Monday, June 29, 2009

How to Reply to Offers on Freecycle

Freecycle items on the doorstep

Freecycle is pretty straightforward. People send messages to their local Freecycle group members, saying what they are offering, and you reply if you are interested. (You can also send messages asking for things you want - someone just might have them.)

I'm an avid Freecycler; I give away things of my own, as well as things for my clients, who are thrilled to see their items go to someone who can really use them. That picture above is my porch, this morning. There's a bag of stuffed animals going to one person, three bags of clothes going to someone else, two stacks of books for two more people, a cheese grater going to yet another person - and more. In total, nine people were coming by for things!

But as simple as Freecycle is, I'm sometimes amazed at how some people respond to my messages. I keep a list of people I've found to be good recipients - and another one of people to avoid. (You can always choose who you want to give your items to, and you may well get multiple requests for the same item.) Here are my guidelines on how to get on my "good people" list.

1. Be polite.

There's one person whose replies always read something like this: Tell me the address to come pick it up.
I'll never give anything to this person. Rather, I'll give it to the person who writes: May I please have this, if it's still available?

(OK, I must admit I also get a grin from the person who has received things from me many times, who will now write messages like this: Dibs on the picture frame. But that's because I already know him.)

And "thank you" messages are always welcome, too.

2. Have a normal-sounding e-mail address.

I know this is sort of a strange item. But there's one person I never give things to because she's got an off-putting e-mail address that always makes me pause; do I really want this person coming to my home? I've decided the answer is no.

3. Follow instructions.

I often have a large list of something - many books or CDs, for example. I will usually write: Take one, some or all - no preference for taking more than one, so ask for what you really want.

Using the book example: Some people then write and say they will take everything; others ask for specific books. I'll give the books away first to the people who asked for a few selected ones. Then I'll write to the "take everything" folks and tell them what's left - and lo and behold, they don't want those books.

4. If you need more information, ask right away.

Don't say you want something, and then - after I've said you can have it - ask for more information. If you have questions, include them in your first message.

5. Don't ask me to deliver the item or mail it to you.

You want it, you come get it. That's just how things (generally) work on Freecycle.

Now, there are some people who I offer to deliver to, because I drive by their homes, and I know they are unlikely to be driving by mine - and we live a 20-minute drive away. (My Freecycle group covers a large territory.) But these are people I know - not strangers asking for something from me.

6. Show up when you say you will.
Yes, sometimes things happen, and you just can't make it. If you send me an e-mail and explain that, and set a new time, I understand. But don't just neglect to show up.

Related Posts:
The Things You Find on Freecycle
Short Takes: Funny Stuff Found on Freecycle
The Thoughtful Consumer Uses Freecycle

Fabric Buckets, Boxes and Bins

two fabric buckets, cotton

For all of us who love a good container, fabric buckets (also called boxes and bins on various web sites) are worth a look. While many sites will tell you how to make your own, here are some ready-made ones for those of us who don't foresee a DIY project in our futures. The toy storage tubs above (which could have many other uses) are made from Liberty cotton. Four different patterns are available.

linen and canvas storage box - or bucket

Bookhou makes some elegant and lovely fabric storage boxes - they're linen with a canvas lining. [via Apartment Therapy and Bloesem]

bins - linen and cotton

Jenna Rose has bins in two sizes - these are the large ones. [via Apartment Therapy and Babygadget] Update on Feb. 14, 2010: You can buy these on the Jenna Rose Etsy shop.

fabric bucket from Italy

And over on Etsy, EccoItaly has some eye-popping options.

Related Post:
Fun with Storage: Fabric Buckets

Saturday, June 27, 2009

In Honor of SF Pride: Rainbow Organizing Products

rainbow flag

It's San Francisco Pride Weekend - which inspired me to go looking for rainbow-themed containers and other organizing products.

rainbow magnets

First up: rainbow magnets from Buttonhead. Update on June 5, 2013: Buttonhead doesn't sell these magnets any more.

rainbow trout magnet

OK, this is a rainbow trout magnet - but it's still rainbow colors. It's one of the many fun magnets from Laughing Fridge Art Magnets. Update on June 5, 2013: I'm not seeing this magnet for sale any more.

keepsake box rainbow colors

And here's a keepsake box with rainbow colors.

rainbow treasure box, glass

Returning to actual rainbows, there's this rainbow treasure box from Martin Designs.

Hello Kitty rainbow lunch box

And finally, we have the Hello Kitty rainbow lunch box - which, of course, could hold something other than lunch. Update on June 23, 2013: This lunch box is no longer available.

[flag photo by brainchildvn / Charlie Nguyen, licensed under Creative Commons]

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Respecting Other People - and Their Stuff

old tennis shoes

That's your husband's? No, we can't throw it away without his permission. --me, many times, with many clients.

