Thursday, November 29, 2007

Preserving Your Child's Art Masterpieces

book cover with title Little Masterpieces

Do you have a collection of wonderful art your child has created? Looking for ways to preserve the very best? One option is to have that art turned into a book.

I've written before about companies that will do this:

- ForKeeps (Update on Sept. 17, 2011: This site has disappeared.)

- Artimus Art - creates an on-line gallery plus a book

And now I've read about one more: The Little Author. You can order either a hard cover or soft cover version. And the company can handle pictures made with stuff like Popsicle sticks and beads just fine. [via Cool Mom Picks, which provides a discount code for 10% off]

Related post: Making the Most of Children's Art

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bigger Than Which Bread Box?

armadillo bread bin

What's the best way to store your bread? All the experts seem to agree that the freezer is best for long-term storage, and the refrigerator is never a good option. But what about bread you're going to use in a day or two?

Guglhupf Bakery & Patisserie says
After 1–2 days, you may choose to transfer the bread to a sealed plastic bag to maximize freshness. The best way to store bread is to use a breadbox, preferably made of clay.
Martha Stewart says
Keep loaves at room temperature in a dark, dry place such as a drawer or bread box - sunlight can cause them to dry out and humidity induces mold. . . . Before storing, cover bread in plastic wrap, and place it in a tightly closed plastic bag. If you have baked your own bread, be sure to let it cool completely before wrapping.
Cook's Illustrated says
For store-bought bread, the plastic bag the bread came in was just as effective as any of the bread keepers we tested - just keep it on the counter. For artisanal or home-baked bread, the reusable, washable twill bag from Best was the most successful at minimizing moisture loss and keeping the crust crisp. . . . Bread boxes should not be used for primary bread storage, but they provide an alternative to keeping bags loose on the counter.
If you'd like a bread box and want one a bit out of the ordinary, the armadillo bread bin shown above would be an option. [via The Green Head]

red bread box from enameled steel

The Typhoon Retro Buick bread bin is another eye-catching option. Update on Nov. 21, 2019: Typhoon no longer makes this bred bin.

terracotta bread crock

I'd never heard of the British bread crock until a hour ago! The one shown above is from Richard Baxter.  Update on Nov. 21, 2019: Richard Baxter no longer makes these bread crocks.

under cabinet bread box

If countertop space is an issue, there's the under cabinet bread box. Update on July 9, 2009: Sadly, this product doesn't seem to be available any more.

white melamine bread box with wood top

The MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) Store has this melamine bread box where the top can serve as a cutting board. Update on July 9, 2009: This is no longer sold by MoMA. However, it seems to be the Joseph Joseph bread bin, which you can read about here.

bread box, wood and glass

Famous Parisian bread maker Lionel Poilâne has designed a bread box "especially conceived to keep a half loaf of Poilâne bread fresh"; it also serves as a cutting board.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My Own Decluttering

medicine disposal - don't flish down toilet

Yes, just like everyone else, clutter builds up in my house over time. I've just dedicated some time to clearing it out, and my home feels much better now.

Some of the things I discarded:

- Prescription medicine I stopped taking two years ago. (It's in the car for drop-off at a medicine disposal site on Thursday.)

- Perfume I bought in Provence many years ago, and wore twice.

- Cat toys that my kitties chewed up a bit and then ignored for the last year.

- Clothes that don't look good now that I've lost weight. And clothes I should never have bought - what was I thinking when I got those capris? All the clothes are in good condition, so they are going to the local thrift store.

- Lots and lots of paper: newspaper and magazine clippings, things printed off the web, old travel brochures. In some cases I now have a digital replacement (a bookmark or a file); in more cases I just realized I had no need for the information at all. That 20 year old clipping about a little undiscovered town in Hawaii isn't going to do me any good, and neither is that 15 year old restaurant review.

Monday, November 26, 2007

German Tins with Tasty Treats

tin with castle picture

A Christmas vacation in Germany some years ago introduced me to tins filled with lebkuchen (gingerbread), a traditional German Christmas treat; I still have the one I received as a gift. Now I'm noticing that a number of these available on-line. You get something good to eat plus a reusable storage container.

