Unitasker Wednesday: Pizza Saver plastic bags

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

This week’s unitasker is the Pizza Saver plastic bag:

As far as I can tell, this may be the perfect unitasker.

It has a picture of a slice of pizza on the front of it, so you likely wouldn’t use it for other triangle-shaped food objects. You can’t reheat your slice of pizza in it in the oven the way you can aluminum foil or a glass food storage container. You can’t see your slice of pizza underneath the illustration the way you can with a clear zip-top bag or piece of plastic wrap or reusable food storage container. Since it is made of a thin plastic, you likely can’t reuse it more than a couple times before it tears and you have to throw it away. It offers no advantage over other food storage options for someone with disabilities. If you don’t make pizza at home and you want to use it for pizza from a restaurant, you would have to have the foresight to carry it with you. And, at $5 for 12 bags, I can’t imagine these being cost effective for a pizzeria to use as doggie bags for guests — especially since it says “Mama Fresco’s” on every bag and not the branding of the pizzeria.

Behold, superior unitasker greatness!

Thanks to reader Mrs. Thor for this unitasker submission.

Ready, set, work!

Three easy tips to help your productivity at work each morning:

  1. Prepare everything on your desk before you leave work the previous night so your desk is ready for your work first thing the next morning. Have all the materials you need set and ready to go.
  2. Avoid the break room. This might mean you need to bring your coffee with you in a thermos, but sitting down and getting started working right away will set the whole tone for the day. You can be collegial at lunch or in the afternoon when your energy levels are naturally waning.
  3. Have a clear plan for the day. The clearer your action items and schedule, the easier it is to successfully manage your day. Even if your day doesn’t go exactly as planned, you’ll still get more done than not having any direction at all.

I also do something a little silly each morning that I find helps to get me motivated for the work day. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and say to myself, “Ready, set, go!” Again, it’s totally silly, but it motivates me.

Mail sorting solutions

Mail has been a huge problem for us since we moved. One of the reasons we have a problem is because part of our system for processing mail is in one house, and the other part is in the new house. For a month and a half, I have found mail on the kitchen table, the kitchen counter, my desk chair, on top of the washing machine, and in the car (and, as much as I would like to blame my husband for this, I’m primarily the one responsible). It’s amazing how when there isn’t a set system for processing mail, it ends up everywhere except for where it is supposed to be deposited.

The other component to our problem is that we don’t have a good place to hide our paper shredder, recycling bin, and trash can in the new place (the tools we use to get rid of junk mail). The foyer doesn’t have wall space, so hiding these items by the front door is impossible. All the mail, including junk mail, has to come inside the house. This bothers me. And, instead of looking for a solution, I’ve been ignoring the problem hoping it will magically go away.

Obviously, the problem won’t magically go away.

The first goal was to put a sorting system in place so the mail has a place to go immediately upon entering the house. I had a sample of Peter Walsh’s “Inspired Message Board” system that is part of his You.Organized line for OfficeMax. Peter (or likely his publicist) gave it to me when the line was released, and I had been using the calendar in the other house but not the mail sorting components. Adding in some of the components, I created this to hang on a wall near the entrance to the office:

The second solution is to get a closed storage bin to hide the shredder, recycling bin, and trash can in the office. The bench will live immediately below the mail sorting system. Our current shredder is 18″ tall, so we need a storage bench capable of accommodating it. I’m thinking this is what we’ll use:

The toy chest is the right height and has a thin panel in the back that will be easy to drill through to make a place for the shredder’s power cord. The bench will also work well with a child safety latch, to prevent our toddler and cat from having an accident with the shredder. I don’t love this bench, but I have yet to find something I like more. I’ve made a deal with myself that if I don’t find an alternative by the week’s end, I’ll order the toy chest.

Having a set sorting and processing station will keep junk mail from over-running the house and will make sure everyone in the house finds his mail when he needs it. I’m ready to have mail in just one location and not strewn about the house and car.

What physical system do you have in place to sort mail in your home? Share your solutions in the comments.

Systems for straightening up your home

I am easily distracted, so I have to use little tricks to keep me on task when doing my 30 minutes of picking up around the house each day. If I’m straightening up a room, I’ll close the door to the room so I don’t wander off into another part of the house. If the room doesn’t have a door, I’ll set something in front of the entrance — like a trash can or a chair — as a visual cue to stay in the room until I’m finished with my work.

