Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gift-Wrap Bags and Boxes to Simplify Holiday Gift-Giving

Keep the holiday traditions you love - and drop the rest. I've been seeing this advice everywhere, and I agree with it. If fancy gift wrapping isn't one of your favorite things, gift bags and gift boxes can be a big help.

Let's start at LivingEthos, where you can get gift bags in many sizes and designs - Christmas and much more. As the company explains, gift bags are easy, stylish and eco-friendly. [via EcoSalon and Cool Mom Picks]

large Christmas gift bag

Gift Bags Gone Green is another source of gift bags in a wide range of sizes and patterns. And the site mentions another advantage, for those flying for the holidays: It's easy to pack these bags and do a quick gift-wrap at your destination, so you don't have to worry about the packaging tearing (or security folks opening a gift-wrapped package). Update on Nov. 28, 2011: This web site seems to have disappeared.

wine and wine bag

June 15 sells both jute and cotton bags - including a couple wine bags. [via EcoSalon]

Christmas gift boxes

And finally, let's head over to Etsy, where ecovintagevegan provides a range of gift boxes - different sizes and patterns, some with a Christmas theme, others not.

Related posts from prior years, with more great boxes and bags:
Simplifying Christmas: Saving Time on Gift Wrapping
Update: Simplifying Christmas by Saving Time on Gift Wrapping

Friday, November 27, 2009

November 2009 Organizing Tips and More

energizer bunny flashlight in medicine cabinet

My November 2009 newsletter is now available.

Tip of the Month: Changing Jobs, Keeping (Some) Stuff - like that energizer bunny that resides in my medicine cabinet.

funky sheep money box

Organizing Product of the Month: Funky Sheep Money Box

broken china pendants

Recycling/Reuse Idea of the Month: The Broken Plate Pendant Company

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

Clutter Clearing: Finding a Place to Recycle or Donate Your Stuff

Recycle More

Clutter clearing often involves finding things to be recycled - or donated to a good cause. But how do you find out where to recycle or donate?

Here's how to learn where you can recycle everything from bicycles to eyeglasses to mattresses.

1. Check with your city, county, etc.

Many localities now offer on-line information as to where items can be recycled (or donated) locally - beyond the basic plastic, cans and paper.

Here are some examples in the San Francisco Bay Area:
- San Mateo County's RecycleWorks
- San Francisco's sfenvironment
- The Marin Recycling Guide
- Alameda County's

And here are a couple other examples:
- New York: NYCWastele$$
- Vancouver: Metro Vancouver Recycles

2. Search in one of the country-wide recycling databases.

In the United States, is the most comprehensive listing I've seen. There's an iPhone app, too! 1-800-Recycling is new (and still in beta), so it's worth keeping an eye on, even though it's less comprehensive today.

In the U.K., there's Recycle-More; the household page is especially useful. There's also Sort It for Scotland.

3. Read the "where to recycle" articles that get published regularly.

Here are some articles with good suggestions:
7 Things You Didn't Know You Could Recycle [via The Clutter Diet Blog]
21 Things You Didn't Know You Could Recycle
Items You Never Thought to Recycle
How to Recycle Practically Anything [via Lifehacker]
How to Recycle Anything

4. Google it.

Or Bing it, or whatever. Try searching with the word recycle plus the type of thing you want to recycle, plus your locality. (You might also try replacing recycle with donate.) Here's an example:

Google search for recycle bicycle Seattle

Related Newsletter Article:
10 Ways to Get Rid of Your Stuff

Monday, November 23, 2009

Slow Cows, Slow Art, Slow Christmas

With all the rushing around that tends to fill our days - especially at the holiday season - it's sometimes nice to be reminded to slow down a bit. I can't testify to the benefits of the Slow Cow drink, but it sure did catch my attention. [via Springwise]

I know we tend to hurry a lot, but I was still surprised to read that, according to The Smithsonian American Art Museum, "the average person pauses less than 8 seconds to take in a work of art."

But now there's a Slow Art movement. The Slow Art Facebook page explains:
Slow Art is a simple concept: visit a museum. Look slowly at a few pieces of art - i.e. for 10 minutes or longer. Have lunch to talk about it. Do it the same day as thousands of others around the world.
If you're interested, mark April 17, 2010 on your calendar. (The Smithsonian had a Slow Art event in October 2009.)

