Easing out of daylight saving time

As a child, I had an eccentric uncle who collected clocks. Every room had at least five or six, all ticking away. As you could imagine, the end of daylight saving time was an adventure. Uncle Mike would start adjusting their time one week in advance. Each day he’d change a handful of clocks, and leave the rest for the following day. It drove my poor aunt crazy. “For one week each year,” she’d say, “I have no idea what time it is.”

If you’re in the U.S., don’t let the change from daylight saving time (DST) this weekend stress you out (even if you collect clocks). With some careful preparation, you can get through it relatively unscathed.

Most people dislike the change to their sleeping habits that comes with the return to standard time. According to WebMD, it’s best to ease into it. Nicholas Rummo, MD, director of the Center for Sleep at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., recommends going to sleep a little bit earlier each night leading up to the changeover. For example, going to sleep 10 minutes earlier each night for six nights will help quite a bit.

This is especially helpful for the kids, who often struggle with the change. In fact, this is the same thing my wife and I do as we make the transition from summer vacation to the school year. It works pretty well.

WebMD also suggests exposing yourself to sunlight as early as you can. Have breakfast near a window or even walk outdoors for a bit, if you can. This will help reset your internal clock.

Back to the kids. The time change can be difficult for school-age children, and downright miserable for toddlers (and their parents). One thing you can do to ease the pain for everyone is stick to an established routine. Dr. Jodi Mindell, author of Sleeping Through the Night, believes this is the way to go. “You want to stick by the clock and stick to the bedtime rules,” she said. “Another piece that is key is wake them up at their normal times–don’t let them sleep later to ‘make up’ for lost sleep from the night before.”

But really, the best advice I can give here is be prepared. The kids are going to get less sleep then they’re used to, so try to be patient and prepared.

Besides sleeping changes, what else is there to do? First of all, confirm that your clocks — both electronic and analog — make the change. Some will do so automatically, like your cable box, computer, smartphone or tablet. Others will need a little help. I always forget about the clock in the car (as well as how to change it). Our microwave oven also spends a few days displaying the wrong time.

Also, this is a good time to make sure your home’s smoke detectors are working and replace batteries in your flashlights. The end of DST also marks the start of hurricane season here in New England, so I make a review of our storm food and related supplies each October/early November.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say, “Happy Halloween!”

Unitasker Wednesday: Trongs and Dip Cups

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

With game six of the World Series tonight, football season in high gear, and college basketball season starting this week, I predict a lot of hot wing consumption in Americans’ future. Before you throw your next party (which wouldn’t be complete without hot wings, obviously), check to see if you have these ridiculous unitaskers at hand.

And speaking of hands, there is no sense in expecting you or your guests to eat finger foods with their fingers! That’s just crazy talk. Instead, supply them with Trongs:

“But what about the sauce? I need a unitasker for each person to have for their ranch or blue cheese dressing! I don’t want liquid to touch any plates!”

Don’t get yourself into a tizzy, the good people at Progressive International have you covered. You can increase your party’s unitasker count with help from Dip Cups:

And, your party won’t be complete until you serve your Trong-held wings in the SnacDaddy. Now go on and enjoy watching your favorite sports activity knowing your festivities are sure to be unitasker-riffic!

Thanks to Amanda for helping us track down these hot wing unitaskers.

Kindle MatchBook lets you upgrade your print-edition book purchases to ebooks

We’re very excited. Today Amazon launched Kindle MatchBook, which lets you upgrade your previous Amazon.com print-edition book purchases for select titles to the corresponding ebook versions. The upgrade pricing varies. Some titles have free upgrades, while others are priced as high as $2.99.

Kindle MatchBook

This is a great way to reduce the physical space required for storing books you currently own. Having your books in an ebook format also allows you to reference them while on-the-go.

A relatively small number of titles are currently available for upgrade, but more are sure to be released in the coming months.

If you don’t already own an ebook reader, our current pick is the new Kindle Paperwhite. The new next-gen backlight is very easy on the eyes.

Keys and locks

I think almost every home has a drawer with random keys and locks in it. For many, the locks may be without keys or combinations and the keys are to known and unknown locks.

