Monday, September 30, 2013

Avoiding Lost Items: Two Special Tools

magnetic work mat to avoid losing screws, nuts, etc.

Do you have problems with things getting lost? This “lost things” series has already mentioned many ways to avoid that, but here are a couple more tools that work for special situations.

1. Magnetic Project Mat

As ThinkGeek says, this mat will “keep all your screws and nuts and stuff from rolling all over the floor.”

This mat comes from iFixit, and it’s available in two models. The pro version “has a non-slip foam backing, and features a much more powerful magnet, making it ideal for larger screws and metal objects.” You'll also see there’s a dry-erase surface on both versions, which “lets you keep notes and stops mistakes.” There’s a review on Wired, where Dave Giancaspro confirms the company’s claim that the mat is safe for hard drives. [via bookofjoe]

lens cap leash

2. Lens cap leash

A lens cap leash or tether is not for everyone, as you can see from the comments on Unclutterer, but it solves the “lost lens cap” problem for some people. On, you'll see people who like them, and those who don’t. This one is the Sensei Cap Keeper Plus Lens Cap Holder, sold at B & H photo.

As an alternative, you could get a buckle lens cap holder.

The rest of the “lost things” series:
How to Avoid Losing Your Keys, Phone, Etc.
Strategies for Finding Lost Things: Phones, Keys, Etc.
Gadgets to Help You Find the Things You Lost

Friday, September 27, 2013

First Look: 2014 Calendars for Good Causes

Celebrity Pet Adoption Calendar 2014 - coverCelebrity Pet Adoption Calendar 2014 - one month's photo of a couple and their cat

I'm taking a break from the "lost items" series to show you some cool calendars — one of which is in limited supply.

And that calendar is the Celebrity Pet Adoption Calendar, which raises money for a good cause. [via Wil Wheaton]

Weimaraner Rescue of Texas - 2014 calendar

Here's the 2014 calendar from Weimaraner Rescue of Texas; the photos were done by Margaret Bryant, who specializes in dog photography. My dear friend Jill was a Weimaraner owner, so I'm always a bit partial to groups such as this.

Golden Retriever Rescue Southern Nevada 2014 calendar

And here's the 2014 calendar from Golden Retriever Rescue Southern Nevada. The photos were done by Pet’ographique.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Gadgets to Help You Find the Things You Lost

key finder - base unit plus tags

If you tend to misplace items and would like some tools to help you find them — rather than just search strategies — you’ve got lots of options. I’m going to group them into two major categories: those that use a smart phone app, and those that don’t.

Finding things without an app

You’ll find a lot of these on offer; I’m just going to mention a few, to give you an idea of what’s out there. The one at the top of this post comes from Loc8tor, which has a number of products. This one is the Loc8tor Lite; there’s a also the Loc8tor Plus, with additional functions. The Loc8tor Lite comes with two locator tags, and you can buy two more. Just be sure not to misplace your Loc8tor! [via Clutter Diet and Ask Metafilter]

key finder

And then there are products like the Find One, Find All key finder; it doesn’t use a base station — but it has larger tags. “Use your wallet to find your keys, your keys to find a misplaced remote control, or any of them to find an uncharged or muted cell phone.” [via Sharb Organizing Solutions]

key ring shaped like a dog that beeps when you whistle

And for a totally different approach, there's Fetch My Keys — “a dog-shaped key ring designed to fetch your keys (or at least alert you to where they are) should you lose them down the back of your couch. Whistling sets off a beeper inside the key ring, and causes the dog’s nose to flash, guiding you to them.”

Finding things with an app

Stick-N-Find location stickers for lost items

StickNFind, with its Bluetooth-powered small location stickers, was funded through IndieGoGo. The campaign raised $931,870 when the goal was only $70,000 — it seems lots of people want help in finding lost items! The stickers are about the size of a quarter and come in six colors. They have both a buzzer and a light to help you find things even in the dark.

StickNFind works on “iOS devices with Bluetooth 4.0 (iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, new iPad, New Touch, mini iPad). It also works on Android devices from Samsung (Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4, Galaxy S4 Mini, and Note 2.” [via Better Living Through Design and numerous other sites]

Tile - tag for lost items
Tile app for finding lost items

Tile isn’t out yet — the expected shipping date is Winter 2013/2014 — but it’s available for preorder. This is an iOS-only product; it works with the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad Mini, iPad 3rd and 4th generation, and iPod Touch 5th generation. [via Bos Organization and Uncrate]

The rest of the "lost things" series:
How to Avoid Losing Your Keys, Phone, Etc.
Strategies for Finding Lost Things: Phones, Keys, Etc.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Strategies for Finding Lost Things: Phones, Keys, Etc.

Sombrero from

Let's say you weren't able to avoid losing your phone, your keys, or whatever. How do you go about finding your lost item?

The most comprehensive advice, involving 12 principles, comes from Professor Solomon. You can read his 12 principles online — and for even more information, you can get his free ebook. Here's an example of his advice, from Principle Seven:
Don’t be fooled. Your object may be right where you thought it was—but it has become hidden from view. Be sure to check under anything that could be covering your object, having inadvertently been placed on top of it.

