Unitasker Wednesday: Chef vs. Gadget

A big thank you to reader Celeste who sent us this video where a chef competes against unitasker gadgets.

The video shows that a chef knife wins spectacularly over the unitaskery avocado cutter and corn cob peeler. There was a tie between the chef knife and herb cutter (only for the green onions). If you already have a knife, sharpen up your cutting skills and skip buying the herb cutter?

The rapid egg cooker and the microwave pasta cooker, both unitaskers, won against the chef. How did they do that? They saved time — and likely saved energy. The rapid egg cooker does not require an entire pot of water to be boiled on the stove. The pasta cooker uses the microwave to boil water which is much faster and more energy efficient than the stove top. Both the pasta cooker and rapid egg cooker might be useful for students living in dorms who only have access to a microwave and an electrical outlet.

Thanks again Celeste! It’s a great video.

 

Note: Our post links to a microwave pasta cooker with higher Amazon reviews than the one shown in the video.

Wine storage

Most wine is consumed within a few weeks of purchase and often within a day of purchase. Some people are wine collectors and store wines for long-term aging. Here are a few ways to store your wine.

For storing a few bottles of wine on a countertop or shelf, the VonShef rack’s geometric design has a retro minimalist look. The gentle curves in the Oenophilia Bali Wine Rack were inspired by ocean waves. Sleek and chic, the Butterfly wine rack is made from light-weight wood and stores eight bottles of wine.

 

These free-standing stackable bamboo wine racks hold 12 bottles each. They can be placed on a counter, shelf, or it can be used in a wine cellar. They do not require any tools to assemble. An alternative to wood racks is this 24-bottle chrome rack. It is light-weight and inexpensive.

 

 

In smaller homes counter/shelf space and floor space often cannot be spared to store wine. This wall-mounted rack stores six bottles of wine in minimal space. If you need somewhere to store your stemware too, this wine shelf has a built-in stemware rack.

 

 

 

If dinner parties are the only time you have wine, the Monkey Mat is your best choice. Simply roll it out on the counter and stack the wine on it. When the wine is gone, roll up the mat and stick it in a drawer — or use it to store bottled water in your fridge. It is a multi-tasker!

Whichever rack you choose, keep your wine away from temperature fluctuations, light, and humidity. Do not place racks where they will be exposed to direct sunlight, furnace or air conditioning vents, or in damp basements.

If you are thinking about building a wine collection and storing wine for long-term aging, investing in a dual-zone wine fridge will protect your investment.

Cheers!

Unitasker Wednesday: Silly scented products

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

During the holidays, people will be out enjoying parties a little more often. The police, (rightly so) will also be conducting more frequent roadside sobriety tests. Imagine that you have not had a drop of alcohol to drink. You are stopped at a roadside check and the officer asks you to roll down your window. Out wafts the smell of bourbon — from your car’s air freshener.

Yes, you too can have the smell of drunk driving without driving drunk. Just hang a few of these little bourbon scented trees around the inside of your car.

I might consider this for a bar or lounge area, but a car? No. Not really a good idea.

 

The Jimmy Dean sausage company holds a recipe exchange during the holiday season. Readers submit a recipe that uses Jimmy Dean sausages and they get to select one of the limited-edition keepsakes the company offers. This year, one of the keepsakes was sausage scented gift wrap.

I have a dog. Not one thing wrapped in sausage scented gift wrap would last more than 30 seconds. If any of the gift wrap was swallowed, it would be an expensive visit to the veterinarian.

For anyone who has pets, unscented and recyclable gift wrap would be the best option. You’ll have plenty of sausage scent when you cook sausages for breakfast Christmas morning.

Ask Unclutterer: Why is it so hard to let go?

Reader Trish sends in this question:

I grew up with a table with a center post. It came with extra leaves so we could expand it. We bought it second-hand and I have had for 40 years. Over the years, the legs have had to be screwed, or glued back on. I have been looking at center post tables for a while but couldn’t afford one. My son received a beautiful one and since he needs to move, he has offered it to me. I would love it! However, in order to get it, I have to throw my current table with its one loose leg into the garbage. Suddenly, that 40-year-old table is very beautiful and I have great sadness at the thought of tossing it out and have the garbage truck crush it to death. I am almost ready to back out of the deal. His wood center post table is beautiful and would be a great opportunity lost if I can’t detach my heart from my old broken table. HELP!!! I don’t understand why it so hard to let go.

