Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Little Things: Paper Clips

alphabet paper clips

Usually I prefer staples to paper clips - it's too easy for the clips to snag other papers. But sometimes they are handy - and they don't have to be the boring clips we're all use to. They could be the alphabet paper clips from Stephen Reed. [via Apartment Therapy]

colorful paper clips

Or perhaps you'd prefer these colorful ones from Modial Lus, sold by Sweet Bella (located in New York).

crocodile-shaped paper clips

And then there are the Midori animal paper clips: crocodiles, ducks, rabbits, cows, whales, pigs, penguins, elephants, hippos, horses, tortoises, dolphins, cats, dogs, birds and squirrels. (And there are also bicycles, motor bikes, cars and airplanes.) The best pictures and most complete offerings are at Geek Stuff 4 U (with prices in yen) and Tokyo Pen Shop (with prices in dollars). Update on Aug. 3, 2015: Geek Stuff 4 U has disappeared.

Related Posts:
Paper Clip Holders with Pizzazz - for Office Supply Addicts and More

Saturday, October 30, 2010

3 Fanciful Tape Dispensers

Red Riding Hood tape dispenser

I have a weakness for whimsical products - so you can imagine how I felt when I saw this Red Riding Hood tape dispenser. (And given that the song "Little Red Riding Hood" was someone's song for me when I was 16, it has even more appeal.) It's made by a Japanese company called Decole, and you can find it at a number of web sites - including Ruche and Japanese Gift Market.

chicken tape dispenser

I'm also fond of the chicken tape dispensers from Pylones.

elephant and monkey tape dispenser

And finally, if you can tolerate the price, you might like this amazing hand-sculpted elephant and monkey tape dispenser from Iomoi.

Related Post:
Tape Dispensers: Stylish, Practical, Whimsical - and Somewhat Weird

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Planning Ahead: 2011 Calendars

mermaid wall calendar - August 2011

Here's a calendar to brighten your day! I fell in love with the Nantucket Mermaid calendar the minute I saw it. [via decor8]

calendar - boxes with days

And its creator, Jeanne van Etten, was nice enough to send along a photo of the "calendar" part of the calendar - so I could see there really are nice big blocks to write in. The boxes are 1 1/4 inches high by 3/4 inches wide, she told me.

calendar page, with flowerillustration

Wolfie & the Sneak also has a lovely calendar. Only 100 of these are printed each year - so if you want one, grab it now! [also via decor8]

Seva Canada wall calendar
calendar interior photos of kids

Seva's mission is to "restore sight and prevent blindness in the developing world" - and Seva Canada sells a calendar to help fund its work.

Cat picture from calendar

This is my favorite picture from the HawaiiCats calendar.

2011 weekly appointment calendar with pictures of birds

And here's one that's not a wall calendar - the weekly appointment calendar from Birdartist.

Related post from this year:
First Look: 2011 Calendars

Related posts from last year (updated to point to the 2011 versions of the calendars and planners):
First Look: 2010 Calendars
16 Organizers and Planners for Moms and Families
Reader Question: Planners for the Side of a Fridge
Calendars to Manage Your Time - and Help a Good Cause
Daily Planners for Those Who Know Their Alizarin Crimson
Calendars for a Multicultural World
Calendars and Planners Support Worthy Causes - and Look Great, Too

Related posts from prior years (updated to point to the 2011 versions of the calendars and planners):
First Look: 2009 Calendars and Planners
Second Look: 2009 Planners and Calendars
Third Look at 2009 Calendars: Calendars for Quilters
Fourth Look at 2009 Calendars: Two That Caught My Eye
Four Calendars To Consider for 2008
Calendars from Pomegranate
Slingshot Organizer

Shelving as a Room Divider

bookcase / room divider

Room dividers can be the screen-type products I showcased a couple days ago - but certain types of shelving can also serve as a room divider, if you have space for a bit more depth. There are lots of options here - let me show you just a few. The one above is the DNA bookshelf from Linfa Design of Italy. [via Por Homme]

wood shelving serving as room divider
wood shelving serving as room divider

For a more traditional look, there's the Content by Conran shelving; I've shown two different pieces above. For those in the U.S., the Conran Shop has the second piece. [via Fresh Design Blog]

red shelving

This 7-foot-tall asymmetrical red shelf come from my blog sponsor, Greentea Design.

