Sponsored Post: Spring organizing and everyday products from Staples

The following is a sponsored post from Staples. As regular readers know, we don’t often do sponsored posts (our most recent was in 2013). But we agreed to work with Staples again for three posts because they sell so many different organizing and productivity products in their stores and we like so many of the products they carry. Our arrangement with them allows us to review products we have extensively tested and have no hesitation recommending to our readers. And, these infrequent sponsored posts help us continue to provide quality content to our audience.

As spring (slowly, very slowly in the part of the country where I live) heats up temperatures outdoors, I’ve been thinking a lot about cleaning and organizing. It’s nice to get the windows open and air out my house and feel empowered by the renewal that comes with the warmer weather. As it always does, these things get me motivated to do some spring cleaning.

One thing I started doing last spring that I’ve felt has made a huge difference in my organizing efforts is to have two filing systems. It sounds like extra work, but it has proven to reduce my workload. In addition to the traditional filing cabinet that holds all of the paperwork I have to keep, I now have a smaller filing box next to my desk that is a temporary holding ground for papers.

Immediately when papers come into the house — bank statements, bills, paperwork from the kids’ school — I file it into the temporary filing box. Twice a year, when I’m doing fall and spring cleaning tasks, I go through the temporary filing box and decide what needs to go to the traditional filing cabinet and what can be purged. Also, having the box keeps papers off my desk, but in a very easily accessible location. It also serves as a working file drawer for papers that will never go into the traditional filing cabinet but that I need for projects I’m working on at that time. If you’re desk doesn’t have a drawer in it like mine doesn’t, I recommend a simple Staples File Box. It has a lid for keeping out pets, most water, and dust and a lip around the upper edge for hanging file folders. It’s inexpensive and I like that best of all.

Along the same lines of there being a temporary filing box, I also have started keeping a temporary holding box that I clean out twice a year (again during spring and fall cleaning). This holding box is where I drop things I’m pretty sure I want to unclutter permanently from my home but that I’m not 100 percent certain I’m ready to let go. Having a temporary location for this stuff makes me more willing to part with it after I have evidence that I didn’t touch something for six whole months. (Because, if I do need something, I take it out of the box and return it to its regular storage location after use.) I rarely access anything in the box and it pretty much goes straight to a charity when I’m doing my spring or fall cleaning.

If you think a temporary holding box for items you wish to unclutter could work for you, the Staples 40 Quart Plastic Containers are great for this. They’re clear (so you can easily see inside to find what you need) and they have a locking lid, which keeps out critters and most water. It’s definitely better than a cardboard box, which I do not recommend using. And, obviously, these same bins are great for longer term storage of anything you want to protect seasonally — winter blankets, coats and hats, gloves and scarves, etc.

I’m a brand loyalist when it comes to everyday objects, like writing pens and markers. I find something that works well for me, and I stick to it. I exert the mental energy and money to determine what I like, and then I typically only revisit those decisions if something changes about the product (discontinued, formula change, significant reduction in quality, etc.).

Recently, however, I noticed that my preferences were changing and some of the products I’d been loyal to for years weren’t doing everything I wished they would. The product that caught my attention first — and ultimately set the stage for this post — was my love affair with the Pilot G2 pen only existed in certain circumstances. The Staples brand equivalent to the G2 is the OptiFlow Fine Point Rollerball Pen and it has a cap. The writing is very smooth, it dries on a sheet of paper quickly (which for left-handed folks means virtually no mess from hand drag), and the pens last as long as the G2s. A dozen of the Staples OptiFlow pens are $10.79, which is a little less expensive than the Pilots, too. So, now I’m loyal to the OptiFlow when I’m on the go.

While thinking about store-brand pens, I decided to see how the Staples brand stood up to the other writing implements I carry with me in my laptop bag. The Staples Hype! Chisel Tip Highlighters came out ahead of the Sharpie brand of highlighter I usually buy. Again, I like that the Staples brand have a cap. But what I really like is that they don’t bleed through paper with typical use, even thin paperback book paper, so what is highlighted on one side of the paper doesn’t interfere with what is highlighted on the backside. It also didn’t smear handwriting, which the Sharpies don’t do but other brands definitely do, which is annoying. They’re solid highlighters and they’re $5.49 for a six pack, which is less than what I usually pay.

Finally, I checked out the Staples DuraMark Black Chisel Tip Permanent Marker and they were as great as the ones I usually buy. They did bleed through a sheet of paper, but all mid-range priced permanent markers do. The stroke was consistent and the marker is an overall good quality. I have yet to throw one away, which also speaks to its longevity. And, at $8.49 per dozen, they’re less expensive than the brand I usually buy.

