Monday, December 26, 2011

New Year's "Be On Time" Resolution Help: Cool Alarm Clocks

poster: My alarm has a purr function
Poster from Oh, Dear Molly, via moderncat

Get a better alarm clock. By now, we all use the alarm clock on our phones to wake us up. But I’ve got a backup, as well. It’s a $15 Sony alarm clock, and it sits across the room. When it goes off, I have to get up to shut it. You know what that means? It means I’m up. — Peter Shankman, Eight Ideas for the Next Seven Days

Well, I'm writing this on Dec. 26, and we're now down to only six more days in 2011. But if you'd like to follow Peter's suggestion — and you don't want to rely on the cats — I've got some alarm clocks you might consider, other than Peter's Sony.

red alarm clock

Punkt takes Peter's point a bit further, saying, "Why have your cell phone lying on your bedside table, when you can be woken up by a superb design object like the AC 01?" And it certainly is a great-looking clock, available in black, white and red. Some of the many places you can buy it are Design Public, A+R Store and The Lollipop Shoppe. Update on Aug. 11, 2012: The Lollipop Shoppe no longer carries this product.

alarm clock with color of Japan's flag

If you want the limited edition Punkt. for Japan clock — only 500 were made — I'm still seeing one here. "100% of the profits from the sale of the special edition clock will go to rebuild family homes and play areas in Maeami, a fishing village in the Tōhoku region which was swept away by the tsunami. The project is supported by ‘Architecture for Humanity,’ a non-profit design services firm founded in 1999." [via Switched On Set]

red alarm clock, designed to look like a pocket watch

Newgate has a bunch of alarm clocks to choose from; this one is called the Regulator, and it comes in four different colors. [via Retro To Go] Update on Aug. 11, 2012: Note that Newgate itself does not ship outside the U.K. However, you can find many other sites selling this clock.

Big Ben traditional-looking alarm clock, ivory

Another traditional alarm clock is this Big Ben clock sold by L.L.Bean. Customers rave about how quiet it is.

red Big Ben travel alarm clock

There's also a smaller, folding Big Ben clock, which can serve as a travel alarm.

alarm clock in wood casing

This wooden block alarm clock, from the Japanese company Lemnos, is a MoMA exclusive.

Tiffany travel alarm, in Tiffany blue case

Tiffany sells a number of alarm clocks, but this travel alarm is the only one using the Tiffany blue. [via Furniture Fashion]

Lego Yoda alarm clock

And finally, while it doesn't have the elegant design (and easy-to-read clock face) of the other alarm clocks shown here, I couldn't resist showing you the Lego Star Wars Yoda Minifigure Clock.

Related Posts:
7 Alarm Clocks for A Gentler Wake-Up Call
Clocks With Character
Two Alarm Clocks With Fancy Scheduling Features
Alarm Clocks: Amusing, Beautiful, Practical - and Furry
5 Alarm Clocks to Get You Up and Running
Waking Up On Time: Five Alarm Clocks

Sunday, December 25, 2011

It's Really OK to Get Rid of Unwanted Gifts

Sweater from the Ugly Sweater Store

Did you receive some gifts this year that you just don't have any use for? No matter how much you care for the gift-givers, you really do not have to keep the gifts, as even Miss Manners will agree. She requires appropriate thank-you notes, but says you are not stuck with an item that doesn't suit you.
As long as the recipient does not come back with complaints or, worse, a demand that the giver exchange the item, she may do what she likes with it. The only requirement is to prevent the donor’s knowing that it has been rejected. No yard sales in the same neighborhood, for example. And no demanding a receipt.
Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan of Apartment Therapy concurs; he says, in an article I found though Discardia:
One can very gratefully accept someone’s giving and not have to live with their gift. You’re not doing yourself or your friend a service by hanging onto the thing they gave you that you don’t like. What you do owe them, however, is to move it on from your home discreetly.
Author Alexander McCall Smith explained his personal philosophy about such gifts in a series of tweets:
Tweet 1: Christmas brings a major moral problem: what to do with unwanted gifts. Initial reaction: one must pretend to like them. Thank you so much.

Tweet 2: You don't have to keep the present for ever, but you should not give it away immediately. Certainly not on Boxing Day.

