Tuesday, August 26, 2014

One Anti-Clutter Strategy: Buying Quality over Quantity

Flour sack dish towel that says Buy Things You'll Love Forever
Flour sack dish towel from The Heated

We opt for more instead of better. Better is better than more. — Seth Godin, via Minimal Mac by Patrick Rhone

This post was inspired by my wallet. It’s a basic black bifold wallet, with four slots for credit cards, a coin pouch, and a divided currency well — thus no photo, because there's no way to make it look interesting. But what does make my wallet interesting is that I bought it in 1997, and it’s still in good condition.

Now, I got it in Italy, at a reputable leather goods store. I don’t remember what I paid; it was probably on the expensive side, but not extravagant. And every time I pull out that wallet, I’m reminded of a wonderful trip (hurray for practical souvenirs) and how often it makes sense to buy less, but buy well.

Yes, we’re all working within budget constraints. But sometimes to have good stuff we just need to make purchasing trade-offs. Allen Tucker wrote a wonderful essay entitled Pay Too Much, which Nancy Friedman pointed me to; I recommend you go read the whole thing. It concludes with this:
My favorite pair of jeans gets worn 10 times more often than my other jeans. If I did away with the other jeans, I could afford to buy more of those things I really love. What if all of our stuff was mind blowingly awesome, even if we had way less of it?
And I see I’m not the only person writing about the joys of a good wallet. Here’s part of what Randy Murray wrote in his blog post called Just A Bit Of Luxury: Make Life Better Without Drowning In Stuff (found via Patrick Rhone):
I buy the cheapest printer paper, but I carefully select my notebooks and pens. Even when wearing my worn cargo shorts I carry a finely made leather wallet. And I’m replacing the stacks of disposable razors for single, finely made, double edge safety razor. Both the wallet and the razor are of such exceptional quality that they should last for generations (the wallet is guaranteed for 100 years!).

I’ve heard it said that you don’t own things, they own you. Owning fewer, better quality things makes my life easier and more enjoyable.

Friday, August 8, 2014

5 Ways to Store Shoes on the Wall

wall-mounted shoe rack, wood

Way back in 2008, when I wrote about 15 Ways to Store the Shoes, I didn’t make much mention of wall-mounted options. But a number of these have appeared over time; here are some of the more interesting ones.

The rack above comes from Mitz Takahasi of Montreal, who works mostly with recycled wood (and other recycled materials).

wall-mounted shoe rack for stilettos

I’ve mentioned the shoe racks from J-Me before, but this one designed specially for stilettos is new.

wall shoe rack for children's shoes

And J-Me also has a new wall-mounted rack for children’s shoes.

wall-mounted shoe rack, metal

This shoe rack is also available in a square version which holds four pairs. It comes from The Metal House, and is also sold by Bouf.

wall-mounted shoe storage - single pair of shoes

Finally, this rack comes from LoCa, in Denmark; it’s part of the Knax product line. You can find it at the Knax Shop or at Smow — or, in the U.S., at camodernhome.com.

Related Post:
Storing Shoes of All Shapes and Sizes

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cool Jewelry Stands for Necklaces, Bracelets and Earrings

steel jewelry stands for necklaces

I've written about so many jewelry organizers, but sometimes I still find something new — such as this steel moose necklace hanger from DesignByThem, available in four colors.

bamboo jewelry stand for necklaces

Another interesting option for necklaces is this jewelry stand from GioGio Design, made from bamboo.

bamboo jewelry stand for earrings

GioGio Design also makes this two-tiered jewelry stand for earrings.

