Some organizing products in development

From time to time we see organizing products in development on crowd-funding sites. Here are three interesting ones that might be of benefit to our readers.

Mac Caddy

The Mac Caddy is a 16-inch storage container that hangs on top of an iMac. Although it is designed for an iMac, I believe it would also hang on the back of the extra monitor I have for my laptop. I like the design because it gets everything off the desk and out of the way. It’s ideal for things you need during the day, but don’t need frequently. I especially like the slots in the sides so you can store items that are charging such as your phone or an extra battery pack.

Tuck Personal Organizer

The Tuck Personal Organizer is a desktop and/or wall organizer that holds items that you tuck into it. It would be ideal for pens, pencils on a desk, holding cosmetics brushes in the bathroom, or keys, sunglasses, and ID cards by the front door. The video shows that it will hold items even if turned upside-down. This would be handy for me as I tend to be rather clumsy.

Ninja Box Custom Foam Organizing System

The Ninja Box foam system allows people to create a custom protective foam organizer in their own toolbox or storage bin. It requires a bit of work for the user to create the foam mold. However, if I owned expensive, delicate equipment, I would certainly put in the effort to protect it. Ninja Box uses high strength, resilient automotive-grade foam and a high stretch film to protect, secure, and display what matters to you.

Unitasker Wednesday: Everyday Objects

Flowers in a can. Simplistic and minimalistic — something that many of us here at Unclutterer appreciate.

You too can get this contemporary look for your home with items from the Everyday Objects collection from Tiffany & Co. For a mere $1500, this sterling silver coffee can (coffee not included) can display the daisies you hand-picked while you were skipping through an open field in joyful bliss. You could spend about $30 to buy a coffee can (coffee included) and some silver spray paint but it won’t be exactly the same.

If the coffee can doesn’t interest you, placing a sterling silver crazy straw into a bone china paper cup would add a touch of elegance and whimsy to your kitchen for only $345. You just wouldn’t get that same feeling from the $22 you pay for the stainless steel straws (that you can actually use), stuck into robin’s egg blue paper cups.

So, if you’re looking for the ultimate gift to give someone who already has a lot of everyday objects, check out Tiffany & Co. Everyday Objects collection which transforms utilitarian items into handcrafted works of art while simultaneously draining your wallet.

 

Thanks to Unclutterer’s Editor-at-Large, Erin Doland for this wonderful unitasker suggestion.

Uncluttering and supporting veterans

A few years ago, we talked about organizing and donating military memorabilia. This year, in honour of Remembrance Day, we’d like to discuss a few other ways you can unclutter and support the proud veterans that have served their country.

Cell Phones for Soldiers accepts ALL makes, models, and conditions of cell phones and smart phones including new, used, broken, or cracked.

You can donate an RV, boat, motorcycle, or other vehicle to Wounded Warriors Canada. The vehicle will either be recycled or sold at auction depending on its condition and location. The funds go directly to Wounded Warriors Canada and the donor is provided a tax receipt. In the U.S., Vehicles for Veterans offers a similar program.

Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) will pick up used clothes and household goods at your convenience and use them to support veterans’ programs. Simply visit their website to schedule a pick-up.

Unclutter all those hotel and travel points you collected and will likely never use before they expire. Donate the points to support veterans! In the United States, Fisher House Hero Miles Program provides round-trip airline tickets to service members (and their families) who are undergoing treatment at a military or VA medical center. They also accept points from various hotel chains. In Canada, the Veterans Transition Network can use your Aeroplan miles help veterans in remote areas get to the services they need.

We have recently learned that the U.S. Military Combat Camera History & Stories Museum is in the process of collecting donations of items such as paintings, drawings, film and still cameras, and video cameras from combat camera soldiers of the United States and NATO countries. If you have these items to unclutter, please connect with them.

If you’re busy uncluttering this weekend, please take a silent two minute break and remember those who served. Je me souviens.

