Sunday, December 31, 2006

Medicine Cabinets (and related spaces)

ABC News tells us How to Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet - and suggests doing this as a first step in getting organized in the new year. The article actually stresses that the medicine cabinet may not be the best place to keep your medicines. The article also wisely stresses the importance of storing all medicines safely, especially (but not exclusively) to protect any children.

One thing it does not mention is how to dispose of those expired medicines. Please do not flush them down the toilet! Alternatives include returning them to the pharmacy for disposal, taking them to a household hazardous waste collection program, or disposing of them (taking specific precautions) in the garbage. If the medicine is not yet expired but is simply no longer needed, you may be able to donate it to a worthy cause.

For more information, see the information published by the
- Ingham Regional Medical Center in Michigan
- Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (PDF)
- New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

Calendars from Pomegranate

Inuit Art calendar

The San Francisco Chronicle had a good story today about Pomegranate Communications, the Petaluma, California company that publishes some of the nicest calendars around.

The Cost of Disorganization

Office Depot conducted a poll of 2,500 people (representative of the U.S. household population, 18+ on age, gender, geographic division, income and household size, household designation and market size) during November 2006.

The participants reported significant costs from being disorganized:
- 61% said the biggest frustration with their disorganized environment is that they can’t find what they need quickly.
- 51% are concerned about missing important deadlines or appointments.
- 34% reported losing 15 minutes or more per day due to disorganization.
- 27% said they find it hard to concentrate with messy files around.
- 15% said they can't find receipts when they go to do their taxes.

Wreak Order

Getting back to those goodies I found in Real Simple. . .

An article on 16 Quick Ways to Take Control of Your Life included Wreak Order as #12. Here's my favorite part, with thanks to author Jane O'Reilly.

"Moment of Truth No. 1: Those people who save everything, such as the clock shaped like a purple elephant that once adorned my son's nursery wall (he is now 38; the clock broke when he was 10), will be doomed to spending years of their later life, when time is precious, throwing things out. Or, worse, they will be dooming their children to throwing things out.

Moment of Truth No. 2: If the above advice is ignored, mementos turn into life-dulling sludge."

Friday, December 29, 2006

Storage for Kids

wall pockets with dinosaurs

Urchin, in the U.K., has some fun-looking products for children's room storage. And some of them look like they could have uses beyond the children's room.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Clutter Gone Wild

Randy Frost has a good article on hoarding in the Winter 2006-2007 edition of Smith Alumnae Quarterly. If you are already familiar with his work, you won't see anything new - but it's a good introduction for those without that familiarity.

Dr. Frost speaks of hoarding as a set of behaviors, including:
- Excessive acquisition/compulsive buying
- Saving of large quantities of things that most people wouldn’t save
- Difficulty organizing possessions
- Difficulty making decisions

Thanks to Deborah Gussoff and the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization for pointing me to this.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Kitchen Organization Tips from Julia Child

In an article in Real Simple, Julia Child recommends hanging your pots on a corkboard. She also offers this advice: "Don't buy sets of pots and pans, because you won't use all of them. Buy each pot and pan for a specific reason."

Under Cabinet Cookbook Holder

under cabinet cookbook holder

Real Simple directed me to this under cabinet tool - a new one to my list, which includes:

- Under cabinet bread box. Update on Dec. 30, 2009: This doesn't seem to be available any more.
- Under cabinet cutting board. Update on Dec. 30, 2009: I'm not finding this one any more, either.
- Under cabinet knife block
- Under cabinet spice rack (plastic)
- Under cabinet spice rack (stainless steel)

Update on Dec. 30, 2009: I'm not seeing either of the pull-down spice racks any more, but I am seeing the Magic Spicer, a magnetic under-counter spice rack.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Remembering Birthdays, and Appreciating fred flare

Nancy Drew address book

Real Simple had an interesting article on remembering birthdays, which got me to fred flare and the birthday book (for tracking birthdays, naturally).

But then I also found the 8 days a week planner, and the Nancy Drew address book.

Update on July 18, 2010: I no longer see the birthday book on the Fred Flare site.

The Spoon Sisters

very small shredder

Real Simple pointed me to the ID Pilot Wire Identification Labels at The Spoon Sisters - but then I also found some pretty wonderful file folders.

