Tuesday, May 14, 2013
My photo; posted with permission of their mom.
Sea Turtles confuse plastic bags with jellyfish and choke on them. Help save them and support the San Mateo County ban on plastics by buying a canvas bag with our amazing Oceans Week logo imprinted on it. — Farallone View Oceans Weeks 2013 flyer
When I went grocery shopping last Saturday, I came across these cute kids selling canvas bags for a good cause. But do I need another canvas bag? I certainly don't. So I donated money, and declined to take a bag.
It's the same concept as donating to your local public radio station during a pledge drive, and not taking one of the many thank-you gifts. Sure, if there's something being offered that you really want, then go for it! But otherwise, why not let all your money go to the cause, and get a larger tax dedication?
And here's a great idea from the annual conference of the National Association of Professional Organizers, as noted by organizer Debra Baida: a swag swap table. When you find that conference bag stuffed with items you don't want, it's nice to have a way to move them along to others who might appreciate them.
Declining Free (but Useless) Stuff
Saying No to Free Hotel Toiletries
Friday, May 10, 2013
Six years ago — can it really be that long? — my mom died of pancreatic cancer. And as is my custom, I'm sharing some blue organizing products with you today — in honor of Mom, whose favorite color was blue. And let's start with the Multiples Pencil Holder from Anthropologie. [via Better Living Through Design]
I think Mom would have liked the ceramic magnets from Gusto Istanbul. This is one of three patterns currently in stock.
I've mentioned Susan Bradley's bookends before, but I hadn't noticed this design — a London typography bookend — until just now.
Swabdesign brings us this clip hook called Pince Alors; it comes in four colors, including blue. The hooks are like oversized clothespins, wall-mounted, with all sorts of potential uses; see the images on the websites for some ideas. [via Shoebox Dwelling]
This garden tote from Loll Designs comes in eight colors besides the lovely blue. [via Better Living Through Design]
And finally, I'm completely enchanted by this hamper from Papa Totoro. [via Apartment Therapy]
In Honor of My Mom (2008)
In Honor of My Mom (2009)
In Honor of My Mom (2010)
In Honor of My Mom (2011)
In Honor of My Mom (2012)
Monday, May 6, 2013
Did you know corks can be recycled? I went wine tasting in Sonoma County a couple weeks ago as part of a "cousins" family reunion — lots of fun! — and I saw the collection boxes shown above. When I got back home, I decided to investigate more.
If you want to keep your natural corks out of landfill, you have a number of options.
1. Reuse them yourself.
This is great if you're into crafts; you'll find no shortage of ideas on the web.
2. Donate them to groups that collect craft supplies for others to use.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, both RAFT and SCRAP accept corks. Austin Creative Reuse is happy to get corks. There may be a similar program near you.
3. Give them to others through less formal channels.
Freecycle them. Give them to teachers you know who could use craft supplies.
4. Give them to a collection program that provides them to manufacturers for reuse.
A number of programs around the world collect corks so they can be reused to make footwear, cork flooring, cork tiles, bulletin boards and more.
Here are some of the programs available. If you know of others in your part of the world, please add a comment to this post!
- ReCORK by Amorin is the program whose boxes I saw. There are numerous drop-off locations throughout the United States and Canada; when I entered my city and state, I found there was even one in my little city! Amorin also has collection programs in Portugal, France and Italy.
- Cork Forest Conservation Alliance has its Cork ReHarvest program. There are drop-off locations throughout and U.S. and Canada — and at Whole Foods Markets in these countries and the U.K.
- SmartCork Recycling is a program in North Carolina.
- Yemm & Hart in Missouri has a recycling program, but it's only mail-in.
- Jelinek has three drop-off locations in Ontario, Canada.
- Put a Cork In It has numerous drop-off locations in Vancouver, British Columbia. The collected corks are sent to Jelinek.
5. Compost your corks.
You'll need to break them up into small pieces first. The reuse options sound more appealing to me!