Organizing and storing cords and cables

Jeri recently wrote about how cords and cables can be a source of clutter. Reader Juli commented and asked how best to label and store useful cords.

There are many different answers to that and it really depends on what types of cords you have, how you use them, and available storage space.

A small carrying case works well for organizing smaller cords (like those for laptops and smart phones), and fits nicely in a desk drawer. It’s also easy to pull out and take with you when you travel, even if the only travelling you do is to the local coffee shop.

Reader Lucie suggested folding or rolling cords and placing them in cardboard tubes from toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls if the cords are longer. This is a great option for extension cords and larger cables that connect audio-visual equipment.

Johncanon commented that he stores cables on a rotating necktie organizer (probably similar to this one) that attaches under a closet shelf. He bent each of the 12 hooks upward to hold more cables so that in one square foot in a closet, he can store and quickly find over 100 cables. An under-shelf mug rack would also hold quite a few cables as would this sturdy necktie holder designed to hang on a closet rod.

For those that want to wrap or roll their cords, Velcro-type hook and loop tape straps are ideal for tying them up. These are also useful for keeping the cords for small appliances and power tools from getting tangled in drawers and toolboxes.

Reader Alex Q places cables in appropriately sized Ziploc bags. He labels each bag near the top so when the bags are placed in a box, it is almost like a filing cabinet — easy to flick through the sealed bags and to find the one needed.

For frequently used, long extension cords, a storage reel is ideal. It is easy to wind and unwind the cord whenever you need to use it. H-frame reels are great for strings of holiday lights.

There are several different options for labelling cords and cables. Reader Lucie suggested using the plastic tabs from bread bags or an address label folded over the cord and stuck to itself.

The Cord ID Pro system allows you to label and colour code your cables to match with your audio/visual equipment making it easy to set up your system. The Cord ID Pro parts can be reused if you wish. Another option is to use self-locking cable ties with built in label. They attach securely to the cables and are one-use only — ideal if you’re worried about losing a label.

Thanks for your comment Juli. We hope that this post gives you the information you’re looking for.

Planning for bulk shopping

As we’ve mentioned previously, shopping in bulk can create a cluttered stockpile of unused goods. But it doesn’t have to. There are advantages to bulk shopping.

  • Items may be less expensive in bulk packaging or by purchasing multiples of the same item.
  • If you work in a volatile industry and income is variable throughout the year, stocking up during periods of high income will allow you to cope with periods of low income.
  • If you live far away from discount shopping areas or the weather is unpredictable and you cannot get to shopping areas easily, buying in bulk will save you the time and effort of getting to stores who offer lower prices.

To avoid a cluttered stockpile, you should take a look at what you buy and how much you need taking into account several factors such as, what particular products you use, how long it takes you to use them, how long the product will last, and your available storage space.

What products do you use?

First, look at what products you use and note if you and your family prefer certain brands. There is no point in buying store-brand ketchup in bulk if your family will only eat a particular national brand. Create a master spreadsheet of products and preferred brands. Include all your consumables on the list such as trash bags, feminine hygiene products — even vacuum cleaner bags. Tip: Never buy items in bulk if you haven’t tried them before. You might find that the product (or specific brand) does not meet your needs. If that happens, you’ll be left with a pile of clutter.

How long does it take to use each product?

It is easy to estimate how long it takes to use some items. You may already know that you need to buy a jumbo jar of peanut butter every week and a large bottle of Caesar salad dressing every month. It takes more effort to figure out how long some products such as shampoo and plastic wrap last. For something like shampoo, you can do some calculations. If you use 2mL (1/2 tsp) shampoo per day per person, a 300mL (10oz) bottle would last 150 days or about five months.

For items like plastic wrap, where it may be difficult to calculate how much you use per day, write the date on the package with a wax pencil as soon as you open it. When you finish the package, note the date and you’ll have an idea of how long it takes you to finish the roll.

