Friday, May 31, 2013

May 2013 Organizing Tips and More

metal tree-shaped object for holding rolls of toilet paper

Here's a question I recently got via email: "I'm de-cluttering again. I never finished the original de-cluttering. What rules do you follow for throwing things out?" To read my answer, see my May 2103 newsletter! (Yes, I finally wrote a newsletter again!)

Also included in the newsletter:

- Product of the Month: PQTier from Presse Citron, shown above

- Organizing Quote of the Month

- Twitter Updates: little tidbits you might enjoy

large teddy pair made from a shirt

- Recycling/Reuse Idea of the Month: Tedi, from Mrs. Jermyn

If you'd like to get my newsletter by e-mail, you can subscribe.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Using Simple Tools

one screen of the Clear app for managing to-do lists

You think, "That would make a great app."
I think, "That would make a great text file."
Patrick Rhone

I thought about this quote recently, as I changed the tool I'm using for my to-do lists.

There are lots of popular apps for managing those to-do lists, each with its own fans; here are just a few.

Any.Do has both Android and iPhone apps; it also has a Chrome extension and a web version. accessible from any online device. Lifehacker says it's "powerful, flexible, and it looks great, too."

Clear, the app shown above, had me under its spell for a while. It started out as an iPhone app, but now there's also a Mac version. When it first came out, TechCrunch described it as "pure eye candy" and raved about how it was "built from the ground up for the touch interface." When the Mac version came out, The Next Web said, "It’s not the best list app out there, but it just might be the most delightful."

Remember the Milk was created way back in 2004, and Sam Glover, on Lawyerist, argues that it's "still the best to-do/task management software." Here's why: "Remember the Milk has all the features you might need, and while it is dead simple to use, it is also as powerful as you might want it to be. There are RTM apps for everything, and it syncs up with most other things."

Wunderlist runs on any device you're got: Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, Android. And it's free. Back in March 2011, David Pierce called it "(almost) task management nirvana." Lifehacker called it "a simple and beautiful to-do app that's very easy to use and understand."

So what am I using now? Some simple text files that I edit with TextEdit on my Mac. That's what I used to use, and I've returned to that approach.

Why? Because that's all I really need. It's super simple, and it works for me. Paper and pen would be even simpler, but I happen to prefer keeping my lists on the computer.

Some people really benefit from those many to-do apps; I just don't happen to be one of them. And I'm not alone. Cory Doctorow says his to-do list is ~/Desktop/todo.txt. And journalist Clive Thompson says:
My to-do lists are all just plain-text — a single text file on whatever computer I’m using, and sometimes a piece of paper if I’m out in the field. I’ve tried endless to-do apps and none of them ever worked for me!
As always, our tools are very individual choices. Go with whatever works well for you!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Magazine Clutter. Filing Systems. Uncluttering Your Alcohol. And so much more!


Want to read even more suggestions from me?

Last month, I was honored join the team at Unclutterer, where I'm now writing a weekly article. My articles appears on either Tuesday or Thursday — Tuesday one week, Thursday the next.

So if any of these subjects appeal to you, click the links and head on over to Unclutterer to read more!

Nine things to organize before a tragedy
What would happen if you became seriously ill and a family member or friend had to make sure you and your household were properly taken care of?

Avoiding magazine clutter

Safe storage
You’ll usually want to store the things you use most often in easy-to-reach places — but please make sure you’re also storing things safely.

Are you constantly running late? Strategies for making appointments on time.

7 tips for maintaining an organized home
You’ve done it! Your home is uncluttered, with everything in its place. But then, a few months later, things aren’t quite the same. How do you maintain that organized space you so enjoyed?

Choosing your organizing products

Uncluttering alcohol: the shelf life of beer and liquor

Creating a personalized filing system

Is there any topic you'd specifically like to see me address, either here or on Unclutterer? Send me an email or leave a comment, and let me know.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

First Drafts and Perfectionism: Perspectives from 3 Authors

charm by Alison Strine: She is perfectly imperfect
Charm by Allison Strine

It's easy to get paralyzed when starting something new if you think your work has to be perfect from the beginning. That's true for many types of efforts; one example is writing. So I thought I'd share what three authors have to say about the problems associated with misplaced perfectionism.

Here's Anne Lamott writing about "shitty first drafts" in Bird by Bird:
All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts. ...

Almost all good writing beings with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.

Then there's a question that popped up on Neil Gaiman's Tumblr:
Question: I want to write but I am a perfectionist; my soul doesn't believe in first drafts. Advice?

Beginning of the answer: Do something else, or get a new soul.

