Friday, August 31, 2007

LEGO Storage Goes Upscale (and Very Cool)

LEGO stacking bin - storage shaped like a LEGO brick

Want to store your LEGOs in real style? Here's your product - the LEGO stacking bin - available in green and red.

The folks at the International LEGO Users Group Network, a global community of LEGO enthusiasts, seem to agree the product is very nifty and appears to be well made - but the price of $149.99 will stop many of them from buying it.

[via Apartment Therapy: Nursery]

Handy Hold All - for Purses and More

3 samples of the Handy Hold All - a fabric strip with loops

While researching hooks and other use-the-walls storage options for reader Christie, I came across the Handy Hold All from Simply Sarah Shaw, available in 24 patterns. It's meant for storing handbags, baseball caps, and scarves. There are seven loops on each hanger, and they say each loop can hold multiple items. (But that might look awfully cluttered . . .)

However, some commenters on Apartment Therapy are emphatic that you should never hang a purse, because it's bad for the straps - and that make sense. But Sarah Shaw is also a handbag designer, so you wouldn't think she'd sell something that wasn't good for the bags.

Whether or not you think this would be good for your purses, I can see a number of other uses. What about this as a way to store those pretty gift bags, for example? Or use those pretty gift bags to store something else inside!

Related Post: 6 Options for Storing Your Purses

Are You a Clutter Control Freak?

Clutter Control Freak Blog

I'm now an expert contributor at the Clutter Control Freak blog! This is the blog for Stacks and Stacks, a company that sells a wide range of storage and organizational products. I'll be writing over there about once a week; my first post is Seven Hacks for the Incoming Paper Avalanche.

While I usually write about more unusual organizing products, it's worth noting that you can often find the product you need in one of the following places:

- All Bright Ideas

- Get Organized!



- Organized A to Z

- Stacks and Stacks

- Storables

- The Container Store

- Your local hardware store or drugstore

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Awesome Products from Australia

products with cat image

Sometimes I find wonderful products in odd, roundabout ways.

Apartment Therapy: Chicago ran a list of favorite design magazines, and amid the comments I found a recommendation for real living, from Australia.

Well, real living has a list they call their little black book, full of places to buy items found in their pages. From following those links, I found these lovely products.

1. Storage boxes from kikki.K

As a cat lover, I was drawn to this collection, shown above: a magazine box, a ring binder, and a storage box.

Update on February 2, 2009: Sadly, these are no longer available.

2. Corban & Blair

They say this lovely album has acid-free pages and is archival quality. If this one isn't to your taste, there are a number of other options.

3. OZ Design Furniture

It was hard to pick just one storage piece to show you. This tower is made from Tasmanian Oak.

I'm sure there are many other neat products from Australia - this is just a small sample of what the country has to offer!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Green and Gorgeous Filing Options

accordion files in six colors

I don't use accordion files often - but if I were going to buy some, these gorgeous ones found at See Jane Work would get serious consideration.

Here's part of the description: "Boon Accordion Files are made from 100% pulp-free, handmade paper that is produced by a paper making program in the Philippines whose proceeds support education and a local women’s shelter. This high-quality, abaca paper is letter pressed and finished here at home . . ."

The site says they also have file folders, but I don't see them listed yet. But you can go over to the Boon web site to see all their products.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Professional Organizer Reduces Her Paper Files

tower of file cabinets against a blue sky

Swimming in paper? You're not alone! Yesterday I took a major step toward reducing my own paper - and now I'm hooked.

I'd already reviewed my paper files and eliminated the stuff that's totally unnecessary - out of date information, information readily found on-line, etc. But I still had lots of paper! Nicely organized - but close to overflowing the space I had for it.

So I started with the receipts from home improvements - necessary tax records - and gave three pieces of office equipment a good work-out.

1. My Scanner

My Fujitsu ScanSnap did a fine job of quickly creating good-quality PDFs. And I found I really liked having the information on the computer, at my fingertips. Within my Home Improvements folder I created sub-folders for each major project (1992 New Front Fence, 1994 Bathroom, etc.) so I can see at a glance when I did each project. I scanned contracts, invoices, receipts, material lists, drawings, etc.

2. My Shredder

Some of the records (such as old checks) definitely needed to be shredded. My old cross-cut shredder got yet another workout.

