Thursday, December 27, 2012
The recent rainstorms in the San Francisco Bay Area have me thinking about umbrella holders again. The one above is delightful; however, it comes from Cosatto in Italy, and I haven't found any way for those of us in the rest of the world to get our hands on it. However, I've got others to show you, which are easier to find.
For example, here are some umbrella stands made from recycled rubber.
This wicker umbrella stand from The Basket Lady has a removable metal liner, and plastic feet to protect your floor.
If you're in the UK, it would be easier to get this willow umbrella basket from Jonathan Gordon, based in Bury St Edmonds.
But some of the most intriguing umbrella stands come from Europe, and not all of them have U.S. distributors. This umbrella stand, which is available in 180 colors, comes from Mes IDO in France — and the only online sales site I found is also in France.
This is the Circo umbrella stand, from Miniforms — an Italian company. I found numerous online vendors in Italy and one in Australia — but nothing closer to home for those of us in the U.S.
This umbrella stand, called the Usha, comes from ClassiCon in Germany, and ClassiCon does sell it online; I also found a U.K. source. However, ClassiCon also lists a number of stores — in numerous countries — which carry its products. (via ArchiExpo)
Tonin Casa, another Italian company, makes the Narciso umbrella stand, which I found at Co-founded in the U.K. and various sites in Italy — and Spacify in the U.S. This one's made of metal, which wasn't immediately obvious to me from the photos.
And finally, here's an umbrella stand from Toma, in Montreal; it comes in black and white. Toma ships worldwide, so any of us could get this one. It's also been featured on Fab.
20 Unusual Umbrella Stands from $41 to $700
Winter in California: Time for Umbrella Stands
Umbrella Stands from Around the World
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
ICD? That's the Institute for Challenging Disorganization, previously known as the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization. If you're not a professional organizer, you may never have heard of the ICD. If you are a professional organizer, though, the ICD is an organization you'll want to know about.
I've been a subscriber for years, because the ICD is one of the best resources around for helping organizers develop their skills in working with clients who have a range of challenges: ADHD, depression, physical limitations, hoarding behaviors, etc. The ICD provides teleclasses, an annual conference, and more. I'm planning to attend my first conference in the fall of 2013; I've heard nothing but raves about past conferences.
This book is definitely geared to professional organizers. If you're not an organizer, I'd refer you to the many free fact sheets which the ICD has designed for the general public, as well as the free Clutter Hoarding Scale.
Much of the information in this book was originally designed as teleclass handouts, although it has been updated, and some new material has been added. If you're a longtime ICD subscriber who has attended numerous classes, you'll recognize a lot of what's in here; I certainly did.
As I made my way through this book, I thought one outstanding use would be to help newer professional organizers decide which types of clients they may want to work with, and which they would probably prefer to refer out. Not all organizers choose to work with those who hoard, for example — and that's fine.
The book begins by discussing a wide range of conditions that can lead to chronic disorganization; later on, there are chapters that explain how organizers can help clients with these various conditions. There are also chapters dealing with a range of issues organizers must face: personal safety, professional boundaries, etc.
The style of this book varies widely from chapter to chapter, as you move from one author to another. Many chapters have characteristics of a textbook, or a reference book: definitions of conditions, long bulleted lists of symptoms, etc. But some chapters are more like essays, and are quite enjoyable to just sit down and read.
This is one I'm keeping on my bookshelf, to serve as a handy reference.
Full disclosure: The ICD was kind enough to send me a free copy of this book, many months ago, for my review.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Derek Brooks has a problem (and a solution to that problem) which many people will relate to — and he generously agreed to let me share his words and his photos with you.
As he explained to me, he tends to hold onto things that have sentimental value, and things he finds hilarious. And some things get kept just because he has the space to store a lot of stuff in his Iowa home.
However, a lot of these things in storage are completely useless to me. So I found that if I simply take a photo of whatever it is that I'm holding onto, it's much easier to get rid of.And recently, he decided to do just that — with flair.
This recent organization project was really kicked off after returning from 15 months of living in small spaces in Chicago for work. Once I moved back to my home in Iowa, the amount of stuff we had (especially in closets) really started stressing me out. My wife and I began tearing through all of our closets, just purging stuff.
I've known that I've had way too many T-shirts for years ... almost as long as my idea to experiment with that stop motion video that I just made. So because of the sheer size of my t-shirt collection and the size of the task it'd be to clean out that closet while taking photos, I was basically blocking my own reorganization.