Tweet 3: January 25th is about right. Thereafter the unwanted present may be disposed of, preferably given away. If sold, proceeds to charity.
Erin Doland of Unclutterer notes, in an article in Real Simple, that as much as she feared people would ask about the gifts she finally gave away, that wound up not being a problem.
My decorating tastes may change over time, but I am fairly certain I will never enjoy a home filled with a series of rhinestone-accented paintings of scary clowns. Yet I had hoarded these and other unattractive presents because I thought that was the decent thing to do. I also wasn’t sure what I would say if someone noticed his gift missing and asked why. Well, you know what? No one has. Not even the bestower of the scary clowns.
As feng shui expert Karen Kingston says, when it comes to unwanted gifts, "It’s far better to accept the love that was given with the gift and let the physical object go." She also notes that we might consider how we, in turn, feel about the gifts we give to others:
My own attitude is that if I give a gift to someone and it amounts to instant or eventual clutter in their life then I certainly don’t want them to keep it. I would much prefer they sell it, regift it or throw it away if necessary. I give the gift and let it go.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Donating that Single Sock or Lonely Glove

Pacific fisher, a weasel
Photo of Pacific fisher by U.S. Forest Service, Region 5; found on Flickr. Photo is in the public domain.

Got some socks with no mates? Those socks can find a good home with the University of California's Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project. As YubaNet reports:
A University of California wildlife research team working in the Sierra Nevada is asking the public to donate clean, gently used socks for research on a rare weasel called the Pacific fisher. ...

After years of experimentation, the research team has determined that socks are the ideal receptacle for hanging fisher bait in trees. The baited socks are hung in trees in view of motion-activated cameras. As the animal moves, climbing the tree and chewing on the sock, the camera takes photos that allow the scientists to identify the species.

The researchers are going through 250 pairs a month. ... The scientists don't need new socks; they would prefer old, unmatched, non-holey ones, something everyone has cluttering up their sock drawers.
You can read more about this project — including where to send the socks — on the YubaNet site, or on the Sacramento Bee web site. [via Cynthia A. Smith and Avital Binshtock]

woman with pair of unmatched mittens

And what about those gloves with no mates? Glove Love in London will take them, clean them, pair them up with other single gloves, and sell them to glove lovers. "The money goes to Green Thing, which is a not-for-profit organisation set-up to inspire people to lead greener lives." It seems the single gloves are matched not just by size but also by general type: mittens with other mittens, for example.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mourning for My Puppy

Saturday was the end of the line for my sweet Puppy cat. As I mentioned before, he'd was diagnosed with large-cell gastrointestinal lymphoma back in October, and that's a pretty grim diagnosis. When he stopped eating, stopped drinking, and retreated to a hiding spot, I knew it was time to say goodbye.

Over the past two days, I've noticed I've reacted to his death the same way many people react to deaths of loved ones, both people and pets: We want the reminders of their illnesses gone, right away.

* I gave the unused medicines back to the vet, to give away to someone else in need.

* I had a number of special foods I'd bought to tempt Puppy to eat. Some went back to the store where I bought them. The ones I couldn't return, including open packages, went to a friend with a cat who would enjoy them. (My other cats would, too, but I'd rather keep them on their normal diet.)

* I gave the baby food — another tempt-Puppy-to-eat item — to my neighbors, who will in turn give it to people they know who have babies.

But the other things, that remind me of good times, I'm not ready to decide about, and there's no rush to make any decisions. That box he's curled up in, that he loved so much for many years — no, I'm not ready to do anything with that.

