Monday, June 30, 2008

Storage on the Cheap

blueberry crates and cats

I've been buying lots of blueberries at my local farmers market - the season is short, and they're so good - and good for me, too. Last week I bought two crates, since it was the last chance to buy this season.

2 blueberry crates, stacked, holding office supplies

And then I realized what wonderful storage containers these stacking crates make.

2 blueberry crates with office supplies, unstacked

As you can see, they are holding some of my spare office supplies. These stay in cabinets in the garage, so I sure don't need anything fancy.

Related Post: Budget-Minded Organizing Products

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Create an Art Gallery on the Inside of Your Cabinet Doors

bunny rabbit drawing

Have some art - drawings, photos, postcards, greeting card covers - that you really like, but that isn't exactly framing material? What about cards with inspirational sayings?

card cover, saying I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world

Yes, you could put these items up on a bulletin board, or on your refrigerator door. But an idea I stole from my friend Helen is to put them on the inside of your cabinet doors.

picture of person's eyes staring out from a cave, with thr words Is you're careful enough, nothing bad or good will ever happen to you

All the pictures on this post are from the inside of own my kitchen cabinet doors. The bunny picture was drawn by the very same Helen. The picture immediately above is a hand-drawn enlargement of a postcard by Ashleigh Brilliant.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Paper Planners That (Almost) Make Me Wish I Used a Paper Planner

planner cover

Want a paper planner, but you're not the Day-Timer type? Little Otsu makes some amazing planners that just might suit you. They are all undated, so you can start using them any time.

planner pages for a week, spread over 2 pages

The first one that caught my eye was the Little Otsu Vol. 1 Weekly Planners (the mini version and the standard version. The web site (unlike many) provides nice pictures of both the cover and the internal pages, so check the site for more pictures, including pages to list books to be read and movies to be watched

Not only are they lovely; they're made in collaboration with a talented artist and "printed locally by a family-owned press with vegetable-based inks on 100% post-consumer recycled paper." [via Better Living Through Design]

planner - cover plus internal pages

But Little Otsu has more notable planners - including the Come Along Weekly Planner.

planner page with underwater images

Then there's the Aquatic Adventure Weekly Planner.

18-month planner cover

And I just love the cover on this Chris Duncan 18-Month Planner. The subtitle says Little Otsu Presents A Book to Help You Plan and Organize Your Life for the Next 18 Months Starting Now! or Later or Whenever You Want.

Related Posts:
Slingshot Organizer
Paper Tools Can Be Perfectly Fine

Renting Things You Never Knew Could Be Rented

cats in bike baskets with for rent sign

One way to avoid clutter is to avoid buying things you need very infrequently, or only for a limited time. Sometimes you can borrow these things from someone you know - but renting is another option.

Certain things have been rented for quite some time, and many people know about them: tuxedos and party/event supplies come to mind. And then there's NetFlix, which lets us rent movies.

But did you ever think about renting textbooks? You can do that through Chegg or BookRenter. [via WebUpon and SpringWise]

What about baby toys? You can rent them from BabyPlays. [via; thanks to professional organizer Ilene Drexler for the pointer]

And then there's baby clothes, which you can rent from Lütte-Leihen in Germany. [via Springwise]

A new service called Transitional Sizes is starting to provide rentals of adult clothing, for those who are changing sizes and don't want to buy a new wardrobe in the new size just yet For those who are losing weight and don't want to buy a wardrobe in each new size, this could be helpful. They also rent maternity clothes. [via Springwise] Update on Oct. 31, 2012: This service seems to have disappeared.

Maternity clothes rental is also provided by Changes With Style in Ottawa, Canada and Maternity Exchange in Singapore - and others. Update on March 19, 2013: Changes With Style seems to have disappeared.

Libraries are sources of free rentals of books, music CDs, and movies - but some of them also lend out tools. In my part of the world, there are tool lending libraries at the Berkeley Public Library and the Oakland Public Library. And there's also the San Francisco Tool Lending Center. For others, you can try the list on Wikipedia. Update on March 18, 2013: The San Francisco Tool Lending Center is now the Clean City tool lending center, called Green City.

As I've written about before, you can even rent moving boxes.

