A year ago on Unclutterer

2009

Let us introduce you to Things Organized Neatly

We want to bring your attention to the inspiring and mesmerizing Things Organized Neatly tubmlr site:

This new photo site is a steady stream of orderly stored objects. Its publisher clearly has an eye for design, so the images featured are striking, as well as streamlined.

You can subscribe to the RSS feed if you would like the images pushed to your blog reader, or simply check out the site online.

(Via Swiss-Miss.com)

Ask Unclutterer: Stopping mail for the deceased

Reader Nancy submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

My husband and I both serve as executors for the estates of family members. When we arranged to have [the deceaseds’] mail forwarded, we got on marketing lists and are getting tons of mail — even for a family member who died in 2001! How can we stop it? We must have gotten thousands of pieces of junk mail and we are just in the beginning with a new estate!

Nancy, I’m sorry to hear about your losses. You and your husband are so kind to take on the closing of estates during your times of grief.

One thing to keep in mind is that even after taking the steps I’m about to mention, you still might continue to receive junk mail for deceased family members. Some companies have predatory practices and don’t really care who lives at an address. Their goal is to get their marketing materials into a mailbox, and how they obtained an address is irrelevant to them.

Your first step in the process is to talk with your local post office about the mail being forwarded to your address for anyone whose estate is already closed. The USPS will provide you a form to complete and then stop forwarding all mail for this person to your address.

Second, the USPS recommends that you put the name of anyone who is deceased on the “Deceased Do Not Contact List.” From the USPS:

You may request to have the deceased’s name removed from commercial marketing lists. To assist in this process, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has created a Deceased Do Not Contact list. All DMA members are required to remove names on this list from their mailing lists and many non-DMA members comply, as well. Once a name is registered, commercial contacts from DMA members should begin to decrease within three months. There is a $1 fee for the service. To register a name or learn more, visit the DMA Web site.

Again, the USPS and the Deceased Do Not Contact List are not 100 percent. However, following these two steps should significantly cut down on the amount of mail you are receiving. Additionally, if you receive any mail that isn’t junk mail (like a note from an uninformed friend), a phone call explaining the delicate situation is likely your best and most considerate option. Since the name and address of the person appear on the envelope, consult a phone book or your directory information (411) to obtain the person’s phone number.

Thank you, Nancy, 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: Small, simple, sufficient

This week’s Workspace of the Week is Maureen.Ayer’s shades of gray office:

This is Maureen’s office in her apartment. The desk sits in a small nook between the living room and the hallway to the bathroom and bedroom. In addition to being visually appealing, it’s an organized space to process mail and bills, send a couple personal e-mails, and then quickly return to life at home. Since this doesn’t appear to be Maureen’s daily office (she’s a photographer), the storage can be small to handle just the business of the home. She has nicely organized desk drawers and a two-drawer metal filing cabinet (you can see a bit of it in the lower right-hand corner of the picture) to hold papers. It’s a lovely home office, Maureen, thank you for submitting it 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.

Assorted links for August 19, 2010

Interesting articles on the subject of simple living:

Simplifying packed lunches

Reader Jon wrote to us asking if we had any tips for preparing lunches at home that he can take to eat at work. He has been spending $100 a week on eating out at restaurants, and is hoping to become someone who brings his lunches to work. Since students are already back in the classroom in many states, and other students are getting ready to go, I thought now would be a great time to discuss the humble brown bag lunch.

Storage Materials:
You don’t need anything fancy, but I recommend items that are at least reusable (especially if you want to save money). You can use Lunch Skins for dry items, Rubbermaid’s plastic Easy-Find Lid containers (they’re BPA free) for foods that could spill or leak, New Wave’s Stainless Steel food containers, or Kinetic’s Glass Lock containers. You might want a thermos to hold a drink, and you’ll want a tote or box to contain it all. I’m a huge fan of bento jars and boxes, and if I carried my lunch to work, I would strongly consider getting the Zojirushi Bento Lunch Jar (the inserts are also BPA free):

Food and Preparation:
Taking your lunch to work or school doesn’t mean you have to eat peanut butter and jelly every day. The best tip I have about making lunches is to prepare them while you’re making dinner the previous night. For example, if you’re grilling hamburgers for dinner, pull aside half a cup of hamburger to cook and season for taco meat. A couple tortillas, cheese, and the meat make a great entree the next day at lunch that keeps your attention and isn’t exactly what you had for dinner.

Making both dinner and lunch increases your time in the kitchen a little, but the money you save is definitely worth it. Plus, you only have to clean the kitchen once, and you’re more likely to pack healthier lunches than you would buy if you ate out at a restaurant. If you’re making lunches for kids, enlist them to help you pack up their meals.

I wish I knew of a great cookbook to recommend for lunch ideas, but I’m completely clueless in this area. Hopefully there will be some recommendations in the comments for ways to find even more exciting meal ideas. Also, if you’re someone who brings his lunch to work every day or makes lunches for your children, add helpful tips you’ve picked up along the way to the comments. Good luck to Jon and to all parents embarking on a school-year full of lunch making.

Unitasker Wednesday: The bananarama continues

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

I have no idea what it is about bananas that inspires unitaskers, but they do. Oh, how they do.

We’ve written in the past about the Banana Saver and the rectangular-shaped Banana Slicer, but did you know you could also get your hands on …

A Banana-Shaped Banana Slicer:

A Nana Saver banana clip:

Or, the “special” looking Banana Bunker:

If you’re carrying a banana around in your backpack, I can see how the banana-protection devices would be useful. However, I crack up at the idea of someone bringing a bunch of bananas home and individually protecting each banana with a Bunker as it sits on the counter — like outfitting each banana with its own suit of armor.