And this shelving, called Self, was designed by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec. The shelves themselves are available in white or black; the dividing walls are available in nine different colors. [via High Fashion Home]

room divider that can also store books and more

And finally, the one that's getting a lot of attention on design blogs lately is called Aakkoset, from Kayiwa of Finland; it can either hold books (and other objects) or be left empty. It's available in eight different colors. [via ohdeedoh and Freshome]

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Stuff That Resides in Self Storage Units

woman earing octopus costume
Photo from a costume house located in Turkey

Just before seven a.m. on Sunday, an octopus walks into the station. Well, it is actually a woman dressed like an octopus. ... This is Mrs. Zenga, whose house was gutted by a kitchen fire a few days ago.

She plucks at her tentacles. "This is the only clothing I have left. A Halloween costume. Ursula. It's been rotting in a U-Store-It locker in Taunton with my Peter Paul and Mary album collection."

-- Jodi Picoult, My Sister's Keeper

Losing all your possessions in a fire is no laughing matter - and too many people in my part of the world had that happen just recently. (If you want to donate to help these folks, San Bruno's web site tells you how.) Still, I love this quote for what it says about the stuff so many people keep in self-storage facilities.

Yes, self-storage units sometimes serve a good purpose. But then there are stories like this one from Malusinka:
I stuck stuff in self-storage 15 years ago and moved abroad. Luckily, my husband's company picked up the tab as a moving expense. We were just recently graduated and saved the hand-me-down sofa, IKEA treasures and sidewalk finds we might need some day. Now, we're in a completely different income class and have probably paid (and been reimbursed for) at least ten thousand dollars of storage fees for furniture we'll throw out when we finally retrieve it.
According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, "almost one in 10 U.S. families rents a storage unit, according to the Self Storage Association, a trade group, up from one in 17 in 1995. ... All told, last year there were more than 50,000 public storage facilities across the U.S."

And it's not just the U.S. where self-storage is booming. An article in the Mail Online from July says: "In 1995 there were a mere 60 self-storage sites in Britain. By 2000, that number had risen to 187 and today there are no fewer than 800."

For a beautifully written piece on what sometimes goes into those self storage units, and why, I recommend reading the article by Boris Johnson in the Telegraph. Here's just a snippet:
We can’t quite summon up the necessary ruthlessness to send those snot-smeared children’s books to be pulped; and as for that distressing oil painting of a naked woman, done in a fit of adolescent depression, the humane thing would be to burn it. But we can’t.

Each of these items may be junk, in the eyes of an impartial observer. But to us they are symbolic of our history, and our family’s history. They are an affirmation of our existence on earth, a semi-Shinto connection with our ancestors. So they go into storage.

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

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Winter Organizing: Storing the Snowboards

wall-mounted rack for three snowboards

I grew up in Michigan - and I have zero interest in snow sports myself. But for those who do - and who live in the Northern Hemisphere - the weather is getting chilly enough to start thinking about winter sports equipment.

So let's look at some interesting wall-mounted snowboard racks. The one above comes from Del Sol Racks; there are racks available for one, two, or three boards.

snowboard wall-mounted rack

This Scorpion Snowboard Rack comes from

wood wall-mounted snowboard rack

RAX by Radically Inclined are "100% hand crafted sustainable Western Red Cedar." There are six sizes, ranging from one-board to eight-board racks.

snowboard rack, wall-mounted, for two boards

Finally, Bordzup has gravity-suspension snowboard racks for either one board or two. (The one-board version seems to be the product sold by Brookstone.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Reader Question: Room Dividers that Help You Stay Organized

tall shoji screen room divider with pockets

I challenge you to do a post about offbeat room dividers. -- Marcie Lovett, Organized by Marcie

Marcie was kind enough to send me a link to an interesting product; unfortunately, in the few days since she wrote to me, that link has stopped working. But I enjoyed the challenge - so Marcie, this one is for you!

