Monday, December 31, 2007

Smoked Salmon in Beautiful Boxes

3-colored fish on wood box

Want a gift that provides a healthy, tasty treat plus a great box to use for some sort of storage? Look at the offerings from Alaska Smokehouse in their silk-screened wood boxes.

wood box with image of Native American style whale

Here's another of their boxes.

wood box with picture of Santa in sleigh, with fishes

You can also get their spreads (Salmon, Shrimp & Salmon, and Crab & Trout) in a variety of wood pencil boxes. It's a bit late for this Christmas box, but there's always next year.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Keeping the Useful and the Beautiful

Simple Abundance book cover

The most-quoted statement related to organizing must be this one from William Morris: "Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."

Thanks to Mary Knippel, I'm reading Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, by Sarah Ban Breathnach. The entry for May 16 is a commentary on the Morris quote, and seems appropriate for this time of year, too. Here is just a tiny part of that entry.
Ask each possession, are you beautiful? Useful? Is it time for you to move on? You will undoubtedly come to an object that is neither beautiful nor useful but has sentimental qualities. Create a new category (sorry, Mr. Morris) on your clearing list. But use restraint. Does it really tug at your heartstrings? Would you mourn if it disappeared? ...

How can more good come into our lives if there is no room for it? The way we create the vacuum is by giving away what we no longer need or desire but what can serve others ...

Deciding to simplify our lives and bring order to our homes by sending on the objects we no longer love to new, happier incarnations with people who will genuinely appreciate them is the way to open ourselves up to receiving an abundance that will perfectly suit us.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas Ornament Storage

Three Italian clown orgnaments

All too soon now the tree will be coming down and the ornaments will get put away. I know it can be tedious, but please take the time to store them carefully; so many lovely ornaments are also fragile.

Basic Techniques

FamilyTime has these suggestions:

- Pack glass balls in their original packaging, if possible. Individually wrap breakable ornaments in tissue paper.

- Replace old cardboard boxes with plastic tubs with tight-fitting lids. Fill the tubs with shredded newspaper and nestle ornaments in the paper. The shredded paper will prevent the ornaments from shifting too much if the tub is moved.

And over at Christmas Rants, there's a reminder and a suggestion:

- Make sure you wrap each Christmas ornament delicately in tissue paper. Avoid newsprint since the ink can rub off on elegant Christmas ornaments.

- If you have any old pieces of furniture, such as a dresser that you planned to get rid of, you can possibly convert it to a neat storage center for your Christmas ornaments.

But the most complete advice comes from Your Home Improvement Catalog; here are just two samples.

- Place bubble wrap or crumpled paper towels in the bottom of the Christmas ornament storage container before you put any wrapped decorations in it. If the box doesn't include sections, use extra tissue between decorations to provide more protection. Add a last layer on top of the ornaments before fastening the lid.

- Place some silica gel desiccant in every container to remove dampness. You can buy it at craft stores.

Specialty Products

green ornament box

1. You can find both plastic and cardboard ornament storage boxes and chests all over the place, from to organizing stores such as The Container Store and Stacks and Stacks. Some of these even have archival-quality storage, such as this box from The Container Store. Some stores that specialize in archival products, such as Gaylord, also have ornament boxes.

ornament box with 7 cardboard drawers with pictures of bells

2. But there are some products you won't find all over, such as these ornament boxes which hold from 82-164 ornaments.

ornament chest, faux leather, black

3. Sterling Pear sells some fancy ornament chests.

zippered ornament bin with [icture of snowman, Christmas tree, etc.

4. ZipBin has this collapsible ornament bin. That seasonal picture isn't quite what Christmas looks like for some of us, though. Update on January 8, 2012: ZipBin doesn't seem to make this product any more.

ornament safe - stores ornaments on hooks

5. The ornament safe is a very different way of storing ornaments.

[Italian clown ornaments; handpainted, mouthblown glass; via Gumps]

Thursday, December 27, 2007

7 Stand-Out Staplers, Plus a Staple Remover

red stapler

Office supply junkies - this one's for you!

