Unitasker Wednesday: Wick Trimmer and Waxi Taxi

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 like candles, especially the ones that smell nice. My favorite is Votivo’s prairie sage scented candle. My friend Susan bought me one about 12 years ago and it has been my favorite ever since (I think I’m on my ninth one, I’m a creature of habit).

Maintaining candles is super easy. You light them, let them burn, blow them out, let them cool, and then put them into storage until the next time you want to use them. It’s the way people have been using candles since someone came up with the idea of putting a wick into wax. There is nothing difficult about candles. Heck, even making candles is easy.

So when reader Rita emailed me a link to suggest this unitasker, I was a wee-bit confused as to why candles should be made more difficult. See, in my experience, the wick burns when you light it on fire. It takes care of itself. There is no need for a Wick Trimmer because the flame will destroy the wick all on its own:

Sure, sometimes you might want to turn the candle over when it’s cool and dust off a few, stray charred wick remains, just to get them out of the way. I guess if you really didn’t like the look of any charred wick bits that are left behind you could cut them off with your multifunctional nail trimmers. But, if you’re like me, neither of these things are all that pressing of tasks since they’re only candles and eventually the wick bits will go away on their own.

My confusion over trying to make candles more difficult than they need to be doesn’t stop with the wick trimmer. While I was on the page for the wick trimmer, I noticed the “customers who bought this item also bought” section and came across another peculiar candle device. This one is the Waxi Taxi:

With this device, you can move votive candles around your home while they’re lit! Because carrying fire is REALLY smart. (No, it’s actually not smart. I was using sarcasm. How are there people who are unaware transporting lit candles is a bad idea?) Since long matches exist, there is never a need to light a candle before putting it somewhere. And, since it’s incredibly easy to blow out a candle and then move it, this one really takes the cake for pointlessness.

Who knew that candle accoutrements was a thing?! Think I’ll just stick with my method of not maintaining them with any special tools and enjoying them all the same.

A year ago on Unclutterer

2010

  • Uncluttered collecting
    Being an unclutterer doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t have collections — but it does mean taking an active role in ensuring your collection doesn’t become clutter.
  • Ask Unclutterer: I’m organized but my workplace isn’t
    I’ve heard about some companies doing a 2x a year “office clean-up” day — I don’t know if my office will go for it, but I’m interested in hearing if others have experience with this method.

2009

  • Unitasker Wednesday: Frozen Food Safety Monitor
    So, in addition to having rotten food, you also have a monitor to tell you that your food is rotten — how about that!
  • Do it now
    I try to hold true to the two-minute “Do it now” policy at work, and an extended five-minute “Do it now” policy at home.

Seven simple, useful gadgets for your home office

I’ve been working from home since 2009. The temptation to tweak or add to the gadgets in my office is enormous. I love gadgets to begin with, but give me a personal office to fill — one that’s in my home — and I can get carried away.

Recently I’ve made an effort to identify what I really need instead of what I think would be cool. The following is a list of gadgets that serve a utilitarian purpose beyond, “Oh man that’s so neat.” Each one actually makes my home office a more pleasant and productive place to be.

  1. The RadTech OmniStand. After a few months of using a laptop all day every day, I noticed that my shoulders and neck were quite sore at the end of the day. The laptop stand lets me get the computer’s screen up off the desk and just about at eye level. After a couple of weeks, the pain was gone. Sure, I had to buy an external keyboard and a mouse, but I’d rather do that then contract a repetitive stress injury.
  2. The Glif for iPhone. I love this little piece of rubber because it can be many things. It’s an iPhone stand with notch on the bottom that will fit into a standard tripod mount. It’s great for shooting photos and video, for talking on FaceTime, for being an alarm clock or a mobile photo frame. I use it to reference quick information while I’m at my desk. I can’t recommend them enough.
  3. Jawbone Jambox bluetooth speaker. Here’s another stellar device that takes up little space and works very well. Since it’s a bluetooth device, it connects to your smartphone wirelessly. It sounds great and looks good, too. I use it all the time.
  4. A Dropbox account. I don’t know why computers don’t just come with Dropbox installed. It makes online backup and sharing so very easy. Plus, it’s supported by almost any platform you can think of: The Mac, Windows, iOS and Android.
  5. An Inbox. Don’t scoff. At first I resisted buying one of these, as it seems like such a cubicle thing to own. But it’s so much better than a stack of papers, notes, and who-knows-what cluttering up my desk. Take your pick from Amazon or your local office supply store to find one you like.
  6. A decent filing system. Again, visit your favorite office supply store or look online. Many people have intricate filing systems. I do simple manila folders, labeled A-Z. Nothing fancy.
  7. A backup system. Your office machine is probably backed up by your company’s IT department. At home, you’re on your own. There are several options to choose from, like CrashPlan and Carbonite. Even if you don’t work at home, you likely have work-related information on your home computer (not to mention other irreplaceable files). Back it up!

