Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September 2009 Organizing Tips and More

storage bin with moose shape

My September 2009 newsletter is now available.

Tip of the Month: 8 Guidelines For Choosing and Using Containers

Organizing Product of the Month: Moose Storage

Recycling/Reuse Idea of the Month: Reusing leather jackets at reMade USA

Also included: Organizing Quote of the Month and some Twitter tidbits

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Quick Tip: Taking Good Meeting Minutes

meeting - people seated around a table

Do you take part in meetings: meetings within a company, meetings with clients, meetings of a non-profit organization you are involved with, etc.?

For almost all meetings, I recommend that someone takes and shares meeting minutes - but very abbreviated meeting minutes. All you really need to know is:

1. Who was there (and who was invited but couldn't make it).

2. What decisions were made.

3. What to-do items were assigned - who is going to do what, by when.

Writing down these few things takes very little time - and saves time in the long run!

Photo Credit:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Stashing the Shoes: Yet More Options

wall-mounted shoe rack for one pair of shoes

Shoe storage seems to be a field with continual innovations. Last November, I wrote The Definitive Guide: 15 Ways to Store the Shoes. But since then, I've found yet more options - so here's an update.

In the one-of-a-kind arena, we have the Shrine shoe rack - a way of displaying a special pair of shoes. [via Better Living Through Design]

stainless steel shoe rack

In the area of shoe racks, there's this unusual option, called the Nest shoe rack. There's also a wall-mounted version. [via Cribcandy]

two vertical shoe racks

And here's another shoe rack - available in two widths, and a number of finishes. This comes from The Bramble Company, which uses only sustainable wood from Indonesia - and is now also replanting trees. You can't buy directly from the company, but you can search for a dealer by you. (Hint: Searching by state seems to work best; search by city or by zip code will only work if there's a direct match.) I don't see any distribution outside the U.S. Update on Jan. 29, 2012: I'm no longer finding this product.

shoe organizer in closet

In the realm of cubbies, there are configure-it-yourself shoe organizers, either two-wide or three-wide. You can add as many tiers as you like.

shoe skirt for bed

And finally, I need to thank organizer Claire Tompkins for pointing me to the Shoe Skirt.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Organizing and Displaying the Collection: Thimbles

three thimbles

If you're going to have a collection of special objects, it's nice to make the most of it by having the objects (or perhaps a rotating subset of those objects) on display, so you and other can enjoy them.

For example, take thimbles. There are so many ways to display them! Of course, you could have a few just sitting out almost anywhere - but what if you want to display more of them? Many companies sell basic display cases, but let's look at some of the more unusual options.

semicircular thimble display rack

Langford Woodcraft sells a range of semicircular thimble display racks - and a full circular one, too.

Great Britain thimble rack
elephant display rack

Paul Anderson makes some fun thimble racks - in pine or mahogany finish - shaped like countries and animals.

red thimble rack

And here's a different sort of thimble rack, available in four colors.

revolving brass thimble rack

The Thimble Guild carries a few of Paul Anderson's many products, as well as some of Langford Woodwork's products. But it also has brass racks - free-standing racks and racks for the wall. There's also this one, which revolves. Update on Nov. 11, 2012: The Thimble Rack no longer carries this product, and I'm not finding it anywhere else, either.

leather thimble harness

The Thimble Guild also carries this leather "thimble harness."

thimble display

These come from Thimbleselect, of Australia.

thimble display case

Nimble’s Thimble Display Case Co. makes some lovely products.

thimble display case, glass shelves

Here's another thimble display case - this one with glass shelves.

thimble display cabinet

And here's a thimble display cabinet that was made by Redpath Design, a fine furniture company.

thimble display dome

And then there are also the thimble domes, in a range of sizes.

As you can see at the start of this video, this collector has a number of thimble cabinets (and some pretty wonderful thimbles)!

Related Post
Reader Question: Controlling and Displaying the Collection

Photo credit:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How to Shop So You Don't Wind Up with Clutter

Entre Nous book cover

I don't remember who or what inspired me to buy Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl, by Debra Ollivier. But I just picked it up off my bookshelf, and found these words within the first 50 pages:
The French girl's preference for quality over quantity ties directly into her ability to say No: No to excess in people, things or ideas; No to what doesn't grace her world. Quality over quantity is not just about material things. Who inhabits her world, who feeds her mind, who's allowed into her private garden? ...

