Monday, October 31, 2011
I have a cat named Puppy. When I first met him, he was a very skittish semi-feral cat — too scared to approach anyone. But as my neighbor and I walked around our neighborhood, he followed us up and down the streets — like a little puppy dog, I said. The name stuck.
Puppy obviously wanted to find himself a person, and he picked me. Over the years, he became much more socialized. While he was still primarily an outdoor cat, he'd come inside sometimes and cuddle with me. He hung around the yard a lot, especially as I made it cat-friendly; I even had custom-built cat houses to protect him from the elements.
If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know he wasn't eating well recently — and he just got diagnosed with feline large-cell gastrointestinal lymphoma, a particularly nasty type of kitty cancer. My vet removed the problem area, and it doesn't appear to have metastasized. Today he started chemo — but he's home now, curled up in my bed, eating OK and purring whenever I come and cuddle him. Please send good thoughts his way.
So how do you get organized for such a situation — a suddenly very sick pet? Here are the things that helped me:
1. Instant access to Puppy's medical history.
I scan all my cats' vet records and put them in Dropbox, so I have their history at my fingertips at all times.
2. A wonderful support network.
Besides my vets, who have been superb, I have:
- A fantastic neighbor who I could call to pick Puppy up at the vet when I got stuck in traffic and wasn't sure I'd get home in time.
- A friend who's a great dog trainer and also has lots of animal skills, who came over and helped me coax Puppy out from behind the bed when he was huddled there, out of reach.
- Lots of friends who support me with their kind messages, hugs (both in-person and virtual), little tidbits of practical advice, stories of other pets that did well with chemo, and introductions to other people who might be helpful. And they also just listen when I need to vent. And offer to help however they can.
And then there are all the folks who've posted helpful information on the Internet. I don't know those people, but I sure am grateful to everyone who took the time to share words of wisdom.
3. The right supplies.
Once I had to bring Puppy inside and keep him separate from the other two cats (so he doesn't get scared), I needed things like an extra litter box; I was really glad I already had one on hand. What I didn't have was an array of different foods to tempt Puppy to eat, but that was an easy thing to get.
4. The ability to say no.
Tonight is Halloween, which I usually look forward to; I really like seeing the kids in their costumes. But tonight I put my box of books — the treats I give instead of candy — on the front porch with a note saying I had a sick cat who needed peace and quiet, and to please just take a book or two. It seems to have worked just fine.
And I'm backing out of some evening engagements until things settle down a bit. I know that now, even more than normally, I need to protect my time and focus on the most important things: taking care of my cats; being there for my clients, family and friends; and taking care of myself. (And why is that last one always the hardest thing to do?)
Want a stylish way to containerize your knitting projects? There are some wonderful knitting baskets out there — and, of course, they could all be used for other purposes by those of us who aren't knitters.
The basket above comes from Eline Oftedal of Norway, and through the wonders of Etsy it's readily available to all of us. Eline's Etsy store is called The High North, and the tagline made me smile: "Hand made during the long Nordic winter." [via Pretty Vintage]
Here's another Etsy option — a stunning handmade basket from Freda's Basket Works.
This handmade knitting basket comes to us from Africa via Connected Fair Trade.
Peterboro Basket Company makes this knitting basket; you can also buy a fabric liner for the basket.
For something really different, you could get this leather knitting basket from Renaissance Art.
Finally, Sew Essential has framed knitting baskets — a style that I was only finding through vintage product sellers (such as this one and this one) before I found the Sew Essential site.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Photo by Derrick Story of The Digital Story, found on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons.
Photo organizing — involving either printed photos or digital photos — can be overwhelming, so I'm always glad to find useful resources to share. Today I've got two: a podcast with some good ideas, and some products.
The podcast is called Organizing and Archiving Your Photos, from Derrick Story of The Digital Story. (Thanks to Karen on the Unclutterer Forums for the pointer.) Derrick covers a lot of territory — and points you to his titles at Lynda.com, which have much more information than this free podcast.