And in another attempt to slow us down, Porter McConnell is advocating something she's calling Slow Christmas. As she says:
The world is a fast place, filled with stuff, so I guess it makes sense that Christmas would reflect that. The trouble is, we’re all a little broke from living this way, and the planet is groaning from last year’s stocking stuffers. So what if this year, instead of spending time at the mall buying family and friends stuff they may not even like, we spend time with those people instead?

Let’s slow Christmas down. Take a walk with hot cider and take in all the lit up storefronts and decorations. Make Christmas cookies from scratch, go sledding, go to a church with a good choir and sit in the back and bask in the goodwill and beautiful music.
There's lots more on her web site; you might want to take a look.

Related Posts:
Suggestion: Slow Down Sometimes
What I'm Reading: In Praise of Slowness

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Daily Planners for Those Who Know Their Alizarin Crimson

4 pictures of Daily Color planner

OK, did I just date myself with that Donovan reference? Even if you never heard of alizarin crimson, you might enjoy these planners that all focus on color.

The one above, called Daily Color, comes from MMMG in Korea. It's hard to find, but Rare Device in San Francisco has four left, as I write this. [via Better Living Through Design] Update on Sept. 30, 2014: I'm not finding any current versions of this planner, and the old ones are no longer available.

colour calendar 2010

The Niggli Colour Calendar, designed by Moritz Zwimpfer, is available from Design Museum Shop. For the only really good photos I've seen of the interior, go to the Museum of Creative Calendar Design - they are showing an older version, but you still get the idea. Each page - one for each day - has a large swatch of color and then room for notes. Update on Sept. 30, 2014: I'm not seeing any more recent versions of this calendar, and the old ones are no longer available.

2010 appointment book

And for a more subtle use of color, take a look at the 2010 Settegiorni appointment book by Nava Milano. Update on Oct. 28, 2010: I'm not finding a 2011 version of this appointment book.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Keep Your Books in an Elephant

elephant book display

If your children have a lot of books, you'll want some good storage for them. This elephant book display will be outside most budgets - it's directed at schools and libraries - but it sure is wonderful. You can buy it from Highsmith or Brodart.

elephant bookshelf

For something more affordable with an elephant theme, there's this elephant bookshelf from DwellStudio, also available from Design Public. [via Swissmiss]

Yes, I do seem to be attracted to elephants lately.

And yes, to balance things out, there is a donkey bookcase that I wrote about some time ago.

Related Post:
Storing and Displaying Children's Picture Books

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Keeping Work Out and Visible

tabletop bag stand for homework, projects, etc.

Are you one of those people who must have all your current projects out in sight? You can do that and still avoid the "messy piles of paper all over the place" look that might drive your spouse/partner crazy.

Copernicus Educational Products sells this tabletop bag stand (and the bags themselves); the bags measure 9 1/4" by 12". Monaco has a similar product.

wall or door rack for hang-up bags

Monaco also provides this wall- or door-mounted display rack which will work with a wide range of the company's bags.

floor rack for hanging bag display, shaped like caterpillar

There are also floor displays for hanging bags; this is the most fanciful (and quite expensive), but there are many more options, including some from Monaco.

Because these hanging bag racks are often used in libraries, you can see a range of options at sites such as The Library Store, Brodart, and Demco.

job wallet rack

And here's a different approach: a print rack designed to hold job wallets.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Holiday Reminder: Keep Calm and Carry On

keep calm and carry on poster

If you've somehow missed the whole Keep Calm and Carry craze, you can read the history over at Barter Books. The poster is available in many colors - and other products, and parodies, continue to proliferate.

keep calm and carry on computer wallpaper

Keep Spending and Stay In Debt computer wallpaper

Want to use this saying as your computer wallpaper? You can get the original - or some of the many variations. (The other choices are Now Panic and Freak Out, and Get Excited and Make Things.)

Breathe Deep and Let Go of Things t-shirt

While there are many Keep Calm t-shirts, I was quite taken with this variation. Update on Oct. 24, 2011: I'm no longer finding this shirt for sale.

Poster: Keep Calm ... Oh Who Are We Kidding

And finally, there's this poster, from 3LambsGraphics. Update on April 2, 2011: Unfortunately, this poster is sold out.

