Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Maria Montessori: A Place for Everything

well-organized shelves in Montessori school in Sweden

A place for everything, and everything in its place. We've all heard that one, and it's a basic organizing principle. What I didn't realize until last night was that this concept was popularized by Dr. Maria Montessori, of Montessori school fame.

So I'm thankful to the book A Housekeeper is Cheaper than a Divorce for pointing that out. Talking about Dr. Montessori, the book says, "Children, she noticed, are comforted by an atmosphere of calm and order. An environment in which everything has a place is an extension of the routine and consistency that children love."

[photo by Crystal, from a Montessori school in Sweden]

Monday, July 30, 2007

Chemotherapy Patients Could Use Your Books

man reading in a doctor's waiting room; woman's coat on the next chair

The following is someone's very personal story regarding book donations. I'm reprinting it with permission from a Yahoo! group, but the author wished to remain anonymous.

My mother died of cancer in 2005 after thirteen months of treatment. During that time we went three out of four weeks to the hospital to get her blood done, then we waited another hour for the doctor or nurse and then the chemo. It was most of the day as it was for all of the chemo patients.

In the chemo waiting room there were book shelves of books for the patients and their family members to read. They were well used. One day I came in with a huge bag of books to bring to the chemo room. We were waiting for the blood work and a woman in a wheel chair who I saw frequently started talking. She said, "Reading keeps me going. I read a book a day." I asked if she wanted to look through my bag. She kept all but a couple and said as soon as she read them she would leave them upstairs.

As she got wheeled in to the exam room the nurse said, "Wow, you have a lot of books!" and she replied "Yes, this is just like Christmas today."

Don’t forget hospitals, rehabs and cancer centers. I can’t tell you what a difference it makes enduring the unendurable.

[photo by Rich Mason]

Baskets: When Plastic Bins Just Won't Do

showroom of Heather Shaw, basketmaker

Baskets are one way my fondness for beautiful storage and supporting independent craftspeople can come together. Here are just a few I've come across. And since I have readers around the world, this quick basket tour will go to various countries.

The picture above is the New Zealand showroom of Heather Shaw, who makes willow baskets.

baskets for produce display, from France

The Cooperative Vannerie de Villaines (site in French and English) has a wide range of willow baskets, some intended for professional use, such as these produce baskets.

Irish willow basket by Joe Hogan

Joe Hogan makes Irish willow baskets to order.

linen basket / laundry basket / hamper

David Hembrow of Cambridge makes English willow baskets. This is a linen basket for dirty laundry.

basket from Arran, Scotland

Julie Gurr's willow baskets are made on the Isle of Arran off the West Coast of Scotland. She says this one is a pilgrim basket, used by the ancients to keep the severed heads of the invading Saxons nice and fresh before boiling up, eating, then impaling on stakes. Price: 2 Turnips and a half bag of goat dung. (Her other baskets are not described so fancifully, and show more traditional prices.)

black ash basket with wooden bottom

Coming back to the USA, and moving beyond willow baskets, we have black ash baskets made by Fran. Some of them, like the one above, have a wooden bottom.

painted black ash basket by Jonathan Kline

Jonathan Kline also makes lovely black ash baskets, with both painted (as shown) and natural finishes.

Nantucket basket

And then there are the Nantucket Baskets. The one above is from Nantucket Basket Works, but there are lovely options from many sources, including All Tucker'd Out and Simply Nantucket Baskets.

tabletop basket

Sharon Dugan makes stunning baskets from the trees of New England.

basket from Panama - two views

And for something totally different - women of the Wounaan and Emberá tribes make amazing baskets from the fibers of the nahuala plant and chunga palm which grow the Darién Rainforest of Panamá.

To explore further, you might check out the extensive resources on the Basketmakers web site.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Taking Small Steps Toward a Large Goal

cartoon with three panels: breathe in, breathe out, baby steps

A few days ago a client was telling me how much more she gets done now that she's learned to take a series of small steps to tackle the big, scary projects she used to avoid.

Susan Beth just wrote about this same topic in The Now Habit Yahoo! Group; I'm quoting her (with permission) because her words are so eloquent. She uses a tool called Rainlendar to manage her to-do list, but the approach she mentions can work no matter what tool you use.

