Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Worst Time Management Decision You Could Make

Now that we’re past Halloween, let’s talk about something really, no-joking-around scary: distracted driving. Trying to do two things that require concentration or visual attention — driving and texting, for example — is never a good time management choice.

Want the heartbreaking stories?

Here's Story #1:
Alexander Heit, a University of Northern Colorado student from Boulder, passed away earlier this month from injuries he sustained after losing control of his car and flipping over while driving through Greeley.

He was texting at the time.
Heit’s parents released a photo of his last text; go take a look.

Here's Story #2:
Jake Owen, a Baltimore resident, was 5 years old when he was killed three days after Christmas in 2011 as a result of a crash caused by a driver talking on his cell phone. ... 
The driver who killed Jake was so distracted by his cell phone that when he hit the Owen’s car at 62 mph, he had never applied his brakes.
You can read more on the Jake’s Law website, which I found via Jennifer Mendelsohn.

And for more stories, watch the incredible documentary from Werner Herzog called From One Second To The Next. It’s 35 minutes long, and it’s very much worth it.

Want the statistics?

Here’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, based on studies done in 2011:
69% of drivers in the United States ages 18-64 reported that they had talked on their cell phone while driving within the 30 days before they were surveyed. ...

In Europe, this percentage ranged from 21% in the United Kingdom to 59% in Portugal.

31% of U.S. drivers ages 18-64 reported that they had read or sent text messages or email messages while driving at least once within the 30 days before they were surveyed. ...

In Europe, this percentage ranged from 15% in Spain to 31% in Portugal
And here’s more:
In 2011, 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver. ... An additional, 387,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver in 2011.
Furthermore, Mother Jones reports on another recent study that showed:
Driver response time was terrible regardless of whether the driver was manually texting or using Siri.

Texting drivers of any sort took twice as long to react to roadway hazards than when they were off the phone.

Texting drivers spent a lot of time not looking at the road, regardless of whether they were using a voice-to-text app.

Want the laws?

In the U.S., the laws about texting while driving vary from state to state. Alaska has the strongest penalties; texting and driving can cost you $10,000 and a year in prison. If someone is injured, the penalties are much more severe.

Want some advice?

For drivers, a man in the documentary above summarizes it this way:
Focus while you’re driving. Pay attention while you’re driving. Don’t take your eyes off the road while you’re driving. Things can happen so quick, that’ll change your life forever.
And here are some thoughts from Randi Zuckerberg, which I found via B.L. Ochman:
Sometimes, I’ll get a text message while I’m driving and feel such compulsion to check it or answer it. I always have to consciously ask myself, “Is this message really so important that it could be worth it to die checking it?” “Is what I have to say to this person so important that it can’t wait 15 minutes?” ...
Of course, once I ask myself those questions, the whole thing seems ridiculously dumb. Of course there’s no message that can’t wait.
If you're a passenger with someone who’s texting and driving, the folks on MetaFilter have a bunch of suggestions on what to say, but the advice all boils down to this:
Do not ride in a car with a distracted driver. You are risking your life.

Want a wristband like the one shown above?

You can get it, and other products, at this online store.

Related Posts:
Multitasking While Driving is a Really Bad Idea
This Could Save a Life

Sunday, October 27, 2013

When Offsite Storage of Stuff Makes Sense

CityStash ad: Your doll collection scares people.

Self-storage units are like Vegas. What goes in the unit, stays in the unit. In many cases, a long-term waste of money. — Donna Hoo

As much as I agree with Donna in most cases, under certain circumstances offsite storage may make sense. Sometimes you really do need storage for a short period of time: during a remodel, for example, or when a home is being staged for sale.

And people in cities with small apartments sometimes find that renting a storage unit makes more sense than paying for a larger apartment to store infrequently-used items they don't want to part with. Someone on the Apartment Therapy website mentioned storing baby gear in between kids; she did the calculations on using storage vs. buying replacements, and storage came out significantly cheaper.