But even the free podcast has some good information. Derrick suggests some simple ways to organize your digital photos, but the part I really liked was when he offered his opinion on what to do with all those old photos you've got, that aren't organized:
For now, you just let it be the way that it is. Make sure that it's protected, make sure that it's backed up, but in terms of organization, just let if be for the moment. And start your new system fresh, today, after you've designed it. ...
When you start a new system, whatever your system's going to be, you're going to tinker with it a bit. You're going to adjust it, you're going to learn things along the way. ... It's a lot easier to develop your new system with just a few hundred images as they're coming in, instead of trying to deals with tens of thousands of images. ...
It's sort of like: Today's the first day of the rest of your organizing life.
After a while, once you feel pretty confident that you have a system that you like, and that you can stick to, then you can go back into your archives, into that legacy material, and start pulling it into the new system, a little bit at a time, as you have time.
The products are those included in the limited-time offer from Sally Jacobs, The Practical Archivist. For the month of October only — yes, just a few more days — you can order her Preservation Kits: one for children's art work, and one for family archives (mostly photographs, but also other special papers).
Update on Nov. 4, 2011: The kits are still for sale, so I guess Sally extended the offer.
The Family Archivist Survival Kit is intended to help you start a family archive, by providing one box of each size you're likely to need, and the envelopes and folders that go into those boxes. There's also a Photo Rescue Kit (available by itself, or as part of the family archive kit) to help you "rescue photographs from those horrible sticky magnetic albums, also known as The Chemical Sandwich of Dooooom."
Sally's been my go-to resource for understanding what products are really "archival" — which ones will truly protect your photos through the years. If you want storage boxes but don't want her kits, you can go to some of the suppliers she recommends: Hollinger Metal Edge, Gaylord and Light Impressions.
Photo from Curious Expeditions, found on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons.
Some months ago, my book group read Bicycle Diaries, by David Byrne. The book didn't do much for me — but the part about the Wunderkammer caught my attention.
What's a Wunderkammer? Wikipedia says:
A cabinet of curiosities was an encyclopedic collection in Renaissance Europe of types of objects whose categorical boundaries were yet to be defined. They were also known by various names such as Cabinet of Wonder, and in German Kunstkammer or Wunderkammer ("wonder-room"). ...And here's what Byrne had to say:
The term cabinet originally described a room rather than a piece of furniture. The classic style of cabinet of curiosities emerged in the sixteenth century, although more rudimentary collections had existed earlier.
I reach the British Museum, where there is a show of curiosity cabinets. ...And I love that — even if I'm not convinced that Byrne is exactly right — because it illustrates an important organizing principle: There's no one right way to group your things. Organizers often encourage people to group "like with like" — but there are many different ways things can be alike. Just one example: Some people like to group their books by color, while that would drive other people crazy. We all need to just use whatever groupings work for us.
The objects in the Wunderkammer — preserved creatures, odd books and treatises, antique carvings, sacred objects from foreign lands — were often grouped, by Sir John Sloane and other collectors of that period, by whatever criteria seemed appropriate, be it shape, material, or color. There would be, for example, a mass of bulbous objects from various parts of the world and then some sharp, pointy ones grouped together. Many of these objects had nothing to do with one another except for having similar shapes.
Hardly what one would think of as a rigorous, enlightened scientific method of categorization. But thinking back on it, I would suggest that yes, in a truly enlightened world, all green objects are in a way related somehow, more than just by being green, and maybe they are related in a way we don't understand yet, just as all hexagonal objects might share a common trait as well. These crazy groupings might someday be seen as not completely arbitrary.
And any kind of taxonomy might be as good or valid as any other.
Another interesting perspective comes from David Pescovitz, who writes:
Several years ago, I became fascinated with cabinets of curiosity. The Renaissance predecessor to modern day museums, these cabinets, sometimes entire rooms, were filled with a mish-mash of objects, both natural and artificial, that embodied the wonder of the world. (The German term for these collections, wunderkammer, literally means "chamber of wonders.")
Inside, you might find a mummy's hand, a "unicorn's horn," exotic seashells from distant lands, odd insects pinned and cataloged, and possibly even a two-headed lizard in a jar of formaldehyde. As Tradescant the Elder, one of the most notable cabinet keepers in history, requested in a letter to the Secretary of the English Navy in 1625, this was a quest for "Any thing that is strang."