So here's Susan Beth writing about "tasks that will take a relatively long time to do, that are basically boring and/or non-urgent. Like purging no longer needed receipts and such from the file cabinet. Or turning an envelope of clipped recipes into an orderly cookbook. Or cleaning out unwanted files/programs from your computer. Or reading that book you know holds useful info but isn't exactly a page-turner.

All things I want to do, mean to do . . . just somehow never get around to doing.

Now I have put all of these types of tasks on the ToDo list in a 'holding' area . . . and label them as 'incremental' tasks. Like so: INC: transfer file archives from floppies to CDs.

Next I picked five of these tasks to start on. For each I decided exactly what would be an acceptable babystep on accomplishing them.

For example, one task was to clean out the tangled mess of my IE 'Favorites'. See, I automatically add every page someone recommends to it, so I can find my way back to it -- and I almost never remember to delete the link later on. So I have HUNDREDS of links, many with cryptic names. The babystep I chose was 'Click on each link. If the link is dead OR no longer of interest, delete it. Otherwise fix the name to clearly convey what it is and move it into an appropriate subfolder. Continue until you have deleted five links.'

Another task was to triage the hall bookcases to open up room for new books, and the ones already waiting in tottering heaps in the corners . . . The babystep is 'Look at the bookshelves long enough to find five books I no longer want, and put them into the Donate box.'

Then I made these five tasks 'active' by setting their due date to the next day AND set them to recur daily. With the reminder to do these tasks in my face each time I sit down at the computer AND with the required work itself so minor (none of them take more than 5-10 minutes) I seem to have no reluctance at all to tackling them. In fact, I get so much pleasure from seeing each task vanish from today's ToDo's as I mark them completed that most days I hurry and knock them all off before I go to work. :)

And, let me tell you, whether you call it 'Babystepping' a la Flylady or 'Starting often' a la Mark Forster, it WORKS. Even if you do the bare minimum, the task seems to melt away painlessly. A lot of the time I set out to do the babystep and find myself carrying on for way past the minimum. Yes, I discover that this 'horrible job' I've been dreading and putting off -- even for years in some cases -- simply isn't all that hard or bad, and isn't as time consuming as I feared.

For example, I've been needing to clear out my 'junk utensil' kitchen drawer forever. Not the true junk drawer with rubber bands and batteries and such -- that's another job waiting in the Incremental area. This is the drawer full of cooking utensils I've acquired, often gifts or impulse buys, but which I either disliked or only very rarely use. The drawer was packed so full I could barely open it, and almost never bothered to because I couldn't find anything in it anyway. So I made cleaning it out one of my incremental tasks, with the baby step being to make decisions on ten items each day -- keep or toss.

Well, for three days I did the babystep, no problem. The fourth day I decided it would be a good idea to dump the entire drawer out into a box so I could wash and reline the drawer, so as to be able to put away the 'keepers.' And once I'd put in the keepers from the first three days, well, I could see a few more things I wanted on the top of the heap in the box, plus all of those things were obviously useless. And once those were out of the box I could see . . . I ended up sorting out everything in the box in less than 20 minutes. Now the drawer holds only a single layer of utensils I actually want to have and use occasionally (such as a melon baller, kebab skewers, egg slicer) and since I can see everything and grab what I need at once, I actually use them. :)

Of course I also feel a little silly. I'd been dreading and avoiding a task that in the end took me just about a half hour in total to do, and which is already paying dividends in making my life just that bit easier. I try to keep that in mind each time I finish one incremental task and replace it with a new one.

No matter how yucky the task seems, it will be finished faster and with less stress than I imagine, and having it done will make me feel a little more confident and in control of my life."

[cartoon by Heather Sanders, Oh My Stinkin' Heck!]

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Hall Trees Take Root in Entryways

Berhardt Residential hall tree

The "mud room" is the 1990s solution to the problem of where to place a dripping umbrella, coat or hat. In the 1860s, the hall tree was the answer. . . . The 6- to 9-foot-high hall tree, placed near the front door, was designed to stand flat against the wall. It held the clothes and accessories needed for bad weather. Hooks for coats were at the top. There was a mirror in the center, a bench that stored boots and an umbrella, and a cane stand at the bottom."
-- Quoted from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Find Articles

You can still find hall trees - and if your home could accommodate one, it might be a fine entryway storage solution. And they come in a range of styles and sizes - and prices. I'll skip the antiques and show you a few of the other options.

