Saturday, June 30, 2007

Seating & Storage

Cynthia from The Thoughtful Consumer said the wicker hamper chair I wrote about last Wednesday was such a clever storage idea - which inspired me to write about a couple other products that combine seating and storage.

storage rocker

1. For children, there's the OFFI Rockabye Storage Rocker. [via Apartment Therapy: The Nursery]

magazine rack bench

2. And for adults, there's the n.o.l. magazine rack bench. [via 2Modern Design Talk]

Would These Bookcases Work for You?

I'm as enthralled as anyone by clever new storage solutions - but I've seen a few new bookshelves lately that just don't seem very practical.

see-saw bookcase

1. The See-Saw Bookshelf [via Better Living Through Design]


2. Quad [also via Better Living Through Design]

Piola wall bookcase

3. The Piola wall bookcase [via Apartment Therapy: Los Angeles, which comments "like Tetris for your bound collection."]

Anyone else have thoughts about these?

Creative Storage: A Bun Rack Holds Clothes

Today's San Francisco Chronicle has a story about someone's small (250-sq-ft) home; the owner uses an "off-the-shelf aluminum bun rack with eight drawers in 1/2-inch Russian birch" to store his clothes (other than those that hang).

I love the idea of finding a good storage solution typically used in one venue (in this case, restaurants and bakeries) and using it in a totally new way.

To-Do List with Octopus

to-do list with picture of octopus, by Susie Ghahremani

For fans of paper tools and good graphic design: illustrator Susie Ghahremani at has a fun to-do list, printed on recycled stock.

Related post: Paper Tools can be Perfectly Fine

Image used by permission.

[via Cool Mom Picks]

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Don't Skimp on Your Sleep

sleeping baby

This is a reminder to me as much as to any of you: make time to get enough sleep. I love my work (and my friends, my family, my cats, my reading time, etc.) - so it can get tempting to get up early and stay up late, trying to cram in as much as possible.

The problem is that skimping on sleep endangers my health - and also means I'm less alert, less creative - generally, just less than my best. And that doesn't serve anyone well. Instead of trying to do more and more, I'm better off focusing on my priorities - and make sure sleep gets the proper priority!

Here are some recent writings on the importance of getting enough sleep:

Susan Sabo at Productivity Cafe has some interesting statistics on the adverse affects of sleep deprivation.

Gretchen at The Happiness Project urges us to get more sleep. She writes, in part, "Studies show that people get accustomed to being sleep-deprived. At first, they notice the effect on their mood and alertness, but before long, they adjust to that state as normal. So even if you insist that you feel fine, if you got more sleep, you might feel a lot better."

In his 2007 book, Breathing Space, Jeff Davidson points to a 1990 Time magazine cover story entitled "Drowsy America." Just a couple quotes from that article:

"Sleepiness is one of the least recognized sources of disability in our society," declares Dr. Charles Pollak, head of the sleep-disorder center at Cornell University's New York Hospital in Westchester County. "It doesn't make it difficult to walk, see or hear. But people who don't get enough sleep can't think, they can't make appropriate judgments, they can't maintain long attention spans."

"Most Americans no longer know what it feels like to be fully alert," contends Dr. William Dement, director of Stanford University's sleep center.

[photo by rabble]

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

7 Special Laundry Hampers

pile of laundry

Want the dirty clothes to wind up in a clothes hamper, rather than on the floor? Make sure everyone has a very convenient hamper to use! Here are just a few of the many many options - ones that are a bit more unusual than what you'll find at places like The Container Store or Target.

birch laundry hamper

1. For my colleague John Trosko at OrganizingLA, who loves wood products, I'm listing these birch laundry bins from the U.K. first. [via Apartment Therapy] Update on July 29, 2011: I'm no longer seeing this exact bin, but Heals has another nice birch laundry bin.

stainless steel laundry hamper

2. Bellacor has so many nice laundry hampers it was hard to pick just one picture. (This laundry bin is stainless steel with a wood lid.) Update on July 29, 2011: I'm no longer finding the pictured bin on the Bellacor web site, but I've linked to a site that does have it.

wicker chair with hamper

3. Fran's Wicker and Rattan Furniture has a wicker hamper chair.

hand painted laundry hamper with giraffe

4. The Well Appointed House also has many lovely options - including this handpainted laundry can. Update on July 29, 2011: Sadly, I'm no longer finding this laundry can on any web site.

rattan elephant clothes hamper

5. Home Decorators has this rattan elephant hamper - which they say would be great for a child's room. (I think there's no need to limit it to children!)