The first step in organising keys and locks is to gather them all in one place. I suggest using a small, lidded bin, such as a shoebox. Place all the locks and keys in the bin. You may have lockable cabinets or doors that require keys. Of course, you can’t put furniture into the shoebox but you can make a list of furniture that require keys and put the list in the shoebox, too.

Purchase a few key tags and write what the key is for on the key tag right away and attach the tag to the key. If padlocks are not in use, put the hasp through the key ring with the keys and lock it. This will keep the correct keys with the correct lock. Just remove one of the keys from the keyring to unlock the lock.

If you have combination locks, write down the combination on a key tag with a description of the combination lock and/or its serial number. If the locks are simple, such as suitcase locks with only 3 or 4 numbers, you may be able to fiddle with it enough to determine the combination. Some rotary dial combination locks have serial numbers and you can get the combination by contacting the manufacturer. If the combination lock is not in use, put the hasp through the key tag on which you wrote the combination. You’ll never worry about trying to remember the combination.

Store keys that are used frequently close to where they are used. For example, you might keep a key to your garden shed on a hook, just inside the back door. Extra house keys should be labelled and stored in a key cabinet.

Keep mismatched keys and locks in the labeled shoebox for a few months just in case their mates turn up somewhere else. It is also helpful to ask family members and coworkers if they have seen any keys or locks “hiding” anywhere. You may find someone else is in possession of the little key you were looking for. Ask them, too, if one of the keys you can’t identify may be a spare key to their home you never labeled. If you’ve determined that the keys and locks are never going to find their mates, feel free to dispose of them.

Remember, also, to carry only the keys you need with you. Separate the keys you carry with you into groups such as home, car, office, or cottage. Put each set on a different ring.  Clip the key groups you need together with a carabineer when you leave the house to reduce the clutter in purses and pockets.

A year ago on Unclutterer

2012

  • Unitasker Wednesday: The Chop Stir
    My son declared Taco Tuesday a failure because the ground beef wasn’t chopped into small enough pieces (okay, so he didn’t really say that) and that he would have continued eating his meal had I used the Chop Stir to break up the ground beef better (he didn’t say that either).
  • Unitasker Wednesday: Magical Ostrich Pillow
    Most weeks, I feel inspired by the unitasker to write something funny about it. This week, words escape me.

2011

Small living design inspiration from actor Vincent Kartheiser

We wrote about actor Vincent Kartheiser and his obsession with minimalism in our 2010 article “Celebrity minimalist: Vincent Kartheiser.” Back then, he was just beginning construction on his new home and admitted to using his neighbor’s bathroom because he threw out his toilet.

Three years later, construction on Kartheiser’s space is complete and the beautiful renovations are featured in the article “The Tiny Hollywood Home of Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser” in Dwell magazine’s November 2013 issue.

In the article’s accompanying slideshow, it is this picture of Kartheiser pulling his bed down from the ceiling that took my breath away:

Image credit: Dwell’s Joe Pugliese

The bed on pulleys with 300 pound counterweights is sheer genius, and the headboard (a large piece of redwood) is on a lever so it can fold down during the day to serve as a desk or sideboard. Another small-space idea that caught my attention in the article is his outdoor coffee table that is also a fire pit. The sliding closet doors that become a privacy wall for the bathroom is a nice touch, too.

Technically a one-room cabin at just 500 sq feet, Kartheiser remade the home and outdoor courtyard with builder Funn Roberts. It doesn’t say it directly, but the article seems to imply Kartheiser even shares this tiny space with his fiancée, actress Alexis Bledel.

What was in Unclutterer’s second Quarterly mailing?

All over the world, subscribers to the Unclutterer shipment from Quarterly have received their second mailing from us. If you didn’t subscribe to the second mailing, but were curious as to what we sent, I’ve detailed the contents below.

Each box is sent with a letter from our team, and PJ penned the second one. As if a secret agent on a mission, he discussed the theme of the mailing — paper control — and how to use the items contained in the box. What was in the box?

  • An Evernote Smart Notebook by Moleskine, which included a code for three months free of Evernote Premium. The notebook makes it incredibly simple to upload digital documents to Evernote and the Premium subscription is an added bonus. (The leather-bound notebook retails for $20 and a Premium Evernote subscription is $15 for three months.)
  • The FreedomFiler physical document filing system. Knowing which documents to keep and which to purge can be confusing, but the FreedomFiler system removes any doubts you might have. You will always know where you important papers are located when using this product. It’s what we use in our home. (The FreedomFiler system retails for $29.95.)
  • An archival box. This product is for papers you want to preserve for decades — like your child’s first school paper or love letters from your sweetie — but that don’t belong in your filing cabinet. (The archival box retails for $8.15.)