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Each day, I write down the two things I *must* get done, take a picture, and make it my lock screen wallpaper. — Jake Lodwick, via Lori Gordon
That's not Jake's list; that's the lock screen I just created, using Jake's example. I also added my contact information using Contact Lockscreen. (And yes, I'm in the middle of moving my primary website to a new web hosting company.)
I'm not at all sure this in an approach I personally want to take; after I grabbed that image, I changed my lockscreen back to a cat photo. But I've found a number of people recommending short to-do lists, and I thought I'd share their ideas. This two-item list was the shortest one; let's more on to the slightly longer ones.
Philip Humbert has a process where each day you "thoughtfully select your TOP 3 TASKS consistent with your most important goals" and write them on an index card. These are three items you commit to doing before going to bed; you are allowed to list some other items, as long as they fit on the card. In his example, these range from "Call Mom for her birthday" to "Review and sign sales contract." [via SueBK]
James C Russell, who often goes by the name Botanicus, has his 3 + 2 rule: 3 big things and 2 small things. He says: "Every morning I sit down and write 3 main things I want to solve and 2 small ones. The main items should take from 2 to 3 hours, the minor ones no more than 20 minutes." [via Lifehacker]
Becky McCray — who refers to the same Charles Schwab story that Philip Humbert does — writes about creating a list of "the six most important things to be completed the next day." And she emphasizes: "Not thirty-six things. Not urgent things. The Six Most Important Things." [via Amber Naslund]
And finally, The Daily Muse writes about the 1-3-5 rule followed by Alex Cavoulacos: On any given day, assume that you can only accomplish one big thing, three medium things, and five small things, and narrow down your to-do list to those nine items.” [via Sam Spurlin and Peggy Dolane]
So whether they choose as few as two items or as many as nine, a number of people find it useful to narrow down their daily to-do lists to a manageable number of things. Maybe it's an approach you'll like, too.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Photo by Timothy Valentine, found on Flickr, licensed via Creative Commons
The collective noun for a group of books is a "damn, I'm never going to get around to reading all of these." — Waterstones Oxford Street, via Deirdre
Sue in Australia is a book lover; her husband and daughter also have attachments to books. So, like many book lovers, her collection of books reached the point where there were more books than there was bookshelf space — and she's facing a possible move. So her family just did some culling, and I liked her approach.
Our process was very simple. All three of us were involved in a conveyor line process. There were no recriminations or discussion about what people wanted to keep. If an individual wanted to keep something, it got kept.And here's the best part:
I cleaned out a shelf and took a book. If I wanted it, it went back on the empty shelf. If I didn't want it, it went down the line to hubby. If he wanted it, back it went; if not, it went to the Girl. If she didn't want it, it went on the pile to give away.
I expected it be a painful process. But because I knew I could keep anything I wanted I found it quite freeing and releasing.Then there's the author of the blog Room for a Pony, who decided to say "Goodbye, all books that I do not love" — and explained what books fit in that unloved category. Here's a summary:
1. Nay to books that have been sitting on my shelf without a look for well over twenty years. ...That list makes sense to me; I've certainly rid my own shelves of books in all of those categories.
2. Away with books that are old, yellowed, brittle and musty. ... If I love a book that much, I’ll buy a better copy in hardback, because it’s no pleasure to read a book in that condition.
3. Another capital crime is if the print’s so small that only an insect can read it.
4. I’m discarding with great glee anything written in tedious, academic English. I hated it in college, and I hate it now.
On the other hand, I fully recognize there are some books we will want to keep forever. For a delightful read, see Peter Hartlaub's list of children's books he can never part with.
Clearing Out the Bookshelves
3 Perspectives: Not All Books Are Keepers
Books: Weeding the Collection
Letting Go of (Some of) the Books
Is It Time to Bid Adieu to Some of Your Books?
Loving Books and Letting Go
Weeding My Own Book Collection
Even Book Lovers Can Have Too Many Books
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Lazy Susans are a great tool for those pesky corner cabinets, but they can also be used in myriad other ways.