There are two companies that provide readily-found room dividers that also serve an organizing function. One is Oriental Furniture, which makes the 6-foot-tall shoji screen with pockets shown above.

shoji screen room divider with cork board panels

Oriental Furniture also has this shoji screen with cork board panels.

folding screen with pockets

The second company is Adesso, which makes the Pocketz Folding Screen.

folding screen with shelves, hooks, magazine rack

Adesso also makes the Hang It Up Folding Screen.

bookcase room divider for children

If you have children, you might like this divider from Jonti-Craft: the mobile library bookcase.

felt covered partition with slots for papers, magazines, etc.

Now we're going to head over to Italy - and look at two dividers that are very cool, but might be harder to find - and more expensive. The first is the WGS Wall from Gallotti & Radice - which I'm not finding under "products" on the company's web site. But it's in the Salon del Mobile 2010 Milano catalog of 15 New Products - and in photos from that event. [via Architonic and DigsDigs]

room divider, felt-covered, with straps to hold papers, magazines, etc.

divider, felt-covered, with straps to hold papers, magazines, etc.

Then there's the Softwall from B&B Italia; the company does have a branch office in New York. [via Architonic]

room screen
room screen with pockets for magazines, etc.

And Abstracta, in Sweden, makes Airflake News - with pockets that can store magazines. The product can be configured with your choice from the five shapes and seven colors available. The first photo above is the regular Airflake, so you get an idea of what the product is; the second is a close-up of the Airflake News.

Finally, if you're the do-it-yourself type, you might be inspired by the room divider screen the Cindy Dyer made, starting with a bi-fold closet door.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Decluttering the Election Materials

election mailers

If you're a United States citizen, I hope you're planning to vote in the Nov. 2 elections. But are you getting totally swamped with election mailers, phone calls, and radio and TV ads?

Over the years, I've found a way that works for me to manage the election information. I ignore all of the items listed above; the mailers go into recycling, the phone calls are hung up on (politely, if it's a real person calling), and I change channels if an ad comes on the radio.

And honestly, I rarely read all the gory detail in the official voter guide. (In California this time, we have 10 state-wide propositions, as well as the local ballot measures, and all the candidates. Reading everything in detail just isn't how I want to spend my time.)

But I do want to be an informed voter. In reaching that goal, I've found these two resources help me the most:

1. Reasoned editorials

I don't want a clip-and-save list of who and what to vote for. Rather, I want to read why certain people and positions are being recommended. For state-wide issues, I tend to start with three newspapers, which don't always agree: The San Francisco Bay Guardian, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Sacramento Bee. By the time I've read their opinions, I usually have a good grasp of the issues, and can see where I might want to read more.

For local issues, I have a different list of sources. And if you follow my approach, your choice will differ from mine, being dependent on where you live and which editorial sources you find helpful.

2. SmartVoter

Here I can see position papers, biographical information, endorsement lists - and links to candidates' web sites. Sometimes what you read still comes across as sound bites, but often there's really useful information, too. And if a candidate chooses not to supply information to this nationwide non-partisan site managed by the League of Women Voters, that tells you something, too.

And after I've done my reading, having a discussion with friends who are also deciding how to vote can be very useful, too.

How do you wade through the election material clutter?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Over-the-Door Shoe Organizers: Not Just for Shoes

over the door shoe organizer with pockets
Picture: Simply Stashed

How many ways can you use over-the-door shoe organizers? I listed a lot of possibilities back in May 2008 - using the organizers for bathroom supplies, cables, toys, craft supplies, gloves, office supplies, etc.

But I've since found even more creative uses for these shoe organizers.

