Peter Daniel Frazier’s minimalist office escape

Most of us consider an uncluttered workspace to consist of an office with well-executed organization and minimal distraction. Peter Daniel Frazier, architect of the “Cube,” has taken the entire uncluttered workspace concept in a new, upward direction with his innovative home office:

The minimalist office is fully integrated into the surrounding forest. Frazier’s “Cube” serves not only as an office, it does triple duty as a meditation room and guest house.

The picture that appears here, and Frazier’s entire set are open for viewing on Flickr. Each image also has wonderful descriptions detailing his construction.


Don’t forget! If you’re in the Chicago area, join Erin and some of the Unclutterer staff (including me) at The Book Cellar on Monday, December 28, any time between 4:00 and 7:00 p.m.

Also, set your DVRs to record Erin on WGN Tuesday, December 29, during the Midday News programming. She’ll be talking about her book and handling sentimental clutter.

A year ago on Unclutterer



Life-threatening clutter

We often talk about the dangers of clutter, but tragedy has a way of bringing it home. An 80 year-old man in Evanston, Illinois, was found under several feet of clutter in an attempt to escape his burning home. From the article:

When firefighters arrived, they found flames coming from the west side of the home, said [Evanston Fire Department Division Chief Tom] Janetske. When they tried to enter the front door, they were unable, so went around to a side door, Janetske said.

When they were able to begin their search of the home, firefighters, including some who were able to force their way in the front door, found the man under about 3 feet of debris in the home’s living room, about 10 feet from the front door, Janetske said.

If you know of someone who is a hoarder and whose life might be in danger, please help them to find medical assistance. The Hoarders television website has an excellent resource page that lists many programs and organizations.

Is checking voice mail, text, and e-mail messages outside of work hours cluttering your life?

We’ve recently talked about strategies for curing your e-mail addiction to reduce the number of times a day you check your e-mail at work. With many of us in the western world having a day or two off from work this week, I thought it might be appropriate to address the addiction you might have with checking messages of all kinds when you’re not at work.

How many times have you been at dinner with a friend and she puts her phone on the table without any explanation? (I’m not talking about when someone is waiting for an emergency call, but rather when she simply doesn’t want to miss any social call that might happen to come her way.) How many times have you done it? How many times have you been talking with someone and he reaches into his pocket to check his phone to see if he has any messages? (Again, not when he is on call or expecting an important message, but because the person can’t go for five minutes without checking to see what may have filtered in.) Has this been you? Are you obsessed with checking your phone for voice mail, text, and/or e-mail messages?

An addiction to checking your voice mail, text and/or e-mail messages may be cluttering up your life. It also might be interfering with your pursuit of what matters most to you. Even if you’re not addicted, and you just wish these forms of communication took up less time in your life, try the following tips to get message checking under control:

  • Determine why you are always checking your messages. What reasons are propelling you to check in all the time? Are these reasons tied to what matters most to you? Or, are they tied to insecurities or simply out of habit?
  • If some of your reasons for constantly checking your messages correspond to what matters most to you — maybe your job or your family — can you find a way to make these checks less obtrusive? For instance, can you set a specific ring tone for calls and messages from your technical support team at work? Can you turn off your message notification sounds but leave on an alarm so that you check your messages only at specified intervals?
  • If your reasons are tied to insecurities or out of habit, can you leave your phone in your car’s glove box when you go into an event so that you can have access to it if you need it, but that access is just annoying enough that you won’t do it unless there is a reason? Can you ask the person you’re out with to carry your phone for you while you’re together?
  • Remember that people survived only a decade ago without constant access to voice mail, text, and e-mail messages. If someone needs to reach you in an emergency, there is almost always a way to do it. Portable communication devices are extremely convenient, but using them shouldn’t be cluttering up the remarkable life you desire or interfering with what matters most to you.

Good luck to anyone who is struggling with a message-checking addiction. I have to admit, the first three months I had my iPhone, I was definitely addicted. I got through it, though, by having my husband carry my phone when we were out together. Eventually, I broke the habit and the novelty of constantly checking for messages wore off.

On the Forums: challenges, emotions associated to uncluttering, and season 2 of Hoarders

Some great new discussions are underway on the new Unclutterer Forums:

Be sure to check it out and add your thoughts to the mix. Remember, you can start your own thread (which our system calls a “topic”) by clicking the “Add New” link under Latest Discussions on the Forum homepage.