There's also a cute little shredder - but it's probably more cute than practical. (For one thing, it's strip cut rather than confetti cut.) Update on June 11, 2010: I no longer see this shredder on the Spoon Sisters web site.

Real Simple Treasure Trove! Funny Alarm Clocks!

frog alarm clock

Someone in my local Freecycle community was giving away a number of Real Simple magazines, and I was lucky enough to get them. Almost every one had at least something interesting in the organizing arena. So this is the first in a series of postings based on my Real Simple readings - tips and products they specifically mentioned, and other things I found more indirectly as I explored their recommendations.

Clocks are a basic time management tool, but they don't have to be boring. Look, here's a whole collection of animal sound alarm clocks!

Friday, December 22, 2006

The E-Myth Revisited

book cover, The E-Myth Revisited

I've been hearing more and more about this book. While it's mostly meant for small business owners, here's a quote that deals with broader time management issues.

Magnatag Visible Systems

Magnatag huge wall calendar

David Seah has a paean to Magnatag and its products: an amazing array of whiteboard planners, organizers, and scheduling tools. Unfortunately, the Magnatag web site is only viewable by those in the USA and Canada.

Thanks to Patricia Burroughs and Deb of the Analog GTD Yahoo! group for pointing me to David Seah.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Saying No to Disorder

Shame on the New York Times for its article Saying Yes to Mess. It's too bad they don't seem to have consulted with any professional organizers, who could have cleared up the many fallacies included in this article.

The major problem is failing to distinguish between mess and disorder. No organizer I know would have any problem with a kitchen getting messy as a meal was cooked. But a disorganized kitchen would be one where implements/ingredients/recipes couldn't be found, where often-used tools were stored in hard-to-reach places, etc. Disorder keeps you from being able to do those creative, messy things you want to do!

The article also asks, "Why is it better to pack more activities into one day?" Well, again, that's not what being organized is about. Often as we organize our time better, we learn to focus on the most important things and say no to the rest - and leave more white space in our calendars. Being organized has nothing whatever to do with a brittle, rigid schedule - the article has this exactly backwards!

And then there's this line: "To a professional organizer brandishing colored files and stackable trays, cluttered horizontal surfaces are a horror . . ." Well, I don't think stackable trays are usually the best tool, colored folders are only important for people who CARE about color, and cluttered horizontal surfaces are a problem if they interfere with your ability to work as well as you want to.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


BusyBodyBook planner

This planner, designed for families, provides a weekly grid with five columns - one for each of (up to) five family members. Other people use the columns for various other purposes: different school subjects, different aspects of their lives, meal planning (in three of the columns), etc. Update on Sept. 30, 2014: This planner is no longer available.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Giving the Gift of Time

gift certificates for one hour, one evening, one day, or one weekend of your time

Here are some gift certificates from DSIX Design that you can use when giving the gift of your time - a nice gift that won't become clutter. Found via Oh Joy!

Time Management Advice from Alan Lakein

book cover, How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life

It's amazing to me that How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life was written in 1973; the book doesn't feel dated. I finished reading this last night - and I even followed his instructions and wrote down my lifetime goals, and then used them to help develop my To Do list for today. Highly recommended - I just wish there was another edition in print in the USA, since this is a poor quality paperback.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Coat Racks with a Difference

antler-shaped coat rack - white wall with eight of the hangers, also in white

The Erich Ginder Ghost Antler coat rack is certainly not like anything else I've ever seen.

And the Erich Ginder Ghost Tree coat rack (in white or black) is also quite unusual.

I found the Ghost Tree coat racks on Design Public's 2006 Holiday Gift Guide.

How to Organize a Kitchen

There's a nice solid set of advice on wikiHow. There's nothing really new here - but it summarizes the best advice in a concise and well-written list.

To give you a flavor, here's step 3:
Store frequently-used objects in easy-to-reach locations. Notice what you use most often. Figure out where you will use them most. Infrequently used items, like the roasting pan that you only haul out during the holidays, can go on high shelves or in the back of cabinets. They can even be stored outside the kitchen in the garage, attic, basement, guest room closet, or a box under a bed.

Make sure every item in your kitchen has earned its right to take up your valuable space! Remember: if you use it infrequently enough, it should go out altogether. Just because it is large or expensive, does not mean you must keep it. If you made pasta twice ten years ago, please pitch the pasta machine.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Tossing the Tchotzkes

From the Ideal Bite blog:

I just did something so satisfying the other day. I got rid of all my tchotzkes.