And then there's NuvoRent, which "intends to put renters and owners together in financial harmony by becoming the premier destination on the web for individuals who want to post anything they own for rent." Zilok seems to provide a similar service. And The New York Times lists more online rental communities. [pointer to Zilok via Apartment Therapy] Update on Oct. 31, 2012: NuvoRent seems to have disappeared.

Related Post: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: The Reduce Part

[photo by nogoodreason / Daniel Grosvenor - and it's the bikes that were for rent, not the cats!)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Two Cool Chalkboards

huge ostrich chalkboard sticker

Has Apartment Therapy found the best chalkboards? They do indeed have a nice collection - but there are some wonderful options they missed.

First, take a look at the chalkboard stickers from Cocobohème. They come in a range of sizes, shapes, and colors (a pink pig, a yellow chicken, a green leaf, and much more) and you can buy them from Absolutement Design. You can also find the ostrich from this Australian site.

seated chalkboard chicken

The other chalkboards that stole my heart are the chalkboard chickens, available from Annyx Sag Harbor.

Related posts:
Chalk Storage Jars
Have It Your Way: Use Paint to Create a Message Board
Bulletin Boards Don't Have to Be Boring

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Garden Stores Help You Get Organized

3 chalkboard trugs filled with fruit and vegetables

Organizing products are everywhere - including garden stores, and the souvenir shops from botanical gardens. Here are some of the products I've noticed lately.

Smith & Hawken sells the chalkboard trugs shown above - and a number of other storage products. Update on July 10, 2009: Smith & Hawken is going out of business, and is no longer taking internet orders - so the original link to this product no longer works. You may still be able to buy products at the stores.

wooden trug

And The Gardeners Shop sells Sussex trugs in five sizes. (For those who don't know what a trug is - like me, until 5 minutes ago - it's a broad, shallow wooden gardener's basket, per my Webster's dictionary.)

bentwood basket with handle

The Gardener has this lovely bentwood basket.

cast iron bookends shaped like bird feet, holding up books

And the same store has these bird feet bookends made of cast iron. Update on July 15, 2010: I'm having problems with The Gardner's web site, but you can see these bookends at Emmo Home.

carry mate - aluminum frame and handle, polyester fabric basket

Podington Garden Cetre provide this carry mate.

porcelain box showing metamorphosis to butterfly

The New York Botanical Garden Shop sells this Metamorphosis porcelain box.

open porcelain box with finch on lid and another drawing inside

Their finch box is equally noteworthy.

2 dragonfly hooks

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden sells dragonfly hooks. Update on January 9, 2012: It no longer sells these hooks, and I'm not finding these elsewhere, either.

wood pencil box engraved with roses

Portland's Rose Garden Store sells this cherry wood pencil box engraved with - big surprise - roses.

shallow round basket

Finally, the National Tropical Botanic Garden has orchid stem baskets in three sizes.

Don't Cheat Yourself of Sleep

nightshirt says Mommy Needs Sleep

Sleep beckons. Also waves. Also makes threatening gestures and hops up and down until I notice. -- Neil Gaiman

I've gone through too many days on too little sleep; I'm through with doing that! Last night I went to sleep instead of staying up to write a blog post - I don't write well when I'm tired, anyway - and I woke up all full of energy this morning. It felt wonderful.

If you tend to fit more into your day by ignoring your need for sufficient sleep time, here are some readings to inspire you to make a change.

The More You Sleep, The Longer You Live. Sleep will also help you stick to a diet and have more productive workouts. Other benefits include "greater mental alertness, improved concentration, better mood - even lower risk of car accidents."

Lack of sleep linked to emotional imbalance. "It's no secret that the sleep-deprived are usually grumpy, miserable and not much fun to be around."

Here’s a quick, easy, free way to boost your happiness: get more SLEEP. "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."

Drowsy America. "For too many Americans, sleep has become a luxury that can be sacrificed or a nuisance that must be endured."

[Nightshirt from Bas Bleu]

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

11 Alluring Laundry Bags

3 ruffled laundry bags

I've written about laundry hampers before - but what if you'd prefer to use a laundry bag? Here are some of the more unusual options out there.

