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

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Holidays Made Simpler: Easy Gift Wrapping with Gift Bags and More

muslin gift bag that says peace joy love hope wonder dream sparkle

For those of us who never learned to do great gift wrapping — or who simply don't want to spend the time on it — gift bags are a wonderful thing. And while even gift wrap paper can be reused, a good bag is ever more likely to have a second life — or third, fourth or fifth. The gift bags from Quotes & Notes are cotton muslin drawstring bags that have been hand block printed.

fabric gift bags with Christmas trees

Fun Bags For Everyone has a large selection of holiday gift bags, in three sizes. The store owner says: "My mother was a professional seamstress. She taught me how to sew over 35 years ago and bought me my first sewing machine which I’m still using today. My favorite item to make these days is fabric gift bags. ... They are washable and reusable and last for years which eliminates a lot of paper and waste."

red fabric gift bags, two sizes

Bag The Habit has simple gift bags made from recycled fabric. [via Inhabitat]

gift bag made from recycled newspapers

The gift bags from Globally Cute are made from recycled Indian English-language newspapers. They may not be as durable as some of the other options, but they sure are interesting!

This "origami fabric gift bag" is just one of the many Christmas holiday bags — including wine bags — from Goose's Bags and Gifts. There are also plenty of bags, in four sizes, that are not specifically for Christmas.

jute / burlap wine gift bag

Speaking of wine bags: For those giving wine — a nice consumable gift — there are many cool choices. Diane Sudhoff of South House Boutique makes jute (burlap) wine bottle gift bags with a chalk cloth label you can use instead of a gift tag.

5 red wine bags for Christmas

I can't find Reisenthel's bottlebags on the Reisenthel web site, but they are available from Touch of Europe in the U.S., and here for those in Europe.

gift wrap - sweater for a wine bottle

Wine Wear is another fun way to wrap a wine bottle. There are many designs, not just holiday ones, but I decided to show you the one called Christmas Sweater.

oak wood wine box

Finally, this wine box from Stil Novo Design may cost as much or more than the wine you are gifting — but it was too gorgeous not to share. It's made from a recycled oak wine barrel. [via Alison Burtt]

Related Posts with more great gifts bags and such:
Simplifying Christmas by Saving Time on Gift Wrapping
Update: Simplifying Christmas by Saving Time on Gift Wrapping
Gift-Wrap Bags and Boxes to Simplify Holiday Gift-Giving
Wrapping Made Easy: Gift Bags for Wine
Simplifying the Holidays with Simpler Gift Wrapping

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Recycling Old Christmas Lights

St.Louise Green Christmas light recycling

Do you have old strings of lights that are damaged? Have you changed the style you use, perhaps by switching to LEDs? If so, you probably want to look into ways to recycle those lights you no longer want; they don't have to go to landfill!

There are a number of programs which handle Christmas light recycling; these are just some of them.

Local Programs in the U.S.

St. Louis Green Holiday Light Recycling Drive
"A portion of the proceeds from the 2011-2012 Holiday Light Recycling Drive will go to Operation Food Search to feed the hungry." The program runs at 58 Walmart Stores from Nov. 19 through Dec. 4, 2011 and at other locations from Nov. 19, 2011 through Jan. 31, 2012.

Recycle Your Holidays (Minnesota)
"Recycle Your Holidays is a one-of-a-kind statewide holiday light recycling program in Minnesota. Residents can drop-off their unwanted light strands at one of our 400+ participating locations during the holiday season starting November 15 and running through the end of January each year.

"This program employs over 200 individuals with developmental disabilities at vocational centers throughout the state of Minnesota. Every bulb of the light strand is dismantled by vocational center clients and then properly recycled in Minnesota."

Elgin Recycling's Holiday Lights Recycling Program (in Lisle and other villages/cities in Illinois)
"Lisle has partnered with Elgin Recycling who will strip the lights and recycle both the copper and plastic materials. No parts will be shipped overseas." The Lisle program runs from Dec. 3 through the end of February 2012.

Crown Ace Hardware and 1-800-GOT-SCRAP in Southern California
"Throwing away those old light strands is... well, not green - which means, that's not the holiday spirit. All that plastic and wire pretty much never decomposes - so when you throw it in the garbage, it goes to the landfill, and sits there... maybe forever." This program will "swap your old lights for a $5 gift certificate redeemable for purchases over $20."