3-tier bracelet stand

And finally, let's consider bracelets. The Woodshop's Daughter has one- and two-tier bracelet stands, but will also make custom orders that are larger. You can also get an add-on peg to hold rings.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Kitchen Utensil Holders from Talented Artisans

stoneware utensil holder

Many of us find that the easiest way to organize our frequently-used kitchen utensils is in some sort of utensil pot — so let’s give thanks to the artisans who give us so many lovely storage options. And let’s start with vitrifiedstudio, which made this stoneware utensil holder.

stoneware utensil holder - aqua color
Photo used with permission from Back Bay Pottery

This delightful aqua-colored stoneware piece comes from Back Bay Pottery; it’s designed to hold 15 or more utensils.

ceramic utensil jar

This utensil jar comes from Tom Butcher Ceramics in Scotland as part of his Loch Long Stoneware range.

terra-cotta utensil jar

Henry Watson’s Potteries has a terra-cotta utensil jar.

ceramic utensil holder - stoneware

Made from wheel-thrown stoneware clay, this utensil holder comes from Willow Tree Pottery.

pottery utensil holder

Too many neutral colors for your taste? Take a look at the utensil holders from Prarie Fire Pottery.

stone utensil holder

And after all these pottery pieces, let’s end with something different: this utensil holder from Okanagan Stoneworks, which looks especially stunning with the red and white utensils.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Are You Using Your Email Inbox as a To-Do List?

Image entitled Breath while reading your email!, by Marie-Chantale Turgeon; found on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

Current status: Using my Inbox as a to-do list. — Greg Lipper

My email inbox is basically a todo list of stuff I don’t want to do. — Tim Van Damme, via a number of other people

Lots of people will say you should never use your inbox as a to-do list, for lots of good reasons.

1. Email subject lines often aren’t a good indicator of what the to-dos are. As Gina Trapani wrote:
For example, you receive an email from a friend and the subject line is “hi.” The two of you go back and forth a dozen times, then decide to make plans for dinner, and suddenly it's up to you to make reservations at Rosarita's House of Tacos on July 14th at 7PM. Stick that into your “TO-DO” folder, and you've got a task that reads: “Re: re: re: re: re: re: hi.” That doesn’t tell you much, does it?
2. Emails are not nicely sorted into individual tasks, as Leo Babauta explained:
There might be multiple actions in each email. What if an email contains 10 to-do items? You can’t delete or archive the email when you’ve done one or two of the actions. It’ll remain in your inbox until all 10 are done, as if nothing has been done. Also, you might forget that there are multiple actions in an email and file or delete it when you’ve done one of the actions.
3. Not all tasks come to you via email, so you’re likely to wind up with two to-do lists: one in email and one somewhere else. And managing two lists can be problematic.

4. Using one tool for two purposes can make it harder to do either one well. As Jill Duffy wrote:
Trying to tweak your inbox to function like a to-do list results in a very poor to-do list. Guess what? It also creates a very poor inbox, so now you [have] two inefficiencies! If you try to manipulate your inbox to double as your to-do list, it leaves you flipping between operations.
5. As Rachel Andrew wrote, emails sitting in your inbox “feel like they are constantly nagging you to act on them, whatever their priority.”

6. And to quote Leo Babauta once more:
An email inbox contains distractions. ... If you’re looking at your to-dos in email, you’re in very big danger of new emails coming in and distracting you. ... I’d prefer a simple to-do list that allows you to shut off email while you’re trying to get important work done.

And while this all makes sense, some people find that using their email as their to-do list works just fine for them.

David Pogue, who was The News York Times’ technology columnist before moving to Yahoo, is one of those. In a column titled “Pogue’s Productivity Secrets Revealed,” he wrote:
I’m not a believer in the “empty your Inbox every day” philosophy; in fact, my Inbox is my To Do list, which works great. When I’ve dealt with something, I delete or file it. When I haven’t, its presence in that list reminds me that it needs doing.
As someone wrote in response to a Harvard Business Review article titled “Stop Using Your Inbox as a To-Do List”:
“Stop Using Something Which Works Perfectly Fine For Millions Of People”
As with so many organizing issues, it’s often useful to read the advice and understand the recommendations — but then figure out what works for you.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Labeling with Pictures, Not Just Words

labels on baskets, using pictures and words

What comes to mid when you think of labeling? If you hadn’t just looked at the photo above, you’d probably think of text-only labels, perhaps on a file folder or on a storage bin in the garage. But there are all sorts of ways to label things so you can easily find them again — and know where to put them away.

