Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Brief Blogging Break

I'm taking a short break while I catch up on other parts of my life, but I'll be back soon!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Life's Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets

book cover - Life's Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets

Are you a harried, overwhelmed mom — who thinks your homemaking skills don't compare favorably to other moms you know? Then you're the intended reader for this book.

Most parts of this book had nothing to do with organizing; I skipped right over the sections about selecting a color palette and choosing simple recipes for entertaining, for example. However, Lisa Quinn also writes about clutter, perfectionism and things it's not worth spending time on — all themes of this blog. So I thought I'd share a few gems with you.

First, there's this theory:
We don't slave over all this domestic drivel for our families our ourselves; we do it for the other moms. For us, the Mommy Competition is on, and dammit, we're going to win. ...

What if we manic moms stopped obsessing over the unnecessary? What if we realized that our value doesn't depend on what other people think? What if we stopped being control freaks? What if we put down the glue gun and got back to our lives? ...

It's my assertion that the real key to happiness is getting rid of your inner control freak, redefining what's real and important in your life, and the lowering your standards for everything else.
And of course this one resonated with me:
There will never be enough vacuum-pack bags, shoe racks, or color-coded plastic bins if your real problem is too much stuff. The amount of time, effort, and money that people spend trying to organize their garbage is unbelievable.
And while this may not be true for everyone, it's true for many:
Don't even think about a "Sell" bin. You are never going to get around to selling all that junk. It will sit there for years. Ask for tax receipts from thrift stores, so you can write off the donation on your taxes.

Monday, September 19, 2011

For Office Supply Fans: Four File Folders

file folders with black cats - Le Chat Noir

Interesting file folders are a small luxury that some people really enjoy — and maybe you're one of those people. Since I'm a cat lover, I'm going to start with the Le Chat Noir file folders sold by the Met Store.

decorative file folders, blue

Jonathan Adler has some interesting file folders; the one above is my favorite. I found this at Heliotrope, but you can also find this line at Zhush, See Jane Work, and Lifeguard Press. Update on Oct. 8, 2012: Only Zhush still has these file folders.

decorative file folders

Lilly Pulitzer is another line of file folders that might interest you. I found this one at Pink Pelican, but these are also available at Lifeguard Press. Update on Oct. 8, 2012: I'm no longer finding these at the two sites mentioned — but they are available other places, such as

animal print file folders

And finally, here are the animal print file folders from Ballard Designs.

Related Posts:
File Folders: Moving Beyond Manila
File Folders: Four More Eye-Catching Alternatives
Fabulous File Folders: Six Ways to Make Filing More Fun

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Decluttering the E-mail: Eliminating PR Spam

Mixed Berry-Acai Smoothie; photo by esimpraim, found on Flickr; licensed under Creative Commons

Exciting developments are at play for fitness authority, body image expert, TV personality and best-selling author Jennifer Cohen.

On behalf of the one and only Betty Crocker, I would like to introduce you to Fan Fare, a collection of fun new recipe ideas to enjoy while watching your favorite shows this fall.

I wanted to share with you information on iRenew’s new line of color wellness bracelets, ideal for women and men that are looking to maintain an active lifestyle in a fashionable way.

I wanted to send you a note and introduce you to 28Black and 28White the first all-natural beverages powered by the açaí berry.

As anyone who looks at my blog can readily tell, I don't write about recipes, fitness or health issues. So I was bewildered when I recently started getting a bunch of irrelevant pitches like these, from various PR firms.

I could have kept on deleting the messages, but I'd rather just not get them in the first place. So I wrote to the firms sending them, asking to be removed from their mailing lists, and noting (when applicable):
This message appears to violate the CAN-SPAM Act, since it provides no "clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future."
Two people wrote back and told me they were not in violation of the act, because they didn't have a mailing list; they got my name from the Cision database, where I was listed as a lifestyle blogger.

Well, I don't know whether or not that means they had an exemption from the CAN-SPAM act, but I was glad to know the source of the email pitches. I'd never heard of Cision, but it was easy to find on the web. And the folks at Cision were very responsive to my request to be removed from the database; they took care of it within a day.

Cision told me the company has researchers who look for bloggers who write about various topics, and then add those bloggers to the company's database. The bloggers are supposed to be notified when this is done; apparently, something went awry in my case.

So now another stream of useless e-mail has been eliminated, which feels good. I hope people who have developed organizing-related products or services will still write to me; I like hearing about those things! But if I never get another e-mail about acai berry — unless it's from the naturopathic doctor whose mailing list I choose to be on — it will be just fine by me.

Helping Dogs and Cats in Need: 2012 Calendars for a Cause

Lots of animal rescue groups, humane societies and similar organizations create calendars as part of their fundraising. And most of them feature photos of the animals in question — which is fine, and often adorable if you've got a good photographer. But I was delighted to find the French Bulldog Village 2012 Rescue Calendar with its totally different approach: whimsical illustrations by artist Olga Gonorovsky. And the interior images are every bit as charming as the cover is. [Image used with permission]

This is your standard wall calendar, with images on the top and date blocks on the bottom for writing in your appointments. I saw the December page, and noticed that Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas and Kwanzaa are all listed.