4H in Henderson County, North Carolina
This program was launched by Victoria Cambron, a 14-year-old member of Henderson County’s 4H Leaders-In-Training club. She says, "We collected 213 pounds of lights last Christmas season. The monies collected were donated to Bounty of Bethlehem and St. Gerard House in Hendersonville. It was great to keep the lights out of the landfills but it was even better to be able to give the money to two very worthy causes in our own community." Lights are being collected again this year; the dates aren't mentioned.

Various places in the San Francisco Bay Area, per RecycleWorks
RecycleWorks lists places in San Francisco, Oakland and Redwood City where you can bring in light strands.

Mail-In Programs in the U.S.

"Send us your old Christmas lights for recycling and we'll send you a coupon good for 25% off HolidayLEDs.com LED Christmas lights."

The company explains exactly what is done with the old lights: "When we receive your lights for recycling we will remove them from the package and recycle the box. The lights will be processed and any material that cannot be recycled (i.e. loose bulbs) is discarded. Once we have collected a substantial number of sets we take them to a 3rd party recycling facility located in Jackson, MI. The recycling company puts the lights through a commercial shredder, which chops the lights up into little pieces. The pieces are then further processed and sorted into the various components that make up the lights (pvc, glass, copper.) The materials are separated and transported to a region center for further processing. In some cases, the pvc cannot be recycled."

Environmental LED
This company offers a coupon for 10% off when you mail in your lights for recycling.

Five Star Holiday Décor
"We will send you a coupon for 10% off any of our Five Star services and we will also donate a portion of any proceeds to Toys for Tots."

Christmas Light Source Recycling Program
This company will email you a discount code good for 10% off a single order of Christmas lights.

And here's what they do with the lights:
We've found a local recycling company who will take your lights and recycle the copper, glass and plastic. They pay a small amount per pound of lights - like the money you get for aluminum cans - which we thought we'd put that to good use for you. By sending us your lights, you can join a force for literacy!

All proceeds from the Christmas lights recycling program will be used to purchase Usborne books that will be donated to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.

Since Usborne Books offers a 50% match on donations, for every $100 in proceeds from Christmas lights recycling, $150 in fun, educational children's books will be purchased and donated to the Dallas/Fort Worth Marine Toys for Tots center.

How cool is that?

Beyond the U.S.

U.K. options per Recycle Now
Can Christmas tree lights be recycled? Recycle Now says yes. "They are accepted at recycling centres. Some councils have special collection bins for small electrical items at other sites too, e.g. supermarket car parks."

Peachland, British Columbia, Canada
"By recycling your old lights instead of tossing them out, you're not only saving space in our landfills, but recycling a valuable resource that can be smelted into new metal."

Regional Waste Reduction Office, Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada (PDF)
"The strings brought to the depots are picked up by Planet Earth Recycling Ltd, delivered to Davis Trading in Vancouver, baled and exported for processing where the copper is recovered for new use in wiring and plumbing."

Anyone have information about other Christmas light recycling programs — perhaps in your part of the world?

Update on Dec. 28, 2011: Read about the Chinese factories that recycle these lights into slipper soles and more.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Non-Clutter Gifts You Can Buy Without Leaving Home

Christmas shopping crowds
Photo by Gustavo Faraon, found on Flickr, licensed through Creative Commons

Today is both Black Friday and Buy Nothing Day. Those who have no intention of going near a mall today can still do some online holiday shopping if they don't choose to "buy nothing" — and they can get gifts that won't create clutter.

I've mentioned many such gifts in past years, and have now pulled them all out into a gift giving ideas label so you can find them all easily. (Kiva fans: Yes, I've mentioned Kiva in the past.) But, of course, I have some new ideas.


1. Give the gift of online backup.

I use CrashPlan, which has gift subscriptions, currently discounted.

New York Times gift sbuscriptions

2. Give a New York Times digital subscription.

The online version of the New York Times now has a paywall, limiting how much you can see for free. To get unlimited access, you need to subscribe — and gift subscriptions, which come with either a smartphone or a tablet app, are on sale right now, too.


3. Adopt a llama.

Most adopt-an-animal programs are benefits for zoos, conservation groups, etc. This one is different; it comes from Caroline at Llama-Rama in Somerset, in the U.K., who says: "The majority of my llamas have been re-homed from people who just cannot keep them any more. These are all conscientious owners who have had drastic life changes: death or divorce in the family, health problems, ageing, house moves and military deployment."