I call this the Camouflage Effect. Among the most common offenders are newspapers and sombreros.
Gretchen Rubin explains a strategy that works for her:
Over and over, I’ve found, if I can’t find something, I just start tidying up. Almost inevitably, the lost thing turns up, even when I’m convinced that tidying won’t make any difference in the search process.

Maybe I engage more actively with my surroundings, maybe my vision is sharper — I’m not sure why.
Finally, Susan Krauss Whitbourne writes in Psychology Today about why we lose things, and also provides advice on finding them:
Instead of panicking, sit down and think. Reconstruct the series of steps you followed when you put the item down. Remind yourself of what you were thinking and feeling. Context-dependent memory, in which you put yourself in the same frame of mind, is your best friend right now. You need to reconstruct the entire scenario mentally, walking through it like a crime scene. Eventually little details will float to the surface of your memory and you will have that wonderful "aha" moment when you remember exactly where you put it.
There are gadgets that can help you find lost items, too — but that's the next post in this series.

Friday, September 20, 2013

How to Avoid Losing Your Keys, Phone, Etc.

Magnet with picture of two women; words are "I've spent 50% of my life looking for my keys"
Magnet from Mina Lee, found via Lelah Baker-Rabe

Lost or misplaced items are an ongoing problem for many people. How to deal with this problem is a big topic, so I'm beginning a series here today:
  • Strategies to avoid losing your keys, phone, etc.
  • Strategies to find things if they're lost.
  • Gadgets to help you find things.
  • Specialty tools to help with specific items people often lose.
  • Strategies for getting lost items returned.

So, how do you keep from losing things? Here are three of the most common strategies.

1. Assign a home to everything and send things home to live.Julie Bestry

Woman's Day quotes organizer Stacey Platt:
Most of the time we lose things because we don’t put them back where we found them. ... Everything needs a home. You can always find a fork because you always put them back in the same spot.
Stever Robbins (who I found via Linda English) explains it this way:
Create a place for your most important things, like your wallet and keys. Use a test run. Walk into your house carrying your things, and look for a place you’ll be able to put them every single time you get home. Your keys, for instance, could always go just inside the door in that priceless Four Dynasty Chinese Urn you found on eBay.
On Ask Metafilter, Daniel Beck explains his strategy:
Phone in right front pocket or in the charger by the bed, always. Keys in left front pocket or on the hook by the door, always. Wallet in back pocket or on the bedside table, always. No exceptions ever.

Adjust per your sartorial needs, of course; the important part is to stop putting the things down in random places.
And Ceiba says:
Establish a place for everything at all major stopping places. For example, when I had a car, there was only one place in the car that I was allowed to place my iPhone. In the office, the distance-vision glasses go on top of the computer and nowhere else.
And here's a very different example, from Dustin Godsey:
A sign that I'm either getting old or lazy: I always park on the top level of parking ramps now so that I don't have to remember a floor #.

2. When you leave a space, check to make sure you have everything.

Many people recommend pocket checks or pocket pats. Over on Ask Metafilter, Laen says:
When I leave the house, count the number of items I'm putting into my pocket. Usually that number is 3 (cellphone, wallet, phone). Whenever I stand up, I do a quick pocket count to make sure I didn't leave anything behind.
Two lights above the sea says:
I'm a fan of the "pat-down", as well. Keys-phone-wallet. Keys-phone-wallet. It has a nice ring to it. Do it where every you go. About to leave the house. About to leave the car. About to leave the store/restaurant, etc.
I do something similar whenever I leave a client appointment. I make sure I have my wallet and cell phone in my purse, and that I have my water bottle and my jacket. I know to always check for these four things. (My keys rarely leave my purse, so I don't need to check for them.)

3. Make things harder to lose, or leave behind.

Theora55 says:
Some things, like coffee mug or keys, can be a bright distinctive color. Teevee clickers should be blaze orange, for example. I put blaze orange marking tape on some things, and am more easily able to find them.
Gillian Kirby uses a similar strategy:
Phone - encased in bright green rubber case. ... Keys/travelcard - again, both are in bright colours so I'm less likely to put down and forget. ... Wallet - bright colours apply again. 
And David Lebovitz provides a very different example. He tweeted about his fear of leaving things behind:
Is there a word for "the fear of using a hotel safe, because you might leave, forgetting you put things in there"?
And Liz replied:
If you put a shoe in as well you won't forget passport etc. because you'd never leave with just one shoe.

Monday, September 16, 2013

10 Types of Indoor Firewood Storage

canvas bag for toting and storing firewood logs

As we move into fall in the Northern Hemisphere, it seems like a good time to look at firewood storage options. Since firewood can provide a home to all sorts of bugs, you may not want to move it inside until right before you plan to use it — but these products can provide some nice temporary storage. And, of course, there's no reason you couldn't repurpose one of these products for another use.

Many of the items I found are quite pricey — but we can still do some virtual window shopping. I'm going to show you these in order of increasing price, going from $30 to the amazing price of $840.

