Sunday, January 31, 2010

Closet Organizing: Before and After (Bonus: Cute Kittens!)

kitten in closet, before organizing

Someone recently asked me how much organizing you can get done in two hours. While this will vary tremendously from person to person, and situation to situation, here's what Stephanie Hamilton (a fabulous jewelry designer, who knits her jewelry) and I did in her office/guest room closet in a bit less than two hours.

Stephanie has graciously agreed to share some "before" and "after" photos with all of you. The photo above is obviously a before!

closet, before and after - with kittens

Here are two full-length photos - before and after. What did we do? We totally got rid of things that Stephanie doesn't need any more. (I'm finding them new homes, with people who do have a use for them.) We moved some things to other parts of her home, where they were more logically stored. We put like with like - all her jewelry display items, for example - and then put those like things together in containers. Quite an improvement!

closet after organizing, with kittens

That big piece of equipment had been sitting out on Stephanie's desk; we were able to clear some space for it in the closet, giving her more room to work.

We were also able to do all of this without buying anything new; we reused containers Stephanie already had in her home. So this closet won't look like one in a glossy magazine - real-life closets seldom do! But now it works, and that's what matters.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

How I Handle Electronics Recycling

Strawflower Electronics - Ben and dogs

If you're not a dog lover, don't worry; while Ben Tyson of Strawflower Electronics in Half Moon Bay, California often has his dogs in the store, they usually stay behind the counter. (He brought them out so I could get a photo.)

But I'm not writing about Strawflower Electronics because of the dogs; I'm writing because the store provides a wonderful service: e-waste recycling. Batteries (household, not car), cell phones, chargers, computers, printers, cables, stereo equipment, TVs and VCRs - Strawflower takes all this, and more.

Ben told me that in the store's latest government filing, they reported recycling 189,310 pounds of electronics; 113,000 of that was monitors and CRTs. Ben said they also work with partners who ensure this stuff isn't winding up in China.

So here's a big thank you to Strawflower Electronics for the service it provides. I like to support local businesses when I can - and even more so in a situation like this. So I buy all my batteries and printer cartridges from Strawflower - and other electronics, as needed. (The service is very good, too!)

If you have working electronics that aren't totally obsolete, it's nicer to get them a new home; I usually use Freecycle for this. But for electronics that have reached the end of their useful life, we can at least be sure to dispose of them properly.

OK, I know most of you don't live near me. But how about taking a quick moment to comment and let me know how you handle electronics recycling?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Renting Self-Storage Units Can Be a Big Mistake

Ad for Pak-N-Stor: Suddently your 3-bedroom has 3 bedrooms.

We have too much nicely stored stuff and too many homeless people. -- twoleftfeet, on Metafilter, via Discardia

Does it sometimes make sense to rent a self-storage unit? Sure! But heed these words from Paul, on FiscalGeek:
There are legitimate uses for storage units no doubt. People need a place to put their stuff when they move, or change jobs, or have short term assignments. ... But I’ll wager the overwhelming majority of storage units are filled with the stuff of broken dreams and promises.
Paul also writes about how the use of self-storage gets rationalized:
I can’t possibly scale down my beanie baby collection so I’ll get a storage unit to preserve them. Oh no I can’t part with my collection of civil war chess sets those will be worth millions some day. No they won’t. They’ll sit there for ever, sucking money from your checking account every month and will be your kids problem someday.
For one story about someone who did indeed have a lot of money sucked out of her bank account, head on over to Wise Bread and read the full story about Sarah.
Convinced that she would be able to sell, donate or otherwise dispose of her extra stuff during the "First 30 Days Free Rent" period that her storage company offers to all new customers, Sarah moved her designer guest room furniture, her Christmas decorations, her art collection, etc. into four of the cheapest storage units available. ...

She never moved out. ...

Although she has plenty of very valuable things in storage, as we surveyed the contents of one of Sarah's units earlier this week, she finally did the math. ... 5 years x $200 a month per unit x 4 units = $48000. And that total doesn't even account for the money spent on gasoline to get her to and from her storage or all the late fees she's paid on other bills because she chose to pay her storage bill on time so her stuff wouldn't be seized for non-payment.
And certain items don't do well in your basic self-storage unit, as noted by An_Fear_Glas on LibraryThing:
Books easily grow patches of insidious mold if left in nasty generic storage units. Ideally, you would want a space that has less than 50% humidity, at or below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and reasonably well sealed away from six and eight-legged critters. Key term there is 'ideally', though. Decent storage units are rarely cheap, at least in the USA and Canada; ... climate-controlled is even more expensive.
Thanks to Susan Tiner for the pointer to FiscalGeek, and Louise Horner for the pointer to Wise Bread.

