Saturday, May 31, 2008

Eat That Frog! (Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done)

book cover, Eat That Frog!

I just finished reading Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy, and thought I'd share a few of his bits of wisdom with you. (I read the first edition, not the revised edition pictured here.)
Rule: One of the very worst uses of time is to do something very well that need not be done at all.

Rule: You can get your time and your life under control only to the degree to which you discontinue lower value activities.

The Law of Force Efficiency says that, "There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing."

Friday, May 30, 2008

Bento Boxes Can Hold More Than Your Lunch

bento box
I'm reading Conscious Style Home by Danny Seo, who says bento boxes "are excellent for storing small office supplies, like highlighters, rubber bands, and small stocks of Post-it notes. And since they're stackable, you can layer several bento boxes neatly on your desk."

bento box
One place with a fun selection of bento boxes is Many of the boxes, including the two above, have images of Totoro.

bento box with flying cat images

There's another nice selection at I Love Obento; I particularly like the flying cat.

2 colorful 3-tier stacked bento boxes, and one unstacked

Here's a colorful option; these boxes are made of melamine. Although the company calls them bento boxes, they seem to be more like tiffin carriers - but no matter, they'd still serve as good storage.

bento boxes round, colorful, lacquerware

Unica Home has some colorful lacquerware bento boxes.

lacquerware bento box

And then there are the lacquerware versions with patterns involving fans and flowers and butterflys.

cedar wood bento box

I'd never seen a bento box like this one before - it's made of cedar. (Scroll down on that page; it's at the end.)

For more wonderful bento boxes (many of which aren't quite as easily purchased outside of Japan), see Just Bento.

Bedroom Storage Option: Bookcase Headboards

bookcase headboard with books, lamp, clock, etc.

Both of my beds - my own, and the one in the guest bedroom - have bookcase headboards. (That's my guest bedroom above.) You don't tend to see these much anymore - I guess they're out of fashion - but they can be incredibly useful. Waterbed stores tend to have them - remember waterbeds? But you can find them a few other places, too.

simple bookcase headboard

Not surprisingly, a place called Headboard Store has a number of options.

bookcase bed, dark wood

And some upscale bed manufacturers sell bookcase beds. This one come from Charles P. Rogers.

bed with storage headboard

And this storage headboard comes from Pomponoosuc Mills.

bookcase headboard concealed behind wood panels

For something more unusual (and more expensive), there's the Thai Bed from Design Centro Italia.

child's captain's bed with bookcase headboard in room with other furnishing, including a swivel bookcase

It seems you can also find bookcase headboards more easily in children's beds - either simple headboards for twin beds, or more fanciful ones, such as this one from Natart Juvenile.

Related Posts:
Making Good Use of Under-Bed Space
Five More Ways to Store Stuff Under the Bed

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Alarm Clocks: The Sacred and The Profane

Krishna alarm clock

While it would be lovely to always wake up naturally, without an alarm clock, most of us find we do need the clock. Here are some choices you may not have seen before.

This Krishna alarm clock "sings a good will mantra from Lord Krishna" or wakes you with "a Hare Krishna chant," depending on which web site you read. Looking at the manufacturer's web site, it seems the clock is available with the images of other deities, such as Ganesh. There's definitely a Jesus version.

pink alarm clock with picture of girl, and the words You're So Unbelievably beautiful, smart, and talented

Moving from the sacred to the profane, this alarm clock is part of the Bobbypin collection by illustrator Jeffrey Fulvimari, who did the drawings in Madonna's book The English Roses. While it's harder to actually read the time than I would like, the affirmation might a nice way to start the day. Update on March 10, 2011: I'm no longer seeing this clock being sold.

alarm clock with picture of girl and the words There's a lot of other girls out there but only one me

Here's another alarm clock from the Bobbypin collection.

Related posts:
7 Alarm Clocks for a Gentler Wake-Up Call
Clocky - For People Who Overuse the Snooze Button
Real Simple Treasure Trove! Funny Alarm Clocks!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Step Files: From $8 to over $80

two incline sorters

You've almost certainly seen incline sorters (also known as step files) - very useful for keeping active files close at hand, and usually very boring. (The ones above come from Office Depot and

wood step file

But if you feel like spending more money, you can get some interesting alternatives. One of the most common alternatives is made by WoodWorx. It's too bad the dividers aren't a bit taller, to support the files better. Update on Feb. 25, 2011: Ergo in Demand sells these in cherry and mahogany.

step file made from perforated steel

And then there's SteelWorx.

step file type item with cascading plastic trays

Ultimate Office says their best-seller is the Desktop StationMate, which is a form of step file.

steel incline sorter

Here's a steel incline sorter; the site has three other steel options.

incline file

And here's another steel incline sorter, designed by David Allen and made in Italy.

