Simple charging station

Reader Koz sent us a link to this little contraption:


The Driinn Mobile Phone Holder reminds me of the Load Thing we featured on the site last June. This one seems a little smaller, but just as efficient. It also appears that it could be used for other electronic devices of similar size, like a DS Lite or digital camera. And, at $8, it’s not the most expensive solution on the market. Thank you, Koz, for the link!

Getting to know you

To say that I am curious about Unclutterer readers would be an understatement. Thinking about who you are helps me to generate story ideas, and so I’m always wondering what your lives are like and how I might be able to help you.

What content do you want to read? Have you ever taken any of the advice and used it? What is your personal philosophy on simple living? Is there something we’ve discussed that you want us to explore more intensely? Are you just starting out in a place of your own or are you on the verge of downsizing into an active retirement community? What is important to you? What is your story? What do you do in your free time and how can I help you to have less stress?

Since I would love to learn more about you and what makes you tick in our comments section, I feel that I should share a little about me with you:

I grew up in the Midwest and moved to D.C. a little more than eight years ago. I can milk a cow, pluck feathers off a chicken, and identify soybean and barley plants when they’re still in their fields — but I don’t use these skills much in my current life. The chore I hate to do the most is laundry. The area in my house that could use more order is the basement. My preferred design style is mid-century modern with industrial accents. I love cheese, coffee, olives, béarnaise sauce, and wine. I don’t like chocolate. I’m tall, and wish I were about three inches taller. I have watched five episodes of Hannah Montana in an attempt to understand the fascination pre-teens have with Miley Cyrus and still do not get it. When I speak, crayon is pronounced crown. I love telling stories that make people laugh. I’m not obsessed with organization, I’m obsessed with living a simple, remarkable life and being organized is just a tool to help me toward that goal. I love my job.

Now it’s your turn. Tell us about yourself in the comments. Let us know your answers to the questions from the second paragraph of this post. How can we help you be an unclutterer?

Workspace of the Week: More closet workspaces

Last week after posting about the closet office, two more amazing workspace closet solutions appeared in the Unclutterer flickr pool. The first is Kimberly’s sewing station and the second is Adam’s workshop:


I think that both images speak for themselves: efficient, organized, and with the closing of a door the entire workspace disappears. Adam has a blog post explaining how he created his space up on his site. Fantastic solutions, Kimberly and Adam — thank you for sharing them with us!

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.

Five spring organizing activities

Five quick things you can do now that the weather is warmer:

  1. Take your sweaters and winter coats to the dry cleaner for an end of season cleaning. Then, put them in moth proof storage at the back of your closet.
  2. Soak scarves, gloves and mittens and then lay them in the sun to dry. Afterward, put them in moth proof storage at the back of your coat closet.
  3. Check the expiration date on your sunscreen and replace it if it’s past its prime. If you have more than one bottle of sunscreen in your cabinet, line them up by emptiest to fullest and plan on using up the least-full bottles first.
  4. Check bulletin boards and note centers throughout your home and office and get rid of outdated memos, calendars, and fliers.
  5. Now is also the perfect time for a sock purge. Also go through your underwear and t-shirt drawers and get rid of any items that have seen better days. Replace as necessary.

If you’re looking for even more warmer weather activities, be sure to check out our spring cleaning guide.

Bathroom storage is key

Our new bathroom has some rather odd storage. There isn’t a lot of storage space and we must figure out how to use what we have more wisely. In our new, smaller home, we no longer have our own master bathroom, so we will have to change our bathroom storage habits.

This article from Martha Stewart Living Magazine has some great ideas for bathroom storage. From the article:

To provide sufficient storage, add a standing cabinet. If you can, choose one with separate spaces, preferably one for each person — one drawer can hold Mom’s hair-care essentials, for instance, while another contains the kids’ bath toys.

Bathroom drawers are second only to junk drawers in their potential for messiness. It’s easy to toss grooming products in there pell-mell. Use wooden boxes and trays to help categorize the items. They are available in various sizes and materials, so they can be mixed and matched to fit any sort of drawer. Lazy Susans, too, make accessing toiletries a snap. As a final touch, paint the cabinet a color that coordinates with rest of the bathroom.