Related Posts:
Words to Live By: Keep Calm and Carry On
Keep Calm: An Update
For 2009: Keep Calm and Carry On (or not)
Keep Calm and Carry On - and Variations Thereof
Keep Calm and Carry On: The Latest Take-Offs

Friday, November 13, 2009

It's a Chalkboard! It's a Magnetic Board! Actually, It's Both!

combination magnetic board and chalkboard

I've written about magnetic boards, and about chalkboards - but how about the products that are a combination of magnetic board and chalkboard? The one above - available in red or black - comes from Domesticity, which has some other neat products, too.

round magnetic chalkboard

Here's a round magnetic board/chalkboard, available in a range of colors. It's made from "reclaimed plywood from the furniture industry." [via Apartment Therapy]

framed magnetic chalkboard

Over on Etsy, Shabby Vintage Mom has a framed magnetic chalkboard.

magnetic chalkboard, wood frame

And Mike's Home Decor by Design will make you a custom-sized magnetic chalkboard.

magnetic dry-erase whiteboard, with pockets

And if you really want to go all out, there's the magnetic dry-erase whiteboard with pockets from Levenger. [via iOrganized] Update on Feb. 20, 2011: I'm no longer seeing this product on the Levenger web site.

If you're a do-it-yourself type and would like to create your own magnetic chalkboard using magnetic and chalkboard paints, here's how.

And if you'd like some nice magnets to use on such a board, you can find many options on this blog; you could start with these or these.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Winter in California: Time for Umbrella Stands

umbrella shaped umbrella holder

With a rainy winter season being forecast for my part of the world, I'm starting to think about umbrella stands again - it's been over two years since I last featured them!

Let's start with this umbrella-shaped umbrella holder. I'm not sure how practical it is, but it sure is eye-catching!

boot shaped umbrella stand

Here's another umbrella stand with an interesting shape!

jet turbine umbrella stand

The jet turbine umbrella stand is yet another unusual shape.

umbrella stand with sponge

This umbrella stand, designed by Eva Schildt, got a lot of attention on the design blogs a couple years ago. It's also available here.

two simple umbrella stands

Here are some nice, simple umbrella stands from Australia.

orange umbrella stand

And here's an umbrella stand from Japan! [via Spoon & Tamago]  Update on Dec. 26, 2012: I'm no longer finding this one available for purchase.

Mahogany umbrella stand

This lovely mahogany umbrella stand comes from Sarreid Ltd; if you're interested, you'll need to find a Sarreid dealer. Update on Nov. 11, 2010: While Sarreid still carries umbrella stands, I'm no longer seeing this specific on its web site.

Italian ceramic umbrella stand

And finally, here's an Italian ceramic umbrella stand. (If this one doesn't appeal, the same company sells another style.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

An Organizer Gets MORE Organized: Improving the Entryway


Are you super organized yourself? People always ask me that, and I'll reply that while I'm indeed organized, I continue to make improvements.

My latest set of changes was inspired by reading Erin Rooney Doland's Unclutter Your Life in One Week. I decided my entryway could use some improvement - including finally finding a "home" for my purse.

Since I had these built-in shelves added to the entryway some time ago, I don't know why I never put my purse on one of them before! The item that was there - slippers for visitors, since I have a shoes-off house - moved into a basket in the entryway closet.

Other items in the shelves are the shoes I wear most often, another basket of slippers, and the bag I take to the gym.

I cleared some items out of my front closet - things that could easily live elsewhere - so now I also have a place on that closet shelf for bag I take to a weekly meeting; it had also been "homeless" before.

Many things already worked well in my entryway - like the hook for my keys, and the place where I put things like client files for the next day, or library books to be returned. But making a few small changes took care of some nagging problems, and I'm delighted with the changes!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Making Your Holiday Gift List? Read Scroogenomics First!

cover of Scroogenomics

"Deloitte Touche conducts an annual survey of holiday gift giving. According to their 2007 survey, respondents planned to purchase an average of twenty-three gifts for friends, family, and other acquaintances. Twenty-three gifts!?!"

Although the subtitle of Scroogenomics is "Why you shouldn't buy presents for the holidays," that's not really what author Joel Waldfogel is saying. For close family and friends - especially those you see frequently - you can probably make good gift selections. Rather, his quibble is with our gift-giving to those we don't know as well: more-distant relatives we seldom see, etc. (OK, he also has a quibble with going into debt to buy holiday gifts.)

As an economist, this who-knows-what-they-want gift-giving disturbs him. He says, "My beef is not with the level of spending and consumption at Christmas but rather with the waste this spending generates ... producing a meager amount of material satisfaction for the amount of money spent."

