The transforming diaper bag

I’ve been looking around for baby items that can multitask, and I may have come across the most unique and useful one yet. It is the Hoppop. The Hoppop is a diaper bag that transforms into a baby seat.

This is a fantastic idea for parents on the go. The Hoppop would have been used quite extensively if my wife and I had owned one. It serves two very important purposes and comes in a fairly compact size. The step-by-step instructions look simple and straight forward. If you want something extra when it comes to your diaper bag, you may want to look into this innovative design.

(via ohdeedoh)

Time-saving tips

I consistently have about four hours each weekday when I’m not working or sleeping. Subtract an hour out of that for dinner, and I’m left with just a few hours a day of free time. If you’re like me, the last thing you want to do with those three hours is chores.

I’ve mentioned before that in our house we do about 30 minutes of chores a night, and we try to focus at least 15 of those minutes on one specific room doing more intensive activities. (Monday=living room, Tuesday=bedroom/laundry, Wednesday=kitchen/dining room, etc.) This routine keeps us from having to spend our weekend cleaning the house and also means that our house is usually clean enough to have people over without worries.

I’m always looking for time saving tips, though, because if I spend more than 30 minutes in an evening doing chores I get cranky. I’m constantly asking people I meet what they do to save time on chores. How do they get everything they need to do, well, done?

Most everyone agrees on a few basic principles:

  1. The less stuff you have to get messy, the less time you have to spend picking up messes.
  2. If you can afford to have a cleaning service come in once or twice a month to do the intense toilet and floor scrubbing, it can help immensely. (I don’t currently have a cleaning service, but I’m seriously considering it.)
  3. If you get something out, put it back when you’re done.

I’ve discovered some other great advice from the people I’ve asked and I wanted to share some of it with you. Please, if you have valuable advice of your own, add it to the comments! I think all of us could benefit from learning about what you do to save time.

  • Sort your laundry when you take off your clothes instead of in your laundry room. I have a light bin, a dark bin, mesh bags for delicates, and a bag for my dry cleaning all next to my closet.
  • When you swap out towels in your bathroom, use one to quickly wipe down the strange dust that collects on the edge of the bathtub. (Where does that dust come from, by the way??)
  • Water house plants with the stray ice cubes that tumble out of the ice maker and onto the floor.
  • Reader Mike suggests when loading silverware into the dishwasher, group like items together. When the dishes are dry, you can grab all of the forks, spoons, etc, and put them away at once.
  • Have a shredder and a trash can where you process mail so that junk mail never has to be corralled out of your home.

A year ago on Unclutterer

Introducing summer 2008 Intern Julia

Unclutterer readers, I would like to introduce you to Intern Julia. She is on loan to us for the summer from the College of William and Mary, where she will be a junior this fall. We picked her out of all of the other intern applicants because she is quite gifted at writing and, most importantly, she made us laugh. She continues to entertain us even though we keep throwing data management work at her–what a trooper! Please give a hearty welcome to Intern Julia!

Hello internet. I am Julia, and I am a reformed clutter freak.

I used to keep nearly everything, with the vague idea I might need it someday. Finding it, however, was a different story. Since my floor served second-duty as a shelf, cleaning it was like embarking on a small-scale archaelogical dig. This, I thought, made me artsy and deep.

One day, in the midst of exams, I realized that I couldn’t think clearly among all that mess. I’d always prided myself on organizing information well, such as when it came to argumentation and schoolwork, but my personal space was a different monster. All my stuff was weighing me down. It was stressing me out. It was making it difficult to put things into my brain. Perhaps I was collecting all that junk as a buffer, to sit between me and adulthood. But, that old pair of sneakers and the pile of newspaper clippings and ticket stubs really were not going to do that for me. Needless to say, I’ve pared down my possessions to a managable level, and I live better because I (try to) live simply.

That’s what drew me to Unclutterer. This blog isn’t just about neat clean surfaces, or finding humorously useless items on the internet (see: bizarre battery-eating contraption). It is about reassessing what you really need, and letting go of the rest. I’m happy to be here and I look forward to typing to you again.

