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.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

In Honor of My Mom: Organizing in Blue for 2018

white tray with elaborately drawn birds in gray and blue

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

When I wrote about trays yesterday, I omitted a few that I wanted to include today — like this tray from Jamida, with art by Emma J. Shipley. (If you want to know more about using trays as organizing tools, see the comment I left on yesterday’s post.)

white tray with two big blue fish

Another cool item from Jamida is this Shoal of Fish tray, with art by Asta Barrington.

small blue tray with a sardine picture

Continuing on the fish theme, this sardine tray from Agenda Home, with art by Danielle Kroll, caught my eye.

off-white cotton canvas bin with blue butterfly; blue pattern on the interior, too

Over on Etsy, I found this lovely cotton canvas bin by Dagmar’s Designs. (I’ve written about Dagmar’s Designs before, but without a focus on the blue images.)

two royal blue fabric baskets with large flowers; black interior

Another Etsy find: These storage baskets made with Marimekko fabric, from Mummi Designs.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

9 Trays to Help You Get Organized

tray with light wood sides and dark blue bottom; teapot, which and other things on the tray

When you think of trays, you may picture something like the Frame Tray from Munk Collective — on clearance sale now at Design Within Reach, but also available outside the U.S. at stores like Illums Bolighus in Denmark. These have wood sides and a waterproof MDF bottom. (via Better Living Through Design)

tray with stylized owls

Or you may picture something more like this Orla Kiely tray, made of melamine-coated birch. Rectangular trays with a rim, no matter the style, are flexible tools with many possible uses.

tray with fish, birds and ducks - dark background with white and light blue images

A lot of interesting trays come from Scandinavia and are made with birch or birch veneer. This one is from Made by Lyng, in Norway.

tray with sky blue background and pictures of three cats, plus some plants

Avenida Home has a cat tray and a dog tray, both with illustrations by Anne Bentley. They're made in Sweden.

white tray with picture of fish

Anna Wright's melamine and birch veneer trays are also made in Sweden.

round white tray with red handle sticking up in the middle

And this one from LUprints is also made in Scandinavia.

two-tiered round white tray; top tier is smaller than bottom one

There are also trays with extra features, which may sometimes be useful. The General Tray from Good Thing has a handle with four color options.

round white tray with red handle sticking up in the middle

The Rotary Tray from Vitra is a two-tier thing; the top tier can rotate outward.

round yellow tray with yellow cup in the middle

And the Vitra O-Tidy combines a cup and a tray. One of the places you can get it, besides directly from Vitra, is the Finnish Design Shop.

Related post:
Organizing with Trays

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Anne Helen Petersen re: Organized Travel

Inside my bag is the title of Anne Helen Petersen's latest newsletter, and some of what she does to prepare for travel sounds like good advice for more than just a reporter:
If something works well, I make it routine. I fly the same airline (partly for the miles) but also because I know exactly what snacks there will be, exactly how many minutes I need to be at the gate after I get a notification that they're boarding, exactly how big my carry-on can be, exactly how to use the app and buy the wi-fi ahead of time and the routes/airports I'll transfer in. I found a pick-up shuttle company that's always on-time and that I can schedule simply by texting. ...

All of these decisions create less friction, less decision-making. ...

I have a reporting travel uniform — jeans, boots, a nice-ish flannel shirt — that makes me seem put-together enough but not too put together, and I wear variations on it throughout the 3/4 of the year. If I'm reporting for 2 days, and won't be hanging out with the same people on both days, I don't even bring a change of clothes (okay yes I bring another set of underwear). I have a perfect dob kit that I keep packed with travel versions of all the products I need.
Go read the entire thing for more ideas and links to her preferred overnight bag, suitcase, etc.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Hundred Dollar Holiday

Amid all the gift lists circulating online at this time of year, I’d like to also mention the ideas in Hundred Dollar Holiday by Bill McKibben.

That “hundred dollars” is not an absolute; if you buy into McKibben’s approach you may want to choose a different number. As McKibben says, “The goal ... is not to spend as little money as possible ... it’s to have as much fun as possible.”