First photo by rojabo / Jim Brodie; second photo by twiggles / Chris. Both found on Flickr and licensed through Creative Commons.
Reading this reminded me of my visit to the Whitby Museum, where much of the museum serves as a sort of cabinet of curiosities. How else can you quite explain a museum that has a fossil collection as well as a hand of glory?
But Pescovitz went on to say:
Many blogs, including the one I co-edit, have been described as virtual cabinets of curiosity — storehouses of unusual links, odd memes, fringe culture, and weird news.So welcome to my very own cabinet of curiosities, which I've been creating for exactly five years now!
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Want to keep some papers close at hand? Have free wall space? Want something with a splash of style? I've seen two products that take a familiar product and translate it to something new to address just this kind of situation.
The first is the Neuer_Ordner, or New_Folder, from Haseform. This one was all over the design blogs when it came out in 2007; I saw it on swissmiss, Apartment Therapy and more. You can buy these yellow ones from design3000.de (individual or set of three) or you can buy the folders from Connox (which has individual folders and sets of three, in both yellow and white).
And just a few days ago I found the Envelope Mail Holder from Goodwin + Goodwin. [via From Europe]
Return of the Wall Organizers
Monday, October 24, 2011
Once upon a time, there was an old WWII poster that was discovered by Stuart Manley, one of the owners of Barter Books — and now that poster is sold all over the place, as are other products with the same design, and many parodies of the original.
Maria Bustillos, writing in The Awl, explains how things evolved:
Stuart Manley could quite easily have filed for trademark protection back then, but he didn't. And when other businesses began selling Keep Calm products, mugs and beer mats and mouse pads and whatnot, he didn't go after any of them, though he did ask to be credited for his discovery by the many manufacturers who later made use of it.Unsurprisingly, many people are unhappy about this, and a legal challenge is underway.
Fast-forward to late March of this year, when ... Mark Coop, an ex-TV producer whose credits include "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?", succeeded in obtaining an EU trademark for the phrase "Keep Calm and Carry On."
If you're in the market for some Keep Calm merchandise, you may want to read the whole article in The Awl, or the earlier article in The Telegraph. And you can also read what Mark Coop has to say.
You can always choose to buy your Keep Calm products either from Barter Books directly, or from sites that do credit the bookstore, such as Keep Calm London - which has its own take on the controversy.
Meanwhile, I have two new Keep Calm products to share with you — neither of which gives a nod to Barter Books, darn it. The first is this pacifier case.
And as someone who just returned from some travels, I appreciated this T-shirt and tote.
Words to Live By: Keep Calm and Carry On
Keep Calm: An Update
Keep Calm and Carry On - and Variations Thereof
A Holiday Reminder: Keep Calm and Carry On
Keep Calm and Carry On: The Poster and Beyond
Keep Calm As You Get Organized
Friday, October 21, 2011
Tired of the basic garden sheds from big box stores? Here's something very different — one of the garden sheds from The Rustic Way. It's made from recycled/reclaimed wood. [via Apartment Therapy]
You can also get a unique garden shed from the aptly-named Unique Garden Sheds, a family-owned and operated business.
Little Cottage Co. also has garden sheds in a number of styles, in both wood and vinyl.
If you just need a little shed, here's one from Adams All Natural Cedar.
This is the porthole shed from ShackUp, a brand of Hemingway Design. The company also has sheds designed specifically for storing bicycles. [via mydeco.com]
For more shed design inspiration, take a look at the "showy sheds" featured in The Oregonian. And look at the photo by Kevin Wakelam, taken on Lindisframe, where "the local fishermen have a great way to recycle thier old boats by turning them upside down and creating a storage shed for their gear."
