Friday, June 14, 2019

Reading Time is Limited. It's Fine to Give Up on a Book.

Photo by Petras Gagilas, found on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

I’ve been in my current book club for years now, and I appreciate how it’s gotten me to read some wonderful books I would never have found on my own. But there have also been books that just don’t appeal to me. Some I know about right away. For example, I don’t like magical realism so I’m not even going to try to read One Hundred Years of Solitude, no matter how well-respected it is.

But others I begin and then give up on. In one case, the book centered around two people, the author and her best friend, and I didn’t like either of them. In another case I intensely disliked the author’s writing style. (As I wrote to a friend, “He seems to be a fan of very long sentences.”) While everyone else in the book club keeps going, even when they aren’t enjoying the book, I have no hesitation in just setting the book aside.

Reporter Mike Isaac captured (in a now-deleted tweet) the reason most people give up on books:
i also used to do this thing where id power through books that i wasnt enjoying because i felt bad quitting 
then in my twenties someone said to me “life is too short to spend your time reading shitty books” and i feel guilt-free ditching stuff i dont enjoy
Want more encouragement? I recently read a piece where author Nick Hornby goes over what he’s been reading lately, and the list starts like this:
✭ [Unnameable Novel 1] (abandoned)
✭ [Unnameable Novel 2] (abandoned)
Little—Edward Carey
Hornby goes on to explain those first two entries, making an argument I haven’t seen before:
Why give books up? Why not plough on until the bitter end? Because, young friends, we want to do everything we can to break the link between literature and grim duty. You wouldn’t stick with a long Spotify playlist consisting of music that displeases you; you wouldn’t wade through a Netflix series you were hating. Do reading a favor and treat it as if it were just like everything else you enjoy. You’re doing it in your leisure time. You don’t have enough of that.
So feel free to join Mike, Nick and me in abandoning books that you aren’t enjoying!

Related Posts:
Book Lovers: Stop Reading Books You Don't Like
It's OK to Give Up on a Book
Not Every Book is Worth Finishing
Don't Spend Time on Books You Don't Enjoy

Friday, May 10, 2019

In Honor of My Mom: Organizing in Blue for 2019

Three blue flat baskets

Twelve years ago today, my mom died of pancreatic cancer. Her favorite color was blue, so this is my annual tribute to her.

These blue felt baskets come from Orval Créations and are sold by FUTUR Conceptstore in Belgium. The online store didn’t mention the dimensions, but Joke Vermeire at the store was kind enough to go measure them for me:
  • Small: 34 x 19 x 23 cm (13.4 x 7.5 x 9.0 inches)
  • Medium: 39 x 23 x 28 cm (15.4 x 9.0 x 11.0 inches)
  • Large: 43 x 28 x 33 cm (16.9 x 11.0 x 13.0 inches)
And yes, they do nest within each other.

light blue small felt basket with leather ties

For more containers, let’s head over to Etsy. This little wool felt basket from Skandinavious is made of pure Merino wool and has leather ties.

blue herringbone pattern little storage bin

StitchOSaurus makes this little storage bin (and all its products) from old floor samples that would otherwise be trashed — very cool! Because of this, most of the products are one of a kind. If this one is gone when you look, perhaps the store could make a similar one with another fabric.

two small storage basket with blue feather pattern on the outside; one has makeup brushes in it

These small storage baskets come from Sew&Tell. (Note: The store has the same basket in another fabric that would be nice for dog lovers.)

hourglass, half blue and half clear, with blue sand

Moving beyond containers: This hourglass serves as a 15-minute timer.

blue magnet shaped like the state of Michigan, with a heart where Ann Arbor would be
blue magnet that says Hail to the Victors

And as someone who went to the University of Michigan, I was delighted to find that Roeda makes these magnets. They have nice magnets for other schools, too. (Mom didn’t go to U of M, but she did live in Michigan for many years.)

Curious about my posts in prior years? Take a look at all of them.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

5 Cool Money Banks — Pigs, Elephants and More

bull piggy bank, ceramic, with a stopper for his nose

Do you have spare change taking over various flat surfaces in your home? You could clear some space by putting the coins in a spare coffee mug, a mason jar, etc. But maybe a nice piggy bank would provide some inspiration.

