Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Importance of Being Ready

Claire Josefine wrote some mighty fine words in her blog today.

She says: Being organized means being "at ready." It's what frees us to share our talents with the world, and what helps us to easily find our toys. The whole point of being organized is to make our lives easier, fuller, more meaningful. Organization is a supportive structure that allows us to ride life's rapids, to flow with the anarchy of existence.

And I thought about how the whole mise en place concept is also about just that - being "at ready."

And Marilyn Paul, in It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys, also writes extensively about "getting to ready" - and "getting back to ready," as things naturally get disordered as we go about our days.

Marilyn says: The essence of getting to ready is that it prepares you for action, whether the action is cooking, writing a proposal, going to the gym, doing a presentation, taking care of a patient, meditating, or gardening. Once your desk is clear, your belongings and laundry put away, and your schedule is manageable, you feel ready to do whatever you want to do."

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

3 Colorful Staplers (and Colorful Staples, Too)

staples in five bright colors

I recently wrote about paper clips; now it's time to talk about staples.

Staplers usually come in neutrals: chrome, black, etc. But here are three staplers that come in colors:
1. The Centor Tranz, in translucent blue and purple
2. The Swingline red stapler
3. The Hello Kitty stapler - in pink, of course

Or if you just want to jazz up your current stapler, consider the colored staples show above. Update on Sept. 16, 2010: The staples shown were sold by See Jane Work, which no longer carries them. See my current post for other sources of colored staples.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Do It Tomorrow

book cover, Do It Tomorrow

My e-mail correspondent Silvia, who hangs out in some of the same Yahoo! groups as I do (The Now Habit and Getting Things Done) has been encouraging me for many months to read Mark Forster's Do It Tomorrow. I finally did, and I'm very glad she pushed me into it!

At first I wasn't so sure about that, because I didn't like the first chapter - and the first part of the second chapter wasn't all that compelling, either. I read books like this with a highlighter in hand, and I didn't highlight anything until page 33.

But I'm glad I kept going. Some of Mark's approaches (closed lists of daily will-do items, for example) seem quite useful - at least for some people. (No one system works for everyone.) This book has definitely earned a place on my bookshelf.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Desk Tidy - A Product, Not a Dream

desk tidy - also known as desk orgznizer

Until yesterday, I'd never heard of a desk tidy. It seems to be a British term - in the USA, we'd call it a desk organizer.

Of course, they come in a huge variety of styles. Any office supply store will have some basic ones, but they can get much more interesting - and much more expensive.

The one shown above is the Glacier desk tidy in fruitwood.

Here are some more desk tidies:
- A plastic one from Magis
- A leather one from Smythson

And some desk organizers:
- The Spin Doctor desk organizer from Levenger.
- The Bomber Jacket Unifier desk organizer, also from Levenger

Update on June 20, 2012: Many of these products are no longer available, and the links have been removed.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Globo Wall Coat Hanger from Magis

Globo wall coat hanger

Hooks are a wonderful organizing tool - easier to use than hangers. And there are all sorts of wonderful hooks available - including this one from Magis, an Italian design company with some very cool products.

Places to buy it include:
- Panik Design in the UK
- Unica Home in the USA

Update September 21, 2008: Updated the list of places to buy the hanger.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Latest Things in Waste Cans

touchless trash can

While I'm on the subject of trash cans (see yesterday's post) - the latest thing seems to be touchless cans, which use sensors to detect your hand or foot, and then open the lid.

From most expensive to least, we have the:
- I.master wastecan from Wesco (via PopGadget) - shown above
- Sensor can from simplehuman (via Uncrate)
- Touchless Trashcan (also available through Sharper Image)

OK, these are sort of neat - but the old-fashioned step cans with a foot pedal are already hands-free. So where's the real advantage of these new cans - which have the disadvantage of requiring batteries - beyond the neat-new-toy factor?

Update on Nov. 21, 2011: I'm no longer seeing the Touchless Trashcan on the Sharper Image web site.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Star Wars R2-D2 Trash Can

Star Wars R2-D2 trash can

Almost any professional organizer will tell you it's important to have enough trash cans throughout your home and/or office. But they probably never had these in mind!

My love of the absurd got triggered as soon as I saw these novel trash cans. Unfortunately, they are limited edition Japanese imported collectibles and they are now out of stock, with what sounds like slight chance of getting more. Found via Uncrate. Update on Feb. 1, 2012: I found a place you can still buy this.