How long will it last?

If you’ll be buying in bulk, you’ll need to ensure that you use all of a product before it expires. Some products have different date stamps such as “use by” or “best before.” According to the Institute of Food Technologists, these aren’t necessarily the expiry dates but indicate when the quality of the product is likely to decline quickly. Food labelling varies by country so check with your national food standards centre for details.

Also note that the “best before” date does not necessarily apply once the food product has been opened. Stilltasty.com provides information on how long products should last once opened. They also give details on ideal food storage conditions which can help you maximize the life of your bulk purchases.

Remember that personal hygiene products (soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, etc.) may only last from 6-12 months. Many cleaning products (bleach, laundry soap, etc.) only last six months but some products last for up to two years.

Available storage space

Survey your available storage space. How much room do you have in your cupboards and closets for storing bulk items? Are you able to convert some space in a basement or garage to storage? Is the space easily accessible and suitable for the products you wish to store? Many foods, including canned and dried foods, should not be stored in areas with widely varying temperatures. Paper products should be stored in areas of low humidity.

Preparing to shop

The amount of available storage space will give you an idea of how much of each item you can purchase and how often it needs to be purchased. For example, an average family of four will use about 100 rolls of toilet paper a year. If you can store six rolls under the bathroom sink, and 30 rolls in a linen closet, then you should only buy a 36-roll package each time you shop and you’ll only need to buy toilet paper approximately three times per year.

Use your stockpile

Some people use the FIFO (first-in, first-out) method so the items that are purchased first, are used first. However, some retailers will mark down prices on soon-to-expire items. When you bring home your goods, check expiry dates and rotate your stock so that items that will expire soonest are used first.

American investor Mark Cuban’s wealth building tips include buying consumables in bulk and when they are sale. So, feel free to buy that gallon of Frank’s Red Hot sauce if you know your family will use it before it expires.

Reader Question: Where should I store stuff?

Reader Peter wrote in with the following question:

My biggest source of clutter is random, one-off, or novel items that don’t correspond to a clear category and that I don’t use often for example, a box of push-pins I use for routing cable, a spare 12V battery, the replacement cleats for my soccer shoes, the replacement blades for my rotary cutter, an extra travel toothbrush (because they come two-to-a-pack but I only need one when I travel), the spare house-key I sometimes give out to guests, or my vacation light timers. We’ve all heard the phrase “A place for everything and everything in its place” so I want to be able to specify what the correct place is for such items so that 9 months from now I’ll be able to find them again. I’m afraid if I put them “away” I’ll forget where I put them. Are there underlying principles that one should use to decide where to store something?

This is a really good question. Let’s start by discussing categories.

The purpose of putting objects into categories is so they can be identified and distinguished from each other. The classical view of categorization, suggests that categories should be clearly defined and mutually exclusive — there should be no similarities between items in each category. Items belong distinctly in one category or another.

The problem arises when distinctive features belonging to only some items of a given category are the same as those belonging items in a different category. For example, if we say birds fly and lay eggs, we have to make exceptions because reptiles also lay eggs and neither ostriches nor penguins can fly. The classical view of categorization then becomes very complicated!

The prototype theory of categorization can help. In this theory, “the task of the category systems is to provide maximum information with the least cognitive effort” (Cognition and Categorization). This suggests that some aspects of a category are more important than others. For example, if I was shown a picture of an American robin, I’m not going to examine the minute details of its anatomy and physiology to put it into the genus Turdus. I’d say it has feathers, wings, and a beak, so it would go into the “bird” category.

In other words, you need to establish what specific cues or features must an item have in order to fit into a specific category. The cues that you use may be different from someone else’s cues so you’re welcome to create your own categories that are logical to you. This may seem like a daunting task but there is no need to reinvent the wheel. You could use a set of cues that have already been established and that make sense to you.

