Organizing if money were no object

When my sisters and I were kids, we would sometimes play the Million Dollar Game. It amounted to little more than this: If you had a hundred million dollars, what would you do with it? Back then, the answers came fast and furious:

Ride a helicopter to school!
Live in a house made of gold!
Have a pet zebra!
Have a hundred pet zebras!

Today, let’s have a little fun and play the Million Dollar Game for Organizing, Productivity, and Uncluttering. If money were no object, the following are some of the over-the-top products I’d consider introducing to my life. Park your helicopter on your house of gold and pick out your favorite zebra, because it’s time to have a little fun.

My first selection would be the Cardok (see picture above). The Cardok enables underground parking on a residential level. Similar to public garages you see in big cities, the Cardok stores your car, out of sight and underground, when it’s not in use. As the website states, you may even maintain a lovely garden on the “roof” when the car is parked.

Or pretend you’re Batman. I’d pretend I’m Batman.

My next purchase would be a dedicated work building. I have a shed in my backyard, but it’s nothing like what Chuck Wendig refers to as his “…fully armed and operational writer’s shed.” Chuck and his wife converted a typical backyard shed into a stand-alone office, complete with electricity, heat/AC, furniture, and a beautiful paint job. It’s easy to keep your home office from spilling into your house when it’s in a separate building.

Now that I think about it, the shed is great but if money were really no object, I’d upgrade to an OfficePOD and add a cool, Mid-Century vibe.

Imagine the conversations you’d have at cocktail parties:
“Where do you work?”
“Next to the oak tree.”

After my OfficePOD, I’d have to install a jaw-dropping, luxury closet. I’m talking about a storage unit with the square-footage of a guest house. Overstuffed furniture to relax on as you decide what to wear, a “jewelry station,” perhaps a mannequin to try clothes on for you, and floor-to-ceiling mirrors. I’d have drawers for each day of the week. “It’s Tuesday, let me get some Tuesday socks.” Add on one of those clothes catalog programs and install an iPad into the wall to run the app, and everyone in my family would be set.

Finally, I’d add a Moet Ice Impérial Summer Escape Trunk to my home.

When I was young, my family shared a double-house with my aunt and uncle. My uncle had, in his dining room, a modest bar, the front of which was covered with beer cans. As a young lad, I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

No more.

This massive thing holds 20 bottles of champagne, 24 glasses, two ice buckets, and several compartments for garnishes. Plus, it’s on wheels so you can close it up and wheel it out of site when not in use. It’s no home bar made of Schlitz cans, but it is a tidy way to store massive amounts of champagne and barware. Which we all have in the Million Dollar Game, obviously.

This was a bit of fun, yes? What would you pick in the Million Dollar Game for Organizing, Productivity, and Uncluttering?

Calendly is fantastic for easy, organized scheduling

I recently wrote about a few tech options for busy summer scheduling. After that article was published, I ran across Calendly, and now I’m wishing I could to back in time and mention that app in that post.

Seeing as time travel is not yet possible, I’ve decided to mention the app independently. I’m loving Calendly because it’s a hands-off, passive solution for scheduling. It lets you share a single link with potential collaborators, and it automatically accounts for what you already have on your schedule.

When you first create an account, you can link Calendly to Google Calendar or Microsoft’s Office 365. Once the accounts are linked, the app’s features are pretty impressive.

Let’s say you’re trying to schedule a time to talk with someone on Skype. All you need to do is send a person your personal Calendly link, and the service looks at your calendar and sees when you’re free. The person you’re trying to get together with can click any day, and Calendly automatically offers your available time slots to that person, based on what’s on your calendar. They click the one that works for them, adding an event to your calendar and sending you a notification.

As you add more calendar events, your availability in Calendly changes in real time. I’ve been using it for a week now and am hooked.

Note that there is both a free and a paid plan. The latter offers features like team scheduling, automated reminders, and an option to remove the Calendly branding, should you be using the service for business.

A year ago on Unclutterer

2010

2009

  • Do it now
    I try to hold true to the two-minute “Do it now” policy at work, and an extended five-minute “Do it now” policy at home.
  • Weekend Project: Your closet floors
    To be able to vacuum and/or sweep the floors of my closets, I have to pull out storage containers and crawl on my hands and knees to reach back into some of the corners. Inevitably, I find something that I didn’t remember was there and I end up clearing a bit of clutter out of my home.