Home Office Ideas I Do Like (with sheds as offices)
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Juggle icon, from the Noun Project, licensed under Creative Commons
Want some ideas on how to make the most of your time — ideas that don't rely on using the latest and greatest apps, but rather address how we think about managing our time? Here's some of what I've been reading lately that I've found inspiring:
1. 100 Ways to Get More Done, by Ozan Onay and Ash Fontana
I usually hate lists like this — but this one is so well done that it's the exception to my rule. (Thanks to web designer / developer Kevin Henney for the pointer!) I'm picking just one of the 100 items as an example — but I highly recommend the whole list. You probably won't agree with all of the suggestions, and some of them will be irrelevant — but you're likely to find a few real gems, too.
6. Avoid starting work with a nagging emotion or stressful distraction on your mind. If this sounds hard, just internalize the following truism: either you can deal with the matter right now, or you can't. If you can deal with it now then deal with it now. If you can't, then there's no harm in scheduling a later time to worry about it.
Surprisingly, this works no matter how substantial the emotion/stressor. Worried that your partner is being unfaithful, or that the mole on your arm may be cancerous, or that the Soviet Union is building missile bases in Cuba? Set a Remember The Milk task to stress out about it from 7pm to 8pm next Thursday, and get back to work.
2. Haven't Had Time to Blog, by Chris Brogan
This wonderful post is meaningful even to those who aren't bloggers and have no reason to start blogging; you can replace "Blog" with "Read" or "Write My Book" or "Get Organized" or "Exercise" — or anything else you don't feel you have time for. It's a short post, and here's a short excerpt:
I met with someone yesterday who said to me that he didn’t have any time to blog. Moments later, he told me what was happening on “Ice Loves Coco.” ...
We pick our paths. We decide what we make time to do.
3. Make sure you disappoint the right people, by Jon Acuff
Thanks to LeeAnne Jones for pointing me to this one, which has a great opening — and the rest of the post is just as good:
A few weeks ago, I was supposed to run in an event called “The Warrior Dash.” It’s a 5K obstacle course that involves mud, fire, water and Viking helmets. I’d signed up for it months ago. But 24 hours before the event, I decided not to go.
Because I’m trying to disappoint the right people in my life.
4. Hurry up, get more done, and die, by Mark Morford
Mark Morford's writings are certainly not to everyone's taste, but I liked his reminder that we really don't need to fill up every 30-second spot of free time with getting yet another small task done.
I've been intrigued by jewelry mannequins since I first stumbled upon them, online, back in 2007. Now you can even find them at Forever21 — but I'm still fascinated. The widest variety I've found recently is at JewelryNanny. But let's look at a few other jewelry mannequins. Update on May 31, 2012: I'm no longer finding these at Forever21.
The jewelry dress stand above comes from Chic Indulgences. It's one of the company's Victorian gowns; there's also Can Can couture, Bohemian chic, Hollywood legends and more.
Dolls Unlimited Omaha only has a few mannequin jewelry stands, but the ones it has are pretty darn nice. Update on July 29, 2014: I'm no longer finding jewelry mannequins at that site.
This mannequin jewelry holder comes from Kings River.
If you're in Malaysia, you could order a mannequin jewellery stand from Glitzbitz.
Let's end with the Esslinger jewelry mannequins, which are very different — a change of pace from the gorgeous gowns.
The Joy of Jewelry Mannequins
Organize and Display Your Jewelry with a Jewelry Mannequin
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Photo by Alan Cleaver, found on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons
I once gave up on a book after the first page. My local bookstore had a book club, and I bought the next month's book without really looking at it. But when I got it home and started reading, I realized immediately that the author's style was not for me. Fortunately, I was able to return the book.
That's the fastest I've given up on a book — and I have no hesitation in doing so. I just gave up on one book, which might have interesting content, because the typeface was so bad that it was painful to read. But usually I give up when I'm just not enjoying the content of the book.