Haeberlein-Metzger has a number of choices, including the one shown above. Update on Nov. 27, 2009: The tins change every year, so this specific one is probably no longer available.

tin with Christmas image

Schmidt makes some nice tins - and this one is even a music box. (Novala at Lost in Transit thinks Schmidt makes the best gingerbread in the world.)

tin shaped like a truck

Lambertz also makes some wonderful tins, including this truck and some clock tins. Update on Nov. 27, 2009: I no longer see the clock tins.

oval Christmas tin

And Asbach Uralt makes a couple of oval tins. Update on Nov. 27, 2009: This tin holds chocolates, not lebkuchen.

Related Posts:
Tea Tins - Not Just for Tea
French Storage Tins

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Gift Card Giving Guide

indie bookstore gift card with picture of bookworm

In your quest to avoid gifts that become clutter, you might decide that gift cards and gift certificates are the perfect answer.

But consider this: "a survey of 1,003 adults conducted in October by the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that 27 percent of those who received gift cards during the 2006 holiday season had not used one or more of them nearly a year later." Why? They lost them, forgot about them, let them expire - or they simply didn't have time to shop, or didn't find anything they wanted to buy.

Here are some ways to become a better shopper for gift cards/certificates.

1. Gift cards/certificates still require that you think about what would please the person getting the gift. Some things to consider:

- Is the store one they would like to patronize? For example, most of my friends know I'm a big fan of independent bookstores, so a gift cards for Barnes & Noble wouldn't be a good gift for me - but an ABA gift card (which I can use at over 380 independent bookstores) would work well. (Post updated December 2008 for new ABA gift cards.)

- Will buying from the store add to someone's clutter? You may want to consider a gift card for services (a facial or a massage, for example) or for a place selling consumables (food, wine, soaps, etc.).

- Is the store nearby? If not, will the cards be accepted on-line and is the person comfortable with on-line shopping?

2. Make sure you understand any fees and expiration dates - and make sure the person getting the card understands them, too.

- Read the fine print or the terms and conditions on the vendor's web site.

- Also, understand your legal protections. In some states, such as California, fees and expiration dates are mostly illegal, but there are exceptions; for example, cards that can be used with multiple sellers (such as cards from a mall and cards issued by banks) are exempt from the law. Other states have other laws.

More information:
- Consumer Reports: Avoid gift card pitfalls
- Consumerist: Don't let your gift card scam you
- Gift Card Buy Back and The Gift Card Trader - in case someone gives you a card you don't want

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanks, But You Can Skip the Gift

poster: Gee thanks. Another new sweater

This Thanksgiving, I'd like to thank you, my readers, for all your support. I'll be enjoying the day with friends and family; I won't be shopping the holiday sales which start on-line on Thanksgiving Day, and in the stores early Friday morning.

If you want to be a more thoughtful shopper this holiday season, you might consider partaking in Buy Nothing Day this coming Friday, November 23.

If you want to take things further, there's also Buy Nothing Christmas. I'm personally not willing buy nothing, but I do want to see the new movie about Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping.

More resources for thoughtful gift giving this holiday season:
- Twelve Gifts That Won't Become Clutter
- Recycled Christmas: One Family's Revolution Against the Shopping Mall
- Your local adopt-a-family program (here's mine)

Organizing the Recipes in Three Steps

Martha Stewart blue recipe box

Thanksgiving thoughts often turn to food, and food thoughts lead to recipes. For all of us who love to cook, recipe organization can become a challenge. Here's a basic 3-step approach.

1. Decide what to keep.

2. Group like with like. This may mean salads, main courses, side dishes, desserts - or maybe you want a finer sort (meat, fish, poultry, veggie, etc.) Maybe you want
categories for everyday recipes vs. those you make for special occasions. Separating tried-and-true vs. not-yet-tested recipes is another common approach. This categorizing can be highly individualistic; pick whatever works for you.

3. Decide on the right tools for storing the recipes. Here are some of the options.

2-drawer recipe box A-M and N-Z

Recipes boxes are what I personally use. I've mentioned the ones from Cucina Tatutina before. Smith's Fine Wood Products makes recipe boxes in cherry, oak, walnut, and tiger maple; other places sell boxes made from bamboo. The Martha Stewart recipe box is the blue one shown at the top of this post, and Room Service Home sells the lovely two-drawer one. And of course there are more basic ones; I got mine at the local drugstore. Update on Feb. 15, 2011: The Room Service Home web site has disappeared.

accordion recipe file tied with a ribbon

Accordion files are another option - either generic ones, or ones designed specifically for recipes. The recipe ones come in basic brown — or in decorative styles like the one shown above, which is from Pat Richter. Update on Nov. 7, 2014: Pat's website has disappeared.

