Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas / Holiday Gift Ideas: Books, Done Differently

Octavia Books gift card

If you're a reader and have friends who are, too, there's a good chance that books are a popular gift between you and those friends. If you know someone's taste, books can make wonderful gifts. And if you're not sure, you might consider bookstore gift cards, including ones from independent bookstores such as Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon and Octavia Books in New Orleans - and many more.

But here are some other ideas for book-related gift giving - in ways designed to ensure those books don't become clutter.

Just the Right Book logo

1. Just the Right Book

Experienced booksellers (and people who read a lot themselves) hand-pick books to send to your gift recipients, based on information you provide. And here's how Just the Right Book explains its guarantee: "If we get it wrong (unlikely, but not impossible), or if your gift recipient already has the book we send, we will gladly exchange the book for another selection at no cost to you or your recipient!"

The recipients can also provide feedback to help fine-tune the selection process. [via Springwise and Cool Mom Picks]

Bookswim gift cards

2. Bookswim gift membership

Bookswim is often called the Netflix of books; it provides book rentals. This might be perfect for someone who likes to read new releases, and would prefer not to wait in those long reservation lists at the library. [via Jamie Pearson, @TravelSavvyMom on Twitter]

3. A book PLUS an experience

This idea comes from Lisa Belkin at the New York Times, who writes: "For instance, give From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, then take a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and look for all the works mentioned in the book." Customize this for something local to you, and you have an interesting gift idea. [via Naomi Seldin, @SimplerLiving on Twitter]

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas / Holiday Gift Ideas: Consumables, Part 2

gift cookies

Looking for some unusual consumable gifts? Cookies might not seem unusual - but these are Cookies for Kids' Cancer, where "100% of the profit from your purchase will directly fund pediatric cancer research."


You could "adopt" a beehive and get raw honey and beeswax candles from that hive.


Know a crafter who works with fleece in some form - a felter, knitter, etc. - and who doesn't already have multiple years worth of supplies? You could adopt a sheep and get its fleece (raw or processed) - or, in some cases, pay extra to have the fleece turned into spun yarn. Some programs offer extras such as sheep milk soap or an invitation to the shearing party. Some of the farms offering adopt-a-sheep programs are Owens Farm in Pennsylvania, Quaker Hill Farm in Michigan, and Wise Guy Acres in Minnesota. Update on Dec. 2, 2012: I'm no longer finding a web site for Wise Guy Acres.

Keep Calm and Carry On bandages / plasters

These Keep Calm and Carry On bandages (or plasters) are available from many online sources - just when I thought we'd exhausted the product possibilities from the old Keep Calm poster.

Other bandages you might like are the WTF bandages and the cat bandages. Update on Dec. 2, 2012: The company that sold these says they are sold out.

For more consumable ideas, see my post from a few days ago.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lego Storage Options: The 2010 Update

Lego storage labels

Back in 2007 I wrote about 16 Lego storage options, and that's the most popular post I've ever written. The comments have introduced a few more options, too.

But just today I learned of some neat new products to help organize all those Legos, from a company called Brikcrate. The first is a set of labels that you can use on whatever containers you're using for your Legos.

Lego storage table / crate

And then there are the storage tables: the JuniorCrate and the JumboCrate (shown above) - and of course the labels work perfectly with these storage pieces. The JuniorCrate comes with your choice of three different drawer configurations; the JumboCrate has four choices. The tables come in three different heights, too.

Update: See my June 2011 finds for Lego storage.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Organizing Products Inspired by Famous Toys

Lego storage boxes

Storing Legos is a continual challenge - but now Store is selling some Lego-shaped storage boxes, in four different sizes, that can be used to store all kinds of stuff! You can also get Lego storage heads. [Via Ohdeedoh and SwissMiss.]

Lego storage head

Firebox.com seems to have the same Lego storage bricks as well as the Lego storage heads. As Firebox.com says: "Keep your toys inside a... toy!" [via Retro To Go]

Lego-inspired toy box

If you live in the U.K, you could get this Lego-inspired wooden toy box. [via Retro To GoUpdated on Feb. 25, 2015, to remove link to U.K. vendor that no longer sells these boxes.