I have more items in my office, of course, and you likely need other items depending on if you work at home and what kind of work you do. But these are the universal things — beyond my laptop and smartphone — I can’t work without. Pare down to what you need and avoid cluttered items like this that get in the way of the work you need to do.

Ask Unclutterer: A reader is finding it difficult to part with her children’s old stuff

Reader JJ submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

I badly need to clear out my loft as it’s full of a lot of my four children’s used things — such as clothes, books, toys, school books, mementos, etc. I try to part with it but am very sentimental about when they were younger and I find it so hard to let things go. Any ideas?

I understand the sentimental mindset, especially when it comes to my son. I have a lock of hair from his first haircut, the shoes he was wearing when he took his first steps, and his baby blanket. These sentimental treasures are just things — and if they were to be destroyed in a fire, all of our lives would continue — but I still want to keep them and that is okay.

It is okay because there is nothing wrong with keeping a few sentimental treasures from our lives and our children’s lives. Problems arise, though, when we start confusing sentimental treasures with sentimental clutter and try to keep everything.

Clutter is all the stuff that gets in the way of the life you would rather be living. And, from your note, it sounds like you are looking for ways to sort out the sentimental treasures from the sentimental clutter so you can have more room in your loft. Think of it this way — you can’t keep everything, so if you’re going to live happily and safely in your space you are going to have to let the clutter go.

The way I control sentimental items is to get two plastic storage tubs per person. The first is for baby stuff — baby book, baby blanket, first walking shoes, etc. The second is for ages 2 to 18. Items that are making their way into the second tub include favorite assignments, art projects, mementos from vacations, etc. The size of the tub or tubs will be determined by the amount of space you have in your loft to devote to this type of storage. My guess is you won’t be able to work with anything over 20 gallons total of storage per kid, if that.

The benefit of using the tubs/bins is that nothing can be kept that can’t fit in the tubs/bins. The size of the bin will force you to decide what items are actually treasures and can be kept and what items are clutter and should leave the loft. If there are one or two toys the kids want to keep to pass along to their kids, great! But, if it doesn’t fit in the box, it doesn’t get kept. With four kids, you may want to only have one tub/bin per child to save on space. And, based on the kids’ ages, they might be wonderful helpers at deciding what goes into the bins and what doesn’t. Remember, eventually, your kids will inherit their bins, so you might as well have them help decide what should go into them.

A few additional tips: Be sure to leave room in the 2 to 18 tub so you can be sure to fit all 17 years worth of stuff into it. Also, if you’re going to keep this stuff for the longterm, please store it appropriately using archival-quality materials. Having a different color of tub for each kid can also be a way to make organizing the items easier. The only exception to the tub rule would be if you want to hang a treasure on the wall and permanently display it in your home, which might be possible with one or two items. (A child’s art gallery: examples 1 and 2.) Follow the container rule and sentimental treasures shouldn’t take over the space.

Finally, anything in good condition that you and the kids decide not to keep can be donated to charity, especially clothes. Toys in really good condition can be given to charity, too, or sold at yard sales (or some equivalent). When you’re able to see that another child can benefit from using the item, it can help to take the sting out of parting with sentimental clutter.

Good luck!

Thank you, JJ, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. Please be sure to check the comments for even more suggestions from our readers.

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

2012

  • Unitasker Wednesday: Cork Presenter
    This is one of those unitaskers that makes me believe manufacturers think their customers are suckers, patsies, easy marks. In their eyes (especially manufacturers that target pregnant women and people who like to cook), we’ll buy any doodad and gizmo they tell us we need. Them: “You need this gadget that does the same thing as what you already own!” Us: “OF COURSE WE DO!!”

2011

2010

2009

Steps to unclutter Twitter

I love Twitter. It lets me stay in touch with friends and colleagues, replaces email and text chat in many situations, is a relaxing hangout and the end of the day, and is often a source of entertainment.

It can also be really annoying and a time waster.

Depending on whom you follow (or how many), the social media darling can introduce a lot of clutter into your digital life. Fortunately, you can take steps to make Twitter less annoying and more pleasant to use, and not be a total time suck.