recipe binder

Recipe binders, books or journals can be made using any 3-ring or lever arch binder or something like an Itoya Profolio. And of course there are specialized products, including those from russell+hazel, Aspinal of London, Renaissance Art, and C.R. Gibson. Over on Etsy, Inky Livie sells recipe binders, too - that's hers above. Another option, suggested by Michaela Strathman, is a photo album! Update on Feb. 15, 2011: I'm no longer seeing recipe binders on Inky Livie's Etsy site.

recipe card storage called Recipe Roundabout

The recipe roundabout is an interesting option I stumbled upon recently - sort of a Rolodex for recipes. Update on Oct. 23, 2012: I'm no longer finding this product anywhere.

personalized recipe book / cookbook

Computer-based solutions, including recipe software programs, are another fine option - but there are so many choices that I won't even try to cover them. But I will mention, which uses computers to help you create a personalized cookbook, using your own recipes and/or ones from magazines like Bon Appetit. [via Popgadget]

Monday, November 19, 2007

8 Guidelines for Ethical Purchasing

logos for Buy Local - Portland and for Energystar

What are your "good," "ethical," or "moral" criteria for spending your money? That's the question someone just posed on Ask Metafilter, and the responses make good reading. While there's definitely some difference of opinion, here are some of the common threads. If we all followed these guidelines, there would be less clutter in our homes and offices.

1. Try to avoid buying stuff at all.

2. Buy second-hand stuff.

3. Buy quality.
I try not to buy crap. I do not want to encourage the market to produce crap. Junk food, inexpensive anything. If you want one, save up and buy a good one.
4. Buy locally grown and produced items; by from locally-owned companies.
I do this partly because a local company tends to put more of its money back into the community and be more responsive to local needs. As someone who works for a local company, it's also to avoid being hypocritical when I urge others to do the same.

Every time I go to Starbucks instead of The Mudhouse (owned by my neighbor) or go to Barnes and Noble as opposed to my brother's bookstore I may as well just walk up to them in the street and punch them in the gut for all the respect I would be showing them.
5. Buy directly from artisans.
I'd rather spend money on buying something beautiful and unique and have it directly go to the person who created it than getting something mass produced by people who probably aren't getting compensated for it.
6. Buy from companies with good social track records; support good labor practices.

7. Buy greener products.
I'm starting to be a little more environment and energy-conscious in my purchases of gadgets, and I generally shun anything that isn't power-efficient.
8. Buy things without wasteful packaging.
My main consumer choice of the moment . . . is not to buy anything wrapped in . . . clamshell plastic that I can't get open without cutting myself on the knife required in the process.
The responders also agreed that none of us are perfect when it comes to shopping with our values in mind.
I know I'm not perfect, and as a middle-class American I know I've contributed more than my fair share to landfills in my life. But I'm working on it; every bit helps.

[first logo from Portland Buy Local]

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Reader Question: Agendas for a Mom

BusyBodyBook agenda - sample page

It's the time of year when we start looking at agendas, planners and calendars for the coming year. A reader asks:
As the year is coming to a close I am looking for a new agenda. I want something like a 5x7 or 8x10. The others I've seen are so small there is no room to write. I have 2 kids and they have a lot of after school activities. What have you seen out there or which system do you use?
I use iCal on my Mac - so that's not much help to you, since you want a paper agenda. But I have seen a number of interesting products. This is a very personal choice, but hopefully one of these will appeal to you.

Agendas with Weekly Views

1. The BusyBodyBook (shown above) has columns to track five people.

momAgenda - sample page

2. The momAgenda Portfolio Planner has a different format with space for a mom and up to four kids.

Agendas with Daily Pages

momAgenda mini daily - sample page

3. The momAgenda mini daily, like the previous momAgenda product, has space for mom and four children.

Family Daily Planner - sample page

4. This Family Daily Planner has columns for four people; it's spiral bound. Update on Oct. 3, 2009: This product doesn't seem to be available any more.

DayMinder appointment calendar - sample page

5. The DayMinder Daily Appointment Book also has columns for four people. An added benefit is that it contains paper with at least 30% post-consumer material.

Quo Vadis daily planner - sample page

6. The Quo Vadis ABP/1 isn't specifically designed for multiple people, but it does have a lot of space to write in whatever you want. If this is the type of agenda you want, there are a number of other brands you could consider.

