Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tiny Little Baskets

two small pink baskets; one has a stuffed monkey inside

I'm getting ready for a short four-day vacation to visit a dear friend, so this is a quick little post and you won't see anything for a few days.

But take a look at these lovely little baskets, made in Glasgow from recycled thread. Thanks to the person behind tiny little stitches for her Etsy store, showcasing the knitted items made by her mum.

The larger of the two baskets is 13 cm tall and wide - a smidgen more than 5 inches.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Update: How to NOT Lose Your Eyelasses

box holding three pairs of glasses

Do you misplace your glasses - putting them in danger of being not just lost, but stepped upon or otherwise squished? Since I last wrote about eyeglass holders, I've found some more interesting options.

The Jewelry Box Connection has some attractive boxes - plain or patterned, in a number of colors - that hold three pairs of glasses.

eyeglass holder in shape of a face

Bright Hope International provides this soapstone eyeglass holder made in Kenya; you can get the same design in wood, too.

two eyeglass holders, in tapestry and vinyl

For a more prosaic option, see these holders (in tapestry or black vinyl) from Miles Kimball.

two cat-shaped eyeglass holders

And then there are the Optipets (Opticat and Optipup) from Visipak Gifts, seemingly intended for displays in eyeglass stores, but also available for individual purchase (rather than in cases of 12) from and Eye Care Fashion.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Wearing Black: The Benefits of a Simplified Wardrobe

Neil Gaiman, wearing black

In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz writes of how many choices we face every day, and how that can be a curse rather than a blessing; freedom of choice can become "tyranny of choice."

I thought of that today while reading author Neil Gaiman's journal, where he writes about the simplicity of black:
You know, the main reason I've been wearing more or less the same thing for about 20 years is that I don't ever have to wonder what to wear. It makes life easy.

My assistant Lorraine just asked me what I wanted to wear to the Beowulf premieres in the UK and the US and I realised with a sort of creeping horror that I didn't know. I already wore a tuxedo-and-bow-tie to the US Stardust Premiere, and I wore a leather jacket black tee shirt and and black jeans to the UK Stardust premiere. That pretty much completely exhausts my range.
In ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life, authors Judith Kolberg and Kathleen Nadeau also write about organizing your wardrobe around one color. They give the example of a woman, Karen, whose winter wardrobe uses black as the central (but not the only) color.
"Simplifying my wardrobe has brought many benefits," says Karen. "I save money on clothes. I save time on shopping. I have more room in my closets. And the anxiety of knowing what to wear is over. I'm so much less overwhelmed."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Blog Anniversary: One Year Old

cupcake with one candle

As of yesterday, I've been writing this blog for a year - and this is post #364. It hardly seems possible!

Thank you to everyone who has provided support and encouragement, asked a question, posted a comment, or pointed me to some neat product or technique.

[photo by sluggo]

The Hook Box Hits the U.S.

hook box - ceramic hook with small storage container

The Hook Box is such a practical product! It got a lot of attention back in February on design blogs such as Apartment Therapy and Design*Sponge - but it didn't seem to be available for purchase.

But my new holiday gift catalog from Design Within Reach arrived yesterday - and there was the Hook Box. (I don't see it on their web site yet, though.)

Brace yourself for the price: $270.

Update on January 11, 2012: The Hook Box, from Bosa, is no longer available from Design Within Reach. I've only found one place to buy it: Casanova, in Denmark.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Once More: Making the Most of Children's Art

I wrote about options for preserving your child's best art work earlier this month - but now fellow organizer Jennie Glasscock from Austin has pointed me to another company that can help.

Artimus Art will create an on-line gallery of your child's art, and also produce a customized book of selected pieces.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Paper Shredders Don't Have to be Boring

Hello Kitty shredder from Sanrio; pink

Want a cute shredder? You're in luck; surprisingly, there are a number of choices. The obvious starting point for all things cute is Hello Kitty, so here's the Hello Kitty shredder from Sanrio. [Via Hello Kitty Hell] Update on June 11, 2010: This shredder is no longer shown on the Sanrio web site.

