Monday, June 28, 2021

Decluttering: All the Usual Suspects

cat in a box from Amazon Photo entitled Muffin 9 by Flickr user George Boyce, licensed under Creative Commons

After years of helping people with their decluttering, I’ve noticed certain categories of things show up time and again. So I grin when I see the same categories of stuff coming up in tweets, in a BuzzFeed article, and on other online sites.

New Yorker magazines

Friends, because of a twirling daughter/juice mishap, my pile of unread “New Yorker”s that I was totally going to read one of these days (nb I have not had a subscription for years) has had to be discarded. Please respect my privacy in this difficult time. — Daniel Summers, MD
I wish the New Yorker offered “every other issue subscriptions”, because every issue is too many and I just end up throwing them out. — Chuck B.
The New Yorker is filled with interesting articles — and as Chuck notes, it comes every darn week. If you’ve got a big pile of these (as so many people do) you may want to emulate Chuck in recognizing these just aren’t going to get read and putting them in the recycling bin.

Also, if you’re OK with reading things online, consider shifting to a digital-only subscription (which is my personal solution).


Pretty sure I have every box of every Apple product my family has owned dating back at least a decade - even ones for devices I no longer own. Planning on starting a museum one day. — Seth Mnookin
Do You Or Somebody You Know Suffer From KYAPBFTL (Keeping Your Apple Product Boxes For Too Long?) — Samir Mezrahi on BuzzFeed
Some Apple boxes are worth keeping, of course. Boxes for currently-owned iMacs and cinema displays are useful if you’re going to be moving or if you might need to take the product in for repair. But what purpose do the other boxes serve?

And it’s not just Apple boxes. You may have a truly good purpose for saving certain boxes: for a move, for the cat, for planned mailings to friends and family, etc. But be sure you know why you’re saving those boxes! Also, make sure the ones you save are in good condition — and not so flimsy that they're useless.

Cables, Cords and Keys

The contents of my house appear to be 95% cords to things I don’t have anymore. — Susan Orlean
Ben has his box of random cords to go through, I have my stash of random keys. So far I know what exactly 2 of these are for. — cat
The boxes of unidentified, long-unused cables and cords and the collection of unidentified, long-unused keys are decluttering clichés. You'll also plenty of posts from folks saying they actually wound up using something from the cord box (or could have used something they tossed).

But for many of us, those cords are never ever going to get used. The ones that say Samsung when you no longer own anything made by Samsung (feel free to replace Samsung with your brand name of choice) might be the easiest to part with.

Too Many of the Same Thing (and some much better than others)

What mundane object have you weirdly acquired too many of, personally or as a household? For me, it’s black cotton hoodies and for the household, nail clippers.— Erika Hall
“Where is the good knife?” If you’re looking for your good X, you have bad Xs. Throw those out. — from 100 Tips For a Better Life, on LessWrong
If you store things (such as nail clippers) in multiple places, sometimes for good reason, it’s easy to lose track of how many you have. For example, I know someone who will never again need to buy Scotch Magic Tape.

And it’s easy to fall into the habit of keeping the bad X just in case the good X breaks, gets lost, etc. In some cases that might be a reasonable choice, but in many cases it would serve us better to just get rid of the bad X (and perhaps buy a second good X if it’s an essential item and replacing it might be difficult or excessively time-consuming). One good X vs. bad X example in my own household was flashlights; the bad ones are gone now, so I have only good ones at hand every place I might need one.

Things We “Might Need Someday”

God I would love to throw away some of these decade-old t-shirts that are getting holes and don’t fit me anymore but what if I wind up having to paint for 80 straight days at some point — Twitter user nomchompsky
I’ve been in the same house for 20 years and I’m doing a full clean out for reasons. It’s amazing how much useless shit you can accumulate simply by believing it might come in handy one day. — Tim Burga
People say not to throw things out because someday you might need them. I’m at the Someday age now and see I needed none of it. —Richard Kramer

Here’s a personal example: My cat Moonshadow died in November of last year. He liked fish-flavored cat food; my other cat, Sunshine, does not like any kind of seafood flavors. I was keeping some of his fish-flavored food because “what if there's an earthquake” and “what if I get another cat?”

Well, she won’t eat that food even if there's an earthquake, I have plenty of food she will eat, and by the time I get another cat (assuming I ever do) the cans I have will likely be past their best-by date. I just gave them away; they’ll be going to people who need them now. And I’ve cleared up some storage space for things it actually makes sense to keep.

Knife Storage, Revisited, Part 3: Four Solutions for the Space-Challenged

knife storage that installs under a kitchen cabinet; magnets hold the knives in place I originally thought Part 3 of this series would cover drawer storage for knives; after all, that’s my personal choice. But I’m not seeing anything beyond the options you can readily find at places like The Container Store.

So instead, let’s look at some knife storage solutions which go beyond the ones you usually see — and which might work well for the space-challenged. The photo above is The Drop Block, for under-cabinet storage. It comes in six different colors and a few different sizes.

wood knife rack attached to the side of a refrigerator At first glance, this item might look like a normal wall-mounted knife rack. But no: It’s magnetized and intended for the side of refigerators (excluding those that don't work with magnets, of course). JB’s Wood Turning has three different models. I was also delighted to learn that the creator, Joe, is a retired shop teacher.

white knife rack mounted on a cabinet The Camco Knife Safe might also look like a normal not-so-beautiful wall-mounted knife rack. But Camco makes these for RVs, and they are intended for storage inside a cabinet. There’s also another model which holds two knives with larger blades.

black leather knife roll, unrolled Knife bags and knife rolls are mostly intended for mobile storage, but they could be used as a space-saving storage mechanism, too. (They probably wouldn’t be my first choice, though, since it’s somewhat more cumbersome to get to your knives when you want them.)

But look how gorgeous this knife bag from Nesmuk is! (Somehow I always seem to find — and admire — the expensive stuff.) Unlike many knife rolls, the knives “lie on a magnetic knife rest that is cut-resistant and wrapped in a Kevlar fabric. This ensures that the blades remain permanently scratch-free.”

blue leather knife roll, unrolled Of course, there are many less-expensive options. This lovely knife roll from LeatherPage sells for about 1/10 the price of the Nesmuk knife bag.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Book: Steal Like an Artist

book cover: Steal Like an Artist During the past year, as I stayed home, I bought a number of books — many from authors who participated in the online Quarantine Book Club. I didn’t do such a great job of actually reading those books, though. Now that I finally am making my way through them, I thought I’d share any organizing-related gems I find.

Steal Like an Artist is mostly directed at people such as musicians, illustrators and authors — and the message that all art builds on prior works is one I’ve heard before. But there’s a lot more than just that message, and this one point seemed especially relevant to almost everyone:
... you can pick your teachers and you can pick your friends and you can pick the music you listen to and you can pick the books you read and you can pick the movies you see.

You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.