Finally, there's something I read a few days ago on editor Jack Limpert's blog. He's quoting Tracy Kidder from the book Good Prose — The Art of Nonfiction:
For a time, I insisted that the first sentence be perfect before going on, and therefore spent whole days and nights getting nowhere. This sort of thing happened often enough to make me fear it. So I abandoned care entirely when writing rough drafts. Instead, I wrote fast. ... Writing as fast as possible would prevent remorse for having written badly.
How much more easily might we start new projects, of all sorts, if we gave ourselves permission to do a far-from-perfect first pass, knowing we'll improve things as we go along?

Related Post:
Six Perspectives on Perfectionism

Monday, May 20, 2013

Entryways: How to Stash Your Stuff

wall-mounted entryway storage with hooks

With clutter it's often the small things that matter, and in the entryway they tend to defy efforts at neatness. That's why you need to turn to dedicated storage units to help keep little things from becoming big frustrations. — Merola Tahamtan [via Scott Roewer]

Merola goes on to note that we can often repurpose thing we already own — "decorative bowls, tins, boxes, and bins" — to store things by our entryways. But here are some wall-mounted products especially designed to help with entryways.

The combination coat hook and storage shelf shown above is called the Hang Up; it comes in white and black. It seems like a neat way to store jackets and such along with all the other stuff like mail and keys. [via Better Living Through Design]

floating shelf for keys and smartphone

Plank is a "small floating shelf with a magnetic underside" — good if you need a place for just your keys and something small, like your phone or your wallet. [via Shoebox Dwelling] If you like this idea but want a larger shelf, see the magnetic key ring holder and shelf from Meriwether of Montana. [via Better Living Through Design]

wall-mounted storage for keys, sunglasses, etc.

Another product that uses magnets to hold the keys is Elephant, from Board by Design. The company also has a rectangular-shaped product called Blokkey. You can buy these through YLiving or through Board By Design's Etsy store. [via Better Living Through Design]

small shelf to hold keys, smartphone, etc.

And if you like the idea of a small shelf like the Plank, here's another design called the Key Shelf.

wall-mounted wood entryway organizer to hold smartphone, glasses, wallet, etc.

The Butler by Micklish is a pricier option than the others — but it sure is gorgeous. It's specifically designed to hold your smartphone, along with your glasses, keys, wallet, etc. "The backside includes a routed out section for your charging cord and extension cord in case your mounting area on the wall is not next to a outlet." [via Cool Mom Tech and Gizmodo]

wall rack, looks like slatted fence, to hold coats, mail, keys, etc.

And let's conclude with another product that provides a place to hang a coat as well as a place to stash some smaller items: the Wallter Slack Rack, available in four different colors. [via Uncrate]

Related Post:
Double-Duty Hooks Provide a Little Extra Storage

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Support the Cause, Enjoy the Conference — and Avoid the Clutter

children selling canvas bags as fundraising for environmental program
My photo; posted with permission of their mom.

Sea Turtles confuse plastic bags with jellyfish and choke on them. Help save them and support the San Mateo County ban on plastics by buying a canvas bag with our amazing Oceans Week logo imprinted on it. — Farallone View Oceans Weeks 2013 flyer

When I went grocery shopping last Saturday, I came across these cute kids selling canvas bags for a good cause. But do I need another canvas bag? I certainly don't. So I donated money, and declined to take a bag.

It's the same concept as donating to your local public radio station during a pledge drive, and not taking one of the many thank-you gifts. Sure, if there's something being offered that you really want, then go for it! But otherwise, why not let all your money go to the cause, and get a larger tax dedication?

And here's a great idea from the annual conference of the National Association of Professional Organizers, as noted by organizer Debra Baida: a swag swap table. When you find that conference bag stuffed with items you don't want, it's nice to have a way to move them along to others who might appreciate them.

Related Posts:
Declining Free (but Useless) Stuff
Saying No to Free Hotel Toiletries

Friday, May 10, 2013

In Honor of My Mom: Organizing in Blue

blue pencil holder with six sections of various heights

Six years ago — can it really be that long? — my mom died of pancreatic cancer. And as is my custom, I'm sharing some blue organizing products with you today — in honor of Mom, whose favorite color was blue. And let's start with the Multiples Pencil Holder from Anthropologie. [via Better Living Through Design]

magnet - tile from Turkey with blue flowers

I think Mom would have liked the ceramic magnets from Gusto Istanbul. This is one of three patterns currently in stock.

bookend with the word London, in blue

I've mentioned Susan Bradley's bookends before, but I hadn't noticed this design — a London typography bookend — until just now.

hooks like oversized clothespins

Swabdesign brings us this clip hook called Pince Alors; it comes in four colors, including blue. The hooks are like oversized clothespins, wall-mounted, with all sorts of potential uses; see the images on the websites for some ideas. [via Shoebox Dwelling]

garden tote, blue

This garden tote from Loll Designs comes in eight colors besides the lovely blue. [via Better Living Through Design]

laundry hamper with blue owl

And finally, I'm completely enchanted by this hamper from Papa Totoro. [via Apartment Therapy]

Related Posts:
In Honor of My Mom (2008)
In Honor of My Mom (2009)
In Honor of My Mom (2010)
In Honor of My Mom (2011)
In Honor of My Mom (2012)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Wine Enthusiasts: Those Corks Can Be Saved from Landfill

cork recycling collection box

Did you know corks can be recycled?  I went wine tasting in Sonoma County a couple weeks ago as part of a "cousins" family reunion — lots of fun! — and I saw the collection boxes shown above. When I got back home, I decided to investigate more.

If you want to keep your natural corks out of landfill, you have a number of options.

1. Reuse them yourself.
This is great if you're into crafts; you'll find no shortage of ideas on the web.

2. Donate them to groups that collect craft supplies for others to use.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, both RAFT and SCRAP accept corks. Austin Creative Reuse is happy to get corks. There may be a similar program near you.

3. Give them to others through less formal channels.
Freecycle them. Give them to teachers you know who could use craft supplies.

4. Give them to a collection program that provides them to manufacturers for reuse.
A number of programs around the world collect corks so they can be reused to make footwear, cork flooring, cork tiles, bulletin boards and more.

Here are some of the programs available. If you know of others in your part of the world, please add a comment to this post!

- ReCORK by Amorin is the program whose boxes I saw. There are numerous drop-off locations throughout the United States and Canada; when I entered my city and state, I found there was even one in my little city! Amorin also has collection programs in Portugal, France and Italy.

- Cork Forest Conservation Alliance has its Cork ReHarvest program. There are drop-off locations throughout and U.S. and Canada — and at Whole Foods Markets in these countries and the U.K.

- SmartCork Recycling is a program in North Carolina.

- Yemm & Hart in Missouri has a recycling program, but it's only mail-in.

- Jelinek has three drop-off locations in Ontario, Canada.

- Put a Cork In It has numerous drop-off locations in Vancouver, British Columbia. The collected corks are sent to Jelinek.

5. Compost your corks.
You'll need to break them up into small pieces first. The reuse options sound more appealing to me!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Creating Short Daily To-Do Lists

iPhone lock screen with 2-item to-do list

Each day, I write down the two things I *must* get done, take a picture, and make it my lock screen wallpaper. — Jake Lodwick, via Lori Gordon

That's not Jake's list; that's the lock screen I just created, using Jake's example. I also added my contact information using Contact Lockscreen. (And yes, I'm in the middle of moving my primary website to a new web hosting company.)

I'm not at all sure this in an approach I personally want to take; after I grabbed that image, I changed my lockscreen back to a cat photo. But I've found a number of people recommending short to-do lists, and I thought I'd share their ideas. This two-item list was the shortest one; let's more on to the slightly longer ones.

Philip Humbert has a process where each day you "thoughtfully select your TOP 3 TASKS consistent with your most important goals" and write them on an index card. These are three items you commit to doing before going to bed; you are allowed to list some other items, as long as they fit on the card. In his example, these range from "Call Mom for her birthday" to "Review and sign sales contract." [via SueBK]

James C Russell, who often goes by the name Botanicus, has his 3 + 2 rule: 3 big things and 2 small things. He says: "Every morning I sit down and write 3 main things I want to solve and 2 small ones. The main items should take from 2 to 3 hours, the minor ones no more than 20 minutes." [via Lifehacker]

Becky McCray — who refers to the same Charles Schwab story that Philip Humbert does — writes about creating a list of "the six most important things to be completed the next day." And she emphasizes: "Not thirty-six things. Not urgent things. The Six Most Important Things." [via Amber Naslund]

And finally, The Daily Muse writes about the 1-3-5 rule followed by Alex Cavoulacos: On any given day, assume that you can only accomplish one big thing, three medium things, and five small things, and narrow down your to-do list to those nine items.” [via Sam Spurlin and Peggy Dolane]

So whether they choose as few as two items or as many as nine, a number of people find it useful to narrow down their daily to-do lists to a manageable number of things. Maybe it's an approach you'll like, too.