Consider your favourite department store. All of the personal care items are located on shelves in the same area of the shop. Creating an area in your bathroom, even just a small bin under the sink, for extra toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss would prompt you to “shop” in your bathroom for those items when you need them.

If it makes sense to you, you could store the push-pins for your routing cable in your home office area with your pens, paper and other office supplies. But if they are special push-pins specific for cables, you could include them in an “electronics” area in a closet or on a shelf to store all of your equipment for that specific purpose. A set of plastic drawers is ideal for keeping all of these items organized.

In a designated “home improvement” area, perhaps in your basement, garage, or hallway closet, you could store items such as tools, electrical items (extension cords, light timers), light bulbs, batteries, etc. A “sports and leisure” section of your home could be created wherever you store your sports gear, in a bedroom closet, hallway closet, or laundry room.

Remember there are no hard and fast rules for how to categorize your stuff. You’re welcome to store things where they make sense to you. You can change the location of items at any time if you’re not happy with the original location where they were stored. However, frequent re-arranging may lead to more chaos so give yourself a bit of time to get used to the new layout before you make extensive changes.

For more advice, check out Jeri’s great post about the many ways to categorize your stuff to see how scientists categorized candy.

Thanks for your great question Peter. We hope that this post gives you the information you’re looking for.

 

Do you have a question relating to organizing, 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 as “Ask Unclutterer.”

Reader question: Hat storage

Unclutterer reader Kim wrote in with this question:

I have 120 women’s dress hats, some with wide brims. Right now, I store them in boxes. Too many boxes. I would like another way to store them so them remain intact. They are expensive. I already have some stored on the shelf in my closet.

This is a great question Kim. As with all organizing projects, we start with sorting and purging. Are there any hats you can get rid of? If yes, this would be the time. However, we’re going to assume that you curated your collection before you wrote to us and you have 120 women’s dress hats that you love and want to keep.

First of all, it is important to store hats correctly as they are shaped in a certain way to fit properly on your head. Bending, folding, or improperly hanging or storing a hat can ruin it.

On the Houzz website, Ben Goorin, of Goorin Bros., suggested storing hats upside down because the crown is stiffer and stronger than the brim. Alternatively, you could raise the hat up so it is not resting on the brim by making a big ball of tissue paper and setting the hat on that instead.

Most websites we researched indicate the best way to store a hat is inside a hat box in your closet out of direct light. If you have vintage hats, you may wish to consider using an archival quality storage box and acid-free tissue paper for storage. You can take a photograph of the hat and attach it to the outside of the box. This will allow you to quickly determine which hat is stored in which box.

Multiple hats could be stored inside the same box as long as you stack hats of lightweight fabrics (straw, linen, cotton) on the top and hats of heavier fabrics (wool, leather, angora) on the bottom. (See Goorin Hat Care Tips for great info on cleaning and removing stains from hats.)

Square boxes are easier to pack into a closet than round boxes because you can maximize space by stacking. Storing the hats in round decorative boxes can be a design element in a room.

For frequently worn hats, a hat rack with round supports may be useful. You should avoid hat racks and hooks with pointy ends as they can deform the hat quickly.

Finally, consider storing off-season hats off-site. If you have the space in your basement or attic, you could keep some hats there providing they are in sealed containers to protect them from damage due to moisture and pests.

Thanks for your great question Kim. We hope that this post gives you the information you’re looking for.

 

Do you have a question relating to organizing, 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 as “Ask Unclutterer.”

The case for keeping (some) documents

A few weeks ago, we wrote about retention schedules, a list of the documents you have and how long to keep them.

Recently, I was required to complete a background check/security screening for an upcoming contract job. Not only did I have to provide a list of addresses covering the previous five years, I had to provide proof that I actually lived there. Examples of proof could be a lease/rental agreement stating that I was an occupant, or a utility bill or bank statement with my name and address on it for each year I claimed I lived at that address.