The pumpkin rule

Today, I would like to welcome Megan Drayton as a guest author to Unclutterer. When I learned that Megan is the mastermind behind the recipe organization eChef Software, I asked if she would write a post for us about how her product came to be. Thank you, Megan, for sharing your insights with us, and hopefully you’ll inspire a few Unclutterer readers to create some more organizing solutions for the rest of us! Oh, and Megan also has a cooking blog, complete with pumpkin-themed recipes, which can be found here.

I learned “The Pumpkin Rule” at a young age. Every autumn at the pumpkin patch, my brother and I were allowed to select any pumpkin we wanted.

As long as we could carry it.

One would assume that my parents just didn’t want to get stuck carrying a 40-pound pumpkin to the car. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and believe that they knew that one of the keys to a simple life is to not take on more than you can handle. The Pumpkin Rule is a great metric to apply to any of life’s messy situations, and I use it often (it only seems natural that a foodie like myself would have a gourd-themed life mantra).

Even with life-guiding tips like “The Pumpkin Rule” in hand, combating our weaknesses is not always easy. Knowing that I’m the founder of a recipe software company, you can probably guess where my uncluttering standards once collapsed. Three years ago, I reached rock-bottom with my recipe obsession. What started as innocent magazine reading and internet browsing soon developed into all-out hoarding. My passion for food and flavor manifested into a need to collect every possible taste available. I was genuinely afraid of missing out on the “perfect recipe”. I figured that as long as I had them all in my binders, the recipes were within the realm of my organizational ability and, thus, always at my disposal.

They weren’t.

My collection was completely out of my control, leaving me helpless at dinnertime. When I eventually realized the extent to which I had violated my own Pumpkin Rule, I feared that I must declare recipe bankruptcy and live a life of back-of-the-soup-can casserole dinners! Luckily, I had a better idea. I needed something that allowed me to digitally manage my recipes just like I did my photo and music collections. Like they say, necessity breeds ingenuity.

Today, I’m pleased to have the eChef tool at my disposal. The various organizational features allow me to quickly locate any of my recipes and create grocery lists. Additionally, I can easily share my collection with others via email, Pownce, or my personal website. I’ve created an organizational solution that does my collection justice, and the sloppy recipe binders are gone.

The idea behind The Pumpkin Rule is simple: at the end of the day, there is only so much that each of us can maintain in our life. Find a way to keep your most important possessions and hobbies in the fold and eliminate the rest. When it comes to collections, a properly organized one allows you to become more aware of your inventory, thus enabling you to eliminate redundancies while exposing gaps. Furthermore, achieving some clarity with regard to your collection can curb any compulsive tendencies you may have. Taking control of my recipes brought enjoyment back to a beloved hobby, which I had let get out of control. Now, all that is left for me to do is cook.

Thai Pumpkin Soup, anyone?

Workspace of the Week: Small-living desk

This week’s Workspace of the Week is Skorpion24’s fit-it-all desk:

The reason I picked this image from the flickr pool is because it is a great example of how to organize a lot of computers and peripherals in a small space. The ability to spread out isn’t a reality when you have less than 20 sq. feet to contain your home office. Skorpion24 has four computers (I’m counting the XBox 360, the PC, and two Macs), a speaker system, an iPod, an iPod Touch, a keyboard, a mouse, a good size display monitor, a router and probably a KVM switch all in this tiny space. I’m impressed because there is even room on the desk to write with good ol’ pen and paper. The perfect desk for a space goes a long way in keeping a person organized. Grazie, Skorpion24, for sharing your desk 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.

Watch out for bumper clutter

Honor students, America, political figures, and the environment are all subjects that are routinely displayed on a bumper sticker. I’ve never been one to display my political or social beliefs on a sticker on the back of my car, but it seems that many people enjoy displaying things on the bumper of their car. To each their own, but some drivers feel that they must wallpaper the back of their car with just about every conceivable sticker they can find. It turns out, that the over use of bumper stickers may have a correlation with incidents of “road rage.”

