Take stock of your stuff during economic hard times

eBay and Craigslist have been on our uncluttered radars for quite some time, but during these tough economic times they have become important tools to make some extra cash. Weekend projects of cleaning out the attic, basement, or closets can help you find many items to sell or donate.

Donation is a great option these days, too. Charities are feeling the effects of a struggling economy, and the trimming down of your home’s inventory can help less fortunate folks.

The economic downturn has undoubtedly made all of us take notice of the way in which we live and spend money. It also may be a wake up call to live with much more thrift in mind when bringing items into one’s home.

In an article in the Examiner, author Risa Sanders highlights some things that may make this economic downturn a little more manageable. She highlights the positives of these times with some of the following items:

1. Drink less coffee. My old habits included at least one stop a day, sometimes two, for a latte, or a double cappuccino. In order to save money (see below) my caffeine consumption is way down, causing my psyche, and body, to say “thank you”.

2. Spend less money. At better than $3 apiece for a tall latte (plus, usually, a muffin for another $2), I’m saving over $50 a week just by not making coffee stops during the day. I pour what’s left from my morning coffeepot into the darling, glossy, polka dot thermos I just “had to have” but hadn’t used in the two years since I bought it, and I have fresh, warm, cheap coffee all day long.

7. Spend more quality time as a family. Volunteering together, playing board games,going for walks, sightseeing in the city, renting movies instead of running to the theatre, even hunting for great coupons and bargains together, can be fun. See my article on volunteering for more ideas, at http://www.examiner.com/x-1561-DC-Family-Examiner~y2008m12d18-More-great-things-to-do-with-teens

9. Get rid of clutter. I notice I’m doing a better job of sorting through papers and keeping clutter to a minimum now that I’m home more. I like the feeling of calm that comes from being able to see the wood of my desk, and actually being able to find (and remember to use) all those wonderful coupons that are flowing in these days.

Number nine is definitely right up our alley here at Unclutterer, but the whole list is worth a look.

In with new, out with old

pic_toysDuring the holiday season, you may get a few new gifts. Now is the time to take stock of what you received and what those new gifts can replace — one new gift in, one old item out. And, depending on how much use you got out of the old items, they should be donated or thrown away.

If you receive new slippers (very exciting I know) you should get rid of your old ones. In all likelihood, your received the new slippers for a reason.

One important area where we make a concerted effort to keep in check is our daughter’s toy collection. When she receives an above-average size gift, like an chalkboard/easel, we will remove a similarly sized older toy. For example, we would remove something like a kitchen play set. Toys are a constant struggle to keep in check. It is also a good idea to have your child take part in choosing what is to be donated and help them understand a toy they no longer play with is going to a less fortunate child.

A year ago on Unclutterer

Wrangling newspaper recycling

As a devoted environmentalist and pragmatist, the circles labeled “recycling” and “convenience” don’t always align on my Venn diagram of life. Sometimes what is most convenient, isn’t great for the environment.

Stak-N-Tie stacking bins solve two household problems for me:

  1. a rugged container for storing read newspapers awaiting recycle pick-up day; and
  2. a can’t-miss device to single-handedly twine-bundle your stack of papers.

The elevated corners of the Stak-N-Tie leave enough room underneath the newspaper pile to slip your bundling twine. Once knotted, the whole stack lifts easily from the crate. Until recently, my town made me separate newspaper from other recyclable paper, so I bought two. My town now lets me co-mingle all my paper and no longer requires a twine-knotted bundle, so the entire crate gets toted to the curb on pick-up day. And, if I ever need to dispose of the crate itself, it’s recyclable, too: #2 HDPE.

Available from the Recycling Center for $12.95 plus shipping, it’s a great way to keep old newspapers from cluttering up your home.

The Onion’s fake gift boxes

In the spirit of Unitasker Wednesday, the always hilarious Onion has some great gag gift boxes for the holidays. The boxes feature six fake products that will surely confuse the recipient.

The boxes are available in a set of six or individually through the Onion’s online store. While these are obviously fake products, they aren’t that far out of the realm of some of the unitaskers we have featured here over the past year and a half.

I enjoyed the USB Toaster and the iFeast, an iPod dock for your pet’s food bowl, but they play second fiddle to my personal favorite: The Visorganizer. From the “product” description:

Use your head and stay organized! The Visorganizer is a revolutionary carrying case for everything you need to make it through your busy day whether you’re a pro golfer, a retired ship builder, a club DJ, or a busy mom on the go. And it clips on the front of your favorite hat. Pack it with up to 7 lbs. If it has a visor, it needs a Visorganizer!

I wonder how long it will take someone to actually invent a saleable Visorganizer?

Workspace of the Week: Stylish simplicity

This week’s Workspace of the Week is Sadida’s simplified space:

One of the reasons I love this office is its cable containment. A single wrapped cord leading from the desk to the outlet is a thing of beauty. I also like the shelf that sits behind the monitor and holds what looks like a scanner or printer. The “simplify” sign is calming, too. This office features the basics, and not a lot else — which is wonderfully minimalistic. Thank you, Sadida, for your submission 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.

2008 Gift Giving Guide: Guide wrap up

We hope that this year’s Gift Giving Guide has provided you with uncluttered inspiration. Here’s a wrap up of all of our suggestions for 2008. Remember, as you create your lists for others, to consider the impact of your gifts this holiday season!

2008 Unclutterer Gift Giving Guide:

We’re already looking forward to next year’s guide and unearthing even more uncluttered solutions. Happy Holidays!