NOTE: Please check with your own tax accountant or attorney before deciding to shred or otherwise dispose of tax-related records.

3. My External Hard Drive

I've always tried to be good about doing frequent back-ups - I wouldn't want to lose my calendar, my contacts, my bookmarks, my e-mail, etc. But now the back-ups are more important than ever. I bought an external hard drive for back-ups some time ago, and it works well for me. I'll be ordering a second one within the next few days, so I can keep one in my safe deposit box.

Speaking of back-ups, the San Francisco Chronicle had a good story today that explained how critical they are and provided a summary of the various back-up options. You want a back-up in case of fire, theft, etc. - and also in case your computer's hard drive dies.

[photo by redjar / Jared and Corin]

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Update: Julia Child's Kitchen

pans hanging on the wall in Julia Child's kitchen

I've mentioned before that Julia Child used pegboard to hang her pots and pans. I've just found out that the Smithsonian has pictures of their re-creation of her kitchen, where you can see just how she did that.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Clothes Trees for Kids

clothes tree

Why not make it easy for kids to hang up their clothes? Hooks are one answer; these clothes trees are another.

Genius Jones has this fun clothes tree; it's available in natural birch, green and orange. [via swissmiss]

giraffe clothes tree

The Briar Patch makes hand-painted clothes trees: there's a giraffe (in natural or primary colors), a bunny, a ballerina, and a baseball player. [photo from, which has variations not shown on the Briar Patch web site: a dalmatian, a zebra, and giraffes in pink, blue, and pastels] Update on May 26, 2011: I'm no longer finding this product.

stool and coat rack combination

This coat rack/stool combination - in pony, zebra, or giraffe versions - comes from Teamson Design Corporation and can be found at Crayon Castles and, among others. Update on June 21, 2010: These are no longer available from

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Four Fanciful Hooks

owl hook

Hooks come in a huge range of styles - there's something for everyone. Here are some I've found recently that are fun without being too cutesy - at least to my taste. All the sites listed have other hooks available, too.

1. Coat Hook Owl from Decco Art in the UK.

Update on September 21, 2008: This specific hook is no longer available, but there are some other animals.

houses hook

2. House wall hooks, from Mundos in the UK. Update on Feb. 7, 2010: Mundos no longer carries this hook.

airplane hooks

3. Airplane wall hooks from The Company Store.

Update on September 21, 2008: These specific hooks are no longer available from The Company Store.

butterfly hook

4. Metal Butterfly Hook - hand cut from high quality recycled steel drums and hand painted. Made by Old World Creations, a wholesaler - I have yet to find someone who sells their red tennis shoe hook.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Six Step Stools for Short Folks (Like Me)

EZ Foldz step stool

If you're short like I am, a step stool is a critical item for reaching the upper shelves in my closets. (And I'd need it for the top shelves in my kitchen, too - except my kitchen doesn't have the higher shelves that most kitchens do.) Sure, I have my less frequently used items up high - but I still need to reach them at times!

Here are a few of the many options for step stools - excluding those meant specifically for children.

1. EZ Foldz Step Stool (shown above)

If you just need a single step and compact storage is important, consider this stool. Widely available from Ace Hardware, Miles Kimball, and, among others. (I picked these three because they provide good pictures, all different.) Tim Flanagan at Navagear says it works very well on his boat. Update on Feb. 22, 2011: It's not available on - but it's very easy to find. Here's one more testimonial.

kik step stool

2. Kik Step Stool

Apartment Therapy wrote about this one today - a design that's been around for many years. Available in many colors from many places, including Evolutionary Office and Chefs. Update on Feb. 22, 2011: The Evolutionary Office is gone - but this step stool is still widely available.

stool with handle

3. Step Stool with Support Handle

For those concerned about balance, this type of stool could be a good option. Available at FirstStreet and many other places. Update on April 1, 2014: This is no longer available at FirstStreet, but you can find similar products here and here, and a number of other places, too.

chair stool

4. Convertible Chair Stool

Here's a real retro look from Plow & Hearth. Update on April 1, 2014: I'm not finding this at Plow & Hearth any more, but here it is at Target and at

stool with storage

5. Step Stool with Storage

One of my best friends had a single step stool which doubled as a storage box, which always seemed like a good idea for small spaces. The one pictured here comes from Target; you can also get what looks to be a lovely one from Renovator's Supply. Update on Feb. 22, 2011: Target no longer has this step stool; here's a different storage step stool.