Managing the Magazines

magazine rack

There sure are some beautiful magazine racks out there. Besides the lovely Antoinette Magazine Rack shown above, here are some others worth a peek:

- The Frank Lloyd Wright Lake Geneva Magazine Rack
- The Folding Magazine Rack from Gumps
- The News Magazine Rack from Chiasso (via Uncrate)

But before you focus on storage, I'd recommend focusing on how many magazines and newspapers come into your home and/or office, and if you're getting too many. A number of people have written about this in the not-so-distant past - and many of them happen to mention The New Yorker.

Jessa at Bookslut says, "I should admit to myself that I am never going to catch up on my back log of New Yorkers and just throw the damn fire hazards out."

J.D. at Get Rich Slowly talks about subscribing to numerous magazines because he got such a good price, only to find that the little bits add up, and "Basically, I’m paying $150/year for the added mental stress of having too many magazines around the house." (But he does like his New Yorker subscription.)

Alan Olifson at The Boston Phoenix also has a collection of unread New Yorkers.

I understand - I got tempted by a really good price on The New Yorker myself. But I also realized I just didn't have time to add another weekly magazine to my reading pile. I asked myself, "Would getting this magazine move me in the direction of achieving any of my lifetime goals?" - and realized that the answer was no; rather, it would take time away from things that really matter to me.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Harold Taylor's Time Management Tip

Harold Taylor made a point well worth sharing in a newsletter I received today. The essay is entitled "Choose people over things" and it includes these lines (extracted from a much longer essay):

Make a list of the people you really enjoy spending time with. How much time did you spend with those people during the past week? Last month? Last year? Chances are there are people – perhaps family members – who are being crowded out of your life because of your busyness.

Never end a conversation with a good friend by saying, "Let’s get together sometime." Instead, say, "Let’s schedule a time when we can get together." Then do it.

© 2002, 2006, Harold Taylor Time Consultants Ltd.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Do It Yourself Shelving

Do It Yourself shelving in green and purple

If you don't like the shelving options available in the stores, or you don't like their prices - and if you are handy with tools - you can always make your own and come up with something unique, as this person did. The web site has more pictures showing how the shelving got constructed and how it looked when completed.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mise en Place - for Cooking and Much More

book cover - Les Halles cookbook

I first heard the term mise en place years ago from Anthony Bourdain, in Kitchen Confidential. He explains it in more detail in his Les Halles Cookbook: "The absolute foundation of professional cooking, and the most useful thing I can teach you, is the concept of mise en place. . . . Literally speaking, mise en place means "put in place," but it is so much more than that.

For the professional, one's meez is an obsession, one's sword and shield, the only thing standing between you and chaos. If you have your meez right, you are "set up," stocked, organized, ready with everything you need and are likely to need for the tasks at hand. You know where everything is. You know how much you have. (The right amount, of course.) As a result, your mind is similarly arranged, rested, and ready to cook--a perfect mirror of your work area.

In less metaphysical terms, having your meez together means that you have cleaned and cleared your work area in advance and have assembled every item of food and every utensil and tool you will require, and put them in accessible, comfortable locations, ready for use." (He goes on to explain this even more; please see the book for the rest.)

When I read this, I thought how well it applied to so much else besides cooking. Almost every kind of project we do (paying bills, tending the garden, writing a report, decluttering the closet) goes more easily if we take the time to prepare and ensure we have everything we need at the ready.

Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project had a similar reaction.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Symbol Coat Rack

symbol coat rack with hooks that pull down

While I like whimsical products, I also like elegant ones - and this coat rack certainly fits into that category. When not in use, you wouldn't necessarily know it's a coat rack - and that was the idea.

Found through Swiss Miss.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Drip Clips - Paper Clip Whimsy

Drip Clips - blue paper clips in white sink-shaped holder

In my October 2006 newsletter I featured the extremely cute Dozi paper clip holder from Alessi.

And now I've found another product that's equally cute: Drip Clips from Fred. Update on June 21, 2014: Fred Flare has gone out of business, so these may not be available for much longer.

As IxBehemoth said on ThisNext, "I hate paperclips, but this one almost makes me want to use these contraptions again."

PLAY Shelving - and Other Easy-to-Assemble Shelving

PLAY modular storage and shelving

Popgadget introduced me to the PLAY modular storage and shelving system from movisi, which is designed to be assembled without tools or instructions.