And here's a scenario that someone shared on an Unclutterer post about self-storage:
I have ski equipment, camping gear, a kayak, and some car maintenance stuff that’s currently stored in the basement. This is all stuff that, while not used on a weekly (or even monthly basis) gets used regularly enough that it doesn’t make sense to rent or borrow it. In short, it isn’t clutter, but it also needs to be stored somewhere other than in my living space.

While I’ve never done this before, I am considering the possibility of renting storage space for these large, seasonal things. Renting a storage space would add a rental cost, but it also changes how I’d go about finding an apartment. Previously, storage space has factored in to my apartment choice — if a place didn’t have enough storage space, it was automatically off the list. Using self-storage could allow me to rent a significantly cheaper apartment — if the savings significantly exceed the added storage cost, this seems like a win to me.
If you determine that offsite storage really does makes sense for your particular situation, here's an alternative to renting a storage unit: CityStash Storage. CityStash delivers plastic storage boxes to you, which you pack; the company then comes and picks up the boxes and larger items such as furniture, and takes them to its warehouse. You can retrieve anything you've got stored for a flat delivery fee. CityStash has a three-month minimum, and is currently only in San Francisco and Washington D.C.

I met Gregory, the owner of CityStash, at the recent conference of the National Association of Professional Organizers — San Francisco Bay Area Chapter. He was kind enough to send me copies of some of the company's ads, which I thought were hilarious.

CityStash ad: Maybe your Star Trek collection explains why you're still single

CityStash ad: The only cheaper storage is at your parents' place. But that means you have to visit.

Yes, some of us like visiting our parents, but these ads still made me giggle.

And a side note: This is my blog anniversary; I've now been blogging for seven years! Thank you, readers, for your support.

Related Posts:
Renting Self-Storage Units Can Be a Big Mistake
The Stuff That Resides in Self Storage Units
Self-Storage Units: Sometimes Useful, Often Wasteful

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Place for Your Coins: Piggy Banks and Money Pots

three money pots in striped patterns

The tradition with a terramundi pot is that every time you have a new one, you write down a wish, and put that in with your first coin.Ruth Dawkins, writing on Offbeat Home

I first wrote about Terramundi money pots back in 2007, but reading Ruth’s wonderful story of her own eight pots made me look at them again. One nice change since 2007: I can now find stores in the U.S. selling these. The North Carolina Museum of Art and Catching Fireflies both have a small selection; The Cameleer has a large selection, but you must wait 2-3 weeks for delivery. Update on April 17, 2019: The North Carolina Museum of Art no longer has these in its online shop.

I also discovered there’s another version of how the wishes are handled: “Once the first coin is dropped the money pot must be fed until full upon which time it must be smashed whilst making a wish.”

terra cotta money pot

And I discovered you can get the undecorated terra cotta pots — although it’s a bit difficult if you aren’t in Italy. You can also buy something similar from Portugal.

painted money pot

Finally, I discovered this gorgeous version from Macchietta.handmade in Rimini, Italy — available via Etsy. Update on April 17, 2019: I'm no longer finding this product.

two piggy banks with cork noses

But what if you don’t want a pot you must break to get your money out? Well, you could get a lovely piggy bank from Michèle Hastings Pottery. She has a variety of colors and patterns, but my favorite is this copper and turquoise combination.

piggy bank called Rudi, made from bark and more

With this handmade piggy bank, the pig’s rear end gets removed to provide easy access to your coins.

ceramic piggy bank from Mexico

This lovely piggy bank was made in Mexico by Eva Servin; there’s a cork stopper in the base. I don’t usually show vintage pieces, but I just couldn’t resist this one. Update on April 17, 2019: The site that had this piggy bank has disappeared.

felt piggy bank

And finally, for something very different, here’s Feed Your Dream felt piggy bank from Baum-Kuchen! There’s a “brass zipper on the bottom of the pig’s belly” to remove the coins. [via Better Living Through Design] Update on April 17, 2019: I'm no longer finding this bank on the web.

Related Posts:
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
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
Piggy Banks: A Home for Your Spare Change

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Back to Basics: Filing Supplies

manila file folder and green hanging file folder

What kinds of filing supplies are right for you?