If you use an RSS reader to follow your favorite blogs, you can easily keep track of what’s going on in our new forums. Add the feed for latest topics or all the latest posts. You can even follow specific topics using the RSS link just below each topic’s title, or create an RSS feed of your own by adding topics as favorites.

Reminder: If you’re still looking for any last-minute shopping ideas, be sure to check out our 2009 Holiday Gift Guide.

Brainstorming resolutions for 2010

I’m running a 10-mile race in April. My training schedule starts the first week of January, and I’m really looking forward to the workouts ahead of me. When I was putting together my training plan, I was reminded by how rewarding it is to have goals on my schedule that involve doing things that aren’t easily accomplished.

I’m not a life-long runner. I only started running this past year after I realized how well running fits with my lifestyle. I like sports that involve very little equipment (a good pair of shoes) and can be done without a lot of planning (no courts to reserve, no gym hours to remember). Plus, I’ve come to genuinely like the experience of running.

However, running 10 miles isn’t a normal thing for me. I’ve actually never ran more than five miles in a single run. Pushing myself up to 10 miles is going to be uncomfortable. There will be days when I’ll be sore and others when I’ll consider quitting, but I hope I’ll finish the race in April with a decent time.

Setting goals that are difficult to achieve opens us up for failure. We might not be successful. We might have to try multiple times to get something right, or we might not get the result we desire. The risk of failure makes achieving a difficult goal that much more rewarding.

As you start to think about resolutions for the new year, consider planning for something that isn’t easily accomplished. Stretch yourself to take on a project with the potential for failure and success. Make 2010 a year when you take a risk for big rewards.

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll write about how to create and organize a schedule for achieving your difficult goals. Right now, though, I want you to brainstorm on what you want to achieve in 2010. Make a list, or three or nine. Visualize your life after achieving different goals. Talk to friends, family and/or your boss about the ideas that are bouncing around in your head and get their feedback. Sit in silence for an hour and listen to the thoughts spinning through your brain. Formulate one or two big, risky resolutions you would like to make happen for yourself.

Start with identifying your resolution because if you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t organize your plan for how to get there.

A year ago on Unclutterer



Ask Unclutterer: Specific donation locations

Reader Kristin submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

Loved your response to Miriam [last week] and how you focused on keeping things in perspective. Now, you mentioned taking old towels and linens to an animal shelter. Great idea! Do you have any other ideas for where to donate hard to place clutter items that still have some use left in them? Thanks a bunch!

A great question, and one that many people posed to me this week. Below are types of organizations I’ve had luck with in the past for very specific donations. As with all donations, be sure to call ahead to make sure that the group actually needs what you wish to give. Also, beware of getting caught up in getting specific items to specific agencies as a procrastination tactic. Follow your instincts, but get the items out of your home.

  • As I wrote last week, animal shelters very often need lightly used linens (towels, sheets). They use them for soft sleeping surfaces, bathing, and general mess cleanup.
  • Women’s shelters often need children’s toys and books, diapers, and female business attire. Shelters here also accept half-used bottles of shampoo and conditioner you became bored with half-way through the large container.
  • Hospitals and doctors offices may want your old (but from the past year) magazines for their waiting rooms.
  • Our local prison constantly requests academic books (great for those books the university didn’t buy back at the end of the semester and you lugged with you on many moves) and reference books.
  • Half-way houses and men’s homeless shelters are usually in need of men’s business attire and winter coats in cooler climates.
  • Groups that build homes (like Habitat for Humanity) need power and hand tools and unused supplies (still-in-their-original-package screws, nails, etc.).
  • Kitchen storage containers (like good condition Tupperware and Rubbermaid containers, not old margarine tubs) are often accepted by groups that provide meals to the needy (like Meals on Wheels).

By no means is this list complete. I hope that readers continue to add ideas in the comments. I’m sure we can create quite a wonderful collection of suggestions.

Thank you, Kristin, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.

Workspace of the Week: Cable serenity

This week’s Workspace of the Week is _TiTO_’s sweet setup:

The cable management in this photograph makes me salivate. I want 13 plug-ins and I want them NOW! The shelves with the collectibles are fantastic. The raised gaming system is nice, too. Honestly, everything about this office is wonderful. The image says more than any words I could use. Thank you, _TiTO_ for your superb 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.