This is actually the gift of experience, as Caroline explains: "Unlike many other adopt an animal schemes, you will also get the chance to come and spend a session (by appointment) with your chosen animal. Helping to feed, groom getting to know them and perhaps even getting the chance to take one out for a walk."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Organizing Basics: Wastebaskets You'll Enjoy Using

trash icon
Trash icon from the Noun Project

Want to make it easy to keep clutter at bay? One strategy is to have plenty of wastebaskets — which can also serve as recycling bins — throughout your home or office, so there's always one handy. And while I've found many delightful wastebaskets in the past — see that list of related posts — I've now found even more.

colorful wastebasket, hand painted - green leaves on yellow background

Let's start out with a splash of color with this wastebasket from Wayborn, available through Bellacor.

colorful wastebaskets made from old billboards, in multiples sizes

These Paperbag wastebaskets, designed by Jos van der Meulen and manufactured by Goods, are made from unused billboard posters. In the U.S., you can find them at Switchmodern and Greener Grass Design.

wastebasket made from recycled fruit boxes

On a similar note, Kay + Stemmer made some limited edition wastebaskets from recycled fruit boxes.

trash bins, two sizes, red, made from bamboo

Ekobo makes bamboo trash bins in two sizes and eight colors. One place to buy them is Matteria.

foldable wastebasket

John Robshaw Textiles has foldable wastebaskets in three patterns.

trash cans with elephants

Camille Love Designs has a number of trash cans, most of which don't appeal to me — but I do like these elephants.

walnut wood wastepaper basket

RJ Fine Woodworking has wood wastepaper baskets in two sizes, made from various woods; the one above is made from American walnut burl.

wastebasket with picture of building

If you have $1,000 or so to spend on a wastebasket, you might like the ones from Fornasetti. You can find them at Palazzetti andUnica Home.

steel metal wastebasket with dustpan lid

And then there's Dustbin, from Brendan Ravenhill — a wastebasket with a dustpan lid, and a magnetized brush attached to the side. [via Ecosalon]

trash can icon free download

Finally, for all those who like the Vipp trash bins, you can now get a digital version — a Windows/Mac icon to replace the standard wastebasket icon. [via Mocoloco]

Related Posts:
A Green Wastebasket
Star Wars R2-D2 Trash Can
The Latest Things in Waste Cans
Binvention, from Sprout Design Ltd.
Trashcans with a Green Tinge
6 Wastebaskets You Won't Find Just Anywhere
7 More Wastebaskets You Won't Find Just Anywhere
8 Wastebaskets I Found Today
Wastebaskets and Trashcans, Revisited
Waste Bins and Baskets with Lots of Color
You Say Waste Bin, I Say Wastebasket (or Trash Can)
A World of Wastebaskets

Saturday, November 19, 2011

One Person's Organized Space: CDs and Labels

Sometimes I see someone else's space and just gawk at the lovely way it's been organized — and today was one of those days. I was attending an open studio event when I saw Barbara L's CD collection — and got permission to take a photo and share it with you. (Actually, the whole studio was amazing, filled with lovely things, nicely displayed.)

There's so much to like here, starting with the labeling — including the idiosyncratic "auditory pablum." But I also love how the carefully curated collection of shells and artwork shares the space with the CDs, and how these pieces serve as bookends. And I can see that the shelves are adjustable, so this piece of shelving can readily be used for something other than CDs if Barbara so desires in the future.

I find images like this to be much more inspiring than those you see, in magazines and on TV, of perfectly organized spaces —because it's real and has tons of personality.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Little Organizing Tools: Refrigerator Door Magnets

magnets with pictures of inside of refrigerator

Turns out I'm the guy who forgets to remove objectionable fridge magnets before Mom comes to visit. — John Fugelsang

Want some nice magnets you won't need to remove from the fridge when your Mom visits? Let's start out with the set above, from Katie of Kitschy Hippo. Katie's magnets are made from vintage ephemera, so they are one of a kind.

magnet says Fish are not for farming - eat wild salmon

Ray Troll has a large selection of magnets with a fishing theme.

wood magnets shaped like umbrellas

Snug, located in Hannover, Germany makes umbrella magnets from wood; you can also get matching raindrops. Snug also sells the umbrellas through Etsy. [via the Lolalina gift guide, in turn found via Jess Constable] Update on June 24, 2014: I'm not finding the umbrellas on the Snug Studio website or Etsy site, and I'm not finding the raindrops anywhere — so they may be discontinued products. 

magnets covered in colorful handmade paper

You can get magnets covered with handmade paper from Meg Bollinger of Calyrew.