Want some encouragement to stop reading "bad books" — books that seem bad to you? Here's blogger David Pierce, in a short extract from his Five Rules for Life:
We do so many things that don’t add any value to our lives or anyone else’s, and those things get in the way of that which is actually worthwhile. My favorite example is reading a book — if it’s bad, we still tend to finish it just because we’ve already invested time in it. Why not cut our losses, stop reading, and spend that time reading a better book? Being a quitter is not a bad thing - it’s a smart thing.And Leo Babauta of Zen Habits says this in his post on How to Read More:
Give up on a book if it’s boring. Reading isn’t something you do because it’s good for you — it’s not like taking your vitamins. You’re reading because it’s fun. So if a book isn’t fun, dump it. Give it a try for at least a chapter, but if you still don’t love it, move on.Scott H Young has a whole blog post entitled Know When to Stop Reading a Book. He includes ideas on how to make it easier to give up on a book — including getting books from the library, so you've not spent any money. One of my favorite parts of his post was a comment he added:
The lost opportunity cost from not putting a book down is often forgotten. When you put down a book, you aren’t just giving up the chapters you didn’t read, you’re also gaining the chapters of some other book you did read. With a world filled with thousands of books, far more than you could ever read, I think that opportunity cost needs to be taken seriously.Finally, Miss Manners answers an etiquette question:
Question: A friend has lent me a book about a subject that is of interest to me. I am halfway through the book (more than 200 pages so far) and find it not very well written. Would it be impolite of me not to finish the book? My feeling is that I must finish the book in order to be truthful in saying that I did indeed read it.
Answer: Your friend is not going to quiz you. You need only return the book with thanks and, if possible, mumble that it had a good point or two. If not, you can always say that it is interesting to know what is being said in the field.
Do you ever give up on a book? How far do you go before giving up?
Book Lovers: Stop Reading Books You Don't Like
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Halloween and Dia de los Muertos are just a few weeks away, so let's look at some organizing-related products with a Day of the Dead theme. And let's start with this wonderful fabric bucket by Mickey Hoover of designsbyMickey4u.
These cat magnets from Silva at East Bay California really caught my eye, too.
And finally, here's a wooden skull storage piece from Acne JR — not specifically a Day of the Dead product, but one that certainly goes along with the theme. The cardboard box it's packed in is cute, too. [via From Europe]
Halloween: 2 Ideas for Avoiding the Candy Clutter
Organizing and Halloween: Trick or Treat Buckets
Monday, October 10, 2011
What are these? How could they be used for storage?
My first day in Paris, I went with friends to the Vanves flea market, where I saw these containers. And as the trip continued, I kept finding organizing-related stuff.
This gorgeous piece is the Soprano trunk from Pinel & Pinel; it holds about 480 CDs. I didn't just stumble on this one; I sought out the store after seeing its website online. (Warning: The site plays music at you automatically upon launch.) The gentleman at the store was gracious about letting me take all the photos I wanted.
Here's the Soprano, up close. While the green is lovely, it might not be to your taste; there are many options for both the interior and exterior colors.
And here's the Baby trunk, also from Pinel & Pinel.
While these are gorgeous, they are also —as I'm sure you've guessed — very much on the expensive side of things. The least expensive thing I saw in the store was a slim leather bracelet for 110 euros. Still, it was a pleasure to see such well-crafted storage pieces up close.
I found these mailbox stickers in Rennes, where I was visiting friends; many of the mailboxes had them. Apparently the Ministry of Energy and Environment produced these stickers; residents use them to indicate they don't want any unaddressed mail. The fact sheet (PDF) I found online says: "In 2004, the first year of the initiative, there were requests for 2.6 million stickers. ... More than 70% of sticker users were satisfied with the results of sticker and received significantly less junk mail."
And finally, here's a product I read about in the Air France magazine while flying home. "Since 1997, the French initiative ELISE has been helping workers sort trash and improve recycling in the workplace. This year, Philippe Starck has joined the venture, designing a new line of wastebaskets made of plant-based plastic." Starck's web site says the wastebasets are "coming soon."
Sunday, October 9, 2011
The soon-to-be-released Steve Jobs biography
I just spent a lovely two weeks in Paris and Rennes — lovely until the last morning, just hours before I flew home, when I got the news that Steve Jobs had died.
I've long been an Apple fan, because Apple products are such a delight to use, and make me so much more productive. As an organizer, I recommend investing in quality for the tools you use all the time, and my computing tools certainly fall into that category. On this trip, I had Steve's products with me — an iPhone and an iPad — and they served me well. On that last morning, they let me connect with others who were grieving, as I was.
