Workspace of the Week: A makeshift space

This week’s Workspace of the Week is Stuart’s Emergency Workspace:

This is one of the most fun entries I have ever seen in the Unclutterer flickr pool, and it was calling out to be shared. When Stuart was moving to Arizona, he had to pack up all of his furniture and ship it across the country. Unfortunately for Stuart, he still had time left in his old place before he made the move. Out of necessity, he built a makeshift office to sustain him until he traveled to his new home. This emergency office is proof that you don’t need much to create an uncluttered office. Granted, nothing matches and it’s a little crazy — but WOW is it resourceful and simple! Thank you, Stuart, for sharing your emergency 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.

Oprah’s Clean Your Messy House Tour

Oprah has been giving decluttering a lot of attention lately — and we are glad to see it. She has teamed up with an Unclutterer-favorite Peter Walsh for the Clean Your Messy House Tour. We interviewed Mr. Walsh a while back and have covered Oprah’s efforts in this area in the past.

The online slideshow that accompanies this project has some quick tips. If you feel overwhelmed by the clutter in your home, taking 10 minutes on a small project is an easy step to get you started.

Some general tips that were covered in the first episode included:

  • Before beginning organization, ask yourself, “What do I want from this space?”
  • Ask yourself, “Am I valuing my possessions?”
  • Ask yourself, “Am I saying one thing to myself about my habits and my life and doing another?”
  • Always store like with like.
  • Create zones for specific functions. (i.e. the mail zone.)
  • Start small. Begin by tackling a manageable area that you can organize relatively quickly.  Small chunks over time will be less overwhelming.
  • To hang children’s artwork, get a variety of small rug squares and use double stick tape to hang the squares to the walls. You can pin the artwork to the rugs as a creative display board.
  • With clothing, hangers should all be facing one direction. As you wear the clothes, hang them back up in the opposite direction. In six months, check to see what you have not worn. If you haven’t worn it, take this opportunity to decide if you really need it. If not, donate or sell locally.
  • In small spaces, create dispersed light. “When you light everything, you light nothing,” says Candice Olsen of HGTV’s Divine Design, who is providing design guidance for the tour.

Unitasker Wednesday: Piercey the egg piercer

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

Since we started the Unitasker feature, the egg has been responsible for many of the products featured. Who knew preparing an egg was so tricky? I’m not very useful in the kitchen, but I can manage to prepare a few things and one of those things is a hard boiled egg. I even manage to get it prepared without cracking it! Apparently, cracking hard boiled eggs is a problem for some folks so someone decided to invent the Piercey Egg Piercer.

The Piercey Egg Piercer promises to keep your hard boiled egg crack-free by piercing a pin sized hole in the large end of the egg with deadly precision. Yeah, you could probably try to pierce the egg yourself, but you wouldn’t be able to enjoy the friendly face that Piercey has. Piercey will make your hard boiled egg preparation easy and friendly. (Woah, there is even a competing product to Piercey!)

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

Save time and effort with a personal shopper

I’m not someone who enjoys spending time shopping for clothes. When I need to update, enhance, or replace items in my wardrobe, I write the information down on a list that I keep on my computer. Then, usually twice a year, I will go shopping to collect the items I need from my list.

In every sense, I am a utilitarian shopper.

One of the frustrating things about being a utilitarian shopper, however, is that fashion trends and my list usually don’t mesh well together. Styles, cuts, and colors change from season to season, and I don’t keep up on these things so it takes me days to find matches for my list.

Recently, I discovered that I can greatly improve my shopping experience with the help of a store’s personal shopper. In every case I have encountered, the service has been free. And, in all but one case, when I offered the shopper a tip, the shopper refused to take it. Free help is my kind of help!

Here’s how it works: You put together a list of what you’re looking for and take your measurements. Then, call your favorite department store and ask to speak to a personal shopper. The shopper will ask you basic questions about your life and your price range, and then you give him or her your list and measurements. You’ll also set an appointment for when you will come in to meet with the personal shopper. At your scheduled time, you arrive and the personal shopper will have clothes already pulled for you that you can try on and see if you like. You have no obligation to buy any of the clothes, and the shopper sticks around while you’re trying on items to see if you need different sizes or different cuts. Usually, at least some of the pieces work, and you’re out the door and on your way home in half the time of a normal shopping experience.

I’ve even tried this process in shops that don’t officially have personal shoppers. When a clerk in the store asks if he or she can help me, I whip out my list and discuss what I’m looking to buy. Nine times out of 10, the clerk will ask you about your size and then go and find some pieces for you. I’ve even had clerks tell me to go ahead and make my way to the fitting room and they brought the items to me. The clerks know their merchandise and find items much more quickly then someone coming into the store.

I also feel that I dress a little more hip now than I used to. The personal shoppers and clerks know the latest trends much better than I do, and they always seem to find things that flatter my body better than I find when I’m left to search a store on my own. For a utilitarian shopper like myself, a personal shopper saves me time and energy when I need new pieces for my wardrobe.

And, it should go without saying, but only use these services when you need to replace or improve your wardrobe. I like to follow the one-in-one-out philosophy with clothes: If I bring something new into my wardrobe, at least one old piece in my current collection has to go to charity or the rag bag.