And these calendar photos, included here under a license agreement with photographer Klara Hanincova, PhD, show how creative you can get with the photographic approach. This is the 2012 Firefighters and Shelter Pets calendar from the New Rochelle Humane Society in New York. A limited number of calendars will be available, and the Humane Society asks that you send in your order by Sept. 25, for delivery in mid-October.

Klara blogged about the photo shoots; the January image shown above is retired firefighter (and current Humane Society volunteer) Bill Spinelli with Champagne, an American Bulldog/American Stafford Terrier mix. The blog posts are fun; I enjoyed reading about the firefighters and the cats and dogs — and looking at more really cute photos. Klara obviously had a lot of fun working on this calendar!

Animal shelters and rescue organizations do such important work; if you need a 2012 wall calendar, I hope you'll consider one of these — or one by another such organization.

Related Post:
First Look: 2012 Wall Calendars

First Look: 2012 Wall Calendars

2012 wall calendar, flowers, nice large grid boxes

As we move into autumn, you might want to begin thinking about 2012 calendars. I'm already seeing some interesting ones, including the SusyJack writable grid calendar shown above.

2012 pelican wall calendar

And then there are the many calendars at RedBubble, a site sort of like CafePress or Zazzle; it allows people to take their images and easily create cards, posters, t-shirts, calendars and more. There's a huge calendar selection, so you're quite likely to find something you like. And the site's nicely designed; you can easily see all the pages in each calendar, not just the cover.

The pelican calendar from Lisa Kenny might be my favorite. But Little Cotton Rabbits by Julie Williams is sure cute, and I like the artwork by Adam Regester in his Birds in Trees calendar.

2012 calendar with whimsical creatures

I liked Jessica Doyle's 2011 calendar, and her whimsical 2012 calendars — a desk calendar and a wall calendar — are also delightful.

big calendar showing all of 2012

And now for something totally different! Seize the Year is a very large calendar that lets you see the whole year at once. The idea came from Jesse Phillips, and the calendar was designed by James Martin. Right now, this calendar is just a concept; if you'd like to see it get made, head on over to Kickstarter and back it with a pledge. Update on Oct. 28, 2013: You can now buy the 2014 version of this calendar from

Monday, September 12, 2011

Organizing the Pens and Pencils: Pencil Cups and More

pen pot with dragon

I'm still a fan of taking some of those more-than-you'll-ever-use coffee mugs and turning them into pencil cups. But if you're one of the few people without spare mugs — or you'd just prefer a different storage solution — I've got some ideas. Let's start with the Nemesis Now 'Bosco' gothic fantasy dragon penpot, available here and numerous other places. Update on Jan. 22, 2013: I'm no longer finding this product.

porcelain pen holders

If you like the Fornasetti style — and don't mind spending $179 for a pencil holder — head on over to Unica Home.

papered pencil cup with moth

For something much more modestly priced, head over to Etsy and see the papered pencil cups from Monica Marks — a nice use of old tin cans! They're all one of a kind.

wood pencil cup

Jerry Moon of Jerry's Wood Works sells his pencil cups on Etsy, too. This one is made from English walnut.

wood pencil cup

And Andrew's Reclaimed is yet another Etsy seller with a nice pencil cup.

all-on-one pencil cup, paper clip holder, mini magnetic board

The Desktop Tidy Organizer is a combination pencil cup, paper clip holder, and mini magnet board. You could buy it from Animi Causa Boutique or Mocha.

wooden hedgehog pencil holder

But a pencil holder doesn't have to be a cup; it could also be a wooden hedgehog, from Down to the Wood. Update on Jan. 22, 2013: I'm no longer finding this on the Down to the Wood website.

pencil holder shaped like a tree trunk

Or it could be a pencil tree. [via Swissmiss and Ohdeedoh]

pink castle pen holder

Finally, if you're looking for the "bastard lovechild of your office pen holder and the Barbie Party Palace," here's your answer: the Princess Collection Pen Holder. Update on Sept. 8, 2013: I'm no longer finding this product.

Related Posts:
12 Pencil Cups with Personality
A Reader Shares Her Pencil Cup (and I Find 10 More)
For Office Supply Addicts: 10 Pencil Cups
8 Pencil Cups to Organize Your Desktop

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Turning Children's Art Masterpieces into Key Rings or Jewelry

What do you do with all of the many art works your children create? Usually you save the best, and let the rest go. Scanning or photographing the pieces you're saving — as well as some you're letting go, like the macaroni art and other pieces that just aren't going to save well — also makes a lot of sense. You might also want to create books of the best art work, using a service such as SouvenarteBooks — recommended by a number of other organizers, including Amanda Wiss and Deborah Gussoff.