As we de-clutter our homes, it's not unusual to find something a partner or spouse is keeping that seems silly to us. When I work with clients, we might set aside things to ask someone else about - assuming we even have permission to touch that person's things - but just tossing something out is not an option.

Here's a cautionary tale from Steve Almond in the June 2009 Real Simple:
Consider the donnybrook I got into with my first serious girlfriend. We had just moved in together, and in an effort to "clean up the place," she tossed out my favorite sneakers. I will grant you that they had multiple holes and were perhaps malodorous. But I had bought these shoes in the Old City of Jerusalem and had worn them to climb Masada and wade into the Dead Sea. ... Those shoes were a part of me. I never forgave her.

[photo by endora57 / Kathy Neufeld, licensed under Creative Commons]

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Alarm Clocks: Amusing, Beautiful, Practical - and Furry

robot alarm clock

Alarm clocks are essential tools for many of us - so it's always fun to take a look around and see how many intriguing options are available. Want a robot? You can get one in blue, green, or red. Update on Aug. 11, 2012: You can find the latest version of the Tokibot clock at Perpetual Kid or

Swiss Army travel alarm clock

Want a gorgeous travel alarm clock? This limited edition Victorinox Swiss Army travel alarm isn't available until November 1 - but that will give you time to save up the $550 to buy it. [via Uncrate] Update on Aug. 11, 2012: This clock is now sold out.

simple small travel alarm

And here's a much less expensive travel alarm, designed for ease of use: the Jetlag. (You can also get it in the U.S. from Unica Home.) [via Switched On Set and Apartment Therapy]

And finally, there's the ever-popular cat alarm clock. For more about the kitty "early morning wake up call" - and cute pictures - read the story by the San Francisco SPCA.

Related Posts:
7 Alarm Clocks for A Gentler Wake-Up Call
Two Alarm Clocks With Fancy Scheduling Features
Clocks With Character
Clocky - For People Who Overuse the Snooze Button

Monday, June 22, 2009

Storing the Surfboards

ceiling surfboard rack

Since I live close to a major surfing location, maybe it's time I wrote about how to store the surfboards. One option is ceiling-mounted racks; the ones shown above are Tboneracks.

wall rack for surfboards

And then there are wall racks. This is a custom rack from Wind and Wave Designs. Update on Aug. 1, 2012: Wind and Wave Designs seems to have disappeared.

surfboard wall rack

The Nice Rack is a basic wall rack - but it's made from recycled plastic.

horizontal and vertical surfboard racks

Here's an unusual option. "The Finger Grip is made from soft EVA foam and securely fastens to wall surfaces using super strong double-sided foam tape." Both horizontal and vertical racks are available.

surfboard racking system

And then there's the zRax board racking system.

surfboard hanger, works on bricks

The Brick Grip Surf Board Hanger is an interesting specialty product.

free-standing surfboard racks

And of course there are freestanding racks, too. This one comes from HBS Racks. The company also makes wall-mounted racks.

Want even more options? Take a look at Corsurf, Surf Trunks, Hawaiian Gun Rack, and the Dabco Gatekeeper line of products.

Somewhat Related Post:
Shelving Genre: Surfboard Wall Shelves

Sunday, June 21, 2009

June 2009 Organizing Tips and More

tortoiseshell cat and computer, in home office

My June 2009 newsletter is now available.

Tip of the Month: How an Organizer Gets (More) Organized. Read about what I did in my home office, and how you might take similar steps.

battery box

Organizing Product of the Month, Small Scale: Battery Box

alphabet chest of drawers

Organizing Product of the Month, Large Scale: Chest of Drawers [via Swiss Miss]

Also Included: Two Quotes of the Month.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Many More Ways to Store the Laundry

blue laundry basket, round, willow

Laundry bags, laundry hampers, laundry sorters - what else is left, you ask? Plenty! The first and most obvious is the laundry basket. (Vocabulary clarification: I'm using laundry basket to refer to baskets that are wide rather than tall, and have no lid. But plenty of people use the term laundry basket to refer to what I've called a hamper.)

The basket above comes from Katherine Lewis of Durbar Gardens, whose laundry baskets were showcased on her Willow Basketmaker blog. They comes in various shapes, sizes, and colors.

oval laundry basket

The laundry baskets above come from The Basket Lady.

square laundry basket

For yet another different style of laundry basket, you could go to the Peterboro Basket Company.

laundry basket

And hopping across the ocean, this laundry basket comes from Great British Baskets.

laundry trolleys - or carts - with colorful Hawaiian prints

OK, change of pace. Stitch Designworks makes some eye-popping laundry trolleys with Hawaiian prints. Update on July 29, 2011: Stitch Designworks doesn't seem to make these products any more.

laundry backpack

You could also get a laundry backpack, in one of four prints.

portable laundry hamper

And then there's the portable laundry hamper from Caddy Concepts, available in four different colors. This could also serve as a shopping cart, like those I saw all over Paris. And a shopping cart could, in turn, serve as a laundry cart. My friends in Paris used their cart both ways.