Hello Kitty shredder

And here's another Hello Kitty shredder - one that's easier to purchase for those of us who don't read Japanese. The same company also sells a Winnie-the-Pooh shredder. Update on June 11, 2010: I'm no longer finding these products, either.

cow and frog hand-cranked paper shredders

These cow and frog hand-cranked paper shredders look like fun, but I can't figure out how you'd buy them. [via Shiny Shiny] Update on Jan. 17, 2012: Here's the cow shredder, available for purchase. However, the frog is sold out.

hippo shredder

But you can get an elephant or a hippo combination shredder/pencil sharpener from a number of on-line stores, including the San Diego Zoo's store, Perpetual Kid, and Karma Kiss. Update on Jan. 17, 2012: The San Diego Zoo and Perpetual Kid no longer carry these shredders, but Karma Kiss still has the elephant.

panda shredder

Pandas are right up there with Hello Kitty on the cuteness scale - so here's a panda shredder to complete this shredder collection. (This store also sells the hippo and elephant shredders.)

Related Posts:
Oddest Shredder Ever
Staples MAILMATE Shredder
The Spoon Sisters
A Simple Shredder

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

File Folders: Moving Beyond Manila

manila file folder

Not everyone responds to color the same way - but I despise plain manila file folders. If you're like me, here are some other options.

file folders, straight cut reinforced tab, goldenrod color

1. Colored file folders. I like ones with a straight cut tab (one that runs the whole length of the folder) because I can use longer file names on the labels. I also like reinforced (also called two-ply) tabs because they are more durable. You can find some with 10% recycled content from Esselte or Smead; Smead has more choice of colors. If you want normal 1/3 cut tabs, you have many more options.

patterned file folders

2. See Jane Work has a wonderful selection of file folders from various manufacturers in all sorts of patterns, from polka dots to Paris maps.

file folders in flower and other pattern

3. The Macbeth Collection offers file folders in patterns ranging from flowers to zebra stripes. Update on Sept. 19, 2011: The Macbeth Collection no longer includes file folders.

file folders with flamingos

4. Colorful Images has over 60 file folders designs: flamingos, orchids, sea life, horses - and so much more.

blue bird file folder

5. Cavallini & Co. makes some delightful file folders with birds, butterflies, and other images. You can buy them online or at stores around the world.

die cut file folders with dots, bright colors

6. Current has these dots die cut file folders. Update on Oct. 8, 2012: Current doesn't seem to have these folders any more, although it does have a number of other choices.

file folders, one with flowers and two with coordinated solid colors

7. Papersource has some nice file folder sets with patterns and matching solid colors.

file folder floral autumn colors

8. Gina B. Designs has eight different file folder patterns, and you can buy them online. Update on Sept. 19, 2011: Gina B. Designs no longer sells file folders.

file folder with French chickens

9. Blueink Studios has some wonderful folders - these French chickens are my favorites, but patterns include florals, cats, dogs and much more.

file folders with geishas

10. Punch Studio makes two types of folders: Mary Engelbreit drawings and the dreamier kinds of pictures shown above. You can buy them at CreateForLess. Rose Lane Cottage also carries some of them - as well as a number of other attractive folders, including the ones from Blueink Studios. Mary Engelbreit file folders can also be bought on her own web site. Update on Sept. 19, 2011: Rose Lane Cottage seems to have disappeared. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Smith & Hawken Wants You to Get Organized

Smith & Hawken ad for fall clean-up; chalkboard to-do list has Get Organized as number one

When I saw the above on the Smith & Hawken home page a few weeks ago, I got curious as to what organizing-related products they might sell. And while Smith & Hawken will never be a major source of such supplies, they did have a few nice items.

chicken coop cubbies

These chicken coop cubbies were one item that caught my eye. (You can also get chicken coop cubbies from Sundance.) Update on August 19, 2011: Sundance no longer sells this these cubbies.

deluxe cedar hutch

There are a couple of nice cedar hutches intended for storing garden tools. That's the deluxe version; there's also a single hutch which is just the part to the right in the picture above.

Christmas tree storage bag

And Smith & Hawken is one of many places you can buy tree, garland, and wreath storage bags. Amazingly enough, Smith & Hawken didn't manage to fit their red wellies into this picture.

Update on July 10, 2009: Smith & Hawken is going out of business, and is no longer taking internet orders - so the original links to these products no longer work. You may still be able to buy products at the stores.

Be Your Own Professional Organizer, Part 2: Containerize

decorative candy box
Containers (of all sorts) are some of your best friends when getting organized. They help you make the most of your space, and make it easier to get your hands on the item you want.

Containers come in many forms, including:
- Plastic bins
- Canisters
- Baskets
- Tins
- Bookshelves
- Filing cabinets
- File folders
- 3-ring binders and lever arch binders
- Closets
- Cabinets and drawers
- Wine racks
- Tool and tackle boxes

Here are a few things to keep in mind when selecting containers.

1. Try to keep containers only about 75% full. It's much easier to pull something out and put something away if the container isn't close to overflowing! That applies to clothes closet rods, file cabinet drawers, etc.