Especially for kids:

child's hamper in orange

6. The jax hamper from Nest comes in four colors (purple, orange, green and pink) and is made from organic cotton. Update on Aug. 25, 2012: I'm no longer finding this hamper.

child's hamper with lion design

7. The Hungry Hampers from Whitney Design were featured in my November 2006 newsletter - and I'm still enchanted by them. Update on July 29, 2011: Whitney Design is no more — now we have Household Essentials. And these hampers are getting hard to find, although I did find one.

[first photo by Az Jade]

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

6 Options for Storing Your Purses


Once you've sorted through your purses and have carefully decided which to save, you can then look at how best to store them.

Here are some products meant specifically for purse storage. (Of course, you could easily use non-purse-specific options - a drawer in a dresser, an under-bed storage box, simple hooks, etc.)

KangaRoom hanging purse organizer

1. The Hanging Purse Organizer from KangaRoom. Update on Jan. 3, 2010: This product is no longer on the KangaRoom web site.

clear vinyl hanging handbag file

2. The 8-Pocket Clear Vinyl Handbag File available at The Container Store

handbag storage cube

3. The Shoe & Handbag Storage Cube, also at The Container Store Update on Dec. 1, 2009 - The Container Store no longer has this product.

clear purse box

4. Another type of clear purse box
Update on August 6, 2016: I'm no longer finding this product

park-a-purse organizer

5. The Park-A-Purse Organizer

purse rack

6. The Purse Rack from Davison, available at Hanger City and many other places. Update on April 5, 2012: Hanger City has been folded into, which doesn't seem to carry this product, but Organize-It is one place you can buy it.

[illustration from Bloom Designs, where you can find some lovely stationery]

7 Strategies for Getting Organized

Over at Dumb Little Man, Leo Babuata (author of zen habits) has written an excellent article entitled 7 Secrets of the Super Organized. Don't let that title throw you - you don't have to aspire to be "super organized" to find Leo's advice worthwhile. And while his suggestions aren't exactly secrets - you can find the same advice many other places - he's done an excellent job of presenting some key concepts.

One short quote: "If you have a closet crammed full of stuff, sure, you can buy a bunch of closet organizers, but in the end, you'll still have a closet crammed full of stuff."

Monday, June 25, 2007

Do You Know Where Your Years Are Going?

individual month pages from a calendar, arranged in a circle

In his book Breathing Space, Jeff Davidson points out the following: During a work life of forty-eight years (between ages twenty-two and seventy), any activity that you engage in for an average of thirty minutes each day consumes one complete year of your life.

OK, that's just basic math - but it sure gave me pause.

Some ways many of us spend time:

Exclusive Contents Internet Marketing Blog writes that Clarissa Rodriguez, a productivity architect, was quoted in the Boston Herald's Women's Business section in June 2006 about time spent handling e-mail. She said, "On average, employees spend two hours per day reading and responding to unproductive, low importance messages. That’s a hefty 12 weeks a year. What would you and your employees each do with an extra 480 hours this year? Next year?"

And then there's the time we spend watching TV.

Related Post: Doing What I Should Be Doing

[photo by tanakawho]

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Tim Ferriss De-Clutters

From The 4-Hour Workweek (the chapter on mini-retirements), by Timothy Ferriss:

. . . I realized a few things: I would never reread the business magazines I'd saved, I wore the same five shirts and four pairs of pants 90% of the time . . . and I never used the outdoor grill or lawn furniture.

Even getting rid of things I never used proved to be like a capitalist short-circuit. It was hard to toss things I had once thought were valuable enough to spend money on. The first ten minutes of sorting through clothing was like choosing which child of mine should live or die.

. . . Once I'd passed through the first few tough decisions, though, the momentum had built and it was a breeze. . . . I gave the grill and lawn furniture to my friend, who lit up like like a kid at Christmas. I had made his month.