The photo above is the hall tree from Bernhardt Residential's American Anthology collection.

French Country hall tree

For a very different look, there's this French Country style hall tree.

Hall Tree

And here's another style - a hall tree from Harold's Oak House, which specializes in Amish furniture.

yellow hall tree

This hall tree from Sawdust City is available in 34 different colors.

wrought iron hall tree

You can also get a wrought iron hall tree; this one is by Bago Luma. It loses the storage portion of the bench, though.

bamboo hall tree

And bamboo is another option. May 26, 2008: Unfortunately, this item doesn't seem to be available any longer.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Thoughtful Consumer Uses Freecycle

Freecycle logo

Cynthia Friedlob writes a wonderful blog called The Thoughtful Consumer, and she just wrote a post in praise of Freecycle.

I've mentioned Freecycle before; it's a collection of e-mail lists where people give (and get) stuff for free in their own towns. Each local group is moderated by a local volunteer. Membership is free.

I'm an enthusiastic user of Freecycle, both for my own things whose time has come to move on, and for items from my clients. Some of them would be difficult items to dispose of through traditional channels such as Goodwill and thrift shops; others seem to cry out for just the right new owner.

Here are some of the many things I've successfully listed on Freecycle:

- One of those fabric sample books that decorators have.

- T-shirts with French phrases on them, given to someone from France.

- Printer cartridges for printers no longer owned.

- Books that I've highlighted as I read, which makes them harder to dispose of through other channels.

- 60 pencils.

- A set of 24 inspirational tapes, with five of the tapes in the set missing.

- An old lava lamp, a bit slow to heat up and somewhat sluggish even when heated.

- Used cat scratching posts.

- Sunscreen in a brand I no longer use.

If you'd like to give it a try, go join the Freecycle community closest to you. This is not just a U.S. thing; there are groups in many countries around the world.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Buckets and Bins and Totes, Oh My!

MacBeth Collection bins in two of their many patterns

The MacBeth Collection offers a range of products (file folders, buckets in four sizes, tool caddies, storage bins in four sizes, magnet boards, waste baskets, etc.) in your choices of over 150 patterns. You can also get items monogrammed in one of eight colors.

Green Shopping, Revisited

You might want to check out a couple revisions I've just made to older posts.

Shannon Del Vecchio's essay on How to Be a Green Shopper is better than ever.

And I've also updated the list of food storage alternatives for those who prefer not to use plastic.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Simplify Your Life

book cover: Simplify Your Life

I just finished reading Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter, by Elaine St. James. It didn't do much for me - but I think that's mainly because I've read enough on this subject that there wasn't much here that was new to me. (There are also a few suggestions I totally disagree with - but the author encourages you to pick and choose, selecting the suggestions that work for you.)

But there were some parts where I really liked the author's way of making her point, and I'll share a few of those.

On deciding to simplify: Several years ago I was sitting at my desk, idly glancing at my daily schedule, which was laid out in a time-management system roughly the size of Nebraska. This binder was bursting with "to-do" lists, phone logs, time-organizers, meeting-maximizers, goal-stabilizers, high-tech efficiency charts, and five- and ten-year life planners. Suddenly, I realized I no longer wanted my life to be that complicated.

On de-cluttering: Remember, the idea is not to deny yourself the things you want, but to free yourself from the things you don't want.

On saving stuff: Every time you start to store something in the back of your closet or in a dark attic, ask yourself, "Do I really want to save this, or will it end up adding to the clutter?"

Storing and Displaying Children's Picture Books

child's book display

It's nice to be able to store children's books with the covers facing outward; this makes it easier for kids to find the books they want. The unit shown above was custom-made by the boy's grandpa, but there are products with the same idea that you can buy.

pick-a-book stand

Jonti-Craft has a whole selection of Pick-A-Book stands - available both in single-sided versions (as shown above) and double-sided versions, in a range of sizes, materials, and colors.

book center

Lakeshore Learning also has some nice book centers, such as the one shown above.

book display with safari-themed decor

Guidecraft has this safari book display, as well as ones with a Noah's ark and circus theme.

book holders shaped like a boy and a girl

Highsmith sells these boy and girl book holders from R·WIREworks.

wall mounted book bin

And here is a wall-mounted option from The Land of Nod.

children's books stored in dishpan

Or you could simply put books in something like a dishpan and put the dishpan on some shelves. You could use a nice basket for a somewhat classier look.