The photo above is from the storage area at Colors of the Coast — Ellen Joseph’s gallery and gift shop in Half Moon Bay. My friend Ellen sells giclee reproductions of her paintings, as well as items such as mugs and mouse pads printed with her various paintings. So she quite reasonably made her labels with images of those paintings, so it’s easy to tell which basket holds which items.

clothing-shaped labels on a dresser drawer

The same idea can be applied to labeling the drawers where children’s clothes go. These labels come from Crafterhours. [via Parenthacks and Cool Mom Picks] You can get a similar product from StikEez.

stickers to label kitchen cabinets with words and pictures

And while these kitchen cabinet stickers from Hyundae Sheet, currently available from Amazon.com, may not have the exact categories you would choose, I still like the idea.

Related Posts:
Why You Really Might Want a Label Maker
Be Your Own Professional Organizer, Part 3: Label
One Person’s Organized Space: CDs and Labels

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Organizing with Refrigerator Door Magnets

magnet with drawing of a bird

If you choose to use the refrigerator door (or another surface that holds magnets) as the home for certain types of papers, you might choose to get some cool magnets — especially since magnets are one organizing tool that’s relatively inexpensive. The art print magnet above is just one of many available from Mary Ann Farley.

set of three rabbit refrigerator magnets

This magnet set from Julia Wine is one of many magnets she has to choose from.

magnets shaped like concrete blocks

If you don’t want a mini-artwork, how about a magnet shaped like a mini concrete block, from CKIE?

Strong Like Bull magnets, in many colors

If you’re concerned about whether or not your magnets will be strong enough to hold your papers, take a look at the Strong Like Bull magnets, which started out as a hugely successful Kickstarter. [via Uncrate]

refrigerator magnet, with a bear and poppies, saying I Love You, California

And finally, 3 Fish Studios has some delightful magnets for Californians — or anyone who likes the state.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Getting Organized: Do You Need to Buy New Containers?

kitchen drawer holding miscellaneous things in various containers

Many times people will already have all the containers they need — or at least many of them — if they just do a little repurposing. Here’s one example from a client I worked with recently, who gave me permission to share the photos in this post with you. A pet food bowl with a small crack is now being used to hold some corks. This allowed us to re-use something she really liked, but couldn’t use for its original purpose.

stacking baskets holding "medicine closet" supplies

But here’s a case where buying new products made sense, because it allowed us to make use of every bit of space available in a small closet. One shelf serves as a medicine cabinet, and the Zia stacking baskets fit the space perfectly.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Organizing the Desktop with Pencil Cups

pencil cup, with the words Write to the one you love; delay no more

If you don’t have a spare coffee mug you’d like to turn into a pencil cup, you certainly have plenty of other delightful options. I’m only finding this one on a single site, in New Zealand; it’s not on the manufacturer’s site, so it’s probably a discontinued product where supplies are limited. But others are more readily available around the globe.

pencil cup with line drawing of a bicycle

The Big Tomato Company has a number of interesting pen pots; of the line drawing ones, this bicycle pen pot may be my favorite. You can also find it at Unite & Type.

pencil cup with the word Bauhaus in the Bauhaus typeface

The typographic pen pots are fun, too. You can find these at Unite & Type, too.

orange and black pencil cups from Rhodia

If you’ve ever used Rhodia notebooks (or admired them in the stores), you’ll probably recognize the shade of orange on this pencil cup. This is the Rhodia ePURE Pencil Pot, made from imitation leather and available from a number of online vendors.

wood pencil cup

This pen pot from Field is made from “reclaimed yellow pine that orginated in centuries old vinegar barrels found in the state of Maryland.” It seems gorgeous — and it’s also $90. [via Better Living Through Design]

powder coated steel pencil cup

Here’s another one on the more expensive end: the Petal Cup from Dino Sanchez. That’s a powder-coated steel cup, with a red oak base. There are three color choices. [via Design Milk]

pottery pencil cup with an impression of a fern

And finally, here’s the fern leaf pencil pot from Ken's Garden Pottery. The fern leaf used to make the impression did indeed come from Ken’s garden.