If she can't afford it, she won't buy it. If it doesn't fit (or make her feel good, or flaunt what she's got), she won't wear it. If she can't find it, she won't compromise. If she loves it, she won't toss it. ...

When the French girl shops, it isn't a solitary act of buying something new. It's part of a lifelong process of editing her environment, making small but meaningful additions or adjustments to her home, her closet, her life. ...

You invest in authentic things of quality that will endure and you focus on what's essential. ...

The French school of fashion advocates having those few perfect items: The perfect black dress. The perfect white blouse. The perfect pullover. The perfect overcoat. The idea here is singularity: pieces purchased one by one that slowly build up a quality wardrobe through discretion.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Emergency Preparedness: Take Baby Steps

baby steps

Flylady teaches her readers to take baby steps to get the house clean and organized; the same principle works when it comes to emergency preparedness. While some people might want to set aside a chunk of time and dedicate it to getting prepared, other people will be more successful in taking a whole series of small steps.

I recently heard Margaret Lukens of Preparation Nation talk about three types of situations we need to be prepared for: We need to file (an insurance claim), flee (from a fire, for example) or freeze (shelter in place).

And in her blog, Margaret provides all sorts of ideas of baby steps we can take, such as:
- For those of us with pets, put a pet rescue alert sticker on the house.
- Keep some cash on hand.
- Learn how to turn off the gas.
- Get some QuakeHold - and use it.
- Take a CPR class.

Another useful site is SMC Ready - the emergency preparedness site for San Mateo County. The site has a number of checklists, and you could take any of those checklist items as your next baby step. For example, the home safety checklist includes this advice:
- Strap down your water heater and fit all gas appliances with a flexible gas supply line.
- Be sure your house number is visible from the street so emergency vehicles can find you.

You could also take small steps to create your emergency supply kit, using the SMC Ready checklist. You don't need to get everything together all at once! As Margaret says, you can begin with water.

As one parent said: "I used to get overwhelmed about emergency preparedness, but once I broke it down into small steps it got easier. ... I feel better knowing I'm ready instead of worrying about getting ready."

Photo credit:

Recycling Made Easier: Recycling Bins

divided trash bin for recycling

If you want to separate your recyclables, and yesterday's recycling bags aren't quite what you had in mind, maybe a recycling bin would work. Many of the companies that make trash cans also make divided cans, in various sizes, to help with recycling.

One of those is Brabantia, whose products can be bought here or here. You can get either a pedal can or a "touch bin" that opens with a soft touch on the lid. [via UK Home Ideas]

recycling bin

As organizer Joan Kosmachuk noted, Simplehuman is another company making these bins.

recycling magnets

Simplehuman also makes these recycling magnets you can put on metal bins - great for turning bins you already own into recycling bins. [via Apartment Therapy] Update on July 5, 2014: Simplehuman no longer sells these magnets.

red recycling bin

Here's a recycling bin from Wesco - another approach to the divided bin.

recycling bin with two compartments

And here's a two-compartment recycling bin from iTouchless, sold here and here (among many others).

Other companies making divided bins for recycling include Hailo (see sample here), Rotho (with a 2-section and a 5-section version), Dulton, and Neu Home.

paired bins for recycling

John Lewis has a somewhat different product: two paired bins. Update on Dec. 12, 2011: Joh Lewis no longer has this product, but it has another recycling bin.

stacked recycling bins, pink

And then there are the "tall" recycling bins. This one comes from Dulton; it's also available in white. Update on Dec. 12, 2011: I'm no longer finding this product.

recycling bins - trash sorter

And here's another one, from an office supply company. It's currently on sale, because the company is shutting down its U.S. operations. Update on Dec. 12, 2011: I'm no longer finding this one, either.

home recycling center

Then there are the Mode all-in-one recycling centers. The premium one includes a compaction system to crush cans and plastic bottles. [via the San Francisco Chronicle/SFGate]

Ovetto recycling egg

And finally, there's a recycling option with Italian style: the Ovetto differenziato, or recycling egg, designed by Gianlucca Soldi. There are a number of color options. It's available here, here and here. [via organizer John Trosko and Retro To Go]

Other ideas: Some people have used the IKEA Trofast as a home recycling center. Others have used elfa drawer systems; that's one of the ideas suggested by Popular Mechanics.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Recycling Made Easier: Recycling Bags

two recycle bags

I'm having a bit of a garbage can/recycling bin dilemma that I'm hoping you might be able to help with. I keep my main recycling bin on the main level of my house because that's where it fits best (for space and cleanliness reasons). But I have bathrooms and bedrooms upstairs (and I do most all of my paperwork upstairs in my bedroom) where lots of recyclable waste is generated.