You can see the same toy box here, where furniture maker Gary Moore notes: "The design incorporates a large cut-out on all four sides to prevent any little fingers from getting caught. Also the toy box is fitted with a lid-stay to hold the lid safely in place while children play." He also says: "If you require something smaller or perhaps even larger, the design can be customised to more or less any size you like."

Rubik cube container
Rubik Cube container

Moving beyond Legos, here's a container inspired by the Rubik's Cube. It's available in two different sizes. [via Freshome]

Friday, November 26, 2010

Comics to Inspire Your Decluttering Efforts

comic says = Surround yourself with things and people that inspire you.

Alex Noriega has created a series of one-panel comics called Stuff No One Told Me (but I learned anyway). Some of them definitely have a decluttering focus, such as #48: Surround yourself with things and people that inspire you.

comic says - Things are just things. Don't get too attached to them.

And then there's #51: Things are just things.

comic says - Rushing is never a good idea

If time management and an overcrowded calendar are your challenges, you might like #45: Rushing is never a good idea.

These comics are available as prints as well as mugs, greeting cards and t-shirts. Yes, for many people these items would just be clutter. But others might find them to be just the inspiration - or the reminders - that they need.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Christmas / Holiday Gift Ideas: Consumables

lip blams

Since we're approaching the gift-giving season, it's time again for some suggestions of gifts that won't become clutter - and consumables are one type of product that, if well-chosen, certainly fits that description. Of course you can get wine or various food items - or soaps, candles and such if the recipient likes that type of thing - but here are some more unusual suggestions:

1. Artisan lip balms

You can even get someone a subscription to the "balm of the month." [via Springwise] Update on Dec. 2, 2012: Bonbon, the company making these lip balms, seems to have disappeared.

pickle-flavored floss

2. Floss

Accoutrements makes pickle-flavored floss, bacon-flavored floss, cupcake frosting-flavored floss, and more. Update on Nov. 24, 2011: I'm no longer seeing the pickle-flavored floss, but the bacon and cupcake options are still available - and others, too.

French roast coffee

3. Coffee

OK, coffee isn't that unusual - but this particular coffee is somewhat different. As Springwise explains: "Texas-based Project7's coffees are all harvested from small, organic farms that are certified Fair Trade and USDA Organic. Sold through coffee-of-the-month subscriptions, each coffee blend is attached to a specific cause. Its French Roast coffee, for instance, is associated with its 'Heal the Sick' project, so that each canister sold translates into medicine provided for one person suffering from malaria."

garbage bags with goldfish

4. Garbage bags

I've mentioned decorative garbage bags before. But now there's another company providing some new options: bin bags with Christmas pudding and pet goldfish designs.

puppy with dog poo bags

5. Dog Poo Bags from Switzerland

OK, these are too expensive for anyone to buy for everyday use. But they certainly are a consumable that won't become clutter! They come in a box of 16 - two each of eight designs. (You may want to click the link above just to look at the other seven.) The Pink Monkey Company Ltd. is one place to buy them. Update on Nov. 24, 2011: I'm no longer seeing these at Pink Monkey.

More suggestions from prior years:
Christmas and Other Holidays: Consumable Gifts
Christmas and Other Holidays: Consumable Gifts, Part 2

Monday, November 22, 2010

November 2010 Organizing Tips and More

cosmetics organizer

My November 2010 newsletter is now available.

Tip of the Month: Gift Giving

Product of the Month: cosmetics organizer

Recycling / Reuse Ideas of the Month: Hello Rewind, Deadjeans, and Recyleyourjeans.com

Also: Organizing Quote of the Month

If you'd like to get my newsletter by e-mail, you can subscribe.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Beyond the Piggy Bank: Tzedkah Boxes

tzedakah box

When I last wrote about piggy banks, I got this comment from fellow organizer Claire Josefine:

Jeri, have I already suggested that you do a related post on Tzedakah boxes, or pushkes? They are boxes - some very ornate - intended for saving for charitable purposes. A nice, slightly different angle on savings. -

Glad to oblige, Claire! And this seems a good time to look at these boxes, as we enter a season of thanksgiving - and of giving to others.

