Workspace of the Week: Purrrrfect setup

This week’s Workspace of the Week is LauraCone’s workspace at home:

This is one of the most adorable little offices I have ever seen. First of all, the artwork makes me smile immensely. The addition of what appears to be the cat’s paw print in plaster hanging below the kitty painting made me even more happy. A key to productivity is having a positive work environment, and this definitely exists here. Looking at these fun pieces while I worked would be so much fun. Second, I like the picture frame on the left that has cork board in it. This is such a stylish way to keep from sticking notes to your monitor or have them strewn about the desk. Finally, I like the narrowness of the desk (which can be better viewed in the adjacent image), which perfectly fits the needs and the space of its user. Thank you, LauraCone, for your wonderful submission 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.

If your home were burning …

California-based professional organizer Jeri Dansky tipped us off to the fantastic website The Burning House. From the website’s “About Us” section:

If your house was burning, what would you take with you? It’s a conflict between what’s practical, valuable and sentimental. What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities. Think of it as an interview condensed into one question.

Participants then take a picture of what items they would gather together from their homes and explain the contents with a brief description. From reading the site, I’ve discovered the items also say a lot about a person’s relationship with his or her stuff. After thinking about the question for a few hours, I was surprised by how short my list was:

Assuming my husband was able to make it out on his own, these are the only things I would try to take with me:

  • My son (not pictured, but represented by his favorite stuffed animal)
  • My purse, containing phone, wallet, and keys, and
  • My cat, Charlie (who refused to pose for the camera)

All my cherished photographs and letters have been digitally scanned and backed up online, my computer is also regularly backed up so I wouldn’t lose my writing or research if I didn’t take it with me, my entire music collection is on my phone, I can treat my coffee addiction with a latte from Starbucks, and all the rest of the stuff in the house can be replaced. Sure, I’d miss a few things and be sad about losing the stuff that went up in flames, but I’d survive.

What would you take with you if your home were burning? More importantly, what have you done to protect these items so you actually could save them in a disaster situation? Share your list and strategies in the comments.

Unitasker Wednesday: Corn Kerneler

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

Grilled corn on the cob is one of my favorite side dishes. Slathered in butter, I could eat it at least once a day for an entire summer. I don’t always feel like eating it off the cob, so sometimes I pull out a knife and cut the kernels off the cob and onto my plate.

A knife works incredibly well for this task, but I can see why someone might want to use a corn stripper instead. Corn strippers are a little safer and you can hold the ear of corn instead of trying to balance it on a plate. I wouldn’t own one, but I can see how someone might have use for it.

What I don’t understand, though, is the Corn Kerneler:

With the Corn Kerneler, your ear of corn has to be exactly the same size as the opening in the middle of the doughnut. If your ear of corn is too big or too small, the blade doesn’t work because the opening isn’t adjustable. So, unless you take the Corn Kerneler with you to the grocery store when buying corn, it’s unlikely it’s going to work with every ear of corn you purchase. You’ll have to end up using a knife or a corn stripper on some of the ears, anyway.

Additionally, it looks like a pain to clean. I’m sticking with my knife, which I already own and which works with large and small ears of corn.

Clutter isn’t always in the eye of the beholder

Once photographs are in frames, do you ever change the image? Do you get rid of frames when they no longer match your decor? Or, once a picture makes it into a frame, does it remain there — even if you don’t really like the picture or the frame any longer?

During the holiday season, when friends send you images of their kids in cards and letters, what do you do with the pictures? Do you scan them and shred the original? Do you just shred them? Or, do you save the pictures on your refrigerator for years in a messy collage of tiny, forgotten faces?

Have you recently evaluated the artwork on the walls of your home and office? Does the artwork inspire you? Does it make you smile or challenge you or create within you a sense of awe? Or, are you indifferent about it and it is simply there so you have something to hang in that space?

What is the wallpaper image on your computer’s desktop or your cell phone? Are these images ones you love?