Want even more ideas? See the crunch can in one of my prior posts. Consider Umbra's over-the-door hamper. Or use a storage ottoman for laundry, as suggested by Apartment Therapy.

tilt-out laundry hamper in a closet

Or get a pull-out or tilt-out laundry hamper built into your closet, if you're luck enough to have a closet system. Almost any closet company will have this option.

The rest of the June 2009 laundry series:
7 Striking Laundry Bags
6 Laundry Hampers from Around the World
11 Hampers (and Such) to Help You Sort the Laundry

Thursday, June 18, 2009

11 Hampers (and Such) to Help You Sort the Laundry

3 section hamper tote - colors, darks, whites

So, in your research travels, have you found a sectional laundry hamper that is eco-groovy? Something along the lines of the Ingrid Anderson design, but with two or three compartments (for doing a pre-sort on the laundry), and hopefully not so pricey? -- question posted in comments, from organizer Claire Josefine

Sorry, Claire - I really haven't. But I'll share some of the more interesting products I have found. The one above is the HamperTote from ORE - and the company says it's orange, although the picture looks red to me.

3 section laundry bag - colours, darks, whites

And here's the quite-similar 3-in-1 laundry bag from John Lewis in the U.K. - except, of course, it says colours, not colors.

laundry totes - whites, colors, dry cleaning, laundry, hand wash

These individual laundry totes could also be used for sorting. [via Sarah's Fab Day]

divided laundry cart, willow

This willow divided laundry cart is a different sort of portable option. Update on July 29, 2011: The site I found this at no longer carries it — and to my surprise, I'm not finding it anywhere else, either.

triple laundry sorter

Another popular style is this triple laundry sorter - bags that hang from a metal frame.


This triple laundry sorter has labeled bags. Update on Aug. 25, 2012: I'm no longer finding this exact laundry sorter.

double laundry sorter - couleurs and blanc

And this double laundry basket from Incidence is labeled in French. (Available for purchase from, among other places) Update on July 29, 2011: I'm no longer seeing this product being sold by Incidence, but the company has a number of other options.

double laundry hamper

The most stylish option of this type is the x-frame laundry hamper from SimpleHuman - there's a single version of this hamper, too. It's widely available.

sorting hamper, colors vs. whites

Then we come to the sorting hampers; this one comes from Kangaroom. Two little pictures distinguish colors from whites.

divided hamper, seagrass

Pottery Barn has this divided hamper. It's made from seagrass, so I suppose it has some eco goodness. It's not inexpensive, though. (You can get a cheaper seagrass divided hamper at CostPlus World Market.)

bamboo laundry sorter

And finally, this bamboo laundry sorter - again, not inexpensive - is made by Wireworks. Update on August 25, 2012: I'm no longer finding this product on the Wireworks web site, although the company does have a laundry box (not a sorter) in natural oak and dark oak.

The rest of the June 2009 laundry series:
7 Striking Laundry Bags
6 Laundry Hampers from Around the World
Many More Ways to Store the Laundry

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

6 Laundry Hampers from Around the World

laundry hamper

Looking for a something a bit out-of-the-ordinary in a laundry hamper? JoJo Designs makes about 60 different laundry hampers, intended for children's rooms.

clothes hamper

Sweet Kyla also makes a number of clothes hampers intended for little ones.

French laundry hamper

This fun option comes from French Bazaar, in Australia. (You can also find it here, in the Netherlands.) Update on Aug. 25, 2012: I'm no longer finding this at the sites that used to have it, but it comes form Derrière la porte and you can find it here and here.

laundry hampers

And these laundry hampers come from Germany. Update on Nov. 16, 2011: I'm no longer finding these on the site that used to sell them. They were made by Rice, and I'm not finding them on the Rice web site, either.

rattan laundry basket with lid

This "Ali Baba" laundry basket can be found from online stores in the UK, here and here. Update on July 29, 2011: I'm only finding one web site selling this laundry basket now.

teak laundry boxes

Prefer something in wood? These lovely laundry boxes comes from Cinas, in Denmark.

Coming next: laundry sorters

The rest of the June 2009 laundry series:
7 Striking Laundry Bags
11 Hampers (and Such) to Help You Sort the Laundry
Many More Ways to Store the Laundry

Related Post:
7 Special Laundry Hampers