[Image: Ad for Pak-N-Stor, by Taxi, found here - and many other places.]

Related Posts
Self Storage - A Growing Business
Storage Units: Ads and Anecdote
Self-Storage Units: Sometimes a Great Notion (But Often Not)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

For Valentine's Day 2010: Magnets Full of Hearts and Love

set of three Valentine's Day tile magnets

As we go racing through January, we find Valentine's Day on the horizon - which means it's time for appropriately-themed magnets, all from Etsy. This first set comes from Terrills Tiles. Update on Jan. 30, 2103: Terrill's Tiles seems to have disappeared.

4-magnet set; cherish, two birds, etc.

My Little Chickadee Creations is sending 30% of each sale of these magnets to Doctors Without Borders, "to help bring relief to Haiti."

Magnet with creature holding Valentine

And this magnet, with its fabulous creature, comes from The Frantic Meerkat.

Related Post:
For Valentines Day 2009: Yet More Magnets

Monday, January 25, 2010

8 Containers for Cosmetics

cosmetics drawer organizer

Me? I wear no cosmetics - so I don't need a cosmetics organizer. But for all of you who do wear cosmetics, there are some interesting way to keep them under control - going beyond the basic acrylic products.

One option is to use drawer organizers sized for cosmetics. Rev-A-Shelf is one company that provides these; Ovis is one company that sells them.

bathroom drawer organizer for cosmetics

Axis International also sells bathroom drawer dividers that can work for cosmetics.

tabletop rotating cosmetic organizer

But a drawer might not be the right place for you to store cosmetics. In that case, you may want to look at the various cosmetic organizers sold by sold by Lori Greiner, such as the one shown above. [Thanks to organizers Terri Stephens and Sandy Jenny for the pointer.]

tabletop cosmetics organizer

Another tabletop product is Lips-n-Eyes, sold through Solutions and other retailers.

makeup organizer, tabletop

And PB Teen also sells a makeup organizer.

cosmetics organizer for door of medicine cabiner

Another approach is to use the door of your medicine cabinet - and MagnaPods.

mineral makeup case / organizer

And for those of you who use mineral makeup, there's the Mineral Case.

cosmetic organizer from posterboard

Finally, there's Kristina's Custom Cosmetics Organizers, which can be made from 100% recycled materials, or from colored posterboard in the specific colors you choose, as with the one above.

Related Post:
Cosmetics: They Don't Last Forever

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Latest on Plastic Food Storage - And Alternatives

storage jar with pictures of herring

It is clear that the government and scientists and doctors need more research to better understand the potential human health effects of exposure to BPA, especially when it comes to the impact of BPA exposure on young children. -- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

As The New York Times reports:
In a shift of position, the Food and Drug Administration is expressing concerns about possible health risks from bisphenol-A, or BPA, a widely used component of plastic bottles and food packaging that it declared safe in 2008. ...

But health officials said there was no proof that BPA was dangerous to humans.

“If we thought it was unsafe, we would be taking strong regulatory action,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the principal deputy commissioner of the drug agency, at a news briefing.

Nonetheless, health officials suggested a number of things people could do to limit their exposure to BPA, like throwing away scratched or worn bottles or cups made with BPA (it can leak from the scratches), not putting very hot liquids into cups or bottles with BPA and checking the labels on containers to make sure they are microwave safe.
Scientific American also reported on this latest announcement:
Reproductive biologist Fred vom Saal at the University of Missouri–Columbia, who has studied BPA for more than a decade, hailed the decision as a "monumental change. This means in the future we can expect more than just one or two flawed industry studies to be the foundation of risk assessments at the FDA."
If you would like to avoid plastic food storage containers, you can see my prior posts, listed at the end of this one, for some alternatives. Smart2begreen summarizes the choices nicely: glass, stainless steel, ceramic, and polylactic acid (PLA).

And here's an option I hadn't seen before: Almedahls' herring storage jar, made of porcelain (with a plexiglass lid), sold by Huset, and shown at the top of this post. So the lid is a plastic, but the container itself is not - and it's sure cute. Update on March 17, 2014: I'm no longer finding this at Huset, but it's available at Ruby Roost.

food storage, ceramic

And then there are these wonderful containers from Yoyo Ceramics, also sold by Thorsten van Elten - they look like plastic, but are actually ceramic. [via Apartment Therapy]

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Emily Berk and Kristi Miller Durazo for pointing me to The New York Times and Scientific American.