Reader Question: The Overwhelming Magazine Collection

covers of three issues of Real Simple Magazine

A reader asks:
I have a lot of magazines; my favorites are Real Simple and Living. I have 3 years worth in a closet. They are taking up too much room, but I don't want to part with them all as I sometimes refer to them. Especially if it's related to a season like Christmas decorating or Halloween crafts with kids. Just looking at them drives me crazy. I am afraid one day I am going to get frustrated and chuck them all! Any tips would be great!
You may think this is a sacrilege, but I'd suggest ripping up the magazines, saving the parts that are most interesting, and creating binders or files on the various holidays (or other subjects): Halloween, Christmas, etc. Then when that time rolls around, you'll have all your ideas in one place, easy to find - and you'll have saved space, too. (Think how much of the magazine is ads and other stuff you don't care about!)

You might organize the clippings in

- Three-ring or lever arch binders

- Itoya's Profolios (a personal favorite)

- Unikeep binders

- Expanding or accordion files

You could also choose to store the clippings electronically. Scan them, or take digital pictures and upload them.

And yes, there may be a few magazines where you really do want to save the entire magazine. These can be nicely organized with magazine files.

Related Post: Letting Go of the Magazines

Friday, November 16, 2007

Reader Question: Wall-Mounted Jewelry Racks

wooden wall mounted jewelry rack

After I posted about jewelry mannequins, a reader asked:
I used to hang my necklaces on pins in my closet but after staging [the home for sale], that went away. Then I had stuff hidden away on a closet shelf and forgot to wear any of it. If you ever see a wall system that I could again hang in my closet that would be ideal!
There are some very nice wall-mounted jewelry racks, and I'm glad to mention a few. Jim Fiola makes lovely jewelry racks from multiple woods, as shown above; they come in various sizes.

jewelry rack in cherry

DavlinsWoods also has attractive jewelry racks in various sizes, made from oak, maple, or cherry.

jewelry rack - one row for earrings, one for necklaces

Davin & Kessler makes this beautiful rack; the wood is Birdseye maple.

wire jewelry tree,

Over on Etsy, Claudine's Closet is currently sold out of wall-mounted jewelry trees, but I imagine there will be more soon - and the owner also does some custom work. It's out of stock because the reader who asked the question wound up buying this one! Update on December 5, 2009: Claudine's Closet has closed, but you can now find Claudine's jewelry display products at her new Etsy shop: Claudine's Limited.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Great Housewarming Gifts

gift box of green cleaning supplies

A round of applause for the readers of Apartment Therapy: Chicago!

When asked about suggestions for great housewarming gifts, they suggested:

- Food and beverage options (fresh bread, fleur de sel, fancy chocolates, a great bottle of sherry, etc.)

- A basket of green cleaning supplies

- Gift certificates for various businesses in the new neighborhood

- Items that the giver specifically knows the recipient wants

What a nice collection of ideas - all gifts that won't become clutter.

[Picture from]

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vote for Your Favorite Organizing Blog

vote button

The Los Angeles Chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO-LA) is currently accepting votes from organizers and the general public for its third annual organizing awards. There's a category this year for best organizing website or blog!

So if you enjoy reading this one, please consider taking a moment to vote for

[picture courtesy of o205billege / Bill Edelmayer]

Smead: Web Site Design Done Right

Smead products web page

Smead is a document management company - one of the big names in filing products. The company is very proud of its new web site - and with good reason.

I really liked this presentation of all their products. I like a particular kind of file folder, and it was easy to find it.

Smead web site product page for recycled hanging file folders

I also like that the company highlights the recycled content of all the products, and has some like these hanging folders, made from 100% recycled content and 30% post-consumer waste - in a variety of colors, no less.

Smead web site advanced search page

Smead is also proud of its new advanced search, which didn't impress me when I first tried it - it didn't find my file folders! - but seems to be working better now.

As an individual, you can't buy directly from Smead, but this site lets you know what's available (and the part numbers) so you can order them from your favorite store. They'll help you find a store, too. And of course many on-line sites sell Smead's products.

Related Post: 3 New Filing Products from Smead

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Joy of Jewelry Mannequins

jewelry mannequin in white gown

Last night I stumbled upon an organizing product that was new to me: the jewelry mannequin (or jewellery mannequin, if you are in the U.K. or Australia).