2. When space is an issue, square containers make better use of that space than do round ones. Consider that when picking your food storage containers.

3. Containers can provide us with self-limiting mechanisms. Personally, I only have so much bookshelf space (and it's a goodly amount); if I get more books than will fit, I need to move some along. Similarly, I have a box for old letters I want to keep - and that's all the space I'm dedicating to those letters.

4. You don't necessarily have to buy new containers - and you can be creative! Shoe boxes and such can work fine sometimes. I've used gift bags as containers in someone's kitchen. A fancy candy box from Joseph Schmidt (see example above) holds name tags and such right by my front door, so I can grab what I need as I leave home.

5. If you do buy new containers, there are more and more green options: products made from recycled materials, for example.

6. If you are storing things for posterity (photos, children's art, your wedding gown, etc.) be sure to pick appropriate containers. Spending the additional money for archival quality products can be a good investment.

Related Post:
Part 1: Decide What to Keep

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Electronics Recycling Gets Interesting

rabbit, mascot of the Rabbit Amnesty program

Within the European Union, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive makes producers of electronics more responsible for proper disposal. In the UK, regulations went into effect this year.

When we think about electronics recycling, most of us think about computers, televisions, and similar items.

But LoveHoney reminds us that vibrators are electronics, too - and they have a special Rabbit Amnesty program set up for recycling of their rabbit vibrators. (There's no word about recycling of the other vibrators they sell.)

There's a fun video at Gizmodo Australia where a rabbit explains all about the program, including the half-price off on a replacement vibrator, and the donation made to the World Land Trust for each vibrator recycled through the program. No pictures of vibrators - just the rabbit.

[via Ideal Bite]

What's That Old Flag Stamp Worth?

four different U.S. nondenominated stamps

In the course of decluttering, it's common to find old stamps with no postage value printed on them. The official term for these is nondenominated, and the U.S. post office has a web site listing these stamps and their value. [Thanks to fellow organizer Susan Kousek for the pointer.] also has this information - with nicer pictures of the stamps.

October 21 update: In the UK, non-denominated stamps are known as non-value indicators, or NVIs. But those in the UK don't need to worry about the stamps' value. As points out, "When NVI’s were first introduced, stamps inscribed 1st sold for 19p. They can still be used today for that service, although the rate for first-class mail as this is written in 2004 is 28p." The new U.S. Forever stamp works the same way as British NVIs.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Three Tips for Getting Your Time in Balance

book cover, Nothing's Too Small to Make a Difference

I've been reading Nothing's Too Small to Make a Difference, by Wanda Urbanska and Frank Levering; here are three concepts I'd like to share.

1. Margin

"The accelerated pace of our lives - along with the lack of what Wisconsin physician and author Richard A. Swenson calls 'margin' - has become an accepted fact of modern life. Margin is a mental, physical, and emotional condition that is the opposite of overload. It is that cushion of time that allows us to maneuver gracefully through our lives; it is the reserve of energy, emotion, and time held for unanticipated situations and crises."

2. Pauses

"We used to call them breaks. Coffee breaks. Lunch breaks. . . . at least get out of your chair and stretch for a few minutes several times a day. Get out on the street and walk around the building. Any pause out of your day will be helpful."

3. Picking Your Spots

For all of us who tend to want to read and learn about everything, quoting journalism professor and executive editor of the Business Journal, Justin Catanoso - and commenting on his approach:

"One of his techniques is to write off sections of the world. 'I know it sounds callous, but I just don't follow South America, for instance. So I don't read articles about that area. On the foreign front, I follow the Mideast closely.' Allow yourself permission not to know something about everything. Freely admit to gaps in your knowledge. Follow closely your areas of interest."

Small Space Organizing: Living in a Bus

bus named Odyssey - interior

You think you have space constraints? Try making your home in a bus! When reader Louise commented on an earlier post, I found the blog that she and Sean use to keep friends and family updated about their travels.

While the travel stories are great fun to read, there are also a number of reflections on making the most of a small space, especially on Small Space Saturdays. But the following was part of a much longer post Sean wrote for Blog Action Day:
Living in a 300 square foot space means that one simply can not accumulate "stuff." If I buy three new shirts, then three old shirts have to go to the Goodwill (or the trash -- I tend to wear my clothes out). When we bought a new pot recently, the old one went on eBay.