1. Red Swingline 747 Stapler

This stapler was apparently featured in the movie Office Space, which I didn't see. After years of dull black staplers, I just like the splash of color. But apparently it's a pretty good stapler, too. [Note: The price on the Swingline web site seems to be higher than the one shown on other web sites. Photo from this web site.]

stapler being pressed with one finger

2. PaperPro Stapler

Neat looking, and easy on the hands - you can staple by pressing with just one finger. Various models handle 15, 20, or 25 sheets of paper. [via Tribe]

stainless steel stapler

3. Moss Stapler

This is one of the simple and elegant staplers. Others include the Design Line stapler and the Blomus stapler. Update on April 30, 2012: The stapler pictured is actually the Folle stapler, which was sold by Moss, but no longer is. However, you can find it at Emmo Home. However, I'm no longer finding the Design Line stapler anywhere.

Hello Kitty stapler, pink

4. Hello Kitty Stapler

This one's for those who favor cute over elegant.

stapler with flowered pattern

5. Flowered stapler

Here's a softer look that might be nice in some home offices.

basic looking stapler

6. Recycled Plastic Mini-Stapler

This stapler is made with 84.3% recycled plastic, and it has a 20 sheet capacity. Update on Feb. 24, 2011: I'm not finding this specific stapler any more, but there are others made with recycled plastic, such as the one shown here.

stapler with built-in staple-puller

7. Stapuller

Do your staple pullers always go missing? This stapler has a built-in staple puller. Update on Feb. 24, 2011: I'm not finding this product any more.

stapler remover shaped like alligator head with open jaws

Staple Remover from Jac Zagoory Designs

This alligator is one of a number of designs; others include a dragon, a T-Rex, and an elephant.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

7 Alarm Clocks For a Gentler Wake-Up Call

alarm clock with chime, triangular shape, wood

Want to wake up to a pleasant alarm clock - and have it look somewhat stylish, too? Here are some options to consider.

1. Zen alarm clock (shown above)

This is the one I've used for years, and I've recently bought a second one for my guest bedroom. Waking up to a chime is nice - or as nice as any alarm clock is going to be. There's a choice of woods and clock faces.

Bose clock radio

2. Bose wave radio

This is the other alarm clock I own - a quite wonderful clock radio. Mine is an older version, and the only problem is my cat sometimes steps on the buttons on the top, jolting me awake at 3 a.m. (This newer version seems to not have those top buttons.) Not inexpensive, but I think I'll probably own it forever. Other versions include a CD player, and there's a connect kit for your iPod.

iPos alarm clocks in 3 colors

3. iPod alarm clock

There are certainly more iPod alarm clocks, but I like the looks of this one.

odd-shaped alarm clock with lights along the side

4. Progression alarm clock

I don't know how well this actually works, but the idea is nice. Quoting the web site: "This clock uses a gradual increase in ambient light, stimulating aromas, and peaceful sounds from nature to awaken sleepers." It does look strange, though. [via popgadget]

alarm clock, blue

5. Moonbean Clock

This clock also wakes you up to light - no aromatherapy, though. (It also has an alarm bell.) It's a nice simple look, available in four colors. [via popgadget]

alarm clock with cat face on the clock face

6. Talking animal alarm clocks

This cat one goes meow-meow-meow, of course. In case you're not a cat person, there are eight other options.

alarm clock, wood casing

7. Voco - clocks that talk

"Excuse me, sir. I'm so sorry to disturb you, but it appears to be morning. Very inconvenient, I agree. I believe it is the rotation of the earth that is to blame." Wake up to one of 150 different messages. (There's a good morning, madam clock available, too.)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Letting Go of Spiritual or Emotional Clutter

Closed burden basket, ca. 1900. Weaver unknown, Mashpee Wampanoag.

This seems like a good time of year to share part of a thoughtful post by Dwayne Melancon at Genuine Curiosity:
Our visiting missionary was talking about how we are called to leave behind things that make it more difficult for us to live the life we want to live. The "things" we need to leave behind are sometimes physical, but he asked us to broaden our perspective to include relationships, grudges, and so forth. ...

Definitely got me thinking about how I can clean up some of the spiritual / emotional clutter. For example:

- Who can I forgive (or ask for forgiveness) and get past a grudge?

- Who can I apologize to and make amends?

- Do I have any relationships where it's time to move on and stop trying to "make it better?"
And Kimberly Southall shared this quote from Ephesians 4:31:
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
Katherine Gibson delves into emotional clutter in her wonderful book Unclutter Your Life. Here's just one quote:
Beth Skala talks of the Native American's burden basket. "It's the mental and spiritual clutter we carry. Our burden basket contains regrets, unfilled wishes, addictions, failures, memories of abuse, unresolved issues, and guilt. We can bend under its weight as life tosses more in, or we can set it down and examine what's in it and choose to unload some of the weight."
I wish all of you an uncluttered life in the year ahead.