Multifunctional printers

If you have a home office and space is rather limited for all of your peripherals, you may want to look into multifunctional printers. The quality of these multifunctional office products has really increased over the last few years and CNET has comprehensive reviews of five new multifunctional printers. From the CNET page:

An all-in-one printer gives you the freedom to complete multiple projects with the same printer, scanner, and copier, and fax machine all built into one central device. Most multifunction inkjet and laser printers also include front-loading media readers that let you print directly from your digital camera’s storage card without the need for a physical computer in the middle. If you do choose to hook it up to your desktop, you’re given a number of options for connectivity, with many printers featuring a build in 802.11b/g wireless print server, Ethernet networking, and of course the standard USB 2.0 port.Prices range from around $150 all the way up to $400 for extra features like multi-ink cartridge bays, increased dots per inch (DPI) results, and large format touch screens for advanced photo editing. Whether you need these auxiliary features or just want to perform simple print, fax, scan, and copy functions, an all-in-one printer makes a useful companion to your home or office workstation.

The dilemma with multifunctional devices is what to do if one of the functions breaks. You can either replace the whole unit or make due without that particular function. One must weigh the use of all the functions versus the space-saving advantages of a multifunctional printer. If you are going to make use of all functions, including the fax machine (does anyone still use a fax?), it may be for you. But if you are only going to use a couple of the functions, you should probably pass.

The multifunctional printers named in the article:

Unitasker Wednesday: Hot chocolate pot

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

The other day, I ventured out into the cold and snow with my daughter. We had a great time playing outdoors until she removed her gloves and started to stick her hands into the snow. I knew my daughter would be very cold, so I poked my head in the door and asked my wife if she could please make us some hot chocolate. Five minutes later, we were inside enjoying a nice cup of hot chocolate and my daughter was happy that her hands were no longer freezing.

Is my wife some sort of hot chocolate-making magician? How did she prepare two cups of hot chocolate without the help of Williams-Sonoma’s Hot Chocolate Pot? From the product description:

For the most extraordinary hot chocolate you’ve ever tasted, whip up the wintertime favorite in our ingenious electric pot. We worked with the Italian company Bialetti (designers of the original stovetop espresso maker) to create a pot that produces incredibly rich, frothy hot chocolate crowned with creamy foam. Just fill the clear upper chamber with milk and shaved chocolate or cocoa, then watch as the mixture is heated, blended and frothed to perfection.

My wife’s homemade hot chocolate concoction made in a POT on the stove passed my taste test. My daughter also seemed to approve (and she also seemed to approve of the marshmallows my wife added to her cup). But, if a pot is out of your league, then you might consider dropping $100 for this unitasker and sacrifice the cupboard space. Oh, and it looks like a nightmare to clean, too. Enjoy that added bonus, as well.

2008 Gift Giving Guide: Digital giving

This installment of the Unclutterer Gift Giving Guide explores the virtual world of digital products. In addition to the ideas listed here, be sure to check out our 2007 Online giving post for even more inspiration.

These are our 2008 digital suggestions:

  • If someone in your life has had a GPS unit for more than two years, you could offer to pay to update the maps. This is a gift that you’ll need to give in person (seeing as you’ll need the actual GPS unit to make the update), but still valuable for people who regularly use their GPS. Check the unit’s manufacturer’s website for details.
  • A great gift for a busy family might be a subscription to TheScramble. The service sends you grocery lists and then daily recipes so that you don’t have to think twice about what to make for dinner.
  • A wordsmith in your life might love the extravagant gift of an Oxford English Dictionary subscription for $295 a year, or $30 a month. (There also is a CD version of the OED for $216, but the reviews of it aren’t very strong.)
  • If you have someone in your life who loves spending time online, you might consider purchasing them an Evernote Premium account — this is an especially great idea for someone who already uses and loves the basic Evernote product.
  • Photographers in your life might love a subscription to RentGlass.com. It’s a mail order lens rental system — and would work great with a FlickrPro account that we suggested last year.
  • A high school student in your life could definitely benefit from a year’s subscription to Questia. I’d recommend it for college students, but most get access to these types of services through their universities.
  • A person you know who lives in a city and doesn’t own a car might enjoy a Zipcar membership. I know that having access a few times a year to a car would have made living without one even easier.
  • A professional association membership might also be a great idea for someone. Personally, I know that an AvantGuild membership would be a great idea for a journalist.
  • Finally, you might consider a subscription to GreenDimes for the person on your list who hates junk mail. Be sure that this person has a computer, though, because a GreenDimes account requires participation to make sure that all junk mail stops coming to a home.

Storage beds

Sometimes referred to as a captain bed, a storage bed can take the place of a bedroom closet or dresser. I wrote about bedroom storage a couple of weeks back, but I thought I would expand upon the storage bed as a space-saving option.

I came across this article on Furniture Today featuring new captain beds that have been introduced to the market. From the article:

Depending on the construction, the added storage can be used for anything from extra blankets and pillows to sheets or seasonal clothing such as bulky winter sweatshirts and sweaters.

The beds also tend to be more transitional or contemporary in nature, largely in response to the style preferences of younger consumers. However, some traditional beds have storage as well, making the option available to an even broader market segment.

The added storage often increases what you will pay for beds, but for small spaces it may certainly be worth it. The estimates, depending on the manufacturer, can add anywhere from $300 to $450 to the retail price. Some companies new to the captain bed market listed in the article are: