Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Making Time for the Important Stuff: Exercise

Fitbit Zip - green

Sure, I knew I needed to exercise.

I've been going to a wonderful personal trainer for years now — but just exercising with her once a week was obviously far from ideal. A gym membership didn't get me going; I wound up canceling it, so I didn't waste the money. Classes didn't work, either. Nothing seemed to get me into the exercise habit.

And then I got my Fitbit - the one shown above.

A number of women I know are using the Fitbit, and it's working well for them. They do their 10,000 or more steps per day, and are seeing the results in weight loss and overall fitness. And I figured that peer pressure (and peer support) might be just the thing to get me going. For $60, it seemed worth the gamble.

And sure enough, there's something about seeing how my steps compare with everyone else's — and knowing people can see what I've done, or not done — that gets me out and walking even when I'm feeling lazy, or when it's a bit chilly, or when I have any of the many excuses I could come up with for not walking.

graph showing steps taken daily

I'm not at 10,000 steps yet, but I'm moving in the right direction. I committed to at least 6,000 steps per day this week, and I've made it every day. Today I hit my personal best, at 7,685 steps.

Yes, I know that steps taken isn't a perfect measure of exercise. It doesn't capture much of what I do with my trainer, for example: lunges, crunches, squats, the stuff with the weights.

But the group support has me moving every day, and that's a darn good start.

Anyone else using the Fitbit and want to connect? Send me a request!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Two Tips for Managing the Tote Bags

Great Gatsby tote bag

How many reusable tote bags do you own?

These tote bags can be really useful — even more so as cities such as San Francisco enact bag ordinances affecting the use (and cost) of the plastic and paper bags we're used to seeing.

And, of course, some of the tote bags are just so appealing!

But here are two cautions as you amass these bags:

1. Like Tupperware and other plastic food storage containers, these bags are the type of thing where the collection can easily get way out of sync with your actual needs — so keep an eye on that. Keep your favorites, and pass along the excess. I used a cute one as a gift bag last Christmas!

You can follow the example of Gwen from The Green Zoo, who writes:
I found out that I probably have at least 25 reusable bags. Twenty-five! Seriously – who needs that many tote bags? Although some I have purchased, others I got for free or were given as gifts. I know that some of them I do use for groceries and some for knitting projects, and others are good to have around just in case. But I really realized that I did not need all twenty-five. So, I decided to donate a good handful of them.
2. Be sure to wash any bags you use for groceries, to avoid problems with food-borne bacteria. As the Austin Contrarian reports:
Recent studies ... suggest that reusable grocery bags harbor harmful bacteria, the most important of which is E. coli. If individuals fail to clean their reusable bags, these bacteria may lead to contamination of the food transported in the bags.
And furthermore:
97 percent of individuals indicated they never washed their reusable grocery bags.
Don't be one of those people!

Related Post:
Decluttering and Organizing the Tote Bag Collection

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Organizing Your Desk: Pencil Cups from $10 to $120

three pencil cups

Coffee mugs make great pencil cups — but I've also found a number of other delightful options. Danica Studio calls the items above "tumblers" — but See Jane Work, which carries the one with anchors and the one with a cityscape, calls them pencil cups. Funky Homes, in Australia, has the one with the cityscape and the one with the birds — and calls them bathroom tumblers. Which just shows how one item can be used many different ways! Update on Sept. 8, 2013: I'm no longer finding the bird one at Funky Homes. But I see it at LBC Modern.

bone china pencil cup with images of fennel

This lovely bone china pencil cup comes from Julie Lebailly of Les Miniboux — and although Julie's in Brittany, it's easy to buy from her via Etsy. This cup also works well for storing makeup brushes, as Julie shows on her Etsy store.

colorful pencil cup made from yarn

Jennifer Caldwell of JC Stars makes her pencil holders from yarns in her scrap stash.

fabric-covered pencil cup, square shape

And Jessica Jones of Burnt Creative Studio makes pencil boxes using some lovely fabrics.

square pencil pot with tweed

For another use of fabric, see the Tweed Pen Pot from Life of Riley. You can also buy this pot through Not on the High Street. Update on Sept. 8, 2013: This product is no longer available from Life of Riley.

elephant pencil cup - acrylic

And then there are the animals. This elephant pencil cup comes from See Jane Work; it's made of shaped acrylic.