Facebook-style magnets

And finally, for Facebook fans: Fridgebook magnets. They come with a dry erase pen for making wall posts, etc.

Related Posts:
A Multitude of Magnets
More Magnificent Magnets
Yet More Magnets: Magnetic Clips
6 Magnets That Made Me Smile
I Just Can't Resist a Good Magnet
Refrigerator Door Magnets: An Organizing Choice
Magnets To Brighten Your Day - and Adorn Your Fridge
Does Your Refrigerator Door Need Some Cool Magnets?

Friday, November 11, 2011

7 Wall Clocks That Are Easy to Read

wall clock - gray with orange hands

If you'd had any of these clocks a few days ago, you'd have had another clock to reset for the end of Daylight Saving Time — but they're so nice, you might not have minded.

The one above is from Karlsson, which makes a large range of wall clocks. Karlsson is now owned by Present Time, and I first found the company's clocks on the Present Time web site. Present Time doesn't list this specific clock, but does have many others. I did find this specific clock on Amazon's stores in the UK and France — and Karlsson has dealers around the world.

wall clock with red and green hands

Newgate is another company that makes a wide range of clocks, including this Brixton clock. [via Retro to Go]

wall clock, square, white on black

This clock is made from recycled coffee cups!

IBM wall clock

Schoolhouse Electric describes this clock: "A faithful reproduction of the classic IBM indicator clocks found in offices, warehouses and schools during the mid-20th century." It's now hand-assembled in the Schoolhouse Electric factory in Portland, Oregon. [via Mark McClusky]

three wall clocks, different colors

Another nice, simple — and colorful — wall clock comes from West Elm. [via Apartment Therapy]

simple elegant wall clock

Nova68 tells us: "This elegant and perfectly balanced wall clock was designed by Swiss industrial designer Max Bill in 1956." [via Better Living Through Design]

wall clock, green

And finally, let's admire the wall clocks from Thomas Bai.

Related Post:
Keeping Track of Time: Six Simple Round Wall Clocks

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Organizing the Jewelry: Ring Holders

ring holder and jewelry box

Have some rings that need a proper storage place — one that keeps them out on display, because that's the type of organizing that works for you? Let's look at some of the many ring holders that might meet your needs. The item above, a combination ring holder and jewelry box, is sold by Mjölk, in Canada. Update on Nov. 9, 2011: This ring holder comes from Skultuna, a brassware company in Sweden; it can also be purchased from twentytwentyone.

glass ring holder

Rebecca Zhukov of Providence Art Glass makes some lovely ring holders. You can buy them online from the Carlyn Galerie. Update on May 31, 2011: I'm not currently finding these at the Carlyn Galerie.

stoneware ring holder

Prefer stoneware? Neal Pottery makes some nice ring dishes.

wood ring holder

Dale Randles of Artistree makes ring holders carved from branches.

wood ring holder, horizontal style

Finally, Barclay Fine Woodworking has this horizontal ring holder. It's available in cherry or walnut.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Protecting Your Valuable Electronics from Power Surges

power strip

I was working with a client recently who was replacing the item shown above — what her computer used to be plugged into — with a decent surge protector. But even her new surge protector may not be providing the protection she thinks she's getting — something I just learned thanks to David Douthitt, who got me reading Power, Surge Protection, PCs, and You by Jeff Atwood.

That article made me want to learn more, so I went on to read what This Old House and How Stuff Works had to say. Now I'm beginning to understand this subject, and I'm looking at what changes I may want to make to my own home, and suggest to clients.

I've always had my computer and my stereo equipment on a surge protector — and it's a good thing, because I've had one go dead after it protected my computer. (Another lesson: Have a spare surge protector on hand, so if one goes out, you can replace it and keep using your equipment, even if the stores are closed.) I added a surge protector to a lamp that proved to be especially susceptible to surges, after paying for repairs a couple times. And when I stayed with friends in Paris, I bought a surge protector to use while charging my iPhone and iPad.

But here are some things I either never thought about, or forgot.

high-end luxury refrigerator

1. It's not just the computer and the home theater you might want to protect.

As This Old House explains, lots of expensive electronics that you might not think about can be hurt by power spikes or surges: that Sub-Zero refrigerator, for example.

air conditioner
Photo from Lowe's.