. . . I created 40% more space in my apartment . . . It wasn't the extra physical space that I felt most. It was the extra mental space.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Clearing Out the Bookshelves

bookshelves filled with books

Jon Carroll has a wonderful column in the San Francisco Chronicle about clearing out his bookshelves. Just a couple quotes, which illustrate two good reasons for deciding to part with a book:

"The Keep" by Jennifer Egan. A hard call. I liked the book a lot; I would recommend that you read it. Apparently, her "Look at Me" is an even better book, and gosh darn it I'm going to read it someday. But this is not an awards ceremony; this is a housecleaning. What are the odds I will read this book again? Zero. Does it have any sentimental value? Nope. Is the author likely to come to my home and surreptitiously look at my bookshelves? If only. So someone else should get a chance to read this book, and I should get 1 more inch of shelf space.

"The Map of Love" by Ahdaf Soueif. Booker Prize finalist! "Intensely engaging" -- New York Times Book Review. "An intense, impressive love story set in turn-of-the-century Egypt" -- New York Daily News. "Been sitting on my nightstand for two years and I have yet to make it past Page 51" -- Jon Carroll, San Francisco Chronicle. I'm sure this is a fine book. I urge people who enjoy love stories set in turn-of-the-century Egypt to read it. But I must break through my denial. I have not read it, and I will not read it, and it must be cast back into the ocean of readers, where it may find more sympathetic eyeballs.

The whole column is definitely worth a read (as are many of his columns).

[Photo by Swiv / Hannah Swithinbank]

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Book Lovers: Stop Reading Books You Don't Like

boy reading a book

Once we're out of school, most of us have the luxury of only reading what we want to read. So I want to encourage you to stop reading any book at any point if you don't find it interesting enough. Our reading time is limited and precious; why fill it with books we're not enjoying?

Steve Leveen has a great article (no longer online as of June 14, 2019) entitled Giving Up on Books, where (among other things) he writes about the 50-page rule that some use: "If the book hasn’t grabbed them by then, they give it the heave-ho."

On Matt's Idea Blog, commenter Karen S. says: I've decided to stop reading a book anywhere from the first page to 10% from the end. As soon as I realize "I don't care" what else the author has to say, I stop.

And Neil Aquino, in his blog TexasLiberal, has a nice little post entitled It's OK to Stop Reading a Book in the Middle.

In the wonderful New York Times article Divorce That Book, author Laura Miller speaks with a number of authors about their own reading habits, and when they give up on a book. Just one of my favorites: Diane Johnson, author of "Le Divorce," writes via e-mail. "I quite often lose books, leave them on buses or whatever," which she interprets as her unconscious relieving her of a duty when her conscious mind is playing the martinet.

And in response to that NYT article, reader Kitty Burns Flore writes that after shelling out $12-30 for a book, she feels compelled to try to finish it. But as even she admits, " the end, you've wasted not only a chunk of cash but too many precious hours as well."

[photo from Old Shoe Woman / Judy Baxter]

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Joy of Saying No

The July 2007 Reader's Digest has an article entitled Find More Time. I'm not thrilled with that title - since there's no more time to be found, just better choices to be made about how we use that time. The article has solid advice, but is certainly far from the best I've read.

But I did like this part, from one woman who had been coached about taking on too much and the importance of saying no to some requests: No became my favorite word. I was amazed how much extra time I had once I said, "Sorry, I can't do that." A relative wanted to have a baby shower at my house, which meant I'd have to reschedule my plans, so I said, "That doesn't work for me." It was so empowering!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Product Finds, Courtesy of Margaret Hiatt

portable gift wrap center

Margaret Hiatt of On Call Organizing Services, LLC in Portland, Oregon just made me aware of two interesting products.

1. The portable gift wrap center, for those who are really into gift wrapping. It holds 36 rolls of paper, along with ribbon, bows, gift bags, scissors, tape, etc. Update on May 4, 2015: I'm no longer finding this product.

2. The Hanging Catalog / Magazine Holder, for those who want to store catalogs or magazines in their file drawers rather than in a magazine holder.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Rainbow Organizer Carts

organizer carts with trays in a rainbow of colors

Are you a visual person who finds that file cabinets and drawers don't work well for you - but leaving things out in stacks doesn't work, either? Then one of these rainbow organizer carts might be useful.

Each drawer is 11 1/4"W x 15"D - a nice size for the larger-than-letter-size papers we sometimes have to deal with.

I've had two clients use the 10-drawer version, for very different purposes, and they were a big hit. Just be sure to label the drawers!