Potter Michèle Hastings Pottery makes cool piggy banks; she has some in stock and many more which are made to order, like the one shown above. (Most of them are actually pigs, not bulls.)

ceramic piggy bank with coin being inserted

Kähler Design has a lovely piggy bank (with a stopper in the bottom) which you can buy from Nordic Nest or Scandinavian Lifestyle. The ears are applied individually by hand, so no two banks will be identical.

two wood piggy banks, with leather ears

If you’d prefer wood to ceramic, you might consider the Miss Monnipenni savings box or the Pink Lady version of the same design. They come from the German company Siebensachen by Adam+Harborth; you can also buy them from Malevich Garage or Trouva (Miss Monnipenni and Pink Lady). There’s a leather plug in the base for getting to the coins.

ceramic owl piggy bank, sitting on shelf next to some books

Moving beyond pigs, I found this delightful owl money box from Hannah Turner. It also has a stopper in the bottom for removing the coins.

three wood piggy banks: a panda, an elephants, and a rabbit

And finally there are the OYOY moneybanks: Panda, Baba, and Ninka. Design Life Kids and Scandibørn currently carry all three; Nordic Nest has Panda and Ninka.

Related Posts:
5 Money Boxes: Piggy Banks and More
A Piggy Bank Menagerie
Beyond the Piggy Bank: Tzedkah Boxes
Today’s Top 10 Piggy Banks
Organizing Products Inspired by Sheep

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Avoiding Hotel Toiletry Clutter

Do you take home unused hotel toiletries? If you do, and you also do one of the following:
  • Use them (almost) right away.
  • Keep a reasonable number just for guests.
  • Give them away to homeless shelters or similar organizations, on a timely basis.
then you don’t have a clutter problem. I took home the ProTerra body wash from a B&B because I really liked it and thought I might want to buy some (in a larger size).

But a lot of people take the bottles home and toss them in a closet — where they join other similar bottles and take up permanent residence.

If this is a habit you’d like to break, you’re going to get some help from two sources.

1. Legislation —at least in California. California is considering a bill to ban those little bottles, for environmental reasons. The city of Santa Cruz has already passed a similar bill; its restrictions will take effect in December 2020.

2. Hotels. Marriott and Intercontinental hotels are moving away from small shampoo and conditioner bottles, replacing them with larger pump bottles. Ash Kaira, a California State Assembly Member, said on Twitter, “By the end of this year, @Marriott will have already switched 1,500 of their North American hotels to dispensers instead of single use plastic bottles.” Lodging reports that Managed by Marriott hotels will be using Paul Mitchell products.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Eyeglass Holders Give Your Glasses a Home

I take my glasses off when I come home, and I always place them in one of two spots — so lost eyeglasses aren’t a problem for me. If you’d like to develop a similar habit, it might help to use an eyeglass holder which serves as a visual “home” for the glasses. And there are many styles to choose from.

The Sacco glasses holder from tät-tat is a weighted fleece storage pouch, also available from the Guggenheim Store (two color options) and Ameico (six color choices).

If you’re into cute handmade items, GreyMatterGifts on Etsy has a number of animal-themed eyeglass holders.

For a totally different kind of eyeglasses stand, take a look at the 3D-printed ones from GeekTastic55, also on Etsy.

Another option is an eyeglass tray. This one comes from Michael Devine; it’s a laminated fabric tray using a Michael Devine fabric.

Docky provides yet another approach, allowing you to hang your glasses on a bookcase, a computer monitor, etc. Docky attaches with a strong adhesive tape; the website has a lot of information about how to install and remove a Docky. It’s available from Amazon as well as the Docky website.

What if you need a solution for your car? In an old blog post I mentioned the STOWnSee, but another option is the Bobino glasses clip, available from Bobino or Amazon.

Want even more ideas? See my eyeglasses organizing post on the Core77 website (although a few of those products are no longer available).