So we'll begin with the TuffDuck bags from Condar, also available from CondarCanada. These are $30 or $35, depending on the colors. Condar also has some wood bags in the same general price range.

wicker log basket

For $48, you can get a wicker log basket from The Basket Lady. The cotton liner is an extra $15.

log basket, rattan

This tapered rattan log basket, from Garden Trading, goes for ₤70 — which is about $112, as of today.

canvas log basket

For $120 you can get this canvas log basket from Best Made Company.

wheeled firewood cart

Pottery Barn has a firewood wheeled wagon for $179.

suede firewood carrier / holder

This suede firewood basket from Ørskov, available at Illums Bolighus, sells for 1,450.00 DKK — approximately $260. There's what seems to be a leather version available at for 1,250 DKK — approximately $244.

leather log basket

For another leather option, you could go to Life Of Riley, which has this leather log basket for £185 — about $295.

rattan log basket

OKA has rattan storage baskets for logs at £185 and £249 — about $295 and $397. This picture shows the more expensive one.

copper firewood basket

This copper firewood basket is gorgeous — and it's $350.

leather firewood log holder

Finally, let's admire this leather log holder — an Italian design — which goes for £527. That's about $840.

Related Posts:
Moving Into Autumn: Firewood Racks and Log Baskets
Storing the Firewood: A Few Logs to A Few Cords

Friday, September 13, 2013

Decluttering and the Hunt for Buried Treasures

fabric with detailed embroidery of fish, crabs, etc.

Do you dread going through your closets, your garage, or that stack of boxes you haven't looked at since you moved five years ago? Here's something to encourage you to begin the process.

With every decluttering project, I've learned to expect to hear, at some point: "Oh, I totally forgot about that! I love that!" or "I wondered where that was; I've missed it!"

It seems that, almost always, we find some sort of buried treasure: something useful, something sentimental, something beautiful — or something valuable, such as old traveler's checks. The photo above shows some wonderful fabric a client and I found, just recently. (I'm posting the photo with her permission.)

Monday, September 9, 2013

4 Pencil Cups — and an Office Brush

pencil cup, soapstone, with old Apple Macintosh design

A well-chosen pencil cup can add a welcome splash of personality to any desk, while still being an incredibly practical organizing tool. You could go to your coffee mug collection and pick one to hold your pens and pencils — or you could get something like the products I'll show you here.

Apple Computer fans might like this Apple Macintosh pen holder. [via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog]

pencil holder

The Eva Maria pencil holder from Touch provides a splash of color. It's made from "unbleached recycled paper and repurposed E.V.A waste — flip-flop material." [via Bloesem]

pencil cup and paper clip cup - mesh wrapped in leather

Ric's Leather takes a mesh pencil cup and wraps it in — you guessed it, leather. (You can also get a paper clip cup made using the same technique.) You can get "the design and colors of your choice."

wood pencil cup

Hallowed Quiet is a father-daughter team from Ohio — with some really lovely wooden pencil holders.

office brush to hold pens, pencils, more

And if pencil cups just aren't your thing, how about the office brush from Raumgestalt? You can find it at Fitzsu and Anthropologie.

Related Posts:
8 Pencil Cups to Organize Your Desktop
Organizing the Pens and Pencils: Pencil Cups and More
Organizing Your Desk: Pencil Cups from $10 to $120

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Resisting the Temptation of Sales, Special Deals and Inexpensive Items

Huge SALE sign in store window
Photo by Gerard Stolk, found on Flickr, licensed through Creative Commons

I heard a radio ad for Kohl's earlier this week. There's a new rewards program (apparently being tested in Texas and California) where you get one point for every dollar you spend; 100 points gets you a $5 off coupon for future purchases. "I almost feel guilty for not shopping," the woman in the ad said — or something close to that.

And that's part of what leads to clutter. The items on sale that seem so tempting. The 5% discount that Kohl's is giving you — but only if you buy even more.

If there's something you need or truly want, and it's on sale, that's great! People who buy next year's holiday cards on Dec. 26 are saving money. But buying something you wouldn't normally buy just because the price seems good is often a mistake.

Want some help in avoiding those purchases? Here are some thoughts to consider:

Farnoosh Brock wrote an interesting post about going to Istanbul planning to do "some serious heavy-duty shopping" and buying much less than she expected to — even though she loves material things. She provides these three questions to ask before you buy:
1. In what way will my life be better off if I buy this thing?

2. What is one good reason I should not buy this thing?

3. Do I really desire this thing enough to buy it and own it forever?
Mandy writes about her past experiences going to the second-hand store:
You know what buying things simply because they look cool leads to? A bunch of CRAP. Was it cheap crap? Yes ma’am. But crap nonetheless.
Dustin Senos shares this advice, from his parents:
Don’t buy something unless you’ve wanted it three times.
And finally, Trent from The Simple Dollar has his 10-second rule:
Whenever I’m considering making a purchase of any kind, I simply stop for ten seconds and ask myself whether this is really a worthwhile purchase. Do I actually need this item? Does it cause any sort of fulfillment in my life that isn’t already achieved by the things I currently own? Could I not put the cost of this item to better use?