In reading all the memorials, and listening to Steve's words again, I was struck by how much of what he said (and what others have said, in those memorials) resonates with themes I've often touched on here.
1. Good tools are a worthwhile investment.
I've already commented on this, but I love what Nancy Nall wrote about this topic. She starts with the story of a long-ago nightmare flight back home from Paris, and ends her story this way:
As we winged our way to Ohio, I asked myself if I’d have paid $200 to avoid the previous 24 hours, to get on a nice Air France or Pan Am jet at Orly and get off at Port Columbus, skipping Alitalia and the nonfunctioning toilets and the angry passenger and the train to the plane and all the rest of it, and thought: Oh, hell yes.
Years later, as I was contemplating the purchase of another computer, I learned that formatting a floppy in MS-DOS required me to type…
FORMAT drive: /C
…plus some other stuff, and if I got so much as a comma or space in the wrong place, it wouldn’t work. And if I bought the PowerPC Mac laptop I was considering, I would face a simple question: This disk is not formatted. Would you like to format it?, followed by a yes/no click option.
The Mac was a few hundred dollars more than the PC. I remembered the lesson of Alitalia. I clicked Yes, and haven’t looked back.
2. Focus; learn when to say no.
Steven Levy of Wired wrote about Steve's comeback at Apple:
He ... simplified Apple’s product line to four computers — consumer and pro versions of desktop and laptop. “Focus does not mean saying yes, it means saying no,” he explained.And here's another quote, this one from a conversation BusinessWeek Computer Editor Peter Burrows had with Steve in 2004. In that conversation, Steve was talking about where Apple's innovation comes from. He mentioned a number of things, including this:
And it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don't get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We're always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it's only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.And on Fast Company I found this story from Mark Parker, about his conversation with Steve when Parker was named CEO of Nike:
I said, "Well, do you have any advice?"
He said, "No, no, you're great." Then there was a pause. "Well, I do have some advice," he said. "Nike makes some of the best products in the world — products that you lust after, absolutely beautiful stunning products. But you also make a lot of crap."
He said, "Just get rid of the crappy stuff, and focus on the good stuff."
3. Be a perfectionist — but only on the things that matter.
Steve was well known for being demanding on Apple employees, insisting that every last detail on Apple products be outstanding. But I love this story from John Gruber:
After the WWDC keynote four months ago, I saw Steve, up close. ...
His sweater was well-worn, his jeans frayed at the cuffs.
But the thing that struck me were his shoes, those famous gray New Balance 993s. They too were well-worn. But also this: fresh bright green grass stains all over the heels. ...
Surely, my mind raced, surely he has more than one pair of those shoes. He could afford to buy the factory that made them. Why wear this grass-stained pair for the keynote, a rare and immeasurably high-profile public appearance? My guess: he didn’t notice, didn’t care. One of Jobs’s many gifts was that he knew what to give a shit about. He knew how to focus and prioritize his time and attention. Grass stains on his sneakers didn’t make the cut.
4. Spend your time wisely.
As Steve famously said in his Stanford commencement address:
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.And he also said:
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, some day you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "no" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.Steve made his choices right up to the end, according to a story by Charles Duhigg in the New York Times, which reads in part:
Over the last few months, a steady stream of visitors to Palo Alto, Calif., called an old friend’s home number and asked if he was well enough to entertain visitors, perhaps for the last time. ...
Most were intercepted by his wife, Laurene. She would apologetically explain that he was too tired to receive many visitors. ...
He had only so much energy for farewells. The man who valued his privacy almost as much as his ability to leave his mark on the world had decided whom he most needed to see before he left. ...
Mostly, he spent time with his wife and children. ...
As news of the seriousness of his illness became more widely known, Mr. Jobs was asked to attend farewell dinners and to accept various awards.
He turned down the offers. On the days that he was well enough to go to Apple’s offices, all he wanted afterward was to return home and have dinner with his family. When one acquaintance became too insistent on trying to send a gift to thank Mr. Jobs for his friendship, he was asked to stop calling. Mr. Jobs had other things to do before time ran out.