If you want to get as basic as can be, there's the manila file folder, the green hanging folder and the plastic tab. You'll find these supplies everywhere, and there's nothing at all wrong with them. But there are many more options to consider, depending on what your specific needs are — let's look at some of them.

File folders

file folder with ostriches

Do you want file folders in fun patterns? There are many fine choices from companies like Galison, Blueink StudiosCavallini and Co. — as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This ostrich file folder comes from Paper Source.

Do you want to use color coding? Some people find this to be a royal pain; others love the idea. Even if you don't want color coding, would you prefer folders in a color other than manila?

Do you want file folders made from recycled materials? You can certainly get those, too. Pendaflex makes some file folders from recycled lottery tickets. [via organizer Julie Bestry]

green straight-cut file folder

And then there are the tabs. For files you'll use regularly, you may well want two-ply (or reinforced) tabs. If you like to have nice long labels on your files, you may want to consider file folders with straight-cut tabs, that run the entire width of the file folder.

file folder with large tab, 1/3 cut

And yet another option are file folders with a larger-than-normal tab. Smead calls these its SuperTab folders.

Hanging File Folders

Again, you can get files in various colors, and you can get files made from recycled materials.

hanging file folders with built-in tabs

If plastic tabs are too much of a hassle, you may want to get hanging files with the tab built in. Smead calls these its FasTab Hanging File Folders. For those who like straight-line filing, with the tabs in one position rather than staggered, you can buy these folders with a single tab position, rather than three.

plastic tabs to hold labels for file folders, 1/3 cut

But if you do use plastic tabs, I recommend the ones that are 1/3 cut (extending 1/3 of the length of the file folder) vs. those that are the shorter, more common 1/5 cut. I also recommend avoiding dark-colored plastic tabs, because these can make it hard to read the labels.

Combining file folders and hanging file folders

Do you want to have file folders inside hanging file folders? It's perfectly fine to use just one or another. David Allen recommends just using file folders, for the ease factor in setting up a new file — but many filing cabinets are set up to accommodate hanging files, not file folders.

If you do want to use both of them — with file folders inside hanging file folders — consider that many times the tab on the file folder will interfere with being able to read the tab on the hanging file folder. There are a number of ways around this, though; here are some ideas.

box-bottom file folder

1. Put a number of files in a hanging box-bottom folder, and only label the file folders.

This is what I do with my client files. It's obvious they are client files; I don't need a label on my hanging box-bottom file folder to tell me that. The 2-inch size works well for many people, notes organizer Lorie Marrero.

interior file folder, orange

2. Use interior file folders.

These are designed to fit inside hanging file folders with the tabs hidden.

hanging file folders with lower top, so tabs on file folders inside them are visible

3. Use the Find It tab view hanging file folders.

With these, the top of the hanging file is lowered so you can see the file folders inside. I haven't tried these yet, personally. Update on Feb. 2, 2015: Since I wrote this, I have had a change to try these out; they worked wonderfully for someone I know.

Related Post:
File Folders That (Almost) Make Filing Fun

Friday, October 11, 2013

Seasonal Refrigerator Magnets — for Día de Los Muertos

four sugar skull magnets

I intended to write a Halloween-themed post, with pumpkins and such; after all, I live in a city that celebrates pumpkins, big time. But somehow, it was all the Day of the Dead items that caught my eye. The magnets above are your traditional sugar skulls, from Retrodec.

cat sugar skull magnet

And I loved this variation: a Day of the Dead cat sugar skull magnet.

Frida sugar skull magnet

Ladislao Loera at Frenzy Art has some magnificent wooden Day of the Dead magnets; it was hard to pick just one to show you.

sugar skull magnet board

And if you'd rather organize with a magnet board than a refrigerator door, you can get this wonderful sugar skull magnet board from DENY Designs; the artist is Andi Bird. You can also buy this from Wayfair. The board comes in three sizes.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Headphone Stands: Giving the Headphones a Home

aluminum headphone stand, next to a MacBook

Many people have headphones in their offices — to use with Skype calls, to block out noise, to listen to music in a multi-person office, etc. But placing those headphones down on the desk takes up a lot of space. There are ways to hang headphones off walls or cubicle panels — but for now, let’s look at some of the more interesting freestanding headphone stands.