As soon as I got time to actually sort through them and make the video, I did it. As I tried on each shirt, I took a quick photo, then threw it into one of three piles: the keep pile, the donate pile, and the "maybe" pile. My wife helped me go through the maybe pile, which resulted in a much larger donate pile.
Let's follow Derek along on his journey to a smaller T-shirt collection.
Derek says: "You'll probably appreciate (and by appreciate, I mean cringe over) a photo of what my actual closet looked like before I started the organization. This is really the point at which I was admitting having a problem a couple years ago."
Derek says that what this photo shows "was actually the first step of organizing. I pulled all of my shirts out of that pile in my closet and semi-organized them on these shelves (with wheels so I could move them out of the way)."
Then came the video, which is really fun to watch. Derek said he tried on 255 shirts — but he also had several dupes, which gave him a grand total of 312 shirts.
And finally, here's the Goodwill pile.
Have your own T-shirt collection, or other sentimental stuff? Consider following Derek's lead: Take some photos and pass the items along.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Have a bunch of little notes that keep letting lost on your desk? You could start taking notes another way — in a dedicated notebook or in a computer-based tool, for example — or you could just make it easier for those notes to not get buried.
One way to keep the notes close at hand would be Babel, from Adam+Harborth Design. You can buy it from Cow&Co in either white beech or dark oak.
The Freddy Feathers memo holder, available in blue, green and white, can be found at Monkey Business and at Animi Causa.
The Fierzo desk organizer from Alessi has two stainless steel frames held together by clips; you can choose from two sizes. You can buy it from Alessi, from YLiving, and a number of other places. [via Better Living Through Design]
And finally, there's this desktop cork globe from Pat Kim Design. [via fellow organizer Julie Bestry] Update on August 5, 2014: I'm no longer finding this product on Pat Kim's website.
Now Where Did I Put That Note?
7 Ways to Keep Those Little Scraps of Paper in Plain Sight
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Change is good. — Piggy Bank World
I'm one of those people who uses up her change pretty quickly; I don't need a piggy bank. But I still admire the cool ones I find, like the Talavera and Majolica piggy banks from Talavera Emporium.
Of course, coin banks don't need to be pigs; take a look at the various beasties from Little Pig Pottery. [via Stacy Cheriff's Pinterest board]
I love the color on this piggy bank from Denise Caron Wilkey of DC Stoneware; there's a green fish-shaped bank available, too.
And for something very different — and a really bad pun — there's the sperm bank.
Conquering the Coin Clutter
A Piggy Bank Menagerie
Helping You Save: Coin Banks and Money Boxes
What a Pig! Piggy Banks and Money Boxes Worth a Look
June 2010 Organizing Tips and More: Product of the Month
6 Splendid Banks: Piggies and More
Beyond the Piggy Bank: Tzedkah Boxes
Piggy Banks and Money Boxes: Homes for the Spare Change
Today's Top 10 Piggy Banks
Friday, December 7, 2012
I've written a lot about managing your time by saying "no" when need be. But I was thinking of the routine choices we all need to make. Should I go to the event I just got invited to? Should I take on that volunteer role everyone thinks would be perfect for me?
But sometimes the choices are much bigger.
Amanda Palmer has a new album out; the production was funded through a very successful Kickstarter. The reviews are great, and she had a major tour planned, including Australia and Europe.
And yesterday she cancelled her upcoming year of touring. The implications are huge, for both her and the people in her band, and all of her supporting staff.
But as Amanda writes, "My best friend is really sick and his future is uncertain." He has leukemia and is beginning treatment. She has to be with him. There's really no other choice to be made.
And as I read through the responses from her fans, they all agree. And many have shared stories of their own needs to be with gravely ill friends and family members — and stories of regrets from those who weren't able to be there.
From Laura Packer: I had cancer 18 years ago. It meant the world to me that my best friend was there.When our friends and family need us, I hope we'll all be able to be there with them. And this was also a reminder to make the time to be with (or at least stay in touch with) those important people when things are going well, too. I just made a date with my own best friend; we're a bit overdue.
From Allie: Someone who was important to me died of cancer when I was halfway around the world. I still cry sometimes because I wasn't there.
From Stacey Booth: I lost my mom. You'll never regret time spent with ones you love. It's the times you weren't there that crush your heart.