[first photo from Apartment Therapy: The Nursery]

13 Wooden Boxes for All Sorts of Stuff

tea / infusions box

Colloco in the UK has some interesting wooden storage boxes. I just wish they provided an alternative view of the inside. The one above is their infusions box.

computer box - for computer-related odds and ends

And then there's the computer box, intended for all those "PC bits and bobs."

There's also a mail box, sewing box, tools box, photo box, coffee box, salt box, flour box, sugar box, pasta box, cookies box, and recipe box.

I'm not sure how practical many of these are. For example, I think the mail box is a little too small to be useful - I certainly get mail in envelopes larger than this box. And I'm not sure I would want to use wooden boxes to store all of the things they've made boxes for. But the designs are so much fun that I wanted to share them anyway.

[via Popgadget]

Update on June 10, 2010: Colloco no longer carries these boxes. A Do Not Lose box is available from another company.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

European Furniture for Kids

child's bedroom furniture in dolphin theme

Just today I was looking through the book Small Rooms for Kids / Petites Chambres d'Enfant / Kleine Kinderzimmer - it's mostly a picture book - and some of the storage products are very eye-catching. So off I went, exploring the web sites of the various companies mentioned. Here are a few of the gems I found.

First, there are the ensembles from Heather Spencer Designs in the UK. That's the Dolphin one pictured above - there are also Funky Fairies, Jungle, Bugs and more.

bunk bed with lower trundle and storage

And then there's the furniture from IMA Mobili; again, this is just one of the stunning options. (The company also makes some eye-catching office furniture.)

trundle bed / desk combination with color-coordinated wardrobe

And Assomobili also has stuff I could ogle for ages. Update on July 2, 2011: The Assomobili web site has disappeared.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Shelf Shark

Bookshelf with and without the Shelf Shark holding up binders and CDs

The Shelf Shark is brand new - available at Office Depot on Monday, July 23. At first blush, this looks like something that might be especially useful to those who care about having orderly-looking shelves and are storing any of the following on those shelves:

* 3-ring binders
* Spiral-bound papers
* Other small brochures or bound documents

There are lots of good products for storing CDs and DVDs - and somehow I never felt the loss of the Shelf Shark for my books. But binders, spiral-bound papers and other small bound documents have always been a bit problematic; they seldom seem to stand up nicely. I've sometimes stored the smaller items in magazine files, but this might be another nice option.

Update on June 10, 2012: This product seems to have disappeared.

Related posts:
9 Alternative 3-Ring Binders
3-Ring Binders: Now We Are 12
Non-Boring Magazine Files

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Organized Artist

painting entitled 18 Moons, by Enrico Donati

Organizers will tell you that being organized doesn't stifle creativity - rather, it can help someone to be more creative.

So I was struck by Leah Garchick's column in today's San Francisco Chronicle, where she writes about Enrico Donati, age 98, and the exhibit entitled The Surreal World of Enrico Donati at the de Young mueum.

Here's an excerpt from the column:

The one-room exhibition . . . is a re-creation of Donati's New York studio. . . . It's a perfectly neat and organized space, and when I asked Donati whether in real life, his studio has blobs of paint on the floor, he exclaimed,"No way! It's like an operating room . . . I turn around," he said, moving to his left and reaching to mimic the gesture he was describing, "and when I want blue, I have it. I know where it it."

[image: 18 Moons by Enrico Donati, at the Weinstein Gallery]

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Old Office Furniture Gets a New Life

refurbished Hamilton medical cabinet in green

Past Present Future of Minneapolis, Minnesota collects, restores and sells vintage and antique office furniture - and some non-office furniture, too. The pieces shown here are just examples of restoration work done for prior clients - wow! The one above is a Hamilton medical cabinet.

refurbished All-Steel Desk in blue

And here's an All-Steel desk.

refurbished vintage metal dresser

And one more - a vintage metal dresser.