Unitasker Wednesday: Neoprene Freezer Pop/Ice Pop Insulator Sleeves

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

One of our Twitter followers brought this gem to our attention a couple weeks ago and I’ve been eager to share its ridiculousness with everyone. Introducing the Kooleez brand Neoprene Freezer Pop/Ice Pop Insulator Sleeves:

Besides the obvious unitaskery nature of specialized koozies for ice pops, these sleeves also ruin the joy that IS an ice pop. Which, and I’m hoping you agree with me on this, the best part of the ice pop is when it melts and you get to drink the melted liquid at the end of the treat. An insulated sleeve would prevent the ice pop from melting and deny you that liquid goodness. Awful.

Maybe it’s a multi-tasker after all — it wastes your money AND your fun!

Unitasker Wednesday: Watermelon Corer

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

What is it about watermelons that elicits manufacturers to create an endless stream of unitaskers? [E.g. previous Unitasker Wednesday features like the watermelon serving bowl, watermelon cooler (which is by far the most ridiculous), watermelon knife, and the watermelon slicer.] Whatever it is, we can add the Watermelon Corer to the list of unnecessary items:

(Should I even mention that this device is called a “corer,” yet watermelons don’t have a core? No? Okay, moving on …)

Surprisingly, my most favorite thing about the Watermelon Corer is how Amazon is trying to trick buyers into thinking it’s not a unitasker:

A pizza cutter? I don’t think so, Amazon.

Finally, if you want to easily slice up a watermelon, use a chef’s knife and do it the easy, non-cluttery way:

And a big thanks to reader Lauren for bringing this awesome unitasker to our attention!

Creating a schedule to reflect your priorities

One of my resolutions for 2016 is to get a better handle on my time. I created this resolution because I noticed in the last three or four months of 2015 that the vast majority of my days were spent catching up or just going with the flow instead of actively participating and pursuing what matters most to me. It’s not that I was neglecting my priorities, rather that I was being passive about them.

To help work toward my resolution, I bypassed traditional goal-setting and went straight for creating a list of to-do items. For my first to-do item, I wanted to track exactly how I was spending my time — from the moment I woke up in the morning until I went to bed each night. I grabbed a stopwatch and a notebook and recorded what I did each time I changed activities. Some things I left a little vague, such as “got ready for the day,” since brushing teeth and getting dressed aren’t things I’m going to remove from my daily routine. But for the most part, I kept detailed notes of how I spent my time like, “checked Facebook on phone” and “read 2 pgs. of a book while standing at bus stop waiting for son.” After a week of recording data, I felt that I had a decent idea of how I was spending my time (and I was bored out of my mind with writing down what I was doing). If this is your first time recording data about how to spend your time, you may wish to log your activities for two weeks because often the act of logging what you’re doing influences how you spend your time. Once the novelty of tracking what you’re doing wears off, you’ll get a better idea of how you’re really operating.

My second to-do item was to sort through the logs and label the activities. I chose three colors of highlighters and swiped a color over each activity. Yellow were for activities fully in line with my priorities and my time commitment to those activities or actions taking care of my responsibilities (like depositing money into my retirement fund — it’s not a task I particularly enjoy, but it’s one that takes care of a responsibility that is in line with my priorities). Pink highlights were for activities not in line with my priorities or actions that were in line with my priorities but taking up more of my time than I wanted (like staying in touch with my family and friends is a priority and reading and posting to Facebook is one of the many ways I fulfill that priority, but I don’t need to check in with Facebook four times a day when two times is sufficient). Green highlights were for things in line with my priorities that I wanted to spend more time on than I was (one example that fell into this category was that I was lifting weights three times a week but I wanted to start training for a triathlon, so I needed to increase my numbers and types of workouts to better reflect this priority).

My last to-do item was to create and begin to follow a new schedule that more accurately represents my priorities. I chose to make a weekly calendar, broken into 30-minute increments, to help me with this process. In addition to chores, wake up and bed times, and most of my life’s set activities, I’ve mapped out blocks of time that are more open ended but still have direction. For example, after cleanup from dinner but before it’s time to start getting the kids ready for bed, there is usually an hour of “free” time. Each night I’ve made notes on the calendar for ideas of things to do during this hour that reflect my priorities. Instead of plopping myself down in front of the television (which is not a priority for me on weeknights), I now have a list of things I can do that I know bring me much more happiness than squandering that time (like working on a puzzle with my kids or having a living room dance part with them or playing flashlight tag in the yard if the weather is cooperating or Skyping with my parents).