Ask Unclutterer: An art student’s dilemma

Unclutterer reader Jaclyn recently asked for suggestions regarding her particular artwork situation:

I have a bachelors degree in fine arts. Even though I graduated what seems like a lifetime ago, many of my old drawings, paintings, and prints lurk in a basement closet. I recently framed a pair of lithographs to hang over the couch, and they are a delight. However, I live in a relatively small house and have no desire to upsize any time soon, so even if everything felt worthy of public display, I wouldn’t have space for it. Some of my paintings are so big, I’m not sure I know anyone with a large enough home to accommodate them.

I’m interested to know what other former art students have done, and what suggestions you may have.

Jaclyn, I found an informal online poll on DeviantArt, a social network for artists and art enthusiasts, that might pertain to your dilemma. The majority of the responders kept all their old drawings and sketchbooks for various reasons: to see how their work has improved and evolved, to provide inspiration for new work, etc. For some, all this artwork serves the same function that diaries or journals might provide for other people — it’s an extremely sentimental record of their life.

The right answer for you would depend in part on your answers to the following questions, noting that you might have different answers for different pieces of art:

Why do you want to keep them?

If you’d like to display at least some of them, perhaps you can have more of them framed and rotate them out. For smaller pieces you could consider the dynamicFRAMES mentioned here on Unclutterer a number of years ago.

If you want them for the reasons those other artists listed, you could look for good storage tools that allow you to easily look through those items whenever you wish. For large drawings, you might want a flat file, a mobile trolley, or something similar. For canvases and framed artwork, you could use a rack that keeps those pieces upright. I’ve listed a number of other options for storing large pieces on the Core77 website.

If you want the personal history but feel less attached to the pieces, you might be okay with scanning or photographing your artwork and then letting the originals go. Scanning or photographing your favorite pieces might make sense even if you keep the originals, as this helps ensure you don’t lose the entire record of your work in case of fire, theft, water damage to your home, etc.

If you have smaller pieces you enjoy looking at but wouldn’t necessarily want to display, you could put some of these on the inside of cabinet or closet doors. I’ve done that with various pieces of art (not my own), and it makes me smile every time I open one of the doors.

How do you feel about giving away some pieces?

I don’t know if these are anything you could sell (or would want to sell), but someone I know who was in a similar situation sold some of her work on Etsy.

There are also a variety of ways you might give them away, beyond just offering them to those who’ve expressed an interest in specific pieces in the past. For example, if you’re on Facebook, you could post photos and ask your friends if they’d like any of them.

And if you’re okay with strangers owning some of them, you could try offering them on your local freecycle or Nextdoor group. I’ve successfully freecycled artwork in the past, although not specifically student drawings, and the prior owners have been happy to know the art is going to be displayed and enjoyed rather than tucked away in storage and never seen.

A note for those who are not art students: Similar questions can help when dealing with a whole range of things. There are many times when it makes sense to ask yourself:

  • Why am I keeping this item: for practical use, for decoration, for sentimental reasons, or something else?
  • What’s the best way to store it, to ensure it serves that purpose?
  • Would keeping a scan or a photo work as well as keeping the physical object?
  • What ways of selling, donating, or giving away something I decide not to keep would make me happy?

Unitasker Wednesday: Ultimate infomercial montage

Regular readers of the site know that I have a special place in my heart for infomercials. There are so many reasons to love them: the horrible acting, the ridiculous products they advertise, and (my favorite) the depictions of the horrible life one must endure before acquiring the ridiculous products.

This week, instead of featuring a specific product for Unitasker Wednesday, I thought I would share with you an awesome find from my friend Rebecca. I’m calling it the Please help me! video montage:

A year ago on Unclutterer

2013

2010

  • Nest 8 saves space in the kitchen
    Joseph Joseph’s Nest 8 collection of nesting kitchen items is a fantastic way to save space in your cupboards.
  • Uncluttered collecting
    Being an unclutterer doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t have collections — but it does mean taking an active role in ensuring your collection doesn’t become clutter.

