Sunday, May 10, 2020

In Honor of My Mom: Organizing in Blue for 2020

rectangular tray with complex design featuring a lot of owls

Thirteen years ago today, my mom died of pancreatic cancer. (Yes, it’s ironic that this anniversary happens to fall on Mother’s Day this year.) Her favorite color was blue, so this has become my annual tribute to her.

Two years ago I led off with a tray from Jamida, with art by Emma J. Shipley, and this year I’m doing the same — with a new tray that’s as amazing as the prior one. It comes in two different sizes.


rectangular tray with flowers, in various shades of blue

But that’s not the only tray I have to show you. Here’s a very blue tray from Sweetgum Home, designed by Sandra Venus.


rectangular tray with an Art Nouveau design

And here’s the Ianthe tray from Liberty of London, with its Art Nouveau design.


square blue alarm clock, round white dial, yellow second hand, red alarm indicator

Moving on from trays: The Farbe alarm clock from Lemnos is nice and simple, and it’s easy to read. It runs on one AA battery, and it does make a light tick sound as the second hand moves around, so it wouldn’t work for someone sensitive to such sounds.


Blue bowl made from fabric-wrapped rope, on a table, filled with fruit

This wrapped-rope basket from Forest Hill Creations could be used to hold any number of things. Their turquoise bowl looks lovely, too.


blue wide-mouth utensil holder

Chatham Pottery has a lovely blue utensil holder. The utensil holder with the hand-painted fish is also nice!


blue bookend holding up some books

These Dumbo bookends, manufactured by Tortuga Studios, are made from powder-coated steel, so they should do a good job of holding books upright. The blue color isn’t offered on Tortuga’s website; I found it at the MoMA Design Store. You can find Tortuga’s navy and teal bookends at Sight Unseen.


ribbon board: white fabric with blue kingfishers; orange ribbon

And finally, here’s a lovely notice board from artist Cherith Harrison.

Curious about my posts in prior years? Take a look at all of them.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Meal Planning While Sheltering at Home: Cooking and Baking — Or Not

Packages of Tasty Bite Jodphur Lentils, Seeds of Change Seven Whole Grains, and Tasty Bite Ancient Grains

As so many of us shelter at home, I see a lot of folks getting into cooking and/or baking, and that’s great. Their food looks terrific.

But the photo at the top of this post is part of my pantry. It also has things like veggie packets from Tasty Bite, energy bars, pasta, pasta sauces and wonderful canned sardines. Most of these items (excluding the pasta and pasta sauce) are also good earthquake supplies.


Prepared meals: chicken coconut curry

And here’s part of my refrigerator. It also has peanut butter, tayberry jelly, fruit juice and cheese. It sometimes has the leftovers from meals delivered by my local Himalayan restaurant. The freezer has veggies and bread — and as of tomorrow it will have locally made gelato.

For me, meal planning means making sure I’ve ordered enough food delivery that I can have tasty and healthy food to pop in the microwave, bread to pop in the toaster, etc. — along with some treats. I’ve developed a nice list of places that will ship or deliver things I enjoy, mostly at reasonable prices. (OK, the gelato is a splurge.)

I don’t feel inspired to cook right now, and I’m fortunate enough to be able to get good food in other ways. If you’re similarly inclined, this is just a reminder that there’s nothing wrong with that.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Decluttering While Sheltering at Home


The Stay Home Club XL tote, available for purchase

I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has pretty strict shelter-at-home rules — and I’m over 65, which increases my COVID-19 risk. So I’m only leaving home for short walks in my residential neighborhood and for essential vet visits (where the vet has protocols to ensure things are done very safely).

Most places that would normally take donations are closed — and even if they weren’t, dropping off donations and electronics for recycling aren’t “essential activities” in most cases, with some moves being the exception. I own a freecycle group, and I’ve told members to hold off on offering items unless they are the things we’re allowed to go shopping for: groceries, pet food, medical items (non-prescription on freecycle), etc.

So what do you do if you happen to be inspired to declutter? Here are some ideas:

1. Focus on papers. These will either be filed, shredded or recycled — all of which can be done without leaving home if you have a shredder and curbside recycling. Many people think paperwork is the most annoying thing to handle, so it can pile up. You don’t have to do it all at once; doing just a tiny bit at a time will still help.

2. Focus on computer files. I’ve found myself deleting old files, emails and browser bookmarks — as well as cleaning up my contacts.

3. Put physical items in clearly identified boxes, bags or bins for donation or recycling at a future time. It’s not ideal, but that’s what I'm doing. I have one box for books, one tote bag for electronics recycling, and a big bin for other items to be donated or freecycled.

4. Mail things off to friends or relatives if you have things you are sure they want. In the U.S., you can schedule a pickup with the postal service. There are some weight limitations and you have to attach proper postage, as explained in the FAQs.

5. Using the same USPS pick-up service, you could ship clothing and household goods off to charities using the Give Back Box service and its prepaid shipping labels. (As of 18 days ago, organizer Lauren Mang confirmed that Give Back Box was still up and running.) If you feel OK leaving the house and your locale permits it, you could also use a UPS drop box; UPS has a location finder.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Computer Backups: An organizing project you can do while sheltering at home

box that says World Backup Day


This post is a day late; yesterday was World Backup Day. But I’m being gentle with myself during this time, and not fretting about that. And anyway, you want to be doing backups every day, not just on World Backup Day.