We are considering something like this corner cabinet as a storage unit. We have yet to decide if it’s the perfect solution for us, but the bathroom storage situation definitely is on top of our list of problems we need to solve.

Unitasker Wednesday: Movie Time Kettle Popcorn Maker

Popcorn is the perfect snack to enjoy while watching a movie. What could be more perfect than this Movie Time Kettle Popcorn Maker? It may measure in at 19″H x 12.5″L x 10.5″ W, but that space is easily sacrificed for the allure of freshly popped popcorn for your movie viewing. How else does one achieve the freshly popped corn of the movie palace? I can’t think of any other way!

It can make up to one gallon of popcorn at once. I’m not exactly sure how much popcorn that is, but it sounds like enough to cure your popcorn craving. This thing is perfect for the home theater, tv room, or game room. It is apparently meant for table top display, so make sure you have a table ready for this popcorn behemoth!

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

Printing to PDF

Reader Matthew sent us the following suggestion:

When you buy something online and the site says “Print this receipt page for your records” print it to the PDF printer instead of paper. You can print it out later if you must, and you have it as a record of your order number or parcel tracking number.

Matthew’s suggestion is terrific especially since you don’t need to have a full version of Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional to print to PDF.

On a Mac, go to File > Print, and then click on the PDF button in the lower left hand corner of the pop-up window. The PDF print software comes installed.

On a PC, download and install CutePDF Writer. The program is free and allows you to print straight to PDF through the print function.

On a Linux box, you’ll want to set up a CUPS open printer installation. And, as is the beauty of open source, it’s also free.

Thank you, Matthew, for your suggestion of another way to keep paper from cluttering up our offices!

Bringing your bookshelves back to order

I love, love, love books. The wikipedia entry for bibliophilia should include a picture of me with my nose in a book. I read between 10 to 20 books a month, and I almost exclusively read non-fiction. If money were no object, I would have a home library complete with rolling ladders, comfy leather chairs, and shelves full of my favorite books.

Money has not yet started to grow on the trees in my yard, so I don’t have the luxury of having a dedicated room for a home library. Until then, I have had to accept that I cannot keep every book I’ve ever read or hope to read. So, how do I decide which books stay and which books go? I follow these simple rules:

  1. Don’t keep more books than you can fit on available bookshelf space. If a book doesn’t have a safe place to live, you’re not treating it with the respect it deserves.
  2. Don’t keep books for the sole purpose of impressing other people. This rings true in business offices, too. Unless you’re a British literature professor, there is no reason to have the complete works of Shakespeare on your office bookshelves. Potential clients will wonder why you’re spending your time reading Macbeth instead of focusing on their case.
  3. Get rid of any book you’ve read, don’t plan on reading or referencing again, is in the public domain, and can be found in its entirety online. That’s right, I’m talking about ditching your Dover copy of The Scarlet Letter.
  4. If you live near a public library or a used bookstore, try to think of these places as an extension of your personal collection. Also, now that so many libraries have free audio books to download, using the library is in some ways more convenient than a personal collection.

Beyond these rules, I’ve found that books are best evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes, if a book is in bad shape, I’ll recycle it. If I’m on the fence about getting rid of a book, I’ll go online and find out how much it’s selling for on Powell’s — if it’s selling for less than $5, I’ll get rid of it — if it’s selling for more than $15, I will usually hold onto it. I also have found that I have difficulty parting with books that have beautiful bindings, so these books I have to scrutinize more diligently. And, don’t forget to ask yourself these vital questions each time you finish reading a book.

After deciding which books should go, there are many resources available to you. I’ve used or read positive reviews about the following services: Powell’s, my local used bookstore, half.com, PaperBackSwap.com, donating to the local library used book sale, BookMooch.com, BookScouter.com, and donating to charities that want specific types of books (nursing homes, literacy programs, etc.).

Good luck sorting through your books, and stay tuned for next week when I’ll discuss how to organize the books you’ve chosen to keep.