Monday, April 29, 2013

How to Prune the Book Collection: Two Perspectives

bedroom dresser, with a huge stack of books next to it
Photo by Timothy Valentine, found on Flickr, licensed via Creative Commons

The collective noun for a group of books is a "damn, I'm never going to get around to reading all of these." — Waterstones Oxford Street, via Deirdre

Sue in Australia is a book lover; her husband and daughter also have attachments to books. So, like many book lovers, her collection of books reached the point where there were more books than there was bookshelf space — and she's facing a possible move. So her family just did some culling, and I liked her approach.
Our process was very simple. All three of us were involved in a conveyor line process. There were no recriminations or discussion about what people wanted to keep. If an individual wanted to keep something, it got kept.

I cleaned out a shelf and took a book. If I wanted it, it went back on the empty shelf. If I didn't want it, it went down the line to hubby. If he wanted it, back it went; if not, it went to the Girl. If she didn't want it, it went on the pile to give away.
And here's the best part:
I expected it be a painful process. But because I knew I could keep anything I wanted I found it quite freeing and releasing.
Then there's the author of the blog Room for a Pony, who decided to say "Goodbye, all books that I do not love" — and explained what books fit in that unloved category. Here's a summary:
1. Nay to books that have been sitting on my shelf without a look for well over twenty years. ...

2. Away with books that are old, yellowed, brittle and musty. ... If I love a book that much, I’ll buy a better copy in hardback, because it’s no pleasure to read a book in that condition.

3. Another capital crime is if the print’s so small that only an insect can read it.

4. I’m discarding with great glee anything written in tedious, academic English. I hated it in college, and I hate it now.
That list makes sense to me; I've certainly rid my own shelves of books in all of those categories.

On the other hand, I fully recognize there are some books we will want to keep forever. For a delightful read, see Peter Hartlaub's list of children's books he can never part with.

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
Even Book Lovers Can Have Too Many Books

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lazy Susans: Versatile Organizing Tools

corner cabinet Lazy Susan

Lazy Susans are a great tool for those pesky corner cabinets, but they can also be used in myriad other ways.

Organizer Geralin Thomas notes these uses on Twitter:
Double-decker Lazy Susans in mens' closets for tie stays, cuff links, coins, buttons, golf tees, pocket knives, phones, wallets.

I also use double-decker Lazy Susans on small desks [w/o drawers] for stapler, pencil cups, calculators, etc.
Organizer Aby Garvey shows how she uses a Lazy Susan for her scrapbooking tools, and also notes:
What I most love about a Lazy Susan is that it — or rather she — makes what would be unusable, invisible and hard-to-access storage space easy to reach and see. You can use a Lazy Susan on a deep shelf (such as in your refrigerator or in deep closet) and suddenly, the stuff in the back is no longer out of sight or out of mind.
Organizer Monica Ricci writes about six uses for a Lazy Susan, including this one:
Store small jars of bolts, nails, nuts, screws and other tiny pieces of hardware on your workbench in the garage.
And Martha Stewart tells us:
Refrigerator door space is prime kitchen real estate. Free it up by moving a few necessities to a turntable, where they’ll still be easy to grab.
Your basic Lazy Susan is easy to find — but if you want something beyond the basics, here are a few choices.

Lazy Susan painted to look like a kiwi slice

Jane Suzanne's Shop & Studio has the most eye-catching Lazy Susans I've seen. They're made of hand-painted wood.

colorful melamine Lazy Susan, in use

French Bull has four different Lazy Susans, made of melamine. [via Mighty Goods]

Lazy Susan painted with sunflower motif

This hand-painted sunflower Lazy Susan from Artstream Design also caught my eye.

Lazy Susan made with wine corks

This wine cork Lazy Susan kit allows you to make good use of all those corks that wine enthusiasts sometimes accumulate.

Lazy Susan made on pottery wheel

Prefer to have a lip on your Lazy Susan, to keep things from falling off? Take a look at this turntable platter from Sue Patrick Pottery.