Organizer Geralin Thomas notes these uses on Twitter:
Double-decker Lazy Susans in mens' closets for tie stays, cuff links, coins, buttons, golf tees, pocket knives, phones, wallets.Organizer Aby Garvey shows how she uses a Lazy Susan for her scrapbooking tools, and also notes:
I also use double-decker Lazy Susans on small desks [w/o drawers] for stapler, pencil cups, calculators, etc.
What I most love about a Lazy Susan is that it — or rather she — makes what would be unusable, invisible and hard-to-access storage space easy to reach and see. You can use a Lazy Susan on a deep shelf (such as in your refrigerator or in deep closet) and suddenly, the stuff in the back is no longer out of sight or out of mind.Organizer Monica Ricci writes about six uses for a Lazy Susan, including this one:
Store small jars of bolts, nails, nuts, screws and other tiny pieces of hardware on your workbench in the garage.And Martha Stewart tells us:
Refrigerator door space is prime kitchen real estate. Free it up by moving a few necessities to a turntable, where they’ll still be easy to grab.Your basic Lazy Susan is easy to find — but if you want something beyond the basics, here are a few choices.
Jane Suzanne's Shop & Studio has the most eye-catching Lazy Susans I've seen. They're made of hand-painted wood.
French Bull has four different Lazy Susans, made of melamine. [via Mighty Goods]
This hand-painted sunflower Lazy Susan from Artstream Design also caught my eye.
This wine cork Lazy Susan kit allows you to make good use of all those corks that wine enthusiasts sometimes accumulate.
Prefer to have a lip on your Lazy Susan, to keep things from falling off? Take a look at this turntable platter from Sue Patrick Pottery.
And the wine barrel Lazy Susan from VivaTerra — made from wood "salvaged from an oak wine barrel end cap and carefully refurbished" — also has that sometimes-useful edge.
Here's another type of Lazy Susan — one that's made from a basket. Foxcreek Basket has these in two sizes — and it also has double-tiered versions.
This craft turntable comes with removable buckets. However, I'm only finding it in New Zealand and Australia, at stores including Peter's of Kensington, Green with Envy and UrbanBaby.
Finally, Bearcat Woodworks makes some lovely Lazy Susan craft caddies; you have nine wood choices.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
This is the dress my mother wore to my brother's wedding. It's hanging exactly where I put it when I brought it home after Mom's death, back in May 2007.
I hung it up in the garage as a temporary thing, fully intending to sell or donate it — but I've found I just can't let it go. That reaction isn't fully rational. When it comes to memorabilia, photos often stand in for physical items — and I have a great photo of Mom wearing that dress. Someone else could make good use of it.
But Mom loved that dress. And my brother's wedding was a very special day; he was just aglow with joy. And I adore my sister-in-law.
So I've given myself permission to keep that dress for as long as I feel compelled to. It's not like I kept many remembrances of my mom, beyond the memories; my house isn't overloaded with her stuff, by any means.
Sometimes we just need to hold onto a special item or two — and sometimes "just because" is reason enough.
Friday, April 12, 2013
Writing entails getting down lots of words. Editing means removing at least half of them. — Lisa Barone
When I'm not working as an organizer, I'm working as an editor. And as an editor, a good part of what I do is uncluttering — removing words that actually weaken the text.
One of the many tributes to Roger Ebert that I read last week pointed me to his review of The Brown Bunny. In that review, he notes how different the version he's reviewing is from the one he saw earlier:
The Cannes version was a bad film, but now Gallo's editing has set free the good film inside.Editing a text does the same thing; it sets free the good story buried inside the overly wordy version. In her article entitled How to Lose 30 Pounds of Word Flab Overnight, Sonia Simone notes that "all of us start with flabby first drafts." She then provides strategies for cutting that flab, including deleting the "junk words" and eliminating redundancy.