Related Posts:
Plastic Food Storage: OK or Not?
Reader Question: Glass Food Storage

Update on Nov. 1, 2010: For even more information, see my latest post on this subject!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bookcases and More: Storage in the Round

round storage, red

Square- or rectangular-shaped storage pieces make the most use of available space - and especially in furniture, you seldom see round storage pieces. But they certainly do exist!

The piece above, the Kartell Componibili, could have been included in my posts about colorful storage, or modular storage. You can find it at Nest and Unica Home - both of which are running sales right now. It comes in white, silver and black in addition to the red.

round bookcase

Another eye-catching piece is the Nureyev from Linteloo, available from Limn and Chaplins Furniture (and others).

round bookcase

And then there's the striking Orbit, from Bonaldo, which has a swivel base option; one place to find it is Panik Design. [via Outblush]

round display shelves

Coming back down in height, Smart Furniture provides a round display silo.

short roudn bookcase

And Bramble has a short, round bookcase.

round bookcase

Finally, there's this round bookcase sold by Levenger.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

10 More Options for Modular Shelving and Storage

modular storage

Cubes - and other forms of modular storage - provide lots of flexibility. Since I last wrote about modular shelving back in 2007, some nice products have disappeared - but some nice new options have appeared. And a number of these could have easily appeared in yesterday's post on colorful storage!

Let's start out with one of those: the modular storage from Housefish, shown above. The company says its storage system "ships flat and assembles easily- the only tool you need is a hammer. ... The wood is sustainably harvested, FSC certified maple or walnut plywood, finished with a zero VOC finish." [via ecosalon and Apartment Therapy]

cube storage in many colors - violet, etc.

For a real blast of color, take a look at the Optic Cube by Kartell. It's sold many places; Unica Home is having a clearance sale. (And I'm not finding it on the Kartell web site.) [via Better Living Through Design] Update on March 4, 2014: Unica Home is no longer having a sale on these, but it does still sell them. So does Smart Furniture.

modular bookcase

Polvara by Kartell does show up on the Kartell web site. While the shelving itself is only avilable in black or white, the storage cubes come in a number of colors. It's available through Smart Furniture and Panik Design.

lacquer modular shelves

For more color, look at these lacquer modular shelves. [via Better Living Through Design] Update on March 4, 2014: These came from Publique Living; its shop is "away until further notice."

lacquer storage cubes

Another lacquer option is Quad, from France; Quad is on Facebook, where you can get even more information (and some neat pictures), even if you don't have a Facebook account. [via 2modern and Netspaze]

modular storage

Here's the iCube, which has a number of color options. [via organiser Wendy Davie] Update on March 4, 2014: I'm no longer finding this product.

modular storage

And then there's Itso, sold at Target, available in either plastic or laminate.

modular shelving, recycled-paper board

The shelving from Way Basics is made from 99% recycled-paper board. [via Apartment Therapy]

modular shelving, red

These units come from Montana, a company in Denmark - but the company has partners in a number of countries. Core77 says the Montana system "consists of 42 basic shelving units that are all 69.6 centimeters square (but come in four different depths). User-selected customization comes in choosing colors and finishes, and then you stack and build whatever you need. It's like Lego for interior designers." [via Cribcandy]

modular shelving with fabric panels

And finally, let's take a moment to admire these modular shelves from DeKast in The Netherlands; they have "a wide range of decorative fabrics" and "changeable front panels." [via Apartment Therapy]

Related Post:
10 Options for Modular Shelving

Monday, January 18, 2010

Colorful Storage at a Discount

To my surprise, after I included Russell & Mackenna in my last post, the company sent me a discount coupon to pass along to my readers - so here it is!

Disclosure: Russell & Mackenna would normally track "points" based on what you folks buy using the coupon code - and if you buy enough, I'd get some free furniture. I've already told the company I will NOT be accepting any free products.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Colorful Storage on a Gray Winter Day

red drawers

Let's start today's tour of colorful storage on a web site with a wonderful name: this was a tree, the home of Brosborne Woodesign Studio. This seems to be a custom piece, but it gives you an idea of what Benjamin Osborne can do.

bedside table with blue drawers

John Strauss Furniture Design has some eye-catching pieces in the Deco Collection. [via Alison Heath, furnituregirl]

room tidy

Grange has a number of colorful pieces in its Ermitage collection; I loved that this piece was called a room tidy.

blue cabinet

And Sweetpea & Willow, located in London and Ireland, provides "French furniture painted in gorgeous colours." [via Retro to Go]

red vanity

I've mentioned Russell & Mackenna a couple times, but never in a post focused on colorful storage; it's time to rectify that, especially since you can choose from 33 paint colors. Update: See the discount coupon, good through February 15, 2010.

