Hold the mail

On our post Becoming a more organized traveler, Maria, one of our readers, wrote us to say that she always has her postal mail delivery suspended when she goes on vacation. This is a great idea because if mail piles up in your mailbox advertising that you’re not home, it makes you a target for theft and identity fraud.

Even when you’re at home, the “hold mail” option from your postal service can also help keep you organized during short-term events when mail would overflow your home mail centre. These events include:

Stay-cations. On a stay-cation you spend your days zooming around to attractions, restaurants, and treating your house like a hotel. Rather than have important mail get lost in all of the shuffle, have the post office hold it for you until guests have departed and you have returned to your regular mail processing routine.

Special Occasions. Weddings, anniversary parties, and family reunions take time and effort to plan, attend, and especially host. Consider having mail delivery suspended from a few days before, until a few days after the event. When the event is over, you’ll have time to sort through your mail properly and you won’t accidentally send your payment for the electric bill enclosed in a thank-you card.

Home Renovations. The house is being torn apart and work crews are everywhere. Mail can be easily lost (or stolen) in the tumult. Suspending mail delivery during this time may save you from losing important bills and payments. You can always pop-in to the post office and pick up your mail weekly if the renovations are over an extended period.

Some people who travel regularly choose to rent a post office box and have all of their personal mail delivered there. They pick it up every week or so and process it all at the same time. Even if you don’t travel, this option might work for you depending on the quantity of mail you receive and the ease of visiting your post office box.

Have you ever used a “hold-mail” service other than when going away on vacation? We’d love to hear how it worked for you.

Unitasker Wednesday: Rub Away bar

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

The Rub Away bar is a piece of stainless steel that resembles a bar of soap. It claims that you can remove odours (garlic, onions, fish, etc.) from your hands simply by rubbing them with this stainless steel bar.

I’m not sure why you couldn’t just rub your hands on one of the other pieces of stainless steel already in your kitchen such as the sink, faucet, pots, pans, or cutlery to remove the odour – IF stainless steel actually removed odour. There have been no scientific studies to show that this actually anything more than an old wives’ tale.

If you’re going to spend money on something that keeps odour from building up on your skin while cutting smelly foods, use soap and water. Regular washing will not only remove odour but also any dirt, oils, bacteria, and viruses – something that stainless steel won’t do.

Thanks to our reader Deb for bringing this unitasker to our attention.

Review of the S.P.A.C.E. program

Tomorrow, January 14, is Organize Your Home Day. The first book I ever read about home organization was back in 1999 while I was pregnant for baby #2. The book was Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. The book is as valuable now as it was 17 years ago.

With this book, Morgenstern organizes the approach to organizing. Her acronym S.P.A.C.E. (sort, purge, assign, containerize, and equalize) helps people (including me!) develop a systematic method for uncluttering quickly and easily. Let’s look at each step in a little more depth.

Sort

Group similar items together using common characteristics. You might decide to group clothing by putting all “tops” in one pile, and “bottoms” in another pile. Or you could sort by “work clothes” and “weekend clothes.” The way you group items together may be different from someone else but sort them in a way that makes sense to you.

Purge

Once items are sorted, you can see exactly what you have. Now is the time to physically remove items from the home. Keep only what you love, what you need, and what you use. Reduce the number of unitaskers you own. Consider renting, borrowing, or sharing items you do not use often.

Assign a home

Designate a spot in your home where specific items will “live.” My stapler lives in the second drawer of the cabinet beside my desk. Items that are not used all year-round may need a “vacation home.” For example, the duvet lives on the bed from November to March, then it moves to its vacation home in a zippered bag in the linen closet from April to October.

Containerize

Only after the first three steps have been completed should you choose containers appropriate to the item and the item’s home. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of buying bins large enough to hold my items but they would not fit on the shelves where the items were being stored! Always measure twice so you only have to buy once. You may wish to consider using inexpensive baskets or even cardboard boxes at first. Once you’ve determined that the “home” for the item is in the correct spot, then spend the extra money for high quality containers.

Equalize

The last step is often overlooked but you will need to schedule maintenance time during which you put things back in their homes. You can schedule daily, weekly, and seasonal maintenance. If the maintenance seems to be more work than originally anticipated, consider changing homes for certain items. Keep refining your system until it works well for you.

Morgenstern’s S.P.A.C.E. program won’t get you on a Journey to Mars but it will help you make your home on planet Earth a lot more enjoyable.

Unitasker Wednesday: Finger lights

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

When I first saw these finger lights in a local department store last month I knew I had to include them in a Unitasker Wednesday post. Children clip these little LED lights to their fingers at birthday parties to make “cool designs” while waving their hands around in the dark. My young-adult offspring informed me that finger lights are also worn by the older crowd at “raves.” Either way, I figured finger lights were still unitaskers.