And if you can’t seem to put your eyeglasses away in a designated spot, check out the eyeglass tracking devices that organizer Julie Bestry wrote about. They won’t work with all frames (including the metal frames I have) but they just might work for you.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

How Many Towels Do You Need?

dog wrapped up in a turquoise towel, so you just see the dog's face
Photo by Daniel M. Hendricks, found on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

This week a friend did some decluttering and cleared out two-thirds of her overstuffed linen closet. And also this week, I saw a Twitter discussion about towels — specifically, how many you “should” have.

Someone on Twitter asked: “what is the correct amount of towels to own?” And Yashar Ali replied:
As a couple you should own a minimum of the following

10 Bath Sheets
10 Bath Towels
10 Hand Towels
20 Wash Cloths

Preferably more
This sparked a lot of jokes, but also some thoughtful comments about how people’s towel needs differ.

There was a lot of discussion about the need for dog towels. As Kurako Sekiko noted, “Also dog towels. Lots of dog towels. Or dog sheets, whatever.” People with cats, goats and other animals also chimed in. Many noted that these use-with-the-animals towels are usually just old human-use towels.

Others, like Deb, mentioned the need (in some locations) for beach towels:
As a Floridian you should own a minimum of the following

19 beach towels
5 pool towels
3 car towels
6 dog towels
1 Marco Rubio Sweating towel

Preferably more
And Dr. Jennifer Gunter mentioned another kind of need:
Does that include navy blue sex towels? Because I recommend 3 of those for anyone who menstruates or partners with anyone who menstruates. Bath sheet size is best. Makes period sex clean up way easier.
Some people brought up the subject of storage space, and whether or not you have convenient laundry facilities. As one person wrote:
I’m looking at all the towel talk and we have like 6 bath towels and 2 hand towels and a bunch of washcloths and it’s just fine. We also live in an apartment with limited storage space and somewhat expensive shared laundry
Ultimately, as with almost everything we own, you need to make your own determination of what’s right for you. If having more towels would make your life easier, you might want to add to your stash. Or if you have a bunch of old towels you never use, you might consider donating them to your local animal shelter.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

12 Places to Donate a Wedding Gown

Photo by Viktor-G entitled Hochzeit in Hamburg. Found on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.

So here’s my advice. Elope, but if you have to have a traditional wedding get the dress you want and then SELL IT IMMEDIATELY after you get married and buy Apple stock. — Dr. Jen Gumter

Dr. Jen didn’t follow her advice, and eventually wound up dying her gown, turning it into a Cinderella dress for Halloween. But her point is good; it’s much easier to sell or donate a relatively new dress than an older one.

But you can find places to donate gowns of varying ages. While this list is limited to places in the U.S., there are certainly places in other countries: The Brides’ Project in Canada, for example. And places that don’t focus on wedding gowns, such as Goodwill, are always an alternative.

Places to donate relatively new gowns:

1. Brides Against Breast Cancer
Criteria: Gown must be less than two years old — up to four years old if it’s a classic “couture” dress with no yellowing. Original retail price must be greater than $999. Gowns from David’s Bridal or BHLDN are not accepted (unless it's a designer brand). Must be in excellent condition. Prefers gown to be cleaned but that’s not required; if it’s not cleaned, you may choose to donate $50 to cover cleaning.

2. Wish Upon a Wedding
Criteria: Gown must be less than three years old, professionally cleaned. Luxury designers preferred; gowns from David’s Bridal not accepted.

3. Adorned in Grace
Criteria: Gown must be five years old or newer. Much appreciated if the gown is cleaned — or if a check for $50 or more is included with the donation, to cover cleaning costs.

4. Brides for a Cause
Criteria: Gown must be no more than five years old. (Vintage dresses not being accepted at this time.) Appreciates gowns being clean, but can take care of it if they are not.

5. The Bridal Garden
Criteria: Gown must have been purchased within the last five years; must be in fairly clean, sellable condition.

Places to donate both new and vintage gowns:

6. Gowns for a Cause
Criteria: Gown must be three years old or newer; slightly worn and in near-perfect condition. Also takes vintage gowns, 20 years old or older.