1. The White Devil laundry bags from India Rose, shown above, are the ones that inspired this post. [via the now-defunct Blueprint magazine, and write on and more]

laundry bag, pink and white, with pictures of lady's undergarments

2. Here's a lady's laundry bag.

laundry bag with picture of folded shirt

3. And here's a laundry bag featuring somewhat different apparel.

laundry bag embroidered with word laundry and some flowers

4. This embroidered laundry bag is a replica of one found in an antique shop.

laundry bag, brown, with pictures of surfboards and palm trees drawn in white

5. Amy Forster has a number of laundry bags, with designs ranging from polka dots or flowers to the surfboards-and-palm-trees design shown here. Update on Jan. 10, 2011: The Amy Forster web site isn't working, and I'm not finding these products anywhere else.

laundry bag with flowers (roses)

6. Annie G makes some pretty floral laundry bags. Update on Jan. 10, 2011: Annie's web site seems to have disappeared.

2 laundry bags - one with dots, one with flowers (zinnias)

7. The Laundry has bags with spots or zinnias. Update on June 22, 2012: This site doesn't sell laundry bags any more.

green silk laundry bag

8. I'm not sure how practical this silk laundry bag from Aroma Home is - but it sure is pretty. The bags come in four colors, and each one comes with a scented sachet. Update on Feb. 19, 2010: Aroma Home no longer sells these bags.

French linen / laundry bag

9. This lovely French linen/laundry bag comes from Maris Sharp in Brittany. Update on June 22, 2012: Maris Sharp's web site has disappeared.

tapestry laundry bag

10. And this tapestry laundry bag comes from Australia, and has quite a story behind it.

laundry bad with word laundry and tied ribbon in deep purple

11. Finally, here's a simple elegant laundry bag from Josephine Home; you have 12 choices of colors for the embroidery and matching ribbon. (And you can have something other than "laundry" as the embroidered word.)

Related Posts:
Bamboo Laundry Hampers
7 Special Laundry Hampers

Monday, June 23, 2008

3 Perspectives: Not All Books Are Keepers

overflowing bookcases

For those who love books, deciding to tackle the overflowing bookcases can be a bit traumatic. Here are the accounts of three people who have done their own weeding.

Seth Godin recently wrote about the Kindle, but the post also included this:
I just got rid of 3,000 books in preparation for an office move. That's two decades worth of reference books. I realized that most of the books I bought I didn't use any more (thanks to wikipedia and google) and that buying books in anticipation of giving them to someone else was generous but not actually happening in practice.
On A Strange Attractor, the writer decides to get rid of some books - and goes through them carefully in the process. The whole post is fun to read; here's an excerpt.
For the first time, I became aware that I have literally hundreds of mediocre fantasy novels. I have scores of books that I have not the slightest intention of ever reading again, old course books, books that I bought on impulse because they were on special offer, random non-fiction books that caught my eye in second hand bookshops, and an entire collection of Teach Yourself language books for which the only justification is that I once used them in an essay on linguistics. So really, the question is not “which books should I get rid of?”, but “which books are worth keeping?”.

So which books are worth keeping? Well, reference books, for a start, but really, in the age of the internet, the only reference book I regularly use is a good dictionary. And a road atlas every now and then. The rest can pretty much go. But can I really bring myself to get rid of a perfectly good dictionary of languages? A guide to English usage? One of those delightful Victorian books that profess to contain information on just about everything? Who’s who in British history?
And then there's Luc Sante, writing in the Wall Street Journal. Again, I recommend the entire article; this is just a small sample:
Now that I have moved again -- into a house that's not necessarily smaller but that I am determined to keep from being choked with books like kudzu -- I have just weeded out 30 boxes worth: books I won't read and don't need, duplicates, pointless souvenirs.

I discovered that I owned no fewer than five copies of André Breton's "Nadja," not even all in different editions. I owned two copies of St. Clair McKelway's "True Tales from the Annals of Crime & Rascality," identical down to the mylar around the dust jacket. I had books in three languages I don't actually read. ... I also had no need for books with funny titles, books acquired only because everybody else was reading them, books with no value except as objects, and books that inspired a vague sense of dread whenever they caught my eye -- possible cornerstones of culture that nevertheless only solitary confinement would ever compel me to read.