I also usually have a laundry basket with me where I put things that don’t belong in the room. Then, after I’m finished straightening a room, I’ll walk through the house and put the things in the basket back to their proper storage spaces.

This past weekend, I decided to embrace my distracted self and try a new method for picking up stray items around the house. I named it my “Wherever I may go” system.

I started in the bedroom and worked in there until I found one of my son’s socks under the bed. I took the sock and carried it to the laundry room. Once in the laundry room I noticed the trash needed to be emptied, so I took the laundry room bag of trash outside to the big trash can. When I came back inside, I washed my hands in the guest bathroom and noticed the toilet paper supply was getting low. I retrieved extra rolls of toilet paper from the linen closet and put them in the toilet paper holder in the bathroom. Then, I went back to the linen closet and took a quick supply inventory to evaluate if I need to buy soap or paper towels or any similar items the next time I’m at the grocery store.

I bounced from room-to-room all morning, tending to whatever caught my attention. I’ll admit that the “Wherever I may go” system took significantly longer than my usual method, but it was nice to switch things up a little and see how another style might work for me.

When straightening up around your home, what is your plan of attack? Do you go room-by-room, or are you more of a “Wherever I may go” type? If you go room-by-room, do you work in the same order of rooms each time? Do you work in the same way around each room? (I do. I move clockwise from the door, focusing from the ceiling to the floor, and then tend to the middle of the room last.) What method do you use every day for picking up around your home?

A year ago on Unclutterer

2010

2009

  • The deep drawer problem
    The deep drawer is a depository for just about every tool in the kitchen. It contains everything from a whisk to a rolling pin.

2008

Ask Unclutterer: Can a tchochke-free home be warm and inviting?

Reader Helen submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

In the process of getting rid of dust collectors around the house, I find that it can start to somewhat lack personality. I don’t really like having photos around and quite like having bare walls – I could quite easily become a minimalist. I have a couple of prints but these do look rather mass-produced. I’d love some suggestions for adding warmth and humanity to my home without adding clutterful tchochkes.

I’ve been in some minimalist homes that feel warm and inviting, so I’ve never been convinced that tchochkes are a requirement for comfort. Furniture size and materials play a larger role in creating an inviting environment than ceramic kittens.

As long as your furniture is appropriately scaled for the room, or slightly over-sized, you usually won’t feel like a space is bare or cold. If your furniture is right for the room but you still feel that the space is uninviting, a floor covering might be a better alternative for you than hanging artwork on the wall. A textured carpet could be all you need to warm up the space.

Personally, I’m against the idea of having tchochkes for the sake of having tchochkes. If you have a gewgaw or a decoration in your home, it should be because you love it and find it inspiring or entertaining or treasure it deeply. Your home is your refuge from the outside world, and everything in it should be there because you have consciously chosen it to be a part of your sanctuary.

Also, consider playing with paint color on your walls. A white with a hint of gray in it can feel clean but a little warmer than a bright white. Different shades of white in squares painted directly on a bright white background wall could be interesting, like Kazimir Malevich’s famous suprematist painting. Or, paint one wall in a room an intense, non-white color and keep the other walls white in sharp contrast. In our previous home, we had the walls painted like a Mondrian painting. Most walls were white, but if there was a small wall, we painted it in a primary color.

I hope I was of some help, Helen. Please check the comments for even more suggestions from our readers. Thank you 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: Stunning studio

This week’s Workspace of the Week is Little Luck Tree’s breathtaking creative workspace:

Not only is this space well organized, but it’s inspirational. I can imagine creating truly beautiful things in this office. There is dedicated space for storage, designing, painting, and sewing — and all of it is done in a way to encourage items be returned when they’re finished. You can read a full description on Little Luck Tree’s website. Thank you for your beautiful 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.

Staying organized during an office move

In some ways, moving offices is more stressful than moving a home. Personal appointments can be scheduled around a home move, but work demands continue regardless of an office move. Some things need to be unpacked right away during a home move (toilet paper, bed sheets), but for the most part you can take a few days, weeks, or months to put your belongings in their new locations. With an office move, it all needs to be put away instantly or you could suffer negative repercussions, like losing productivity, clients, income, or even your job.