Monday, May 26, 2008

An Homage to Etsy: Felted Bowls, Incredible Baskets, and More

pine needle basket

For those of us who love to patronize talented artisans, Etsy is a terrific find - a place to get all sorts of handmade items from people near and far. The San Francisco Chronicle ran a nice piece on Etsy today; I never realized you could ask for a custom-made piece on Etsy until I read this article!

Here are just a few things I've found on Etsy recently.

Tree Top Collections makes some lovely pine needle baskets, one of which is shown above.

square egg basket

This egg basket comes from Grandma Weezie's Basket Garden.

green egg basket - or melon basket

Cheryl has baskets in a range of styles.

wood basket in a wood frame shaped like a stegosaurus

How clever is this? M "n" M Treasures makes collapsible wood baskets - collapsed, they serve as trivets. The designs range from this stegosaurus to a pig, a train, a teapot - and many more.

bicycle basket with liner in beach design

Lucky Find Designs makes linings for bicycle baskets.

3 nesting felted bowls in blue, red, and turquoise

Papaver Vert makes stunning nesting felted bowls.

felted vessel in pinks and purples

And Shirley Cook makes some incredible felted vessels.

green and purple felt box

Spider Felt sells lovely felt boxes - and has a wonderful logo. Update on Feb. 18, 2013: I'm no longer seeing these felt boxes in the Spider Felt Etsy store.

silk basket, round, shallow

Lauren Sng makes silk rag baskets from old kimono linings.

Finally, I'd like to point you to knitwit4ever - not because it has anything to do with organizing, but because the person behind it is my college roommate.

Related posts:
Etsy: 6 Attractive Alternatives for Storage
Tiny Little Baskets

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pencil Cups, Round 3: Two More I Had to Share

tin with picture of sailboat, holding pencils

After my last entry on pencil cups, fellow professional organizer John Trosko sent me this picture of his pencil cup - a 1930s yachting tea tin!

white pencil cup - says Dad and has a picture of a hat

And I love this simple pencil cup hand painted by artist Beth Mueller. I bought a mug and a cereal bowl with her designs many years ago, and I was delighted to stumble on her work again today; I recognized her style immediately. Update on Nov. 7, 2010: It seems that Beth no longer makes pencil cups.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Stop Scrambling, says Richard Carlson

cover of book, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff at Work

No, Richard Carlson isn't talking about how we cook our eggs. Rather, he's talking about the speed at which we run through our days.

Here's what he wrote in Don't Sweat the Small Stuff at Work:
For many people, there are essentially only two speeds - fast and faster. It seems that, most of the time, we are scrambling around, moving very quickly, doing three or four things at once. Often we are only paying partial attention or half listening to the people we are working with. Our minds are cluttered and overly busy. ...

I'd estimate that I operate at about half the speed I did ten years ago. However, I get about twice as much work accomplished! It's actually quite remarkable how much you can do when you're calm and collected. ... It's often the case that you'll get more done in less time when you stop scrambling so much.

The pogoCloset: A Cross Between a Closet and a Clothes Tree

Some folks just aren't very good about hanging up their clothes. Sometimes that's because the closet is overcrowded with clothes that never get worn - but sometimes it's that there truly isn't enough closet space, the closet is hard to get to, or putting clothes on hangers is just too much effort.

Traditional answers to these concerns include the use of hooks, clothes trees, and valet stands - or garment racks and portable wardrobe closets. (And there's always the ever-popular exercise machine that winds up serving a different purpose.)

But another interesting option is the pogoCloset by UrbanWorkshop. Update on Nov. 20, 2013: UrbanWorkshop seems to have disappeared, but you can still see these on the website of the designer, Julie Tolvanen. Unfortunately, they are not currently in production.

one-drawer nightstand

Bonus: While you're at the UrbanWorkshop web site, take a look at the Yellow Groove nightstand.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

An Organizer Updates Her To-Do List

five computer files on a computer desktop

Here are two things I often tell my clients:

1. Any system you put in place will probably need to be tweaked as you find out what works and what doesn't work.

2. When looking for solutions, look at things that are working well for you already. What does that tell you about the type of solutions that work for you?

Well, I just followed my own advice and changed how I keep my to-do lists. I had been using a fairly simple software tool called Check Off - but realized it didn't fit well with how I work, so I was getting sloppy about getting everything added to my lists that needed to be there.

I was somewhat tempted to try another one of the many software programs designed to handle task management. But then I looked at something that works very well for me - and that's a simple text file that resides on my computer desktop where I capture blog ideas. I definitely like having my files on the computer, and the simplicity of a text file seems to work well for me. (I'm on a Mac, and I just use TextEdit for these files; Word would be overkill.)

So now I have five simple text files on my desktop - some of which will be familiar to anyone familiar with David Allen's Getting Things Done.

Goals & Values
This reminds me of the big picture - what I want from my life. It won't get updated often, but it's useful to look at it regularly.

To Do
This lists all the simple actions I want to take: send an e-mail to someone, reschedule an appointment, drop off donations at the thrift store, etc. The list is subdivided into things I would do at home, things I would do around town, and things I would do "over the hill" - I live on the coast, and have to drive over the hill to get to the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area.