The stand shown above is the aluminum Just Mobile Headstand. Note the storage space at the base, for wrapping a long cable. [via Bos Organization and Tools and Toys]

three aluminum headphone stands, in black and silver finishes

Woo Audio has adjustable-height aluminum headphone stands — both single and double versions. They’re available in either a black or silver finish.

wood headphone stand

If you’d prefer wood, there’s the HS1 headphone stand from FiiO.

wood headphone stand, for two headphones

H.A.L Woodworking offers single and double headphone stands — both standard and custom. You have a choice of wood stains, plus black — and side pegs, for wrapping the cords around, are also an option.

bamboo headphone stand with three headphones on it

And Last Summer Treasures offers a bamboo headphone stand — a variation on the bracelet displays the company also sells.

headphone stands shaped like the curve of a head

The Omega headphone stand from Sieveking Sound is pretty amazing; it’s also on the pricier side.

plastic headphone stand

If you like that shape, you could also look at the Brainwavz Peridot headphone stand, made from plastic.

curved aluminum headphone stand

And CA Electronics has a headphone stand, made from aluminum, with a somewhat similar style. It’s available in black, white and red.

headphone stands with black lacquered PVC, and wood

Headphile has some very cool-looking headphone stands; they come in various sizes, to accommodate one to four headphone sets. There are 11 wood choices, and an option for taller-than-normal stand. The risers are made from “black lacquer coated heavy wall PVC.” [via HeadphoneScout]

headphone stand with headphones

Room’s Audio Line has some lovely headphone stands, including this one. These come from Germany, and Thomann sells them throughout much of Europe — but I haven’t found a retailer in the U.S.

headphone hanger

If you have 2,000-4,760 Swedish kronor to spend ($312-$742), you could look at the Klutz Design CanCans. The more expensive ones are made from black or tanned leather. You can get them through Aaudio Imports for $599-$799.

And if you want a low-cost option, a number of sites have recommended re-purposing a banana hanger as a headphone hanger. Of course, there are plenty of basic headphone hangers, too — from Case Star, Cosmos and others.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Helping People Return Lost Items to You

Contact Lockscreen app

Back in March 2012, organizer Julie Bestry and I found someone's cell phone in the bathroom of the Baltimore/Washington Airport. Fortunately for the owner, we wanted to return the phone, not steal it. There was no lock screen, so we called the last person the owner had called, and the last person who had called her. One of those people was her sister, who knew where she was flying to — so we were able to find the gate, find her, and return her phone.

All of this made me much more conscious of making it easy for people to return lost items to you when they're trying to be helpful. Here are some ideas.

1. Add your name and contact info to your device’s lock screen.

I do use a lock screen, but mine shows my name and my home office landline number, where I could call and pick up any messages, as well as one of my email addresses. On my iPhone, I used an app called Contact Lockscreen (shown above) to do this, but there are many ways to add text to an image.

2. Label your stuff.

Rachel of the website Small Notebook lost a camera, and was lucky enough to get it back after a few weeks, because someone tried really hard to find the owner. Rachel said, “I realize this whole situation would have been easier if I had put my name and phone number on it.”

3. Leave helpful photos on your camera.

As Eileen notes on Blurb Blog: “Find a piece of paper. Write this on it: If you’ve found this camera, email me at: your email here. Make it large and very clear, and take a picture of it with your camera. Keep that image in your camera always. Why? Because humans are curious and whoever finds your camera will scroll through the photos and come across the photo.”

For more about such a strategy, go to the Digital Photography School website and look at the very funny series of photos that Andrew McDonald left on his camera.

4. Use a service like StuffBak.

StuffBak lets you protect your privacy — your name and contact information are not shown on the labels — while still making it easy for people to report that they‘ve found your item. The labels are available in many shapes and sizes. [via Dumb Little Man and Metafilter]

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
Avoiding Lost Items: Two Special Tools