Let's start with one that actually looks like a box - although Yair Emanuel has tzedakah boxes in a number of shapes.

tzedakah box

Here a tzedakah box from Gary Rosenthal, with tzedakah in Hebrew, and these words in English: May we not be judged by how much we acquire but let us be blessed according to how much we give.

tzedakah box

This is one of the many tzedakah boxes from Stained Glass Designs by Susan Fullenbaum.

porcelain tzedakah box

Here's a lovely little porcelain tzedakah box from Spode.

tzedakah box

And here's a hand-painted tzedakah box from Kakadu Designs. Update on April 17, 2019: The company no longer shows any tzedakah boxes on its website.

Noah's Ark shaped tzedakah box

Here's a tzedakah box with a Noah's Ark theme, from Seeka - where you can find many other designs, too. These boxes are made from stainless steel. Update on April 17, 2019: The company no longer shows any tzedakah boxes on its website.

ironwork tzedakah box

I found this one at Modern Tribe; it's identified as the Real Men Give Tzedakah Box. It's made by Steve Bronstein of Blackthorne Forge. [via Cool Mom Picks] Update on April 19, 2019: I'm no longer finding this one at Modern Tribe, but this one (or something similar) is at Blackthorne Forge.

tzedakah box shaped like a synagogue

Reuven Masel makes some pretty amazing synagogue replica tzedakah boxes.

sterling silver filagree tzedakah box

Finally, let's admire this incredible sterling silver Tzedakah box with its gorgeous filagree work. Update on April 17, 2019: I'm no longer finding this box by Ben-Zion David anywhere on the web.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bookends: Sometimes Simple Works Best

I've been doing some of my own decluttering - the continual weeding of the books. Getting rid of some 20-year-old travel books that I haven't opened in ages left me a nice space to display these cranes that a friend folded.

Of course, when I don't fill up a whole shelf with books, that means I need some bookends. And if I'm putting them next to decorative items, I want those bookends to be unobtrusive - but I still want them to be attractive. The bookend I'm using here comes from Blomus; you can get the Blomus bookends at Unica Home and other places.

Here's another example, with a vase - which I don't use as a vase. The bookends I've used here appear to be the Elements bookends from Spectrum Diversified. They come in two sizes, and are available in both chrome and black. I'm seeing them on Amazon.com.

Related Posts:
Nice Bookends Don't Have to Cost $685
Treat Your Books to Some Nice Bookends: The Elephant Edition
Bookends for Those Who Haven't Totally Converted to the Kindle, Nook or iPad

Sunday, November 14, 2010

One Calendar That Deserves a Post All Its Own

Hot Guys and Baby Animals calendar

Are you sick and tired of seeing studly dudes showing off their perfectly sculpted muscles? Have you had enough of those adorable baby animals flaunting their newborn, fuzzy cuteness?

Yeah, we didn't think so.

That's the opening text on the web site Hot Guys and Baby Animals. You can click on that link without fear - the pictures show the guys' chests, and no more. (The site often loads slowly, though.)

If you want any more excuses to consider this calendar, then note that it's "printed with soy-based inks on 50% post-consumer recycled paper." And "a portion of all proceeds will be donated to nonprofit animal rescue organizations."

[via Steve Silberman]

Related Posts:
First Look: 2011 Calendars
Planning Ahead: 2011 Calendars

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Umbrella Stands from Around the World

blue products, including an umbrella holder / stand

The rainy season has started in my part of the world - so it's time to look at umbrella stands once again. Let's start with the designs from Italy - including the umbrella stand from Bitossi (shown in the middle of the picture above); it's sold by Design Within Reach. (DWR calls it a "cylindrical vessel," but Bitossi calls it an umbrella holder.) When I first saw this, I thought how my mom would have loved that rich blue color.

red umbrella stand

The Elic umbrella stand was designed by Antonio Lanzillo for Area DeClic by Arrmet Srl. [via Furniture Fashion]

umbrella stands in many colors - white, orange, black, green, red, brown

The Ombo umbrella stand by Com.p.ar is sold by Go Modern in London.

pewter umbrella stand

And one final Italian design is this pewter umbrella stand from Match, sold by Unica Home - and costing over $1,000.