As he explains:
Trimming the tree, eating the turkey, opening the stockings, singing the carols: if these things bring you joy, and for most people they do, then they are parts of Christmas you want to focus on. And you can focus on them more easily, as well as incorporate all sorts of new and borrowed rituals, once you’ve put aside the burden of buying carloads of presents.

Now, this is all assuming a family that is reasonably well off, financially. For those whose financial situation is more precarious, gifts of clothing, towels, toys and such may be very welcome. If your finances allow, you may get some joy (as I do) from participating in an “adopt a family” program where you shop for items on someone else’s wish list. There are programs along these lines throughout the U.S. — and beyond.

But for many of us, McKibben writes, “We have so much stuff that a pile of presents is no longer exciting.” And in those cases, we might choose to rethink our gift-giving approaches. As McKibben says:
The point is not to stop giving; the point is to give things that matter. Give things that are rare — time, attention, memory, whimsy.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Storing Vinyl Records with Cover Art in Mind

I’ve written before about ways to store a vinyl album collection, but there are also a number of products that focus on displaying the covers of selected albums. This can turn favorite album covers into cool wall art, and some products also provide a way to keep albums currently in play close at hand. I wrote about some of these products on Core77, but here are a few more worth noting.

Well Made is running a Kickstarter for Visible Vinyl, with a tabletop stand for a single album and three different sizes of wall-mounted rails. These are all solid wood, and they come in three finishes: walnut, oak and black. If you miss the Kickstarter (which ends on July 18), you could head over to the Well Made website to see if the company is selling them there.

While there are a lot of companies selling acrylic album frames, Line Phono makes one in wood. The album just slides in from the top, so it’s easy to insert and remove the album.

If you want to display four albums (or two gatefolds) you could use the Queue from Harold. It’s deep enough to hold multiple records in each slot, but then some of them wouldn’t be visible (which could be OK if you’re just using this to queue up your next music rather than to see all the covers). You can get it from Harold (where it’s currently on backorder) or from Turntable Lab.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Organizing After the Death of a Spouse

The following words of wisdom come from Tamara Turcott, of An Eye for Detail, who was widowed six years ago. She posted it on a message board used by members of the National Association of Professional Organizers, in response to a question posed there, and I thought this was so good I wanted to share it. Tamara graciously gave me permission to do so. Much of this advice would apply to organizing after the death of any loved one.

Everything you feel and do is OK. If you feel like you can sort through papers, do it. If you bag up clothes and they just can't leave the house yet, do it. I lived with his toothbrush in my cup holder for a year. I cleared out the closet for myself one week before year six. I gave away his walker in the first month. You'll find the items he loved the most, the hardest to part with.

And in the beginning, moving anything feels like acknowledging the loss. I found it easiest to start by giving his belongings to good causes, people in immediate need, and family members who would cherish them. Each gift was a gift from him, and therefore it felt right.

To this day, a pair of destroyed sneakers still sit in my basement because I can't bear to put them in the trash: the only place they belong. There are no rules in grieving except that you are comfortable. The same applies to organizing in grief. You can't know how you will feel until you try, but the second you try, you'll know. Hold the items. Imagine yourself taking the next step. How does that feel? If it feels OK, then do it. If it feels like your chest is tightening and you can't breathe, put it right back down. You will get there. Just not yet.

Monday, May 22, 2017

5 Desk Organizers With Very Different Designs

I’ve written about many notable desk organizers over on the Core77 website; if you’re an office supply fan, you can go see my posts from May 2014, October 2015 and July 2016. But because so many of us could use a desk organizer, and we all have somewhat different needs and aesthetic preferences, more interesting product keep coming along. One of these is Gather, from Ugmonk, currently available via Kickstarter.

