A year ago on Unclutterer


  • Making exceptions to your uncluttered standards
    Making exceptions to uncluttered standards can become a slippery slope. If we don’t keep a watchful eye on our stuff, eventually our entire homes and offices are filled with clutter again. This is especially true in places where clutter can easily hide — closets, cupboards, and toy bins.
    As a result, I have created a new uncluttered standard for my exceptions. It states: “If getting rid of the object causes more distraction than having the object, I keep it.”
  • Unitasker Wednesday: The Egg Cuber
    I think that this week’s unitasker may actually be a non-tasker. Ever since reader Penni sent this Egg Cuber to me, I have tried to imagine why someone would want square eggs — and I have yet to come up with a reason.
  • Excerpt: Being a social butterfly
    Below is another excerpt from my book Unclutter Your Life in One Week — this time on how to have and manage a social life in this busy world.
  • Excerpt: How many bath linens do you need?
    Below is the final excerpt from my book Unclutter Your Life in One Week we plan to run on the site — this time on how to determine how many towels and washcloths you need in your linen closet.
  • Workspace of the Week: Organized and adjustable

Assorted Links for October 30, 2010

It’s been a fun Halloween week here at Unclutterer, and we hope you have a terrific time celebrating the holiday officially tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy these links related to uncluttering, simple living, and some randomly cool things:

  • Recent bride Naomi Selden wrote about how to create a clutter-free wedding registry on D. Allison Lee’s Organize to Revitalize blog. If you’re getting hitched, this is a wonderful resource.
  • E-book owners might be interested in Leatherbound — a website that compares prices for e-books from around the web to find you the best deal.
  • If you live in a small space, Matroshka may have some space-saving furniture options for you. Production appears to be limited at this time, but the company is growing.
  • I’m drooling over this Stackable Oven-To-Table Cookware that was featured on Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn. I don’t typically make eight casseroles at a time, so I have no need for it. But, I’m happy to know it exists.
  • The website She’s Next, a site “featuring 60-second inspirational videos for 21st century women,” launched this past Thursday. Erin is one of the presentations, talking about where to get started in your uncluttering efforts.
  • Website ZenHabits has a quick resource for unclutterers from Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project: “Nine Quick Tips To Identify Clutter. I especially like the question “Was I ‘saving’ it?”

Ask Unclutterer: In-home safe or safety deposit box?

Reader Dawn submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

Do you have any thoughts on whether it’s best to have a safety deposit box vs. an at-home fire/water-proof safe?

We have a fire/water-proof safe mounted to the floor in our master bedroom closet that stores all of our super important documents, as well as some valuables. Maybe that’s not the best idea? Do you have any thoughts about which would be best for safety purposes? It is so convenient (and obviously cheaper) long-term to have these items stored at home, but maybe a financial institution safety deposit box is smarter storage.

There are positive and negative aspects of both options. Ultimately, it comes down to what works best for your family.

A safety deposit box at a bank is nice because it’s 1. fireproof, 2. waterproof, 3. not in your home (in case someone breaks in or a disaster destroys your home), 4. under tight security, and 5. its contents are legally protected in the case of death.

On the other hand, a safety deposit box isn’t all that great because 1. the bank isn’t open 24 hrs a day or on Sundays, 2. it’s easy to lose the key to it, 3. your bank is probably in the same part of the country you are (a natural disaster that wipes out your home likely would destroy the bank, too), 4. there is an annual fee, and 5. since the contents are legally protected, in case of death, typically your estate has to close before the executor of your estate can access the box.

An in-home safe is nice because it’s 1. locked, 2. easily accessible, 24 hours a day seven days a week, 3. when mounted to the floor a burglar can’t easily run off with it, and 4. it’s a one-time expense.

An in-home safe isn’t all that great because 1. based on its fire rating, what is stored inside of it isn’t protected from heat damage for very long, especially digital items, 2. almost all at-home safes are only water resistant, not waterproof, so a fire hose putting out a house fire can still damage the contents, 3. it’s contents are not protected in case of death (which could be either a pro or con), 4. if a natural disaster destroys your home your stuff is gone.