  1. Use an app. Many people use Twitter via a web browser at Twitter.com. Since I’m often using a browser for other things, I dislike jumping back and forth to that window whenever I want to attend to Twitter. So, I use a stand-alone app, which can be hidden, recalled, quit, or ignored as I like, without forcing me to keep a browser tab open. There are so very many apps available, I can’t even begin to list them here. Safe to say, if you use a Mac, Windows, iOS, or Android, you’ll find one to your liking after doing a Google search and reading reviews.
  2. Mute and muffle. Depending on the app you use, you can choose to mute, muffle, or otherwise hide certain tweets from your timeline. You know those people who turn Twitter into a public chatroom with a hashtag like #AnnoyingChat? Mute that tag and you won’t see any of those tweets. You can also mute users (often temporarily), keywords and more. It’s a great way to de-clutter the stream.
  3. Hide the stream entirely. I’m required to do some tweeting at my day job but I don’t always want to see what everyone else is saying. Fortunately there’s Wren for Mac, which lets me publish tweets without seeing anything that anyone else is sharing. Sorry, Windows users. I searched high and low for an equivalent for you but failed.
  4. Pick a time of the day. Twitter is like potato chips: you can’t eat just one. If you tend to binge on the service, pick a time of day to use Twitter and stick to it. Set a timer and don’t let social media eat away at your productivity.
  5. Disable notifications. Many mobile apps will pop up a message when you receive a reply or a mention on Twitter. Others also alert you when one of your tweets has been marked as a favorite by another user. That’s nice to know, but unless you really need that information, consider killing those notifications.
  6. Use lists. Twitter introduced lists a while ago, and you really ought to use them. This feature lets you group users or messages by keyword, and see just the tweets that meet your criteria. This is a great idea if you need to use Twitter for work or just want to turn down the firehose of information a bit.
  7. Don’t go #nuts with #hashtags. Hashtags are those brief bits of text preceded by the pound sign #. They let users group similar tweets or follow a given topic. Some people abuse their hashtag power and go way overboard, though. Don’t be one of those people.

Related to the last, if you have a hashtag abuser among your followers and you use Tweetbot for Mac, check out these instructions from Brett Kelly on how to automatically hide any tweet with more than two hashtags.

My last bit of advice on de-cluttering Twitter is the most powerful: walk away from Twitter. Yes, it’s a lot of fun and often informative but honestly, unless you have a real dependence on that information (work, etc.), take some time off and walk away. It’ll be fine. I #promise.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’re already on Twitter, be sure to follow us at @unclutterer.

Unitasker Wednesday: Wax Vacuum

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

Like most people, I have a few memories in my brain I would like to erase. The memories I want to erase aren’t bad or tragic memories, but rather moments of extreme embarrassment. (Like that time I was working backstage at a Lenny Kravitz concert when Lenny came up and asked me a question. Instead of answering his question like a person whose actual job was to answer rock stars’ questions, I made some coughing sound, tried to say the word buffet, eventually screamed “I LIKE YOU!” and then ran away. Not scurried or drifted away from him, no. I ran at full-on racing speed away from him. I had met hundreds of rock stars at that point in my career, but Lenny was the first and only to turn me into a tongue-tied mega fan overwhelmed by his hotness. Not only do I want to erase that moment from my mind but also from Lenny’s, and, well, now from yours.)

However, there has not been a device to burrow into my brain to seek out unwanted memories and destroy them … that is, until now! Introducing The Wax Vacuum Ear Cleaner:

Oh, wait. Reading closer on this product description it doesn’t seem to be an embarrassing moment memory eraser, even though that is exactly what it looks like. (The woman’s face is so full of contentment, she must have had her memories erased, right?!) Well, it says it’s a vacuum to suck wax out of your ear. Really? Not a memory eraser. Huh.

My favorite part about The Wax Vacuum Ear Cleaner is that it’s not the one that was featured in a television infomercial (apparently, that would be The Wax Vac). This one is “Similar” to the one featured in a television infomercial. Which, let’s be honest with each other, somehow makes it awesomer. (And awesomer is a word I think we should all start using so it can make its way into a dictionary.)

There is no way this thing is safe or could possibly work. It has 71 single-star reviews and is quite possibly the worst reviewed item I have encountered on Amazon. And the positive reviews aren’t necessarily what I would call glowing: “I’ve received it in the mail.” Wow. Those reviews definitely sing with consumer confidence.