That is a great question Trish. Many of us have a hard time letting go of things. A number of years ago, scientist examined the brains of hoarders and non-hoarders. Researchers found greater activity in a certain part of the brain when hoarders were faced with a decision to dispose of their belongings.1 This same part of the brain is also associated with maintaining a sense of “me.”2

This is not to suggest that you, or any of our readers who have trouble disposing items are hoarders. But, I wonder… if we own an item for a long period of time, will we have conditioned our minds to believe the item is part of us? It certainly seems that way sometimes.

From your submission, it sounds like your table, or parts thereof, could still be put to good use. Have you considered hiring a carpenter to build something from the salvageable parts of the table? Perhaps you could turn the table top into picture frames. Collect a series of photos showing your family around the table at birthdays, holidays, or special events and put them in the frames. You might consider building a shelf or serving trays from the table as well.

If you decide to build something new from the old table, set a time limit. If you have not moved forward with the project in six months, then give yourself permission to let the table go. If you are resistant to having it go in the garbage, consider donating it to a trade school or wood working club where the wood could be re-purposed. You might be able to find someone in a Freecycle or Buy Nothing group that would be happy to have the table and you would know it is going to someone who will appreciate it.

If you decide to let your table go, consider the advice provided by Marie Kondo in her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up. Think of the lessons that the table taught you and all of the wonderful experiences you had while you owned it. Thank the table for its devoted service and send it on its way. I held a funeral for a pair of riding boots that I owned for 30 years. I know it sounds crazy, but it helped.

Allow yourself to feel all the feelings. You are human. It is just a “thing” but the memories around the thing are important so do not feel guilty for acknowledging that.

Thanks for your great question Trish. 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.”

  1. Tolin, David F., et al. “Neural Mechanisms of Decision Making in Hoarding Disorder.” Archives of General Psychiatry, vol. 69, no. 8, 2012, p. 832., doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.1980. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22868937
  2. McGonigal, Kelly. “Why It’s Hard to Let Go of Clutter.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 7 Aug. 2012, psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-science-willpower/201208/why-it-s-hard-let-go-clutter.

2018 Gift Giving Guide: Wrap Up

This post summarizes our 12th Annual Holiday Gift Giving Guide. We hope this tradition has inspired you to give uncluttered presents this season and throughout the coming year.

For more inspiration, visit our previous Gift Giving Guides: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

From the Unclutterer staff, we wish you a relaxing and clutter-free holiday season!

2018 Gift Giving Guide: Online giving

Many people live far away from family and friends and may not have the chance to get together over the holidays. Even if people do travel, they are likely limited in the baggage they can carry. This is why online giving might be the perfect gift option. Here are some online gift suggestions.

Amazon Prime

If you know someone who would like to order from Amazon but cannot justify the shipping charges, give the gift of Amazon Prime. Not only will they enjoy free two-day shipping on millions of items, they will have access to thousands of movies and TV shows with Prime Video, be able to stream millions of songs, and get free Kindle e-books. You have the choice of purchasing a 3-month or 12-month subscription.

Audible

Audio books are a great gift for commuters or anyone that would like a hands-free reading option. An Audible subscription allows the user 30 days of free membership. Afterwards, the user can choose three audiobooks each month two of which are Audible Originals. Books can be switched out at any time and if the membership expires, the user gets to keep the audiobooks forever.

Magazines

Print magazines can pile up quickly. Consider these Kindle options as gifts:

There magazines for everyone on your gift list whether they have an interest in quilting, car racing, home and garden, or business and finance.

Newspapers

Most national and international newspapers have their top stories free online but in-depth stories and editorials often requires a subscription. A subscription to the LA Times might be appreciated by someone from the west coast now living in the east. The Washington Post offers two options, a regular subscription which provides unlimited access to the newspaper, and a premium subscription which includes unlimited downloads of top-rated e-books authored by their journalists. Many regional and local newspapers offer online or digital subscriptions as well.

Online Services

Gift Cards

When you live far away from friends and family and do not see them frequently, it can be difficult to know their preferences. This is where gift cards can come in handy. Amazon offers a selection of gift cards for anything on Amazon or for specific items such as travel services to pet care to electronics.

If you have received online gifts, what were your favourites? Share your experiences to inspire our readers.

 

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

2018 Gift Giving Guide: The big gift

Some families draw names for the holidays and each person receives one “big” gift instead of many smaller gifts from different people. If this describes your family, consider some of these pricier organizing items.

Back in 2007, we suggested that the Fujitsu ScanSnap would be an ideal gift for someone who struggles with paper clutter. We still stand behind that statement. Technology has improved over the last 11 years. The ScanSnap iX500 model will work with both Mac and PC and connect via wi-fi to tablets and smartphones. You can create searchable multi-page PDFs and sort your files into appropriate folders based on relevant keywords. The duplex function allows both sides of the page to be scanned quickly. This might be the ultimate organizational gift for someone who needs to scan business cards, photos, documents, or hand-written notes.