Fortunately, I have records dating back five previous years as the Canada Revenue Agency requires that income tax documents (which state my name and address) be kept for six years. However, many people, including young adults, may not have these documents available.

If you’re a young person just starting out on your own, make sure you have a rental contract/lease or at least one bill with your own name on it coming to the address at which you live (not your parents’ home which would be considered a mailing address while you were away at school). Your college/university should be able to give you a copy of a contract if you’re living in a residence/dorm that states your room assignment. If you are sharing off-campus accommodations with a roommate make sure both of your names are on the lease/rental agreement, or that your name is on one of the utility bills.

You could create a file (paper and/or electronic) containing these documents along with a spreadsheet listing your previous addresses. Keep a copy of these documents for at least five years, or at least 10 years if you are considering employment in an industry requiring “TOP SECRET” security clearance.

Having all of these documents handy will make the job application process much faster and easier and you’ll look like a prepared professional when you’re able to submit all the required documentation almost immediately.

More unconventional organizing solutions

Alex’s post on unconventional organizing solutions inspired me to share some of my creativity with Unclutterer readers.

Organizing bandages

bandages in coupon organizerOur first-aid kit had several half-filled boxes of bandages. They took up a lot of space and made it difficult to find specialty bandages such as those for fingertips and knuckles. To solve this problem, I used a coupon organizer.

Of course, you can use a coupon organizer to keep coupons, receipts, or business cards in order, but it works very well for bandages too.

Paper management

portable file foldersWe had several portable document holders lying around the house (leftovers from children’s school projects) so I decided to put them to work.

Using two folders, I sorted out all of the types of paper we use in our printer — various sizes and types of photo paper, card stock (assorted colours), address labels, business cards, etc. Now we can find exactly what we need when we need it.

In another folder, I sorted our sandpaper. It was always getting bent and torn in the bottom of the tool box. Having the sandpaper rubbing against the tools was neither good for the tools nor the sandpaper. Now that it is organized in the document holder, it’s easy to grab what we need to quickly finish a project.

challenge coin collection

Challenge Coin Collection

Being in the military, my husband has a some challenge coins. We had a display case for his collection but the first time we moved, we had to remove all of the coins from the case, wrap them individually then put them back in the case at our new house (very time consuming). During one move, the display case was broken so we were left with a box of wrapped coins. We needed a way for my husband to quickly see what he had in his collection, yet be able to move the collection quickly and easily. We used a pocket hanging jewelry organizer. The jewelry organizer isn’t really used for display purposes as it hangs in a closet, but it does make it easy for my husband to view his collection and it rolls easily to keep all the coins safe when we move. When he retires and we stop moving every few years, we’ll get a proper display case but until then, we’ll stick with the jewelry organizer.

Now it’s your turn. What other uses can you find for a coupon organizer, portable document holder, or a hanging jewelry organizer? Share your ideas in the comments section or in the Forum.

Hole in the bucket organizing

When I was a little girl grandmother and aunt taught me Harry Bellefonte’s Hole in the Bucket song and of course I remember watching the classic Sesame Street performance on TV.

 

The Hole in the Bucket is a classic endless loop dilemma that at we all get stuck in at some point. If you’re stuck in an endless loop in your computer program you can simply press CTRL +ALT +DEL to break the cycle. Unfortunately, real life doesn’t have CTRL +ALT +DEL buttons so you’ll need to look for another way to exit the endless loop.

The first step is to recognize that you’re in an endless loop. If you don’t seem to be getting anywhere, write down the list of tasks you need to complete to achieve your goal. If you’ve written a task more than once, you’re likely in an endless loop. In the song, Henry’s problem was the hole in his bucket.

Change focus. Henry was focused on getting a whole bucket of water. If he had focused on another part of his task list, for example sharpening his axe, he would have realized that a small cup would have carried enough water to wet his stone. If you’re trying to organize your home and you keep focusing on the kitchen, consider focusing on the dining room instead. An organized dining room may free up enough space to allow you to easily organize the kitchen.