Thursday, December 6, 2012
If you look at the right-hand side of my blog, you'll see I've got a new blog sponsor, Wood Essentials. I get many inquiries about blog sponsorships, but I'm fussy; I'll only accept listings from companies that really seem to fit. This means they're not the big retailers you'll find easily on your own — and they seem to be providing really neat organizing-related products or services.
And Wood Essentials certainly fits. I've blogged about the company in the past, because I thought it offered something special. Its medicine cabinets are handcrafted, and made in Brooklyn. They come with or without the crown molding, recessed or wall-mounted. There are two sizes to choose from, and various woods.
If you enjoy this blog, I'd appreciate it if you supported my sponsor in this simple way: Go take a look at the Wood Essentials website. If you like what you see, consider sharing it with any architects, interior designers and builders you know — or, of course, anyone you know who wants to add a special touch to his or her own bathroom.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Have you ever thought about exactly why you take and save photos, and save other memorabilia? One thing I liked about It's All About the Memories, by Gretchen Fatouros, is that she asks that question — and other good ones as well:
If you could wave a magic wand, what would you see? Completed photo albums for every member of your family? Framed pictures around your house? Organized pictures that can be easily found? ...Of course, there's more to this book than just good questions; there's plenty of solid advice, too.
Now, realistically, what do you really want to do with your photos? What's important? Why? What will you look at again? ...
What do you want to be able to do with your digital photo files? Print them? Scrapbook them? ... Just store them electronically, so you are able to view them again when you want? Have your favorites in a digital photo frame?
When it comes to sorting all those many photos — especially printed photos — Gretchen's advice matches my own: chronological sorting isn't the only answer. You may want to sort by holidays, by vacation spots, by child, etc. If you do want to sort chronologically, "you don't need to sort it perfectly" — and you can you use "a more loose chronological order, such as by decades."
And when it comes to storing the photos you've sorted through, Gretchen does a nice job of explaining the dangers of using storage materials containing acid, lignin or PVC. And I love her emphasis on backing up your digital photo files.
Another thing Gretchen mentions is something so many of us neglect:
As we take more pictures, we tend to tell less of the stories behind the pictures. ... So, while you are collecting, sorting, and storing your photos and memorabilia, don't forget to write.While I'm not fond of the look of this book, there's plenty of solid content. I'm glad I added it to my bookshelf.
Monday, December 3, 2012
I've got nothing against chocolate and wine. Really! But if you'd like to give a consumable gift, here are some more ideas to get you thinking.
1. Coffee beans by monthly subscription
Around here, I've heard people say good things about Tonx, and it's easy to give a gift subscription. Springwise pointed me to Kopi in the U.K; again, gift subscriptions are easy.
2. Bacon by monthly subscription
The Pig Next Door says: "Get ready to enjoy bacon the way it's supposed to taste, and remember: We all deserve better bacon." If someone on your gift list is a bacon fan (and it seems like so very many people are), you might consider a membership in The Pig's Traditional Bacon Club. [via Apartment Therapy]
3. Seed Bombs
Give someone a gift for the spring to come. VisuaLingua, which sells regional wildflower seed bombs, says: "Seed bombs can be planted in the spring, summer and early fall. Just throw and grow! The ball will break up on impact with the ground, and rain will further disintegrate it. The red clay and worm castings in the seed bombs enrich the soil around the seeds, helping your wildflowers grow. You can purchase this item during the fall and winter months; just remember to keep the seed bombs cool, dark and dry until all danger of frost has passed in the spring, and then throw them as usual."
The VisuaLingua seed bombs are also sold by Branch, which is where I first noticed them. Branch notes: "They're perfect for tossing into a garden, vacant lot, or wherever else you'd like to create a burst of wildflowers."
And for more seed bomb options, take a look at Greenaid, which sells pollinator-friendly seed bombs and pet forage seed bombs, as well as seed bombs dedicated to flowers and to edibles. [via Inhabitat]
4. Lip Balms
Looking for a stocking stuffer? Sure, you can get basic lip balms anywhere. But the shea butter lip balms from Eden, in 9 flavors ranging from rosemary mint to chai spice to cafe latte, sure sound nice.
5. Zubbles: Colored bubbles
Soap bubbles are fun, and Zubbles sound like an interesting variation. Like the art supplies I mentioned in an earlier post, this is a kid-focused item that will get used up, instead of hanging around and cluttering up the house.