7. Brides Across America
Criteria: Gown must be less than five years old; in good condition. May not be able to accept a gown if they already have enough in that size and style. May also be able to take your vintage gown.

8. Fairytale Brides on a Shoestring
Criteria: Gown must be five years old or less. Must arrive clean, or with payment of $100 to cover cleaning costs. Might possibly take a vintage gown, if it’s one a bride today might like.

Places to donate older gowns:

9. Cherie Amour
Criteria: Gowns must be less than 10 years old. No cleaning necessary.

10. St. Anthony’s Bridal
Criteria: Any age OK, as long as the gown has been well preserved, hasn’t significantly yellowed, and hasn’t been moth-eaten or pest-eaten. If in doubt about the cleanliness, include a check for $50 to cover cleaning.

Places to donate gowns to be re-purposed:

These are places that take wedding gowns and turn them into burial gowns for babies who have died. While I’m listing two such programs, you can easily find others with an online search.

11. NICU Helping Hands — Angel Gowns program
Criteria: All gowns OK if they are clean and in good condition. Gowns should be cleaned if they have any odor. If the gown is heavily stained or unevenly yellowed with age, it might not be usable. Gowns should come from smoke-free homes. Note: Gowns are accepted on an as-needed basis. You fill out the form and get placed on a waiting list.

12. Phoenix Leadership Center — West Coast Angel Gowns
Criteria: Gowns should be gently used.

Places not currently accepting gowns due to overstock:

I’m noting these because they may open for donations again in the future.

Every Girls Dream
Mary Madeline Project (an angel-gown type of organization)

Friday, January 11, 2019

Decluttering Happens When You're Ready

Self Storage Units, Danbury, CT. by Mike Mozart of TheToyChannel and JeepersMedia on YouTube. Found on Flickr; licensed under Creative Commons. Not the storage unit referred to in the following story.

Have you struggled to deal with a deceased parent’s possessions? Have you ever kept things in storage for far longer than originally planned? Then you might resonate with the following story I read on a mailing list a few days ago (and which was later expanded upon in a private email); I’m sharing it here with the author’s permission. 

I've had numerous clients who went through similar experiences, and I thought it might help others dealing with these challenges to know they are not alone.

After my mother died seven years ago, I put a bunch of furniture into storage with the intention of getting it reupholstered or otherwise using it “within two years.” Two years passed quickly, followed by some other events that delayed action — a move, multiple renovations, surgeries, etc. — and for the next five years, I “visited” the storage once or twice a year to check on things, but immediately got overwhelmed at the thought of dealing with it all and walked away without doing anything.

Then, in November, I got a notice that the monthly storage fee would be jumping from $110/month to $250/month, so I knew I had to act. I put “figure out storage” on my action list and, since that is a terrible, unfocused, non-action Next Action, I did nothing for two months.

So I changed my next action to “Visit storage to make an inventory,” the first step toward making a plan of action. I wasn’t busy yesterday, so I drove out to the storage place with the intention of just inventorying — I told myself I didn’t have to “do” anything beyond that.

Visiting storage with that small goal in mind took so much pressure off that I was able to view the situation much more clearly. I was soon sorting out things I decided to donate, and within a couple of hours, I’d loaded up the car twice and made two runs to Salvation Army. Then I went back and got a load to bring home with me.

Now, I have a plan. It will take a few more visits — and a session with a rental van to move the big stuff — but I have some clarity on what I’m doing. Weather permitting, I should have it all done by the end of the month.

I realize now that I’m in a different place emotionally than I was seven years ago — or even one year ago. When I rolled open the storage door yesterday, I didn’t have the emotionally charged or sentimental reaction I’ve had before. Where I once saw my mother’s things that I felt responsible to maintain, now, I just see “stuff” that I want to get squared away.

Seven years is a long time to pay for storage, but before I kick myself too hard for wasting money, I’m trying to keep in mind that I was going through something, not just being lazy. Expediting that process would have been helpful (and saved a lot), but that’s not how it went. Time to move on.