Here's an entry in the Guardian style guide that deals with one of those junk words:
very: usually very redundant. Mark Twain wrote: "Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very.' Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."Something else I read recently is Calvin Trillin's delightful memoir about his years at Time magazine, which includes this anecdote:
At the end of the week (or “at week’s end,” as we would have put it, in order to save three words), the makeup people would invariably inform us that the story had to be shortened to fit into the section. Since words or passages cut for space were marked with a green pencil ... the process was called greening. The instructions were expressed as how many lines had to be greened — “Green seven” or “Green twelve.” I loved greening. I don’t have any interest in word games — I don’t think I’ve ever done a crossword or played Scrabble — but I found greening a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle. I was surprised that what I had thought of as a tightly constructed seventy-line story ... was unharmed, or even improved, by greening ten per cent of it.Finally, here's the advice from Pauline Phillips (Dear Abby) to her sister, Eppie Lederer (Ann Landers), noted in The New York Times obituary for Phillips:
You’re writing too long.And many of us are, too.
A Different Kind of Clutter
Image: Murder Your Darlings print by Chris Piascik. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch famously said: “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – wholeheartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Of the 45 receipts going into my expense report for a 21-day trip, I go and lose the one for the $100 dinner. Of course. Well played, self. — Abby Aronofsky
Paper receipts are becoming less on an issue as we move more toward digital versions. If I buy something at the Apple Store, I get a receipt e-mailed to me. And The New York Times reports that many stores are now following Apple's lead: “Major retailers, including Whole Foods Market, Nordstrom, Gap Inc. (which owns Old Navy and Banana Republic), Anthropologie, Patagonia, Sears and Kmart, have begun offering electronic versions of receipts, either e-mailed or uploaded to password-protected Web sites.”
And even if you get a paper receipt, you might make a digital copy. I just got my latest version of Deduct It! from Nolo, and found this passage:
Because of fading problems, you should photocopy your receipts if you intend to rely on hard copies. Obviously, this is time consuming and annoying. But there is an easier alternative: Make digital copies and throw away the hard copies.I don't want to get into all the pros and cons of various ways of creating and managing digital receipts — that could be a whole separate post. Rather, I just want to acknowledge that for many people, the way to handle paper receipts is to replace them with digital versions.
Making a digital copy of a receipt used to require a scanner, which could be cumbersome and inconvenient. This is no longer necessary. If you have an iPhone or other smartphone with a camera, you can use that to take digital photographs of your receipts.
But maybe you're someone who wants or needs to have paper receipts! You can keep them in all sorts of files, envelopes or boxes; you don't need a product specifically designed for receipts. But there are some interesting receipt organizers out there. The receipt tin at the top of this post sums up many people's relationship with receipts; it comes from Tottering By Gently.
Flight 001 sells this vinyl receipt file, which comes in orange, pink and yellow.
And finally, there's the Receipt.catcher from Buttoned Up. This is a discontinued product, but for now you can still find it at Uncommon Goods. Update on April 10, 2013: Uncommon Goods just told me they are out of the Receipt.catchers.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Photo by Zol87, found on Flickr, licensed via Creative Commons
Amid all the tributes to Roger Ebert I read on Thursday afternoon, I found a gem which relates to decluttering! Way back in 1996, Roger wrote his Boulder Pledge; the second sentence provides good advice for avoiding cluttering up other people's email inboxes.
Under no circumstances will I ever purchase anything offered to me as the result of an unsolicited e-mail message. Nor will I forward chain letters, petitions, mass mailings, or virus warnings to large numbers of others. This is my contribution to the survival of the online community.What can go wrong if we forward these messages?
1. We might share bad information. Over the years, friends have sent me a number of warnings that were easily found to be false just by checking Snopes.com.
2. We might just annoy our friends. Someone forwarded a recipe exchange email, and managed to irritate 19 friends. (Her mother was the only recipient who didn't refuse to continue the chain.) Things can get even worse if the message expresses political or religious beliefs that the recipient doesn't share.
And what about those emails with cute animal photos? Yes, they can be annoying, too — so we also need to be cautious about forwarding them, and choose our recipients carefully. As Carolyn Nicander Mohr explains:
The world seems to be composed of two sorts of people: those who love joke/cute/chain emails and those who don’t. One person’s junk is another person’s treasure, that’s why people have yard sales!So let's remember Roger fondly — and avoid cluttering the email inboxes of our friends, colleagues, and family members.