6. Help Remedies
Here's another stocking stuffer — the little packages from Help that each deal with a specific medical issue. Do you have a stuffy nose? A headache? A blister? Help has a remedy for you.
There's one product I especially want to mention, one that's a bit out of the ordinary for Help. While there's a standard Help, I've cut myself product, the one I'm showing above also includes a bone marrow donor registry kit. If you're a healthy person between the ages of 18 and 55, please consider registering; it's easy, and you could be starting on the path to giving someone the gift of life — for real. [via Amit Gupta]
Note: This particular Help product is out of stock at the moment, but you could always register online with DKMS, which will mail you a swab kit.
Christmas and Other Holidays: Consumable Gifts
Christmas and Other Holidays: Consumable Gifts, Part 2
Christmas / Holiday Gift Ideas: Consumables
Christmas / Holiday Gift Ideas: Consumables, Part 2
Christmas / Holiday Gift Ideas: Non-Clutter Gifts of All Sorts - see #2
Simple Solutions to Holiday Gift-Giving Craziness - see #1 and #2
Clutter-Free Gift Suggestions for Holiday Shoppers
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Yes, I know — the items on this list aren't glamorous or cool. But although they're items we hope to never need, they certainly aren't clutter. And what could be more important than keeping our loved ones safe?
Gifts for Disaster Preparedness
Hurricane Sandy has many of us thinking about emergency supplies; few of us are as prepared as we could be. The Red Cross provides a list of things everyone should have as part of a survival kit — so if someone you know is missing some items on that list, you could fill in the gaps.
Another item that I see many people recommend is a headlamp — so that might be a good thing to give to someone who, like me, hasn't gotten around to buying one yet. (Yes, I'm going to take care of that right away. Nothing like writing a blog post like this to make yourself accountable.)
And yet another item I've seen mentioned a number of places is the ResQMe — "a combination windshield hammer and seat belt cutter that can attach to your keychain," as Lifehacker says.
Gifts for Coping with Medical Emergencies
I once got someone a medical ID bracelet, listing the person's name, allergies, and an emergency contact phone number. I still think it's one of the best gifts I ever gave.
Or what about gifting an app? The one I have is Pocket First Aid and CPR from the American Heart Association, sold by Jive Media. I bought it after reading how it saved someone's life after the earthquake in Haiti.
Gifts for Personal Safety
Mac McClelland just recommended gift certificates for Impact Bay Area's self defense classes, and noted their are Impact chapters in a number of states, as well as in England and Israel. I'm sure there are other wonderful self-defense programs out there, too.
And finally, I'd like to recommend a wonderful book: The Gift of Fear. This one was recommended to me years ago, and I keep recommending it to other people; I just suggested it to someone earlier tonight.
Christmas and Other Holidays: Five Final Gift Suggestions for 2009 (see the last item)
Monday, November 26, 2012
I've worked with a lot of families with overwhelming amounts of toys — and the art supplies were always some of the most-used items, and the ones we rarely wound up giving away. They're consumables of a sort, which is always nice — and they're one of many ways to encourage creativity.
So if you have a child you're buying a gift for, I've got some ideas for art supplies that are a bit out of the ordinary. You just might find yourself wanting to do some art projects, yourself.
Let's start with Crayon Rocks; the image above comes from Bella Luna Toys, one of the many sites (besides Crayon Rocks) which sells them. They're non-toxic, although they are a choking hazard for children under 3 — so be careful there. The crayons are made in Kentucky from "U.S.A. grown and processed Kosher soy wax and several other organic waxes such as carnauba."
Prefer paint? Take a look at Glob Natural Paints. These are made in California from "fruits, vegetables, flowers and spices with natural ingredients and organic extracts." [via Cool Mom Picks]
Another paint option is Earth Paint, where "naturally colored clay is ground, dried, crushed and sifted into pure pigments." While there's an oil paint version, you may well prefer the Children's Earth Paints; they contain organic milk protein, which makes them water soluble. You just mix water with the colors "to create a creamy paint similar to tempera, or add more water to create watercolor-like effects."
We Can Too makes edible art supplies, like this veggie sidewalk chalk. While it's most definitely not intended for food, it is safe enough to eat — so if the end of a stick of chalk does make its way into a child's mouth, there's no need to panic. "Made with organic ingredients. ... vegan, no wheat, no sugar, no preservatives, no dairy!" The company makes crayons and finger paint, too.
