Workspace of the Week: A garage transformation

This week’s Workspace of the Week is Gently Organized’s new office, which used to be her garage:

Reader Gently Organized recently remodeled her garage and turned it into a spacious home office. What used to be the overhead door to her single-car garage is now a glass door that looks out onto her garden. The desks and overhead cabinets appear to be Ikea pieces and the file cabinets and storage units below the desk look like Elfa products. Looking at another image of the room you can see a fantastic magazine rack, storage boxes behind the frosted glass, and room for her to work with clients:

Thank you, Gently Organized, for submitting your inspiring space to our flickr group.

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.

Seeking advice for cleaning laptops and keyboards

Immediately after Apple released its new MacBook and MacBook Pro laptop computers earlier this month, my e-mail account was inundated with questions about how to clean dirt and grime off white Apple laptops and keyboards. My assumption is that these readers want to upgrade to the new machines and sell their old laptops on eBay. Machines that look like new tend to grab higher prices on the bidding site.

I own a white MacBook, so I decided to try my hand at cleaning my laptop in an effort to help our readers. After making a few calls and asking for advice from my friends, I repeatedly heard that the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser was the cleaning tool for me to try.

Here is a picture of my laptop before I tried cleaning it. You’ll see that there are dark spots where my wrists rest while I type:

I then scrubbed the affected areas with the Magic Eraser:

And, it was successful at taking off a good portion of the dirt and grime:

However, I’m not going to say that it was a gleaming success. The side-by-side comparison shows that although it did get rid of a good portion of the yuck on the wrist rest, it wasn’t a perfect solution:

What have other people done to get dirt and grime off of white laptops and keyboards? I thought the Magic Eraser did an adequate job, but I’m hoping there is an even better product out there to help clean up the rest of the dirt. Let us know what you have found to clean laptops and keyboards in the comments.

Lightbulbs next wifi hotspots?

According to Cellular-News, the College of Engineering at Boston University is launching a program aimed at developing the next generation of wireless communications based on visible light rather than radio waves. From the article:

“Imagine if your computer, iPhone, TV, radio and thermostat could all communicate with you when you walked in a room just by flipping the wall light switch and without the usual cluster of wires,” said BU Engineering Professor Thomas Little. “This could be done with an LED-based communications network that also provides light – all over existing power lines with low power consumption, high reliability and no electromagnetic interference. Ultimately, the system is expected to be applicable from existing illumination devices, like swapping light bulbs for LEDs.”

Fewer wires and increased communication with all of your devices sounds like a winning advancement to me. The technology for LED-based wifi has just begun, so I’m cheering for the labs at BU to work diligently to get this to market.

(via Engadget)

Unitasker Wednesday: Tiny toe towel

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

Everyone has a routine as to how they dry off after taking a shower or bath. Those routines usually only involve one towel, or maybe two if you wrap a second around your hair. These two towels are completely insufficient for your drying needs, however, because they’re so big and cumbersome and easy to use. Thankfully, there is now a product on the market that will meet all of your drying needs. The Tiny Toe Towel reaches between the unreachable areas of your toes. No more wet socks because your toes are soaking wet because you don’t own the tiny toe towel. How else does one dry off between your toes? From the product description:

This thirsty little towel reaches between toes for quick, thorough drying — keeping them comfy and healthy! Easier to use than a bulky bath towel, its unique shape fits comfortably between toes to gently whisk away wetness. Easy-grip handle prevents bending or straining.

There you have it. No bending or straining (assuming you don’t dry your ankles). The marvels of modern technology never cease to make our daily lives easier!

Thanks to reader Amy for bringing this unitasker to our attention.

Book review: The Experts’ Guide to Doing Things Faster

On Monday, I had my wisdom teeth pulled, and spent most of the day propped up in bed catching up on some reading. One of the books I read, The Experts’ Guide to Doing Things Faster created by Samantha Ettus, was a quick, fun, and informative read. The book is a series of 100 essays by professionals who are experts in their fields. Each essay focuses on how to be efficient at one aspect of living.

The first 16 essays address issues in the home, and the next 11 essays provide tips for work. Mind, body, love, pleasure, travel, and future round out the other subject areas of the book.