Bon voyage, Eiffel Tower miniature! Auf wiedersehen, novelty Oktoberfest stein!

It's bad enough living in a city where most apartments are small enough to make Thumbelina claustrophobic. Accumulation of stuff that I don't need just makes it worse.

Conquering Clutter

There's a very good article in the January/February 2007 AARP Magazine.

Conquering Clutter, by David Dudley
We love stuff. We hate stuff. How did we get so much? And how can we ever dig out?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Right Organizing Tools

The following comes from Robert Lynch on the Yahoo! Group TheNowHabit, quoted by permission. Robert is talking about tools for time management - planning and organizing our work, specifically using the GTD (Getting Things Done) approach - but his words could apply to all the tools we use to get organized.


When we have the right tools and supplies, the things we want to do are easier and more enjoyable.

One of David Allen's small points is that the tools we use to maintain our GTD systems should be enjoyable. I collect fountain pens, so my system is mostly paper-based -- otherwise I can't use my pens!

Whatever methods we use to plan and organize our work in order to get things done, we should try to make those methods easy and enjoyable. Do you like playing with spreadsheets? Do your planning in Excel. Do you like playing with Post-It notes? Plan with them. Do you like seeing everything at once on a whiteboard? Plan on a whiteboard.

There is no single implementation that is going to work for everyone, because we are all different. Find out what can make a system interesting for you, and run with it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Time Management in a Multitasking World

Penelope Trunk has a thoughtful list of 10 tips, including:

1. Don’t leave email sitting in your in box.
2. Admit multitasking is bad.
8. Make it easy to get started.
10. Dare to be slow.

Read the whole thing; it's a good use of your time!

Monday, December 11, 2006

More Gifts that Won't Become Clutter

Jeff Hutcheson, a fire marshal in Iowa lists his gift suggestions, including:

- A smoke alarm for anyone who doesn't have one
- A fire extinguisher, ditto
- A flashlight and batteries
- Sturdy candle holders
- A sturdy fireplace screen
- Gift certificates for clean-up services to remove clutter
- Warm nightwear or bedding to reduce the need for space heaters
- Large house numbers to make it easier for emergency responders to locate a home

So consider these an addition to my original list of gifts that won't become clutter.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

3 Steps to Clutter-Free Living

bamboo baskets

Natural Home just ran this nice article - nothing particularly new, but a good summary of the basics. The steps they list are ones any organizer would recognize:

1. Lighten up.
2. Sort it out.
3. Keep it up.

Another real plus about the article was the list of resources at the end. Some I knew about, but some were new to me. My three new favorites:

1. The Jigsaw stack-and-roll file cubes and bookcases from re:modern
2. The incredible baskets from Lantern Moon
3. The Basket Locker from Uncommon Goods (hard to describe - just take a look)

Tackling All That Paper

From a Yahoo! group I subscribe to, Bernadette shares her secrets to success. I think it's so powerful to hear this in her own voice. (Published with permission.) Note: Bernadette is using the Getting Things Done methodology, where collecting the paperwork is the first step.


And, I thought about why I'm doing this now, and couldn't get through it before. Here's what I've learned:

. I had to make it fun. Who wants to do things which are a chore or a bore? So, I turned on the radio to a classic oldies station (I am a classic oldie myself) and just said I'm going to collect until I'm tired. Then, I'll stop . . . see where I am and decide if I want to collect again.

. I finally bought everything I needed. I bought file folders, label maker, etc. It certainly is more fun to do this when I have the right tools at hand.

. Finally, I stopped thinking about the past and stopped thinking about the future. Yes, I should have done this years ago (why do I have work papers going back to 1997 for clients who have been acquired?), but backwards thinking is just a monumental waste of time. As a corollary, I could be thinking about the next step . . . but that, too, is just diverting my energies from what I want to do now.

I have thus far pitched 6 recyclable bags of old paperwork!

Friday, December 8, 2006

A Simple Shredder

scissors shredder

The Hasami hand shredder, found though Inhabitat. Update on Jun 11, 2010: The original site that carried these shredder scissors no longer has them - but many sites now have shredder scissors that look similar.)