But if you have something very special, maybe you want to go one step further. Mia van Beek of Formia Design can turn that special drawing into a keychain, a pendant, a brooch, earrings and more. That's her giraffe above.

key medallion from child's art

SurfingSilver takes another approach, explaining that "Your child's artwork can be shrunk down on the copy machine and made into a fine silver pendant or a key medallion."

keyring designed with child's art

Want color, not just silver or gold? You could get a Sonia Spencer key ring or cufflinks made from a child's drawing.

Related Posts:
What to Do with the Art: Yet More Options for Your Child's Masterpieces
Showcasing Your Child's Art: Five More Options

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Old Clothes Can Become New Quilts

quilt made from wedding dress

Can't quite give up those cute baby clothes, sentimental T-shirts, or other clothing items? Then you might want to consider having them transformed into a custom quilt.

Quilts by Kate talks about "memories you can cuddle up with," which may sound good to North American readers as autumn approaches. Kate can make you a quilt from T-shirts or neckties — or even a wedding dress, as shown above.

baby clothes quilt

Quilt Keepsake makes baby clothes quilts, T-shirt quilts, and memorial quilts. Those memorial quilts could be made from all sorts of clothing: flannel shirts, ties, military uniforms, bridal outfits, etc.

memory quilt from old clothes

Alix Joyal over at Mamaka Mills makes custom memory quilts, including military memory quilts. You can see more of her work on her blog, and on her Etsy site.

For links to many more quilt-makers, see the related posts below. And remember that these quilts take around 3-6 weeks to make — so if you'd like one for a holiday gift, start moving now before the quilt-makers get all booked up.

Related Posts:
Four Options for the Old T-Shirts (see option 2)
Cute Baby Clothes Make Cute Memory Quilts
Preserving the Memories: T-Shirt Quilts

Monday, September 5, 2011

Creating an Ergonomic Workspace

woman at computer, with ergonomic set-up

I'm not an expert in ergonomics — and consulting with an expert can be a very worthwhile investment. But it doesn't take much expertise to see that many of the offices I walk into have major ergonomics issues — as do many of the "on the go" offices I see as people work in coffee shops and such. If you're spending any significant amount of time on your computer, please take the time to get your workspace as ergonomically adjusted as you can.

The single best source of information I've found is the illustration and description of a user friendly workstation from the University Health Service at the Tang Center, UC Berkeley. (There's a PDF version available, too.)

You may notice that some of the recommendations are a bit different from what you've seen in the past. The biggest change I noticed is that slightly reclined seating is now recommended by many experts, rather than the totally upright seating I always used to see. (Of course, the common hunched-over pose was always known to be a bad thing.)

And what about laptop users? The advice I see, time and again, says: "First and foremost, whenever possible plug an external mouse or trackball and keyboard into your laptop." [Wi-Fi Planet, via Lifehacker] Nowadays, we may not even have to "plug them in" since many mice and keyboards are wireless.

For more suggestions specific to laptops you can see my prior post on laptop ergonomics, which linked to some of the best information around. There's been more written since then, so you might want to also look at the articles I found on GigaOM and Core77, as well as the advice from Dr. Stephanie Maj.

For a bit of fun, take a look at the videos produced by Vodafone - showing proper ergonomics for working at home and on the road. (OK, it still promotes that "sit up straight" approach, but aside from that, the advice seems solid.) Here's the first one:

[Photo from U.S. Department of Agriculture, found on Flickr, licensed through Creative Commons]

Kitchen Organizing Goes Green: Compost Bins

compost bin, white

Collecting kitchen scraps to add to the compost bin? Here are some good-looking containers to help you out. The one above is the Ecology brand; you can find it at Alfresco Emporium and Quintessence in Australia, and Divertimenti in the U.K. Update on July 10, 2014: I'm no longer finding this product anywhere.

compost bucket, green

Garden Trading has a compost bucket, available in four different colors. Alas for those of us in the U.S. — this one also comes from the U.K.

compost pail, stainless steel

Simplehuman has an "odor-absorbing" stainless steel compost pail. [via Ask MetaFilter] For a simpler stainless steel bucket, take a look at Lee Valley Tools. Update on July 10, 2104: Simplehuman is no longer making this product. 

stoneware compost pot with liner pail

Williams-Sonoma has a stoneware compost pot with a plastic liner pail. Update on July 10, 2014: Williams Sonoma no longer has this compost pot.

countertop compost container, ceramic

I've always liked Beth Mueller's work, with her whimsical drawings; I own a bowl and a coffee mug that she made many years ago. So I was delighted to see she makes some countertop compost containers, sold by Uncommon Goods. There are two designs: "grow" and "simplify." Update on July 10, 2014: This product is no longer available at Uncommon Goods.

freezer compost bin

If you don't want your compost container sitting out — no matter how good it looks — I've got some ideas for you, too. Take a look at the Fuccillo freezer compost bin — which you can buy directly from Fuccillo, or from online stores such as Generate. Update on July 10, 2014: I'm no longer finding any place that's selling these.

composter in kitchen cabinet

And for a very different approach, there's the NatureMill automatic compost bin, which allows you to do your actual composting indoors: in a kitchen cabinet, the laundry room, the garage, etc. [via Springwise]

Related Post:
Compost Crocks for Your Countertop