Related Post: Clearing Out the Bookshelves

[photo by Jaydot]

Lacquer Boxes from Around the World

Russian lacquer box with winter scene

Lacquer boxes - a lovely storage option - range widely in design and price. The one above comes from Russia and is quite expensive - but stunning. But the Tradestone Gallery has many boxes in a huge range of styles and prices - along with a nice guide to Russian lacquer boxes.

square eggshell lacquer boxes

Lacquerware is also found in many parts of Asia; I have a small box I got in Vietnam. Gumps sells these square eggshell lacquer boxes from Japan.

Thai lcquer jar, black with gold, 3 views

The lacquer jar shown above was made by artist Subin Tositarat of Thailand. He also has an eggshell lacquer box.

blue lacquer box from Mexico with bird motif

And here's a lacquered box from Mexico.

3 lacquer boxes inspired by Piet Mondrian

I don't know where these Mondrian-inspired boxes were made, but they sure are eye-catching! [via Apartment Therapy]

Friday, June 20, 2008

How to Handle the Receipts: One Person's Answer

restaurant receipt

I've gone through home offices overflowing with receipts, most of them pretty useless. If you struggle with receipts, you might want to follow Scott Crawford's very sensible system. (Posted to the Getting Things Done Yahoo group, and quoted by permission.)

If you're stuck on the idea of paper receipts because of returns, you may want to consider a variation of how I deal with that issue.

When I enter a receipt in Quicken, if it's for a consumable like groceries or gasoline I toss it immediately into my "to shred" bucket. If it's something that I think could possibly need to be returned, I put the receipt in a manila envelope I keep in my desk drawer. In fact, I have 3 manila envelopes:
- This Month,
- Last Month, and
- The Month Before That.

Around the first of every month, I take the oldest envelope and dump it into my "to shred" bucket. (If I haven't needed to dig up the receipt in 90 days, I don't need to keep it.) That envelope becomes the new "This Month" and the other two envelopes shift back one slot.

That way, I always keep a rotating set of 90 days worth of receipts, with a very minimal time investment. (Of course, any receipts that I need to keep for tax reasons are scanned and/or filed immediately and don't fall into the 90-day waiting-for-the-shred-bucket queue.)

I find that only a couple of times per year do I need to dig through a month's receipt folder to find a specific receipt. The time savings of not filing any of those receipts more than makes up for the occasional dig through the envelope.

Pretty low tech (and I tend to be a high tech kind of guy), but I'm quite certain I'm saving time in the long run.

[photo by red5standingby / simon]

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Got Books? Get Bookcases!

low bookcase

Assuming you've gone through your books and decided which ones to keep, the next step would be to get some bookcases to hold them. I've seen too many books get damaged by being shoved into boxes or otherwise poorly cared for; if you treasure your books, please store them well.

While there are many places to get bookcases, I thought I'd point out some especially lovely options made by some talented woodworkers - mostly individuals and small companies.

The bookcase above is one of many designs available from McKinnon Furniture.

oak bookcase

Brian Miles makes this oak bookcase.


This bookcase comes from Michael Colca.

low bookcase, dark wood

Monk Furniture in the UK makes this bookcase; you can get the same style in a taller version.

low bookcase, light wood

And this is one of many options from Pomponoosuc Mills.

tall bookcase

Hardwood Artisans has many lovely bookcase options.

pedestal bookcase

Ben Barclay of Ben Barclay Woodworking makes each piece himself; this is one of three bookcase designs.

tall bookcase from reclaimed teak

David Buckingham makes bookcases from imported recycled teak; they are sold by M.J. Higgins Fine Art & Furnishings.

low bookcase

This beauty comes from David Salmon in the UK.

revolving bookcase

This revolving bookcase comes from Richard Bissell Fine Woodworking; Richard makes non-revolving bookcases, too.

breakfront bookcase

Dylan Pym in the UK made this impressive piece.

bookcase with doors and fancy wood carving

And this amazing piece comes from Trail Mix Studio.

Related Posts:
Bookshelves from Reclaimed Lumber
A Bookcase Called Book
Rowboat Bookcase