While cash gifts would solve the problem, cash is considered inappropriate in many cases. For example, while a grandparent may give a grandchild a cash gift, a cash gift from the grandchild to the grandparent just isn't done.

Gift cards would seem like another way around the gift-giving dilemma, but about 10% of the value of gift cards is never redeemed. "People forget about their cards, or lose them, or they redeem part but then can't find something they want that costs less than the remaining balance, or the store issuing the card goes bankrupt."

His solutions? On the realm of what's available now, he likes charity gift cards, including Charity Navigator's "Good Card." Data indicates that most people would give more to charity if they could afford to do so - and many charities "allocate resources to activities with high social return."

Ideally, he'd like to see retail gift cards which expire after 12-18 months, with any unused balance going to charity - perhaps a charity chosen by the giver.

This is a tiny book - 4.25 inches by 6.25 inches, and 146 pages excluding the notes and index. But I enjoyed the different perspective Waldfogel brings to the subject of holiday gift-giving - and I learned more than I expected to learn!

"'There are worlds of money wasted, at this time of year, in getting things that nobody wants, and nobody cares for after they are got.' The observer was the prescient Harriet Beecher Stowe, writing in 1850." With this book, Waldfogel is doing his part to try to change this.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Productivity Tool: Dual Monitors

dual monitors

Are two monitors really better than one? Someone asked me that recently - and the answer seems to be yes. (A single monitor that's very wide has the same benefits.)

I knew programmers liked the dual-monitor set-up, but I never quite understood how it could help a wide range of users until I read an article in the New York Times, where the author talks about two benefits. [Note: Registration may be required to read New York Times articles.]

1. Keeping your primary task in front of you, even when you go off to check e-mail or perform some other secondary task. As author Farhad Manjoo says:
Now I could keep my e-mail and the Web open on one screen while my Microsoft Word document ran on another. This kept me on task. Even if I did go off to the Web, my document was always visible, beckoning me to come back to work.
2. Making it easier to work with two applications at once. Again, quoting Manjoo:
As I’m writing this story in Word, I’m switching back to my text editor to search for pertinent data. When I find that information, I select it, copy it and switch back to Word to paste it. ... In a multimonitor setup, the brain rests easy: My notes now sit on one side of the dual screen while my Word document sits on the other. When I focus on one program, I don’t lose my place in the other.
In an earlier New York Times article, Ivan Berger provides more examples of how a dual-monitor set-up helped him, including this one:
When I work on tables or spreadsheets, I can see all the columns at once.
And there's research to back up the anecdotal evidence, too. As the New York Times points out:
Researchers at the University of Utah recently asked office workers to perform several common tasks using various monitor configurations. They found that people who used two 20-inch monitors were 44 percent more productive at certain text-editing operations than people using a single 18-inch monitor.
[Note: The other party in the study was NEC Display Solutions, which obviously would hope to see such results.]

Some research from Microsoft back in 2003 also showed significant increase in productivity from using a larger display area.

As one person said in a discussion of the University of Utah/NEC study:
I don't claim you can't do things almost as well with a single monitor. But once you've used a dual, you'll never go back.
Photo credit:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dual-Purpose Furniture: The Storage Stool

nautical storage stool

Looking for yet another place to add some storage? For those who love a nautical decor, like organizer John Trosko, there's this boat funnel storage stool. Update on June 27, 2011: I'm no longer finding this product on the web.

round water hyacinth stool with drawer

For a totally different look, here's a water hyacinth stool. Update on June 27, 2011: I'm no longer finding this product on the vendor's web site.

storage footstools

And for yet another look, you could head over to Vale Upholstery and get a bespoke made storage footstool.

Related Posts:
Storage Ottomans: Beyond the Basics
Storage Ottomans with Style
Beyond IKEA: Scandinavian Designs to Help You Organize - scroll down for combination seat and storage box

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Forget the Address Book: Use an Address BOX

address box

Organizers are always learning from their clients, and one of mine introduced me to the idea of using an address box. Hers was a simple file card box, which works just fine. But if you'd like, you can also buy an address box. This one comes from Assembly of Text.

address box

And this address box is sold by Dibor. The box is made from reclaimed wood.

address card file box

Over on Etsy, you can get one of the address card files made by rfrantzdesign.

address file box

And if you want something really different, there are the address boxes from UglyKitty. The address file cards are made from those annoying magazine subscription cards, and other found paper. As the creator says, these boxes are made with "lots and lots of recycled papers."

Related Post:
Not Your Normal Roladex