bear pencil holder

OK, this one isn't a pencil cup — but it's a pencil holder, and that's close enough. The company says this wonderful bear pencil holder is sturdy and will not fall over easily. Update on Sept. 8, 2013: This product is sold out.

wood pencil cup

Another pencil holder made of wood comes from Timber Territory. Update on July 18, 2018: The Timber Territory website has disappeared.

pencil cup, leopard pattern, 24K gold

And that one that costs $120? It's this leopard pencil cup from L'Objet. It's made from Limoges porcelain and 24K gold. You can also find it at Elements and Unica Home. [via Tim McKeough at The New York Times]

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
Organizing the Pens and Pencils: Pencil Cups and More

Thursday, January 17, 2013

When It IS About the Bike: Cool Storage Options

rack for shoes and a bicycle

If you're going to keep your bicycle in a garage, there are many storage options for keeping them on the floor, the walls or the ceiling. But if you plan to keep it inside your house or apartment, you may be interested in storage options that have some style.

I've seen a number of products that look like minor variations on the Knife & Saw Bike Shelf, which I wrote about some in September 2010, and I'm not going to list those products here. But there are a number of other products that also caught my eye.

The one above, called Shoes Books and a Bike, won't fit into many decors, but it's so interesting I just had to share it. You can contact Postfossil, in Swtizerland, if you're interested. [via Bless This Stuff]

metal wall-mounted bike rack - accommodates a lock

But for most people, something that allows you to hang the bike on the wall is likely to work better. Here's the Mama Bike Rack, currently on sale; I hope that doesn't mean it's being discontinued. [via Core77]

bike rack - wooden pegs

For a minimalist approach, take a look at the wooden bike hook from Sandra Thomsen of Fluo. This one is meant for lightweight bikes only. [via Swissmiss]

folded metal bike rack for the wall

Quaterre provides a number of bike storage options, all made in England; this one is called Hood. [via Freshome and Book of Joe]

wall-mounted bike rack

And finally, here's the stylish Bedford Bike Rack from 718 Made in Brooklyn. It's available in custom colors and veneers. [via Freshome and Cool Material]

Related Post:
Bicycle Storage: Wall-Mounted Bikes That Look Good

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Letting Go of My Digital Clutter

I'm an information addict. Give me a topic I'm interested in — organizing, of course, but also cats and travel destinations and education and so much more — and I have a tendency to hoard information. And a lot of that information is on the computer, so I tend to bookmark all the really good articles I read, or sites I find.

To a certain degree, that's harmless — and sometimes useful. Bookmarks (or favorites, if you're using Internet Explorer) don't take up much computer space. But I recently realized how maintaining this kind of collection can easily go overboard.

After the shootings at Newtown, I got a bit obsessed with learning about the issues associated with gun purchases and ownership. I wanted to understand the range of positions on gun-related issues — OK, excluding some of the most extreme views, but still including a wide range of viewpoints. So I found well-reasoned articles from people with widely differing perspectives, and read them, and learned a lot.

As I read, of course, I bookmarked. And then I tried to organize those bookmarks, because the collection was getting pretty big. And then I stopped.

What was I going to do with all of those bookmarks? I had considered writing a post on Google+ or someplace, but that would take a huge amount of time. And what would I accomplish? Probably very little — and I could get dragged into endless, futile debates.

I realized I'd accomplished what I originally wanted; I had learned what I wanted to learn. So with a click of the mouse, I deleted all those bookmarks pointing to really good articles — but articles I would never need again. And I felt a weight lift off my shoulders.

In the digital world, as well as the physical world, it helps to only file away what you might reasonably use.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Heavy-Duty Bookends: Plain and Fancy

steel bookends in six colors, including blue and yellow

Now that you've stopped reading books you don't enjoy, and gotten rid of the books that no longer serve you, let's look at bookends to help organize the books you're keeping: good, heavy-duty bookends that won't topple over. The powder coated steel bookends above come from Jasper Morrison, and should certainly do the job. [via Better Living Through Design]

steel bookends in 3 sizes and 3 colors, including blue

The steel bookends from Hay come in sets of three — in white, black, a gray mix and the multi-color mix shown above. The Finnish Design Shop carries all except the gray mix. [via Better Living Through Design]

steel bookends in four colors

And for yet another variation on the basic steel bookend, take a look at these from BOOK/SHOP. [via Better Living Through Design] Update on July 5, 2015: I'm no longer finding these at BOOK/SHOP, but the site does have another interesting choice.

wrought iron bookends

Instead of steel, you could go with wrought iron bookends. There are a number of interesting choices.

concrete bookends

But not all heavy-duty bookends are made of metal. For example, Andrew Stuart makes these concrete bookends; they weight 5 pounds each. Update on April 20, 2014: I'm no longer finding these bookends.

owl bookend, rice filled
raccoon bookend, sand filled

Karen makes sand-filled and rice-filled bookends, in the shape of owls, raccoons and more.

owl bookends, sand weighted

And Dora Designs also makes sand-weighted bookends, including these owls.