Dale Jewett, citing a Nature article in AutoWeek, writes about the possible correlation between bumper stickers and aggressive driving:

“The number of territory markers predicted road rage better than vehicle value, condition or any of the things that we normally associate with aggressive driving,” psychologist William Szlemko said. “What’s more, only the number of bumper stickers, and not their content, predicted road rage.”

I’m not sure of the merits of this study, but it sounds legitimate enough to me to keep bumper stickers in high numbers off the back of my car.

For more on the study behind the AutoWeek article, check out the Nature magazine article (registration required).

Set your DVRs!

On Wednesday, July 2 at 9:00 p.m. EST/PST, the television show Clean House on The Style Network will be tackling a very large organization project.

In this special episode, Niecy Nash and her team of organizers, builders, and designers will take on the “messiest home in the country.” This year’s winners of the title are Phil and Mindy Wheeler of Temple, Pennsylvania. They submitted personal video to be considered for the honor of messiest home and a chance to have it redone by Clean Sweep.

From the press release:

In a special two-hour episode titled “Clean House: Messiest Home in the Country,” Style’s cameras document the total transformation of the Wheelers’ living space, from one completely overrun by mountains of clutter and hand-me-downs to an orderly space fit for a family hoping to expand.

I love being able to see people’s lives transformed by organization and watch professional organizers create workable solutions. If you’re like me, consider setting your DVRs for Clean House on July 2.

Thank you, L.A.-based professional organizer John Trosko, for calling our attention to this interesting episode.

Unitasker Wednesday: The Hot Dog Roller

Just in time for summer, the Hot Dog Roller! Everyone has an incredibly difficult time rotating hot dogs on the grill, right? Uh, right? C’mon, work with me on this. The issue of keeping a hot dog evenly grilled is a REAL problem. No, really. And, the Hot Dog Roller is there to solve this dastardly grilling dilemma. Simply place the hot dogs or corn on the cob(!) on this little contraption and you are good to go. With a simple move of the handle you can move up to five hot dogs at once. FIVE. At the SAME TIME!

Think of all the time you spend rolling hot dogs instead of playing Frisbee with your children. This roller can increase your hot dog rolling efficiency by five times. (I did the math.) That’s right, now you can enjoy five times the fun with your family and friends with this efficient, time-saving grill essential.

(Thanks to reader Eve for sending us this suggestion.)

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

A year ago on Unclutterer

Fusion Table lets you have your pool table too

So you’ve wanted a pool table ever since your parents said you don’t have room for one. Now you are old enough to make your own decisions as to what you bring into your home and you want a pool table. Oh, you don’t have room either? Well, the multifunctional Fusion Table by Aramith may be your ticket to your very own pool table.

The modern looking table neatly covers the playing surface and makes some adjustments to become a regulation pool table when the mood strikes you. The pockets are collapsible and expand when a ball falls into the pocket. The legs increase in height by three inches to make the table a standard 33-inches high. The table comes in two finishes, a metal line and a wood line. Their are many options on the type of wood finish from which you can choose.

Obviously, this isn’t for everyone, but if you want a pool table and you don’t have the room, this is a better option than adding a game room onto your house. I was unable to find a price on the Fusion Table site, but if you live in a small space and want a game table, this might be for you.

(via CNET’s Appliance & Kitchen Gadget Blog)

Remembering George Carlin

George Carlin, my favorite comedian of all time, passed away last night at the age of 71. He was controversial, insightful, and most of all hilarious. His commentary on culture and politics were second to none and his no-holds-barred style of stand-up comedy will be missed.

Here at Unclutterer, we highlighted his bit on “Stuff” from his 1986 Comic Relief performance. This was some of Carlin’s more tame subject matter and not the scorched earth musings that made even the most progressive thinking folks sometimes cringe. If you’ve never seen his “Stuff” routine, we recommend you take a look. He will be missed.