In 2008, our ultimate gift idea was the Kindle. We still believe that for any book lover, it is an excellent gift. Couple your Kindle selection with a subscription to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited and your recipient will have access to thousands of books for free.

The Amazon Echo with added “smart” light bulb might an appreciated gift. I have one in my home and when my hands are full, it is really nice to shout, “Please turn on the basement lights!” Some people may not find any organizational benefit to having these devices and they could pose a security risk to your home. Consider including expert set-up services with the gift to ensure the security risks are minimized.

Maybe not as much fun as an electronic device, a stylish filing cabinet might be a great organizational gift for someone who needs a place to keep documents in order and secure. Add some multi-colour, hanging file folders to help the recipient get started.

We would be remiss in our duties if we did not at least mention a label maker. This Brady BBP37 Industrial Colour Sign and Label Printer is the ultimate in big gifts and at a whopping $3000, the ultimate in big price tags. However, if you need long-lasting, industrial grade labels to withstand harsh outdoor conditions, this is the label maker to get. But seriously, for everyday use, the Brother Compact Labeler with Carrying Case is a much better (and more reasonably priced) choice. Consider adding a package of labels in assorted colours too.

What has been the best organizing gift you have received? Share with our readers to provide some holiday inspiration.

 

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Unitasker Wednesday: The impact of unitaskers

Almost every week we publish a post about a unitasker. Unitaskers generally serve only one function (uni-task) and whose function could easily be replaced by another item that you already have.

Some unitaskers are useful if they improve safety, or save time, effort, or money. Occasionally we have featured items that would have no benefit to most people but be very useful to someone with special needs (e.g., Staybowlizer, electric corkscrew). From time to time, we feature items that are beyond extravagant such as a $1500 silver coffee can.

We have also featured some gag gifts like the Turn & Churn (which is just an empty box) and the flying, screaming, sling-shot monkey. We tell our readers that we do not want them to buy these items, but to laugh at their ridiculousness.

This article by George Monbiot nicely explains the economic and environmental impact of unitasker and gag gifts. It is entitled The Gift of Death, but Death to Unitaskers would also be an appropriate title.

This holiday season, we may be tempted to purchase a unitasker or “gag gift” for someone that seems to have everything already. It might trigger a belly laugh when it is opened and perhaps a few minutes of enjoyment during the next few days. But in the long run, the item will just gather dust in the recipient’s home until it ends up in a thrift shop (maybe) and finally the landfill. Please dear readers, reconsider your gift of clutter. The best present is your presence.

2018 Gift Giving Guide: Stocking stuffer edition

Are you looking for inexpensive gifts to stuff into stockings, give to family, friends, co-workers, or teachers? Here is a list of affordable items that can help people stay organized.

Neon luggage tags are durable, highly visible on your baggage, and make it easy to update your contact details. Add one inside the suitcase with your travel details and contact information in case the airline barcode tag gets ripped off the suitcase handle.

Measure conversion wall art vinyl decals stick to any smooth surface. Decorative and useful for anyone who loves cooking (or who, like me, grew up learning only the metric system). Apply them to walls, or outside or inside kitchen cupboard doors.

This set of 126 chalkboard labels come with chalk markers. They are great for bottles, jars, drawers, or bins.

Small clear containers and small woven baskets are ideal to organize drawers, desktops, or just about anywhere. There are at least 50 ways to use a basket.

Hooks in the shape of dog tails are a cute way to make sure your pets’ leashes and collars stay in one place. They are available in pink, blue, and green.

To help cyclists stay organized, this storage container in the shape of a water bottle holds tools or snacks and fits neatly in a water bottle holder eliminating the need to install a saddle bag.

Whether surfboarding or snowboarding, this waterproof pouch will keep your keys and wallet dry and secure.

This weekly/monthly agenda is undated so you can start planning any time of the year not just on January 1st.

Besides jewellery, this 32-pocket hanging organizer could also be used to keep all sorts of toys, trinkets, or coins in order.

Craft and office supplies, jewellery, nails, screws, and other hardware can be sorted and stored in these lidded boxes with built-in, adjustable dividers.

This expandable mini filing pouch can organize and store coupons, receipts, business cards, and even bandages.

These bold, colourful, pre-printed stickers are easy to add to any calendar. They help remind parents of appointments, school holidays, etc. — and no more writing the same thing over and over again!