Again, this mirrors how many people deal with items after any loss; we wait a bit, and make decisions as we're ready.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Clutter-Free Gift Suggestions for Holiday Shoppers

Abominable Snowman postage stamp

You'll see lots of articles with recommendations for "consumable" gifts — but how about some unusual consumable gifts, such as these postage stamps from Fresh Roasted Graphics? The company has a number of other stamp designs, too. [via Charles Apple]


Giving a gift to someone who knits? How about some handspun, hand-dyed yarn? You'll find lots of choices on Etsy; the yarn I'm showing here comes from The Naked Spinner. [via Charles Apple again, who recommends the yarn from London Nelson]

Chanukah chocolates

And while chocolates are one of the classic consumable gifts, I've never seen Chanukah-themed chocolates that are as stunning as those from Rogue Confections. Cool Mom Picks explains that "these are not foils — the designs are printed right onto the chocolate discs with gorgeous edible inks. This is one of two Chanukah choices; Christmas versions are available, too.

play clay

This final one is a bit of a cheat; while most children's art supplies are consumables, clay is less so. But I still like the idea of giving children items for creative, artistic play — and Mama K's aromatic play clay created with "subtle aromatherapy oils to soothe the mind" sounds intriguing. There are seven scents, including chamomile, bergamot and lemongrass. [via the Cool Mom Picks 2011 Holiday Gift Guide]

Want more clutter-free gift ideas? See all my gift-giving posts! And if you have some great clutter-free gift suggestions of your own, please add them in the comments.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cookie Jars for Holiday Treats: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Uglydoll cookie jar

If you're baking a lot this holiday season, you may be interested in some cool cookie jars. This one — "the ugly" — is actually one of three Uglydoll cookie jars.

zombie head cookie jar

And let's look at one more cookie jar designed to make you smile: the Zombie Head cookie jar. [via ThisIsWhyImBroke, which I found through Nancy Wisser]

The bad? Those are all the cookie jars I'm not subjecting you to, that I sorted through before writing this post! So let's go on to a whole bunch of "good" ones, in a wide range of styles.

red biscuit bin that says Big Love

Emma Bridgewater makes a number of biscuit bins, but the one I like the most is this Big Love one. You can also find it in blue. The Emma Bridgewater site says it has a "tight fitting lid to keep all your biscuits very fresh."

biscuit bin with pictures of gingerbread men and other baking-related items

Another fun biscuit bin comes from Creative Tops; I found it here and here. Again, the sites say there's a "tight seal."

metallic gray biscuit barrel

Brabantia has biscuit barrels in neutral colors. You can find them many places, including here and here. Kitchen Critic explains the appeal of this one, beyond the nice looks: "The ingenious Brabantia Keep-Fresh lid features a compartment filled with moisture-absorbing crystals. Even better, the crystals never need replacing. Every couple of months you just pop them in the oven for a few minutes and revive them! The clever design even has a handy calendar to remind you when they need refreshing."

orange plastic biscotto / cookie container

The Guzzini biscotto container, made from molded plastic, comes in five colors. Forma in the U.K. carries it in green, orange, red and yellow. [via Retro to Go]

stoneware cookie jar
porcelain cookie jar, red

And I'll end with the drop-dead gorgeous cookie jars from R Morales Pottery — so lovely I couldn't pick just one to show you. [via Apartment Therapy]

Related Post:
Sweet Storage: Cookie Jars and Biscuit Barrels

Monday, December 12, 2011

Three More Ways to Make Recycling Easier

colorful bags for collecting recycling, in four sizes

Looking for something a bit different to collect your recyclables? I've written about recycling bags and bins before — see Related Posts at the end — but I've now found some more.

Let's start with Husmus, from Muungano. The bags are made from recycled plastics, and are designed to fit under the kitchen sink. [via Better Living Through Design]

tote for old newspapers, made from felt

Old News from Creatables gives you a nice way to collect newspapers to haul out to the recycling bin. Apartment Therapy explains that Old News is "made from excess felt from the production of indoor tennis courts."

recycling bags made from old newspapers

And these recycled recycling bags come from At West End, which explains: "Discarded newspapers from around the world are collected in the Philippines and made into these reusable bins to collect your recyclables. Laminated and durable for easy wipe down." Update on July 5, 2014: At West End no longer carries these bags.

Related Posts:
Recycling Made Easier: Recycling Bags
Recycling Made Easier: Recycling Bins

Sunday, December 11, 2011

2012 Calendars: Final Fabulous Finds

Pinups for Vets calendar

Besides helping you keep track of appointments, calendars can benefit good causes. Here's one such calendar, and it's like nothing else you've seen: Gina Elise's Pinups for Vets. (And yes, this is all safe for work.)