The following are some of my favorite essays and a tip or two from their content:

  • “Do Laundry” by Lucinda Ottusch: “Make laundry more tolerable by transforming your laundry room into a livable, productive workspace.” (pg. 25)
  • “Organize Your Closet” by John Trosko: “Successful closet organizing requires tough choices about what flatters your best assets and what doesn’t. Forecast what your life will hold for you in the next year. Everything in your closet should have a purpose for today and tomorrow, not yesterday.” (pg. 33)
  • “Sort Mail” by Peter Walsh: “Decrease the amount of mail coming into your home by getting your name off junk-mail lists. Phone 1-888-5OPT OUT (1-888-567-8688) to have your name removed from lists that send those annoying credit card offers. Likewise, log onto to remove your name from lists that stuff your mailbox with unwanted catalogs.” (pg. 37)
  • “Find a Lost Object” by Michael Solomon: “IT’S NOT LOST — YOU ARE. Accept that the problem is not with the object — it’s with you! For there are no lost objects — only unsystematic searchers.” (pg. 55).
  • “Bake a Cake” by Warren Brown: His advice is good, but the best part of this essay is that he includes his recipe for vanilla cake with chocolate glaze icing. Yum! (pg. 251)
  • “Holiday Shop” by Paco Underhill: “Make a list of people to buy for. Jot ideas or specific gifts on your list for easy reference. Don’t buy for anyone who isn’t on your list — there must be a reason why he or she didn’t make it on the first time.” (pg. 264)

I recommend checking out the book if you’re interested in reading something fun on efficiency. I certainly enjoyed this book.

Ikea hack for toy storage

The older your child gets, the more important it is to find great ideas for toy storage. It is always important to get rid of toys that your child doesn’t want or play with any longer to keep the toy inventory manageable. It also is important to find a storage solution that is easy for you and your child to use. Enter this idea from Ikea Hacker:

The hack uses the Ikea Pax wardrobe and Trofast storage boxes, which fit perfectly in the slots. This hack stores an incredible about of toys and is simple to create. I’m not sure if my daughter has enough toys to fill a full Pax wardrobe, but I’m sure we will be able to find use for all of the drawers.

(via ohdeedoh)

A year ago on Unclutterer

Easy listening: Are products the solution to getting organized?

Want to listen to a little decluttering inspiration? Need a break from your regular Saturday morning routine?

If you’re looking for a motivating diversion, check out Erin being interviewed yesterday on The O Myth, a weekly online radio show and podcast that explores the myths and misconceptions about being organized. On their show, Portland-based professional organizers Krista Colvin and Brandie Kajino debunk organizing stereotypes, and this week they specifically ask Erin if products are the solution to getting organized.

You also might want to check out the upcoming O Myth episode scheduled for November 14, which will feature organizing superstar Peter Walsh.

Note: The hard boiled egg method I discuss in the interview is from Alton Brown’s cookbook I’m Just Here for the Food.

Thank you, too, to Krista and Brandie for being the hosts of such a fun and fabulous podcast on organizing.

Being an organized worker is essential in today’s market

As I’m writing this, I’m waiting for a video conference call to start. It was scheduled to begin at 9:15 a.m., but it’s 10:30 a.m. and the call hasn’t happened.

I have received four e-mail messages, however, saying that the people on the call are running late and they expect the call to begin in 10 minutes. I’ve been given no further explanation, and no efforts have been made to reschedule the call.

This is a play-by-play of the thoughts going through my mind:

  • Since I’m receiving e-mails, there must not be an emergency. Everyone is probably safe and okay.
  • I bet the other people on the call believe that their time is more important than my time.
  • It could also mean that the people on the call are completely disorganized and could really use my help, so I should be more compassionate.
  • Wow, it’s now 10:45 and I’m still waiting. This call is an hour and a half late. I find this to be incredibly rude.
  • If I don’t leave my office in the next two minutes I’m going to be late for my 11:00 appointment.
  • I’m leaving.