However, just last week my husband and I went for a walk around our neighbourhood after dinner, on a dark street, past a small park, and  heard rustling in the leaves, and saw in the shadows an unknown animal with fur and lots of teeth – and I kind of wished that I had LED lights clipped to my fingers and running shoes and every article of clothing I was wearing.

Happy birthday to us! Unclutterer turns ten!

On January 6, 2007, we published our first blog post with our manifesto of simple living. We’re thrilled that over the past ten years we’ve been able to provide tips, tricks, and inspiration to help people unclutter and stay organized and productive.

Here are some highlights from our first decade:

We would like to thank all of the regular and guest writers that have contributed to Unclutterer but most of all, we’d like to thank YOU, our readers, for your continued comments, ideas, and support and encouragement.

Here’s to another ten years of simple living!

Unitasker Wednesday: Pancake Bot

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

We’ve written about pancake unitaskers previously. The Snap Jack Pancake Cutter can easily be replaced by a knife you already own and the Perfect Pancake Pan was described as, “the poster child for all unitaskers.”

Well, move over Perfect Pancake Pan and make room for PancakeBot – the world’s first 3D pancake printer. It automatically dispenses pancake batter directly onto a griddle in any shape designed by the cook.

But wait – don’t open that bottle of maple syrup yet! First you need to install the (included) software on your computer and learn how to use it before you can design your own pancakes. Once your composition is complete, you need to upload it into the PancakeBot, prepare the pancake batter and fill the dispenser. Only then will the machine deliver the batter onto the non-stick griddle in the shape you designed.

I suspect, by watching the video, that only certain types of pancake batters can be used in this machine. For example, vegan oatmeal pancake batter would be too thick to dispense. I’m not sure that I could successfully flip the Eiffel Tower pancake and have it stay in one piece but maybe there are some people who can coordinate two spatulas at a time.

The PancakeBot promotes itself by “helping kids and adults explore technology through food” but there are better ways to learn food science for much less than PancakeBot’s $300 price tag.

Organizing resolution jump-start

We know that many people have chosen “getting organized” as a New Year’s resolution – and some of those people want to get started now! Here is a short-list of Unclutterer posts that can help you get a jump-start.

Setting Organizing Goals

Overwhelmed?

How to Start

Uncluttering

Keeping Motivated

Happy New Year from the Unclutterer Team and all the best to you in your organizing efforts.

Unitasker Wednesday: Talking Toilet Paper Spindle

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

Perhaps it’s from parenting young children, but when I go into the bathroom, I appreciate the peace and quiet – and the privacy. Now, lo and behold, with the Talking Toilet Paper Spindle, the toilet paper will talk to me. I can’t think of another thing that would be so disturbing as someone leaving me a message via the toilet roll.

This talking toilet paper spindle allows you to record a 9-second message that will play when the user pulls the toilet paper. Then the user can record a rebuttal right after. As if texting in the bathroom wasn’t bad enough, now you can have a verbal conversation via the toilet paper.

I could expect something like this if I was visiting a fraternity or a joke shop but I couldn’t imagine having this in my home.

Reader Question: Vintage bedspreads

Reader Delia recently sent us the following question:

What does one do with old, vintage sentimental bed spreads?

If the bedspreads have sentimental value but you no longer wish to keep them, consider asking family members or friends if they would like them. Send an email or letter describing the history of the bedspreads and include a few photos.

If the bedspreads are in good condition, a museum or local historical society may be interested, especially if the quilts handmade by local artisans or citizens of local importance. It always helps if you can provide historical context around the item being donated such as the life of the artisan(s) and the creation of the quilt itself. Occasionally theatre or reenactment groups may need quilts made during a specific time period. They may be willing to accept your donation.

Storing and displaying vintage quilts and bedspreads can be laborious. Antique fabric in general is difficult to handle because it is easily damaged. If you do not have the confidence or ability to manage a project like this, consult a local museum or historical society. They may be able to refer you to someone in your area who can take on your project.

The Great Lakes Quilt Centre provides quite a bit of information on how to clean, store and display antique quilts.