Sort, scan, and file your stacks of papers

As the year winds down, my husband and I are embarking on The Great Paperwork Filing Project of 2009. It’s such an undertaking it feels appropriate we give it an official name with capital letters. (Similar to The Big Move of 2004 and Project Remove Splinter from My Finger, which unfortunately is still ongoing.)

Most of the papers we’re dealing with right now are from our son’s adoption. We have about eight inches of documents that need to be scanned and destroyed or scanned and filed. It’s a relatively easy process, but, even with the help of the new Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M we’re test driving from the manufacturer, it still takes awhile to review every sheet of paper to decide its fate.

We’re following the method I describe in the “Tuesday at Work: Fixing Your Files” section of Unclutter Your Life in One Week. If you’re also looking at a Great Paperwork Filing Project of 2009 or 2010, try the following method to get it under control:

  • Determine what papers you have that need to be processed. If you don’t have a firm understanding of what work you need to do, you can’t create a plan for handling all of it.
  • Determine what rules should define what to keep and what to purge. You’ll end up getting rid of too much or not enough if you don’t have firm guidelines in place before you begin.
  • Determine how you will classify, categorize, and arrange your documents. You hope to one day be promoted/sell your company for millions/have someone help you with your work, so your system needs to make sense to you and others. Create a system that you can maintain and that can easily be explained to others when your big promotion comes in!
  • Sort, scan, and file your documents. I recommend tackling an inch of paper at a time. As long as you have less than an inch of paper coming in a day, you’ll eventually make it through your stacks.
  • Back up your digital system to protect from loss or damage. If it’s not backed up, you run the risk of losing everything when your hard drive fails. And, as we all know, there are two types of hard drives — those that have failed, and those that eventually will.

(The image associated with this post is from the FreedomFiler website. Check out our post on Paper file organization systems for more information about FreedomFiler. It’s a solid tab labeling system, especially for home-related papers.)

Gadgets of the decade that helped unclutter our lives

Paste Magazine dedicated their November issue to the “bests” of the 2000-2009 decade. They made lists of their favorite albums, movies, books, etc. of the past 10 years. One of the lists that caught our attention was their “20 Best Gadgets of the Decade.”

As unclutterers, we were specifically fond of Paste Editor-in-Chief Josh Jackson’s poignant observation about these technologies with item #3, the Garmin GPS:

When judging new technologies, you have to remember what they replaced. And is there any vestigial remnant from the 20th century we’ll miss less than the fold-out car map? The first automotive navigation system was developed in the early ‘80s, but it wasn’t until an executive order eliminated the intentional margin of error the military had insisted for commercial use on May 2, 2000, that the dashboard GPS became more accurate and widely available. Now you can navigate with voice directions from Homer Simpson, Gary Busey or Kim Cattrall. And you never have to try to fold those maps again.

The vast majority of gadgets on the list are devices that helped to get rid of clutter in our homes and offices. Gone is the need to stash blank VCR tapes thanks to the TiVo DVR (#2). The Amazon Kindle (#6) freed up space on our bookshelves. A single USB Thumb Drive (#17) replaced hundreds of CDs and floppy disks. Other items, like the iPhone (#7) created space in our bags and purses by replacing our little black books, pocket calculators, notepads, watches, calendars, and even our iPods (#1).

For all the unitaskers and useless doo dads the past decade gave us, at least there were a few gadgets that helped to get clutter out of our lives. Check out the “20 Best Gadgets of the Decade” and head back here to weigh in on the items selected for the list. Do you think the items are clutter-ful or clutter-freeing?

Unitasker Wednesday: Fingertip oven mitts

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 first time I saw hand-only oven mitts, I thought they were a little ridiculous. I prefer to use long oven mitts so that I only need to own one pair (I can wear them while grilling, reaching into a pot of boiling water, or simply removing a pan from the oven), but the hand-only ones at least appear safe.

Let me show you what doesn’t look safe:

That’s right, fingertip oven mitts do not look safe. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that they look unsafe. And, all you can do is grab a hot plate with them. You certainly couldn’t use them while grilling, reaching into boiling water, or removing a pan from the oven.

I declare that reader Peg sent us a fantastic unitasker!