cat on cat step

6. Cat Furniture Step

And then there's what I do - use my cat step! (That's my 20+ pound Moonshadow posing for you.) Yes, I have a real step ladder in my garage for when I need to reach higher - but sometimes this little step is all I need. I am cautious when using it, since it would be easier to tip over on this than if I used a product meant to be used by people. (So this is not a recommendation that you do as I do!)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

2 Ways to Make the Most of Your Walls

pegboard holding guitars

When you don't have much storage space, making the most of your wall space can be critical. Shelves are one obvious answer, but here are a couple more.

1. Use pegboard.

The August 2007 Real Simple shows a number of ways to use pegboards throughout your home. And an older article shows how Julia Child used pegboard to hang pots and pans.

2. Use hooks to attach baskets to the wall.

That what TeamGemo did to store stuffed animals in their child's room.

[photo by Stella / snuggle up and read]

Monday, August 20, 2007

See My Home Office on Apartment Therapy

My home office was featured on Apartment Therapy: Home Tech today, under the theme of Bloggers' Workspace. If you want to see what one organizer's office looks like, head on over there.

Budget-Minded Organizing Products

boxes in two sizes

Reader Christie asks for some ideas for organizing products that fit a smaller budget than many of the products I've featured. While it's fun to note the more unusual pieces (which often come with good-sized price tags), many of us do have budget constraints!

General Strategies

First of all, a number of organizing products (anything from plastic bins to bookcases) can often be found at one of these places:
- Freecycle - a good-quality bookcase was offered on my local Freecycle just today.
- Garage/lawn/tag sales
- Thrift stores
- Dollar stores - I've bought plastic storage bins there for clients on a budget.

I imagine you could also get some good things from craigslist or eBay if you got lucky.

Coming up in price a bit, you can often find reasonable products at the local drugstore or hardware store, or at major chains such as Target or IKEA. I've had some great success with baskets from Cost Plus World Market. The picture above is their flax collapsible box, $14.99 for the large one.

A Few Interesting Products (beyond basic plastic)

1. One of my clients just bought some of these toy trolleys from The Container Store, and she's happy with them. They're made from recycled fiberboard. $19.99 each.

2. This toy organizer is currently on sale for $29.99.

3. Hooks are one of my favorite organizing tools - so easy to use. I have this turtle hook by Metalmorphosis (in a different color) by my front door to hold my key ring. They have many different designs, all for $14. Update on Sept. 14, 2010: Metalmorphosis is now Metallum Creations - and still selling hooks.


4. Schoolfolio provides a way to save your child's art for $27.95.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tired of the Same Old Storage Options?

airplane trolleys

Want something you aren't likely to see at your friend's or neighbor's home? Then look at these recycled airplane trolleys! They are available in 16 designs (some with color options) as well as a number of solid colors. You can also order them with your own custom graphics.

They come from Germany but shipping is available to a number of other countries. Shipping charges vary from 12 euros within Germany to 320 euros to Brazil.

[via Inhabitat]

Friday, August 17, 2007

10 Options for Modular Shelving

Cubo from Topdeq

Modular shelving - a series of cubes or boxes - gives you flexibility in your storage. Here are some of the many options, in a wide range of styles.

1. Many of the products use some variation of cube in their name. The shelving shown above is Cubo, from Topdeq. It's available in beech, black, white, and silver. Update on Jan. 18, 2010: Topdeq USA is out of business - but you can see the cubic products from Topdeq in France and look for the product in the other countries Topdeq still serves.

Cubitec from DWR

2. Cubitec from Design Within Reach comes in red, orange, green, blue, and translucent white. However, they do say the product is difficult to disassemble - so this is not the one to pick if you're going to want to do reconfigurations. Update on Jan. 18, 2010: This product is currently available only in orange and white.

Cubits from DWR

3. Design Within Reach also sells Cubits, which have optional doors and backs. The color choices are more limited: orange, ice, and translucent white. Apartment Therapy: San Francisco reports that you can now buy the same product from Smart Furniture; it's sold under the name Smart Cubes. Update on August 21, 2009: Design Within Reach no longer sells Cubits; Smart Furniture sells products called Cubitec, Cubits, and Smart Cubes.