Bins and Crates from Discarded Materials

flip flop bins - round

VivaTerra has bins (both rectangular and round) made from leftover flip-flop material. [via Apartment Therapy: New York]


And SCRAPILE has these stunning crates made from discarded scraps of wood from New York's woodworking industry.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Father's Day Gifts

Jeri Dansky's father, on her couch

Sunday is Father's Day here in the U.S. - and the San Francisco Chronicle points out that stores are selling "horrible collections of gifts for Dad."

If you want to ensure any gift you give does not become clutter, you can check my list of suggestions. (Recommendations for additions to the list are always welcome.)

And has this suggestion: Sometimes it's difficult to find the perfect gift ideas that say, "I love you dad, and I appreciate all the sacrifices you've made for me." This year, forget about the tacky tie, and give your father a gift that he'll truly appreciate.

Finding a gift is quite simple; just think of all the activities your father enjoys, then surprise him by planning a full day together. The gift will show your appreciation, but it's the time spent together that will be the icing on the cake.

[photo: my dad]

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Your Call is Very Important to Us

man on telephone

One way we all hate to spend time is working our way through phone trees until we can finally get a human being to talk to - hopefully one who can help us. Some people dread making these calls so much they procrastinate almost endlessly.

Getting Through to a Human Being has both general tips for reaching a human and specific instructions for reaching human customer service at companies from AAA to Wisconsin Electric.

Another alternative is Bringo - a service that will navigate the phone tree at 171 different companies for you. [via The Red Ferret Journal]

You've Got Human Customer Service - Now What?

Want to be more effective in communicating with customer service? The Red Tape Chronicles provides advice. [via The Consumerist]

Want to disconnect a service? Boing Boing provides tips on how to make such calls more effectively. (If you're calling during the day, you might want to hang up and call back in the middle of the night.)

[photo from Mylor at Flickr]

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Paper Tools can be Perfectly Fine

To Do list - blank

I sometimes have clients who tell me, apologetically, that they use paper to-do lists, calendars, and/or address books. And I tell them that if those paper-based tools are working well for them, I don't see a problem.

The biggest concern I see in using paper systems is the almost-certain lack of any back-up; it's the very rare person who makes a photocopy of his or her paper address book! One thing that's certainly worth doing is putting your contact information in your planners, address books, notebooks, etc. - so if you leave one of these behind somewhere, the person finding it has a way to reach you.

A number of people who are very tech-oriented still use at least some paper tools.

Web Worker Daily presented five reasons to use a paper to do list back in November 2006 - and updated it with six more reasons this past April.

Wendy Boswell, at Lifehacker, in her pointer to Web Worker Daily, speaks of her own "wholehearted re-embrace of the paper list."

Penelope Trunk at Brazen Careerist says, "I am a list writer. I do it by hand. Every day." She also notes the importance of good paper and good pens.

And Mike Rohde at Rohdesign writes, in a post entitled Paper Planner Longings: Yesterday, the latest Franklin-Covey catalog appeared in our mailbox, activating a curious longing for the paper planner days of old. I admit it — I miss the feeling of writing on paper, handling a nice leather binder — the physicality of keeping my time, addresses and notes in the old fashioned way.

Related Post: Paper or Electronic Planner?

[To Do Pad photo from Knock Knock]

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dealing with the Darn Lids

lots of pan lids

One of the challenges of kitchen cabinet organizing is how to best store pots and pans with lids. Here are a few ways to handle that.

1. Susan Pinsky, in her book Organizing Solutions for People with Attention Deficit Disorder, recommends the following: "Reduce your collection to four or six of your most used pots . . . If you have culled your collection down to four, it should not pose much of a problem to find a cabinet . . . where all your pots can fit side by side, no pan in front of or blocking another, and no pot stacked on another. Storing your pots un-nested, side by side, will also allow you to store pot lids directly on the pots - a method that will forever simplify your life."

The New York Times had an article back in May that also posits that four to six pots and pans are enough. The author also suggests that you might not need individual lids for all of them!


2. You can use the Pantree organizer, which also allows you to store pans with the lids on them.

Rubbermaid lid rack

3. If storing the lids on the pans won't work for you, you might want a lid rack. (Update August 9, 2009: That original picture is a Rubbermaid product, which I'm not seeing any more. But you can get other similar products.)

roll-out lid rack

4. For ease of access, you can install a roll-out lid rack. (Here's another version.)

lid rack mounted on cabinet door

5. To save more space, you can get a cabinet door lid rack.

6. You could also use something as simple as a dishpan to hold the lids.

7. And here's a creative idea: use a towel rack!

[First photo by Stitch, from Flickr]

Monday, June 11, 2007

10 Ways to Store the Balls for Various Sports

footballs, soccer balls, etc.