The calendars can be ordered for yourself — or you can order them to be sent to a hospitalized veteran, or to an active-duty service member. Pinups for Vets is a non-profit organization, and Gina Elise says your purchases are tax-deductible. The funds from all purchases "help us improve Veterans' healthcare programs across the U.S." You can buy the calendars here. [via The Whatever Shopping Guide on John Scalzi's blog]

2012 clipboard calendar

Other calendars appeal to me just because of the lovely design — like this clipboard calendar from Carlo Brito. One place you might be able to buy it is Nouvelle Nouvelle. [via Better Living Through Design]

2012 full year calendar / planner

Finally, if you'd like to see the whole year at once, take a look at this planner from Crispin Finn. [via Design Milk]

Related Posts with other 2012 calendar finds:
First Look: 2012 Wall Calendars
Helping Dogs and Cats in Need: 2012 Calendars for a Cause
Two Unique 2012 Wall Calendars
2012 Wall Calendars: Cats and Dogs — and More

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Simple Solutions to Holiday Gift-Giving Craziness

Idea #1: Minimize the Gift Giving

Want to give — and get — less stuff this holiday season? Miss Minimalist has a One Less Gift certificate you can use. However, even Miss Minimalist is not entirely opposed to gifts; for example, she suggests exchanging services, with "coupons" for babysitting, snow shoveling, etc. Another nice idea is this one:
Make charitable donations. The money we spend buying each other gadgets, knickknacks, and tchotchkes can do a world of good for those less fortunate. The key is to make it fun: spend an afternoon with loved ones choosing favorite charities together. Selecting a sheep, goat, or water buffalo to donate through Heifer International, for example, can be a lot more fun (and certainly more fulfilling) than fighting crowds at the mall.
Read her whole post for more ideas on ways to enjoy the holidays without going crazy on the gift-giving. [via The Consumerist]

And for more encouragement to minimize the gift-giving, watch this charming short video called Chip and Bean Buy Nothing.

Idea #2: Give Gifts that Won't Become Clutter

If you'd like to buy some gifts, and ensure they are still not clutter, there are a number of ways to go. If you know someone well, you may have a darn good idea what that person would love to get — and it might be a small thing that's somehow just perfect.

Clo the Cow stuffed animal

When I look around my home, I can see a number of such gifts that I've received over the years. Clo the Cow, the mascot of Clover Stornetta, is just one such gift — a perfect reminder of time spent in Sonoma County.

And then there are the standard non-cluttter gifts: gifts of consumables, gifts of experiences, and those gifts of charitable donations mentioned earlier. These still need to be picked with care — not everyone wants wine or chocolates, for example — but these are all gifts that won't add to the stuff lying around the house, at least not for long! Here are just a few suggestions: logo

1. Gift subscription to — or just a one-time delivery

Many of us are familiar with community-supported agriculture programs, where local farmers sell their produce direct to consumers. Most of us don't have a local coffee grower nearby, but this program provides the next best thing.

The site is not yet set up for gift subscriptions, but Thaleon Tremain, the CEO of, suggested this to me: "Subscribe to a CSA and then ship it another address, as a gift. If you would like to include a message, please email us directly and we will hand-write your message on a nice card."

Italian Basil seeds

2. Unusual seeds

This could be a fun gift for any gardeners you know. The seeds shown above come from the Italian company Franchi Sementi, which has distributors around the world. (This photo came from The Italian Gardener in Australia.) You could also give a gift certificate for such seeds.

knit hat

3. Classes offered by local shops

LeeAnne Jones of Diablo Magazine wrote about classes offered in the East Bay (part of the San Francisco Bay Area). But lots of stores all over the place offer classes! The photo above comes from The Naked Sheep Knit Shop, which offers a class called A Year of Hats — and many other classes as well.

Related Posts:
All my non-clutter gift-giving ideas

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Pillboxes with a Dose of Cute

pillbox with pirate owl

"Cool pill cases/organizers. ... I want some CUTE options!" That's the request I got from my friend and fellow organizer Julie Bestry, and I'm delighted to oblige. Let's start with this pillbox from SweetHeartSinner Creations — one of the many it sells.