2009

Get the most out of an older iPad

It’s amazing to think that Apple’s iPad turns five years old this year. It’s so ubiquitous in 2015 that it seems like it has been around for a lot longer. Even old models are still in use, which brings me to my motivation for writing this article.

I own an iPad 2. It was released in March of 2011 and it’s still alive and kicking. Apple has even noted that the next update to its operating system, dubbed “iOS 9”, will run on the aging device. Still, it’s not as zippy as its younger siblings.

If you’ve got an older iPad around and have been wondering about its usefulness, let me point out these great ways to keep it useful and in service. The following are four ways to use an older iPad.

As a cable-free TV

I’ll admit it, I use my iPad 2 to watch TV shows and movies quite often. More often than my actual TV, in fact. There are a slew of apps out there that make this happen, including:

  • Netflix: TV, movies and great original content
  • Hulu: A stronger focus on TV than Netflix, but it has movies, too
  • Crackle: Sony’s streaming service has plenty of movies
  • HBO Go/HBO Now: The former is a free add-on for HBO subscribers, while the latter is a stand-alone subscription at $14.99 per month, and both allow you access to HBO programming
  • Amazon Instant Video: A video streaming service that’s included with the company’s Prime membership at $99 per year
  • Your cable provider: If you have cable television or internet, your service may have an app that lets you stream television to your iPad

As a remote control

Don’t want to cut the cable cord? Or maybe perhaps you prefer to enjoy TV and movies on your actual television? No problem. Most TV manufacturers offer universal remote apps. Additionally, if you use the Apple TV, there’s a free Remote app ready to go.

It might not fit into your “Remote Boat,” but the iPad does a good job of controlling your TV. And it reduces clutter by limiting you to one remote instead of a pile.

Weather Station

A friend of mine has this super-cool wireless weather station at his house that I really like. Realizing that an app is cheaper than a whole new piece of hardware, I went looking for a compatible app and found WunderStation. This great-looking app provides a wealth of weather information that you can browse in real time. You can also customize its presentation so that it’s displayed just how you want. Add a handy wall mount and you’ve got a very cool weather station.

Kitchen Helper

I’ve been using my iPad in the kitchen pretty much from day one. Of course it’s great for storing recipes and keeping them handy for when you want to cook. But you can increase its usefulness with a kitchen-friendly stand. I use a ‘fridge mount from Belkin to keep my iPad 2 away from messy spills while I’m cooking.

Alternatively, you can use a Chef Sleeve or go low-tech (but just as effective) with a zip-top kitchen bag.

It’s funny to think of something that’s only five years old as near the end of its usefulness, but such is the nature of tech. However, I think the iPad is an exception. The usefulness for this device has certainly exceeded its cost at this point, and I plan to use it for many more years to come.

Shuffling cards: a mindless activity to enhance creativity

Many people have mindless activities they engage in when they need to think. Some shoot hoops, others go for a walk, and I shuffle cards. I keep five decks of cards at my desk for the sole purpose of giving me something mindless to do when I need to formulate a post idea, work through a problem, or figure out whatever it is that has me stuck with my writing. I know I’m not alone in my shuffling (or walking or hoops playing) or really wasting time, because scientists have found that a little mindless activity actually enhances creative work.

However, visual clutter distracts me from my work, and can even get me feeling uneasy. As a result, I must have a tidy work area, free of extraneous stuff. Therefore, I have to keep the cards stored nicely in their packs and in a contained area so they don’t interfere when I need to stay focused on my mindful work. (There are organizers that hold as few as two decks to thousands of cards.)

We’ve talked in the past about filing being a good mindless activity to let you accomplish a to-do item on your work list, while not focusing on mindful work. Scanning, sorting, and shredding are other mindless, yet productive tasks. Shuffling cards doesn’t help me get anything else off my to-do list, but it certainly helps me think and solve my work problems, so I’m not about to give it up. What mindless activities do you do to help you think and enhance your creativity and overall productivity at work? Also, how do you organize any stuff related to your mindless activity? Alternating between mindless and mindful activities is great, so if you don’t do something right now, check out comments from our readers to see if there might be a mindless activity that is perfect for you.