Related Posts:
8 Pencil Cups to Organize Your Desktop
Organizing the Pens and Pencils: Pencil Cups and More
Organizing Your Desk: Pencil Cups from $10 to $120
4 Pencil Cups — and an Office Brush

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Checking Email in the Morning: 7 Perspectives

book cover - Never Check E-Mail In the Morning

Julie Morgenstern wrote Never Check E-Mail in the Morning — which I have not read, so this is not a book review! But Lifehacker summarizes her point this way:
Julie Morgenstern suggests spending the first hour of your workday email-free. Choose one task — even a small one — and tackle it first thing. Accomplishing something out of the gate sets the tone for the rest of your day and guarantees that no matter how many fires you’re tasked with putting out the minute you open your email client, you still can say that you got something done.
Sid Savera, a personal development trainer, agrees. He says:
When it comes to email, ignorance is bliss. That’s why if you’ve got something important you want to make progress on, I have these four words for you: Don’t check your email. As soon as you get up, work on something important for 30-45 minutes, and only then check it. If you can stand it, wait even longer. Some days I don’t check email at all until after lunch.
Sid goes on to provide seven reasons he thinks it’s a bad idea to check email first thing. He does realize that sometimes you are expecting an urgent email, so he gives you one out: It’s OK to check for something specific, as long as you limit yourself to about five minutes — and that one specific email.

But not everyone agrees! Here’s David Allen, of Getting Things Done fame:
If I never checked email in the morning, I would not be where I am, which is a nice place.
Sarah Rapp explains that she tried working on her Most Important Task first — and while she saw advantages, she also had some issues with this approach.
Even as I worked away, all of those unanswered emails loomed large. I dreaded finding out how many messages had piled up in my inbox. When I did finally tackle my email, it was a bit oppressive, and took far longer than usual to plow through because I had less mental energy.
What wound up working for Sarah was to spend 30 minutes on email, handling the urgent items, before moving on to spend an uninterrupted two to three hours on that Most Important Task.

Karyn Greenstreet says:
As a small business owner, I have a HUGE reason for reading email first thing in the morning: my customers matter to me more than anything. Most of my clients, students and mentoring group members communicate with me via email, so taking care of their needs first thing in the morning is simply good customer service. ... I read email first because it’s when I’m the freshest and smartest. Do you really want to be writing emails when your brain is fuzzy?
She goes on to explain that she makes sure she’s spending that early-morning time on the important emails, not all email.

Organizer Lorie Marrero points out that there can be very important reasons to check email in the morning. Some examples: A client may have written to cancel an appointment. She may have gotten an email notice telling her that her website was down. A reporter, working on deadline, might want to contact her. But Lorie also notes this:
There is a difference between “checking” email and “processing” email. To me, checking means seeing what has come through and noting anything that might be an urgent matter that needs attention. Processing means “doing” your email — replying, getting sucked in.
Lorie says you can check for those urgent items and then go about your project-oriented work.

Personally, I side with Sarah, Karyn and Lorie. I check email first thing in the morning; I’d be horribly antsy if I didn’t. And that doesn’t mean I get sucked into spending hours dealing with every single email when I have higher-priority things to work on; it just means I’m being responsive to the limited number of people who are either relying on me for a reply or offering me an opportunity.

If I intended to just do a quick email check to handle critical items, but knew I tended to get sucked into reading and replying to more than just those few items, I might set a timer to remind me when my first-thing-in-the-morning email time was up and it was time to move on.

But we all have different needs and preferences. You may want to experiment with different approaches — but then do whatever works best for you!