It is easy to become numb to the images we see every day, especially when those images are ones we don’t love, cherish, or appreciate. It’s also very simple for these items to become part of the invisible clutter in our homes and offices because they usually don’t take up floor space — we don’t trip over the things hanging on our walls.

Is the artwork in your home and office clutter, or is it something you truly value?

Strategies for staying motivated while uncluttering and organizing

We finally moved all of our large furniture that had been in our our old home for staging into our new home. We reached the point where living out of boxes and feeling like temporary residents in our new home had become tiresome and frustrating, so we called in movers and got the job done.

Although the stuff came in on Saturday, we still aren’t finished unpacking all the boxes. In fact, our living room looks more cluttered now than it did last week when boxes lined the walls. As is often the case with projects like moving and uncluttering, things can be incredibly messy while doing the work.

We’re trying our hardest to keep our attention focused on how wonderful everything will look and feel when it’s put away in its proper storage space. But, I have to admit, our motivation has been waning. It feels like we need as much enthusiasm to tackle the last quarter of work as it did for the previous three-quarters.

To stay focused, we’ve become each other’s biggest cheerleaders. There have been a lot of “good jobs” and “great work” comments exchanged over the past couple days. But, we’ve acknowledged that the time might come when we need to use more rigorous techniques to keep us on task. These are the motivation strategies we may have to use as the week continues:

  • Turn off the power. If checking email, watching television, playing a computer game, or talking on the phone can keep you from doing work, power down these devices before getting started uncluttering or organizing. Based on your level of temptation you may need to unplug the device from the wall, flip a switch on the circuit breaker, or simply hit the power button. You know yourself best, so do what you need to do.
  • Hide temptations. In college, my friend Clark would appear at my door a week before finals were to begin with a box full of distractions. Inside the box would be video games, books he had been reading, his gym pass, and other items he could use to procrastinate. I’m pretty sure one year he also gave me his vacuum. You might not need to physically remove temptations from your home, but boxing them up and putting them in your basement, garage, or someplace out of the way might be a good idea for you.
  • Have an accountability partner. Ask a friend to come over to help keep you on task. This friend doesn’t need to lift a finger, this friend only needs to sit and keep you company while you work. I don’t know how it helps, but it does. Return the favor when your friend needs an accountability partner to help stay on task.
  • Invite guests over to your home. Scheduling a time when people will come into your home can be a strong motivator to get the work finished by a specific date and time.

There are hundreds of ways to stay motivated while you unclutter and organize. These are just the techniques we have on deck. What methods work for you? Share your strategies in the comments.

Ask Unclutterer: Concert tickets

Reader Ali submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

For the last few years I’ve been saving tickets from concerts, plays, festivals and other performances that I’ve been to — I had no real objective in mind when I started, it just became a habit after a while. Now I’ve got a pile of the things and I’d like to figure out some way to display them, instead of just having them rubber-banded together in a drawer. I thought of getting a frame from IKEA and arranging them in there, but it seems so plain, and since they all look fairly the same I think it might just look boring to have them all lined up. Do you have any suggestions for a novel way to do something more interesting with them?

I like your idea of framing and displaying the tickets, but agree that numerous tickets, side-by-side in a plain frame might not be visually interesting. Do you have photographs from the events you could frame along with the tickets? Do you have CD liner notes that correspond to the songs played on the concert tours that might be interesting to include? Pictures with the casts of plays? Giving the tickets some additional context might improve their visual interest.

If you are okay paying a little more than what you would for a ready-made Ikea frame, you could head to a frame shop and have squares cut in a mat for each ticket you want to highlight. The mat would help feature each ticket. Also, you can buy more than one frame and organize the tickets by venue, decade, or genre.

My sister-in-law uses a ticket album for all of her ticket stubs. There are also ticket diaries and ticket stub organizers, if you are looking for more styles. A ticket album, diary, or organizer is a less prominent way to keep your tickets, but will protect your tickets and keep them in one location.

I’ll also offer up my method for storing tickets — I simply photograph the ticket with my digital camera, save the image to a file on my computer, and then throw out the physical ticket. I’m sentimental about a lot of things, but surprisingly tickets aren’t something I feel the desire to keep. If you’re not very attached to the tickets, consider the photographing and tossing method.