Since we have mostly nice things, and we are mostly happy with them, the idea of giving or throwing them away is a powerful disincentive to bringing anything different into our lives. As a consequence, we have generally "checked out" of the American consumer culture. We simply do not buy very much "stuff." When we do, it is a real treat -- I just bought a new GPS to replace a five-year-old unit that wouldn't fit where I needed it (the old one, and all its clunky accessories, was sold on eBay). Louise treated herself to new towels for her birthday yesterday (the old ones will be donated someplace).
Best wishes to Sean and Louise - maybe I'll get to meet them someday if they swing by their old stomping grounds out here in California.

Update on May 2, 2012: I DID get to meet Louise on one of their visits here!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Leaving Your Shoes at the Door

stone with carving - picture of feet, and the words kindly remove your shoes

Whether you have an official shoes off policy (a growing trend) or just tend to kick them off at the doorway, you don't want the shoes to sit in an unruly pile. Here are some of the options for entryway shoe storage.

Wall-Mounted Shoes Racks

floating shoe rack from j-me

1. From j-me in London comes this rack that lets you shoes float above the floor; available in two lengths. You can buy it in the U.S. from a number of vendors, including Generate. If the dimensions aren't quite right for your space, you can follow Megan's lead and make your own. [via swissmiss]

shoe rack in the shape of feet
2. Charlotte Tangye Design also does a fun wall-mounted shoe rack. They are made in England, but worldwide shipping is available.

Wood Shoe Racks and Shelves

stackable mahogany shoe rack shelves

3. When it comes to basic shoes racks, these mahogany shelves from Frontgate are some of the most attractive I'm seen. Update on Jan. 1, 2012: Frontgate no longer carries these shelves, although it has another shoe rack. But this seems to be the Neu Home stackable shoe rack, which is available many places; here's just one.

oak shoe and boot rack - poles to place shoes on

4. This solid oak shoe and boot rack comes from Brundlefly.

Benches with Shoe Storage

boot bench

5. Brookstone has this boot bench, which also has a place for scarves, gloves and such. Update on Jan. 1, 2012: Brookstone no longer has this boot bench, but it does have a shoe storage bench.

bench with shoe cubbies

6. Home Decorators has a number of benches with shoe cubbies. Update on Jan. 1, 2012: Home Decorators no longer has this bench, although it has others such as this one.

foldable cedar bench and shoe rack

7. Problem Solvers has this cedar bench and shoe rack, which folds for easy storage.

tilt-out shoe storage bench

8. Here's a bench with tilt-out shoe storage, from Touch of Class.

Tansu style shoe storage bench

9. If you want your shoe bench to be a real work of art, look at the tansu style wood benches from Woodistry.

More Options

storage cubbies - for shoes or a wide range of other things

10. Brookstone has storage cubbies that could be used for shoes - and used for something else at a future time. Update on August 6, 2017: Brookstone no longer carries this product.

shoe storage cabinet with interior cubbies, Craftsman

11. Home Decorators sells a Craftsman shoe storage cabinet.

shoe storage tansu

12. And if you want top of the line, you can get a custom shoe storage tansu from Berkeley Mills.

Just for Fun

white markers on blue carpet, showing where shoes go

13. Felis de Pass bring us shoeparking - a sticker stuck to the floor, giving the shoes an assigned parking spot.

shoe bench with cat

14. Green Tea Design calls this a shoe bench, and it seems to be a lovely piece - but what attracted my eye was the cat.

[stone sold by StoneWise]

Monday, October 15, 2007

Environmental Tip: Mothballs, Be Gone!


Today is Blog Action Day, uniting bloggers around the world in writing about the environment.

When Dosh Dosh pointed me to The Daily Green, and I saw the July tip that explains why mothballs are such a bad idea, I knew I had my topic for today. Who wants to bring such nasty chemicals into his or her home? The tip also lists the many alternatives that can be used.

Martha Stewart also weighs in against mothballs, saying, "These can thwart infestations but come with many drawbacks, so you're probably better off without them."

Furthermore, Martha points out that "nothing discourages clothes moths and carpet beetles more than keeping your woolen items clean and storing them correctly." "Before you pack up winter clothing for storage, wash or dry-clean garments that have been worn. This rids them of moth and beetle eggs and also eliminates perspiration remnants and food spills, which attract and nourish pests."

Purdue University notes that mothballs can be especially dangerous to children. The ASPCA warns that mothballs can be poisonous to animals.

And remember that mothballs are considered a hazardous waste - so if you need to get rid of some, please dispose of them properly.

More environmental posts:
Donating and Recycling
Green Alternatives

[image from The Monster in the Closet, at Environmental Health Perspectives]