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.

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.