Thank you, Ali, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. Please check the comments for more ideas from our readers. Also, our apologies for the weird posting date on this Ask Unclutterer feature. There was a small glitch on Friday and so I decided to run your question today. There will be another Ask Unclutterer column this coming Friday.

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.

A year ago on Unclutterer

2010

  • Parting with sentimental clutter
    We all struggle with sentimental clutter, not just hoarders, and the authors of the book Stuff explain why on page 45: “We can’t help but imagine that some essence of the person or the event symbolized by the objects will magically rub off and become part of us.”
  • Unitasker Wednesday: Tu-Go Travel Coffee Cup Holder
    A decade ago, I might have looked at the Tu-Go Travel Coffee Cup Holder and not considered it for our weekly unitasker feature. But now, thanks to security measures at the airport, I can’t even imagine when a person would have the opportunity to use this.
  • Weigh in: How do you store the tiniest toys in your child’s playroom
    Reader Stephanie is in the process of making over her children’s playroom and wrote to me asking for some organizing help. She is specifically having problems finding ways to store those small, easily misplaced, choke-able pieces of games and toys. She has tried using zip-top bags with very little success and wants a more visually pleasing solution.
  • Ask Unclutterer: Regular car maintenance
    Do you have any tips to keep track of upkeep for your vehicle, such as when to have tires rotated, etc.?

2009

  • Hinge hooks
    Recently, I learned about these simple hooks that fit over the pins of door hinges. You pull out your hinge’s pins, slip the hook onto the hinge, and then slide the hinge pin back into place.
  • Tipke Marine Fold-It Utility Cart
    A folding wheelbarrow can save space in the garage or shed.
  • Be organized with a Butler Bag
    The Butler Bag makes purse organizing a breeze.

2008

Workspace of the Week: Duo designed

This week’s Workspace of the Week is Simplicity Bliss’ double desks:

There are a number of wonderful items about this workspace. I really like the curtain that separates the office from the rest of the room. This definition of space doesn’t hide the office, but rather acknowledge that work happens behind it and not necessarily in the entire rest of the room. The cable bundling system, which you can see better in this image, is beautifully done along the baseboards. And, I really like the shelves that face his book’s outward so their covers can provide inspiration (something spines of books aren’t so great at doing). Thank you, Simplicity Bliss, for sharing your workspace with us.

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.

Big living in a small space

We continue to be fascinated with people who live big in incredibly small spaces. Thanks to reader Leah, we now know about Christian Schallert in Barcelona, Spain, who has fashioned a beautiful home in a mere 258 square feet.

Check out “Lego-style apartment transforms into infinite spaces” to see the adorable Schallert and his “Lego” home in action:

Personally, I love the shower storage areas as well as the bed being stored under the balcony. I never would have thought to use such non-traditional storage solutions. I also enjoyed in the video when he admitted his tiny space forces him “not to be chaotic” and every time he comes home “it’s nice and organized.”

Unitasker Wednesday: Belly Button Brush

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 love that Unclutterer has readers outside the U.S. In fact, if it weren’t for lovely British reader Linda we would never know about this week’s bizarre unitasker. Introducing the Belly Button Brush for all your belly button brushing needs:

(Just a small warning that the images displaying on Amazon.UK in the “Customers Who Bought this Item also Bought” section may not be safe for work or for children.)

From the product description:

The ultimate status symbol, which carries almost as much kudos as a brand new Porsche!

Really? The Belly Button Brush carries as much “kudos” as a Porsche? I’m calling shenanigans!

Thanks again, Linda, for sharing this fun unitasker with us.

Organizing regular processes

No matter if you’re paying bills at home or working on a proposal at the office, having a fairly standardized method for completing your tasks can be beneficial in numerous ways. It’s easier to keep track of where you are in the process, it reduces your likelihood of leaving out an important step, and you’ll work more efficiently each time you go through the process if you’re orderly with your work.

