Thursday, February 28, 2008

Saving and Shedding the Sentimental: Four Perspectives

embroidered blue jeans - detail of embroidery

1. Harriet Schecter has much good advice about managing memorabilia, including this:
The key to maintaining any memorabilia management system is to establish an annual or twice-a-year "Reminiscence Ritual." This is when you spend at least one afternoon (or whatever part of the day you prefer) to lovingly revisit your sentimental stuff, either alone or with family. Holidays can be a good time to do this, and/or summertime. The purpose of the Reminiscence Ritual is to allow you to reminisce as you weed out stale mementoes - a great way to make room for next year's memories.

2. Julie Morgenstern has this perspective regarding mementos:
True memorabilia encapsulates your most significant moments, transporting you in time with a mere touch or glance. If you can no longer remember why you're saving all those old birthday cards, get rid of them. Save one pair of embroidered bell-bottoms for nostalgia's sake, but not eleven.

3. Dr. Amie Ragan has some sage advice on dealing with the sentimental, including this:
I believe that you should keep sentimental items that help keep you feeling connected with people who are not here anymore. What to do with the things really depends on what they are. If they are items that can be used, then use them for their intended purpose. If your grandmother was practical like mine she would say, “Use the quilt, that’s what it is for.”

One idea that may help you decide if you can part with something is to think about how attached your grandparent was to the item. If it was just an everyday something-something, you might have an easier time letting it go. I would recommend keeping anything that you know the story behind, but you do not have to keep everything in order to keep their memories alive.

4. Michele has been posting some nice clutter-clearing articles over on Michele's Mix, and the latest deals in part with sentimental items. Here are two snippets.
The fact that something once belonged to a family member (presently living or deceased) does not mean it meets the criteria [for keeping things]. If you don't use it, love it or find comfort in it, consider passing it along to a family member who does. If no family members want it and you feel comfortable doing so, you may even want to try giving it to someone else who will love and use it. I feel that it is a much greater honor to the person and their heirloom to make sure whoever has it loves it.

During my freshman year of college, I competed in powerlifting (weightlifting). In one small meet I entered, I took fifth place (out of 7 women in my weight class) in the bench press and got a trophy for it. I lugged that trophy through many moves before I finally decided I didn't want it anymore.

Related Posts:
Save Some of the Sentimental

Contribute to History, Honor Your Family, and Feel Good

[photo of blue jean bell bottoms for sale at Melbell's etsy store]

Storing the Cassette Tape Collection - and Other Options

cassette tapes in shoeboxes


Have a bunch of audio cassette tapes that you still find valuable? Here are some of your options for preserving the tapes - or the content of the tapes.

1. Convert to CD or MP3 (or other digital format) yourself.

Lifehacker provides instructions, as does WikiHow and How to Do Things.com.

There are also special gadgets you can use, such as InstantMusic Vinyl & Cassette Ripper, the Plus Deck Cassette Converter, and the One Touch Any Media iPod Uploader.


2. Pay someone else to do the conversion.

Here are some folks who provide that service, which will give you an idea on costs: AVConvert, Euro Video, Birdman Productions, and Cassette Tape to CD.

Feb. 29 addendum: Adams Video Services in Pacifica, CA also provides this service. I've used Tom's video transfer service in the past.

3. Store them as is.

If you just want to store the tapes, there are still companies selling storage products.

cassette tape carrying case (open and closed) with tapes inside

Cassette carrying cases are one option.


cassette storage album,open and closed, with tapes inside

Gaylord sells audiocassette albums.


cassette tape case, open,with tapes inside

Grundorf makes cassette tape cases, too.


box for storing cassette tapes

Conservation Resources sells cassette storage boxes.


wood cassette tape racks with tapes in it

You can get nice wood cassette tape racks.


mobile media storage cabinet siwht different kinds of media inside

And Gaylord sells a number of cabinets, from Sandusky Lee and Riss Bassett, designed for storing cassette tapes - or other media, such as VHS tapes and CDs. School Outfitters also sells the Sandusky Lee cabinets, including the one shown above.


media cabinets, closed

And here are more media cabinets that can be configured to hold cassette tapes.


wood storage furniture for cassette tapes

Finally, Lorentz Design has this cassette tape storage cube. Update on March 5, 2013: The company that made these seems to have disappeared.

[first photo by draggin / jason toal]

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Update: Moving Boxes, Greener and Cheaper

man sitting in plastic moving box

A box is a terrible thing to waste. -- Benzera Boxes

You're getting ready to move - but going out and buying brand new moving boxes seems wasteful. Don't worry: You have lots of other options.