Related Posts:
Nice Bookends Don't Have to Cost $685
Treat Your Books to Some Nice Bookends: The Elephant Edition
Bookends for Those Who Haven't Totally Converted to the Kindle, Nook or iPad
5 Bodacious Bookends
For Book Lovers: Fun and Functional Bookends
A Bookend Menagerie — and More
Got Books? Get Bookends!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Don't Spend Time on Books You Don't Enjoy

notebook, which says on the cover - so many books, so little time
Spiral notebook sold by Steven James Keathley

We talked about not saving every book that ever entered your home; now let's talk about not finishing every book you ever began reading.

Let's start with some words from author John Scalzi, which he shared on Twitter:
Tweet #1: I really don't understand why people joylessly slog through books they hate, even when the book in question is mine. Read something else!

Tweet #2: I am merciless with books, personally. If you bore me, on to the next one. "But it picks up!" is an argument for better editing.

Tweet #3: That said, there is the occasional book that I recognize something's going on and I'm just not getting it. I try some of those again later.
Erin Faye wrote a delightful post entitled Life Is Too Short for Bad Books, from which this is an excerpt:
I believe that a lot of people are less fond of reading than they might otherwise be because as kids, they’re forced to finish crap books. Or good books that they, for whatever reason, just don’t like. ...

Some people think it’s important to give a book at least 50 pages before giving up on it. My threshold is more like 10 pages. ...

Oh, and I walk out of bad movies too. So at least I’m consistent.
Thanks to Ron Charles and Unclutterer, I found an article which Kelly Jane Torrance wrote, giving us the perspective of economist Tyler Cowen:
What should you do when, 20, 50 or 100 pages in, you realize you just don’t like a book?

You could spend your entire summer slogging through it. Or you could take the advice of a prominent economist who simply advises: “Give up.” ...

We should ask ourselves if reading a book we’re getting little out of is the best use of scarce resources.

He takes his own advice, saying he finishes one book for every five to 10 he starts.
Finally, here's organizer Lelah Baker-Rabe:
I love to read, and I just don't have time to finish books that aren't doing it for me.
Lelah also notes:
I have a category I created just for these types of books on my Goodreads profile, since I do it so often.
Like Lelah, I've learned to give up on books I don't enjoy; no way am I spending my precious time on a book I don't like — even if critics, or friends, raved about it. What about you?

Related Posts:
Book Lovers: Stop Reading Books You Don't Like
It's OK to Give Up on a Book
Not Every Book is Worth Finishing

Monday, January 7, 2013

Even Book Lovers Can Have Too Many Books

piles of books on the floor, next to full bookshelves
Photo by Kristin Brenemen, found on Flickr, licensed through Creative Commons

tsundoku (Japanese) — buying books and not reading them; letting books pile up unread on shelves or floors or nightstands. — Otherwordly

"I love my books; no way am I getting rid of any of them." I've heard that so many times, and I empathize — I love books, too. But it seems that all of us have at least some books hiding away on the bookshelves that just don't serve us any more. And if the books are hidden away in boxes, or live in piles that begin to take over your home, it might be time to do a bit of culling.

If you could use a little encouragement to take a fresh look at your bookshelves — or the piles of books that don't fit on them — I've gathered some reflections from various people that might be useful.