And I guess I had this subject on my mind, because I had an odd dream last night. I was working in some nondescript corporate office, had my computer stolen, and immediately thought about when I did my last full backup!

I’m not going to suggest specific backup products; you can find a lot of advice about that from others who have more expertise than I do. But I will emphasize that you want at least one of your backups to be offsite (in case of fire, theft, etc.) and you want at least one of them to be automatic, because otherwise you’re tempting the fates. And yes, multiple backups are a good idea. I use a cloud backup program (offsite backup, automated) and a program that backs up to an external hard drive (much faster recovery time). But if you have no backups now and get one backup process running, you’ve already made a huge improvement!

And remember you want to back up any critical files on your cell phone, too.

So if you don’t already have backups running, consider taking some time to remedy that. You don’t want to be like Matt Dempsey, who tweeted back in 2017:
Having my work hard drive/computer die yesterday has forced me to look at the bad backup decisions I’ve made. Damn
And if you’re already running backups, are you also testing those backups? If not, that’s a step you might want to take.

You might also think about any non-digital documents that you’d be distressed about losing, and consider getting them in digital form to then be included in those backups you’re running. This warning comes from a tweet by author Susan Orlean:
Had a small flood in my office. Some handwritten notes are now abstract watercolors. Fortunately I’d typed them up, but yikes.
Finally, I’d like to mention a different kind of back-up. If you’ve ever published things to a website that just might disappear, make sure you’ve backed up those documents or images, too, if they are still important to you. I know one magazine writer who didn’t do this, and she lost her work when the magazine folded and didn’t keep its website around.


Monday, March 16, 2020

Productivity in the Time of Coronavirus

electron microscope image of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19
Image from NIAID-RML, found on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

Not everyone has the luxury of worrying about productivity; here’s a thank-you to all the doctors, nurses, delivery people and such who are out there taking care of us. If you hire housecleaners, it would be a kindness to tell them to stay home while you still pay them.

But for those trying to work at home (or in an office, hopefully with plenty of social distance — or those just trying to get personal projects done — I wanted to share some words of sympathy and advice I’m seeing on Twitter.

A “you're not alone” thought from Caroline Moss:
Is anyone else’s brain so broken that you’re beating yourself up for not being productive enough about work during an unprecedented global pandemic
Advice from David Griner:
Real talk: If you’re not feeling productive, it’s not because you’re working from home or poorly managing your time.

It’s because life right now is just a horrible grinding background noise that never leaves your brain. Be kind to yourself. Let things go.
And sympathy plus advice from Jessica:
I’ve worked from home for 20(!) years, I love it, I’m made for it, I can’t imagine not doing it—and I’ve gotten absolutely *nothing* done for the past week.

Newly WFH folks, the situation now is totally unconducive to concentration and productivity. Be gentle with yourselves.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Time Management: Balancing parenting and work



I’ve been listening to a new podcast called Business Dad, which got me hooked with this description:
How do you balance it all?

Working moms are asked this question incessantly, but it’s rarely asked of working dads. After Alexis Ohanian’s daughter Olympia was born, it took months before he was asked about work-life balance and the inevitable trade-offs of being a working parent.

In a new podcast from Initialized Capital, Alexis Ohanian ... opens this question up to some of the most successful men across business, sports, entertainment, and more, for candid conversations about what it means to be a father in today’s world and how they balance their careers and family.
Comedian Hasan Minhaj is the guest on the first episode; his daughter is 20 months old. He said that it wasn't until a few months in that he “really realized the relentless nature of parenting; it doesn’t stop.”

He also noted that he has dedicated time with his daughter every day:
My wife forced my hand ... Beena is the one who told me, “You have to set time with her, every day, to: 
A — develop that bond and
B — if you don't you're going to regret it.”

So from 6:30 to 8:30 every day it's our time, before I come to the office.

I remember having that initial pushback like “Come on, are you serious, every day?” And now it’s one of the best things that ever happened to me.
The editor in chief of Wired, Nicholas Thompson, is the guest on the second episode, which I enjoyed even more than the first one. Nick has three sons, ages 5, 9 and 11. Given his children’s ages, his interactions with his sons are quite different than those that Alexis and Hasan have with their young daughters. But he also has dedicated time with them:
I try to keep a very structured schedule where I take them to school, I go to work, then I leave work almost every day at 6 to go home, and put them to bed, and tell them stories, and play with them, and work with them on their things and then they go to sleep and I got back to work ... I go back to my computer.
He goes on to talk about the trade-offs — the things you don’t have time for when you’re spending time on work and family. I also loved his stories about engaging his boys in his work; for example, they helped craft his first interview question to Secretary of State John Kerry. And when Nick was choosing between two job offers, his top decision-making question was this: Which job will make you a better dad for your children?

Tired of only women being asked how they balance work and family? If so, you might enjoy this podcast, too.