If you’re interested, we have a third mailing coming out in the next quarter (and then a fourth and a fifth …). 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.

Time management: making sleep a priority

With all the things we want to do (and need to do) with our days, sometimes sleep gets shorted. I’m not talking about a household with a new baby — I’m talking about a household like my own where I’m balancing commitments related to work, family, friends, pets, household maintenance, exercise, etc. So many of us sometimes skip on sleep, but the more I read, the more that seems like a really bad idea.

If you have regular problems with insomnia, you might look into sleep hygiene techniques; you might also want to see a doctor who specializes in sleep disorders.

But some of us who don’t have babies, don’t have insomnia, and don’t have other reasons why we can’t dedicate enough time to sleep, we simply don’t make sleep a priority. The following information is encouraging me to make sure I do get enough sleep.

Tricia Salinero pointed me to an NPR report about a recent study on mice, and what it may mean to us.

“While the brain sleeps, it clears out harmful toxins, a process that may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, researchers say.”

The Guardian reports that some scientists are skeptical of the study, but it certainly is intriguing, if in no way conclusive.

Rachel Hills pointed me to the BBC website, where Michael Mosley reported on what happens during both deep sleep and REM sleep, and why it’s important to get enough of both.

“We get more REM sleep in the last half of the night. Which means that if you are woken unexpectedly, your brain may not have dealt with all your emotions — which could leave you stressed and anxious.”

On the Personal Health blog of The New York Times website, there’s an article by Jane E. Brody that begins:

Think you do just fine on five or six hours of shut-eye? Chances are, you are among the many millions who unwittingly shortchange themselves on sleep.

Research shows that most people require seven or eight hours of sleep to function optimally. Failing to get enough sleep night after night can compromise your health and may even shorten your life. From infancy to old age, the effects of inadequate sleep can profoundly affect memory, learning, creativity, productivity and emotional stability, as well as your physical health.

To learn more, I’m planning to read Dreamland, by David K. Randall. Here’s just one quote, courtesy of Brain Pickings:

Sleep is ingrained in our cultural ethos as something that can be put off, dosed with coffee, or ignored. And yet maintaining a healthy sleep schedule is now thought of as one of the best forms of preventative medicine.

But for now, I’m smiling as I read about Lucy Kellaway’s movement, called YAWNS, which I found on the Financial Times via Metafilter. YAWNs is an acronym for Yes A Wonderful Night’s Sleep, and it advocates “no more boasting about being awake. Anyone admitting in public to getting up at 4 a.m. would have to prove they went to sleep at 8 p.m. and were still getting eight hours.”

Editor’s note: For tips on how to get the sleep your body needs and organize your time and space to make it possible, check out “Want to be more productive? Get more sleep.” Also, consider keeping a sleep journal to track how much sleep you get each night and how you feel the next day. Each person has different sleep requirements, and these requirements can change as you age.

Unitasker Wednesday: The Double Barrel Sauce Squirt Gun and Captain Catchup

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

Way back in 2008, we featured the dangerous Condiment Gun in our unitasker column. Little did we know at the time, but the threat of ketchup being shot at your food from a .45 revolver was only the beginning of the menace.

Since then, a new unitasker villain has come onto the scene: The Double Barrel Sauce Squirt Gun:

This bad boy holds both ketchup and mustard. Now you can shoot up your hamburger or hotdog with not just one, but TWO condiments. (This is one of those elusive multi-tasking unitaskers.)

But wait! Are you more into science fiction than contemporary condiment weapons? If so, you might want to consider the futuristic Captain Catchup. Though, admittedly, it is only single barrel, so prepare to be sorely disappointed:

And, obviously, you’ll also want to order the shotgun shell salt and pepper shakers and the Gun Egg Fryer to complete your violent meal package!