Russell & Mackenna also started a company called Paint My Furniture. As the web site says: "Rather than sending your old wood furniture to the landfill, we can revive it with a splash of color." For those who aren't do-it-yourselfers, and live near in or near Maryland, this might be a nice option.

blue bookcase

The Chichester furniture from Neptune comes in your choice of 20 colors. You can see some of the products - in color - here and here.

colorful cabinet

Cappellini makes colorful furniture, some of which is available at Unica Home; another source is Chaplins.

bookcase with splashes of color

This lovely bookcase, called Level, comes from Zanotta; you can also find it at Unica Home. [via Apartment Therapy]


Müller Möbelfabrikation makes steel furniture; you can find the company's products at Mod Livin'.

purple book truck

While the Smith System Gorilla Book Truck is intended for schools, there's no reason you couldn't use it elsewhere. Modern School Supplies is one place to buy it. [via Apartment Therapy]

shelving with orange lacquer shelves

For simple shelving with nicely-colored lacquered shelves, you can go to Wonk, in New York City.

display case

And finally, let's end with this display case from Gumps.

Related Posts:
10 Options for Colorful Storage
12 More Options for Colorful Storage
Around the World with Colorful Storage Furniture
Colorful Storage Furniture - for Kids
Colorful Shelves to Brighten Your Day

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Protecting Our Cats and Dogs: Pet-Safe Storage

When we think of storing things safely, we often think of protecting babies and young children, and things like earthquake-safe storage. But those of us with pets need to think about them, too.

My friend Jill just passed along the latest word from the ASPCA regarding pet poisons - and a number of these have storage implications. To quote in part:
Pets often snatch pill vials from counters and nightstands or gobble up medications accidentally dropped on the floor, so it’s essential to keep meds tucked away in hard-to-reach cabinets.

People food like grapes, raisins, avocado and products containing xylitol, like gum, can seriously disable our furry friends, and accounted for more than 17,453 cases in 2009. One of the worst offenders - chocolate - contains large amounts of methylxanthines, which, if ingested in significant amounts, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst, urination, hyperactivity, and in severe cases, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors and seizures.

Many baits used to attract rodents contain inactive ingredients that are attractive to pets as well.

Everybody knows that household cleaning supplies can be toxic to adults and children, but few take precautions to protect their pets from common agents such as bleaches, detergents and disinfectants.

Chemical hazards - found in ethylene glycol antifreeze, paint thinner, drain cleaners and pool/spa chemicals - form a substantial danger to pets.
So be careful about how you store medicines, food products, and various chemicals if you have pets around!

Related Post:
Pet Stuff Storage, Part 1 (with links to the other parts)
Be Your Own Professional Organizer, Part 4: Decide Where to Store Stuff

[Photo: One of my cats, Puppy]

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Storing Your Wine in Traditional Champagne Riddling Racks

riddling racks - and riddler - at Schramsberg

I adore champagne, and I still remember my first visit to a sparkling wine house in California, where I saw how the wine was made - and learned about riddling racks. While many producers of champagne and other sparkling wines now use mechanized riddling equipment rather than the traditional wooden riddling rack and the associated hand riddling process, some wineries still go with the traditional approach. The photo above comes from Schramsberg.

riddling rack

But riddling racks, or pupitres, are also making their way into homes, where people are using them for wine storage. Sometimes the racks are old ones; sometimes they are newly-made. NapaStyle is one place that sells old used riddling racks.

riddling rack

VivaTerra sells a "genuine reclaimed pupitre that comes with centuries of bubbly tradition." [via EcoSalon] Update on Aug. 11, 2012: VivaTerra doesn't sell this product any more.

riddling rack

2-Day Designs makes this riddling rack, from its Wine2Night collection, from "previously-used white oak wine barrels." Update on Aug. 11, 2012: 2-Day Designs no longer makes this product.

riddling rack

And this riddling rack comes from Uttermost. Update on April 11, 2012: Uttermost doesn't make this product any more.