[Burden basket photo from The Language of Native American Baskets]

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Reader Question: Organizing the Exercise Equipment

exercise equipment: ball in upside-down step; weights on bookshelf

Exercise equipment storage is a challenge for most of us who work out at home without the big machines. I personally have some of the same challenges as the reader who writes:
I love your blog, but don't see any posts on exercise equipment. My husband and I live in a 1,000sf condo so we don't have equipment like treadmills and elliptical trainers, but we have assorted small items like weights and balance boards. They are just stacked in a corner which I hate but I'm at a loss for what to do with them. We don't have a basement, garage, or utility room to store anything. The toughest thing is the large exercise ball, which we just roll from room to room to get out of the way. Any ideas? I'd love to see a post about this!
Sure, lots of ideas.

First of all, I'd like to encourage you to store the equipment as close as possible to where you'll be using it. The easier it is to get to the stuff, the more likely you are to use it - and put it away when you're done. (But yes, I know that might not be feasible.)

The Make-Do-With-What-You-Have Approach

This is what I've done so far. My bands and such get stored in an upside-down exercise step, and the ball balances on top. (A basket could work fine for this, too.) The weights get stored on bookshelves, in front of some books, making sure not to put too much weight on any shelf.

If you're ready to move beyond that - and I'm about ready, myself - here are some options.

Specialized Storage for the Exercise Balls

loop wall rack for single exercise ball

I just now came across The Loop, and I like it a lot.

exercise ball stabilizer

There are a number of companies making ball bases/stabilizers - and prices vary widely. Make sure you get one that's the right size for your ball.

ball holder

Here's another ball holder; you put the ball on the disc, push down, and supposedly create enough suction to hold the ball in place.

ball stacker for three balls

If you have more than one ball, ball stackers are an option to consider. Again, prices on the web vary greatly. They are often sold in sets of three, but you can buy a single one, too.

exercise ball storage rack

If you want a rack and space is limited, this one from Ideal Products could work - not pretty, but functional.

Specialized Storage for the Weights/Dumbbells

wall-mounted weight/dumbbell rack

This wall-mounted rack is the most space-saving option I found.

This dumbbell rack is also a space-saver.

vertical weight/dumbbell rack

After that, we go on to vertical dumbbell racks; the A-frame is one such style.

vertical rack for 5 sets of dumbbells

And there are a lot of vertical racks that look more or less like this one.

wagon for weights

On a totally different note, there's this weight wagon.

One More Exercise Equipment Option

FiTable being used as step and bench

This doesn't address the original question - but I couldn't quite leave the topic of exercise equipment in a small space without mentioning it. The FiTable home exercise system is a weight bench, a cardio step, a rolling storage drawer and a coffee table - all in one.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Zanisa: Organizing Items for the Environmentalist

bamboo A-frame wine rack

Want to shop somewhere that supports your environmental ideals? If you're buying new rather than used, Zanisa is about as good as you can get. As the Zanisa web site says, its "contemporary collections focus on items that are handmade, natural, recycled, organic, fairly traded and sustainable."

Furthermore, the company's web site is hosted using wind-powered energy, it makes extensive use of recycled materials for packaging, and with the help of, Zanisa plants a tree for every order of $50 or more.

And the products are lovely, as you can see from that bamboo A-frame wine rack.

pencil box; brid with paint brush in its beak

I'm also quite taken with this artist pencil box. I've included a close-up view; you can see the whole box (and the interior) on the Zanisa web site.

button boxes

And then there are these button boxes - boxes made from buttons!

box made from cloves, filled with note paper

This box is made from cloves! It comes filled with recycled note paper embedded with seeds.

leather piggy bank

This piggy bank is made from reconstituted leather.

cut-to-size sticky note pad

And here's a new twist on the ubiquitous sticky notes. You write a note and then move the slider down - and tear off a note that's exactly the width you need.