A year ago on Unclutterer

2012

2011

2010

2009

  • Unitasker Wednesday: Chef’n Garlic Zoom
    Most multi-tasking or high-utility kitchen products have simple names that begin with lowercase letters: skillet, oven, knife, plate. A good sign that something might be a unitasker is when its name is cutesy and trademarked: JerkyXpress, Plater Grater, Nostalgia Cotton Candy Maker. By all accounts, the Chef’n Garlic Zoom is destined for unitasker greatness based on the fact that it includes a random apostrophe and the word zoom.
  • Space-saving cheese grater
    The Joseph Joseph brand cheese grater folds flat for storage and up for use. It’s sturdy and comes in a handful of colors. It’s great for small-space living.

Storing off-season clothing

As the seasons change, it’s time to switch out the clothes. It’s a labor-intensive process that not many people like, honestly, but some early preparation can make the process a bit smoother. In the northern hemisphere, we’re currently moving from warmer weather to cooler temperatures, but the following advice applies for those of you in the southern hemisphere moving into warmer months.

Before you buy any storage containers, plastic bags, or similar items, get your hands on a label maker. It’s the most useful tool for this project. We have one of these handheld models because its easy to carry around. When you get to the bin stage, you’ll want the label maker to label whose clothes are in which bin and to note the contents (“Jane’s winter clothes,” “Dave’s sweaters,” etc.).

My wife and I have tried two brands of vacuum bags, and neither have worked for us. Despite following the instructions to the letter, both brands began filling with air within a matter of weeks, defeating their purpose entirely. If you’ve had good luck with a particular brand, please let me know.

For us, the answer is large, plastic bins. You can find these at home supply stores, some hardware stores and big-brand DIY stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s. Make sure the lids seal tightly and that they’ll work with your storage method before buying (stackable, side-by-side and so on).

Before placing clothes inside, ensure that they’re thoroughly clean. Locking your shirts in a sealed bin with some insect larvae you didn’t notice in September means you’ve created an all-you-can-eat bug buffet for little critters. Check the bins themselves for the same thing. If you are using plastic bags, ensure that no moisture is inside and there’s no chance of condensation. Throw in a few cedar balls and/or natural herbal moth repellent sachets for a little more protection. Do not store clothes in thin plastic dry cleaning bags for long periods of time as the plastic can decay and ruin your items.

Here’s a lesson I learned the hard way: a hanger is not a good long-term solution. When I was living on my own as a bright-eyed 20 year old, I kept several sweaters hanging all summer. Once fall arrived, they all had hanger-induced bumps on the shoulders that would not go away. If you don’t have any other option, fold the items and hang them in their folded state over the straight bar of the hanger and then group the hangers inside a garment bag made to repel moths and other fabric-eating insects.

When stacking heavy objects like sweaters in a bin, put them at the bottom of the pile. That way they won’t crush lighter items, allow air flow, and prevent mustiness. Finally, check on your clothes once a month to make sure that none of the aforementioned problems have cropped up.

Five organizing myths

Myths abound in the organising world. Don’t let yourself fall for these five common tales:

  1. Sticking to a rigid meal plan for the whole week will save time. What if you’ve planned a 5-course meal on Wednesday then have an emergency orthodontist appointment at 4:00pm? Generally a meal plan will save time but keep the ingredients for a few healthy, easy-to-prepare meals in your pantry at all times. This way, you can eat what you want, when you want.
  2. I only need to touch it once when I am organising something. Many jobs may have to be broken down into smaller tasks (divide and conquer) so they are not so overwhelming. For example, if you have lots of photos that need to be organised, the first step might be to separate them by year into boxes. Step two would be sorting within each box. You’re going to touch things more than once.
  3. Using the latest technology will save time. This may be true if you’re a techno-wiz, but it does take time to learn the new technology and new gadgets can be expensive. Ask yourself if you are willing to invest the time and money in a product so it can actually help you.
  4. Organising is easy and I can do it myself. While you may be able to clear some of your clutter yourself, you may have too much emotional attachment to your own belongings and may need someone with no biases to help you. I often ask my sister for help with my wardrobe or else I would still be wearing the clothes I had in high school. Many people work better with accountability partners.
  5. My house should look like the ones in the magazines. The homes in magazines are staged for pictures. Life is never picture perfect. Daily living is messy and over the course of a day it’s not going to look like a museum installation.