2. Surges can be caused by things inside our homes.

This Old House explains that surges can be caused by "cycling on and off of laser printers, electric dryers, air conditioners, refrigerators, and other energy-sucking devices in the home."

How Stuff Works elaborates, noting that while people worry about lightning, "A more common cause of power surges is the operation of high-power electrical devices, such as elevators, air conditioners and refrigerators. These high-powered pieces of equipment require a lot of energy to switch on and turn off components like compressors and motors. This switching creates sudden, brief demands for power, which upset the steady voltage flow in the electrical system. While these surges are nowhere near the intensity of a lightning surge, they can be severe enough to damage components, immediately or gradually."

3. Not all surge damage is immediately obvious.

See that part about gradually in the prior item?

Here's what This Old House says: "The damage inflicted by these minor power fluctuations can be instantaneous — but may not show up for some time. 'You might not even notice it,' says Andy Ligor, a consultant with A.M.I. Systems Inc., a firm that installs both residential and commercial surge-protection systems. 'Then a year or so later your microwave stops working.'"

And Surgeassure, another company providing surge protection, says: "Surges are caused most often from utility disturbances and internally generated surges. It is common for homeowners to lose equipment due to surge damage and not even realize it. Many 'mysterious' computer problems such as contaminated or irretrievable files are actually due to electrical surges. Also, breakdowns and replacements of electronic equipment due to what you think of as 'normal' wear and tear may actually be due to internally or externally caused surges."

It's not just surge protection vendors who say this, either. Here's Jeff Atwood, quoting Dan's Data: "Spikes are the real nasties. A spike is a brief increase in the supply voltage — less than 2.5 seconds, often a lot less. For a fraction of a second, a spike can easily subject your equipment to several hundred volts. If this doesn't blow something up outright, it can progressively damage power supply and other components. So, after a few (or a few hundred) more spikes and surges, your PC dies, for no obvious reason. You may lose a power supply or modem; you may lose your motherboard; you may even lose your hard drive and everything on it."

Photo by Jerry / ww_whist, found on Flickr, licensed through Creative Commons.

4. Phone and cable lines matter, too.

As This Old House says: "A surge will follow any wire into a house — phone and cable lines included — and threaten fax and answering machines, televisions, satellite systems, computers, and modems."

And How Stuff Works elaborates: "Even if you connect surge protectors to all of your outlets, your equipment might be exposed to damaging surges from other sources. Telephone and cable lines can also conduct high voltage — for full protection, you should also guard against surges from your telephone or cable lines. ... If your computer is connected to the phone lines via a modem, you should get a surge protector that has a phone-line input jack. If you have a coaxial cable line hooked up to expensive equipment, consider a cable surge protector. Surges on these lines can do just as much damage as surges over power lines."

breaker panel surge protector

5. The best protection comes from using a whole-house system plus those individual protectors we're used to using.

I'd forgotten about whole-house systems until I was chatting with website developer Kevin Henney yesterday, who mentioned them to me. And then I remembered that I'd heard about them before from the folks at Positive Electric, who seem to use the Surgeassure products. That picture above is the company's illustration of a breaker panel surge protector.

As This Old House says: "Guarding against surges requires a two-pronged approach: a whole-house suppressor to tame the big, dangerous power spikes and an individual circuit (or 'plug-in') surge suppressor for vulnerable appliances and electronic devices. ... By themselves, whole-house suppressors can't stop surges completely; up to 15 percent of excess voltage may leak by. That's where 'plug-in' surge protectors come in."

surge suppressor / protector

6. It pays to invest in good surge protectors.

I'll let you read This Old House yourself to get the ratings to look for. But here's something it's easy to overlook, as explained by State Farm: "Select a point-of-use surge protector that has an indicating light and/or audible alarm to show when it needs a replacement."

Note that the indicator light mentioned is not the same as a simple "power on" light; the surge protector might still power on and serve as a basic power strip even if the surge protection components have burned out. The Tripp Lite ISOBAR Ultra series are what Atwood recommends.

You can also get a UPS — an uninterruptible power supply; some of these include surge protection. How Stuff Works suggests that a basic UPS, just by itself, is probably not the way to go: "An ordinary UPS WILL give you a high level of protection, but you should still use a surge protector. A UPS will stop most surges from reaching your computer, but it will probably suffer severe damage itself. It's a good idea to use a basic surge protector, if just to save your UPS."

Update: Note that some say plugging a UPS into a surge protector is a bad idea.