Lazy Susan made from salvaged wine barrels
And the wine barrel Lazy Susan from VivaTerra — made from wood "salvaged from an oak wine barrel end cap and carefully refurbished" — also has that sometimes-useful edge.

Lazy Susan with basket

Here's another type of Lazy Susan — one that's made from a basket. Foxcreek Basket has these in two sizes — and it also has double-tiered versions.

craft turntable / Lazy Susan with 5 removable buckets

This craft turntable comes with removable buckets. However, I'm only finding it in New Zealand and Australia, at stores including Peter's of KensingtonGreen with Envy and UrbanBaby.

Lazy Susan craft caddy - wood

Finally, Bearcat Woodworks makes some lovely Lazy Susan craft caddies; you have nine wood choices.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Sentimental Stuff You Just Can't Shed

dress, hanging in garage

This is the dress my mother wore to my brother's wedding. It's hanging exactly where I put it when I brought it home after Mom's death, back in May 2007.

I hung it up in the garage as a temporary thing, fully intending to sell or donate it — but I've found I just can't let it go. That reaction isn't fully rational. When it comes to memorabilia, photos often stand in for physical items — and I have a great photo of Mom wearing that dress. Someone else could make good use of it.

But Mom loved that dress. And my brother's wedding was a very special day; he was just aglow with joy. And I adore my sister-in-law.

So I've given myself permission to keep that dress for as long as I feel compelled to. It's not like I kept many remembrances of my mom, beyond the memories; my house isn't overloaded with her stuff, by any means.

Sometimes we just need to hold onto a special item or two — and sometimes "just because" is reason enough.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Clutter of Excess Words

Murder Your Darlings - art print

Writing entails getting down lots of words. Editing means removing at least half of them. — Lisa Barone

When I'm not working as an organizer, I'm working as an editor. And as an editor, a good part of what I do is uncluttering — removing words that actually weaken the text.

One of the many tributes to Roger Ebert that I read last week pointed me to his review of The Brown Bunny. In that review, he notes how different the version he's reviewing is from the one he saw earlier:
The Cannes version was a bad film, but now Gallo's editing has set free the good film inside.
Editing a text does the same thing; it sets free the good story buried inside the overly wordy version. In her article entitled How to Lose 30 Pounds of Word Flab Overnight, Sonia Simone notes that "all of us start with flabby first drafts." She then provides strategies for cutting that flab, including deleting the "junk words" and eliminating redundancy.

Here's an entry in the Guardian style guide that deals with one of those junk words:
very: usually very redundant. Mark Twain wrote: "Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very.' Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."
Something else I read recently is Calvin Trillin's delightful memoir about his years at Time magazine, which includes this anecdote:
At the end of the week (or “at week’s end,” as we would have put it, in order to save three words), the makeup people would invariably inform us that the story had to be shortened to fit into the section. Since words or passages cut for space were marked with a green pencil ... the process was called greening. The instructions were expressed as how many lines had to be greened — “Green seven” or “Green twelve.” I loved greening. I don’t have any interest in word games — I don’t think I’ve ever done a crossword or played Scrabble — but I found greening a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle. I was surprised that what I had thought of as a tightly constructed seventy-line story ... was unharmed, or even improved, by greening ten per cent of it.
Finally, here's the advice from Pauline Phillips (Dear Abby) to her sister, Eppie Lederer (Ann Landers), noted in The New York Times obituary for Phillips:
You’re writing too long.
And many of us are, too.

Related Post:
A Different Kind of Clutter

Image: Murder Your Darlings print by Chris Piascik. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch famously said: “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – wholeheartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Organizing the Paper Receipts

receipt tin

Of the 45 receipts going into my expense report for a 21-day trip, I go and lose the one for the $100 dinner. Of course. Well played, self. — Abby Aronofsky

Paper receipts are becoming less on an issue as we move more toward digital versions. If I buy something at the Apple Store, I get a receipt e-mailed to me. And The New York Times reports that many stores are now following Apple's lead: “Major retailers, including Whole Foods Market, Nordstrom, Gap Inc. (which owns Old Navy and Banana Republic), Anthropologie, Patagonia, Sears and Kmart, have begun offering electronic versions of receipts, either e-mailed or uploaded to password-protected Web sites.”