Matrix Cubes from Gaiam

4. The Matrix Storage Cubes from Gaiam are made from raffia; they come in beige and black. [via Apartment Therapy: Chicago] Update on Jan. 18, 2010: Gaiam no longer has this product.

cubes from reclaimed railroad ties

5. Continuing on to another green option, VivaTerra sells cubes made from reclaimed railroad ties. Update on Jan. 18, 2010: This product is no longer sold, either.

cube from recycled office furniture

6. Green-Works in the UK sells cubes made from recycled office furniture. They have four standard sizes; custom sizes are available for orders of five or more. They're made in a variety of wood colors.

System 24 from Council

7. System 24 from Council is available in natural woods and high-gloss finishes (red, gray, and others.) It's a new company, and I'm not sure where you can buy it yet. [via]

magnetic cubes

8. Another intriguing design (with unknown availability) is the magnetic storage system designed by Airleed AG. Update on Jan. 18, 2010: I'm not finding this product anywhere.

Manche Mitchell box system

9. Back in the world of the readily purchasable, Manche Mitchell Design makes the Box System.

galvanized steel storage cube

10. The Container Store sells galvanized steel cubes, with optional doors and shelves. You can configure your own unit or buy a pre-configured one.

Related Post: PLAY Shelving - and Other Easy-to-Assemble Shelving

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Pursuit of Happiness

happy boy

Focus on the most important stuff and say no to the rest; we've all read plenty of books, articles and blog posts that encourage us along these lines.

In Crazy Busy, Edward Hallowell says, "Be sure to do what matters most to you."

In Making Time Work for You, Harold Taylor says, "Don't allow your calendar to fill up with other people's priorities while yours lie dormant on a wish list. Take charge of your life by determining what you want to accomplish . . ."
And it's all fine advice - but then I read Anne Truitt Zelenka's blog, where she quotes from Bella Tuscany by Frances Mayes:
What is replenishing? What is depleting? What takes? What gives? What wrings you out and truly, what rinses you with happiness? What comes from my own labor and creativity, regardless of what anyone else thinks of it, stays close to the natural joy we all were born with and carry always.
And I wondered if pondering "What rinses me with happiness?" would bring forth different answers than "What matters most to me?" or "What are my priorities?"

[photo by horizontal.integrati on / Jeffey]

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

There's a Cookbook Holder in Your Clothes Closet

pants hanger with clips

I just read a neat idea for a cookbook holder in The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook.

Take a pants hanger with clips and use the clips to hold the book open to the proper page. Then hang the hanger from a cabinet door knob - or install a removable hook at just the right height.

This obviously wouldn't work for big hardcover cookbooks - but it seems to work very nicely for small paperbacks. And this means the cookbook doesn't take up valuable counter space!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Going for Good Enough

Web Worker Daily wrote about satisficing today, and I wanted to join that conversation. While the term has been around a while, I first heard of it when I read The Paradox of Choice. Author Barry Schwartz explains it this way:
To satisfice is to settle for something that is good enough and not worry about the possibility that there might be something better. A satisficer has criteria and standards. She searches until she finds an item that meets those standards, and at that point, she stops.

As a recovering perfectionist, this is a concept that really resonates with me. It's easy to move beyond this shopping-based example and look at other places where satisficing might be a good approach.

Postcard writing: I still send postcards when I travel, and it was a real breakthrough when I realized that people were glad to hear from me no matter what I wrote, and each card did not need to be a literary masterpiece.

House cleaning: I don't have children - but I have cats and a busy life. I'm never going to have a perfectly clean house - I've figured out what's "good enough" for me, and I stop there.

Vacation planning: I tend to go to whatever place strikes my fancy and meets my criteria for weather, sights, etc. I don't worry about whether there may have been another place I'd enjoy even more.

Blogging: I just had this discussion with another blogger today. When do you stop fine-tuning a blog post and say, "This is good enough"?

And on that note, I think I'm done for tonight!

Related post: The 6 Styles of Procrastination

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Medicine Cabinets Don't Have to be Boring

wooden medicine cabinet

Looking for something other than the standard glass-door medicine cabinet? Here are just some of the options.

This Old House points us to the lovely handcrafted wood-framed cabinet shown above, from Wood Essentials.

blomus nexio medicine cabinet

The Nexio Medicine Cabinet by Blomus has an interesting design plus a lock.