Jesus pill box - Give us this day our daily meds

The Unemployed Philosophers Guild sells six different pillboxes, including this one. If you don't want a Jesus theme, you could choose Freud or Shakespeare, among others.

pillbox with picture of peacock

This pillbox from Glam may not be cute as much as charming. I don't see this specific one on the Glam web site, but it's available through SilverHooks and

pillbox with stylized drawing of 3 women

Kyle Design is another place to go for a large number of pillbox designs — and a number of different sizes, too. The largest one "holds a seven day (1 week) supply of pills in a plastic flip top pill case hidden inside."

pill cases with picture of pig

Of course, no one does cute quite like some Japanese designers do. Japanistic sells four pill cases, and this is my favorite.

keychain shaped like a pill

And if you just have a few pills you need to carry, this pill keychain from Jonathan Adler might do. [via Switched On Set]

three cute pillboxes

For something larger, your choices are much more limited; beyond the Kyle Design boxes mentioned above, you're mostly stuck with boring plastic boxes. I did find this one from the Korean company Donbook — but at a place where you can only buy in lots of ten, and have to pay some rather high shipping costs. (Here's another place that has "free shipping" but has a much higher lot price.)

Related Post
Organizing the Medications

Friday, December 2, 2011

2012 Wall Calendars: Cats and Dogs — and More

2012 Bston Buddies Rescue Calendar

I'm always on the prowl for good calendars this time of year — for the blog, of course, but also for my own gift-giving. While I'm personally looking for cat calendars — a cat calendar is my traditional Christmas gift to one friend — I appreciate the other cool calendars I find, such as this one: the 2012 Boston Buddies Rescue Calendar. What's not to like? It's got cute animal photos and nice boxes for writing in, and it benefits dog rescue work.

Boogie on Scooters 21012 Calendar with drawings of Boston Terrier dog named Boogie

I found that Boston Buddies calendar through Lili Chin of Boogie's Blog, who has her own calendar: Boogie on Scooters. (Boogie is on the cover of the Boston Buddies calendar.)

Cranky Cats 2012 calendar

Moving on to cats, here's the Cranky Cats calendar by Cindy Schmidt of Indigo Art. You can buy it from Cindy by sending her an email at, or you can buy it at Cat Alley. (Photo provided by Cindy and used with permission.)

calendar showing plants in pots

If you'd like a non-animal calendar, here's a 2012 calendar from Rethink Ink Design printed on "post-consumer waste recycled paper stock." The theme of this calendar is fresh, local foods. (Photo used with permission.)

wall calendar with no illustrations but nice design

For the minimalists who'd prefer no illustration at all, here's the 2012 calendar from Redstar Ink, also printed on recycled stock. [via Apartment Therapy]

Art by Nakisha calendar, with bunny drawings

While all the calendars I've mentioned so far were new finds for me this year, there are a number of calendars I've written about in prior years that now have a 2012 version available. This one is from Nakisha of Blue Dog Rose, but you might also like these:
- Classic Crop Circles
- Golden Retriever Rescue of the Rockies
- Hawaii Cats
- Kiva calendar
- Multifaith Calendar
- Nantucket Mermaid
- Nice Jewish Guys
- New Zealand photography calendars from Craig Potton
- Seva Calendar

Related Posts with other 2012 calendar finds:
First Look: 2012 Wall Calendars
Helping Dogs and Cats in Need: 2012 Calendars for a Cause
Two Unique 2012 Wall Calendars

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Two Unique 2012 Wall Calendars

2012 cat calendar

Looking for a cool wall calendar? Into cats? How about Nedobeck's 2012 Fanciful Feline Calendar? For a small extra charge Don Nedobeck will sign the calendar, adding a first name and a drawing of a fat cat. If you like Don's work, you can also check out his Facebook page. (Photo provided by the creator and used with permission.)

2012 calendar with KitchenAid mixers =

Un Amore is an interesting company; owner Nicole Dinardo hand paints KitchenAid mixers! Even if you don't want your mixer painted, you may like the 2012 Calendar of Custom Un Amore Mixers. [via David Lebovitz]

Related Posts:
First Look: 2012 Wall Calendars
Helping Dogs and Cats in Need: 2012 Calendars for a Cause