This lists the things I'm committed to doing that involve multiple steps. It includes things like buying new nightstands (because I don't know exactly what I want, so there are many steps here) and a computer upgrade project with a number of steps. The next step for each of these projects would get added to my To Do list.

Why separate To Do items from Projects? Because a To Do list with "buy milk" and "remodel bathroom" almost guarantees that the remodeling project won't move forward. You look at that item, glaze over, and move on to the next item on the list. But if the To Do list had something like "Call Jim and ask about his remodeling project; see what advice he can give me" - well, that seems doable!

This file captures the ideas I have about things I might want to do - but might not. This way I don't lose the thought, but it doesn't clutter up my To Do or Projects list.

Daily Routines
This has my morning and bedtime routines - things I do (or want to start doing) every day. It's there as a reminder, because I've added some things that aren't habits yet. I may not need these files after a while, but for now they are helpful.

I'm sure I'll wind up making further tweaks, but right now this is feeling pretty good.

[Side note: That black loop in the picture is part of a dragon's tail, from the Dragonology 4 wallpaper by Vladstudio.]

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Containers That Caught My Eye: 6 Random Items

square black felt box with smiling skull  Hable Construction has a number of felt boxes — many of them sweet designs involving flowers and lollipops and such. Of course, I was attracted to the smiling skull. Update on January 22, 2021: The company no longer makes these boxes.

jewelry box with various images and the words Pieces of My Life 

The Craft Gallery has a number of interesting jewelry boxes - which could of course be used for something other than jewelry. This was one of my favorites. Update on Nov. 8, 2011: The Craft Gallery still sells jewelry boxes, but not this type.

 Chinese hat box 

Zenspiration Gardens has a number of lovely boxes, including this one which is a vintage reproduction Chinese hat box.
fanciful toothbrush holder with four toothbrushes

You don't really need a specially-designed toothbrush holder and more than you need a pencil cup; a coffee mug will do just fine. But I still was taken with this toothbrush holder by Alison Palmer, who makes all sorts of interesting things.

   4 scissors holders, different colors
I just stand my scissors up in the mug that holds my pens, but this Edward Scissors Holder by Koziol is very cute. Koziol also makes a tape dispenser, a glue stick holder, and much more.

  white box with rabbit ears on top 
I saw this storage box and my immediate reaction was Oh! Cute! - followed by wondering when I would fit it into a blog entry. [via Better Living Through Design]  Update on January 28, 2021: I'm no longer finding this box at the site which used to sell it.

Reader Question: Zippered Binders

zippered ring binder, open and closed - color options also shown

I found your very inspiring blog while searching for a seemingly elusive item to help get me organized: a pretty zippered 3-ring binder folio. Your list of attractive, modern 3-ring binders was great - and I was really hoping to find one that zippered around. My ideal would be that it would also have a carrying strap or handles. Levenger and Franklin Covey have binders that are leather, but they are so heavy and bulky even when empty; I haven't found any that are fabric-covered or another lighter material.

I love a good challenge, so I went hunting; here's what I found. School-Pak shows a number of options; there's even one with a handle, made by Case-it. Mead is the other major supplier they list.

zippered binder in pink and black, with name written on it

Lillian Vernon also has zippered binders.

zippered 3-ring binder with handle

Colby makes a zippered 3-ring binder, but they're in Australia. (I'm not sure where the reader lives; I was assuming the USA, but I could well be mistaken.)

office in a bag, closed and open

The FlyLady sells an Office in a Bag which will accommodate a 3-ring binder, but doesn't include one. There are any number of lightweight binders you could use with this.

UniKeep binder

Finally, here's another option to consider - not a zippered binder, but maybe something that would work anyway. The UniKeep Binders are fully enclosed and lightweight, and come in a range of colors.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hide Your Jewelry Behind a Mirror

jewlery case behind a mirror - partly open, with woman looking in the mirror

Jewelry thieves must know about these products, so I don't know how much security they provide, unless you get a locking model - and use the lock. (And I don't know how good the locks are.) If you really want theft protection, there are jewelry safes. [via organizer Kim Allman]

Still, they provide an interesting way to store jewelry, since you can put it on and then check to see how it looks. And it allows you to have jewelry easily accessible without having it all in view - a look some would prefer.

Hidden Treasures provides a number of mirror styles, and is coming out with another version this fall which is twice as long. [via Hope's Bag] Update on Nov. 8, 2011: I'm only finding one product from Hidden Treasures, and it's a bit different from the one shown here.

wall-mounted jewelry cabinet with mirror outside, shown open and closed

Jewelry-Closet Cabinets come in two sizes and ten different finishes. A keyed lock is available.

freestanding mirrored jewelry cabinet - three in different colors, one open

Another option is the freestanding mirrored jewelery cabinet. This one also has a lock. [via organizer Marcie Lovett]