Salute medicine cabinet - plastic

Apartment Therapy: San Francisco points us to the Salute medicine cabinet by Magis, made of Zylar, a type of plastic (with a brand name). This one also has a lock.

red medicine cabinet - Nutone

The Nutone Premier iColor Collection includes cabinets in six colors; the one above is fire red.

medicine cabinet, cross shape

And here's the most unusual one: the cross medicine cabinet designed by Thomas Ericksson for Cappellini. It's available from Unica Home (in red and white) and DesignShop UK (in five colors). Update on Jan. 2, 2012: Unica Home now carries this box in five colors, too.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Christopher Lowell on Room Dandruff

cover of Christopher Lowell's You Can Do It! Small Spaces book

The introduction to Christopher Lowell's You Can Do It! Small Spaces has quite a lot to say about eliminating clutter. Some samples:
I'm all for decorative storage, but by making containers attractive, it gives us an excuse to hold onto everything we have ever owned, whether we need it or not.

Look at every inch of your home and ask yourself, "Is that space there, where the file cabinet is, the one I haven't opened in two years, better used for something else?"

If certain objects in your home have ceased to have meaning for you, then they are just clutter, room dandruff that you accommodate rather than icons that inspire you.

Our homes are not there to preserve what we were; instead, they should become incubators for who we want to be.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Staying Organized with 6 Kids (or 9)

child and clutter

Why not learn from the experts - the people who've figured out how to keep things organized with many children? Two recent posts are filled with good advice.

21 Tips on Keeping a Simple Home with Kids, by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, who has six children himself.

Uncluttering with nine kids and all their toys by Eva Wallace, whose friend has the nine children.

[photo by hicsuget, also known as Chad]

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Too Much Storage Space?

Valet Organizers deluxe walk-in closet

Kevin Meyer has an amusing post entitled Less Storage Space Desired. Here are a few tidbits:
My mother in-law's great passion in life is looking at houses. . . . She's all about the multiple huge closets, walk-in pantries, attics and crawl spaces, sheds and oversized garages, and any other designed-in nook and cranny that can hold... stuff. What stuff? Holiday decorations, clothing, books, nick-nacks, and assorted memorabilia long since forgotten. In her opinion the more storage space the better, and the ultimate home would have a door to an alternate dimension holding another couple thousand square feet of open space (preferably with built-ins) within the confines of the house. . . .

I . . . am impressed with small closets and no pantries. The less room there is for storage, the less that will be stored. The less that is stored, the less cash that gets spent on stuff that might expire, go out of style, or disappear into boxes that may be next opened by archaeologists.

. . . the great benefit of flat screen TV's is not the great picture quality but the fact that clothes can't be stacked on top of them.

While I've seen some spaces that are truly short on storage, I've seen many more where the storage is filled with things that don't really enhance the lives of the owners. So when any of us complains about lack of storage, it's good to step back and consider if the problem is truly with the storage (as it sometimes is) or with the masses of stuff we're trying to store (as it more often is).

[Via Australian organizer Lissanne Oliver]

[picture from Valet Organizers]

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Declining Free (but Useless) Stuff

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows poster from Borders

Local San Francisco columnist Mark Morford reports on his experience turning down a free item.
Apparently, with any purchase of Rowling's final, thank-God-it's-over 20-pound doorstop, you get a free Harry Potter poster. A poster, mind you, of the exact book cover you just purchased. Because, you know, if there's one thing this book series needs, it's more promotion and hype.

As the nice cashier bagged my books, she decided to give me one more chance. "You sure you don't want it? You know it's free?" she was smiling a little sideways, not quite sure what to make of me. I couldn't quite tell if she was irritated or just a bit confused by the fact that anyone in the world would refuse anything at all, if it didn't cost anything.

"I'm sure, thanks. I really have absolutely no need for it." "Huh," she said, as if I was speaking Latin. . . .

It is, of course, the American way. We are not the slightest bit trained to care about waste, excess, the mindless accumulation of needless things. The notion of simplifying, of saying no, of intentionally and mindfully choosing to keep ourselves free of all the superfluous crap that's hurled at us by a product-drunk culture is so far from our junktastic ideology it is, as evidenced by my cashier's baffled reaction, nearly unthinkable.