Since creating the new schedule, I’ve been much happier and feel more like I’m actively participating in my life. I’m not rigid with the schedule — if something falls through the cracks or I come down with a migraine (like I did on Saturday), I’m not freaking out about abandoning the schedule for a bit. It’s there more as a guide than a law, and this attitude is working well for me.

How do you ensure that your time is focused on what matters most to you? Do you think a similar schedule would help you to feel happier and more comfortable with how you’re spending your time? A few changes might be all it takes to get your life more in line with your priorities.

Reminder: Buy a copy of NEVER TOO BUSY TO CURE CLUTTER and get a free audiobook

Never Too Busy to Cure ClutterThis is just a simple reminder that there are only a few days left to take part in the Unclutterer giveaway for buying Never Too Busy to Cure Clutter.

Between now and February 16 (next Tuesday), if you buy my book and then come back here and fill out this fancy form, I will send you a FREE audiobook copy of my first book Unclutter Your Life in One Week.

Buy one book, get a second (audio)book free!

And thank you to everyone who has already bought the book and who will buy it in the future. You all rock and my hope is that this book helps you on your uncluttering and organizing journey.

Unitasker Wednesday: Aquasonic Wave Jewelry Cleaning System

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

My grandmother and mother both worked for years in jewelry stores. My husband’s uncle and his three sons and their wives own a chain of jewelry stores and are professional jewelry designers. And let me tell you what none of these people would recommend for ways to clean your jewelry: putting it in the dishwasher. Although it may work, there are certainly safer and less expensive ways to get your jewelry cleaned than by using the Aquasonic Wave Jewelry Cleaning System:

The idea of putting jewelry in the dishwasher completely terrifies me. If anything were to happen, your favorite necklace or ring could easily fit right down the drain! Ack!

And at $54, this device is more expensive than many sonic professional jewelry cleaning units and pretty much every at home cleaning method that is safer. The device also comes with a 10-week supply of a proprietary antibacterial gel that you then get to order replacement packs for so the price of the device keeps going up.

I’m going to be stressed out the rest of the day just thinking about this.

Erin on the Today Show

Monday was an exciting day for me as I headed to New York to appear on the Today Show to provide home organizing tips and to talk about my new book Never Too Busy to Cure Clutter. I had an incredible time working with everyone on the show — everyone was blow-me-over nice, from the hair, makeup, and wardrobe stylists to the camera operators to the art director to the producer to Hoda and Kathie Lee. This was my first time doing LIVE national television and I was barely nervous at all because of how comfortable everyone on the show made me feel. I pretty much laughed through the entire segment I was having such a good time. And, hopefully, I was able to share some helpful tips with the audience, too.

If you missed it live, you can watch the clip:

And my apologies to anyone outside the U.S. who may not be able to view the video clip. A summary of our discussion is on the Today Show site.

Banish the Mess and Restore Order in Almost Every Room Right Now: An excerpt from NEVER TOO BUSY TO CURE CLUTTER

Never Too Busy to Cure ClutterThe following is an excerpt from my latest home organizing book Never Too Busy to Cure Clutter. If you buy it between now and February 16, fill out this fancy form, and I will send you a FREE audiobook copy of my first book Unclutter Your Life in One Week. So, if you want to tackle clutter, mess, or grime in any room, this is a good way to start. Choose a task based on how much time you have available and get to work.

From pages 68-71:

The following are basic actions you can complete in almost every room of your home. Some of these tasks seem incredibly obvious, but it’s often the simplest and most conspicuous tasks that form the foundation of your cleaning routine. A few of the following tasks are equally important but only need doing at certain times of the year. Pick and choose your way to a clean, uncluttered, and organized home.

When working in any room of your home, ask yourself: Where is clutter accumulating? Is there a reason things are piling up in one (or more) area(s)? What would prevent clutter from being left in this space? What small act would greatly improve this room?

30 SECONDS

  • Dust one of the following: a single shelf, a picture frame or two, the top of a doorjamb, a lamp, or a light fixture.
  • Wipe down a tabletop or other flat surface.
  • Gather wayward pens and pencils and return them to their storage spot.
  • Clean a doorknob with a disinfecting wipe.
  • Replace a burned-out lightbulb (preferable with an LED bulb, so you won’t have to replace it again for years and will save on energy costs).