Related post: 10 Options for Colorful Storage

[via Fabulously Green, via the brand new Apartment Therapy: Green Home]

Storage for Serious Scrapbookers

Scrapbox storage cabinet for scrapbooking supplies

I've never seen anything quite like the Workbox, from The Original Scrapbox. The picture above shows it both closed and open. The website has some nice videos that show how it unfolds.

I'm not a crafter myself - if any of you are, what do you think of this?

[via colleague Anne Navach]

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Forbo Bulletin Boards

Forbo bulletin board in red

Now here's an interesting idea: bulletin boards made from linoleum.

Forbo's Marmoleum Bulletin Board is made from 75% rapidly renewable ingredients and contains 53% post industrial recycled content. And it's constructed from all natural ingredients: linseed oil, granulated cork, and pine rosin binders on a jute backing.

Forbo also notes that it's washable and self-healing - puncture marks virtually disappear. There are 12 colors options, ranging from the red shown above to blues, browns, etc.

It's sold in rolls (so you can make a whole bulletin board wall, if you like) intended to be installed direct to wall by a Forbo Master Mechanic - but there are also framed options. (Here's one place you can buy the framed boards.)

[via Apartment Therapy]

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Christmas is Less Than Six Months Away

2008 Calendar

You may be someone who buys Christmas presents throughout the year - but do any of us really want a Christmas catalog in July? (And do we really want 2008 calendars yet?)

If you do buy holiday/birthday/whatever gifts in advance, please be sure to have a specific place you store them: a drawer, a shelf, a box in the garage, etc. It's always a little sad to come across gifts left ungiven because the giver-to-be forgot she had bought them, or forgot where she had placed them.

[via Consumerist]

Friday, July 13, 2007

Miss Manners: How to Say No

photograph of Miss Manners

I've written before about the joy of saying no when asked to do something that doesn't fit with your goals and priorities.

But I realize I've forgotten to quote Miss Manners, who provides such good advice on how to say no.

Her recommended phrase is, "Oh, I'm so terribly sorry, I just can't." If asked why not, her reply is, "Because I'm afraid it's just impossible."

[Quoted from the wonderful book, Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, by Judith Martin]

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Give the Gift of a (Very Personal) Book

sample cover: book of child's art work

I've written before about gifts that won't become clutter - and I've just found another great list of gift suggestions provided by Australian organizer Lissanne Oliver of Sorted!.

But organizer Ariane Benefit just made me aware of something else that would make a terrific gift for the right person: a beautiful hardcover coffee table book of your child's best art work, from ForKeeps. Update on September 17, 2011: ForKeeps has disappeared.

sample personal biography book pages

Another wonderful option: Have someone's life story turned into a beautiful book, created by Storyzon.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Uncommon Goods: Organizing Products from Recycled Materials

tool bag from recycled billboards

Uncommon Goods has a Recycled category, which includes a number of organizing-related products, such as the recycled billboard tool bag shown above.

red storage box made from old rulers

Another one which caught my eye is this red ruler box, handmade in Trenton, New Jersey. (There are also boxes made from matchbook covers and hockey sticks.)

basket made from recycled wine barrels

And then there's the recycled wine barrel basket, also handmade - this time in Georgia.

[via Apartment Therapy: San Francisco]

Magazine Racks for Any Room

Three magazine racks caught my eye recently - for very different reasons.

in wall magazine rack

The in-wall magazine rack addresses the need some have for reading material in the bathroom, without taking up floor space. December 2008 update: While this specific magazine rack doesn't seem to be available any more, there are certainly other recessed magazine racks available.

Frank Lloyd Wright inspired magazine rack

December 2008 update: This magazine rack used to be available in recycled aluminum, which is what caught my eye - but that version doesn't seem to be available any more. But you can still buy the non-recycled version from the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, shown above.

folding magazine rack, Frank Lloyd Wright inspired design

After finding the Frank Lloyd Wright inspired rack noted above, I found that there's a folding, wrought-iron magazine rack, also inspired by his work. Update on March 5, 2011: I'm no longer finding this magazine rack on the web.

Related posts (other magazine racks):
Scandinavian Design Discoveries
Managing the Magazines