The funny thing is now that I’ve made some progress, I want to get it all done as fast as possible. I can’t tell you how frustrated I am that a snowstorm predicted for this weekend is going to slow my roll for a few days. I don’t want to lose my momentum on this!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Cool Clothes Hangers: The Practical and the Fanciful

Do you struggle with using hangers? Organizers often recommend using hooks, since they are easier to use than hangers. But here are two types of hangers that might appeal even to the hanger-averse —and everyone else, as well.

The Jean Hanger makes it super-simple to hang up a pair of jeans. There are no clamps or clips; you just take the belt loops and hook them over the hanger. You can look at the video from the Kickstarter campaign of a few years ago to get more of a feel as to how these hangers work.

Holding Hangers, designed for skirts and slacks, are another way to make hanging your clothes extremely easy.  (They also work for strapless dresses and off-the-shoulder blouses.) Again, there are no clamps or clips — the hangers go inside the waistband. The company founder, C. Lee Crawley, says these hangers are widely used in boutiques in Europe, and she’s now made them available to those of us in the U.S.

OK, let’s move on to the fanciful. The hangers from Stupell Industries feature mostly dogs and cats, but there are other animals, too. Stupell promotes them as gift items, which sounds good to me — I think they’re a gift that would be likely to get used rather than one that becomes someone else’s clutter. They might also encourage some reluctant hanger-users to be more diligent, just because the hangers are so darn cute. (I don’t see using them for all of someone’s clothes, but rather for a few select items such as a jacket or two.)

For many more interesting hanger possibilities, you can look at the posts I wrote for Core77:
Hanger Design, Beyond the Basics
Not Your Ordinary Clothes Hangers

And if you just want recommendations for good basic hangers, given the huge number of options, this prior post points you to recommendations from The Container Store, Wirecutter, and others.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Upside of Downsizing

The Upside of Downsizing is Sara B. Hart’s story of her own downsizing effort as she moved from a 1,610-square-foot house with a two-car garage to an 827-square-foot apartment with a small storage cage in the basement. Sara apparently didn’t really want to move and downsize; she did it for financial reasons as her mortgage payments were about to go way up and some expensive repairs were looming.

This motivation shapes the book; as Sara says, the book is particularly intended for those needing to downsize “not so much from choice as from necessity.” The downsizing process was very painful for her, and not everyone will feel the same emotions that Sara did. But for a downsizer who is feeling the same unhappy emotions, it might help to read about someone else who worked through them.

(As a side note, I would have appreciated if Sara’s explanation of why she was downsizing had come at the beginning of the book, rather than many pages into it. I kept wondering why she was downsizing when it was obviously causing her so much distress.)

Still, there were a number of insights that could be useful to anyone who is downsizing or simply decluttering.

When Sara was going through her things with a friend, that friend would sometimes encourage her to keep something she had already decided to part with. What Sara learned to tell her friend was this: “I had to make the decision to get rid of this once. Please don’t make me have to make it again.” She also mentions that one of the best things friends can do to help is to take away the items destined for donation and do the drop-off.

Sara didn't just work with friends; she also hired a “downsizer.” She interviewed three people and found the one she felt was right for her — someone who listened to her and understood her feelings about downsizing, but would still push her to be realistic about how much she could keep. I was glad to read this, given how emotional an organizing/decluttering project can be; you want to choose someone you’ll feel comfortable with.

As part of her process, Sara held a garage sale, and her instructions to the folks helping her were wise. “If someone wants to buy it, sell it! Otherwise I will have to pay someone to come and take it away!”

And then there’s this bit of wisdom:
Many people have found that their kids don’t want any of the things their parents had been lovingly saving for them, sometimes for years. They don't want the beautiful bone china or priceless silver or elegant crystal. They don’t want the gorgeous table linen. In fact, they don’t want the table! And so far as stuff that belonged to them — the trophies, prom outfits, graduation tassels — they don’t want that stuff, either.
What Sara stresses over and over again is this: “If you need to go through a major downsizing and move, it’s better to begin earlier than later.” This is good advice, but the repetitiveness became a bit annoying. This book was derived from Sara’s journals, which I expect explains the repetition.