For more information on in-home safes, check out our article “Fireproof storage, part two” from 2007.

We use both an in-home safe and a safety deposit box. Our home safe stores things we might need access to in an emergency (mostly documents, like our Wills), and our safety deposit box stores hard drives and a few small items we would never need on a moment’s notice (like negatives of our wedding photographs, since we were married in ye olden days). Our home safe is only water resistant and not certified to protect digital data, which is why the safety deposit box is something we need.

I also recommend scanning all documents and photographing the valuable items you keep in either location, encrypting these files, and placing a copy securely online. Services like Carbonite and Backblaze are fine for this. Having a copy online is nice if your home or bank are ever destroyed in a disaster (assuming the online data storage facility is in a different part of the country), so you can at least report to an insurance company what was lost and be able to see what items you’ll need to replace.

Thank you, Dawn, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. I hope my response was able to help you. Check the comments for more suggestions.

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: Color coordinated

This week’s Workspace of the Week is Kimba714’s happy office:

Kimba714 used a little spray paint on the shelf brackets, colorful organizing supplies, pastel wall paint, and a handful of decorative items to create a bright and cheerful small home office. In this photograph, there doesn’t appear to be a computer (unless what I think is a desk blotter is actually a closed, thin laptop), however one could easily be set up between the two candlesticks. Switching out the knobs on the desk drawers was also a nice design touch. With an office this inviting, it would be easy to be productive when taking care of the business of the home. Thank you, Kimba714, for submitting your joyful workspace to our Flickr pool.

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.

And the final winner in our Kindle Wireless Reading Device giveaway is…

Thank you to EVERYONE (all 11,095 of you!) who are now following @Unclutterer on Twitter and who participated in our Kindle giveaway. Now, let’s get on to the good stuff …

At 10:00 a.m. EDT, the random number generator picked the following number:


Which means, the winner of today’s Kindle Wireless Reading Device is:


I have direct messaged the winner of the Kindle and she has 24 hours to respond.

Again, thanks to everyone for participating in our giveaways and congratulations to @wickedphysics on winning the second Kindle. I hope the device helps to alleviate bookshelf clutter in your home.

Specialized saving accounts

Last winter, when one of our cats was diagnosed with a rare cancer, my husband and I took the cat to a renowned pet oncologist. Some of our friends, the pet lovers in our group, said they would have done the same thing to help a member of their family. Other friends, mostly people who don’t have pets, called us fools for considering the thousands of dollars in cancer treatments the oncologist might have recommended.

We ended up not having to make a treatment decision because the cancer was untreatable, and Basie cat passed away a few days later.

A couple weeks after that, my husband and I sat down and talked about setting up a medical saving account for our cat Charlie and any future pets we might adopt. We put $500 into savings and have been depositing $20 per month ($10 each) into the account since that time. Commercial pet insurance can be more expensive than what we’re doing, and, like traditional health insurance for people, it doesn’t cover all medical procedures and treatments. And, if we never need the insurance, we wouldn’t get the money we paid the pet insurance company back or with interest or be able to apply the premiums to another pet.

Simply, we created the specialized saving account for our pet because we never want to be in a position again where money has to be strongly considered along with treatment options.

After making this decision to create a medical saving account for our pet, we started to realize how this way of budgeting could help alleviate stress associated with other areas of our finances. We immediately created a specialized saving account for our automobile — $20 a month now goes into an account to cover service needs for our aging car. We also made a window replacement fund since we have a house mostly made of glass and a toddler with an amazingly strong throwing arm.

How to create a specialized saving account: When you acquire a new responsibility, you deposit an eighth or a quarter of your saving goal into a dedicated saving account as the account’s start-up fund (or a multi-use account that you keep records for what money in the account is for what purpose). Once the saving account is open and initially funded, you set up an automatic transfer through your bank to put $10 or $20 (or whatever amount you choose) into the new saving account from your checking account every month. This automatic deposit removes the temptation to spend the money on something else.