1. Real Simple writes about using them in the pantry.

2. Apartment Therapy suggests you could use one to hold silverware.

3. A Police Wife uses one to hold some of her husband's gear. [via Tanna Clark at Complete Organizing Solutions]

4. A member of the HGS horse forums says she has one on the back of the tack room door to hold brushes, shampoo, etc.

5. Over on the Imaginisce blog, Roberta says she uses one for the punches she uses for scrapbooking.

6. And Urban Greenery shows a shoe organizer turned into a tiny herb garden!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Organizing Finds are Everywhere, Including the Pumpkin Festival

Farmer Mike carves pumpkins at 2010 Art and Pumpkin Festival, Half Moon Bay

I rarely go to the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival, with its huge crowds and awful traffic. But some friends were going this year, so I joined them - and wound up having a lovely time. It rained, but we had umbrellas - and the rains kept the crowd levels down. (I'm sorry for the artists, though, who missed out on visitors.)

towel rack made by blacksmith

And of course, as I wandered around, I found some organizing-type products. Here's a towel rack from Poonkinney Forge.

hooks with animal faces, made by blacksmith

The forge also sells some wonderful two-prong hooks with the same type of fanciful faces.

wood cap racks

The other organizing items I saw came from Scholfield Valley Wood Products. The cap racks caught my eye first.

wood earring racks

And then I saw the earring racks (and the necklace racks, not shown in this photo) - but I didn't see the unusual revolving necklace holder. Looking at the business's web site, I see that Scholfield Valley Wood Products also makes some nice Lazy Susans.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Preserving the Memories: T-Shirt Quilts

t-shirt quilt

Do you have a large collection of t-shirts that you don't wear much - but they feel too sentimental to discard? You could have them made into a t-shirt quilt.

I've written about this before - see point #2 in this older post - but since then I've found many more companies making the quilts. The photos in this post just show one style of quilt from each provider - but many of them do multiple styles, so if you're serious about having a quilt made, you may want to check out the web sites to see the full range of options.

The one at the top of this post comes from Custom Memory Quilts. The quilt blocks can be made from sweatshirts or sweatpants, too - not just t-shirts. [via KChristieH blog]

t-shirt quilt

This one comes from Race Quilt; the web site notes that the company is now accepting orders for Christmas. These quilts have a 6-8 weeks lead time, so if you'd like one for the holidays, order soon!

partial t-shirt quilt - four blocks, showing detail

Here's just part of a quilt done by Katy T-Shirt Quilts. I wanted to show you the detail, which doesn't show up in a larger picture.

Ohio State themed t-shirt quilt

As a University of Michigan graduate, I hesitated a bit about posting this Ohio State themed t-shirt quilt - but it sure is cool. It comes from REgnA's Bloom.

t-shirt quilt

This quilt was made by T-Shirt Quilts Canada "for a runner with a huge stash of t-shirts, every one of which just had to have a place in this king-size quilt."

Other companies to consider are Brightside, Campus Quilt Company, Goose Track Quilts, PSHQuilts, Q is for Quilting, RossCommon Quilts and Texas T-Shirt Quilts. Update on Aug. 1, 2012: Q is for Quilting seems to have disappeared.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Many Benefits of Getting Decluttered and Organized

house with weeds
Image purchased from iStockPhoto.

What get people motivated to deal with their clutter - besides having house guests coming soon? I've been looking at the articles I've bookmarked over the years, and found that many people have written eloquently on the various reasons they see for getting organized.

Some writers manage to summarize the benefits in a single sentence. Gretchen Rubin notes that "For most people, outer order contributes to inner peace." Similarly, Susan Mazza says that "Clearing physical space creates mental space."

Others describe how important their homes are, and how being clutter-free makes those homes so much better.