I love this quote from Discover Books, which collects books and redistributes them:
Your books are bored. Give them a new life.
On a similar note, here's what a member of the Unclutterer Forums wrote:
I don't want... to hold onto books that could bless others because I "might" read them again someday.
Some books are obviously ones that need to go, just because of their physical condition, even if they are books you like. Jon Carroll gives an example:
John le Carre, "The Honourable Schoolboy." ... Of course I'm going to get rid of it. Its pages are yellow, its type is too small for me now, it smells very faintly of mildew and insect droppings.
Some people decide they no longer need a specific type of book. Here's a Twitter update from organizer Rachel Papworth from last July:
Decluttering (even more) books. No longer keeping classics. If I want to reread Middlemarch, I'll get it from the library.
And want some inspiration to get rid of cookbooks? Take a look at the one shown on Better Book Titles:
Beautiful Pictures of food you'll never make
For a more complex look at the cookbook issue, here's just part of a great post by Adam Robert, The Amateur Gourmet, on his Great Cookbook Purge:
I found myself staring at my cookbook collection. ... Six giant Ikea shelves of cookbooks, collected from five and a half years of food blogging. And like a bolt of lightning, a thought singed the inside of my brain: “Do I really need all of these cookbooks? How many do I really use, really? ...

I lifted the first book: the Larousse Gastronomique. An enormous red tome, this is the French encyclopedia of gastronomy, filled with French cooking techniques and dishes and even recipes. But did I ever use it? NEVER. A big, all-caps NEVER. ... So why did I need it? I didn’t. ...

It all comes down to trust. Do you use it, do you love it, but — most importantly – do you trust it? The ones that I kept, are books that I trust absolutely.
And, of course, some people are questioning whether apps are making cookbooks obsolete. Even if you don't think so, the easy availability of online recipes might influence what cookbooks — and how many — you want to keep.

Finally, here's a perspective from Your Monkey Called, via Metafilter:
It’s time to sell your books when it’s less painful to just re-buy it on Amazon than go down to the basement and dig it out.

Related Posts:
Clearing Out the Bookshelves
3 Perspectives: Not All Books Are Keepers
Books: Weeding the Collection
Letting Go of (Some of) the Books
Is It Time to Bid Adieu to Some of Your Books?
Loving Books and Letting Go
Weeding My Own Book Collection

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Professional Organizer Training and Tools from Geralin Thomas: My New Blog Sponsor

Geralin Thomas head shot

How many ways can I sing the praises of Geralin? I'm so honored she's chosen to sponsor my blog; let me tell you why.

I first met Geralin, in person, at a conference of the National Association of Professional Organizers, and the place was packed with hundreds of organizers. Geralin and I had said we wanted to meet, but hadn't set up a specific time. I asked around about where I might find her, and someone said I'd know her when I saw her — she's the one who looks so incredibly well put together. (And that was certainly true!) Geralin's also one of the smartest and nicest organizers in the business.

If you watch Hoarders, you'll know Geralin from her work there. But what you may not know about are all the services she provides for new professional organizers, or those considering joining the field. I can't imagine a better teacher. I've signed up for workshops at conferences simply because Geralin was teaching them, because I knew she'd be an excellent presenter — and with her wealth of experience I was sure to learn something. I've never been disappointed.

Geralin offers a range of professional organizer training services and forms. There are group teleclasses and private training sessions — and introductory classes offered by NAPO which are taught by Geralin. And then there are the many forms: a phone intake form for new clients, a photo waiver,  a sample chart of accounts for doing the bookkeeping, and so much more. While many of the forms are geared to new organizers, some might have larger appeal and might also benefit the non-organizer — such as the customizable housekeeping instructions, in English and Spanish.

So if you're new to professional organizing, or someone considering becoming an organizer — or if you know someone who fits into either of those categories — take a look at what Geralin has to offer. Experienced organizers who feel challenged in some particular aspect of their work might want to take a look, too.

Desktop Organizing: 3 Creative Containers

desktop organizer shaped like a dumpster

Let's start the new year with something fun: containers designed to look like other things. I'll start with the Desktop Dumpsters from Steelplant. You can get one-of-a-kind hand-painted dumpsters, or blank ones you can customize yourself. Not inexpensive, but certainly innovative. [via MoCo Loco]

desktop organizers, ceramic, shaped like cargo containers

I'm also intrigued by the ceramic Cargo Containers designed by Daniel Ballou and produced by Areaware. They come in sets of two; the orange and gray are no longer available from Areaware, but you can still get the blue and white. And these are much more affordable than the dumpsters!

desktop organizer shaped like a shopping cart

And finally, here's a mini shopping cart! It reminds me of the shopping-cart-shaped fruit basket I mentioned in an earlier post, but it's much smaller. Over on Amazon.com, someone mentions using it to gather receipts.