Or you could go with WhimseyBox; after you subscribe, you get a box of different craft products each month. The company explains: "Since Whimseybox is about discovery and expanding your creative mindset we don’t include instructions to make a specific project in each box. We’re different than a traditional craft kit in that way." The company uses the information in your profile to select items it thinks you'll enjoy working with. And you can find a lot of ideas on the company's website — and share your own creations. [via swissmiss]
Christmas / Holiday Gift Ideas: Consumables for Kids
Saturday, November 24, 2012
Reindeer sweater from NorthStyle
Give Grandma a bit of credit! These holidays, would she rather receive a silly reindeer sweater or help a schoolchild acquire glasses to see the blackboard clearly for the first time? — Nicholas Kristof
Gifts of charitable donations won't work for everyone, but even Miss Manners agrees that they can work under certain conditions:
1) those concerned agree to it as a policy, and
2) the particular charities chosen are those that are of interest to those being honored.
Families that feel that presents have become superfluous or burdensome sometimes do this.If this is a strategy you'd like to follow, you have a huge range of choices. I've mentioned a number of interesting choices before — see the related posts at the end — but here are some more organizations that have caught my eye recently.
1. Animal Adoption Programs
You could adopt a raptor and support the Peregrine Fund; the bird above is a kestrel that's currently available for adoption.
Or you could adopt a chicken from a Los Angeles organization called Taking the Reins. [via the Los Angeles Times] Update on Dec. 9, 2013: I'm no longer seeing this "adoption" program on Taking the Reins' website.
2. Save the Children
Give the gift of a soccer ball, mosquito nets, newborn care packages, books to help stock a library, or one of the many other options in the gift catalog. [via Apartment Therapy]
3. The Nature Conservancy
Give a gift of conservation — adopt a coral reef, restore wetland habitat for whooping cranes, help provide clean water to the people of Mozambique, or pick one of many other options from the gift catalog.
4. Your Local Food Bank
This eCard comes from the Vermont Foodbank, but there are plenty of others to support, too.
5. Any Charity Whose Work You and the Gift Recipient Admire
Want some ideas? Look at this list of recommendations from John Scalzi's blog readers back in December 2011.
Christmas and Other Holidays: Donations as Gifts
Christmas and Other Holidays: Adopt-an-Animal Programs Provide Clutter-Free Gifts
Christmas and Other Holidays: Giving to a Good Cause
Christmas / Holiday Gift Ideas: Donations to Good Causes
Monday, November 19, 2012
Image from The Oatmeal, used with permission.
Want people to read and respond to your emails, right away? Many people get hundreds of messages a day, and they may be reading them on cell phones. They'll appreciate it if you remove these types of email clutter.
1. Overly wordy text
Are you familiar with the acronym tl;dr? That's "too long; didn't read." If you want your emails to get read, try to keep them as concise as you can, while still providing the necessary information. Yes, it takes more effort to write a good, short message. But it's often worth that effort.
As Rands says: "With each paragraph you write, double the amount of time you spend editing. ... Is your point clear, literate, and concise? Have you pruned aggressively to find the core of what you’re saying?"
2. Unnecessary text from prior messages
If you're replying to a message, you may not need to include all of the prior message for reference. You almost certainly don't need the other person's signature file, and there's a good chance you can cut much of the rest, too.
3. Huge signature files
Really long signature files can be annoying. As Craig Jarrow says: "Your half-page signature doesn’t need to be on all of your emails. Do you send emails with a 1 word response and then half of a page of signature? As well, please lose the attached graphic and cute quote."
Or as Scott Stratten says: "If I need to scroll through your email signature, you may want to shave that puppy back a little."
And here's Peter Shankman: "If you have a 29-line email signature, you probably shouldn't be allowed to use email."
4. Email backgrounds or stationery
I don't see this too often, but once in a while someone still uses a background. As Walt-O-Matic says: "Honestly, plain white is easier to read and prints better. Let’s do without the visual noise and extra attachment overhead."
5. Unnecessary attachments
One organization I'm a member of often sends out messages with Word file attachments when the information in those files could simply be put into the body of the email message. Attachments often serve a purpose, but sometimes they're just silly.
6. Unnecessary recipients
Does everyone you're sending the email to really need to get it? (As Seth Godin asks, would they complain if they didn't get it?) Do you really need to "reply all"? Tim Sanders says that in a study he did, only 12% of "reply to all" occurances were necessary.
Email Replies: Is Shorter Always Better?