The gift of organization is always appreciated but it doesn’t have to be expensive. We hope this list has given our readers some inspiration. Feel welcome to share your best and least expensive organizing gift ideas.

 

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

2018 Gift Giving Guide: Experience gifts

The memories created by unique experiences are gifts treasured for the rest of your life.

If you are planning on giving an experience gift, don’t just put cash in an envelope and write, “Treat yourself to [experience gift] on me!” Do some research on your recipient’s preferences and the company you will be purchasing from. Take the time to purchase the gift card/certificate and enclose it in a nice card. Some companies will even prepare the card and mail it on your behalf especially if you do not live in the area.

Here are some things to think about when buying an experience gift.

  • Does the company have a good reputation for health, safety, business management? You don’t want to find out that the salon where you purchased the pedicure gift certificate will go out of business in the next few months.
  • Will the recipient incur extra expenses in order to use the gift certificate such as high-cost parking fees, hotel, or other travel costs?
  • Is there an expiry date on the coupon or voucher? Can the recipient exchange the voucher for another service offered?
  • If the recipient has limitations, will the company be able to adapt their services? For example, can the restaurant hosting a cooking course adapt to someone with nut allergies?

To help you choose which type of experience gift to invest in, we’ve separated them into different categories.

Self-care: Gift certificate for a facial, massage, pedicure or manicure. Consultation with personal stylist.

Outings: Wine tasting evening, dinner at a restaurant, concert tickets, museum or art gallery special showings.

Adventures: Stunt driving, whale watching, flying lessons, white-water rafting, birdwatching tour.

Education: Pottery classes, art lessons, music lessons, consultation with expert (e.g. landscaper, interior designer, antique appraiser, etc.)

Perfect Day Experiences operates only in Canada but their list of experience gifts is impressive! It will inspire your imagination so check out their website for some great ideas.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

2018 Gift Giving Guide: Gifts for children

Every year we get parents asking us how to stop the excessive gift giving of well-meaning family members. It is a challenge! Here are some tips.

If you have babies, create a baby gift registry if you haven’t already done so. Babies grow quickly and there is always an ongoing need for diapers, wipes, and larger sized sleepers. Refer relatives to your registry for gift ideas.

Older children like to have a gift to open but talk to family members about uncluttered gifts and suggest the following:

  • Gift passes to local attractions such as the zoo, science centre, or museum.
  • Tickets to a concert, musical theatre production, or other show.
  • Pay for art, music, or sports lessons.
  • Pay for driving lessons or contribute to a teen’s car insurance or car maintenance.

Another option is to have relatives with special expertise offer to share their skills with your children. Sewing, knitting, and cooking are all great hobbies as well as practical life skills, as are woodworking, metalsmithing, and jewellery making. Create coupons for “Sewing Lessons with Grandma” or “Learn to BBQ with Uncle David.”

Children do not need a lot of stuff when they are young but when they are older, they will need college tuition. Rather than spend money on piles of clutter creating presents, encourage family members to contribute to an education savings fund. Malcolm X said it best, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” Your family members could purchase a small gift representing scientists, doctors, or astronauts to show children how an education leads to success.

If you have tried any of these solutions in the past, how has that worked for your family? Share with fellow Unclutterers in the comments.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

2018 Gift Giving Guide: Consumable gifts

Consumable gifts when done correctly, can be some of the most appreciated presents we receive. When poorly executed, it can actually lead to more clutter. Here are some tips to choosing the best consumable gifts for the people on your list.

Food is first on the list when people think of consumables. After all, everyone eats — we just don’t all eat the same things. Consider the following:

  • Some food allergies are severe. Your intended recipient may not be allergic but if any of their family members have allergies, the item may never be consumed.
  • Dietary Restrictions. Low salt, low sugar, low fat, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan… Some are medical restrictions, some are faith-based restrictions, others are by choice. Whatever the reason, respect the limitations in your gift-giving.

Always read the label and the list of ingredients before purchasing and when in doubt, ask!

You might want to opt for specialty foods that your recipients would not normally purchase themselves. I always get my husband imported lemon curd for the holidays. It is something his British granny used to make every year and try as I might, I have never mastered the recipe.

Students starting out on their own may appreciate a spice starter kit with free refills for five years. For the coffee lover, perhaps a three month coffee sampler subscription would be appreciated. The gourmet chef on your list might enjoy pure Spanish saffron. There are many gourmet international food options to choose from.

Although not nearly so glamourous as international gourmet food, other consumables that might be well received include:

Take the time to get to know your recipient’s preferences and use your imagination to create the perfect consumable (and clutter free) gift.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.