Basketballs, soccer balls, volleyballs, etc. - how are you going to store all of these? Here are some of the options.

As Barry Izsak points out in his book Organize Your Garage . . . In No Time, the first decision is whether to store all the balls together, or store all the equipment from one sport together.

If you choose to store all the balls together, Barry notes you can use a garbage pail, milk crate, or laundry basket. But there are also a number of products designed specifically for ball storage.

ball trolley

1. The Children's Factory has a ball trolley designed for all sorts of playground balls.

ball rack

2. There are many choices when it comes to basic ball racks. (Yes, the ball trolley looks a lot like the ball rack.)

vertical ball rack

3. Rubbermaid makes a vertical ball rack.

ball cage or ball locker

4. Ball cages or ball lockers provide lockable storage.

mobile ball storage

5. Some storage options are designed to be rolled around - as with this Reach the Beach Wonder Wheeler.

ball claw with football

6. And some options are meant specifically for wall mounting, such as the Ball Claw, where each claw holds a single ball. There are four versions - for footballs, soccer balls, basketballs, and volleyballs.

GarageTek samall ball holder with football

7. When you buy an upscale system from GarageTek, individual ball holders are also an option. These holders come in small, medium, and large sizes.

Racor ball rack

8. Another wall-mounted option comes from Racor.

Rubbermaid sports station

9. And there are a number of multi-purpose sports equipment organizers which include ball storage, such as the Sports Station from Rubbermaid.

10. Wall-mounted sports racks (including ball storage) are also available.

[First picture from Outdoor Fun Store; they sell ball storage products, too.]

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Organizing for Travel: The Packing List

packing list written in spiral notebook

I have a huge travel bug, and have taken a fair number of trips to Europe and Asia. One thing that I've done for years is maintained a packing list, so I remember what worked well for me on prior trips, and don't forget as I pack for the next one. Even though I pack on the light side, it's easy to overlook something. Why rely on my memory when a list can do the job so much better?

Yes, in many (but not all) places you can buy almost anything you forgot - and if you forgot something like toothpaste, it really isn't an issue. But if I forgot my nice small binoculars that are great for seeing detail up high on churches and such, getting a replacement would either mean spending a chunk of change, or getting something nowhere as nice as what I already own. And things like prescription medicines can be time-consuming and expensive to get when abroad.

Here are some packing lists from various web sites that you might find useful as a starting point. And if you'd like me to e-mail my personal list to you, just let me know.

The Universal Packing List has you enter a bit of information (gender, whether or not you wash your own clothes, the expected temperatures where you will be traveling, etc.) and then creates the appropriate list.

Rick Steves' Packing List is a decent generic packing list for people traveling in his somewhat-budget style.

And Wikitravel has an article designed to help you create your own packing list.

[photo from Angel on Flickr]

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Marc Andreessen on Personal Productivity

For those who don't know the name, Marc was the co-creator of the Mosaic browser - the precursor of the browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.) that we all use today. It was pretty darn amazing.

Anyway, Marc has written an intriguing Guide to Personal Productivity. Not all of his ideas will work for everyone - but I'd guess that at least one of his ideas will resonate with you. Here are just a few that I liked:

Each night before you go to bed, prepare a 3x5 index card with a short list of 3 to 5 things that you will do the next day. And then, the next day, do those things.

Strategic Incompetence: The best way to to make sure that you are never asked to do something again is to royally screw it up the first time you are asked to do it. Or, better yet, just say you know you will royally screw it up -- maintain a strong voice and a clear gaze, and you'll probably get off the hook. . . . Organizing the company picnic, sending faxes or Fedexes, negotiating with insurance brokers, writing in plain English... the list of things at which one can be strategically incompetent is nearly endless.

Only agree to new commitments when both your head and your heart say yes.

[via Lifehacker]

Monday, June 4, 2007

How Much is That Doggy on the Desktop?

desk organizer in red leather, dog shaped

There are all sorts of desk organizers - but few as cute as this one. And it's made from 100% reconstituted leather (completely recycled refuse material). Available in red, orange, and green - for $75.

Related post:
Desk Tidy - A Product, not a Dream

Other cute office supplies:
Drip Clips