  • Washing can enlarge holes and bunch up batting. Wringing and pulling can break seams and damage fibres, especially when they are wet so do not put quilts in a washing machine or hang them on a clothesline. Dry cleaning should also be avoided.
  • A gentle vacuuming with low suction through a fiberglass screen is recommended to remove dust.
  • In storage, quilts should be folded as few times as possible. Every few months, refold them along different lines to avoid permanent creases. Stuffing the folds with acid-free paper or unbleached muslin can help avoid fold lines.
  • Wood, cardboard and plastic can emit chemicals that cause fabric to break down. Store quilts in unbleached, 100% cotton pillowcases or sheets to protect them from light and dust. Acid-free storage boxes are ideal for storing these types of textiles. Quilts can also be rolled onto acid-free tubes and covered with a cotton or muslin sheath to protect them from dust.
  • Store quilts in an area that is not subject to fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Ideal conditions are slightly cooler than room temperature and around 50% relative humidity. Avoid light (sunlight and artificial light) because it can damage fibres as well as cause fading.
  • To capture historic details of the quilt, iron a piece of muslin to a piece of freezer paper and use a typewriter or laser printer to print the historical information about the quilt. Peel the fabric label from the paper and hand stitch the fabric carefully onto the back of the quilt. You could also use indelible ink to write the information on the muslin by hand and stitch it onto the quilt. It can be helpful to create a muslin pocket to hold other important information such as photos of those who made the quilt or a family tree diagram showing the relationship between the quilt maker and the quilt owner.

Finally, if you still have a sentimental attachment to your quilts and bedspreads but do not feel that it is worth the efforts to properly store them, consider taking photos of the entire quilt and close-up shots of specific fabrics. Write the story of the quilt-maker, how the quilt was made and how it came into your possession. “Publish” the story on your own and share it with your family and friends. Donate the quilt itself to charity or to an animal shelter.

Unitasker Wednesday: Banana Holder

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

Bananas are a quick and healthy snack. My husband, a cyclist, often takes a banana (or two) on long distance bicycle rides. Bananas are fast and easy to eat on the go. There are many ways to transport a banana. You can put a banana in one of the three pockets on the back of your cycling shirt. You can also put a banana in your backpack along with all of the other items you carry. I’ve even known cyclists to put a banana into a water bottle so that it fits in the water bottle holder already attached to the bicycle.

Now there is a new way to carry a banana on a bicycle – the Banana Holder. Made from genuine leather, this holder can fasten a banana to your bicycle in three different ways, under your cross-bar, to your handle bars, or under your seat. For only $55 USD, you too can carry a banana, and only a banana, on your bicycle for all to see.

 

 

Thanks to Unclutterer reader Llynn for bringing this expensive unitasker to our attention.

Origami Rack

The process of getting organized often requires buying a set of shelves. Like many other people wanting to get organized, I would go to a department store and buy a heavy, flat-pack shelving unit, haul it into my house, and unpack it. Then, I would have to wait for my husband or children to come home because it always required at least two people to assemble the unit with pegs, screws, and nails — if all of the parts were included in the package.

These MDF/pressboard shelves often warped with the weight of books or other heavy items. We’re a military family and move house about every three years and often these shelving units broke or fell apart during a move. We sometimes disassembled and re-assembled them, but it was time consuming and the re-assembled units were never as sturdy as they were before they were taken apart. We ended up replacing many of them over the years — expensive for us and not good for the environment!

Now, I have finally found a solution to my shelving problems and hopefully to yours as well — Origami Rack.

Just like the traditional art of paper folding, Origami Racks assemble/disassemble by folding and unfolding. There are no tools required! Watch the video to see the 4-tier Garage Shelf set up in ten seconds. It is made from steel and can hold 250 pounds (110kg) per shelf!

 

Origami Rack has other products that are great for inside your home. The Easy Organizer 12-Cube holds 5.5 pounds (2.5kg) per shelf and would be ideal for storing shoes, sweaters, toys, linens, and more. It simply pops open fully assembled.

The Origami Computer Desk would be ideal for people who travel for work perhaps setting up at trade shows, or for students who live in small apartments and dorm rooms.

The Deco Tiered Display Rack can be used in a bedroom or living area as a stylish organizing solution or in the office as a classy printer stand.

The other thing I really like about Origami Racks is most of the products can be fitted with wheels. You only need one person to assemble and disassemble and move these items.

If you have a mobile component to your lifestyle, and you have a desire to be organized and productive, make it easy on yourself and consider Origami Rack.

Unitasker Wednesday: Ugly Christmas Sweater

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

This Friday is National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. There is nothing more unitaskery than an article of clothing that you wear only once a year – except, of course, an ugly article of clothing that you wear only once a year.

Costumes of all types tend to be unitaskers but I’m really not a Scrooge. I understand the fun and whimsy that is needed during the dreary winter month of December. I also appreciate that many Ugly Christmas Sweater events support charities.

If you’re planning on participating in Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, try shopping at used/consignment clothing stores before purchasing something new. You could also host an ugly sweater swap party where friends can exchange their sweaters so everyone has something new to wear the following year.

Happy Holidays!