Let's start with some from the U.K. The one above is the first one I saw, and it's still one of my favorites.

jewelry mannequin in dress from My Fair Lady

I found a store in Newbury, Berkshire selling almost ninety different mannequins, including this one - the dress Audrey Hepburn wore in My Fair Lady. They ship worldwide, too. Update on July 29, 2014: Sadly, the store that sold this seems to have disappeared from the internet.

jewelry mannequin in green corset

While many feature elegant dresses, some take a very different approach. Update on Feb. 12, 2010: Unfortunately, I can no longer find a source for this one.

jewelry mannequin shown with jewelry hung from it

You can buy a jewelry mannequin from Cancer Research UK and support (what I assume is) a good cause. Update on Oct. 18, 2011: This product is no longer available through Cancer Research UK.

jewelry mannequin in red off-the-shoulder evening gown

Coming back over the ocean, I did find some j ewelry mannequins in elegant gowns available in the USA. Update September 12, 2008: This is a new picture and a new link; the company I originally linked to no longer has jewelry mannequins for sale. I like this one better, anyway! Update October 18, 2011: I'm no longer finding this one for sale.

jewlery mannequin in denim outfit

And then there's a place selling many mannequins with the denim look.

dress frame jewelry mannequin

But there was also this dress frame version.

3 jewelry mannequins - just metal form, no clothing

And there's this set of three - a very different style. Update on Feb. 12, 2010: I'm no longer finding these on the web.

wrought iron dress form for jewelry

Here's a wrought iron dress form. Update Sept. 12, 2008: This replaces a prior listing of a wire dress form, sold by a company that no longer has a web site.

blue wire dress holding jewelry

And finally, here's a wire dress with jewelry on it, so you can see how this style can be used. Unfortunately, this product is sold out. Update September 12, 2008: This replaces a previous illustration from eBay; the link to the item no longer worked.

[Thanks to Vogue Australia Forums, where I first heard of jewelry mannequins.]

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Conquering the Coin Clutter

lots of coins

Do you have piles of coins somewhere in your home? You come home, empty your pockets - and there it sits, slipping and sliding all over the place.

You could make things more organized by simply using an extra coffee mug - or any other spare container - to control the change. Or you could be a traditionalist, and use a piggy bank (or, more generically, a money bank or coin box). Here are just some of the many options. Caution: I can't always tell if these banks have a plug for removing the money - something you probably want to find out before choosing a bank.

piggy bank in tartan plaid

1. Let's start with the pigs - specifically, the Bud Posh Pigs from Designroom, in 15 patterns, available from many web sites around the world. Update on July 8, 2012: These are now getting much harder to find, although you can still find some, if not in this pattern. 

piggy bank with cork in snout

2. You can find handmade, often one-of-a-kind piggy banks on Etsy - including this one made by Sara Marymee. Update on Oct. 17, 2014: Sarah doesn't make piggy banks any more.

piggy bank with funnel for coins

3. The COINK piggy bank is another one that's widely available.

piggy bank with University of Michigan sweater

4. FansEdge provides pigs wearing sweaters from your favorite teams (United States only). The one above is a University of Michigan Wolverine - guess where I went to college?

beaded piggy banks in pink and purple

5. Here are some African fair trade beaded piggy banks.

piggy bank, green

6. And if you'd like a more traditional piggy bank, this one comes in white or green. Update on March 4, 2010: This bank doesn't seem to be available any more.

Maneki Neko Japanese cat bank

7. Moving beyond pigs, the Japanese Maneki Neko cat is often used for banks. This is just one of many many designs.

bank shaped like an alligator

8. has twelve different animals to choose from, including this alligator. Update on Oct. 17, 2014: no longer has this bank, and the banks it does have aren't anywhere near as appealing.

bank shaped like a pigeon, nickel plate

9. Or what about a pigeon? [via Better Living Through Design] Update on March 4, 2010: This bank doesn't appear to be available any more.

bank in shape of robot Bender from TV show Futurama

10. Even the fictional robot Bender has been made into a bank. (Never heard of Bender? You can read about him on Wikipedia.) Update on July 8, 2012: I'm only finding this for sale on sites like eBay now.

apple fruit shaped bank

11. This wooden apple bank comes from the Jura region of France. Update on March 4, 2010: The apple is no longer available, but you can get a lady bug bank from the same region.

modern-looking bank, aluminum

12. The Volcoino bank is simple and elegant. [via Uncrate] Update on Oct. 17, 2014: I'm no longer finding this bank.

bank made from soft PVC, green

13. The bankabank is another simple and very functional design; it's available in pink, green, and black.

money pot

14. Finally, take a look at the Terramundi money pots, available in 125 designs.