If this sounds like a good idea, you may also want to check out other companies that make easy-to-assemble (no tools required) shelving units, including:

- Smart Furniture
- Real Simple Furniture
- Legaré Furniture

Thursday, February 15, 2007

MeBox - available at Design Within Reach

MeBox - cardboard storage box with dots to punch out to form letters, numbers, etc.

I first heard about the MeBox from Fine Living, quite some time ago.

It seemed like very neat product - cardboard storage boxes (in a variety of silk-screened colors) with a grid of perforated discs you punch out to from letters, numbers, designs, etc. However, finding it in the U.S. seemed to be a problem. (It was designed in London by Graphic Thought Facility.)

But today I got an e-mail from Design Within Reach - and they now carry the MeBox. There are a few stores not too far from me - when I'm next in their area, I'll have to go see if they seem as cool in person as they do on the internet.

Update on July 12, 2009: These are no longer available at Design Within Reach. Sigh.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Hoarding Covered in the Popular Media

Reader's Digest isn't the first place I'd expect to go to find a decent article on hoarding - but there it is the March 2007 issue.

ABC News had a respectable hoarding story back in January.

And Oprah covered hoarding back in 2004.

Clocky - For People Who Overuse the Snooze Button

Clocky alarm clock

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you probably realize that I love weird products. Not that I necessarily recommend them, but I do love seeing them and reading about them.

So now the often-wonderful popgadget has pointed me to Clocky, which must be the weirdest alarm clock I've ever seen.

As described on the product web site: The alarm clock that runs away and hides when you don't wake up. Clocky gives you one chance to get up. But if you snooze, Clocky will jump off of your nightstand and wheel around your room looking for a place to hide.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Time Management Wisdom from Brazen Careerist

One of the blogs I read regularly is Brazen Careerist, written by Penelope Trunk. Her last couple columns have included points worth repeating.

On February 12: "A lot of people send emails to me to ask about issues related to marriage. Mostly because people who have a career and young kids don’t really have time for the marriage. And they think that because I have career advice I have marriage advice. And I do, sort of: It’s very hard to do kids, career and marriage. And be on guard that often the easiest thing to let go is the marriage."

On February 11: "Many adults don’t get enough sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation, the problem particularly 'acute' among younger workers: one in three struggle to get out of bed each morning. . . . Those who get fewer than six hours of sleep a night might as well be drunk."

Sunday, February 11, 2007

It's All Too Much, by Peter Walsh

book cover, It's All Too Much

Peter Walsh got famous for his work on the TV show Clean Sweep. I heard him speak in person at the NAPO-SFBA (National Association of Professional Organizers - San Francisco Bay Area chapter) regional conference in 2005, and he was insightful and delightful.

So I'm very pleased to report that his new book, It's All Too Much, is terrific. Peter has a few main themes, including these:

- You must first "imagine the life you want to live", so you can then ensure that everything in your home will help move your life vision forward.

- "You only have the space you have" - so either move, or learn to make choices and live within the limits of your space.

- If you value an item, it should get honor and respect - not be buried in dust or shoved in a plastic bag somewhere.

Beyond the main themes, the book is filled with advice for every part of the home and all the challenges found there - books, collections, children's school and art work, etc.

And the book sounds like Peter - I can hear him speaking the words. I like a book with plenty of personality, and this one certainly has that.

Wardrobes for Kids (if you want to splurge)

painted wardrobe with pictures of cars, boat, bicycle, airplane, truck, helicopter

Ideal Home pointed me toward this hand painted wardrobe from Treehouse in the U.K. (The web site describes the product as "really unique", which drives the proofreader/editor side of me crazy - but the wardrobe is still appealing.)

Back in the USA, I've always been taken with the little lizards wardrobe.

And the ladybug armoire from Bebeform is another delightful item. The Bebeform web site includes other armoires, equally charming.

Binvention, from Sprout Design Ltd.

binvention - used to hold plastic shopping bags so the bags can hold recyclables

I'm back from Paris, where I spent a busy 16 days helping a friend get settled into her new apartment. We got the utilities taken care of, bought the big stuff (appliances, beds, table and chairs) and got it delivered, bought basic tools, bought linens and towels, and got the kitchen basics. It's been a long time since I worried about setting up a home from a totally blank starting point! While the work took up most of my days, there was still some time left for a bit of sightseeing and for visiting old friends.

While I was in Paris I picked up the magazine Ideal Home, which made me aware of some interesting products available in the U.K. One is binvention, designed to make recycling easier.