Now I’m off to slice up a banana using just a knife. I know, I live on the edge …

A year ago on Unclutterer

2009

  • Space-saving mobile dining table
    It’s a portable chest that transforms into a dining table, which appears to comfortably seat nine people.
  • A recycled office
    This artist cut up and painted multiple damaged tables to create the most ingenious office shelving I have ever seen.
  • TuneUp your iTunes collection
    In addition to identifying songs in iTunes, TuneUp also fixes formatting, finds rarer cover art, matches artist names, and even gives information about the songs in your collection sort of like VH1’s old Pop-Up Videos.
  • Hoarders: A new show
    Last night, A&E aired its first episode of its series “Hoarders.” The show will air weekly on Monday nights at 10:00 p.m. ET/9:00 p.m. CT.

2008

2007

Trend spotting: Tech-savvy minimalism

On Monday, the BBC published the article “Cult of less: Living out of a hard drive” about a group of 20-something hipsters who claim digital technologies have replaced all but a few of their possessions.

One of the men interviewed for the article says he only owns “his laptop, an iPad, an Amazon Kindle, two external hard drives, a ‘few’ articles of clothing and bed sheets.” Another says he only has “a backpack full of designer clothing, a laptop, an external hard drive, a small piano keyboard and a bicycle – an armful of goods that totals over $3,000 (£1,890) in value.”

Owning just a few electronics and pieces of fabric is an interesting take on extreme minimalism. In contrast to most ascetics who eschew the conveniences of the modern world, it’s current technologies that make these hyper-digital ascetics’ lifestyles possible.

[Kelly Sutton of Brooklyn, New York] … says he got rid of much of his clutter because he felt the ever-increasing number of available digital goods have provided adequate replacements for his former physical possessions.

“I think cutting down on physical commodities in general might be a trend of my generation – cutting down on physical commodities that can be replaced by digital counterparts will be a fact,” said Mr Sutton.

The tech-savvy Los Angeles “transplant” credits his external hard drives and online services like iTunes, Hulu, Flickr, Facebook, Skype and Google Maps for allowing him to lead a minimalist life.

However, the tech-savvy minimalists are quick to point out that their decisions have made some aspects of their lives difficult:

Mr Klein says the lifestyle can become loathsome because “you never know where you will sleep”. And Mr Yurista says he frequently worries he may lose his new digital life to a hard drive crash or downed server.

What do you think of these modern minimalists? Discuss your reactions in the comments.

On the Forums: Two challenges and a discussion on uncluttered vs minimalism

Some great discussions are currently underway on the 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.

Are you getting the Zzzzzzzzzzzz’s you need?

When your sleep schedule is disrupted and you don’t get the amount of sleep you need to function properly, you will instantly experience a drop in productivity and mental processing. If this sleep deprivation continues, you might experience something like this:

In case you can’t read my handwriting:
Lethargy and a decrease of energy leads to a loss of will power, which leads to poor food choices, which leads to stopping or reducing your daily exercise, which causes clutter to pile up at home and the office, which ultimately leads to complete disorganization.

In addition to tanking productivity, fatigue causes high blood pressure, reduced reaction times, a weakened immune system, and a slew of other nasty things that put one’s health in danger.

If you’re looking to be more productive at work and continue to have energy even after you get home in the evenings, sleep is a key component to making this happen. When you’re well rested, you’re also more likely to exercise and eat right, which help to give you more energy.

We each need different amounts of sleep to function at our best — I need nine hours of sleep, but my husband doesn’t require much more than seven — and these needs can change over time. Keep a sleep journal to learn how much sleep your body requires. Additionally, once you have the energy to unclutter and organize your space, your bedroom can be a great place to start. The less clutter in this room will improve your quality of sleep each night, giving you more energy to tackle other areas of your home and office.

Marketing to Unclutterers-In-Name-Only

The show Marketplace that aired on National Public Radio had a very poignant piece this past Friday about the hypocrisy surrounding the business, marketing, and branding of Eat, Pray, Love‘s “simplification” and “de-cluttering” merchandise.

You can listen to the segment or read the transcript on the NPR website.

My favorite excerpt from Stacey Vanek-Smith’s Marketplace piece:

[Andrew] Bennett [author of the book Consumed] says “Eat Pray Love” taps into something the whole culture has been moving towards.

Bennett: “It talks about finding your inner self and spirituality and a return to simplicity and enjoying life’s simple pleasures.”

Like drinking “Eat Pray Love” tea, out of an “Eat Pray Love” cup, in your “Eat Pray Love” tunic, on your “Eat Pray Love” Malay queen bed. What could be simpler?

I was also surprised to learn about the Home Shopping Network’s “three-day ‘Eat Pray Love’-a-palooza” with more than 400 simplification-themed products, Sony’s Eat Pray Love laptop, and the Eat Pray Love prayer beads. The marketing of thousands of products surrounding this stuff-won’t-make-you-happy themed movie makes Disney film merchandising look like literal child’s play. Unclutterers are smart consumers who are not wholly against buying things, but does the merchandising industry really believe that dedicated followers of simple living are going to rush out and buy ALL of this stuff? Does the world really need thousands of Eat, Pray, Love doodads?

Apparently, the strategy for product marketing to simple living followers is: “Buy, buy, buy, and then unclutter it all so you can buy some more.”