This week’s unitasker is a product that doesn’t do what it claims to do (suck wax out of your ears) and doesn’t do what I wish it did (erase embarrassing memories) and is only “Similar” to an As-Seen-on-TV product. Oh, Unitasker, you make me sad. A big thanks to reader Scott for introducing us to this mind numbing unitasker!

A year ago on Unclutterer

2010

2009

10 suggestions for where to begin uncluttering

If you’ve got a large uncluttering effort ahead of you, one of your questions may be “Where do I start?” There’s no one right answer, but the following are some ideas for where to begin your project.

  1. Start where you’ll save money. Are you renting a storage unit (or more than one)? Each unit you can let go of will save you money, and give you that immediate satisfaction of a completed project. You’ll also get a savings if you can move from a larger unit to a smaller one.
  2. Start with the attic, basement, or garage. Sometimes when you’re uncluttering a space like a bedroom or a kitchen, you’ll find things that don’t really need to be close at hand, and which could be stored without concern in one of these less accessible spots. But if the attic, basement and garage are already filled, there’s no room to store anything else in these spaces.
  3. Start with the place that bothers you the most. Is there a cluttered place you see every day, and every day it drives you crazy? You may want to start there. You’ll gain momentum for other projects without this big frustration looming over you.
  4. Start with the quick wins. Do you have things you can unclutter relatively easily, such as old baby clothes when your last child has outgrown them? You might want to start there and see immediate progress, before tackling areas that will be harder for you.
  5. Start with your own stuff. If you’re living with other family members or roommates who are skeptical about uncluttering, you may want to start with the things that are purely your own. Lead by example.
  6. Start with areas that benefit the whole family. If you’re living with family members who are more uncluttered than you are, you may want to work on common areas to acknowledge your interest in creating a better space for all of you.
  7. Start where the weather makes it easy. If you have a nice sunny day that’s not too warm, it may be a good time to work in the garage. If you’re in the middle of a heat wave, you’ll want to work in a room where you can stay reasonably cool.
  8. For papers, start with the current stuff. The current piles of paper are likely to be more important than the old ones; they are where you’ll find the bills you need to pay, notices about events you want to attend, etc.
  9. For papers, start with the old filing cabinets. But maybe your current papers aren’t a burning issue, in which case you may want to clear out the old filing cabinets first, to provide room for new papers to be filed. This is similar to the idea of starting with the garage, attic, or basement.

    And even though unsorted paper clutter is inherently slow to go through, sorted papers can sometimes provide a quick win. I’ve tossed bunches of file folders full of reference material when I realized the information was outdated, and I could find everything I needed online. Or you may find filing cabinets full of things like old utility bills, which, upon reflection, you find you have no reason to keep.

  10. Start anywhere. Sometimes it doesn’t really matter where you start — simply that you do. Pick an area at random, on impulse. Or write down each cluttered area on a slip of paper, place the papers in a hat, and pull one out.

What was in Unclutterer’s first Quarterly mailing?

All over the world, subscribers to the Unclutterer shipment from Quarterly have received their first mailing from us. If you didn’t subscribe to the first mailing, but were curious as to what we sent, this was our mailing:

Each box is sent with a letter from our team, and I (Erin) penned the first one. I discussed the theme of the mailing — cable control — and how to use the items contained in the box. What was in the box?

  • A large BlueLounge Cable Box for holding a power strip and unsightly cables (which you can’t see so well in the above photo, but you can see much better on BlueLounge’s website)
  • BlueLounge CableDrop adhesive cable holders
  • Beclau Cable IDs for finding the plug you want inside your Cable Box
  • Hyperline Velcro Cable Ties that attach to the cable and hold the slack in your cables
  • And, as previously mentioned, the letter explaining how to use the products

People have started to post before and after pictures to Twitter to show how they’re using the items to control their nest of cables and cords. You can see these images, too, by following the #UCL01 hashtag on Twitter.

If you’re interested, we have a second mailing coming out in the next quarter (and then a third and a fourth …). We’re really excited about the next mailing and how it can help people wanting to organize their lives. Sign up if you want to subscribe to the organizing shipments. If not, we’re totally cool with that, too.

Ten things you can do when you don’t feel motivated to get stuff done

It happens to the best of us. At some point or another, your motivation will seem to dissolve into thin air. This can happen quite spontaneously or, at other times, it seems to gradually sneak up on you. Chances are that throwing your to-do list out the window is not an option. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to increase your motivation and actually begin getting stuff done.

