read the full work.

You can access the content on the site, or subscribe to RSS feeds. I subscribed to the “Home” feed, and I have been very impressed by the quality of the articles and their frequency (one to three a day, which is a manageable number). In addition to subscribing to topic feeds, you also can subscribe to specific news sources.

I’ve been subscribing to Brijit for three weeks now, and I feel that it is a simple, uncluttered way to stay informed. It also keeps paper out of my house, which is another benefit. I’ve found it to be a valuable resource and wanted to share it with you.