Union Jack umbrella stand

This Union Jack umbrella stand comes from - you guessed it - the U.K. Update on Dec. 26, 2012: I'm no longer finding this product.

umbrella stand

Teramoto Industrial Design Yard (TIDY), in Japan, gives us the TETTO, TETTO mini, and TETTO tall umbrella stands - that's the tall version above, sold by Rakuten. [via MoCo Loco]

seagrass umbrella holder

And finally, this seagrass umbrella holder was (probably) made in Indonesia, and comes to us from White Apple, in Canada.

Related Posts:
20 Unusual Umbrella Stands from $41 to $700
Winter in California: Time for Umbrella Stands

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Take the U Out of Clutter

Take the U Out of Clutter - book cover

I've read so many organizing books that it's rare that I find one that offers a lot which is new - but Take the U Out of Clutter is one such book.

I'm a big fan of Peter Walsh's book It's All Too Much, where he says, "It's not first and foremost about 'the stuff.'" This book builds on that theme; it focuses on helping people understand just what's going on in their heads and hearts that interferes with dealing with the clutter.

The authors build on their own experiences, saying:
We created lasting change in our exterior spaces by creating lasting change in our interior worlds. Our ability to deal effectively with the clutter that was strewn around our homes was directly linked with our personal stories, and the degree to which these stories empowered or disempowered us.
Peter Walsh tells the reader to "imagine the life you want to live" - and authors Mark Brunetz and Carmen Renee Berry also have us create "a vision of the future." But the authors also emphasize that "everything in your home has a story," saying:
Look around your home - it is cluttered with stories. You've got stories stuffed in your closets and jammed into your cupboards; stories stacked to the top of your garage and strewn all over your backyard.
Mark and Carmen have us distinguish the bare facts about our stuff from the stories - and have us identify the feelings these stories arouse, and assess how stressful those feelings are. When the items and their stories bring up very high levels of stress, they recommend getting outside help (a therapist, a support group, etc.) before dealing with those items.

They also encourage us to discard certain stories:
You may realize that a story you've told for years is no longer relevant, or that it describes a situation that no longer exists. Perhaps the story communicates an attitude that holds you back. ... If a story makes you feel weary, let it go. Stop telling the story - to yourself or anyone else.
This book is well-written and filled with its own stories - engaging stories of people going through the authors' process with Mark.

Many thanks to Naomi Seldin of Simpler Living for introducing me to this book.

Monday, November 8, 2010

8 Pencil Cups to Organize Your Desktop

pencil cups, colorful, made from recycled plastic

Looking for a pencil cup that's a bit out of the ordinary? Don't want to simply use a spare coffee mug? For a green approach, take a look at these pen holders made from recycled plastic.

pencil cup made from a coconut

And another eco-friendy option are these pencil cups made from coconuts! Update on Jan. 22, 2012: The company making these has ceased production.

wood pencil jar / cup

Digoto makes pencil jars from reclaimed trees - trees cut by the city. Update on Jan. 22, 2013: The site selling these doesn't have any now; it's not clear what will be sold in the future.

pewter pencil cup

This pencil cup from Match pewter was handmade by artisans in the north of Italy.

soapstone pencil cup, blue, with pictures of animals

And this soapstone pencil cup comes from Kenya.

pencil can with words such as obedient,kiss, mutt, and man's best friend

Dog lovers might enjoy this Dog Words Pencil Holder Can - one of a number of such cans by Making Time TC. Update on Sept. 8, 2013: This specific pencil holder can has sold, but there are still many others to choose from.

turquoise pencil cup - pottery

Dorothy Domingo has a couple of turquoise pencil cups. Update on Jan. 22, 2013: Dorothy Domingo is no longer selling pencil cups. 

clay pencil / pen cup

And finally, Tanya Besedina has some stunning organizers for brushes, pens and pencils.

Related Posts:
12 Pencil Cups with Personality
A Reader Shares Her Pencil Cup (and I Find 10 More)
Pencil Cups, Round 3: Two More I Had to Share
For Office Supply Addicts: 10 Pencil Cups