1. Advertise on your local Freecycle. Moving boxes are requested and offered all the time on mine. You could also try craigslist.

2. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, consider Bay Area Box Express; the company sells "Precycled, too-good-for-the-recycle-bin boxes, at up to 50% off what most retail moving supply stores charge."

3. If you live in the Boston area, consider Benzera Boxes, which sells used professional moving boxes.

4. Usedcardboardboxes.com sells used moving boxes throughout most of the U.S.

5. U-Haul has created the U-Haul Box Exchange, "a messageboard that you can use to trade, sell or buy reusable boxes and moving supplies." [via Consumerist and Lifehacker]

6. Earth Friendly Moving lets you rent moving boxes! The boxes (called Recopacks, and pictured above) are made from recycled plastic rather than cardboard. Unfortunately, they are only in Southern California right now, but they have plans to go nationwide. [via Apartment Therapy]

7. If you're in Southern Nevada, you could try Moving Box Rentals - which also sells gently used boxes.

8. Eco Box in Texas also buys and sells used moving boxes.

These are all U.S.-only options (except for Freecycle and craigslist); if anyone knows about more options for recycled moving boxes outside of the USA, please send me e-mail or add a comment.

Original Post, November 2006: Moving Boxes, Greener and Cheaper

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Update: Six More Shredder Options

shredder cabinet - 3 color options

1. You know you need a shredder, but you don't like how it looks in your office? The shredder cabinet might be right for you. Update on Jan. 18, 2012: I'm no longer finding this product.


Safesense shredder - stops shredding when hands are too close

2. If your concern is shredder safety, Fellowes has an answer for you. Paper shredders can indeed be a hazard to children and pets; as this article (with details that might upset you) indicates. So if you don't have a shredder with built-in safety features, please do keep it away from kids and animals, and/or unplug it when it's not in use.


USB-powered shredder in action

3. Here's a USB-powered shredder - just plug it into your computer. [via Apartment Therapy]


usb-powered shredder with bin for the shredded paper

4. And here's another USB-powered shredder!


3 pictures of USB shredder for A4 paper

5. Fareastgizmos.com reports that Thanko is now selling a USB shredder for A4 paper. However, if you don't read Japanese, you may have a hard time buying it right now. Update on Jan. 17, 2012: You can buy it here, but the shipping costs make it quite expensive.

All of these USB shredders provide only strip-cut shredding, rather than the more secure cross-cut shredding.


two gerbils

6. Finally, you could follow Zyra's advice and get some pet gerbils to do your shredding for you.

Related Post: Paper Shredders Don't Have to be Boring

[gerbil photo by benmckune]

Miss Manners: Shopping Parties Can Lead to Clutter

woman with large red wig and Tupperware apron, holding Tupperware products

The Tupperware party was one of the originals - and now people host home parties to sell everything from candles to jewelry to sex toys.

While they can be a fine opportunity to buy something you truly want, these parties can also lead to unwanted purchases and yet more clutter. Here is an excerpt from a recent Miss Manners column on the subject.
Dear Miss Manners: I hosted one of those home shopping parties for a group of friends and had a very good turnout. However, one thing I noticed was that a close relative of mine didn’t purchase anything.

Now, I know that you shouldn’t have to feel obligated to buy anything at these functions; however, I have attended several home parties for her in the past, and I felt that it was not courteous not to support your host.

... I have become confused on how I should handle the situation with my relative that didn’t buy anything. Should I be annoyed and therefore not go to any of her forthcoming parties?

What do you think would be the correct courtesy going forward at these parties? We all know that they have the gang mentality pressured into them.

Gentle Reader: And your complaint is that the gang mentality didn’t kick in to make your relative feel obligated to buy something she didn’t want?

... A reason not to invite this relative to a shopping party would be that she is not interested in the kind of merchandise you are selling. For the same reason, and not to punish her, you needn’t attend hers.

But what exactly would be the point of your selling unwanted things to each other? ... Wouldn’t you both come out just as far ahead, and not have your houses full of unwanted clutter, if you saw each other over a (freely offered) cup of tea?