Remember the Milk: Now with iPhone and Gmail integration

Of all of the software-based GTD “solutions” I’ve managed to get my hands on, there’s a fairly common theme among all of those that didn’t really cut the mustard: they simply tried too hard to build something that encompassed each of the main tenets of GTD, but have very little flexibility. In other words, these apps shoehorn you into the “canonical” GTD configuration without giving you room to customize the system to best suit your needs. Thankfully, Remember the Milk has managed to not only hang in there (for 3 years now), but pull ahead of the pack through integration with other products and services. And, as of this past month, these services now include Gmail and the iPhone.

RTM’s new native iPhone application (which requires a Pro account at RTM, which will set you back a scant $25 per year) is what got me to switch from my previous solution (OmniFocus on OSX + iPhone). The app is an excellent first release, much moreso than most of the other 1.0s that appear in the store. Launching and synching are both blazingly fast, unlike most local-storage-heavy iPhone apps. It also supports landscape mode for just about every view, which is a killer feature for me. It lets you fully manage the service, all from the comfort of, well, wherever you are with your iPhone.

The other new feature that really cinched it for me is the availability of an in-Gmail gadget where you can add/edit/complete todo list items without leaving Gmail (where many of my tasks and projects originate, which I’m sure is true for many of you). This is exactly the type of integration that really puts RTM a cut above the rest of the list management applications I’ve used. Couple this with the excellent Twitter integration, and RTM is never more than a few clicks/taps away, no matter where I am or what I’m doing.

One great OmniFocus feature that I’d truly love to see in RTM is the ability to incubate tasks or projects until a given date/time. For example, if I know I need to send a birthday card to my Mom in 3 weeks, OmniFocus would let me set a start date for the project, so that it (as well as any associated tasks) wouldn’t show up in my lists until that date. A consistent weekly review would make sure this type of thing doesn’t sit fallow in your task list for weeks before it is actionable, but I’m a lazy programmer who likes to let computers do the thinking that I don’t really feel I have to do.

Honestly, there isn’t much I’d change about RTM’s current set of features, other than perhaps some SMS integration, but that problem is solved easily enough with the Twitter integration. Otherwise, I find it to be quite useful – not to mention a total bargain, and well worth some investigation if you’re a productivity-minded technophile like myself.

Brett Kelly is a sometimes-independent writer, software developer and productivity nerd from California. You can read more about his unending adventures online at brettkelly.org, or you can just follow him on Twitter.

Thanksgiving buffet

I’m heading to my parent’s house for Thanksgiving this year. It has been a few years since I spent the holiday at my parents’ place, so I’m looking forward to it.

Our Thanksgiving dinners are usually served in a buffet style. This makes the whole process run smoothly and keeps the table free of serving dishes. The table is set with utensils and glasses, but the plates and food are stationed at the the buffet. It is an efficient way to serve your guests, especially if you are hosting a larger party. 

Martha Stewart has some helpful tips on setting up a Thanksgiving buffet. Some of the tips:

2. Position the buffet table away from the wall, so that guests have access from all sides. 

6. Lay out food in a logical order: entrees before side dishes.

7. Save space for food by displaying low arrangements.

If you’re having a party of six or more this year, a Thanksgiving buffet may be something to consider for your meal.

The old new is the new old

Every once in a while I stumble upon a company and think, “I like how this company sees the world.” Last week, I learned about Fusion Furniture, a company that repurposes industrial furniture for private use.

In this case, Fusion re-designed and re-purposed a never used medical supply storage unit and turned it into a portable bar.

Even if you don’t like the industrial design of these pieces, anyone can appreciate the idea of finding a new, useful purpose for an older piece. If you have furniture items in your home that are clutter because they’re not being used, think about transforming the piece yourself or maybe selling it to a company that transforms furniture — your clutter can become someone else’s treasure.

A year ago on Unclutterer

Twenty percent off coupon for The Container Store

If you watch the Oprah Winfrey show or follow Unclutterer on Twitter, then this information is old news to you. However, with the holidays on the horizon, I wanted to make sure that all of our readers knew how to get a 20 percent discount at The Container Store.

Oprah has once again teamed up with Peter Walsh to help Americans clean up their messy homes. This time, as part of the effort, The Container Store is helping out, too. To get the 20 percent discount you can print the coupon to use in the store, enter the code to use online, or print a barcode and give its numerical information to a phone representative.

The coupon and codes expire on November 19 — just four days from now — so you’ll have to act quickly if you want to take advantage of this offer!

Image courtesy of the Oprah Winfrey show

Many purposes for a magnetic paper-clip dispenser

It’s always fun to discover new uses for everyday objects. I recently stumbled upon one of these ideas in the article “Double-duty household items: reader tips” in the November issue of Real Simple magazine:

magnetic paper-clip dispenser

Original purpose: Controlling desktop clutter.

AHA! use: Corralling bobby pins. Collect stray pins from the bottom of your bathroom drawers and stash them in this handy container.

Reward: A bathroom vanity that’s neat as a pin.

Rosario Sorensen
Salt Lake City, Utah

I really like this idea, and I think that you could use these magnetic dispensers for storing more than bobby pins. Screws, safety pins, nails, washers — anything small and magnetic could easily be contained this way.

What inexpensive and clever solutions have you found in your home or office? Please tell us about them in the comments.

Workspace of the Week: Simple beauty

This week’s Workspace of the Week is Jacob’s small space solution:

If you live in a small space, then finding a way to integrate an office into your home can be a very difficult task. I love Jacob’s design decision to keep everything to a limited color palette in this open floor plan. The office blends into the room, and the plant acts as a very simple separator of purposes. Additionally, there is no clutter, which makes it even more pleasant. Thank you, Jacob, for sharing your space with us. It is truly gorgeous.

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.