  1. Start small. Often when your motivation is lacking, just getting started can be a big obstacle. But, you can convince yourself to begin working on your projects by committing to work on the least amount items for the shortest amount of time. This means that you can narrow your focus by picking one thing to work on for a short time block (like 10 or 15 minutes). Keep in mind that using a timer can also help to release you from the task once your time is up, though (in my experience) you’ll notice that once you get started, you’ll probably continue working a little longer.
  2. Focus on a mantra. Mantras and inspirational quotes can spur you to doing your best work. They can also help you get through difficult tasks. When I start feeling frantic because I have a lot to do, I often say to myself: “A little plus a little equals much.” (Thanks to my friend and fellow professional organizer, Geralin Thomas, for that wonderful quote.) This helps me to keep a steady pace and to push the temptation to multi-task aside.
  3. Think with the end in mind. How successful and proud will you feel after you finish your tasks? Ask yourself this question when you find that you’re ignoring your most important projects. By focusing on the positive feelings you will have when you actually do what you set out to do, you are actually creating a persuasive argument for getting things done.
  4. Choose a reward. Extend those positive feelings by planning a way to reward yourself when you start crossing stuff off your list. This can be the shove you need to get you started, but remember to pick something that’s attainable so you don’t end up feeling disappointed.
  5. Rewrite your list. If your to do list seems daunting, reconfigure it. Do you need to move things around? What about your deadlines? Have you set “due by” dates and are they realistic? Which items can you delegate to someone else?
  6. Do something else. Sometimes working on something else on your to do list (perhaps a task that’s easy to take care of) can help put you in the right mindset — even though it may not be a top priority. This sort of structured procrastination can build momentum for sustained productivity.
  7. Exercise. Exercise can energize you and improve your mental outlook. Engaging in physical activity can also help to clear your mind so you can focus on those important tasks. If you create a schedule where exercise is regularly included, you might find you are well-equipped to successfully handle those moments when your motivation and productivity begin to wane.

    And, there’s research to back this up:

    A habit of regular exercise will help keep you mentally sharper throughout your entire life. Over a shorter time-frame, an exercise routine can give you more energy throughout the day. Most of your cells contain components called mitochondria, often referred to as the cell’s “power plant.” Mitochondria produce the chemical that your body uses as energy, known as ATP. Physical exercise stimulates the development of new mitochondria within your cells, meaning that your body will be able to produce more ATP over time. That gives you more energy to exert yourself physically, but it also means more energy for your brain, boosting your mental output.

  8. Organize your work space. Chaotic workspaces probably don’t contribute to productive work nor do they motivate you to get things done. So, set the stage — remove paper piles, clear pathways and the space behind your chair, and neatly gather together the supplies you need. Though organizing your work area isn’t directly linked to the tasks you need to get done, putting things in order can reduce stress and create the productive mindset you need to get started. (Just don’t decide to clean your entire house, stick to your workspace.)
  9. Listen to uplifting music. Music can help you feel more inspired when you don’t feel like working. Is it any wonder that it’s the one constant that you’ll find at your local gym? Once you begin tackling your list, consider listening to unfamiliar music to ramp up your productivity.
  10. Call a friend. When all else fails, consider calling a friend (also known as an accountability partner) who can impart a few words of encouragement and check in with you on your progress. You’ll probably be more likely to get your tasks done (or started) if you know that someone will be following up with you.

These are just a few ways that you can turn your workday around when you just don’t feel like doing anything. As with any strategy, not every suggestion will work for everyone. Give some of the suggestions a try to find the ones that move you from inactivity to productivity.

A year ago on Unclutterer

2012

2011

2010

  • Repercussions of uncluttering and organizing
    We often talk about the benefits of uncluttering and organizing, but we rarely even hint of their being downsides. Today, I thought we’d break that trend and discuss all the work that — at least in the short term — uncluttering and organizing create.
  • Stumped!
    Over the years of writing about organizing and working with clients, I continue to be baffled by how to neatly organize a small number of items. Whenever I see these items or hear about them, I cringe. Organizing them successfully is a complete mystery to me. Maybe you have a few, too, in your home or office — a specific item that always seems to be out of place, cumbersome, or impossible to store well?
  • Excerpt: Six tips for organizing your time spent on the telephone
    Since most of us spend time at work dealing with facts and data, the phone should be taking a backseat to other forms of communication. That being said, it’s impossible to avoid the phone in the workplace. And there are times when picking up the phone is the best way to handle a situation. The following are suggestions for how to use the phone in an organized way during those times when you need to rely on it.

2009