It’s now 1:15, I’ve gone to my appointment, returned to my desk, and the call still hasn’t happened. There is, however, an e-mail in my inbox asking if the call can be rescheduled for 5:00 p.m. Anyone want to take bets on what time tonight the call begins? (Added later: It started at 5:18 p.m.)

Situations like this are unfortunately common practice in the business world. Disorganization flourishes in many corporate cultures. One person misses a deadline and that missed deadline is like a stone thrown into a pond where the ripples eventually reach everyone and everything in the water.

If you look back over my thoughts from when I was waiting, you’ll see that my frustration clearly builds. I went from worrying about the people’s safety to finding the delay to be extremely rude. The people involved obviously aren’t rude, they just have poor time management skills, but their lack of time management skills speaks to their work. At the very least, it says, “Be on guard when working with this company!”

In today’s economy, employees can’t afford to be disorganized. It’s no longer a matter of personality, it’s a matter of keeping one’s job and retaining or obtaining clients. If an employer is trying to decide whom to layoff and whom to keep, the most organized, profitable, and productive workers usually get to keep their jobs. Workers who consistently miss deadlines, run projects over budget, and upset clients and vendors with their inconsiderate behavior are the people who are let go. Additionally, current and potential clients won’t do business with your company if they don’t receive the product they expect on time and on budget.

If you’re worried about the level of disorganization in your work, here are a few items that may help you:

What additional suggestions would you add to this list? What are your favorite ways to stay organized at work?

Workspace of the Week: Dorm room diligence

This week’s Workspace of the Week is Xeraphine’s collegiate corner:

Keeping a desk in a dorm room in an uncluttered state is difficult work, even for the most organized of students. Reader Xeraphine keeps this Yale University space well maintained and efficient. The wireless keyboard gets rid of cord clutter, the dual purpose task lighting and pen cup saves space, and the sliding shelf provides storage for notebooks and paper. To the right of the desk is a printer and stand with four drawers (I imagine Xeraphine’s books are kept in the drawers). Recently, Xeraphine added a DIY cardboard computer stand that hides cables and props up the computer. Thank you, Xeraphine, for sharing your inspiring dorm room office 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.

Reader question: Closet clustering separators

Reader Te sent us the following question:

I was just “hipped” to using clustering to organize the clothes in your closet. I really like the idea, however I am trying to imagine a neat looking closet that is organized in that fashion. And I also cant see an efficient (visually pleasing) way to see the distinctions between the clusters. I know people use those little round things that they have in department stores but I think there should be something better, maybe longer like a piece of material that can make a cleaner distinction.

What are your thoughts on this method of closet organization and making it so that it is not visually cluttering?

Clustering by type of clothing can easily make a visual distinction between groups of clothing in your closet and you probably won’t need a separator to indicate the start of a new section. This is how I organize my closet and, moving left to right, I have suit coats, slacks/pants, short sleeve tops, skirts, long sleeve tops, and dresses. The types of clothing are different enough that it is an abrupt change and no extra identification is necessary.

I’ve also seen fabulously designed wardrobes built out of the Elfa system where different clusters are hung at different heights so that no group hangs immediately next to another group. If you have such a system, then simply rearrange the hanging rod heights to eliminate the side-by-side confusion.

When people cluster items, however, they don’t always cluster slacks with slacks, short sleeve shirts with short sleeve shirts, and suit coats with suit coats. Some people cluster by color, season, type of situation where they would wear the clothing (office, client site, home, garden, exercise), or another clustering system that makes the most sense for his or her life. When this is the case, I can see a desire to use a more formal separation system on a single hanging rod.

The following list contains just a few ideas I’ve seen successfully used in the past. I think the possibilities are endless, so be creative and go where your style leads you!

  • Ribbons. Tie a piece of ribbon around the hanging rod and make it loose enough that it can move, but tight enough that it doesn’t slide around when you don’t want it to slide. Frilly types might want to make it into a bow, others might want to tie a knot and nothing more.
  • Cedar blocks or lavender sachets. Using one of these items, you can ward off pests and separate your clothes.
  • Clear suit bag. The person I saw who did this with her closet had a suit start every cluster of items. You wouldn’t have to use them for suits, though, and simply put the first item of each section in one of these.

If any of our readers have more ideas, please share them in the comments!