Though it's good exercise, it's a pain in the butt to run downstairs every time I want to put something in the recycle bin. I don't like keeping a little pile in a designated spot to be brought to the bin on my next trip downstairs because I'm anal and it bothers me to see those things "not in their proper home". So what I'm looking for is a sort of dual-garbage-can that has two compartments -- one to be used for garbage and the other for recyclables.

I've directed this reader to the trash mug - but the question also reminded me of the various recycling bags that are available, which could be helpful in gathering recyclables to be taken to another part of the house. The recycle bags above come from KangaRoom, and are made from recycled materials.

3 recycling bags

Other recycling bags are divided by type of recyclable. Esschert Design makes a set of bags: orange for paper, gray for cans, blue for bottles, green for organic matter. You can buy the orange, grey and blue bags individually on - or you can buy a set of three from Gaiam, or a set of four from Design Within Reach.

jute recycling bags for paper, plastic, glass

Cost Plus World Market sells jute recycling bags. [via the kitchn] Update on Dec. 12, 2011: Cost Plus World Market doesn't have these any more - but it does have other recycling bags.

recycling bins for glass, paper, plastic

And finally, I want to mention these collapsible recycling bins from Seletti - a bit more than a bag, but still a portable alternative. You can buy them here and here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cosmetics: They Don't Last Forever


How long do cosmetics last? In some cases, even unopened cosmetics can go bad; more often, the important consideration is how long the product has been opened.

period after opening symbol

If you live in the European Union, your products will have a symbol like the one above, showing the lifespan - the "period after opening." However, there are no such labeling laws in the United States.

Every site I've looked at says that mascara is the item that is most likely to get contaminated; some say toss 3 months after opening, while others say 3-4 months or 3-6 months. On the other end of the scale, eye and lip pencils are good for 2 years (according to some sites) or 3-5 years (according to another.)

You can read more from these sources:
* CBS News
* Good Housekeeping
* Mail Online
* Marie Claire (summarized at Unclutterer)
* Real Simple
* U.S. Food and Drug Administration

cosmetics first-use stickers

Now, how do you keep track of when that product was opened? You could use any basic label and stick it on the product - or you could use BeautyAlert stickers. [via Springwise]


Another option is the product called Timestrips. The company seems to be encouraging manufacturers to incorporate Timestrips into their packaging, but a Timestrip that tracks up to four months is available online.

Or you could note to-toss dates on your calendar, use a general-purpose reminder program (such as Remember the Milk), or use TossTime - but the TossTime web site seems under-developed, so I might hesitate to use this service.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Definitions of Clutter: 8 Perspectives

Over on Unclutter, Erin Doland recently defined clutter this way:
Clutter is any distraction that gets in the way of a remarkable life. Clutter doesn’t have to be physical — you can have time clutter or mental clutter or even bad processes that qualify as clutter.
And a commenter, identified only as shris, writes:
For me, clutter isn’t about distraction but what you feel, say, or think when you actually *look* at it.

If you make a face or grit your teeth or purse your lips, or your mental noise is ‘ugh’ or ‘grr’ or ‘feh’ or ‘ew’, then it’s clutter whether it serves a purpose or not.
This inspired me to look at how other define clutter; here are some of the best perspectives I found.

In her wonderful book Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, Karen Kingston writes:
In my definition there are four categories of clutter:

* Things you do not use or love

* Things that are untidy or disorganized

* Too many things in too small a space

* Anything unfinished
In The Clutter-Busting Handbook, Rita Emmett writes:
I think stuff becomes clutter when:

* It creates problems, stress, or embarrassment.

* You don't know what you have or can't find what you have.

* It keeps you from using an area, place, or thing for its intended purpose.