A year ago on Unclutterer

2011

  • Clutter and Newton’s First Law of Motion
    When uncluttering your home and office, chances are you’ll come across many objects you’ve thought about getting rid of dozens (maybe hundreds) of times, but never did.

2010

2009

You don’t need to finish everything you begin

There’s abundant advice, here on Unclutterer and elsewhere, on overcoming procrastination so incomplete work gets finished. But in some circumstances, the best approach might be to forget about completing certain things.

I’m in a book club that’s been meeting for years, and I just finished our latest selection — a book I really enjoyed.

But I haven’t enjoyed all of our choices, and when that happens I just stop reading that month’s book. Fortunately, my book club still welcomes me to attend the meeting, and it’s interesting to hear the different reactions. Even if those who didn’t finish the book were not welcome, I’d still give up on the book. Time is such a precious resource, and I’m not going to spend my limited reading time with a book I’m not enjoying.

If you feel guilty about abandoning a book, it might help to know that some authors quickly give up on books that don’t grab them. Eleanor Brown doesn’t finish about 20 percent of the books she starts. She stops as soon as she’s no longer interested, which could be on page 2 or page 150. John Scalzi writes, “I put down books the instant they bore me.” As Laura Miller notes in a New York Times article, Michael Chabon gives up on books after just a page or two. Myla Goldberg goes a bit further, but still only gives a book 15-20 pages to convince her it’s worth her time.

I make similar choices when it comes to reading news stories. I’ll sometimes begin an article and realize I don’t feel a need to know anything more than what’s in the title, or maybe the first sentence or first paragraph. Or sometimes I begin a long feature article I thought I’d enjoy, but I don’t. In these cases, I stop reading the article and move on.

It’s also fine to give up on a movie, although you’ll want to be considerate of others if you’re watching in a theater rather than at home. (It’s easier to leave if you’re on an aisle than if you’re in the middle of a row.) And you might decide to stop watching a particular TV show or to abandon a weekly show mid-season.

I also see lots of people with partially completed craft projects that got set aside many years ago. When Susan Reimer of The Baltimore Sun asked people about long-unfinished craft projects, she got stories about a dollhouse kit that had been unfinished for 27 years and an unfinished sampler that got moved to eight houses. The same thing can happen with woodworking projects and other such activities.

If the person no longer has any real interest in completing that project, for whatever reason, it makes sense to just let it go. It can be a relief to acknowledge a project is not going to happen and to dispose of the supplies set aside for it by selling, giving away, or repurposing them for more compelling projects.

Unitasker Wednesday: Pizza Cone Maker Set

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 is one of those unitaskers that is either the best or the worst idea ever. Since it’s super early in the morning and I’ve just consumed a large cup of coffee, I’m voting for the worst idea ever. Looking at the picture of the finished product kind of made me gag a little. But, if it were after midnight on a night where I’d had a couple beers with my friends, I can see how I would think it was the best thing invented in the history of invented things. What do you think about the Pizza Cone Maker Set:

There have to be a minimum of five thousand calories in one of those things, right? Can a single person even consume a whole pizza cone without their stomach exploding? Wow.

Thanks to reader Niagra for finding this set for us. It’s something.

A year ago on Unclutterer

2013

2010

  • Stumped!
    Over the years of writing about organizing and working with clients, I continue to be baffled by how to neatly organize a small number of items. Whenever I see these items or hear about them, I cringe. Organizing them successfully is a complete mystery to me. Maybe you have a few, too, in your home or office — a specific item that always seems to be out of place, cumbersome, or impossible to store well?
  • Excerpt: Six tips for organizing your time spent on the telephone
    Since most of us spend time at work dealing with facts and data, the phone should be taking a backseat to other forms of communication. That being said, it’s impossible to avoid the phone in the workplace. And there are times when picking up the phone is the best way to handle a situation. The following are suggestions for how to use the phone in an organized way during those times when you need to rely on it.
  • Assorted links for July 22, 2010
    Interesting products and articles related to uncluttering and organizing.

2009

  • Three laws of basement storage
    If you use your basement for storing things other than root vegetables, let me introduce you to my Three Laws of Basement Storage.
  • Off-beat solutions for organizing your mail
    If you don’t immediately process your mail when you come home each evening, then I strongly recommend having a set place to store your mail until you do have time to process it.