1 MINUTE

  • Find two items that aren’t where they belong and return them to where they do.
  • Clean a mirror, window, the glass front on a cabinet, or picture frame.
  • Dust a ceiling light/fan fixture, crown molding, baseboards, or a corner of a room with a telescoping duster.
  • Check your toilet paper and facial tissue inventory throughout the house and replace as necessary.
  • Change your perspective: Lie on the ground or stand on a step stool to see if you can spot hidden clutter.

5 MINUTES

  • Empty the trash cans and/or recycling bins in a room.
  • Round up dirty clothes to start a load of laundry.
  • Check the batteries in a device. Replace them if necessary.
  • Move a piece of furniture and sweep or vacuum under it, or vacuum al the air vents in a room.
  • Fill a basket with wayward items and return those items to the permanent storage locations.

15 MINUTES

  • Vacuum or sweep the floor of a room.
  • Fill a bucket with 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1 gallon water, and mop the uncarpeted floor in a room.
  • Remove all the fabric curtains in a room from their rods and put them in a bag to bring to your dry cleaner.
  • Move furniture off a throw rug or hall runner and take the rug outside. Shake it out and then drape it over something (like a railing) and hit it with a broom handle. Return the rug and replace the furniture.
  • Inspect furniture for damage and wear. Schedule any appointments necessary to have damaged and/or worn items repaired or set aside a block of time to shop for a replacement.

Released today! NEVER TOO BUSY TO CURE CLUTTER (and another awesome giveaway)

Never Too Busy to Cure ClutterI am so excited to announce that today my latest home organizing book Never Too Busy to Cure Clutter hits bookstores in the U.S.!

I absolutely adore this book. It is practical, simple to use, and full of great ideas to get your home life organized. If you’re busy — like everyone I know — this book is for you. It breaks down uncluttering, organizing, and cleaning tasks into 30-second, 1-minute, 5-minute, and 15-minute activities so you can get things done on your schedule. There are also fun quizzes and weekend projects and the interior pages are full of orange artwork (my favorite color).

If you read the Tidying Up book and thought it was cool, but it didn’t really work for you since you didn’t have six months to dedicate your life to organizing, my latest book is right up your alley. You don’t have to change who you are or adopt some system or join a support group for this book to help you. I wrote this book based on what I do in my house and with my clients — and I have a full-time job, two kids, and an attempt (although meager) at a social life. But, even if you’re single and unemployed and have never considered having kids, this book will still give you great ideas for clearing your clutter.

And because I LOVE Unclutterer readers, I have worked out an awesome promotion for people who buy this book. In the next three weeks (between now and February 16), if you buy my book and then come back here and fill out this fancy form, I will send you a FREE audiobook copy of my first book Unclutter Your Life in One Week. If you ordered my book during the pre-sale period, I’m going to send you a copy of the audiobook, too, because you all are amazing, as well. So, if you buy Never Too Busy to Cure Clutter, you get a second book FREE. That’s how incredible and thankful I am for all you terrific Unclutterer readers. Now don’t forget to come back and fill out this fancy form by February 16, 2016.

Finally, if you live in the U.K., my book will be released in February or April (my publisher told me one thing and Amazon.co.uk says another). Brits also can check out an interview with me in the February issue of Woman & Home magazine. Additionally, publishing rights have been sold in the UAE and Russia already, so those translations will be out in the coming months. (I’ll keep you posted as more foreign rights are sold, so stay tuned if you’re not in the U.S.)

Thank you to everyone in the Unclutterer community for your support. I really, truly believe that this book can help people and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it and developing it. Thank you, thank you!

Unitasker Wednesday: Hands Finger Puppets

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’m certain there is nothing I could possibly write for this week’s unitasker selection that would be as entertaining (and/or disturbing) as the following image. Introducing Hands Finger Puppets:

Unitasker Wednesday: Electric Mac and Cheese Maker

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

CVS is a great place to pick up a prescription and a new toothbrush. It’s also where my husband’s college buddy found this week’s unitasker selection: the Electric Mac and Cheese Maker:

He’s convinced manufacturers are trolling consumers. I might have to agree with him. An entire electric appliance dedicated to making macaroni and cheese is bonkers. There is simply no other word for it — bonkers.

On the positive side, the device appears to be made by a company called Cheese Nation. As far as company names go, that one’s amazing. “Where do you work?” “Cheese Nation.” Brilliant.

Happy Holidays!

We’re taking the rest of the week off for vacation, but we still wanted to wish you all a very happy holidays! We are so thankful for all of our readers. You are incredible!! See you back here next week.