* It impairs your ability to function.
In Unclutter Your Life, Katherine Gibson defines a number of types of clutter:
Physical Clutter: The possessions in our world that do not have a purpose, do not reflect who we our, and do not enhance our lives aesthetically or spiritually.

Mental Clutter: Expectations, distractions, and obligations that affect our peace of mind.

Emotional Clutter: Unfulfilling activities and the self-defeating thoughts and feelings that keep us from our highest potential.
In Clutter's Last Stand by Don Aslett, I didn't find a definition of clutter - but here's Don's definition of junk:
It is junk if:

* It's broken of obsolete (and fixing it is unrealistic).

* You've outgrown it, physically or emotionally.

* You've always hated it.

* It's the wrong size, wrong color, or wrong style.

* Using it is more bother than it's worth.

* It wouldn't really affect you if you never saw it again.

* It generates bad feelings.

* You have to clean it, store it, and insure it (but you don't get much use or enjoyment out of it).

* It will shock, bore, or burden the coming generation.
And finally, let me leave you with some definitions from Debbie Stanley's excellent book, Organize Your Home in No Time:
Does the object do a job for you? If so, it's essential; if not, it's clutter.

Now, that job could be to help you brush your teeth (the toothbrush in the stand on the counter), it could be to give you something beautiful to look at (the pictures on the wall), or it could be to make you feel good by bringing back a happy memory (that little jar of sand labeled Beachfront Property.)
And here's another definition from Debbie:
Clutter = homeless items = unmade decisions.

Related post:
Clearing Clutter: Beyond the Stuff

Friday, September 18, 2009

Waste Bins and Baskets with Lots of Color

If you're not into neutrals, you might want to look at the trash bins from Vipp, which are hand-assembled in Denmark. While the Vipp trash cans mostly come in neutrals, there's one limited edition color-of-the-year: yellow cab in 2009, and a purple in 2008. The bins come in five sizes; Giggle recommends using one of them as a diaper pail!

You can get the 2009 color from the Vipp web site, or check the list of vendors; Design Within Reach and Emmo Home are two of many. I found the 2008 color at Zinc Details. [via Retro To Go]

Update on Nov. 21, 2011: The sites listed may not carry the specific colors they did when I first wrote this post, but they all still have some Vipp trash bins.

orange waste bin

Not the right colors for you? Brabantia will let you pick from over 200 colors!

Mondrian waste basket

And while this photo isn't the best, I'm guessing the Mondrian waste basket, made from lacquered wood, is lovely in person.

Related Posts:
6 Wastebaskets You Won't Find Just Anywhere
7 More Wastebaskets You Won't Find Just Anywhere
8 Wastebaskets I Found Today
Wastebaskets and Trashcans, Revisited
A Green Wastebasket
Trashcans with a Green Tinge
The Latest Things in Waste Cans
Star Wars R2-D2 Trash Can

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hooks: Organize with the Animals

squirrel hook

Continuing my quest for the world's most interesting hooks - hooks being such a good organizing tool - I've found that Anthropologie has added some lovely option in its hardware section. It was hard to pick a favorite between the squirrel and the owl. [via Oh Joy]

cat hook

There are only two of this cat hook left at The Fair Trade Faerie.

red lobster hook

And over at Cocoboheme, I'm equally taken with the lobster and the bull. Update on January 9, 2012: I'm no longer finding these products on the Cocoboheme web site.

dachshund hook

Somehow when I wrote about dog-related hooks before, I missed this dachshund from Haseform; the company also has an octopus, an elephant and more. [via Ohdeedoh] Update on January 9, 2012: You can find many of the Haseform products at Connox, but I'm not finding the dachshund.

fish and crocodile peg hooks

This fish and crocodile are just two of the marvelous hooks made by Sandra Tagliabue.

sparrow hooks

Over at fredflare you can get these sparrows. [via Mrs_PJs, on Twitter] Update on January 9, 2012: I'm not longer finding these sparrows on Fred Flare, but they come from Decor Craft Inc. and you can find them other places, such as here.

crab hook

And this blue crab hook is made from recycled steel drum.

Related Posts:
Not Your Ordinary Children's Hooks
Four More Fanciful Hooks
Use Your Walls: Unusual Hooks and Coat Racks
Hooks I Wish Were Sold in America