These specialized saving accounts reduce your stress, allow you to cover large expenses when they arise, and help you to live with an uncluttered budget (a budget where you spend less than you earn). Do you have specialized saving accounts? Would setting one up help you to prepare for an emergency expense? What reasons do you have to create a specialized saving account?

Unitasker Wednesday: Boil Buoy

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

Quirky is a website that features products when they’re barely more than an idea in an inventor’s mind, puts the products up for pre-sale, and then only manufactures the products that more than a set number of people commit to purchasing. In my opinion, it’s a great way to weed out unitaskers, because if the masses don’t believe the idea is helpful, the product is never manufactured.

Take for instance the Boil Buoy:

This idea is not doing very well on Quirky right now. Only 464 of a needed 2,000 people have committed to buying a plastic device that notifies them when their water is boiling. My friend who is blind said that water makes distinct sounds when it boils, so even she doesn’t have a deep need for this doodad. Apparently, the masses know it’s cheaper to look into a pot of boiling water to tell if it is boiling than buy a Boil Buoy to do the same thing.

If you’re looking for a fun diversion, check out more unitaskers, and some useful items, too, on Quirky.

A year ago on Unclutterer


  • Cooking and freezing: Ideas for getting past mealtime stress
    Since our son surprisingly joined our family two months ago, my husband and I have had weird eating routines. Gone were the days of sitting down and eating a well-balanced meal at the table, and in were sandwiches gobbled over the sink in a groggy, sleep-deprived daze. I don’t like hastily prepared meals that lack major nutritional food groups, so I called my mom and asked her to help me get things back on track.
  • Excerpt: Participating in Meetings
    You might not realize it, but meeting attendees have some control over how quickly a meeting runs and they certainly impact the quality of the discussion.



BADA table is more than meets the eye

We’ve always been a fan of coffee tables that convert into full-sized dining tables. They’re a good solution for people who live in small apartments, but still want to be able to have friends over for dinner parties. The BADA table from EcoSystems takes the idea of the transforming dining table even further. It works as a desk, dining table, and loveseat.

If you’ve seen any great furniture that multitasks, please share it in the comments.

And the first winner in our Kindle Wireless Reading Device giveaway is…

Thank you to EVERYONE (all 10,738 of you!) who are now following @Unclutterer on Twitter and who are participating in our Kindle giveaway. Now, let’s get on to the good stuff …

At 10:00 a.m. EDT, the random number generator picked the following number:


Which means, the winner of today’s Kindle Wireless Reading Device is:


I have direct messaged the winner of the Kindle and she has 24 hours to respond.

Remember, there is one more giveaway this Thursday, October 28, so you can still sign up to follow @Unclutterer on Twitter. Congratulations, again, to @austinmomof7.

Is this the first you’ve heard of the giveaway? Learn more.

A place for everything, and everything in its place

Without getting up from your chair, do you know exactly where:

  • your keys are?
  • your 2009 tax documents are?
  • your car’s registration is? (If you own a car.)
  • your winter gloves are?
  • your social security card is?
  • your flashlight is?
  • your phone charger is?

How did you do? Were you able to answer at least five of the questions exactly? All seven? One?

Except for your keys and maybe your phone charger, you’re probably okay with not knowing exactly where the other items on this list are currently located. However, wouldn’t it be nice to not have to waste time hunting for these items the next time you need them?

What do you need to do to find a place for all your possessions and have everything in its place? Do you need to file your important papers? Switch out your winter and summer clothes? Set up a reception station in your home with a place to store your keys each evening and charge your phone? Clean out your bedside table and make a storage place for a flashlight?

If you know where all seven items on the list are located, is there anything in your home that doesn’t have a permanent home that should? What items are constantly out of place in your home and might need a new permanent place to live?

On the Forums: How much clothing, minimal kitchens, and Hoarders

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