I’ve learned a great deal during this recent move about what works — and, more importantly, what doesn’t work — when moving offices. If you’re gearing up for an office move, the following tips can help you to stay organized and avoid a good amount of chaos:

  1. Before unpacking a single box, make sure your office furniture is in its best place for your work. If you’re in a cubical, this decision has usually been made for you. If you’re lucky enough to have furniture you can move around the room, adjust it to accommodate your needs. You’ll want a location for your desk that will avoid glare on your computer screen, allow for a quick and unobstructed exit in case of emergency, will make it easy to plug in your computer and peripherals, and best suits your ergonomic needs.
  2. Once your horizontal surfaces are in place, grab your computer keyboard and a chair and establish the best location for these two objects. You want to be able to work so that typing at your keyboard every day won’t create any pains in your neck, arms, or back. Most people also need a good amount of empty work surface to spread out with projects during work hours. Make sure your keyboard will be in a location to work with these needs, too.
  3. Set up all of your technical equipment — computer, monitor, keyboard, printer, telephone, back-up drives, scanner, speaker system, headset, etc. Put the devices you access multiple times a day in the most convenient locations and those pieces of equipment you access the least often further out of your reach. Remember to leave yourself open work surfaces as necessary.
  4. Manage your cables. If you didn’t do so before your move, label the device plug with the device name (a silver permanent marker or label maker work great for this) so you’ll never wonder what cable belongs to what device when you’re crouched under your desk. Group and shorten cables with velcro cable ties or turtles or whatever works best for you. As best as you can, keep your cables from becoming a mess of a nest.
  5. At this point, locate any work associated with your current projects and set it in your open work surface area. You’ll want this at your fingertips if needed.
  6. Continue on to setting up your desk drawers. Again, put most accessed items in the most convenient locations.
  7. Set up the very few desk supplies that will take up space on your work surface. I only keep a pen cup and a pad of sticky notes next to my phone, and a well-labeled inbox on my desk so co-workers will know where to put items for me when they come into my office. You may also want a tickler file/to-do list, a reference book or two, and a to-be filed bin on your work surface if they fit your work needs.
  8. Books, binders, and archived files are usually the last items that can be put away in your new office. When you pack these items before the move, keep like objects together and label each box so you know exactly what items are included — labels like “Archived files A-N” or “Conference binders 2009-2011” will be more meaningful to you than “Files” or “Binders.”

Similar to a home move, unclutter as much as possible on both the packing and unpacking side of the move. You may also benefit from unpacking your office outside of regular business hours. You may not get paid for this time, but you will be rewarded for it in other ways during the work week — mostly with your sanity. Also, be prepared to be responsible for your most sensitive and current projects during the move. Many employers do not wish for these items to be moved by professional movers for security reasons.

What method do you use for unpacking your office during a move? Share your experiences in the comments.

Unitasker Wednesday: Light Up Toilet Seat

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

Whenever I’m cleaning the toilet in my house, I think to myself, “This toilet really could use something to brighten it up.”

I’m sure you think the exact same thing about your toilet. Toilet darkness is a major concern for most people. And, I think we all know that bleach will never be able to brighten our toilets the way we need them to be illuminated.

Well, our days of having toilets that loom in the shadows are gone. We can now install a Light Up Toilet Seat:

For all your lighted toilet seat needs (of which I can’t think of any), the Light Up Toilet Seat is there for you.

Thanks go to reader C. for finding this unitasker and sharing it with us.

A moment of reflection: Four years and 500,000 words

In March, I passed my four-year anniversary writing for Unclutterer. During this time, I have written more than 1,650 articles for the site on the topics of simple living, home and office organizing, and uncluttering (our tech team says I’m just shy of 500,000 words in my posts). Add to that the twice weekly column I’ve been writing for RealSimple.com for three years, guest posts on other sites, magazine articles, and my book, I’ve published somewhere around three-quarters-of-a-million words in this specific genre.

To put this in perspective, in four years I have written about as many words on being an unclutterer as there are in the King James translation of the Bible. It’s roughly the number of distinct senses of all the words in the Oxford English Dictionary. And, Shelby Foote’s The Civil War series is roughly 1.5 million words, so I’m somewhere between his descriptions of the battles at Fredericksburg and Meridian.

My hope is that somewhere in that mound of advice you have been able to find a piece of information that has helped you on your uncluttering journey. If you have searched for resources, support, ideas, or solutions, I hope you have discovered a new perspective or answer for your problem.

As I mention every Friday, please feel welcome to send us your questions so we can help you directly in our Ask Unclutterer column. 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.”

It is a joy to be able to write about simple living every day and to have such amazing readers. The Unclutterer community is truly wonderful and supportive, and I love working for you. Thank you so much for a terrific four years, and I’m excited about reaching the five year mark and 2,000 posts by next March!