[Via Style Saves the World, a blog dedicated to saving the world, one stylish day at a time]

Friday, December 21, 2007

Storing Things Securely in Earthquake Territory

h=pit rack hanging from ceiling

Bruce Turner of TurnerBuilt, Inc. has been my contractor for 19 years. He just wrote this good advice for those of us living in earthquake territory.
If you have a home entertainment center, a kitchen hutch or a large bookcase, imagine it crashing over during a quake - and what would happen to anyone underneath it. You need to make sure those hulking pieces will stay upright by attaching them securely to the wall.

Fortunately, that's pretty easy. You can drive a long screw or lag bolt through the back of the piece into the wall, making sure you anchor it in a stud or joist - a screw, even a molly, that's anchored in drywall will rip right out. If the piece is a bookcase or hutch that doesn't have a back, you can secure an L-bracket to the top of the piece and anchor the other end to the stud. If you have shelves on brackets, make sure they're solidly mounted and secured. ...

Do you keep lots of dishes on high shelves? An airborne dinner plate can do serious damage to anyone it hits. So can a cooking pot that takes wing from an overhead hook. Think about storing your heavy dishes, pots, pans and china in enclosed cabinets at lower altitudes, and then add latches to the cabinet doors to keep them from flying open.
There's more good earthquake-preparedness advice in the article, so you might want to read the whole thing.

[photo by Patrick Keane]

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Long Commutes: Even Worse Than You Thought

heavy traffic

When I was in the corporate world, my commute went from a predictable 30 minutes each way, to a predictable 45 minutes, to an unpredictable 60 minute minimum. That last change was a real nightmare - so I very much related to Penelope Trunk's posting today about long commutes. Here's a brief quote.
A lot of people try to justify their outrageously long commute. I think this is delusional, and I would know, because I used to have one: Two hours each way between Los Angeles and San Diego. Two hours, that is, if I left home at 5 a.m. and went home at 8 p.m. I thought it would be okay because the money was so good, but actually, I nearly lost my mind.

So think twice about accepting an outrageous commute in order to make outrageous amounts of money. Especially if your extreme commute means that the time outside of work for family and friends is gone - to the car ride. Nattavudh Powdthavee of the University of London published research to show that if you are going to take a job where you will give up seeing family and friends on a regular basis, you would need to earn $133,000 just to make up for the lack of happiness you feel from being away from those people.
Read the whole article (and the linked article about nearly losing her mind) for more insights.

[photo from neoporcupine / Simon ]

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Happy Holidays: Discardia Starts Dec. 21

Salvation Army collection in Oslo, Norway

Getting stressed out by the holidays? Try celebrating Discardia, starting on December 21.
Discardia is a new holiday.

It takes place in the time between the Solstices & Equinoxes and their following new moons. Sometimes it's short and sometimes it's long.

Discardia is celebrated by getting rid of stuff and ideas you no longer need. It's about letting go, abdicating from obligation and guilt, being true to the self you are now. Discardia is the time to get rid of things that no longer add value to your life, shed bad habits, let go of emotional baggage and generally lighten your load.
Read more on the Discardia web site.

[photo by sfllaw / Simon Law]

Monday, December 17, 2007

Four Calendars To Consider for 2008

Update on Oct. 28, 2010: Although this post features 2008 calendars, there are 2011 versions of those bunny calendars listed in #1; the links point to the new calendars.

If you're using a wall calendar, you have some wonderful choices. Here are a few you may not have seen.

1. Bunnies of the Tarot (shown above)

The same company provides Great Moments in Bunny Literature and Bunnies of the Zodiac, among others.

calendar with picture of chicken

2. Literary Chicken calendar

Also available on Etsy, where the calendar is described this way: The depth and breadth of what it means to be chicken, and indeed what it means to be, are explored here in a year of original images and quotes from literature. ... It is printed on acid free paper which will last for years to come. Update on Oct. 28, 2010: It doesn't seem as though Scratch Studios is making this calendar again.

calendar with picture of blue bird

3. Hidden Habitats calendar from blissen

Besides being lovely, it's printed with vegetable-based inks on reincarnation paper (100% recycled, 50% post-consumer waste, and processed chlorine free). Update on Oct. 28, 2010: There's no indication that Jill Bliss is making a 2011 calendar.

calendar cover with drawing of greyhound angel

4. Italian Greyhound Rescue calendar

The monthly pages are photos, not drawings. Many such groups create calendars to help support their work. Update on Oct. 2, 2009: This calendar is no longer available.