Sharon Crosby writes in A Home For You (Not Clutter):
It is much more difficult to be aware of the things you love when they are surrounded by things you care less for. Think of your home as a garden. Clutter is very much like overgrown weeds. They choke out the beauty and vitality of your home...and you. Your home has ceased to be home. It has ceased to be a least for you.
Jennifer S. O'Connell says:
I want my home to be really comfortable, functional, and beautiful. I want every area of my house to be organized. I want to know where things are, not be fearful of going into the basement or taking time in my kitchen to cook something for myself. I want to love my home, to be able to entertain here, to have guests visit, to be okay with friends and family coming over unexpected.
And Peter Walsh shares the perspective of a woman he worked with:
Patty says her house has truly become a home. "Before, it was a collection of stuff in a box. Now, it is a place where we live together and enjoy each other and we have peace together," she says.
Other writers focus on the financial benefits of getting organized. Some of my favorite articles in this vein are:
- Disorganized Frugality Is An Oxymoron
- Organizing Saves You Money
- The High Cost of Clutter

But there's so much more than just the financial aspects. Here's a wonderful perspective from Erin Doland, who writes about her (female) cat, Charlie:
If my desk is cluttered, Charlie can't sleep on my desk. She lets me know that my cluttered desk is unacceptable to her and meows in a continuous, high-pitched pattern until I clear up my mess. ...

Charlie's behavior serves as a nice reminder that keeping clutter out of my life provides space for good things to happen.
Want even more reasons? Penelope Trunk points out that, fair or not, "If you have a messy desk, people think you’re incompetent."

And a recent article by Paula Span about gerontologist David J. Ekerdt's research says:
The social workers, geriatricians, retirement community administrators and family members he’s been talking to since 2002 universally believe this: The sheer volume of objects in a typical household, the enormous physical and cognitive effort involved in sorting out what’s essential, the psychological toll of parting with what’s disposable — all can lead to a kind of paralysis that keeps seniors in place, even when the place isn’t the best place.
For even more reading, let me point you to:
- 7 Benefits of Living With Less Stuff
- 20 Great Reasons to Get Rid of Clutter

Sunday, October 10, 2010

September/October 2010 Organizing Tips and More

paper mache pumpkin bucket

My September/October 2010 newsletter is now available.

Tip of the Month: Organizing and Loss

Product of the Month: Paper mache pumpkin bucket

Also: Organizing Quote of the Month

Preparing for the Inevitable

Exit Strategies - A Plan and A Place Your Your Estate Information - book cover

Most of us don't like to think about our eventual death or incapacitation - which partly explains why so many people don't have a will or the other legal documents we all should have. (If you're one of those people, please go see a good estate attorney. If you live near me, I can recommend one.)

But as I've said: Where there's a will, there's still more to be done.

Would someone helping you during a medical emergency be able to give the hospital your medical history and list of current prescriptions? (Trust me; there's nothing like being in the emergency room, filling out the forms, and trying to remember which hip Mom had replaced, when she had that heart valve surgery, etc.)

Would someone be able to log onto your computer? Would someone know how to care for your pets? Where to find the circuit breaker box? (Mine's hard to find.) Who to contact about your situation? What you'd like in your obituary? The list goes on and on.

If you'd like to pull all this information together, there are a number of products that can help. I'll mention just a few of them.

1. Exit Strategies: A Plan and A Place Your Your Estate Information

Jeanne K. Smith is a professional organizer known as an expert in the estate organizing field - I took her training class - and this is her workbook. It's not the fanciest-looking one around; the spiral-bound workbook looks like something typed up on the computer and copied at the local copy center. However, it's the most complete book of this sort that I've seen. You can get a spiral-bound hard-copy version, or you can get a CD to create a Microsoft Word document on your computer (PC or Mac).

2. Putting Things in Order

This nicely-formatted journal is designed to capture much of the same information as Exit Strategies, except it has no section for medical information. If you've captured that information elsewhere, this book might work fine for you. There is no electronic version.

Life.doc binder

3. Life.doc

This bright-red binder also captures much of the information in Exit Strategies, except it has no section for indicating funeral/memorial preferences, obituary preferences and such. It also seemed to lack pet care information, and computer/internet information. Some of the type on the forms was a bit hard to read, with dark-orange type on a light-orange background, for example. The binder comes with a CD which works on both PCs and Macs; Microsoft Word is required.