The basic product has a pencil holder, a phone holder, a sticky-note holder, and two sizes of trays — all of which can be arranged on the base however you wish. You can also add on a headphone stand and a coaster. It seems to be a lovely, compact piece. (via Uncrate)

The Niu desk organizer from Ubikubi, designed by Dragos Motica, is made with cork and painted aluminum. It has a lot of pieces: a sticky-note holder, a business card holder, a tape dispenser, a phone/tablet support (that item in the middle), a pen/pencil holder, a cup for paper clips or any other such item, a pencil sharpener (the item in the front, off the tray) and the paper tray itself. This lets you keep the items together or move them around your desk — whichever you prefer. But it also includes specific tools you may not need. (via Design Milk)

If you just need a small desk organizer for notepads, pens and your smartphone, the Bau organizer from Most Modest would work. You have your choice of five colors for that bottom stripe.

If you’d like to keep some things hidden away but still right at hand, you might like the Estuche desk organizer from Oitenta.

That enclosed area is quite a versatile storage space, holding things such as charging cords, sticky notes, a box of paper clips, etc. But there’s no external storage spot for a notepad or sticky notes, which will be a problem for some folks.

If you have a desktop computer (or a laptop used with an external monitor, keyboard and mouse) you might like the desk organizer from GardenX. That space for your smartphone doesn’t look large enough for the larger models now being sold, though; you’d probably want to contact the seller for dimensions. But then again, that space could be used for things other than a smartphone, as at least one purchaser has done.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

In Honor of My Mom: Organizing in Blue for 2017

My poor blog! It’s been neglected as I focused my writing energies on Core77 (through last year) and Unclutterer (ongoing). But it’s time to resume posting, and this seemed like a good way to start. Ten years ago today, my mom died of pancreatic cancer. Her favorite color was blue, so this is my annual tribute to her. (Sadly, I missed last year due to my hip surgery.)

Let’s start with this bright blue basket from L'Atelier de NaNa H — good for holding all sorts of small items.

This catchall from A & B Design Studio is another lovely shade of blue.

And here's a different sort of catchall from feltplanet.

This earring stand comes from Allison Glick Ceramics.

Finally, this is the Lexon flip alarm clock. Mom would have liked this not just because it's blue, but because it has a big, easily legible display. And it’s super-simple to use; you just flip the clock over to turn the alarm off and on. (The display changes its orientation when you do that.)

Thursday, March 31, 2016

7 Piggy Banks to Keep the Coins Under Control

“The average American household has approximately $90 in loose change sitting unused in jars, under sofa cushions, and in dresser drawers,” said Alex Camara, senior vice president and general manager of worldwide coin at Coinstar, Inc.

I have no idea if that statistic is accurate, but I know some households have a lot of coins sitting around. One way to keep them from getting lost (and making a mess on a dresser top, or wherever) is to use a piggy bank — in pig form or not.

The elephant above comes from Stephanie Rombough Ceramics. I’m hoping there's a plug in the bottom to remove the coins; the site doesn’t say one way or another. (All the other piggy banks listed here do have a removable stopper.)

You can get whales from Maia Ming Designs. These are “made in porcelain with a tactile rubber finish.”

Land of Nod has a collection of different animal banks, including this hippo.

These Miffy money boxes are made from PVC rather than porcelain, so they could be good for kids. [via Retro to Go]

And here's a Royal Delft Miffy that’s much more expensive.

I’m not sure how helpful it is to have a piggy bank with multiple slots, but this bank from 25TOGO Design has 25 slots of varying sizes and thicknesses.

Finally, here’s a piggy bank that really looks like a pig, from Pike Place Pigs. This one happens to be a chalkboard pig, but there are plenty of others without the chalkboard feature.

Related Posts:
A Piggy Bank Menagerie
What a Pig! Piggy Banks and Money Boxes Worth a Look
Beyond the Piggy Bank: Tzedkah Boxes
Today’s Top 10 Piggy Banks
Piggy Banks: A Home for Your Spare Change
A Place for Your Coins: Piggy Banks and Money Pots
Organizing Products Inspired by Sheep
5 Money Boxes: Piggy Banks and More