Working with new people can help escape an endless loop. Henry was working with Liza who was offering no real solutions and seemed to be perpetuating the loop. If Henry had spoken with a neighbour, he could have borrowed a bucket or an axe and had his problem solved. Talking to a friend, family member, or hiring a professional organizer can provide new and insightful clues to resolve your organizational problems.

Using your wildest imagination could provide unique solutions. If buckets didn’t exist, how would Henry get water? What would buckets be made of so they would never get holes? In your own situation, what if you could just wave a magic wand and have the clutter disappear? If you had unlimited funds, how could you solve the problem? Even if the answers are outlandish, they just might just lead to a solution you may not have previously considered.

Have you ever been stuck in an endless loop? What helped you escape? Please share with our readers in the comments.

Reader Question: Secret collecting behaviour

Reader Luna wrote to ask us this unique question:

My husband keeps collecting things, especially newspaper and magazine cuttings and he keeps them in separate files. Most of the cuttings are of no use. He does not want to throw away old plumbing or electrical parts but if I throw something away, he does not even notice. Please help me to deal with this problem. He does not do this in front of us but keeps collecting when he is alone. What could be the reason for his behaviour? Please help.

Thanks for sharing your dilemma Luna. I am sure you’re not the only person who has been, or will be in this situation.

There could be many reasons why your husband is collecting items. Perhaps he finds it an interesting hobby but knows you do not approve so he collects things without you watching. There could also be a medical or psychological reasons for his behaviour. While Unclutterer has a plethora of resources on how to organize, arrange, and manage collections, we are not qualified to assess human behaviour – that is best left to medical and mental health professionals such as doctors and psychologists.

Our suggestion is to have an open honest discussion with your spouse indicating your concern about his behaviour. The American Psychiatric Association provides some great advice.

It is important that you remain positive and supportive. Do not judge or criticise. While you may see your husband’s collection as a waste of time and effort, he most likely does not. You may wish to focus your conversation on safety (e.g., avoiding trip hazards, keeping fire escape routes clear, etc.), keeping the collection organized or perhaps confined to a specific area of the home. Show empathy – listen and try to see things from your husband’s perspective.

Also, stop disposing of his items without his consent. This may be difficult for you but if he finds out, it will undermine the trust he has in you and he may have trouble believing you’re acting in his best interests.

You may wish to encourage your husband to see a medical doctor to rule out any medical reasons for his behaviour. Visiting a mental health professional – perhaps the two of you together, would be beneficial in helping to understand each other’s perspective.

Thanks for your great question Luna. We hope that this post gives you the information you’re looking for.

 

Do you have a question relating to organizing, 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 as “Ask Unclutterer.”

Unitasker Wednesday: Brussels Sprout Prep Tool

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

For those of you who, like me, enjoy Brussels sprouts, the Chef’n Twist’n Sprout Brussels Sprout Prep Tool offers a quick and easy way to prepare them. It claims to quickly remove the stem and core of the sprout and loosen the leaves for broiling and roasting. You simply pierce the stem with the tip of the tool and rotate the sprout to trim the core.

I’m not sure the Chef’n Twist’n Sprout Brussels Sprout Prep Tool is any better than a knife. At least when a knife gets dull, you can sharpen it. When the Sprout Prep Tool gets dull, I guess you just throw it out. What a waste!

Also, this tool seems to be made for larger sprouts. Our family prefers the smaller, less bitter varieties of sprouts (also called “button sprouts”) so I doubt this gadget would work without me also shaving a layer of skin off my fingers. Left-handed people may find this difficult to use because you can only turn the sprout one way to trim it. Fortunately for us lefties, knives can be used with either hand.

You can try it if you want but I’ll keep my kitchen drawers clutter-free thanks.

Thanks reader Leah for bringing this unitasker to our attention.