[photo from Dixie Longate's Tupperware page]

Sunday, February 24, 2008

But How Do I Store the Boots?

boots hanging in a closet

Looking at this picture on the ClosetsGuru.com web site reminded me that while I've written quite a lot about shoe storage, I've barely touched on boots. That particular product is the pricey boot tree sold by LA Closet Design - but there are many other options.


boot shapers with hangers, in package

The boot shapers with hangers made by Austin-Abbott use the same approach and cost much less. If you'd like boot shapers and don't care about the hangers, there are many other options.


boot hanger

For a different sort of hanging option, there's the boot hanger from Bootique.


riding boot hanger - with and without boots

And then there's this boot hanger intended for English riding boots, Western boots, and certain motorcycle boots. The hanger is inserted through the pull strap loops.


rack with boots hanging upside down

A totally different approach is to hang the boots upside down. You could use the rack shown above, or one of many similar products.


wood rack for hanging boots upside down; also has shelf for caps or whatever

Brundlefly has some nice boot racks made from pine and oak. Update on January 9, 2012: Brundlefly no longer sells this product, but it has a similarly-styled rack for children's boots.


boot hanger with boots hanging upside down on a closet rod

Here's an upside-down boot hanger that goes over a closet rod.


boots on rack with tall pegs

Then there's the approach involving putting boots over pegs. I've shown this one from Brundlefly before, but it's nice enough to shown again.


floor boot rack, blue, with 2 pairs of boots, upside down

These welly boot racks use the same approach but have a totally different style.


hanging (wall-mounted) boot rack with 4 pairs of boots on it

And if you like the peg approach but don't want the boots on the floor, there's this wall-mounted Wellington boot rack.


clear boot box with tall black boots inside

Finally, there's always the simple boot box option. [via Mighty Goods]

Friday, February 22, 2008

Beyond IKEA: Scandinavian Designs to Help You Organize

wood dots - hooks for coats

Looking for a simple, elegant coat hook? These wood dots might be just right. [via Apartment Therapy]


wall coat rack with jacket hanging on it

Here's a very different wall coat rack from Selki-asema.


timer and eggs

Eva Solo's magnetic kitchen timer is only one of the products worth a glance; also take a look at the wine rack, the knife magnets, the knife stand, the towel peg, the memo board and the waste bin.


wood box for storage and seating'picture of a face

Tunto Design makes this combination seat and storage box in a number of patterns and solid colors.


square container, open top

Woodnotes makes various accessories from 100 percent paper yarn fabric and from soil-repellent treated paper yarn cotton fabric. This box zone container is just one such product.


teak newspaper stand

The teak Fiona newspaper stand (also available here) is simple and lovely.


hook shaped like head and outstretched arms

Essem Design gives us the Mama hook - as well as number of other hooks, hangers, and clothes stands.


folders in many colors

And finally, here are the lovely Con Anima folders for A4 paper.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Five More Ways to Store Stuff Under the Bed

orange box on wheels for under the bed

I wrote (and you replied) about under-bed storage before: built-it storage, baskets, suitcases, vacuum storage bags. But I've just found some more interesting alternatives I wanted to share.

The Roly Basket from Maine Cottage, shown above, is available in 40 different colors, from mango (color shown) to pickle to rhubarb to buttercream. [via Apartment Therapy]

bed frame with three drawers underneath

Pacific Rim's under-bed drawers are made from maple grown in managed forests in Washington and Oregon and built entirely in Eugene, Oregon. (Also available here.) Pacific Rim's own web page doesn't show these drawers; when I wrote to ask about this, they confirmed they are indeed making the drawers, but just "haven't had the chance to add them" to the web site. [via Apartment Therapy]


under bed storage boxes, wood

Alphabeds in the U.K. sell under-bed boxes in three sizes and 10 stain options.


fabric under-bed storage box shaped like little red wagon, with those words written on it

KangaRoom has an under-bed fabric box shaped like a little red wagon. Update on September 2, 2009: Well, they used to have the box shown. Now they have this one instead.


under-bed drawer with landscape painting

And here's the most unusual option - intended for use with toy trains. Y0u can't see it in the picture, but apparently it does come with caster wheels.The company also makes a double decker train table.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Four More Ways to Stash the Shoes

high heels from ledge

Now how's this for an interesting way to store high heels!


organizer for 6 pairs of flip-flops

And here's another specialty option - My Pair Tree, for those with flip-flop collections.


shoe chest

On the opposite end of the cost spectrum is this hand-painted shoe chest from Hooker Furniture. (Hooker has another shoe cupboard, too.)


wall-hanging shoe storage option

I don't have much information about this wall-hanging option - but I've never seen anything quite like it.


Related Posts:
Leaving Your Shoes at the Door
Hotel Box - Unusual Shoe Storage
Innovative Shoe Storage: The Shoe Wheel from Rakku
Shoe Storage: Back to Basics

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Organizing the Exercise Equipment: What About the Yoga Mat?

cat on yoga mat

When I last wrote about organizing exercise equipment, I covered the ball and the weights. But what about that foam roller, and the yoga mat?