Slingshot Organizer

Slingshot 2007 mini organizer

Update on Oct. 28, 2010: Although this post features 2007 organizers, there are 2011 versions available now; the links have been updated to point to the new organizers.

This definitely isn't for everyone - but if you have a San Francisco/Berkeley/60s type of sensibility, you might really like it.

There's the mini and the larger spiral-bound.

Thanks to the San Francisco Bay Guardian for the pointer.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Hurry Sickness vs. Slow Life

About three weeks ago I heard a speaker expound on the Slow Food/Slow Cities/Slow Life movement. Now I'm reading a book called Time Management For Unmanageable People that talks about Hurry Sickness.

Here's one of the nicest articles I've found about the slow movement(s). Update on Nov. 23, 2009: The article I was pointing to is no longer on the web site.

Paper or Electronic Planner?

Trying to make that decision? Val Sgro of SGRO Consulting has a self-assessment questionnaire (PDF) that can help.

I'm looking forward to reading her book, Organize Your Family's Schedule . . . In No Time, where this is one of many topics covered.

I came out pretty evenly balanced between paper and electronic - and sure enough, I use a combination of both (electronic planner, with current months printed out to carry with me).

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Child's Room - Storage

child's room with many types of storage

Here's a nice example of a kid's room that uses many different types of storage. Found at

Bookshelves from Reclaimed Lumber

bookshelf from reclaimed lumber

RG Furniture Design makes furniture from select antique lumber reclaimed from historic buildings under demolition in New York City - how cool is that? Take a look at their bookshelves.

Found through dwell DesignSource.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Buying Wisely

New American Dream logo

Organizers see so many unwise purchases, cluttering up our clients' environments. One way to help prevent clutter is to make more conscious buying decisions - to take a fresh look at what comes into our homes and offices.

New American Dream has a wallet buddy (PDF) you can print out and wrap around your credit card, with the following words of wisdom. Some of the questions have to do with whether the object is something worth buying at all; others deal with values you may want to incorporate into your buying decisions.

Quoting the wallet buddy:

Every dollar I spend is a statement about the kind of world I want & the quality of life I value.

Sample questions to ask before buying:
- Is this something I need?
- Do I already own something that could serve the same purpose?
- Can I borrow one, find one used, or make one instead of buying one?
- Was it made locally?
- Was it made with environmentally preferable materials?
- Was it made with fair labor practices?
- Will it serve more than one purpose?
- Is it made well enough to last a useful length of time?
- Will it be easy and cost-effective to maintain?
- Will using it require excessive energy?
- Does it come in excessive packaging?
- Can I recycle or compost it when I'm done with it?
- If I'm still not sure, can I wait a month before deciding to buy it?

Organizing the Paper Clips

magnetic bird for holding paper clips

This magnetic birdie is a nice alternative to the standard functional but boring magnetic paper clip holder.

But my favorite might still be the Dozi magnetic paper clip holder by Alessi, which I wrote about in my October newsletter.

15 End-of-the-Year Tasks to Handle Now provided this list, which includes:

7. Do an early spring cleaning! Purge your office. It’s time to get rid of all that stuff you either don’t need or that doesn’t work anymore.


11. Review your professional magazine subscriptions. Are you really reading all those magazines that get delivered each month? Chances are, you're letting at least some of them just pile up somewhere in the office (to the detriment of your de-cluttering efforts) or you're simply throwing them away soon after they arrive (to the detriment of your local landfill).

Read the full story at MSNBC.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Decluttering the Spices

red dot with white letters saying Check your spices!

Thanks to fellow organizers Jane Campbell in Maryland and Diane Damico in Indiana, I can point you to this information about identifying outdated herbs and spices.

December 2006 Organizing Tips and More

My December newsletter is now available. The theme is Giving up on Perfectionism.

Product of the Month: nesting baskets made from bamboo

Book of the Month: The Spiritual Art of Being Organized

Donation/Recycling Idea of the Month: Spare change to UNICEF

Friday, December 1, 2006

A Green Wastebasket

wastebasket made from recycled tires

One strategy for staying organized is to have plenty of wastebaskets throughout your home or office. Here's an unusual option: the Thrashcan, made from recycled tires!

Gorgeous Closet Alternative

Berkeley Mills custom closet with shoji

Many closet companies provide very functional systems - but the products from Berkeley Mills are stunning.