And even if you get a paper receipt, you might make a digital copy. I just got my latest version of Deduct It! from Nolo, and found this passage:
Because of fading problems, you should photocopy your receipts if you intend to rely on hard copies. Obviously, this is time consuming and annoying. But there is an easier alternative: Make digital copies and throw away the hard copies.

Making a digital copy of a receipt used to require a scanner, which could be cumbersome and inconvenient. This is no longer necessary. If you have an iPhone or other smartphone with a camera, you can use that to take digital photographs of your receipts.
I don't want to get into all the pros and cons of various ways of creating and managing digital receipts — that could be a whole separate post. Rather, I just want to acknowledge that for many people, the way to handle paper receipts is to replace them with digital versions.

But maybe you're someone who wants or needs to have paper receipts! You can keep them in all sorts of files, envelopes or boxes; you don't need a product specifically designed for receipts. But there are some interesting  receipt organizers out there. The receipt tin at the top of this post sums up many people's relationship with receipts; it comes from Tottering By Gently.

receipt file

Flight 001 sells this vinyl receipt file, which comes in orange, pink and yellow.

receipt file

And finally, there's the Receipt.catcher from Buttoned Up. This is a discontinued product, but for now you can still find it at Uncommon Goods. Update on April 10, 2013: Uncommon Goods just told me they are out of the Receipt.catchers.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Remembering Roger Ebert with Some Email Advice

plaque honoring Roger Ebert
Photo by Zol87, found on Flickr, licensed via Creative Commons

Amid all the tributes to Roger Ebert I read on Thursday afternoon, I found a gem which relates to decluttering! Way back in 1996, Roger wrote his Boulder Pledge; the second sentence provides good advice for avoiding cluttering up other people's email inboxes.
Under no circumstances will I ever purchase anything offered to me as the result of an unsolicited e-mail message. Nor will I forward chain letters, petitions, mass mailings, or virus warnings to large numbers of others. This is my contribution to the survival of the online community.
What can go wrong if we forward these messages?

1. We might share bad information. Over the years, friends have sent me a number of warnings that were easily found to be false just by checking

2. We might just annoy our friends. Someone forwarded a recipe exchange email, and managed to irritate 19 friends. (Her mother was the only recipient who didn't refuse to continue the chain.) Things can get even worse if the message expresses political or religious beliefs that the recipient doesn't share.

And what about those emails with cute animal photos? Yes, they can be annoying, too — so we also need to be cautious about forwarding them, and choose our recipients carefully. As Carolyn Nicander Mohr explains:
The world seems to be composed of two sorts of people: those who love joke/cute/chain emails and those who don’t. One person’s junk is another person’s treasure, that’s why people have yard sales!
So let's remember Roger fondly — and avoid cluttering the email inboxes of our friends, colleagues, and family members.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Watches With a Dash of Color — and a Dose of Practicality

orange wristwatch

"Stop using your phone as a pocket watch." — Simplify Your Life, via Becoming Minimalist

I know I'm not alone in finding that a good wristwatch is still an invaluable tool — no matter how much I love my iPhone. And I keep finding lovely, simple, easy-to-read watches that are awfully tempting.

This first one, which is sold by Daedalus Books, comes in eight different colors.

wristwatch - black with aqua trim

The Nixon Time Teller comes in women's and men's versions; the women's version has more color options.

wristwatch - brown strap, orange face

And then there are the Taki watches; one place that sells a couple of them, including the one above, is Wink SF.

medical alert wristwatch

But as much as I like these eye-catching watches, I just ordered something much less exciting: a medical alert watch. I have a severe allergy to sulfa drugs, so it seems I ought to wear a medical alert bracelet — except I'm just not a bracelet person. So a medical alert watch seemed like a logical way to go.

Related Posts:
Watches - Because Some of Us Still Rely on Them to Keep Us on Track
Watches to Keep You On Time — In Style
Do You Wear a Watch?