That's a challenge I have myself - and I don't need a traditional yoga mat bag because the mat never leaves my house; it just goes down on the living room floor as needed. Well, I just read a great answer today - use an umbrella stand! You'll need to be careful to pick one that's the right size, of course - but what a neat idea.

A really nice tall wastebasket could work well, too - or maybe even a laundry hamper. (This one would look lovely in my living room. I never did have cheap taste. Sigh.)

Confession: I have two yoga mats - the type you normally see, and the futon-style mat shown above. That latter one will stay out so my cat can continue to enjoy curling up on it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Perfect Mess: Some Insights, Some Garbage

book cover, A Perfect Mess

When the book A Perfect Mess came out over a year ago now, it got lots of press coverage - and lots of comments from professional organizers. I didn't read the book at that time, so I could only comment on the reviews - specifically, the review in the New York Times.

But now that the book has come out in paperback, I decided to finally read it. I started out with a library copy - but I was taking so many notes I decided I needed to buy it.

Because the authors have a very wide concept of mess, much of what they write about has very little to do with what professional organizers deal with. For example, some kinds of "mess" they write about include:

- Messy yards done with natural landscaping rather than nicely-trimmed lawns.
- Messy cities (vs. planned development).
- The messy process of a trombone coming in on tune in Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.

So this book took me down many interesting paths - but let's focus on the ones related to organizing a home or office.

The main message I took from the book - and one I agree with - is that there is some optimal level of organization for each situation. Sometimes people try for perfect organization, and that often doesn't pay off.

And the book also explicitly recognizes that hoarding and other forms on chronic disorganization are serious issues, and the authors are respectful to Judith Kolberg, who they say has a "warm and ranging intelligence." (She's the only professional organizer mentioned who comes out looking good.)

Furthermore, the authors do nail some of the foibles of the organizing profession - especially the tendency to cute acronyms. They create their own: ACE
Aw, relax.
Carve out time.
Eject some stuff.
But I don't see myself in the stereotype of the organizer that the authors portray. For example, I don't push my clients to get rid of anything they are not ready to give up. (Rather, I'll ask questions to help them think more carefully about what they want to keep, and let them hear themselves as they say "I hate this" and then wonder if they should keep the item in question.)

And I don't see most of my clients in the book, either. They aren't trying for perfection or sterile-looking homes, and they aren't hoarders - they are simply people overwhelmed by clutter who could use a helping hand for a while. Pretty normal folks.

I also noticed that in some places the authors were sloppy with either their research or their summaries of what they read. Two examples:

1. The authors mention the Hawthorne effect twice - not seeming to know it has been largely discredited.

2. When talking about David Allen's personal productivity approach, they write "What's a little hard to understand is how someone who can be so strikingly uplifted by the creation of a to-do list never came to think of starting one before Allen suggested it."

What this totally ignores is that David Allen has a very different approach to creating that to-do list (or actually, a series of lists), and that someone who has used a to-do list in the past might be able to create a much more useful one after reading Allen's book. You might think a list is a list - but you'd be mistaken!

And once in a while I vehemently disagreed with the authors. For example, there's this:
The bedroom: You rarely use it during the day, you're asleep when you're in it at night, and unless you're heavily dating there isn't much call for bringing guests into it. All in all, the bedroom is a pretty good place to maintain a mess.
I suppose that could be true - if you don't care about sleeping well, having a satisfying love life, and being able to easily get dressed in clothes that make you look good!

U.S. Postage Rates Going Up in May: Mark Your Calendar Now!

forever liberty bell stamp

I just added a postage rate increase reminder to my calendar; unless you only use the Forever Stamp, you might want to do the same (or add a note to your tickler file).

[Thanks to Consumerist for the alert.]

Fantasy Furniture: Three Chairs with Built-In Book Storage

armchair with book storage built inro back, arms, etc.

Most of us won't be buying one of these any time soon, but looking doesn't hurt!

The bibliochaise from Nobody&co (shown above) is available in three stores - one each in Italy, France, and The Netherlands.


mobile chair - sort of a cart - with book store built in

The bookinist from Nils Holger Moormann costs 2,187 euros.


chair with book storage on shelf under the seat

10 Grain isn't selling this chair yet, but the San Francisco Chronicle reports it will sell for around $499 and will be available in May.


Related Post: Eye-Catching Shelving Units