Even if the tasks you’re completing are ones you have done many times, it can be beneficial to pause before you do them and list out exactly what you need to do. This list can take place in your mind or you can physically write or type it out, based on the complexity of the work.

After creating your list, analyze it to see if you may be able to improve your speed and efficiency if you take on the tasks in a more organized fashion. For example, running errands might be something you do every day on your way home from work. Simply by identifying these regular stops, you may find you can group the trips to one part of town on Tuesdays and the other part of town on Saturdays to decrease the total time you spend running errands (and your mileage).

It usually takes a few times working through a new process to know if it is going to be good for you. It took me close to a year to refine my writing workflow so that the process helped instead of hindered me. After months of trying different methods, I found that I desperately needed a “Temporary” folder on my computer to save all of my work to over the course of a day. At the end of each work day, I open up the Temporary folder and delete or properly save the files to their permanent locations with appropriate file names. If I don’t use this method, I end up with files in the wrong folders, files with weird names, and I save things that should just be deleted. Reviewing contents of the Temporary folder is an additional step, but one I needed to make my writing more efficient.

Take a few minutes to review your regular processes to make sure you are being efficient with your work. Write out these steps in checklist form, if necessary. Then, use your new organized processes to save you time and energy.

Societal pressure to ‘keep house’

People assume that because I’m the editor of Unclutterer.com that my home is perfectly organized and clutter free. I’ll admit that my home is usually in better shape than the standard American dwelling, but currently it isn’t that way. In fact, since we moved, imperfect or chaotic would be the best words to describe our status. (A good portion of our furniture is still in the old house for staging, especially many of our large storage pieces.)

I’ve been referring to our cardboard box-riddled home as “living in transition.” It’s hard not to feel like a temporary resident in your own home when boxes line the walls of many rooms. The few friends who have seen our place since we moved think it’s “fun,” “quaint,” and “human” to see our house in disarray. Honestly, I’m glad someone is amused by the disorder because the novelty of living out of boxes (if there ever was any novelty for me) has certainly worn thin.

I understand the expectations others have for my home to be well organized, and I have these same expectations for myself. I believe it would be insincere if I didn’t practice what I preach. However, I’m surprised by societal standards for every American home to meet these same benchmarks.

Wait, I need to rephrase. I’m surprised by societal standards for every American home where a woman lives to meet these same benchmarks.

I think there is a standard for all homes to be filth free and environmentally safe. But, there is a greater assumption that all homes with a woman present will also be orderly, free of clutter, and ready to host a dinner party on a moment’s notice. I’m not claiming it’s bad or good or that I agree with it, I’m just stating that our society has a double standard for housekeeping (and office-keeping, to some extent).

Back when I was single and a pack rat, extended family members would often say things to me like: “You’ll never get a man if you don’t learn to keep house.” This statement is offensive on many levels, but I think it speaks to the heart of the double standard. Society expects a woman’s home to be pristine, while it’s okay for a man’s home to be cluttered and disorganized.

Consider the phrases most associated with male housekeeping: “His home lacks a woman’s touch,” “Boys will be boys,” and “Bachelor pad.” None of these phrases implies magazine-cover standards of order. If a man’s home is messy, Americans tend to give him a free pass. If a woman’s home is messy, there is a much greater likelihood that people will gossip about it or make a snide comment to her like people often did with me during my clutter days.

Again, I’m not advocating either of these standards. I’ve simply noticed that American society applies different pressures on genders when it comes to keeping house.

Personally, unless a home is filthy or is a danger to the person who lives there or a burden to others, I don’t care about the clutter. I just hope the person is happy and the clutter doesn’t interfere with her ability to pursue the life she desires or anyone else’s. Not only do I think gender is irrelevant to this topic, I believe we need to stop cluttering up our thoughts and time by concerning ourselves with how other people have chosen to live. If someone chooses to be an unclutterer, I think that is an amazing decision. However, I don’t think everyone should or needs to be an unclutterer to pursue a remarkable life.

Do you believe there is a double standard in American society about keeping house? What do you think of it? I’m interested to read the discussion in the comments.